Thursday 27 September 2012

ARE YOU READY FOR BABY? Take this quiz and rate your maternity spirit.

What are your thoughts on:

a) I am going to breastfeed my child until he/she is eight years old or embraces the vegan lifestyle and eschews dairy products – whichever comes first.
b) I am going to breastfeed my kid until I fall off the wagon and get royally pissed. I wouldn’t want to give him a second-hand buzz.
c) I run a restaurant. No way can I fit breastfeeding into my schedule.

a) I would not swaddle him/her. However, I’m aware that medical opinion about this practice keeps changing, so I’ve signed up for automatic weekly updates on my iPhone.
b) Swaddle? Will that make my child waddle? :) Just joking.
c) I will definitely swaddle my child – anything that will keep the little brat down and out of my way.

a) My husband and I have been talking about taking out a second mortgage and get a top of the line German engineered pram covered with Gucci designed fabric and equipped with power steering.
b) Whatever is on sale at Sears.
c) There’s one sitting in my aunt’s garage. She says she’ll be glad if I take that piece of junk off her hands. So it’s a win-win situation.

a) No way. I don’t want to traumatize my child. Let him/her discover the happiness of clean pants for him/herself. I’m sure by age ten he/she will have it sorted out.
b) I’ll train him when the shit gets too much to handle (not to mention, the price of diapers).
c) I’ll rub his nose in the doo-doo. It worked for my puppy.

a) We signed up our child at a prestigious private school when I was five days pregnant, but I fear it was too late. I wonder how big a donation would guarantee us a place? Do we need a third mortgage? Or would it be sufficient if I crawled on my knees to the headmistress’ office and licked her hand?
b) There’s an okay primary school two blocks away. At least I think it’s okay. They have two armed guards. So what can go wrong?
c) Not sure I’ll live to see the day. Just had my sister drop in with her two pre-schoolers. Barely survived the experience. Having second thoughts about getting pregnant.

You checked (c) more than 3 times. You monster! If we knew who you are, we’d picket your restaurant and have your puppy removed by PETA. We recommend you read

You checked (b) more than 3 times. You mean you shop at Sears? And another thing: we hate people using emoticons, especially smiley faces.

You checked (a) more than 3 times. We’d like to be your purveyors. We sell organic baby food in fine crystal jars, Louboutin baby boots, silk wipes, sterling silver spoons, shorn ermine baby blankets, all with conspicuous designer labels that will make your friends die with envy.

Sunday 23 September 2012

URBAN FUTURISM. Fashions for the Soup Kitchen

I just finished reading the Style section in Saturday’s Globe & Mail (22 Sept) and can’t wait to leave it at a bus stop shelter. It’s the perfect read for the man about town, whether he sleeps under the bridge or on a hot-air grate.

The main thing this fall is not to appear “nouveau riche,” Amy Verner cautions us. No problem, as long as our man follows a few easy rules gleaned from the runways of New York. SATURATED COLOURS are a must, according to designer Tom Mora, so make sure to add a dash of urine yellow to the front of your pants.  I also suggest dabbing your pant cuffs with the earthy tones of wet clay to satisfy Alexander Wang’s demand for STIFF AND HARD-EDGED fabrics that will allow you TO EXPLORE URBAN FUTURISM. Also: CAMOUFLAGE is back. So make sure grass stains, grease and mud spots are well distributed across the front and back of your jacket for optimum BLENDING INTO THE URBAN JUNGLE. Do not worry about any rips or tears in your clothing. It’s dead chic to HOLD TOGETHER PANELS WITH FISHING-LINE EMBROIDERY. You may not agree with me, but I think Max Azria goes too far along the FETISHISTIC route, employing HARNESSES TO BIND DELICATE fabric. I mean harnesses are hard to find unless you have an in with the S&M crowd. Maybe that’s the point because apparently the absolutely hottest look is SLICED AND DICED. Alternatively, you can go for PYJAMA DRESSING. So if you happen to be in an institution, make sure you take those striped pants along when you get out. Sarah Hampson notes that hats are in as well: TALL, FANCIFUL AND COMMODIOUS ENOUGH TO HIDE A DOG UNDERNEATH. You may not have a dog, but surely you have a baggie or two to hide. Ela collection of accessories will add that extra touch. They are introducing the pouch, reflecting the PARED-DOWN LIFESTYLE. All you have goes into that pouch. IT’S ALL ABOUT DOWNSIZING, they tell us.  But maybe Shanker Bhardwaj is more down your alley. He advises avoiding designer gear. He’d rather have a creative shopping experience. It’s the NEWEST COMPETITIVE SPORT FOR GUYS (says Tyler Thoreson).  So forget about panhandling or dodging the cops. Head for the nearest Goodwill Store and FEEL THE THRILL OF THE CHASE. Duck into the aisles, track down a shirt or two and move in for the kill. But as everyone knows, the TRUE EVALUATION OCCURS ONCE A MAN TRIES ON THAT COVETED PIECE in the comfort of a Goodwill dressing room. Once you’ve made sure of your trophy shirt, it's time to CHOOSE A FALL HAIRSTYLE THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU (says Tony Masciangelo). We want something chunky and shiny, so never lick the grease off your fingers after eating fish and chips. APPLY A LEAVE-IN OIL TREATMENT  by running your fingers through your hair.  Now you are ready to line up at your Soup Kitchen, that FRENZIED FOODIE UNDERGROUND, and dine in style. No doubt you’ve heard about super-star chef David Chang’s new restaurant, Daisho, where one of his signature dishes is CRACK PIE, as Michael Posner helpfully informs us. Urge your social worker to get in touch with Chang immediately and ask him to volunteer his services at a shelter near you. Yess: URBAN FUTURISM!

