Thursday, December 29, 2005

Brokeback Mountain: A (partial) review

I was going to write a review of Brokeback Mountain but the movie broke down about three quarters of the way through. I don't mean the plot went off the rails. I mean the film literally broke down. The screen just went black.

We sat there in the dark for about half an hour while a technician tried to fix the projector. But there was nothing they could do so they sent us home with free movie passes instead.

Since I have no idea how Brokeback Mountain ends, this is a spoiler-free review.

What I saw of the movie, I liked. No, loved. It's probably the best movie I've seen all year (and I haven't even seen the whole thing yet). It is both breathtaking and heartbreaking.

The film opens in the mountains of Wyoming. The setting is wild, rugged and untamed. It is the perfect backdrop against which to set a love story, especially a love story between two men. It is impossible to see their relationship as anything but natural and pure. Which I think (I hope) is the point of the film.

Their environment is completely stripped of externally imposed morals and values. Only in the mountains, under the trees, with sheep and horses and bears for company, are Jack and Enis truly free to be themselves.

I'm oversimplifying it a little. Generally, life isn't black or white. It's mostly different shades of grey. But there are a few things I will passionately defend as being right or wrong. To me, the struggle by gay people for acceptance and equal rights is no different than the struggle by African Americans for the same thing 50 years ago. They are both fundamentally about human rights.

Brokeback Mountain is an important film because it highlights that struggle in a sensitive and moving way. This isn't a story about gay cowboys. It's a story about love.

It's painful to watch Jack and Enis emerge from the wilderness and get married and have children. But in 1960s rural America, they didn't have much choice. They could either suppress their true selves or be open and live with violence, fear and ignorance.

There were two scenes in the movie that stood out for me. The first took place when Jack and Enis spent the summer together up in the mountains. Nothing had happened between them yet. One night, Enis stayed at Jack's camp but chose to sleep outside alone rather than join Jack in the small tent. Enis woke up shivering in the middle of the night after the fire went out. Jack insisted he join him inside the tent where it was warm.

The scene almost made me weep. Not because they finally had sex but because it was the truest depiction I have ever seen of what it's like to sleep in a tent in the backcountry, walled in by mountains, blanketed by stars. You could almost smell the campfire in their hair, the mildew in the tent walls and the sweetness of the forest-filtered air. It's so romantic it hurts.

The other scene that almost made me weep was when Jack and Enis saw each other again for the first time in four years. The film broke down shortly after that so I'm not really sure where the story goes from there. It did seem to be taking a darker turn so I'm curious to find out if it continues to spiral downward.

If you've seen the movie please don't tell me what happens. My sisters and I are going to attempt to see the whole thing later today. More when we return . . .

UPDATE: We've just returned from seeing the entire movie. If the first half was heartbreaking, then the second half was heart wrenching. I don't know what to say. I feel like driving out to Brokeback and throwing myself off the mountain.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Mall madness

Normally I do all of my Christmas shopping on December 24th but this year I did it early. Okay, I did it yesterday. But still. That's pretty early for me. It might even be a new record.

The thing is, I actually like shopping on Christmas Eve. I thrive under pressure. I enjoy being out there with all of the other last-minute shoppers. If I'm going to be stuck in a mall all day, I like knowing it's filled with my kind of people.

Plus, shopping on December 24th forces you to make decisions quickly. Which is very important for someone like me who can spend 20 minutes in an ice cream shop agonizing between mint chocolate chip and vanilla.

But I decided to do my shopping early this year because December 24th fell on a Saturday. That would have been a little too frenzied, even for me. I'm a procrastinator, not a masochist.

Anyway, I just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday or Joyful Festivus or whatever it is you do or don't celebrate this time of year!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Recommended reading

One of my favourite Christmas traditions is reading trashy magazines with my sisters. Every December, all five of us cuddle up on the couch and go on a Cosmo binge. Nothing says family bonding like reading magazines about skanky bitches.

Actually, the only time I ever read Cosmo is when I'm in Toronto. My 18-year-old sister Hilary keeps a stash of back issues under her bed. I usually prefer more weighty reading material but those glossy pages filled with sex tips and secret confessions are impossible to resist. Cosmo is my kryptonite.

