Wednesday 28 November 2012

BE YOUR  *** ing SELF.

Be authentic. Express yourself!
Only one word comes to mind, you say?
Good thing you don’t live in the 60s when you had to spell it F***K. In the 70s they were more creative. Pierre Trudeau, for example, spelled it FUDDLE DUDDLE.

Last week, when a Brampton student tweeted that her teacher was an f***ing loser because he, like, ATE FISH STICKS, she was suspended. According to The Toronto Star, she shrugged off her week-old tweet: It’s so long ago. I don’t know why they’re bringing it up now. I’m amazed, but willing to learn: (1) Fish sticks are for losers. (2) The Toronto Star still doesn’t spell out the teenager’s favourite word. (3) Counting in teenage years, a week-old tweet is, like, totally prehistoric or something.

When Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said to a visitor Who the fuck do you think you are? Are you a fucking teacher? -- nothing happened. But when he used City Hall stationary to raise $3150 for a personal cause, the judge turfed him from office.
By contrast, Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion never said fuck. So, when she used her office to promote a land deal worth millions to her son, the judge ruled it was a BONA FIDE ERROR OF JUDGMENT. I’m amazed, but willing to learn: (1) Don’t bother with piddly sums when abusing your power. Keep it in the six-to-seven-figure range. (2) Never say fuck, and the judge will look kindly on you.

Young Justin Trudeau understood that principle and kept his white teeth clean. Fuck never passed his lips. But he didn’t observe the other all-important rule for politicians: Better have no platform than a platform that gives offense. He spoke his mind, saying he wanted to see more Quebeckers and fewer Albertans in politics. Well, he apologized on the double. But the damage was done. He should have stuck to FUDDLE DUDDLE.

So let me sum up today’s lesson: Be yourself. Speak up. And use plenty of a***s.

Sunday 25 November 2012


Home office used to mean a cluttered desk in the basement. Today, in the era of closet-sized condos, it means a cluttered kitchen counter and pizza crumbs in your laptop.

Or so I thought. But that scene is totally passé, according to Sue Shellbarger. If you are a trendsetter, you’ve moved your mobile devices to a bed with a built-in outlet and are doing your work propped up on pillows. You share your office with a partner? No problem. Get a split model bed. Kluft has just come out with a giant 7x7 footer, which can be your “ gathering place, workplace, comfort zone.”  

Okay, now that you’ve relocated your home office to a bed the size of your condo living room, it's clear that other activities have to be shifted to the mattress. Let’s see what else can we move to your new gathering place?

Sex? Nah. Take that to the basement or the kitchen counter or wherever you did your office work before you got a giant bed.

Indulge your depression? More like it. Glow-worm complexion, produced by keeping your face close to the lit screen, is the perfect depressed look. Diving under the covers to avoid looking at the cruel world would seem the perfect movement to go with it. And should you feel like ending your depression for good, is there a better place to die than in the comfort zone of your bed?

But let’s not be negative. There are other, more active, uses for your giant bed.

Eating and drinking? Definitely. Are you worried about crumbs and gooey stuff -- the stuff that hasn't dropped into your laptop, I mean? Here’s what you do: Combine eating and drinking in bed with keeping a pet. Dogs are best. They’ll scarf up your food remnants no questions asked, unless of course you are a vegetarian, in which case I recommend a pet caterpillar. Very quiet, very unassuming, as long as your underwear is tight and you avoid rolling/squishing motions.

Gym is another excellent use for your bed. Whatever your preference -- wrestling, trampoline, yoga, sauna – a bed is the natural platform for those activities. Put perhaps you are into intellectual activities. Then let me suggest

The literary workout. American Poet Laureate Charles Simic, for example, admits to writing a “shocking amount” of his Pulitzer Prize winning lines in bed. Proust wrote in a cork-lined bedroom, using pen or pencil. Orwell slept with his typewriter. Edith Wharton wrote her novels in bed, tossing the pages on the floor for her secretary to pick up and sort out. So perhaps I should qualify my advice: by all means write in bed, but have a secretary to ensure the dog doesn’t eat the pages. And watch out for the voracious caterpillar!

All of this presupposes that your partner does not require the bed as a gym while you are trying to write the next Booker Prize winner. So I suggest drawing up a schedule. -- Oh, you work from home to escape the tyranny of a schedule? Well, then it's back to the kitchen counter, I'm afraid.

Thursday 22 November 2012

CLEANING MY CLOSET. Things I have and don’t need.

