Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What if your home town ceased to exist?

This past weekend was a long weekend due to the McGuinty sanctioned-holiday Family Day. Though I don't usually care for much of what the Liberal Party pushes out (Yes, this is a backhanded poo-reference and yes, I went there), I think this holiday is out of sight! And not just because I get to sleep-in an extra day or ski on a weekday. At our place, we use the weekend as a way to connect with our kids in the way we remember our parents used to do with us. For my husband, this translates into getting everybody outdoors to do something physical. For me, it means getting everybody into a Dim Sum restaurant to gorge on chinese food and then heading immediately to a movie theatre where we listen to our digesting stomachs compete with the movie's soundtrack . Good times.

It's also a time where I reflect on where I grew up. After a trip up the French River a few summers ago with the kids, I let slip that I grew up only an hour and a half away from where we had just spent three days paddling. Like stunned American tourists, they asked whether I, too, had "paddled to school". Not. Quite. But it did lead to an impromptu Google Maps search for Levack, an explanation of what a "pit party" was and a promise to to see the Big Nickel in a summer or two. Again, good times.

Even though I spent most of my teenage years praying to get the fook out of the small town I grew up in, it's really only now, as I grow older, that I feel blessed to have been raised where I was. Tom Wolfe said that you can't go home again but he got it aaaall wrong. I have gone back home waiting for a light to change in New York City; watching a pine tree sway in the wind in the middle of a forest in Germany; laying on a secluded Caribbean beach. And always I think: where I am from is as good as this. It's a feeling that can bring you pleasure at the oddest of times.

The National Film board of Canada has put together this mesmerizing -sometimes heartbreaking- yet celebratory memorial to a mining town in the North West Territories that was once a vibrant community and now no longer exists:

Most industry towns, after losing their purpose, attempt resurrections, reinventions, or just slowly wither away.

In Pine Point, they decided to erase the town from the face of the earth.

I felt somewhat changed after watching this film and learning about Pine Point ( It made me think about how much the place you come from is as much a part of you as the people you guide through it. And, damn it, if that's not something worthy of celebration.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Democrazy: The Game

Maybe, but the big North American news networks won't be there when it happens. - Maybe, but the big North American news networks won't be there when it happens. | APLast weekend, while my husband sat in his man cave and watched a few dozen men throw a pigskin around a million dollar stadium, I sat up in the comfort of my room and watched as a few thousand men and women pushed their country toward revolution. My show was better. You wanna know why? It lasted longer, had way fewer commercials, way more cheerleaders and the outcome was far more satisfying. Are you gonna remember who won the Super Bowl this time next year? Probably not. Will you remember that a legion of thousands toppled a government in a little more than a contestant cycle of American Idol? Uh Huh. That's what I'm talking about.

John Doyle, the curmudgeon-y television critic for The Globe and Mail might disagree, though. In an excellent column he wrote this week, he claimed that the majority of Canadian cared little or not a whit for the antics in Egypt. He cited that our general disinterest had something to do with the fact that Canadian viewers didn't actually "care much about Egyptians".

They have no empathy and very little interest in what Egyptians say, think, do or feel about anything. Groups of angry people demonstrating on the street in Arab countries make viewers in North America uneasy. The knee-jerk reaction is to associate the visuals with Islamic fundamentalism. The visuals look all too similar to footage of anti-American, anti-Western rage erupting somewhere. The other knee-jerk response in viewers is to remain steadfastly indifferent to any nuance in the situation.

So sad because on some level, it is so true. I took a random sampling of men and women on the streets of my town and asked them what they thought of what was going on in Egypt and the majority of them had little or no interest in the events. (N.B. Actually, for the record, I asked 6 people at my rural post office over two days. Not exactly an Angus Reid poll but my resources and time were limited.) Short of throwing Anderson Cooper into an angry mob, how can we get the average North American audience to give a fig about democracy? Hell, we can even get the average American to give a crap about their own crumbling state. Yeah, it's destroying itself or hadn't you noticed?

So, what I propose for the next revolution is the following: merge the NFL line-up with the revolutionary line-up.

You're not following me? Let me explain: The one thing both events have in common is great handles. Hosni Mubarak. Excellent name! LaDanian Tomlinson. Strong. So, what better way to keep the eyes on the prize than get a bunch of these guys in the same room and work together to keep people interested. Because, if I'm to understand the problem correctly this not about the rise (or inevitable fall) of democracy but about ratings, correct? So in that case, I'll see your Ehud Barak and raise you a Jabari Greer.

This is just crazy enough to work, people. Just crazy enough to work.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The 10 Weirdest Things I Ever Did

The White Stripes
Originally uploaded by Barakattack
I woke up this morning to the news that the band, The White Stripes, had broken up. Sad, but hardly surprising when you consider that the band's helmsman, Jack White, has been pursuing his own projects for the better part of the past decade sans Meg. Sad, nonetheless.

I've always enjoyed The White Stripes. At their best they were a remarkable duo because they managed to successfully allow the great sound they produced to not override their weird- and sometimes creepy - personalities. It's a very tricky thing to accomplish in popular music where image is everything. Right, Phil Spector?

So, in honour of the demise of The Stripes Blanche, I am going to come clean on the ten weirdest things I have ever done. And, let me state for the record, I didn't have to dig too deep to come up with just ten.

1. I once took on an assignment to write a review of a DVD entitled, The NASA Missions: Volume 1. It was 9 hours in length. I sat through 2 and a half before I realized that I was losing my will to live and would rather be stuck in a capsule with Yakov Smirnoff headed to Mars than write the damn review. I still have the DVD if anyone wishes to borrow it.

2. I once argued with Danny DeVito over why he couldn't bring a rum and coke into one of Canada's most esteemed concert halls. It didn't go over well.

3. I practiced squatting with a dozen women - all of us 9 months pregnant - in the basement of a church on Bloor Street. At one point the instructor asked us all to moan from "the bottom of our throats" and the sound made me feel ashamed to be female. If I ever want to get in touch with a feeling of instant humiliation, I will conjure up this sound again.

4. I walked backwards from work one night just to see what it felt like. It was a two mile hike from my place of work to home and, near the end, I tripped over what I think was a cat. Rather than stop my experiment right then and there, I continued on my journey until I reached my apartment. Yeah. I did.

5. I once plunged a stuck toilet with a plastic garbage bag wrapped around my foot. It actually worked. I don't, however, recommend you try it home. Very messy.

6. I once watched my soon-to-be husband (though I didn't know it at the time) perform "surgery" on my roommate's cat with a safety pin. The cat never fussed and miraculously recovered. (N.B. I was never sure if this actually happened - a great deal of extracurricular liquids were involved - but my now-husband assures me that it did.)

7. I was obsessed with eating dirt for about a week while I was pregnant. When I told my doctor about it he told me to go home and lick a potato. It worked.

8. I once bought a
Richard Simmons: Jazzercize! record at a garage sale because the look he had on his face on the cover radiated pure joy. It spoke to me. The lady I bought it from felt so sorry for me that she threw in a set of 3 pound weights for free. I still have them. The weights, not the record.

9. I let my daughter cut my hair. She got bored halfway through and stopped. Nobody noticed the change.

10. I once sat with a crazy lady on the subway who convinced me that the Eiffel tower had blown up that morning. When she got off I asked a sane gentleman if her info was correct. When he refused to answer me I skipped my class in order to get to the bottom of the situation. In my defense, this was years before the internet.

Damn, I just realized that I could go on for days. Long live the White Stripes!