Tuesday, November 30, 2004

A crackling of memory

I am wandering Yonge St. looking for cheap used DVDs. I can afford them new, but most times that strikes me as an extravagance and besides, there's more fun to be found stalking favorites in strange places. A dual Criterion package of "The Testament of Dr. Mabuse" found in a Rogers 'Previously Used' bin for $6.99. An entire season of The Outer Limits (27hrs worth of viewing) at an Ex-Toggery for 10 dollars. The satisfaction of a collector to hold something in your hand and think "I've gotten it cheap and I found it for free."

I walk past a shop that sells both new and used discs, seeing the 20th anniversary release of the Live Aid concert in entirety. The fact that it was 20 years old was ever so slightly sobering, the sticker that said THIS DVD SAVES LIVES was a good dose of perspective.

(well, mostly- having a high-pressure migraine at the time and being in a contrary mood, I had a fleeting impulse to crack the package, snap the DVD in half and cut my own throat with it, gurgling "Not THIS copy!" before falling into that good night - but it was only a fleeting impulse)
My wife was a few doors away in another shop, a crowded and noisy one. I told her about the DVD and mentioned the THIS DVD SAVES LIVES sticker, and she looked strangely at me (and strangely amused). She smiled and said "This really is your season of great import, isn't it?"

"Not my season," I said. "It's the sticker."

"Ohh..." she said, "A sticker. I thought you were just saying 'This DVD will save lives' in a deep, true meaning of Christmas kind of way."

I was horrified. "But...wha...hey! I was being cynical, young lady! And yes, that DVD saves lives, but let the record state that I don't KNOW any of them, so how's that little missy?"

Great import...indeed. John Lennon sings 'So this is Christmas, and what have you done,' which is something to trip over, and even Do They Know Its Christmas had that line about 'Well tonight thank God it's them, instead of you.' Proof to my continued theory that Christmas can so easily become a soapbox as to what is wrong, or what you would differently, or how much you have and its sickening, or how little you have and you should have gone to the better sales.

Credit to Geldof, even 20 years later. He might have a touch of an ego, or one hell of a sense of humour. In his autobiography he mentioned that he was broke, drunk, had vomited over himself after falling down a flight of stairs and, incidentally, had fallen down a flight of stairs. And for some reason (paraphrasing) he felt touched by the divine. God looked down onto Dublin (maybe Belfast, haven't read it for years) and decided to answer the prayers or those starving in Africa. Now...clergy? Politicans? Business people? A drunk, bruised, covered in vomit fading rock star? What the hell, he'll do. Thanks, Bob.

Not a Christmas on sleeve type of person (said the web-blogger) due to the level of manipulation. Has anyone ever known a tough guy with underlings (a tough boss, teacher, scout leader) who has an underling who whispers "He doesn't want people to know but he really has a soft spot for Christmas..." or some such?

I'm desperate for some level of cynicism to balance out the overblown nature of the rest of the season - insulin to glucose - but it is easier instead to get lost at the occasional throw of something treacley that shoots under the barbed wire that I've strung from corner to corner of my being. I work downtown in what is increasingly a memory-favoured triangle, and not all memories within are favorable.

A stretch of Bay windows (literally- shop windows of The Bay) that held displays I was dragged past in cub scouts and on family visits as a child. St. James church where my mother has, and still does, serve communion Sunday mornings. St. Mike's hospital where my grandmother died at least twice (to be explained later) and St. Mike's Cathedral, which has been a good place to escape to in spiritual terms since my father's illness.

Hard to explain- perhaps size. Perhaps proximity, or lack thereof. My mother is a faithful servant of St. James cathedral and good for her, but I don't want to set foot in it for reasons of my own. Perhaps familiarity- in times of trouble (spiritual, logistic) I prefer to be alone and find a wall to back against and plan a way out. Something knows me too well at St. James. St. Mike's is a Catholic church and is larger - more space to hide - or simply easier to sit and listen to the nothing that occurs in a good church.

Less of a chance to be asked to sing. Or to dinner.

It isn't Christmas, but so much of my religious feelings can be summed up in a Thanksgiving story. I was living alone and avoiding my aunt's house for yet another burnt-turkey dinner for as long as possible. There had been a reprieve - the dinner would be held after Thanksgiving proper - so on the holiday itself I wandered into a Baptist church, hoping I could sit alone, listen to the spheres, find solace w/maker, etc.

