February 20, 2013

An unreasonable guide to Martha Wainwright

Martha Wainwright is better than your favourite musician.
Perhaps that’s an unreasonable statement. That’s okay. I’m not a reasonable man. I danced (or my arm-waving, seizuresque version of danced) when I snagged tickets to Wainwright’s March 2 concert at the West End Cultural Centre touring Come Home to Mama, her third studio album, released in 2012 in the wake of her mother’s death and son’s birth. I put “You Cheated Me” on repeat at the physio clinic I worked at, to the angst of muscle-mashed clients. I am not reasonable when it comes to Martha Wainwright.
So here’s why your favourite artists suck by comparison.
(Continue reading at TheProjector.ca)

February 19, 2013

Trainwreckiphilia and American Movie

Here's a taste of American Movie, the 1999 documentary by director Chris Smith following filmmaker Mark Borchardt on his years-long project to make a low-budget horror film.

The film won the Grand Jury prize for Documentary at the Sundance Film Fest. The International Documentary Association named it one of the top 20 documentaries of all time. It is a massively entertaining film that had my doc class riveted (and laughing).

And it depresses the hell out of me.

I tend to write off shows about human train wrecks - documentaries or reality shows with casts of self-destructive, self-indulgent people careening toward relational, financial or chemical disaster.  I'll watch for five minutes — I admit it — because the bottom of the barrel is enormously entertaining.

"He's going to do whaaaaat? After drinking all that? Stahp, Rahn, stahhhhp!"

But these shows and movies get boring faster than studios can pump them out. Their stars don't want anything more than to be famous. Their ambitions stop at the Twitter-trending, sex-tape posting, gossip-column bar they've already stumbled over. Sigh. Yawn. Click.

I can't dismiss American Movie, though. Mark Borchardt may have a mullet, low self awareness, brutal social skills and a Midwest accent that could stop a train, but he also has a grand dream of making THE American movie. When he's rattling off shot lists and character motivations, he's staring past both the camera and his rust-coloured Milwaukee suburb, eyes fixed on the American dream.

That's the inspiring train wreck I can't stop thinking about. There's no chance this alcoholic, often depressed, confrontational, low-skilled father of three will reach the filmmaking success he craves. Here's a man who'll live life in the frustrating gap between his abilities and his dream.

That's depressing. And I think it's true for my life, too. It's true for anyone who wants a significant life. Because there is no grand, lasting significance to human existence. We're here on one planet in an infinite cosmos for the briefest flash of time. And then we're gone. You and I may have better social skills than Mark Borchardt but we've got roughly the same odds the impact of our lives will be felt 100 years from now.

You are Mark Borchardt. So am I.

And it's bumming me out. Or as he would say, "Not cool, man, Not cool."

February 11, 2013

Meet Winnipeg Transit's target audience

Tonight the PR mavens and masters of CreComm are buzzing as we wrap up mock briefing notes due at 8 in the a.m., sharpish. We're pretending to by City of Winnipeg communicators, advising the Winnipeg Transit on how to best explain upcoming changes to the fare collection system.

Remember: a key part of communicating effectively is understanding your target audience. Though it's possible (juuuuuuust possible) that your research will turn up the odd outlier.

February 9, 2013

Cat to English translations


Meow = Hello.
Meow = Get lost.
Meow = I have thrown up somewhere in the house.
Meow = Where has everyone gone? Why did you all abandon me!?!
Meow = I'm concerned the clock is slow; are you sure it's 4 am?
Meow = Feed me, hairless meatsack, for I teeter on the edge of starvation.
Meow = There is another goddamn cat in the yard!!!
Meow = Play with me or I'll cut you.
Meow = That floss was delicious.
Meow = This wet food is 'chicken in gravy', not 'turkey in gravy.' My soul has touched the abyss.
Meow = That nap was exHAUSTing. Better sleep it off.

February 8, 2013

I shall punish the earth

Valentine's Day PR

Poor Valentine's Day is annually overloaded with soundbytes, garish graphics and vulgar copy from anyone with a trinket to push. Forgive me, PR brethren, but you're beating Saint Valentine to a second death (perhaps less painful than his first).

But not every idea is dreadful - some do seem in the true spirit of Valentine's Day (Oh, there is a true spirit, ye cynics) instead of exploiting it. From the PR family's notoriously mixed bag, here are your Valentine's Headlines:

Lavalife Unearths the Secret Sexiness of Bold Women

End Your Relationship with Tobacco this Valentine's Day

Dove erects Valentine's Day tweet screen

The aphrodisiac pie (the secret ingredient is love... and bull testicle)

New Zealand radio station's controversial "Win a Divorce" contest

February 5, 2013

Why do we fund museums?