Thursday 20 September 2012


When I saw the title of Naomi Wolf’s recent book, VAGINA. A NEW BIOGRAPHY, I thought her big V had decided to open up and tell all. But, no, it’s just a book-length announcement by the author: her cosmic, screaming orgasms are back. Well, congratulations, Naomi, and I think you’ve started a new trend, naming your book after a body part.

Now, VAGINA may be a bit shocking for the older generation, the ones who actually still read books. That’s why Hanna Rosin discreetly called her book THE END OF MEN. She could have called it THE ANUS OF MEN, but she didn’t want to give offense. Smart move, Hanna!

The authors of other bestsellers failed to catch on to the new trend. Or how do you explain that E.L. James called her sadomasochistic fantasy FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, when she could have named it after body parts, FIFTY LASHES OF GREY or simply HAMSTRUNG.

And I don’t understand how the author of the STEVE JOBS biography could have missed out on the obvious title: ADAM’S APPLE.

On the other hand, some titles are just plain misleading. Florence Williams’ BREASTS, it turns out, isn’t a biography of Hugh Hefner, founder of the centre-fold. It’s about breastfeeding and pollution. What a letdown. Or maybe I should say, what a BUMMER!

And Kathy Reichs wasted the title BONES ARE FOREVER on a novel, pre-empting its use for a biography of Lassie and other famous Hollywood canines.

Then there are authors who are too lazy to come up with their own body parts and just recycle old titles. Ian McEwan, for example, repurposed SWEET TOOTH, first used in 2009 by Jeff Lemire for his post-apocalyptic fable about a hybrid boy. McEwan’s book is a spy story and, according to reviewer Sutcliffe, like a cocktail, slipping down without trouble. In that case, he got the wrong body part. He should have filched the old bestseller title DEEP THROAT.

The idea is to focus on the main theme. For example, if Schwarzenegger or any of his geriatric co-stars on Expendables 2 decided to write an autobiography, they should definitely consider calling it WRINKLES. And if Nakoula Basseley Nakoula had stopped to think for a moment, he wouldn’t have given his video an irrelevant title like Innocent Muslims. He would have called it what it is: BRAINLESS or just plain SHIT.

Cheryl Strayed missed out, too, calling her account of a 1,100 mile hike WILD. I would have gone for SWEAT. And a hint to all you authors on the lookout for a winning title: My hunch is, bodily fluids will be the next big thing. Call your book BLOOD, TEARS, SALIVA, AND CUM, and you are bound to go to the top of the bestseller list.