I might be less tempted to crack open the magazine if it didn't have such compelling cover stories, such as:

- That bitch ruined my wedding
- Very sexy things to do after sex
- Skank alert! The beauty trend that makes stars look sooo trashy
- Read his dirty mind
- Shocker! The kinky sex trend that even nice girls are trying

The thing is, I now associate Cosmo with Christmas. So when I'm standing in line at Shoppers Drug Mart and there's an issue of Cosmo on the stand, I feel all warm and fuzzy. Visions of my sisters start dancing in my head.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Wacky signs

There's no better way to show your irreverence to the election than by posting irrelevant signs on your lawn. At least two people in my parents' neighbourhood (also known as the exciting and controversial Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding) have done just that.

The first sign is subtle yet subversive:

I think the sign is meant to remind passersby that the Conservative Party is little more than a front for the Reform Party. The subtext is obvious -- the Conservative Party is full of fake Tories like Stephen Harper, Stockwell Day and Preston Manning. It's street theatre at its finest.

The second sign uses absurd humour to convey the homeowners' strong nationalism:

By hanging the sign sideways, I think they are trying to say that Gilles Duceppe and his separatist friends are out of kilter. Not that it matters. You can't vote for the Bloc in Ontario. Maybe the homeowners are showing their distaste for all of the local candidates and are staging a silent protest by hanging a Bloc sign.

Or maybe it's a backlash against the sea of Michael Ignatieff signs around here. Hanging a sign with Gilles Duceppe's face on it is a clever reminder that Quebecers are turning to the Bloc because of the Liberal sponsorship scandal. The homeowners' message -- don't vote Liberal.

Perhaps I'm reading too much into it. But it's more fun that way. Plus, it makes the neighbourhood seem way cooler than it really is.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The great debate (alternatively titled "Two hours of my life I'll never get back")

Wasn't that election debate a real barnburner last night? What's that? You missed it? You had better things to do on a Friday night? Not me! I watched the entire two-hour debate without a single bathroom break (a few commercials would have been nice). I even took notes.

Here are some of the highlights:

Stephen Harper kicked off the debate by saying he wants a free vote on same sex marriage. Ha, ha. This guy is hilarious. I love his dry sense of humour. If this prime minister thing doesn't work out for him he has a bright future on the stand-up circuit. Oh, wait. He wasn't kidding about same sex marriage. I take it back. He's not funny. He's scary, like a robot with creepy laser eyes.

Next issue up for discussion, gang violence. Paul Martin said he wants a ban on handguns. Stephen Harper thinks longer jail terms will solve the problem. Jack Layton's response? "Send more NDP MPs to Ottawa." Wow. Who knew Layton was such a hard ass?

Actually, sending more NDP MPs to Ottawa was Jack Layton's answer to everything. Health care? "Elect New Democrats." The sponsorship scandal? "A vote for the NDP elects an NDP MP." International relations? "More New Democrats in Parliament means more results for people."

If I had a drink for every time he told us to vote NDP last night, I'd be in the hospital with alcohol poisoning right now.

The best part of the debate was watching ordinary Canadians ask the leaders questions. Like the sociopath from Saskatchewan standing in front of a dozen rifles in his basement demanding to know what the party leaders thought about the handgun ban. Or the woman dressed in scrubs with a stethoscope around her neck who wanted to talk about, you guessed it, health care. The message? Canadian voters are a bunch of self-interested jerks who don't care about anything that doesn't directly affect them.

A university student from New Brunswick asked a question about Atlantic Canada's economy. Instead of answering the question, Stephen Harper launched into a monologue about his family's New Brunswick roots. And then Jack Layton and Paul Martin did the exact same thing. Cool. They all have New Brunswick roots. What this has to do with the election, I'm not really sure.

As for Gilles Duceppe, words came out of his mouth but I wasn't really listening.

Was there a clear winner last night? I don't know. I thought the guy who turned the microphones on and off did a pretty good job.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson, John Irving and . . . me?

So that's it then. I've nothing left to accomplish. Why? Because my name was mentioned in the same sentence as Hunter S. Thompson and John Irving in the Georgia Straight this week.

The man responsible for causing thousands of Straight readers to ask "Who the fuck is Sarah Marchildon?" is none other than Vancouver's Hot Rob.

Mr. Too Hot to Get a Date is the newspaper's City Single of the Week. The column is set up in a question and answer format and Hot Rob was asked that old chestnut, "If you could have a dinner party and invite any four people, dead or alive, who'd be coming?"

Rob's answer: Hunter S. Thompson, Sarah Marchildon, John Tesh and John Irving.

