December 30, 2011

My Happy Place

Every so often, I run across the question

Where would you be if you could be anywhere in the world?

Easy: Stotan Falls on the Puntledge River in British Columbia. I spent the best times of my teenage life there, diving, swimming and lounging with friends. We thought we were young gods who'd never grow old.

Here are some girls doing the same thing at the same place (kudos to you, fearless divers). And they've set their movie to one of the best songs ever (written by other young gods), so I love everything about this.


Where's your happy place?

December 29, 2011

Oreo the Stray

This is Oreo the Stray. I am her patron.

Our neighbourhood, like many in Winnipeg, has a number of stray cats who live pretty wretched lives in the winter (not fantastic lives in the summer either, but a little better). This is what happens when people don't spay and neuter their pets, let their cats wander or dump their unwanted pets.

I feel disproportionately enraged by this; I know there are other, worse things to get upset about. And I really don't believe in corporal punishment. But the deep desire to smack some jerks around rises when I think about strays.

Oreo started hanging around in September '10. She was (and remains) very shy. A number of strays will come up and play beside me when I'm working in the backyard. Oreo kept her distance for a long time. She would sit on the front step and cry for attention. A very human cry like a child (something cats learned millenia ago when they domesticated themselves). I put out a small dish of food for her, which she wolfed down. Then she was gone.

This event repeated over several fall evenings. She wouldn't show up every night; that would be too predictable. And I wasn't allowed to pet her. She would jump back when I tried and look at me as if I were Norman Bates.

One evening, however, I succeeded. I sat on the steps and watched her eat. One of the hypocrisies of my feeding Oreo is refusing to feed her streetmates. Often other cats will come and try to steal food from Oreo (she's an older female and timid). And I chase them off. They're no less deserving than her, but I don't want all the neighbourhood cats hanging around my house. And she was here first.

I reached out very slowly while she worked away at her bowl. She paused. It looked like she might dash. She lowered her head and kept eating. I made contact with her back. And she arched her shoulders up to meet my scratching fingers. She purred deeply, rumbling from her chest.

Since then I've been allowed to pet her. Not for long, but for a few minutes, she'll nuzzle her head against my leg and submit to gentle patting and scratching. I can't pick her up (I tried once, she fled) and she won't come in the house (except once last winter when it was -45 Celsius - she stepped onto the front mat and stayed for an hour of warmth, while our two house cats watched her, mystified). But she has gradually lowered her guard. And I have gradually gained a streetwise friend.

December 28, 2011

Winnipeg at 4AM

Second semester of Creative Communications is starting up soon, so I thought I'd revisit the photo essay that helped get me into the program all those months ago.

On my old commute to work, I walked past Rasoi the Kitchen - an Indian/Pakistani restaurant on Ellice Avenue. Its sign announced that the store was open until 4AM.

"4AM? Who the heck is up at 4AM?"

Needing a theme to tie together the photo essay component of my CreComm application, a late night quest was born.

This is Abdullah, who works the night shift at Rasoi. He said it was a slow night.

Tim Hortons was surprisingly busy. I didn't have the guts to snap a pic of 
the young fellow singing Peking opera behind the counter, so I got this picture
of a guy panhandling outside. A muffin traded for a photo.

I assumed I wouldn't run into anyone I knew. I was wrong (oh Winnipeg,
you're so like that). I hadn't seen Mike in years. He's putting himself through
college these days. And he's awesome. Thanks for the picture, amigo.

The city seems smaller at night, with so few people around. Here's one of the people who empty the
street side garbage cans. I didn't know how this was done. Now I do.

It's rough being a cabbie. I really hope this guy drove himself home
after he eventually woke up, but I doubt it. Also - you can see my creepy reflection. Creepy. I suppose
I don't have consent to use this picture. On the other hand, he's asleep at the wheel. We'll call it even.

December 27, 2011

Say Hello to my Little Friend

A friend introduced me to an online presentation platform I'm now crushing on - Prezi. It's a lean, mean, zooming machine that lets you embed text, YouTube clips, documents and images.