Not a chance. Baptists (and I was raised one) are to the most part, very welcoming. 'Love the sinner, hate the sin', that sort of thing. And blessings to all involved, but they won't let you sit alone on Thanksgiving. It's also worse, when the general community is rather well knit.

Dig if you will, a picture- I am sitting alone when a late-middle-aged gentleman approaches me before the service begins.

"Are you new here, son?"
"I just came in for some quiet."
"It's a good time for quiet, for reflection...you're welcome to sit with my wife and I. Do you have family in town?"
"Uh...really...I just wanted to..."
"It's hard when your family is away. Are you fighting?"
"Wha? No. I just wanted..."
"Are you a Baptist?
"I was raised a Baptist at Spring Garden..."
"Spring Garden! I know Pastor Dalzell! WHy don't you..."
"Thanks, no, but..."
"Mary! This young man knows Gordon!"
"Does he want to sit with us?"

By the end of it I wanted everyone ELSE in the room to meet their makers on a non-refundable basis. So this might explain the Catholic tinge. I'm not Catholic so I can drift over the trappings and at least be alone in a quiet room for a few minutes to suspend and try to believe.

Try. Key word try.

And outside of all this and Christmas, one weird bit of Baptist Sunday school education returns from time to time. Not the lessons, or the Arrowroot cookies (which were rather good) or the whole Judeo-Christian thing, but the first exposure to schtick- kind schtick and in the best intentions schtick, but very much schtick. Years of hearing stories begin with a confidential tone or swiping from a rollicking yarn into a morality tale has made me very attuned to schtick, and intimately acquainted with the ability to tell, very quickly, a conversation from a sermon.

Friday, November 26, 2004

What stays.

I can’t address Christmas as a media event or a marketing strategy, despite the fact that undeniably it is both of those things. It’s been a cliché for generations to say that Christmas. It’s easy to paint something with a broad brush, and that it the brush is sopped-up with paint resting in the corner in every room where a treatise on Christmas is considered.

Like any other exercise in virtue, the Christmas holiday is perfect as a manipulative tool. The expression “C’mon, it’s Christmas” is as overused as “But I love you, doesn’t that matter?” or “I thought we were friends, isn’t that something?” So let’s get it out of the way early- yes, all things associated with Christmas can all skewed wrong. Countless memories and associations with the holiday are the result of somebody telling you the way things should be (anyone who has ever endured a pre-Christmas shopping crush or preachy ‘the way it should be…’ speech understands this).

In an effort to avoid this trap, I have no convictions about what Christmas should or should not be. The only venue for my recollections is to put them into a much smaller context, into the box of perceptions and memories that is collected in childhood. The box is filled with fewer and few items later in life- perhaps, like any childhood collection, the true value or lack of value of once-loved trinkets becomes evident with age and experience.

But the items remaining in that box were, at one time, sacrosanct. This is the melancholy and glory of things past. The box remains, as do the items within. The box is never overflowing, and there must be some reason, in emotional or psychological terms why it is filled with anything at all.
I want to start with Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales because its the most impressive of the cultural touchstones that I associate with the. Bringing up ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ will leave the gentle readers thinking that this is all either camp or elaborate sarcasm, although the association with Snoopy & the gang is no less intense in my Christmas past than Thomas’ ”wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea.”

I don’t defend this or say it makes any sense, it’s just what has happened. This is the shifting, unreliable nature of memory- the exquisite childhood recollections of a genuine master of the English language (and a drunk, if you want to get snippy about it) and a full colour cartoon of arguably the most commercialized comic strip known to man, vying for space in my memories of a holiday designed to honour the birth of Christ. Yes, it’s nuts.

So why not accept it as nuts? The appeal to one over the other is the same impulse that makes you crave a simple plate of pasta and olive oil rather than an elaborate 5 course French meal, or sheepishly covet a cheeseburger when a healthy, nutritious and rather tasty collection of stir-friend vegetables is available for the same price next door.

