Archive for November, 2011

What to do?

Monday, November 21st, 2011

On thing I have noticed about this town is that you have to be pretty diligent if you want to be in the know about upcoming events.  I often find myself reading a review of a show or an event that I happily would have attended but had not heard about.  I get a bunch of emails daily but I am going to sign up to as many web sites as possible to try and stay informed of possible fun things.  I spent some time this weekend poring over the free weeklies, an activity I punctuated delightfully be spending an hour at Woofstock.  I myself share my life with a corpulent cat but I do love our canine friends so this was my way of topping up the doggie petting needs.

Here’s what I found so far:

TIFF has the ongoing Grace Kelly exhibit and they have a special offer:  For $22 you get admission to the exhibit and also to one of the Hitchcock screenings in the theatre.  This Saturday they are showing Marnie, which I believe may be one I have not seen.  Here’s the link to the films – they are screening them until mid December and each film is shown twice.

Canadian Stage is having a preview special on their production of the play “Red”.  This play won the 2010 Tony Award and is about the life of Mark Rothko who is one of my favorite artists.

They are offering the previews at $35 per ticket (reg price $69) and I am going to take advantage while I am in limbo waiting for the web site to be finished.

The Whole Life Expo is running from the 25th through the 27th at the convention centre.  There’s an organic marketplace, lectures, displays etc with a couple of different price points depending if you just want to go see the exhibits or check out the lectures as well.  Could be super wheat germ, could be kinds cool.

Neko Case is coming to the ACC which is an appalling venue for music but the ads claim it is in “small theatre mode”.  Whatever.  I love Neko Case (I drove to Grand Rapids to watch her perform on a Catholic College’s basketball court when she was on a double bill with Emmylou Harris) but I am not convinced this is the place to see her.  Though she may pop by the Dakota Tavern afterwards – she has done so in the past.

There’s also free screenings at the Royal from November 17th through 30th as part of the European Union Film Festival.   I know nothing about this – except that “free” is good and the Royal is a fantastic theatre.  Check it out:

I think that is it for now.  By all means let me know if anyone wants to add to the list.



Dying is Easy, Comedy is Hard

Monday, November 21st, 2011

And writing about comedy and making it sound funny is harder still.

Here’s an account of some retroactive fun things, which really should be the name of my next band.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Royal Cinema to take in “Found vs Found” which was billed as a essentially a popularity contest between the editors of Found Magazine and the guys behind the Found Footage Festival.  I had seen the footage guys on a whim at Largo in LA and had really enjoyed their show.  The two friends troll yard sales and second hand stores around the US and Canada looking for the most ridiculous videotape they can find.  And find it they do – home videos, exercise tapes, cable access, corporate stuff.  Brilliant, amazing, fabulously low-fi and with all the stylin’ and fashions you may have missed from the 80s.  Found Magazine features print predominantly.  Single pages from letters that read extremely oddly out of context, weird signs, receipts.  They warring factions squared off with their best material in three half hour periods to determine who had funnier stuff.  I think I preferred the video overall (I mean, who can resist Winnebago Man – the angriest salesman in the world?) but the print guys definitely had some quality material.  How is this for an actual receipt?:



Ski Mask


That should have made for an interesting evening.

I laughed my head off at the fantastic array of corporate safety videos that painstakingly reenacted potential job site injuries, and I recommend you look up Marc Morrone on YouTube with his fabulous writhing cable access pet show.

If either of these teams find their way back to Toronto I recommend you check them out.

Saturday night I went to check out a friend of mine performing in Sketchfest.  Ted Sutton and his writing partner Mike Kiss have a comedy duo called “Deadpan Powerpoint”.  They dress in suits and perform … well, a powerpoint presentation with extremely dry delivery.  The first of the two presentations was on “How To Form A Sketch Comedy Troupe”.  The second was called “7 Habits of Highly Effective Dogs” and was ostensibly supposed to have been delivered in a kennel.  They were both hilarious.  On the bill were two other troupes.  The first was Charles, a duo from Seattle.  They opened with a long sketch involving an increasingly hostile game of remote Jenga which was very funny.  Jape is a four man team from Toronto and they were great as well, but my man Ted took the prize as far as I was concerned.

Sketchfest is EXACTLY the kind of thing I like.  I really enjoy comedy, it is often performed is small clubs and usually the ticket prices are pretty reasonable.  The organization certainly need to work on their press coverage.  I am quite surprised that I hadn’t heard of the Festival until Ted told me about it.  I was less surprised that Ted forgot to do any kind of self promotion until his first show had already passed by.  I will harass him from now on and the next time he performs I will post it in advance.  By the way, I think Ted is the same age as me.  He isn’t.

Just What Is This “Fun” Thing Anyway?