Children's Museum Photo courtesy Ebonie Klassen Photography, 2011

"Why do we fund museums?" was apparently the question asked by several city councillors when they approved a 2013 budget increasing discretionary ward allowances by $40,000 and cutting over $600,000 from local non-profits, including the Manitoba Children's Museum.

I'm not going to argue against executive assistants getting a "living wage" which they apparently currently aren't. The $40,000 isn't necessarily going to that, but who can argue against a living wage?

And I can't argue against the bafflement of why the city funds museums, but Maureen Barchyn makes a pretty good argument. She's program director for the Family Centre, one of the organizations that accesses the MCM's Free2Play program, which annually allows around 5,000 kids to visit the museum for free. In an organization that's already stretched thin (last year they eliminated one position and bumped another two down to part time), Free2Play is in danger.

Children's Museum Photo courtesy Ebonie Klassen Photography, 2011
"We operate a resource centre in the Mayfair development," Barcyn said. "They've enjoyed free admission and summer camp passes.

"It's really important for those family who live below the poverty line to go to the museum. Children in that development have some of the lowest school readiness scores... After they've been to the museum, we've gotten reports back of better relationships with families, improved parent-child attachment. The kids are exposed to a rich play environment, which they wouldn't have access to without the passes."

Staff and guardians (grandparents as often as parents) have told enthusiastically told Barchyn of the difference the trips make to the young visitors' self esteems and desire to learn.

That's why you fund museums.

Children's Museum Photo courtesy Ebonie Klassen Photography, 2011

February 2, 2013

I need your help

*bum not necessarily as pictured

I need your help

On Sunday, February 10, I'm slipping into skin-tight shorts, a headband and aviator glasses. I'm cranking '80s power ballads. And I'm biking for two hours as part of the 24-hour Heart Cycle, raising funds for Manitoba's Heart & Stroke Foundation.

It's that last bit I need your help with that last bit.

PLEASE head over to my totally secure and convenient online donation page and make a donation of whatever you can. $10? $5? $20? It all helps save people's lives.

Thank you.

Cancer, comfort and a concerto that sings the journey

Luc Leestemaker: May 18, 1957 - May 18, 2012

In 2011, Vincent Ho’s patron, collaborator and friend Luc Leestemaker phoned. He had cancer.
The LA-based visual artist and entrepreneur, who had financed Ho’s first recording when the composer leapt from academia to the professional world, told his friend how doctors had given him three months to live, tops. Leestemaker was rejecting western medicine’s death sentence, however, in favour of alternative healing practices – psychotherapy, herbal medicine, shamanism and meditation.
And he wanted his friend Vincent to compose something: a musical score for cancerland.

February 1, 2013

On visiting the hospital to witness a death

You realize that you are rushing. Not running, which would be undignified, but trotting a quick step through indistinguishable wards and hallways, scanning arrows for guidance and counting room numbers.

You turn a corner and sight a relative and slow your pace. It's a chance to read their face to know what's coming - a diagnosis written in pursed lips, wet eyes and pale skin. Did we make it in time? Is she still alive?

Entering the room after wordless hugs, you turn to the first bed but it's not her. It's never her. Hospitals rotate beds to ensure loved ones are never the first person you see. You've stumbled into someone else's private grief and back away from the stranger-patient and their family apologetically, entering your own crisis with tail tucked.

Past the next curtain and there he is, life held together by willpower and breathing tubes. Your uncle and aunt tried to warn you about what you'd see but words don't cut it. Words can't prep you for the suckerpunch of seeing a love one diminished, turned into the intersection of tubes, wires and flesh. I know, we all know, that we're going to die, that an eternal parting from everything we cherish is inevitable, but here it is in person. Mortality 101.

She's not conscious. No, she is. Is she? You peer into the doped gaze for recognition and intelligence, smiling fake confidence. It takes five seconds at most to realize words won't do. Instinct kicks in and you literally try to get a grip.

Touch is the undeniably real sensation in the middle of an undeniably unreal blur. Cold, dry skin is a solid fact. Gossamer, untinted hair is proof of existence.

You perch on the hospital bed and settle for touch. If that is settling. The moment is basic and primitive.