Sunday 16 September 2012


Horror One: Buying movie tickets online
There was a long line-up in TIFF’s virtual waiting room. It’s a good thing Matthew 5000 (TIFF Talk) warned us of the dangers lurking in that dark space. Using an iPad to get your tickets could be NIGHTMARISH, he reported. Some people panicked and pressed logout instead of checkout, with CATASTROPHIC RESULTS. And beware! Using Safari to surf for tickets was a DISASTER, according to another blogger. All that horror, I suspect, was the result of an invasion by little green men speaking an alien tongue. They wanted you to wait for PACKAGE FULFILMENT INTERFACE, but that was just code for “chewing your face off”. On the other hand, blogger Richard bragged that he scored 60 tickets in 13 minutes. Clearly he knows a few things about PACKAGE FULFILMENT INTERFACE. Maybe he was one of THEM! I shudder at my narrow escape.

Horror Two: The killer troops of TIFF.
Neil Morton (Metro, 14 Sept)made my flesh crawl with his cryptic references to the “tieless brigade” of underdressed male stars. But according to the OMG blog, there were scarier troopers on the red carpet: the “leg brigade”. Thigh-high slit dresses were about to TAKE OVER TIFF. I hope you took cover in time and ducked behind the bar. If those slits didn’t kill you, Jared Leto’s HUGE BEARD was ready to swallow you up and drown you in the depth of his MASSIVE FACIAL HAIR. And he threatened to grow more of the stuff when he was “not so busy with other things”. Like what? Growing his toenails into scissor points? And if that didn’t scare you to death, there was Ray Liotta’s COLD MOBSTER STARE. One hapless journalist mentioned that his teenage kids didn’t know Winona Ryder’s name. Liotta aimed his deadly stare at him and left everyone QUAKING IN THEIR BOOTS (according to Soraya Roberts on Widescreen Blog).

Horror Three: A journalist’s gruelling trek through TIFF
Johanna Schneller spent 127 hours at TIFF events and lived to tell the tale (Globe & Mail, 14 Sept). Here are the highlights of her ordeal: First, she was PINNED UNDER TIFF’s promotional boulder, then deadly DRINK TICKETS came her way and nearly did her in. She blacked out twice. Finally she was forced to eat tiny cheese sandwiches, tiny fish fritters, and tiny squash and phyllo squares using only tiny plastic forks. She staved off starvation thanks to filching 40,000 calories’ worth of chocolate bars from hospitality suites. Whew!                                                

But not everything at TIFF was scary. Some stuff was just, let’s say, challenging. I’m talking about the newest movie genre: HANDICAPPED SEX. What are the salient features of the Handicapped-sex film? The wheelchair is clearly top prop (Hyde Park on Hudson). Preferably the handicap is the result of crippling polio (Hyde Park and The Sessions), but missing limbs are acceptable, too (Rust & Bone).

And some stuff was merely puzzling. There seemed to be an Olympic contest going on between the talent: Who can give the shortest answer to an interview question?
The Bronze medal goes to an anonymous French film director for: SEX. I LOVE IT.
The Silver medal goes to Matthew McConaughy for: ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT.
And the winner: Audrey Tautou for keeping her lips sealed and giving only an IMPERIAL SHAKE OF THE HEAD. (For more words about no words read the Globe, 14 Sept).

Other stars with a notable preference for gestures over words, leaving us to guess at their meaning:
Dennis Quaid, smoking an electronic cigarette. Really, people, what else would you smoke in TIFF’s virtual box office while waiting for your PACKAGE FULFILMENT INTERFACE?
Michael Shannon, pinching his forearms. To keep himself from blacking out after running into too many drink tickets?
Chris Brown showing off his tattoo of a battered woman’s face. Okay, let me take a stab at his message. He is saying: I’m guilty. Naw. I’m proud of myself. More like it. Or he is saying: Fair warning, ladies, you are going to end up like Rihanna. I think I’ll go with that one. BTW, Rihanna had little guns tattooed on her body.

Those guys may be setting a trend. Next year at TIFF: no more groping for words to twitter a review. Just two tattoos: one thumb up on your left cheek, one thumb down on your right cheek, and you can do like Audrey Tautou and say it all with an IMPERIAL SHAKE OF THE HEAD.

Thursday 13 September 2012

THE TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL. The A-list and the NN-list.

With TIFF happening in town, Toronto is full of A-LISTERS with stellar careers like Ellen Page`s: Cute little girl one day, Juno star the next, Oscar nominee soon after. But what about NN-LISTERS, like my friend What’s-her-name? Let’s me check my address book. Okay, here it is, under NN: Christine. Cute little girl one day, game over the next.

