Archive for May, 2014


Sunday, May 25th, 2014

The number above is the Ontario Gambling Helpline.  I am delighted to report that I will never need it.

Thursday saw another journey to Casino Rama with a slight change in cast – instead of Christine Kim and I were joined by the lovely Corinne (working our way through “C” initialled executive audio producers).  Instead of a retro rock spectacular we went to see the very funny Chelsea Handler.  I will not do myself, Ms Handler, her fans nor you the enormous disservice of trying to repeat her material but she is a refreshing if at times brutal observationist who is not embarrassed to turn the spotlight on her own idiosyncrasies and weaknesses.  If you like a good laugh and can tolerate the occasional cringe then I recommend you seek her out.

Besides the choice of act, this trip was different from our freshman experience in that Corinne actually knows how to gamble.  She cosied up to the roulette table after the show, $100 in hand, and emerged several hours later $112 richer.  Kim and I watched for a while but the secrets and strategies stubbornly refused to reveal themselves so we wandered of to try some slots.  I sat down at a “Wheel Of Fortune” machine (largely because the seats were comfortable) and proceeded to lose $20 so quickly that I wondered if indeed it would have been slower to actually light a bill on fire.  I think now that the Canadian banknotes are plastic it is extremely possible.  I fed that bill into the machine like you feed those weird little pellets to a goat at a petting zoo, and less than a minute later it was gone.   I was betting a $2 per bet machine (I think) and Kim urged me to try a penny slot, so I sat down at  a Judge Judy game, again largely motivated by the armchair like seating.  I am not sure if I was attracted to the machines inspired by popular daytime TV shows because there was some sense of familiarity or misplaced conviction that I would recognize the strategy, but I fared only slightly better on the second machine.  Kim cashed out with and additional $16.30.  My recouping was a little less impressive.












It actually comes as some relief that my already tending-to-addictive-behaviours lizard brain is thoroughly rejecting a high rolling lifestyle. Just one less thing to worry about.

One thing I can get used to is making a night out with funny, energetic friends an regular thing.  It is very invigorating and I hope I do it again soon.  I may skip the casino part altogether.  Or save myself the seven minutes I spent the last time and make a little wager with myself – I just need to bring along an extra $20 and a match.


Advanced Style

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Hot Docs is over.  10 days, 26 films, too much popcorn and a frightening number of meals consumed hovering over a garbage can.

The spectrum of topics was impressive.  Some films were uplifting, some depressing, some enlightening and some  a little pointless.  I took in four my final day, the first of which was a charming feature called “Advanced Style” about a blogger named Ari Seth Cohen from New York who concentrates on the women of the city who still command a stylish presence in their twilight years.

Here’s a link to the original blog.  He has a book as well, and now this documentary.





All photographs by Ari Seth Cohen























The women in the film are quirky and charming, but it was in the line up that I was truly entertained.  I was reading a book on the rise of Blackwater, the private security contractors who have been gaining enormous power in the past few decades (honestly, combined with my documentary addiction, my choice of reading materials and the Munk Debate on state security I attended on Friday night it is a miracle that I EVER sleep).  Right behind me there were a trio of older women, I’d say in their early 70s, all impeccably turned out.  The first one that caught my eye was a diminutive Scot wearing a gorgeous tangerine coat, yellow rimmed spectacles and a long scarf.  Another was sporting two glorious steel coloured braids and funky glasses.  They looked beautiful and they were talking about travel.  It wasn’t long before the book was a beard for my eavesdropping.  These women had been everywhere, and were talking about where their odysseys would take them next.  One was waxing on about going back to Bali.  The braided women was talking about how she had won airfare to Bangkok and had flow, alone, to Thailand with nary a hotel reservation and a determination to see the culture from the ground up.  She was “adopted” by a group of 20something year old Aussies who elected her their granny took her everywhere with them.  The third just returned home from a European jaunt and was talking about how she rents apartments in Aruba every Christmas and invites all her friends to flop on her floor.

These women were a delight to listen to and also delightfully … familiar.  My own parents are adventurous and intrepid travellers – they borrowed my back pack to go to Indonesia some years ago – so I come about my own love of foreign lands honestly.  The women in the queue sounded just like my friends.  The women in the film looked like my friends.  (Not me so much – I have always been more of an observer that a displayer when it comes to clothing, but my pals have much more panache).  These women were not silly or ridiculous or senile.  By contrast they were beautiful, confident and strong.  I know these people.  I want to BE these people.

Interesting to note there was very little mention of men.  I have always been genuinely amused by the Hollywood parameters of the female story arc.  If a couple dates for more than a few months they are asked when wedding bells will ring. If a matrimony ensues it is automatically assumed that they should start having children.  If a couple split up they should immediately start partnering up again.  If they don’t, they are accused of not “moving on”.  As someone who has remained resolutely unmarried and childless by choice rather than omission or neglect it seems rather ridiculous.  Understand, I LIKE men as a group and I have loved a few of them very deeply, but as I age my own sense of urgency to couple up has dwindled significantly.  I get fulfillment from my own adventures and the people I am lucky enough to have in my life and I do not believe I am unique in this.  If these women are any indication there is nothing to fear in the future, only experiences to embrace.  Maybe I have not “moved on”.  Maybe I have moved up instead.


Heroes & Grouches

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

I am eight days and seventeen films in to the Hot Docs Film Festival.  I have seen many things.  Some shocking, some inspiring, some humbling.  Some frankly boring.  I know now I should never eat sugar again and that getting to Virunga National Park is a must-do on the life list.  I do not need to befriend any alcoholic Swedes and I should really try to avoid a prison term of any length.  I also had the opportunity to meet one of my idols.

I suspect it is almost impossible that anyone of my generation could NOT have been exposed to Sesame Street as a child.  I certainly was, so seeing “I am Big Bird:  The Caroll Spinney Story” was a delightful treat.  It is a beautifully well wrought documentary that charts not only evolution of the characters Caroll plays but also the arc of his own life which includes one of the deepest loving partnerships that I have ever witnessed.  Caroll and his wife Deb are an inspiration and a lesson in devotion.  I actually felt almost saddened as I do not think I will ever be loved as much as these two care for one another.

Caroll has been a member of the Sesame Street cast for 45 years and has played Big Bird for the entire time.  Big Bird is quite nice.  Childlike, innocent, and kind.  Whatever.  The real attraction for me was the fact that Caroll is also the puppeteer for Oscar the Grouch who (coming as a shock to no one who knows me) I adore.  Caroll Spinney was at the Q&A session following the screening and dammit if he didn’t reach into his bag and pull Oscar out!  There was a surge through crowd like a rock star had dropped in.  I honestly don’t know if Bono or Madonna would have gotten a better reaction.

Oscar is taller than I expected.

The second Caroll slid his hand in, Oscar was alive.  There was no sense that they were the same person – they had distinct personalities and they kibbitzed like old friends which I suppose they really are.  The was some discussion during the film  that Oscar would probably never have been given the go-ahead if he were introduced today as he is too negative.  I think he makes a brilliant counterpoint to the saccharine that kids are force fed there days.  I would say I was unaffected by Oscar’s negativity but I am a notoriously cranky player so who really knows.  What I did take away was the fact that of all the Sesame Street characters I like the dysfunctional ones.  The crabby (Oscar), the compulsive baked goods addict (Cookie Monster), the anti social phantasm (Snuffleupagus*).

On reading this back it actually explains a LOT.












* I just discovered on google that Snuffy’s first name is Aloysius, which delights me to no end.