But I digress…we were getting into the intellectually acceptable Christmas chestnut. If you haven’t read A Child’s Christmas in Wales, don’t. Find a recording of Dylan Thomas reading it (Richard Burton would do in a pinch, as would Anthony Hopkins if such a recording exists) and listen to the booming, Welsh bass before you take on the text itself. It’s one of the few examples of true oratory, the kind of delivery that probably died in days when Victoria reigned, or at least muttered itself to death because nobody could get away with it. Thomas can.

The piece itself is a short series of Christmas related scenes, sometimes narrated to a listening child:

“But here a small boy says: "It snowed last year, too. I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea."
"But that was not the same snow," I say. "Our snow was not only shaken from white wash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely -ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunder-storm of white, torn Christmas cards."

My mother, who has a touch of Welsh in her, would take out the worn and scratchy record usually on Christmas eve. It became a tradition rather late in my childhood and I didn’t care for it at first. My sister (an anglophile) and mother took particular delight in Thomas’ descriptions of his family, which get a bit twee (Auntie Hannah gets into the Elderberry wine, the dog was sick). But as I grew older, it was the lilting Welsh accent and the respect for things past that brought me back to the recording and the prose repeatedly.
"Were there postmen then, too?"
"With sprinkling eyes and wind-cherried noses, on spread, frozen feet they crunched up to the doors and mittened on them manfully. But all that the children could hear was a ringing of bells."
"You mean that the postman went rat-a-tat-tat and the doors rang?"
"I mean that the bells the children could hear were inside them."
"I only hear thunder sometimes, never bells."

So it is part of Christmas, due to its respect and affectionate longing for that sense of those snippets that remain, all parts of Thomas’ own box of half-wrapped memories.
I stole a piece of Thomas for my own father’s eulogy. It suited so well his actions during his final days, those stretched hours where, as his mind and body stilled, he spoke to and answered people who were not in the room. Those voices were real to him, in both his distant past and in his glimpses behind the curtain that divides us from those things gone which we hold dear. I said that my father was aware of the voices, of the sound “out of all sound, except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep.”

From tragedy to cartoons. A necessary leap.
The notorious Charlie Brown Christmas Special has a weird history- Schulz’s Peanuts gang might have been immortalized on T shirts and posters in the 60’s, but cartoons were another matter. His syndicate wasn’t interested in animation- it was expensive, hard to book, and mostly drawn overseas at the time. But Schulz had written the material for his friend Lee Mendelson, a producer who wanted a crack at animating it. Coca-Cola ponied up the dough, and immediately regretted it since they couldn’t sell it to a network. They subsequently ponied up less dough, right in the middle of production, requiring longer hours and less pay. Bill Mendelez animated it, painstakingly drawing a Coca-Cola billboard around the ice rink (since removed from later screenings).

The voice talent was even more complicated- Mendelson and Schulz agreed that they wanted real children to be the voices in the film, so they auditioned kids for their personality and the tone of their voices. Very young kids. Young enough that when the actual recording session began, many of them could not deliver pages of dialogue, let alone paragraphs. Eventually, a frustrated Mendelson took line-by-line readings and spliced them together. This explains the distinct, slightly ‘off’ readings in the film- their intonation isn't quite conversational, and the result might stay in your head because doesn't quite sound the way people speak (to be fair, it also doesn't have the halting quality of bad acting).

By the time it was done, and Schulz had convinced a jazz trio he liked to record the music (Vince Guaraldi did it more or less for free- they were allowed to keep royalties since nobody involved thought it would make a dime), CBS agreed to show it. Then the balked at the lack of laugh track and the religious overtones (even in ‘64- I guess it wasn’t Frosty). Then they relented. Balked. Relented. And finally broadcast it.
This is the part where you’re supposed to read that it’s entered television history, which is where I lose interest. I just know the broad story- Schulz’s work is held in usually high regard among cartoonists because it was genuinely cynical and philosophical in its early years, and did things that were not ‘cartooney’ per ce. He was eulogized by unlikely sources after his death in 2002, including Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury), Berke Breathed (Bloom County) and Bill Waterson (Calvin and Hobbes), all of whom have a greater cachet as ‘artists’ than Schulz ever did.

But something about his work (both cartoonists cited his earlier years in particular) obviously had enough kind of resonance to influence a Pulitzer Prize winners. In the realm of Christmas’ past, what matters is what remains- I don’t remember my Sunday school lessons from 1975, but I do remember a scratchy print of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ and appreciate it even today. Not quite camp. Downright quaint and quietly religious, a simple just-on-this-side-of-the-border-from-preachy lesson about the ‘real’ meaning of Christmas that somehow avoids the clichéd whining that starts up at the start of December.