Yesterday I looked through my kitchen drawer for string. No string. But I found four little plastic cups, protective covers for the legs of a table that would be retro-chic if I still had it.

Further back in the same drawer I found a boxful of earrings which amount to A HISTORY OF CUSTOM JEWELLERY in the late 20th century. Remember thin gold hoops that got tangled in your hair? Remember Indian jewellery with little bells that made your ears ring? They still exist, in my kitchen drawer.

Then there is the Mexican straw hat that’s hanging on a nail above my husband’s workbench. If memory serves, it came with a ride on a shaggy donkey parked in front of our hotel in Acapulco. Actually, not a ride, just a sitting for photographic purposes. We have four pics to document that event: the four members of our family each sitting on the same sad animal, wearing the same sad hat that’s in our basement now.

And speaking of workbenches. Do we really need three screwdrivers, each with pockets of exchangeable bits? Yes, we do. Or did. Because either they couldn’t be found when needed, or the required exchangeable bit was missing from the set. Could we discard two of them now? No way. According to my husband, you can never have enough screwdrivers.
Nonsense, I said.
But I’m only quoting you! he said.

He was referring to a recent conversation we had about my bedroom closet. But clothes aren’t screwdrivers! On second look, I grant you: I’ll probably never wear that brown business suit again. I don’t know why I bought it in the first place. I have nothing to go with it. I loathe brown. I bought it for a conference in LA and wore it exactly once.

For that occasion, I unearthed a bank-breaking pair of snake leather shoes which I had bought ten years earlier and worn exactly once because I loathe brown. I dug them out because they went with the brown suit.
When I landed in LA and stepped into the neon light of the arrival lounge, I noticed that the tips of my snake shoes looked brittle. By the time I got into the taxi, my toes were visible through the rapidly shredding tips of my shoes. I made it to my hotel room before they turned to dust. I guess snakes can’t survive in a closet for ten years. Anyway: I spent the remainder of the evening shopping for brown shoes. Has anyone told you that they don’t carry size 10 in fashionable shops in LA? I ended up with an unfashionable pair, which I wore exactly once and, for all I know, are still at the back of my closet. But I’m hoping they turned to dust and got sucked into the vacuum cleaner.

Which brings me to my bathroom closet, that is to say, THE HISTORY OF MY HEALTH. A quick survey shows that I had many colds and often suffered from heart burn, that I favour Aspirin (2 empty bottles) over Ibuprofen (one full bottle), that I thought I needed calming down (Manerix, full bottle) but had second thoughts and preferred to keep up to speed, that I did not follow doctor’s instructions and failed to take all of my antibiotics right up to Day 10. That I once believed in the possibility of improving my memory with pills (forgotten now if it were not for three packages of foil embedded stuff gone powdery). Also, that I believed in the possibility of strengthening my nails and hair. But I reserve that for another blog on THE HISTORY OF MY BEAUTY.

Sunday 18 November 2012

THE IMPORTANT THINGS IN LIFE. Wisdom gleaned from The Globe & Mail.

Eons ago, before we got our news online, when we still had to pick up the paper-paper from our doorstep, there was no escaping the bad news. You saw them at a glance on Page One: demonstrators being tear-gassed, missiles dropping on cities and killing civilians, tsunamis wreaking havoc, politicians lying through their teeth on the campaign trail. Day after day. On the front page. Thank God that era is over, and you can get your news online, where the logo of your favourite daily covers most of the home page. So as long as you don’t scroll down, you are safe and don’t have to look at gory pictures and appalling headlines or even at Petraeus’ follies which turn out to be less exciting than we thought. Alas, no Clintonesque goings-on below the desk. Just hundreds of emails, and nary a jpeg attachment of the general bare-chested or in his army-issue underwear. No, forget about what passes for news nowadays. Just click on the menu and go right to the stuff that really matters. Like, on November 16:

DO KIDS MAKE US HAPPY? ANSWER: YES (WE THINK). Now that’s the sort of magical thinking you need as you scrape crayon marks/poop/food fight remnants off the wall.

Or maybe go to: FOR A STRESS-FREE HOLIDAY, PACK A NANNY. Mind you, it’s a little pricey: $ 250/day for up to two children, plus travel expenses.

Maybe we’ll move on to November 17 and Dr. Sacks’ advice: IT’S OKAY TO HALLUCINATE. It’s an essential part of our human nature. Not to mention, much cheaper than reality. So, go ahead and hallucinate a travel nanny. No charge.