Here's a taste - a personal branding assignment I put together for advertising class.

Prezi - it's like a power point presentation on acid!*

*Do not do acid while viewing a Prezi! To use the old Roman expression - you will upchuck.

December 20, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Leaving the theatre after watching the English reboot of Stieg Larsson's "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", my host reminded me that Larsson had intended to name this first installment "Men Who Hate Women."

Do they ever.

Under a thin, Ikea-ish veneer of old European class and modern elegance, is a Scandanavian world full of exploitation, sexual violence and murder. Everyone in this movie has a basement of secrets. In the corner of our eyes, we can see this darkness is humming along in the world, dragging people (frequently women) under the water. You could call it an underworld, but its hardly hiding and the strong suggestion of the film (and the books) is we're complicitly ignoring this evil.

(Watching GWTDT, I couldn't help but think of our own missing and murdered women here in Manitoba)

Enter Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) - hacker and punk anti-hero - wearing a shirt that reads Fuck You, You Fucking Fuck. A ward of the state since she was 12, Salander is emotionally disturbed, antisocial, and wonderful. She's defiantly sexual, despite a history of abuse; uninhibitedly violent in response to attacks; scarred by her upbringing and fearless in revenge. With her omnipotent access to online secrets, she's the avenging demon we know we need (At one point she asks Blomkvist for permission to kill. You nod along with him).

Salander is a gift role for any actor and Mara builds an impressive performance. She inhabits the body of a slouched, stringy outsider who's built layer upon layer upon layer of defense. There's no emotional showboating in her performance, despite the temptation for a weeping display of vulnerability. Only small touches reveal Lisbeth's capacity for warmth; a capacity she'll never get to explore. The other characters - like Daniel Craig's decent Mikael Blomkvist and Stellan Skarsgard's good Martin Vanger - pale beside her (ironically).

David Fincher catches these good performances from his cast, and does an okay job building the story's grim atmosphere. Editing the massive novel is (unsurprisingly) more trouble. The last section of the movie is rushed to reduce time (it's already 158 minutes). And that's a shame, because it's the story of Salander's special gift to Blomkvist. She risks her life and freedom once more for him, taking down an international businessman/criminal to restore her friend's reputation. After which, he promptly forgets her. That's a movie in itself.

The Millenium Trilogy is a zeitgeist phenomenon and Lisbeth Salander a zeitgeist character. As economic, societal and environmental pressures escalate around the world - as it becomes increasingly clear a showdown is coming between the forces who back the status quo and those who don't - the desire to have Lisbeth Salander's potency grows. There's a convicting power in this story to get up and do something.

That's reason enough to see it, even if you haven't read the books.


December 16, 2011

How Do You Spell Aggression?

Yesterday evening, Mel and I stayed in to play board games. And drink tea. That's how we roll. We cracked open a new/old game that hasn't made it into our Board Game Rotation yet (that's also how we roll)

Pick Two is a crossword-scrabble hybrid. Players draw letters and try to construct their own crossword. If you use your letters up, you draw two new letters, forcing all other players to as well by shouting "Pick Two!" (clever!)

Not to brag, but I'm a Wordsmith Master Supreme (level 20, equipped with a +2 thesaurus). I do my weekly crossword; I play my Words with Friends. I rocked this game. And Mel is competitive. Normally she gets to stomp my can when it comes to anything athletic, so I don't think this sat well with her.
As demonstrated by the words she chose.

My words (among others)
  • Aviated
  • Reopened
  • Dew
Her words (among others)
  • Judas
  • Flay
  • Tomb
  • Bleak
  • Lurk

December 12, 2011


I dunno folks; I don't think this vegetarian diet is working out. It's my own poor management, I'm sure, but my energy is just too far down. All I did was write a few radio ads today. Exhausted. Groan.