Not to say that Schulz nailed something that theologians have not, but as simplicity goes, there’s something almost musical in Linus’ line-by-line reading of the passage from the book of Luke- “And it came to pass, in those days…” etc. The rest of it feels like a security blanket where projects just feel like so much window dressing.

I sneak off sheepishly to watch the special because I saw it and liked that scratchy print at the age of 8, and still was young enough to think that the word ‘special’ and ‘television’ together was somehow sincere. The screening was special. The screening represented the wider Christmas and all things that followed.

And all commercialism complaints are duly noted, but so what if it was sponsored by Coca-Cola? Dylan Thomas was sponsored by Guinness in a somewhat unofficial capacity, but the influence is undeniable.

A missing person's case


Really, anything you can do to help.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

The well meaning friend asks, "So what do you do?"

I want to ask, 'About what?'

She would just answer, 'About Christmas, Michael. What do you do?'

I don't answer with anything other than a shrug. But I sit quietly a moment and leap backwards to 1983, as unlikely a time as any but it is the first Christmas that keeps its own company rather than being a part of its own preamble. I was 15 in 1983 and received two records from a girl I probably should have had a crush on - she did not onto me - but the general concensus is that it would have been a good fit. She was a film fanatic as well, and had given the soundtrack to two movies we had seen together- Brainstorm (Natalie Wood's last movie), and Sophie's Choice.


Holiday classics, they are not. But there's a lovely soft suite in the Brainstorm score called 'Michael's Gift to Karen', renamed 'Suite for Natalie Wood' after her accidental drowning during principal photography. Rent or buy the movie, you'll find a better-than-average sci-fi flick with an odd elegaic quality about it. Sophie's Choice speaks for itself. I think Brooke and I both liked the recorder solo, and the simplicity of the theme. Marvin Hamlish, butt of endless Gilda Radner jokes and horrible 70's pop can be forgiven several sins for his score.

So one of my first, one of the most distinct memories of Christmas has to be a strange assortment of lights and scents and gentle, lovely music from strange sources. Brooke had given me Brainstorm as a birthday present, and Sophie's Choice as a Christmas gift, both American imports, both rare and something you would have to take great care to find. I arrived home from an evening out in a blue cordouroy school jacket smelling of cigarette smoke (not mine) and 15yr old girl's perfume (also not mine). The house was asleep. My father insisted on keeping the tree lights on all night as a solemn decree- the passing traffic would know it was Christmas in our household.

I dropped the needle onto the record, the speakers barely whispering. The tree filled the room with red and yellow and icy blue light as I breathed in an assortment of air- perfume, smoke, paraffin from the candles my mother burned compulsively all through december, the pine tree, the remnants of my parent's coffee. I could taste traces of somebody's kiss - probably Brooke's - some kind of lip liner that was something close to strawberry. I could pick up each flick of dust on the record (the recording was very quiet and did not survive vinyl well), and all of it suffused into itself.

In 2004 I think of being alone in the living-room with that sound, those scents, and somewhere think that the season was still early. Close enough to childhood to remember initial thrills and the timeless sense that came with Christmas- it was something old, something mutually respected, if groused about behind closed doors- I
felt that it around me, rather that something I rode upon. I felt I was in it. I had a pocket full of birthday money and a black eyed girl's lipgloss on my lips. I was happy and lost and that moment has sealed itself into a frame that drifts behind my eyes on dark nights during the holiday season.

Late November, 2004.

I work in an office where one cannot check web-based email or blog. This isn't unusual, nor particularily unreasonable, so I escape to the cafe downstairs to use a computer and drink a coffee whenever the volume of work gets to be too much.

It is almost December. The stores nearby have an assortment of perfect gifts that are past their best-before date relating to my life. A Coca-Cola replica radio would be perfect for my Uncle 10 years ago. 5 years ago. Maybe even last year. Now he is too tired and largely too ill to appreciate it. It would take too much effort to turn the dials, to learn a new mechanism when he has a transistor radio that does the job just fine and is familiar.