Meanwhile, being the careless type, I picked up the paper version of the Globe & Mail and couldn’t avoid seeing an article on AVOIDING HOME RENOVATION PITFALLS. The warning lights went on. Why get into that aggravating subject? Because I can’t pass up a special, and this article was marked SPECIAL. Oh, thanks for telling me: That’s just a fancy word for ADVERTISING. Still, there were some philosophical nuggets buried in the advertising muck. Indecision during the renovation process can lead to budget nightmares, says the MANAGING DIRECTOR OF REAL ESTATE SECURED LENDING AT SCOTIABANK. Wow! Is that a real job title or am I hallucinating?

But the section that truly takes the reality load off your shoulders is STYLE. Christmas is just around the corner, so read up on THE SECRET TO A WELL-STYLED HOLIDAY MANTEL. What you need here is good taste, right? Wrong. You need Mounted Antlers ($ 55) and a vintage white sleigh ($125). Don’t have that kind of money to spend on Christmas decorations? Move on to that all-important question: HOW TO PULL OFF HOUNDSTOOTH. No, we are not talking canine dentistry here. We are talking about the GROOVY PATTERN that looks good on Arab keffiyahs but somehow makes the rest of us look torn-to-pieces. So we’ll put that aside. In any case, I’m sure you agree that the paramount problem in your life are zits. The solution is simple, as it turns out. All you need is tomatoes. They contain a natural acne fighting antioxidant. That would be $ 1.50 for three nice Roma tomatoes, right? No, my friend, we aren’t talking about real tomatoes. That would be too cheap. You need to buy a ROLLERBALL thingy for 10.99. And another problem that spoils many a promising day in our lives: bangs that go frizzy on a rainy day. Now do not, I repeat DO NOT wait for sunshine, because that would cost you nothing whatsoever. No, apply FRIZZ FREE KERATIN SMOOTHING TREATMENT for 11.99. That’s cheaper than salon treatment, as the helpful columnist points out – that’s in case you were thinking of calling in sick and sneaking off to a salon for an instant fix.

Of course you can always do like Dr. Sacks, take a little amphetamine and hallucinate your bangs straight.       

Thursday 15 November 2012

What I like about the Petraeus Affair.

Monday was Remembrance Day. Not coincidentally, there were a lot of military faces in the media, average age creeping up to 90. So, you know what’s really heartening about the Petraeus affair? Two women, 40 and under, are at the centre of it. Yup. Youngish. Women. With toned arms. And hair you could lose your hand in (quoting Junot Diaz here). Yet those types don’t often make it to the top of the military news. Even Entertainment news, traditionally reserved for the young and bodacious, has been invaded by old-timers. You don’t think so? Read my post of 30 August on Geriatric Movies.

The dental implant smile is everywhere, oldsters looking into the cameras, beagle-eyed, sadly painful, nutcracker-style.

IN POLITICS Castro,86, half-dead and scoffing at death rumours. Baroness Thatcher,85, brain-dead, but reanimated in a bio pic by Meryl Streep. And Mao, fully dead but still staring down on the Forbidden City from IMAX-sized posters.

IN RELIGION, the Pope,85, recently declared that IT IS BEAUTIFUL TO BE He and the Dalai Lama, a youthful 77, rule their congregations de facto, while Ayatollah Khomeini is only present in the spirit and in glowering images, shaggy brows disapproving of all fun.

IN MUSIC, the average age of oldsters drops to the 70s. OK, Leonard Cohen is an elegant old codger and still has poetry in his heart. But can we get over Mick (“I got nasty habits”) Jagger and Wrinkled Richards? And what’s with Ancient Babyface Paul McCartney, rumoured to be dead since ’69 and surfacing alive once again after a terrifying experience. His helicopter became DISORIENTATED, as tells us. So, please, please, can we move on to tech-house music now? The synthesizers always look good.

IN LITERATURE, kudos to Alice Munro. She’s the exception to the old-timer rule. Refused to be considered for the Giller Prize, remembered that there is a next generation.
No kudos for octogenarian Tom Wolfe, author of Bonfire of the Vanities, best-seller of yore and master of overstuffed prose today. What can I say about his latest book, BACK TO BLOOD? Let me quote the master himself: AahhhuhwaaaAHHHHHock! I second the Globe & Mail reviewer: Toss Wolfe’s mimetic nonsense on the bonfire.
And then there is Herman Wouk, another former best-selling author. Reviewer Michael Posner coyly admits he thought Wouk was dead, but he’s 97 and alive. So, OK, I’ll go with Posner on that one. Respect your elders and concede: At that age WOUK SHOULD BE SALUTED FOR GETTING OUT OF BED, let alone writing a novel.