And now going to yoga. Double groan. Moksha Yoga brought me back into the fold with a two-week unlimited pass for twenty dollars. Which might turn me into this:

If my favourite pose wasn't this:

December 9, 2011

My First Kiss

A new series has recently premiered on TLC, demonstrating how far that network has fallen (as though we needed proof). Virgin Diaries "takes you inside the lives of adult virgins who reveal the challenges, truths, and anticipations of losing their virginity."

A commercial for the series included this (physically) painful kiss:

I get your reasoning, happy couple. You're saving something special for the person you're going to spend the rest of your life with - both your virginity and the intimate embrace of a lip lock. I really do get it.

And I really do think you look like two robins attempting to feed each other. Rehearsal is key, people! I'm in theatre, trust me - you don't tell the choreographer, "Yeah, that duet with the lead lady that's going to be viewed by everyone in the audience? Yeah, let's wing that."

But I'm inclined to be more generous as I remember my own First Kiss. It was in grade seven in the basement of a friend's house in Comox, British Columbia at my first co-ed party, sans adult supervision. I arrived 30 minutes early and walked around the block five times. Inside the house was Aimee. She had short, funky black hair, an athletic physique and a crooked smile. Her friend had told my friend who had told me that she liked me (we didn't have the Facebook back then). My dress shirt was soaking in nervous sweat. I went inside.

The basement was lit by Christmas lights, so it was dark (preferable - no one could see my terror).The host, in courtesy to couples who wanted to kiss in private, had hung a tarp from the ceiling to create a "kissing room." At some point in the evening Aimee dragged me in there.

She was standing very close to me. I think we both said, "hi." Then we went in for The Kiss.

I remember my body being very stiff; I'm sure my back seized. My hands were soaking through her shirt as I held her. At first our lips just mashed together and didn't move. But I had heard that there should be some motion, so I tried. Sort of a cow-chewing-its-cud kind of action. And then... what the hell is that in my mouth??? It's her TONGUE! AHH!

I tried to bite her lower lip at one point (saw it in a movie). Bit down too hard though, and she drew back. We tried again and bashed our teeth.

The party is a hazy memory, so I'm prepared to be corrected on these details. I do remember stumbling home afterwards, the dark woods illuminated by singing angels and optimism. I had kissed a girl.

So to the happy couple above - congratulations. Now... practice some more ;)

December 5, 2011

Everyone Has A Story

Terry Proveda points to a photograph of piled skulls and bones he took in the Parisian catacombs.

"I love this. Someone is going to look at it and go, 'Whoa, that's a pile of bones!' You don't have to read into it - you don't. You can just look at it and be like, this is a nice picture. You don't have to read into it."

He pauses and smiles. "You can."

The photo is just one of hundreds the Charleswood native took on a trip across Europe in 2010. For three months, Proveda lived out of a duffel bag, travelling through Sweden, Denmark, France and a number of other countries. He says his search for spectacular images coincided with a childhood goal.

"I always wanted to go to France and take a picture of the Eiffel Tower. I think it was a symbol for me," he says. "I'm the first one of my immediate family to go overseas."

"Going there meant being on the other side of the world."

Capturing the experience in photos was natural for Proveda; he says he can't remember not having a camera. Through the cheap, disposable versions he got as a child to the point-and-shoot model he won at graduation, Proveda has slowly built his confidence as a photographer. A few years ago, he invested in a professional SLR camera.

"A nice big one - you know what I mean," he laughs.

His European pictures cover a variety of subjects. A riot in Greece. A friend's porch in Montpellier. A colourfully painted Italian fishing village at sunset - a picture Proveda camped a day on the side of a cliff to capture.

"I wanted stunning images. I don't want to go out and just take the same stupid photo that everyone else has taken... You want to tell a story, but there are also times for just a cool picture."

His European trip over, Proveda had difficulty finding inspiration closer to home. He recently accepted an internship at Red River College's student newspaper as photo editor - a position he hopes stimulates his creativity.

"I'd like to get in there and get to the news... Hopefully I can live up to the hype."