For my father, an assortment of sweaters. A few books. A collection of stories on CD. Nothing that can help him now. And this is exactly what I am trying to strike from my mind this season. I am trying to figure out exactly when the last unencumbered Christmas was, and I have to go back to 2000, new millennium, consistent job and just after a raise.

2001 brought a layoff. In 2002 my grandmother died and my father started Chemotherapy, and it was horribly obvious (if ignored) that it would probably be his last Christmas. 2003 was the first without my father and it would have been unbearable if it were not for the fact that we, as a family, were still being thrown clear from the demolition of his death. We sailed through the holiday, rather than appreciating the trappings. It would hurt too much to associate, to compare.


My sister's dog. No creature looks more mournful than a Pug.

Last year, my mother invited my all of in-laws to her house for Christmas dinner. I arrived, gritting my teeth and asked what I could do to help. She said "Drink champagne and smile," so I did, filled with the momentum that one collects in the wake of a tragedy. Last Christmas was not a treat, it was insult to injury given the events of the year. The wounds were still fresh- what's another scratch while you wait for the bones to knit?

This year is far enough away to be...and I hesitate because I can't find the verb. To be new, and thus sterile at least of all Christmas' past. I can dwell on the loss of my father or I can breathe deeply and recognize all that is around. It is the survivor's instinct, it is what my father would have wanted- to carry on. I have a beautiful wife and a good job and my family, thus far, is healthy or maintaining and therefore anything - everything - else is gravy.

But there is price to this, an occasional wrinkle in the sheet that covers everything so it looks like reason. Something is waiting for me. A slide of my father viewed through a small projector. A tactless comment from a stranger about cancer, meant as black comedy and followed with a profuse apology, and still, cutting, intrusive. I can laugh about it, I can grit my teeth and mutter my dark joke about A Chemotherapy Christmas ("and we all have a lump in our throat") and even notice the hypocricy of trying to laugh at the horrible and being hurt when somebody else does on my time.

Hurt, in the sense of bruised, of reminded, rather than offended. It is Christmas 2004 and I am walking through downtown Toronto trying to either find some semblence of when there was not an hole in this season, or to navigate that hole, to find a way through.

Monday, November 22, 2004


Walk into the Home Depot of your choice, and the in-store music has been set at 1974-76 and 1983-87. Nothing inbetween. Like the Guess Who? You will be appeased. If you can't get enough of Billy Joel's 'Uptown Girl' (and really, who can?), it's waiting for you as you cruise the aisles looking for le tool juste.

I've spent a few weekends helping a friend with a clean-air initiative at some of the GTA's finest Home Depots, and the demographic aim is frighteningly true. Let's assume that the 80's hits are for the 30 somethings who are just handling their first home, and the 70's are for the greyer (and more financially viable crowd) whose kids are old enough that they can turn that back bedroom into that study they always wanted. Somebody did the math and figured out that these people will respond best to this music at this time.


None of this is rocket science. Noel Coward quipped about "the potency of cheap music" decades ago in Private Lives. But standing around the Home Depot outlets scared the hell out of me in sort of an espresso shot of nostalgia. It reminded me that pop music is a cheeseburger with fries, best new and not left sitting around to congeal. It also reminded me that, damn, I not only remember when the songs were new, I remember when they were relevant.

Resonant, even. I remember when the Thompson Twins' 'Hold Me Now' was associated deeply with a few girlfriends (capricious youth). I remember where I was the first time I saw 'The Boys of Summer' video. Depeche Mode's 'The Policy of Truth' struck me as a fairly valid life philosophy for years (and yes, one should always tell the truth, but when doing so in an uncomfortable situation, I no longer hear synth and drum tracks). I know a large contingent of people who weep openly at a chorus of Alphaville's 'Forever Young', something I'd like to avoid.

I gave up on most pop due to the fact I have lousy taste in same. This explains the rush of 1984 summer heat when I heard Dan Hartman's 'I Can Dream About You' alongside the Java firelogs. I remember the basement of the departed (and collapsed) Uptown theatre, the frozen, dark interior contrasting the muggy, solid heat of the outside as we filed out into the alley.