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

I was just about to post about my activities of last week which involved two comedy shows of very different stripes.  Fun.  No doubt about it.  Tomorrow I am going to the Chagall exhibit. Fascinating and especially fun as I am attending with my artist pal Rea who is a panic every moment she is awake.  (Having not slept with her I cannot vouch for her amusement value whilst in repose.) However, one of the next things on the calendar is a lecture at the Gardiner Museum (of ceramics – hands up those who didn’t know we had one of those) by a gentleman named Stephen Clarkson.  The lecture is described thusly:


Join us for an intimate Lunch + Learn session with Stephen Clarkson, the preeminent analyst of North America’s political economy, as he gives an inside view of the dynamics of the continent’s power relations. Clarkson will speak about his new book Dependent America? How Canada and Mexico Construct US Power (UTP), based on his lifelong fascination with the United States’ relationship with its large, developed, strategically located, but weaker neighbour to the north. Discover the extraordinary extent to which Canada and Mexico contribute to the United States‘ wealth, security, and global power.


I suggested to a friend that he attend said lecture with me and I got a reaction somewhat akin to my suggesting we strip to our skivvies and swim to Buffalo.

Here’s the thing – perhaps my sense of “fun” isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  Maybe a lecture such as the one described above would be more aptly described as “educational” or “interesting”.  Or perhaps “crushingly dull”.

I am in possession of a curious mind.  I mean this in both senses – I am curious about many things and my own brain is a little odd.  When something catches my fancy I have a habit of running it down to the finest detail.  My sister and I share this.  We are obsessive researchers, a pair of little Cliff Clavens.  This could be interpreted as very helpful as we read extensively on a variety of topics.  It could also be deemed “really fucking annoying” that we wax on about the most obscure topics and the most off the cuff remark can result in a twenty minute monologue on the encaustic techniques practiced by the Egyptians in 3000 year old mummy portraiture.  Oh, it has happened.  My point being that I feel a constant need to feed the Bean as it were.

Some things I hope to do will be a laugh riot.  Some may be thrilling.  Some perhaps a little depressing. Some will be educational.  I expect at least a few will turn out to be things that hasten me to my grave, hours that I can never reclaim.  I find that can often be the best fodder for conversation or at least a good rant.  You take your chances when you stoke the intellectual fire.  But fear not.  There are guaranteed to be fart jokes along the way.

One Fun Thing

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

I spent about half of 2010/2011 in Los Angeles.  I had visited the city quite a few times prior to the move but it is a different animal when you attack it as a resident.  The place is enormous both in population and geographic breadth and I only knew a handful of people.  I decided to discover if I liked the city and if it liked me back so I rigorously scanned the local papers, posters and web sites to see what kind of entertainment the City of Angels had on tap.  It offered up a cornucopia of different events from comedy to dance to outdoor activities to theatre and I jumped in enthusiastically.  Many of my adventures are documented here.

Then I moved back to Toronto.  I settled back to the city in which I was raised, a I city I know and love, surrounded by friends and family and ensconced in a condo I am enormously (an possibly excessively) comfortable in.  The operative word in all of this is “settled”.  This environment is very familiar to me.  I got used to spending a great deal of time alone in California and add to that an imminent severe drop in temperature and you have all the fixings for a hermit-hood waiting to happen.

Back in LA I had a huge task ahead of me – to schedule dozens of meetings with producers and studios and publishers etc none of whom had a clue who I was.  The task was daunting but I established a reward system.  If I achieved certain professional goals I got to do something fun or interesting like explore Manhattan Beach or go to an art gallery.  It was a great system, I made excellent contacts and saw wonderful things.

Now I am back in Toronto and in addition to Pivot I have a new company to launch and I am faced with the same onerous task of making meetings and cozying up to strangers.  I believe I am going to reinstate the reward system and vow to do what I am calling “One Fun Thing” a week.  This involves doing something slightly more active than eating microwave popcorn and watching “Jeopardy” (which, by the way, I consider enormous fun).  I am going to try to get out and go to a play, see a comedy act, check out a museum at least once a week.  I need to feed my brain an interact with other humans.  I also need to keep it on the cheap as the launch means I will be living on fumes (and microwave popcorn) for about the next year.

My first installment is soon to follow as last week I actually managed a few fun things.  February may be a different story.

By all means let me know if any of you would like to know about the fun things before they happen or if you know of an event that you think I would enjoy.  I would welcome the company and it may inspire me to actually maintain a standard of personal hygiene I have be know to let lapse when the temperature drops into the negative.


Friday, November 11th, 2011

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (which is the ONLY dictionary in my world.  Don’t get me started on Websters or any of those other ridiculous American versions – that is a whole other post) this is a cougar:

A large American wildcat with a plain tawny to greyish coat, found from Canada to Patagonia.

But so it this:

informal – an older woman seeking a sexual relationship with a younger man.

I have been thinking quite a bit about the latter definition and I have a theory that the behavior displayed by the female human cougar happens more by accident than anything else.  Let me explain.

While I am certain that there are a number of older single women who may consciously dress in what may be age inappropriate garb and head out to the bars to fetch themselves a younger fellow (and in Hollywood I have certainly borne witness to this phenomenon), I suspect that oft times women just commit the gentle and unwitting crime of chronological anachronism.  I shall explain further.

