barry and the big dipper

from the true confessions category of potentially disturbing things to reveal to this abyss of anonymous gawkers, however few there may be:

i sometimes feel profound stirrings of love for the automatic pool cleaner whom i call barry. he is diligent and effective, incredibly dedicated, a real go-getter. i just get him set up and he somehow manoeuvers around the bottom and sides of the pool, sucking up dirt and debris. he fucking amazes me. and i have come to love him, perhaps in an inappropriate way. i have only mentioned this to a few people. they generally agree that barry is a phenomenon worthy of some marvel, though none of them quite understand the tingle i feel for him.

barry is right now busily preparing for what could be my last day in that pool. ever (at least if i successfully sell the house this winter). it's supposed to be 29 cozy degrees tomorrow, and i'm shutting down all operations to take advantage of it. got a stack of magazines, a couple of new-agey books, and a bottle of the entirely non-sunscreen that is my "dark tanning oil". can't wait. who knows what my next address will be, but the odds of it having an in-ground pool and a perimeter of fifteen foot cedars are slim to none.

speaking of shielding shrubs, there are lots of things i do in my backyard that are little known secrets (not just gawking at barry). not that it's a seedy sticky triple x extravaganza back there or anything - though there IS a clothing optional policy. but there are some ssb that are especially enjoyable given the peace and privacy my backyard provides.

summer nights out there are fucking great. i just spent an hour lounging with my face pressed into the dark sky. when it's clear, i have the most vivid and reliable view of the big dipper. if the neighbourhood is still enough for me to really tune out, i fantasize about that big dipper scooping me up, carrying me through the magical starscape, and depositing me next to the far-away person i happen to miss the most at that moment. or straight into the arms of ll cool j. yes, i think my secluded backyard would be the perfect launching pad for a trans-galactic connection. hopefully i can dial one up before moving day.



upon further reflection, the guy who loaned me the dvd box set of sports night is not that great. i guess at the time i was all caught up in a lot of sorkin-ness and maybe also got carried away by the cuteness of robert guillaume who had just survived a stroke at the time of the show. i mean, the dvd-loaner guy is pretty cool, but let's just say he's not as great as claude, who happens to be on his way over so we can watch the airing of the last episode ever of six feet under and who is no kidding one of the most amazing people i have had the honour of getting to know. after nearly 3 years of letting each other into deep and creepy inside places, the fact that he lets me hang out with him at all is still kind of a marvel. also a stunner is the fact that he never lets me get away with anything, despite my letting him get away with so fucking much. nevertheless, it's pretty great to do our crappy-happy thing together. someone once said that a true friend is someone who holds a mirror up so we see ourselves more clearly. it occurs to me that i needn't worry for lack of such mirrors, splendid and cracked though they may be. claude has a thing for mirrors. ok, maybe i hate him.

i spent quite a bit of time gazing at aging ceiling tiles in a waiting room today and got to thinking about that leonard cohen lyric, "everything has a crack in it, that's how the light gets in." i pondered my own precious cracks and how i suppose they are essential openings for illumination into my life. but i was also thinking, but for those gapes and gaps, what light would wind up trapped on the inside.



this is a depiction of the goddess gaia, earth mother. this is the inspiration for my next tattoo. i'm booking a consultation this week with a highly recommended body ink artist named julie. she works here.

a shout out...

... to all those who conveyed exhuberant positive feedback about my dove-related rant of a few days ago. personally, i think it's a fine example of the kind of incoherence that can ensue when writing angry (or hungry, for that matter). fyi - a less emotional version with actual honed points is in the works. meantime, while i very much appreciate the kind words, i humbly ask those who suggest i should be a widely-circulated columnist with occasional high-paying punditry invitations to go ahead and secure me such a gig or else shut up already.

... to prominent ottawa artist bridget farr (i know her!) whose work is among the images featured in the dove campaign for real beauty photography exhibit that has been touring the globe. sorry for forgetting to mention this during the aforementioned rant. my bad.


uh oh, sports night

there's good news and bad news. the bad news is that i've recently been sucked back into the vortex that is the dvd box set. the good news is that it's sports night, a lesser known dramedy that ran for a couple of seasons in the late 90's. now i'm about as interested in sports as i am in macrame, but the genius of aaron sorkin is that his shows - neither obvious nor formulaic - are pretty much just named for locations. sorkin is a genius, an assertion i need only substantiate with um, hello? a little gem called the west wing (which cast member rob lowe once proudly referred to as "disneyland for democrats" to which i say hell yee-ah - the entire fucking universe is a disneyland for republicans. why shouldn't we be granted one magical hour a week to escape into a world where better people run the planet?).