'Streets of Fire' is sort of 'Blade Runner' by way of...hard to say...add the name of the 50's good-girl-bad-boy flick of your choice. 'High School Confidential' will do just fine. It's set someplace that's not quite the past and definately not any definable now- imagine if the 50's and early 80's had collided on a Chicago backlot. It's vaguely a musical, more like an excuse to shoot a lot of neon in the rain. And the music...produced by Jim Steinmann of 'Meatloaf' fame, is operatic and generic at the same time.

But at 15 or so, I loved it. Unlike anything else I'd ever seen. It has a small, weirdly loyal cult- I saw it a few years ago at a midnight show during a blizzard (my excuse- my wife was out of town and I was already downtown and couldn't sleep). For a bad mid-80's movie to garner a 500 plus crowd during a blizzard is one thing. And the way everyone rose to join the last chorus of 'Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young' was either sweet or deeply creepy. I voted for the latter and snuck out early.

It might be the rush of nostalgia or just the general weirdness of midnight movie people. I saw Jaws once, and heard a sell out crowd quietly murmuring "Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies..." as Robert Shaw sang to himself onscreen. Good times.

Reject the decking of any halls with these

Christmas Carols To Be Banned/Burned

1. 'Jazzy' versions of any Christmas carol performed by a pop star who has decided to reinvent themselves as either a jazz singer, or a 'master of the classics.' Rod Stewart, I am looking directly at you.

2. In that same vein, any scat-jazz version of any carol. Jaymz Bee, must I say more? And Holly Cole, we don't need another version of 'Santa, Baby'. One was enough.

3. New Country camp is not acceptable. I might not want to listen to Brooks and Dunn do their inimitable version of 'Sleigh Ride', but if stuck in a room with it I could sum it up to a difference in taste. Were those same people to do a version of "All I want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth" with comic Alabama lisps (excuse me, 'lithpth'), I believe there is a case for prosecution.

4. Any carol that requires regional sound effects. I've recently heard loons dropped into 'Silent Night' with (supposedly) native Canadian chanting in the background. This wasn't nearly as bad as 'A Parisian Christmas' which featured sound effects of a lively open-air Parisian market all muttering into a version of 'Holly Jolly Christmas', badly, between Gitanes.

5. Synthesizers should be used sparingly, if at all.

6. Not-quite-carols should be banned in general, and especially now. Anyone who has ever faced a coffee-house solo guitar (or worse, a duet) of Chris DeBurgh's 'A Spaceman Came Travelling' knows what I mean.


...uh, and before I sound truly high and mighty about all this, there is also a long list of guilty pleasures, including-

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas. What can I say? Makes me feel 8.

2. Julie Andrews/Andre Previn's Christmas Collection (A Firestone Tire premium from the late 60's). Perhaps the nicest Christmas album ever available at Esso and Canadian Tire stores during the 1967 Christmas rush.

3. Nat King Cole singing, well, more or less anything Christmas themed. Not proud, but it does strike me as the music my grandmother was humming along to when I was a babe in arms.

4. Bob Marley's version of 'White Christmas'. Look for it, it's out there. Weirdly sincere.

5. The Phil Spector Christmas Album.

6. Sting, singing 'Gabriel's Message'. This does contravene the ban on not-quite-carols since it's kind of a broad musical tribute to the Angel Gabriel rather than Mary and the kid (if anyone else has a better classificaiton, mail it on over). I like the song because it's weird, otherworldly and slightly creepy. A guy in a Santa beard and Santa red coat and hat while simultaneously wearing Bermuda Shorts and red pumps is also distrubing (and in front of the downtown Bay this morning), but not as evocative on a snowy night.

For the record, I'm not saying that Santa in shorts and pumps was directly affiliated with The Bay, I'm just saying he was there.

Magic Hour

I walked around Yonge/Dundas a few evenings ago, feeling like I was somewhere alien- maybe it was the fall of light at dusk. Cinematographers call it 'magic hour', some movies have actually been shot entirely at magic hour because the sky is still lit but the sun is nowhere in sight. It obviously doesn't last long, so such a procedure costs a great deal of money, but the results are stunning. 'Days of Heaven' and 'Heaven's Gate', both flawed films, look gorgeous.