The merciful thing about authors: You don’t have to look at their faces. Skip the author photo on the back cover of their books. Don’t go there, and you’ll be fine on the aesthetic front. As for literary taste, consult your inner lit.crit.

Sunday 11 November 2012


Couldn’t think of anything funny to say on Remembrance Day. War isn’t funny. The last war Canadians fought with any discernable moral thrust was WWII. We are talking 1939-1945, when they didn’t even have TV. Pre-history practically. Whoa, hold on. I almost stepped into funny country there. Back to the subject. The other wars Canadians slid into were about power, corporate interests, and killing people because it's a job. Or maybe wars were always about power and money. In any case, my minute of silence isn’t for the gunners. It’s for the victims who lived in the wrong place and found themselves centre- stage in the military theatre. They didn't apply for that job.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Nope, sorry, nothing here on the US election. As Lincoln said, The Prayers of both could not be answered, and I don’t want you to OD on politics. Instead, I offer you sage advice on child rearing.

Awaken your child’s inner CEO. Guide to Help. We’ve Got Kids. Part II.

GROOMING. Make sure your child’s closet is filled with haute couture so that she can discover her INNER FASHIONISTA: page 28. Male or female, help your children EXPRESS THEIR STYLE AND INDEPENDENCE THROUGH THEIR CLOTHING: page 106. Choosing expensive stuff trains them in the executive DECISION-MAKING PROCESS: page 106. Now they can resolve questions such as: BLINGED ACCESSORIES or 18k GOLD JEWELLERY: pages 150, 152.

And never ever take them to a generic hair salon. MOBILE HAIR CUTTING is a possibility. Let the experts come to you. Better still go to a Children’s Hair Salon, preferably one that pampers your child with hand-made ITALIAN BRUSHES and offers mani-pedis, ear-piercing, and GREAT HAIR ACCESSORIES: pages 155, 160. But there is one listing that caught me by surprise -- I don’t know how it got past the editors: LICE SQUAD CANADA. Are you serious? No way would I risk taking my alpha kid to a place whose CEO couldn’t think of a better name for his establishment, something scientific like Pedicularian Institute, or a couple of innocuous initials like P.I. Am I right or am I right?

COUNSELLING. For optimal performance, your children need professional coaching. They will teach them the skills to OUTWIT, OUTRUN, AND OUT-TRICK their problems: page 112. Let them find their BETTER SELVES or, to be on the safe side, develop the ability to WALK ON WATER: page 141. Alternatively, yoga for all ages might work. And they mean ALL AGES, FROM O UP: PAGE 159. In any case, whatever you do, keep a MEDICAL JOURNAL to record those pleasant moments when your friendly pharmacist FLAVOURS ANY PRESCRIPTION to your taste: page 157. Umm, yummy medicine!

SPORTS. As soon as your child hits the age of 16 months, find a place that will use developmentally appropriate method to introduce practice, refine gross motor skills, and reinforce the benefits of teamwork: page 203. For skating lessons, you have to wait until they are 2.5 years old. Luckily: NO EXPERIENCE REQUIRED: page 213. The GOAL IS TO PROGRESS YOUR TRAINING GOALS(excuse me for asking, but is PROGRESS a transitive verb?): page 214. Or organize swimming lessons for your children in the comfort of your own home – the ad isn’t specific, but we assume they don’t mean your bathtub: page 217. If you don’t have an indoor pool, there are places that feature an AUTHENTIC BEACH ATMOSPHERE with 2000 tons of sand and tropical murals.

But why wait until your children become executives? Believe in them and THROW THE BASH OF THE CENTURY now with popping machines, magic castles, a smash cake and, most importantly, a TRIBUTE DVD: page 139. Come to think of it, that’s what I want for my next birthday: a TRIBUTE DVD. Heck, I’ll even take an TRIBUTE POEM. Ode to Rummel anyone?

Sunday 4 November 2012

A Book For Our Times: Help! We’ve Got Kids. 269pp. No charge.

Of course it’s advertising. What did you think? 269 pages of ads for parents of Alpha kids and future CEOs.