Okay, so the fact that Hot Rob also wants John Tesh to come to the dinner party throws his credibility into question. What's John Tesh going to do? Entertain us with some Christian music? Shudder.

Still, I am flummoxed and flattered to see my name in print alongside two of my literary heroes. I guess this means I can stop working on my novel. Actually, I haven't started writing my novel. But what's the point now? Hot Rob* thinks I'm the shit. I've nothing left to prove.

*Also, Robert's mom (hi, Sandra!) likes my blog. She emailed me to say she liked my "sarcastic" posts about Rob. She even invited me to her hot son's birthday party. But I couldn't go because I was in Montreal.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Drunk dialing

I arrived in Toronto late Friday night and the first thing I did was apologize to my parents for an embarrassing incident involving booze and cell phones the night before.

I blame the waiters at the Montreal restaurant for topping up our wine glasses after every sip. Our judgment was further impaired by two weeks of sleep-deprivation and stress. I may have failed Grade 9 math but I know that one plus the other adds up to two tonnes of trouble.

A few co-workers and I were out celebrating our last night at the United Nations climate change conference with a guy from New Orleans we had met the night before. Halfway through dinner, our American friend announced he wanted to move to Canada. Someone said he could marry me to get citizenship.

The joke should have ended there. But it quickly spiraled out of control. The next thing I knew, a co-worker pulled out a cell phone so I could call my parents to tell them about the engagement. Yes, I agreed, that would be hilarious.

I don’t really want to remember how our conversation went (something along the lines of “Are you guys awake? Guess what? I’m engaged! To a guy I just met!” but with more slurring and less coherence). Bridging the communications gap between the sober and the intoxicated is never very pretty.

I had a moment of lucidity when my pseudo-finance grabbed the phone from me and started talking to my parents. Oh my god. Did he just call my dad “dad”? Did he just tell my mom he loved her? Did he just ask to move in? He didn’t just tell them I was pregnant, did he?

Oh, it was ugly. Luckily my parents have a good sense of humour and played along with him before I tore the phone from his ear and flung it across the room.

I had almost forgotten about the drunk dialing incident until my mom picked me up at the Toronto airport and asked where her new son-in-law was. Yeah, sorry about that, mom. We were loaded. There is no engagement, no grandchild on the way. Hope we didn’t wake you up.

The Jerry Springer-style moral of the story is that a cell phone can be a loaded weapon. Use it carefully this holiday season.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


The United Nations climate change conference finally wraps up tomorrow. Even though I haven’t had a day off in two weeks, I’m sad to see it end. I really like having someone else make my bed every morning.

As for the conference itself, I’m happy it’s coming to a close. I’m tired of being surrounded by people who don’t speak English. Before you start sending me hate mail, I’m talking about the delegates, not Montrealers. Everyone here speaks in acronyms: SBSTA, UNFCCC, GHG, JI, CDM. And they wonder why they’re not getting much media coverage.

I have become deeply cynical about these meetings. There’s a lot of talk but not much action. The negotiations are tedious and the process is full of bureaucratic in-fighting and political posturing. I’m not very impressed.

I’ve noticed other things too, like:

1. The Tim Hortons outside the conference centre runs out of chocolate chip muffins by 2 p.m. every day.

2. Family Guy is still hilarious even when it’s dubbed in French and you can’t understand what the characters are saying.

3. They sell beer inside the conference centre.

4. The most popular side events are the ones with free booze.

5. Men here blatantly check you out. They also buy you drinks. It’s awesome.

6. There aren’t a lot of sexy environmentalists. I had my eye on a gorgeous German and danced with him (okay, near him) at the big NGO party on Saturday night. But he seemed more interested in saving the planet than creating a little global warming with me in my hotel room.

7. There’s not a lot going on at McGill University at night. I tried to find a class to sit in on for fun but most of the buildings were dark and empty.

8. The climate change conference somehow manages to be extremely stressful and exceedingly boring at the same time.

9. Montreal has great restaurants and bars but they’re too smoky. Boo!

10. People in Montreal are no more or less stylish than anyone else in the country: Yes, there are a lot of beautiful people here but I’ve also seen lots of bad hair, baggy fleece jackets and ratty jeans.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Inside the bubble

It feels like an invisible dome has sealed off Montreal from the rest of the world. Or at least isolated the four-block radius surrounding the United Nations climate change conference.