- So, tell us, what happened, Christine.
- I blame my parents. With an ordinary name like Christine, I couldn’t compete with the Krystins and Kristans in Kindergarten, not to speak of Fifi Trixibelle and Sage Moonblood, the daughters of Bob Geldof and Sly Stallone. Those celebs know how to get attention for their kids from Day One.
- So, Christine, why didn’t you ask your friends to give you another name, something that suits your personality?
- I did. They suggested calling me Jane Doe.
- You should have strangled them. You know that’s one way of getting attention: committing serial murder. Especially if you can organize a dramatic hunt, speeding cop cars with sirens howling, bloodhounds charging through the underbrush, that sort of thing.
- Can’t do. Apparently my body is so generic, bloodhounds don’t pick up my scent and scientists can’t get a DNA reading.
- But your image is still being picked up by surveillance cameras, Christine. You could do a bank robbery. 
- No luck. You know they have High Occupancy Vehicle lanes in L.A. – lanes reserved for cars with two or more people?
- Yes?
- So this guy was fined because he drove in a HOV lane with a mannequin in the passenger seat.
- And?
- He appealed and was acquitted because it wasn’t a mannequin. It was me.
- I feel your pain, Christine, but actually it isn’t always fun to be a celebrity. Those autograph seekers can be pesky.
- I don’t know. I’m kind of nostalgic for the times when I was asked for my autograph, even if it was only on a credit card slip. Now, with chip-imbedded cards, that’s a thing of the past.
- Don’t despair, Christine. Luckily for you, the Globe & Mail (8 Sept) published a list of ingredients for becoming famous. First requirement: like Tatiana Maslany, you need to appear in a sleeper film.
- Done. I’ve got a dozen home-made YouTube features to choose from. They’ll put you to sleep in no time.
- Second, you need classic tag lines, like Renee Zellweger’s You complete me.
- How about You sum me up? Or: You do my arithmetic? Or: Zero plus zero is zero. 
- I don’t know, Christine. Doesn’t have the same ring. Let’s go on down the list. Next, you need a generous handful of hype. You have to become a household name.
- And how would I go about that?

Well, what do you know -- LOBLAWS came to Christine's aid. Go to any of their stores, and there it is in yellow and black: THE NO-NAME brand.
Thank you, Loblaws! My friend Christine is now  # 1 on the NN-list.

Saturday 8 September 2012

BUILDING YOUR CAREER. From engineering to telemarketing.

Here are some useful hints from Clare Tattersal (Metro, 22 August) for students forced by parental Scrooginess into considering a career.

The first step is to FOCUS ON DISCOVERING YOUR INTERESTS, she says.
Can’t figure them out? Baffled because no university is offering a major in Facebook or Twitter?

Then ASK FRIENDS AND FAMILY what they think you should do. Go for law or medicine or engineering, they say, thinking, hey! We might need services in those areas and can sponge off him. Okay, so you drop a bundle enrolling in 1st year Engineering. Three weeks into the fall term you discover that you loathe all sciences. There is only one way out:

GET INVOLVED IN CAMPUS CLUBS. The idea is to build your resume by taking on a leadership position, Ms. Tattersall explains. No prob. You’ve found your niche: you can drink anyone under the table, and you have more tolerance for drugs than a gangsta rapper. That probably means you are ready to

PARTICIPATE IN CAREER DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOPS. Nope. Wrong. It turns out beer guzzling and doing drugs aren’t marketable skills, at least not in the world of legit business. Well, then, final advice:

NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK. Ah, now we are getting somewhere. Your uncle has a renovation business, and he is willing to start you on the ground floor or below, meaning wet basements. Three weeks of engineering will get you only so far.

Watching the mould growing on the basement walls, you discover your real vocation: writing. It’s just a matter of expanding the musings you posted over the last couple of years on Facebook and Twitter, right? Wrong. You get 43 rejection letters from agents and publishers, and that’s not counting the 89 who didn’t bother to reply to your query letter. But then you read an article by Elizabeth Ruth (Write, Summer 2012) on how to market your own writing.

You thought a writer’s job was to write. Ms. Ruth informs you that your thinking is stuck way back when people thought self-promotion was crass, declassée, and American (and that’s absolutely the most demeaning thing you can say to a Canadian). Today, she tells you, your job as a writer is to promote yourself.