You want your children to succeed? Start early. First off, announce their birth with a 7-foot stork on your front lawn: page 153. Then get help for Alpha mom to help her ACHIEVE HER BREASTFEEDING GOALS (produce supermilk to speed up CEO development?): page 73. That hurdle overcome, we proceed to Phase Two:

DAYCARE. We are not talking about your child toddling around and wasting precious time. No, we are talking about guided activities that will foster CREATIVITY AND SELF CONFIDENCE, activities that will help your children to realize their TRUE POTENTIAL: page 13. A few ads mention fun, which is a mistake in my opinion even if they stress their activities are both RECREATIONAL AND COMPETITIVE. I myself would go for something more sophisticated, activities that have CULTURAL VALUE. What you want for your tot is the FINEST PERFORMING ARTS EXPERIENCE: page 8/9. And remember: it’s never too soon to teach them ballroom dancing. Or build up an art portfolio. Those Alpha tots ARE LITTLE GENIUSES AND BRING HOME MASTER PIECES: page 26. You can’t put them to work soon enough – so on to Phase Three:

EVENTS or parties as they used to be called in the olden days before parents hired professional organizers. These guys will make your children DIG UP FOSSILS, BUILD WOODEN CARS, and direct them to MAKE THEIR OWN TEDDYBEARS, in other words, stuff they can list on their cv when applying to that coveted private school: pages 53, 63. Certified balloon artists will go only so far if you want to develop your child’s CEO potential. Bug parties are more educational and make your tot ECOLOGICALLY AWARE: page 48/9. Although I’m asking myself – is that a good thing? What if your kid ends up with a career in the oil patch? No, I’d go with INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT such as WRESTLEMANIA or the UNFORGETTABLE FIGHTER PILOT EXPERIENCE: page 58. Or DRAMATIC HORSEMANSHIP: page 63. Or the magic of SIXTY PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS: pages 55. Especially if your kid’s room is sound-proof. Which it ought to be if you have hired the right interior decorator. That brings us to

PERSONAL SPACE. Custom room design is a must for the future executive. Ambitious parents will go for a THEMED ROOM to express their children’s dreams. Ensure MATCHING FABRICS and instal MOTIVATIONAL PRINTS. Make it posh, personal and handpainted, and watch your child’s SPACE COME ALIVE: pages 116-117.

So now we’re about half way through the Kiddie Yellow Pages. Watch for the next instalment of my guide to your kid’s CEO future.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Halloween. It’s not too late.

 It’s actually right on. I am dressed as Yesterday’s Woman, you see.

I was going to celebrate Halloween last night, like everyone else, but that was before I read Nestruck’s article on politically correct costumes: AVOID THE HALLOWEEN HALL OF SHAME (Globe 31 Oct). His list of no-nos was so long, I got scared.

The idea of Halloween is to change your appearance and look like someone/something else, right? But you can’t change you COLOUR. Don’t even think about it. Minority costumes are out. No brown-faced banditos or white-faced geishas. No black-faced Afro-Canadians unless a tanning studio will do it for you. No Red Indians unless you are permanently embarrassed. And being colour blind is no excuse!

Actually, you can go as an Indian, says aboriginal playwright Yvette Nolan, as long as you are not a GENERIC Indian. She’s happy to see you as Tecumseh, for example. In fact you can go as any minority, as long as you mean to be IRONIC, like Robert Downey who got an Oscar nomination for his blackface in Tropical Thunder.

But don’t speak with an ACCENT. If you have one, too bad. Play it safe and keep your mouth shut in case people think you are faking it and punch you in the nose before you can explain that you are being IRONIC.

A few groups can still be safely dissed: Bankers – no, wait, the minority rule applies to them. Catholics -- maybe not GENERIC Catholics, but surely the Pope. Women -- as long as you are an IRONIC transgender person.

What other transformations are safe? Can you change your IQ? Nope. DON’T DRESS LIKE AN IDIOT, Nestruck advises.

Change your age? Ageist! Shame on you!
Change your car? Expensive unless you go out and steal one. But remember, no brown-faced banditos!
Change your marital status? Only if you are prepared to split your assets.
Change your vital signs? Okay, lower your blood pressure, but everything else is against medical advice.
Change your mental state? Check local drug laws.
OMG it’s complicated!

See that’s why I crossed Halloween off the calendar yesterday and am sitting here as Yesterday’s Woman.  No sloshing through puddles or wet leaves. No temptation to pig out on left-over candy. No costume required. Just read a hardcover book and everyone will recognize you: Yesterday’s Woman!