but i digress.

perhaps what i'm most struck by during this lapse into an obsessive trance with sports night are the similarities between it and the guy who loaned me the box set. they both make me laugh. they're both brilliant and engage me in fast-paced witty repartee that keeps me on my toes. they both hold my attention in disarming ways. the show is absorbing, stimulating, touching, and surprising. so is he. i guess making such comparisons is a little weird, but also kinda neat. and so is he.

ok, gotta get back to the sports night marathon now. ouch... marathon? i need to be stopped.


beauty mythunderstanding

at first i was disappointed in dove for watering down a good idea by using models that aren't actually big. then i was upset because the ad campaign is for firming cream. but now i'm pissed about the backlash all this is generating, regardless of how short i think it falls from the mark.

beauty is in the eye of a fashion photographer or hollywood agent. it is apparently not to be toyed with by the likes of a maker of soap. the campaign for real beauty is a soft ball that wields quite a top spin. dove has incited near riots among all kinds of people who are "offended" by images of women who actually eat. dove deigns to suggest that chubby women in underwear have a right to market beauty. and thus, a shitstorm. people were talking even before richard roeper started a frenzy by complaining about the "plump girls baring too much skin".

some ad exec turned pundit weighed in to say that advertising should be "easy; it's not supposed to be too challenging." as if the dove campaign is somewhere in the stratosphere of all those benetton ads that for decades have smacked people in the gut. as if size 6, 8, or 10 women are visually assaulting and mentally jarring like this or this or this. oh yeah, dove is engaging in shock advertising. fuck me.

the dove pr team could not have known how accurate the term "campaign" is for this. we should not be surprised that this may be the mother of all campaigns. but it is hard to believe that we're here again (or still). are we splitting the atom here? didn't the body shop pot-stirring get us anywhere in re-claiming notions of beauty?

the roeper-type mentality would indicate that women of size and shape are apparently tolerable only if left at street level, relatively invisible, blending in with pillars and trees and buildings and whatnot. truth is, big women have you surrounded. you just don't notice as long as we're part of the scenery. heaven forbid we be elevated to billboard level and made to look at. oh but right, you have no problem with people of size. that is, until we're obscuring your pretty view.

roeper is not alone. all sorts of anonymous detractors have made their disgust known: "disgusting", "fat cows", "who ate all the pies", "type ii diabetes" -- such high-brow graffiti and counter-slogan stickers have been flung across the dove pictures, from seattle to new york to london.

all this shit hits me in the skin, thanks to the flab i carry. but more importantly, it hits me in the spirit, because of our collective burden. i can't stand that me and my women are still up against what we're not and where we're not allowed.

wendy wondered if men conceive of this society as one big "roofless playboy mansion" and shot back with a column of her own. commentators are asking if this is about fat versus thin or men versus women or what.

i think it is about men versus women but we have to fight it with asses and wrinkles. because beauty sure the fuck is in the eye of the beholder, and we have to ask whose eye is deciding for the rest of us. we're taught that beauty comes from the inside, but we all know that no the fuck it doesn't. and this campaign confirms it. the backlash says beauty can't come from within - we get it as a gift. but even if we attain it, there's nowhere to go with it. because we live in a britany spearized planet where women are dumbed down and glittered up. where women are nothing. but we can't challenge minds at that level. we can't change the minds of graffiti artists and other haters with high-minded feminist and philosophical thought. i don't want to fault dove or anyone else who tries to expand notions of beauty to a broader geographic space, but how do we orchestrate the campaign?

the only people who will come to any real defense of the campaign are the raging feminists who already get it and the unbeautiful women who are sick of it. and they can't respond to the campaign's given markets. if we're really going to go after the problem, we have to figure out who the target market is. white men with boners who think it's all about what gets them up. who happen to run the show.

so i guess it comes back to fat versus thin. maybe that's all we've got if we're forced to play this thing out within the very sphere we're trying to evolve.

we need to say to the affronted, oh really? your eyes hurt? get the fuck over yourselves. we're not selling this to you. we are insisting it, we'll keep doing it, and we'll thank you to keep your ridiculous comments to yourselves.

we need to ask the affronted, what exactly do you think you have the right to? belittling fat women? oh sure, because nobody likes fat people. that's easy. can you come at us with anything less base?

at the end of the day, it's not about whether or not the trailer park boys think fat isn't beautiful. these guys don't think they are anti women, they think they are anti fat women.