In my head, I am about 24.  I have been about 24 since I was 14 and for about a year in my mid twenties I was actually 24.  The fact that I passed the milestone some time ago has had little effect on my self perception.  A couple of weeks ago I was having lunch with my friend Camielle in a little restaurant near our office.  The waiter was an amusing fellow of about 25 who told us that he was having one of those days when he was just going to “let everything slide” and not get too worked up if things went poorly. Funny info to get from someone who is about to bring you food.  This waiter was wry and witty and I liked him in the sense that he seemed like someone who would be my friend.   I mentioned to Camielle that although I KNEW intellectually that this gent was quite a bit younger than me I emotionally interpreted him as a peer.  My companion went a bit pale I think for fear that I may embarrass her and make some kind of ham fisted pass at the poor lad.  “Oh no!  No, not at all.  Not even close.  No to the Nth power.  No to the nano second.” Camielle said.  “Certainly not”  She went on, lest I miss her point.  “Emphatically not. Googolplex plus not. No way.  Never.  Nein!”  I let my mind wander, musing over my salad whilst Camielle proved herself a veritable thesaurus of negative terminology.

I think this sort of thing happens all the time.  I know a 25 year old is not an appropriate age for someone like me in a partnership situation and to be perfectly honest I have no interest in having an affair with a significantly younger man.  (I have trouble drumming up enthusiasm for a relationship with anyone my own age for that matter.)   However, I think I am younger than I am.  I dress like I am younger than I am, although not in the Hollywood version of the stiletto clad, be-miniskirted version of the older woman on the prowl.  More like hoodies and combat boots.  15 year old boy-wear.  I listen to loud music, often.  I often find myself at performances and exercise classes where I am the senior specimen by at least a decade.  Many of my friends are the same.  In fact, I had almost exactly the same experience that I had suffered poor Camielle through when I was out for dinner with Laura.  We were at the bar at Woodlot and the very knowledgeable and friendly barkeep revealed himself to be 28.  Laura agreed that she would have thought we were all about the same age.  In her HEAD where, like in my own cranium,  we are all vibrant youths frolicking in university sweats and eating ramen noodles,  not the hoary creatures that time has morphed us in to.

I am not sure what to make of this theory.  I certainly don’t anticipate making a fool of myself by actually making a pass at one of these poor innocents mostly because of my aforementioned complete lack of desire for an affair with a younger man and also the fact that flirting, like the application of mascara, seems to be a skill that has thus far eluded me.  I believe I will just continue in my role of amateur naturalist and view all cougars from a safe distance in their natural habitats.

Laura’s Going To Hate This

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Laura’s going to hate this post.  She is going to hate it because I went to see a National Geographic lecture at Roy Thompson Hall last night featuring Mattias Klum, one of the most preeminent nature photographers alive today.  She is going to hate it because it was her seat I was warming.  Laura double booked herself and was attending a lecture by Jared Diamond, author of “Guns, Germs and Steel” and “Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail or Succeed” and offered the ticket up to me which I merrily and greedily accepted.

The lecture was fantastic.  Mattias (and I shall refer to him as such as I feel we would be friends, nay LOVERS should we ever meet.  And he ditched his wife.  And kids.  And wasn’t on assignment in remote parts of the world without me for fourteen months at a stretch.  Man, this fantasy is rapidly deteriorating) … anyway Mattias is an absolute delight.  He is obviously deeply passionate about his work and nature.  He is bursting with enthusiasm about his subjects and can barely contain himself when describing capturing the images of Asian lion cubs in their natural habitat, or photographing Borneo from the TOP of a hot air balloon, or hanging out of a helicopter to shoot glaciers in Iceland.  He is absolutely besotted with life and obviously more than slightly mad.  Plus he is adorable and has a kicky little Swedish accent to boot.

He has been shooting for National Geographic and various other publications for over 25 years and his experiences have been remarkable.  I cannot possibly do his work justice by stealing shots from Google Images.  Give yourself a treat and check out his website (

One of the last segments he discussed was photographing the rain forests and the indigenous animals of Borneo.  Borneo has a special place in my heart and hopefully my life history.  I was supposed to go to Camp Leakey on Indonesian Borneo to study Orangutans with Birute Galdikas back in 1997.  I borrowed the plane fare from my Mum, had the shots, took a leave of absence from work and got ready to go.  Then, almost to the minute a week prior to when I was supposed to step on my plane I was informed that the trip had been canceled because Borneo was on fire.  All of it.  They had to evacuate the camp and much of the island.  12.5 million acres of rain forest were lost.  In my life which has been fairly blissfully free of loss it remains truly one of the most devastating blows I have felt.  I don’t know when I will be back.  I don’t know if I will every see an orangutan in its natural habitat.  There are only about 54,500 orangs in Borneo (and tragically far fewer of their Sumatran cousins) and they are a solitary species.  I cling to the hope that I will and that something can be done to save them.

I believe the great apes and I have much in common:

There are a couple more National Geographic lectures coming up and I will do my damnedest to check them out too.  It truly was an evening well spent.  Sorry Laura.