To begin with, you are well qualified: YOU ARE ALREADY USED TO REJECTION. True. And you have plenty of EXPERIENCE IN SELF-PROMOTION because that’s what you’ve been doing for many years on Facebook and Twitter. Also true. So it’s just a matter of promoting yourself on a larger scale. But what if that leaves you no time to write and you have no worthwhile product to sell? Oh. That’s a problem of course. So, maybe a career in writing isn’t for you.

Then it hits you. You are used to rejection. You have no worthwhile product to sell. TADA! You are a natural TELEMARKETER!

Thursday 6 September 2012

THIS JUST IN: WORRY! News of shrinking ice caps, teachers’ bargaining rights, and the Quebec election.

Every September, I swear, the media are trying to make you paranoid and drum up business for shrinks and therapists. Or else, how do you explain the soul-rattling headlines? Will they let you enjoy the last days of summer? No, they maliciously remind you of

Will they allow parents to drop off their kids at school and go home to indulge in the guilty pleasure of a second cup of coffee? No, they remind them of

And I don’t mean bake sales. They are so last generation. Now parents must rack their brains for something more exotic, like hiring clowns and hypnotists or putting their own services on the auction block in the name of raising money. Check it out in the Globe& Mail (Sept 4): AUCTIONING OFF CHAUFFEUR-DRIVEN PICNICS, HOSTING PULLED PORK THROWDOWNS, AND BAGGING GARDEN-READY COMPOST.

Let’s just hope your kid doesn’t have a birthday in September because then you can definitely start worrying about how to keep up with the neighbours. We are talking about

That was the headline of a piece by Bethany Swain on Get ready to slip into a tuxedo, rent a hall for a princess-themed party with live music, and pick the kids up in limos.

Of course, it’s not just the parents who should be worried. Let’s not forget the teachers. Here in Canada, the government of Ontario has done its part, passing a bill to curb their right to strike. That made it so much easier for the media to scream:
Check it out on the CBC’s Labour Day coverage.

And speaking of politics. As all of you know, Quebec enjoys special status in this country, and so they offered us a
voting in Sovereigntist premier Pauline Marois and raising the spectre of yet another referendum on independence. Yesterday’s headline in the Vancouver Sun:

Continuing with politics. As any ex-pat will tell you: you need a magnifying glass to find Canadian news in American media. Then why do Canadian media bombard us with daily

To disturb our peace and scare us of course. Don’t you remember what Pierre Trudeau said: Living next to the USA is like sleeping with an elephant in the bedroom.

So don’t you dare being happy. Worry!

Monday 3 September 2012

Aspirin is good for you, sort of.
Recently the Journal of Clinical Oncology ran an article on Aspirin and prostate cancer. That’s heavy reading, you say. So let me help and sum it up for you:

People with prostate cancer who take Aspirin are less likely to die of cancer than those who don’t. Mind you the article warns us that this statement is not based on a randomized controlled trial, known as the gold standard of medical research. So what is it based on? Let me guess. A trial controlled by the makers of Aspirin? The kind of trial that’s known as the Dollar standard of medical research?

At least the study was specific. Researchers reported only on deaths from prostate cancer. Okay. Maybe a little too specific. What about the guys who died of side effects before they could die of prostate cancer and tip the scales against Aspirin?

And the study was limited to a 10-year period.
Wait a minute. What about those who died in Year 11? I guess this is where we apply the rule known as the loophole standard of medical research, something about this being true in 19 out of 20 cases, ninety-nine percent of the time?

Researchers found no link between the regular use of Aspirin and the risk of breast cancer.  Oh, good. Finally something about women. Up to this point the article showed a definite gender bias. I thought they had forgotten to include women in the prostate cancer study. I mean, you never know with non-randomized, non- controlled trials.

A randomized study would be difficult, the article says, because the natural progression of the disease is such that you won’t know the outcome for 10 to 15 years.
See, that’s why I was asking about Year 11. Perhaps all the subjects died in Years 11-15. After all, the researchers admit:

Taking Aspirin regularly is risky. You could die of gastrointestinal bleeding or hemorrhagic stroke or other hard-to-pronounce diseases, but so what?  Just don’t die of prostate cancer and mess up their statistics.