we need to tell the affronted, you do not get to decide what beauty is. we'll take it from here, thanks. nor do you get to define the divisions of how it offends. stop declaring, criticizing, defining, and mocking our space. we already know what you think beauty is. if we didn't, gloria steinem would still be undercover in a bunny costume and queen latifah would still be 250 pounds. did you think we would just sit by and let the hugh hefners of the world dictate the entire planet? he can have his hot tub and barbies. but his mansion WILL have a roof and so too will your arenas of fantasy. you do not get reign of the planet in its entirety. the geography of the beauty myths will have limits, as will our levels of tolerance for the horseshit that roeper and the rest of you shovel.

christ, i suppose this rant is a bit all over the map. all i can really say is this: expect more boys. get your laptops and coffee ready, because this campaign will continue, in whatever fucking form it takes. and you'll need more than a can of spray paint to shut the battle down.


adam's gone, but clay's ok

just took a break from doing work for other people for free. got snuck up on by a mini anxiety attack about my shitty financial situation. realizing the dwindling number of warm days left, i decided to take my panic into the pool where i bobbed and contemplated the recent death of a delightful ndp colleague who threw in his towel two days ago. i didn't know adam angus that well, but i liked him right off the hop - a rare thing for me. i feel very sorry that he couldn't take it anymore. it's a feeling i can relate to. wherever he is now, i hope he's far less exhausted and confused.

ironically, i came inside to find dr. phil talking about suicide, specifically among young people who are being bullied. he brought on former american idol finalist turned pop "sensation" clay aiken to discuss the bullying he endured while growing up and his rise to "success" despite all of that. i was able to shake off my own dark clouds by recalling a letter to clay that i'd read awhile back, which i may have shared before but will do so again, for good measure:

open letter to clay aiken

dear clay aiken,

i would like to direct your attention to an egregious grammatical error in your hit song, "invisible." you use the conditional clause four times in the chorus:

if i was invisible
then i could just watch you in your room
if i was invincible
i'd make you mine tonight
if hearts were unbreakable
then i could just tell you where i stand
i would be the smartest man
if i was invisible
(wait . . . i already am)

when you sing "if i was invisible," the word "was" denotes the possibility of your invisibility in the past. but i believe you are trying to get listeners to ponder the possiblity of your invisibility in the present. therefore, "was" should be replaced with "were." the clause you are applying is often referred to as the "unreal" conditional because it is used for unreal - impossible or improbable - situations. the unreal conditional provides an imaginary result for a given situation.

in any case, i wish you were invisible.


p.s. please get your eyebrows waxed.


beware the sax

i’m starting to consider that maybe part of why i left the music scene all those years ago is all about the horns. allow me to explain. at our gig on friday night, the horn section was on fire. almost so literally that at one point, i thought they might combust. the sounds coming out of those saxophones and that trumpet damn near slayed me. i wound up having heart palpitations and falling in love with each of those men. this is fucking terrible. it’s all coming back to me now: the lure of the jazz men, the pull of the blues players. the sheer heartbreakability of hot musicians (especially those fucking sax players – they are major trouble). and i don’t mean lenny kravitz hot, necessarily. i mean ooh baby play that music right into my very soul, drown me in it and have your way with me kind of hot. oh sure, i’m older now, more solid, less gullible. but i’m not sure i’m less susceptible to the intoxicating spell that can be cast by a slick musician. maybe i want to return to singing, but please god don't let me go back to the kind of heartache that loving a musician delivers.

with any luck, i'll land me a nerdy and stable 9-to-5-er... a guy who's tone deaf, emotionally available, addiction-free, and generally unappealing to any other woman on the planet but me. um, yeah, no, that sounds god awful. ok, with any luck, i just may be in trouble.


andy warhol, u had no idea

have you noticed how the once innocent reality show has gotten caught up in its own ego and is spinning out of control such that it's mounted an all-out takeover of prime time programming? back in the day, a television viewer could sit back after dinner to enjoy basic reality tv: siliconed castaways on a deserted island; dopey contestants slurping blended maggots; obnoxious americans waving the flag on a global scavenger hunt; "average" joes and jills vying for an on-air wedding to a stranger.

in a bizarre plot twist, the genre has morphed from "talent" and cash competitions to career launchers. no longer is there just a love affair or million dollar cheque at stake. as if it was possible, reality tv has gotten even more real. now, a contestant's career ambitions are on the line. if you want to be a supermodel, designer, chef, business tycoon, or boxer, you don't have to put yourself through that whole work hard and pay your dues kinda rigamarole of the olden days. the american dream has just been made simpler. just submit your 8.5 x 11 glossies and hope to be chosen out of thousands for the chance to have kathy hilton show you how to hold a fork.