Watching the flood of neon and oversized TV signs the other evening looked like a better-lit 'Blade Runner' to me, at street level, so I'm going out with a good digital camera to catch something. If I can photograph the sidestreets around an intersection I've been visiting for 30 years, and make it look foreign or new to me in a photograph, I've succeeded.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Rearranging the Story II

Last word on Parrish. Really. From today's Star-

"Parrish said she wanted to resign when she met with Martin on Wednesday night, but in a conversation that ended with a friendly hug he persuaded her to stay. He fired her the next day after published reports in which she was quoted as saying that Martin and his advisers could 'go to hell.''I was ready,' Parrish said yesterday. 'I just needed a shove.'"

Again, she's trying to make it look like she's controlling the situation. Was about to quit, after all. It was PM Martin and that sneaky hug that got her to hang on. So it's not like she was fired, she just needed impetus to do the right thing (which she was going to do anyhow, after all). Impetus such as being...fired?

There hasn't been a good meltdown for a few years. Tom Jakobek started out well, but by the time his family came in to testify that, indeed, his financial dealings were weird, he began to look more and more like a propped-up paper lion than somebody who was willingly trying to bluff his way out of a situtation. More sad than tragic. Stockwell Day had the makings of a great sociopath, but by the time he wept during a press conference (was mortgaging his house to pay for legal fees for a libel suit), it was evident that he really didn't understand the consequences of his action. Unpleasant, but not a true manipulator.

Parrish had a great bunny-defiant-against-the-headlights kind of look to her, the same look that Conrad Black is getting as the forensic auditors sharpen their pencils. A look motivated by a voice in the back of the head that says "Nobody can stop you. Nobody can do a thing."

Friday, November 19, 2004

Rearranging the Story

I might lose my lefty credentials, but I'm glad that Prime Minister Martin canned Carolyn Parrish. She doesn't trust Bush? Sign me up for that club. Highly critical of US Foreign policy? Again, I'll sign. But the "I hate those bastards" comment was a stupid thing to make in the presence of the media, allegedly asking the reporters present not to play the clip was insipid (kind of like sprinkling sugar to get rid of ants at a picnic), and the flip flop between "I'm just plain-talkin'" and "Offend? Me? So sorry..." was so blatently manipulative...

To wit:

"Parrish told Canadian Press on Wednesday that 'I have absolutely no loyalty to this team. None. After what they've put me through and lots of my colleagues, they can go to hell. But he's (Martin's) not going to control me, so all he's going to do is end up looking weak.'"

"She then told CP, 'if he (Martin) loses the next election and he has to resign, I wouldn't shed a tear over it.'"

(both quoted in the Toronto Star)

A pretty clear line in the sand. Want more?

"Vowing to never be silenced by Martin, Parrish said she has no regrets. 'Every time he gets up and reprimands me, be it ever so gentle, it just feeds it and he looks like he can't control me, which he can't,' she said."

1. Proud status as rebel/aggressor
2. Open contempt for the party (why not quit? why wait to be fired?)
3. Impersonation of somebody who's controlling the situation, thus...

"...she did talk to Star columnist Chantal Hébert, saying she was relieved to be gone, though she noted how odd it was to be tossed out less than a day after she and the Prime Minister held a conciliatory meeting — one that ended in a goodwill hug. 'Actually, I was on the verge of quitting when I went in to see him. I thought better of it because he was so pleasant and understanding,' Parrish told Hébert. 'He was cross at the beginning but I was satisfied we left on good terms,' she added."

leading to

4. Proud victim/martyr status. Plus, how could any of this have gotten so far? After all, they hugged.

Cheap manipulative crap. Referred to as such. She is now a hero in some circles and demonized in others. It's politics, shouldn't be surprised, the deck is stacked and it isn't even being shuffled properly.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


The problem with dealing with a manipulator is that they're dealing you cards from a stacked deck. It doesn't matter to you whether it's intentional or not - did they wake up that morning and stack it themselves, or was it passed on from generation to generation, already stacked - the point is, the deck is stacked in whatever favour best suits them.

The fun part is when you point out logically, clearly, and dispassionately that the deck is stacked. The manipulator will probably look deeply hurt, shuffle the deck with great ceremony and say "How about now?"

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Credit where Credit is Due

Me- Nice blog. Considering registering to leave snippy comments.

Mr. Groucho- Thanks and please do. I love snippy. Especially from you. No one does snippy like you do.

Me- I should have been a Moyle.

Blogger Templates by OurBlogTemplates.com 2008