um, thanks mark burnett. you and your peers are levelling the playing field so that all of us have a shot at being somebody.

it would be hard to declare a winner in the contest between who is more pathetic: the throngs of star-chasers who try to get on these shows or the millions of consumers who watch them.

wait a second. who am i to shit all over this stuff. unlike most people, i'm not in the closet about my fascination with this crap. i've been known to re-arrange my schedule in order to catch survivor and the amazing race. and yes, i have tele-voted for shmoopy singers on the idol franchises.

it's as if the reality tv genre itself is a character - oops, i mean contestant - we love to hate. we realize it's shitty and frivolous and assinine. we know it's entirely beneath us. but we can't help but tune in to just, um, have a peek.

at the very least, reality tv has made me realize that god dammit, i actually want to be a rock star. i may have missed my chance to front inxs. but i'm waiting for the inevitable follow-ups to this "most ambitious show in the history of unscripted television" ... rockstar nirvana, rockstar blind melon, rockstar the doors. gawrsh, i sure hope they pick me.


mr. bolton, hypocrite i presume

what a week it's been...

the pmo made known today that the delightful
michaelle jean will be canada's next governor general: all hail our first black gg, a sassy and smart woman, originally from haiti, who has guided me through the compelling world of documentaries for years.

what else?
amber was axed from canadian idol; sarah won the veto and used it on james so maggie put janelle onto the chopping block; tara slone was asked by inxs to leave the contest to replace michael hutchence; in an ill-conceived moment of musical mockery, i sang roxette at karaoke last night, but never mind that for now.

maybe i'm the last to know, but former heartthrob rick springfield (apparently not dead) has released a bunch of covers of old rock songs. driving innocently in my car the other night, i heard the shocking first release: one of my all-time favourite songs, baker street [dear gerry rafferty: my sincerest apologies about springfield re-recording your classic. i hope he asked permission and that you told him to go fuck himself so now you can sue his very sad ass].

the week's big news is, of course, the appointment of john bolton as the us ambassador to the united nations: a man who has consistently shit all over the un and advocates for it's radical reform or death. now he's been annointed as the big usa bully at the place. to understand the sheer ridiculousness of this, just listen to the guy. it's no wonder he's #1 on this week's list of top right wing nutjobs. he so does not fit the profile of an appropriate un representative that dubya had to manouever the installation with a "recess appointment", bypassing the brewing controversy over the unlikely selection. bolton, who comes across as some kind of militia madman from the midwest openly refers to the us as the world's "only real power" and believes un projects should "be relegated to history's junk pile."

c'mon already. sure, bush is anything but subtle in terms of his un agenda - it's not like he'd roll a trojan horse into the grand un chambers. why no, he's been laying foundation for awhile. as for un supporters, well, we been biting our nails for some time now. bolton's arrival only means more bloody finger tips the world over as we hope that something can be done before he huffs and puffs and blows that house down.

bolton getting (and accepting) this critical post is akin to jeffrey skilling becoming ethics commissioner or slash being named head of the dea. like i said, c'mon already. this is one of those moments when it's hard to decide whether to be disgusted, scared, or just plain stunned by what bush will do. if i ask nicely, perhaps his christian pals will pray really hard for the un. oh, but that'd be hypocritical of me. and of them.


back to life

i felt so anxious to get rid of the parents so i could rush back to my life. after delivering them to other unsuspecting relatives in toronto [markham, actually. yeesh, talk about a stepford community. creepy.] i raced back here at the speed of light, as if it were a matter of life or death, as if my five days in parentland were close to irrevocably sucking me out of a blissful routine. but somewhere on the 416 - after tensely leap-frogging through bumper to bumper traffic all the way up the 401 - i asked myself this slightly depressing question: what exactly am i hurtling myself back to? cuz actually, it ain't much. to tell u the truth, that was a pretty sobering realization. not earth shattering or revelatory (i didn't cry into my icecap). but it was something. the thought was a bit numbing, actually slowing me down enough to become entranced with the beauty of the scenery, wishing i could drag my hand gently over the topography. so now that i'm back to all this, i guess i feel liberated and calm. i just have to figure out how to tackle the re-org of my life with the same fervor with which i fled my parents. i'll get right on that, in between dips in the pool. priorities.