There are almost 10,000 people from 190 countries here and yet the only thing anyone talks about is climate change. If you didn’t pick up a newspaper, you’d have no idea anything else was happening outside this place. There’s a federal election campaign underway but it may as well be on another continent. I feel like I’m underwater. Or trapped in a Pauly Shore movie.

Welcome to the United Nations, or as I like to call it, Bio-Dome. There’s food on every floor, a massive computer room, a press room, conference rooms, couches, booths, bathrooms, cappuccinos. You could live here. Some people practically do. You don’t even have to go outside. Most of the hotels are connected to the conference centre by tunnels. I think I’m suffering from some sort of bubble affective disorder.

As for the conference itself, I generally have no idea what’s going on. I mean, the agenda is packed with esoteric items like: “Implications of the implementation of project activities under the clean development mechanism, referred to in decision 12/CP.10, for the achievement of objectives of other environmental conventions and protocols.” I’ve been working on environmental issues for five years and I have no idea what that means.

If this job doesn’t work out for me, I think I have a bright future in terrorism. Either I have the most innocent looking face on the planet or UN security is extremely lax. For example, all of the delegates had to show photo ID when we registered at the conference but I left my passport in Vancouver and couldn’t find my driver’s license. The only other photo ID I had in my wallet was my Triathlon British Columbia card, which is basically a laminated square of paper with a headshot glued on it. But it was good enough for UN security and they let me in. That’s right. They let me in with a flimsy piece of ID I could have slapped together in five minutes at a copy shop.

On a completely unrelated topic, where are the Starbucks in Montreal? I haven’t seen a single one yet. I’m starting to go through gingerbread latte withdrawal.

Also, I’m proud to say I've added two new words to my French vocabulary. I now know the words for medium (moyen) and receipt (resu). I’m still faking it by smiling and nodding for everything else. I’m trying not to speak English but I’m tired. I’m still on Vancouver time. Waking up at 6:30 a.m. feels like waking up at 3:30 a.m. Then again, waking up at 6:30 a.m. in Vancouver doesn’t feel much different.

Anyway, I’m trying to beat this jet lag thing by going to bed early tonight. Besides, my eyes are blurry and I can barely see. In addition to smelling like cigarettes, my hotel room is darker than the inside of a chocolate croissant.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Hello from Montreal

So I'm here in Montreal, sitting in my hotel room, which stinks of cigarette smoke. It's supposed to be a non-smoking room. The front desk assured me that it was. I guess they just take the ashtrays out of the room and call it non-smoking.

My hair reeked of cigarettes when I woke up this morning. Not because I was out at a bar last night but because of the nicotine-filled pillows. The windows don't open. I feel like I'm suffocating. At least I have a nice view. I can see the snow on the ground, the city lights in the sky and the cross on the hill.

My head hurts from trying to speak French all day. I try not to let people know that I'm an outsider, or worse, that I'm an imposter. My last name is French and I don't speak a word. But I'm trying. Usually, I just nod and smile and say "oui."

Sometimes it backfires. Like at the grocery store this morning when I was putting my groceries into the plastic bags. A woman came running over and sprayed machine gun bullets of French in my direction. So I just nodded and smiled and said "oui." She paused for a second. I could tell she was trying to determine if I was: a) not very bright, or b) just English. I think she decided on the latter.

"I was trying to tell you that you're using the small bags. The big bags are over here."

"Merci," I said (I don't give up that easily).

Back to the hotel. So there's a bunch of us from work here and everyone but me has a king sized bed. I have two little double beds in a non-smoking smoking room. It's my own fault. I spoke French when I checked into the hotel. In other words, I said "oui" to everything without understanding what the front desk person was actually saying. The thing is, everyone here is so nice that if you speak to them in French (no matter how mangled or poorly accented) they will speak French back to you.

Or maybe the hotel had simply run out of rooms with king sized beds by the time I got here. My co-workers arrived long before I did. I ditched them at the luggage carousel at the airport to share a cab downtown with a scandalously young sculptor I met on the plane. We have plans to meet up for a beer tomorrow. It figures. The second I leave Vancouver, I get a date.

The real action starts tomorrow when the UN climate change conference kicks off. A few hours later, the government is expected to fall. It should be a very exciting day.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

On the road

You know what I love about hockey? The massive bags. I’ve been packing everything I need for the next five weeks into a giant hockey bag and there’s still enough room for a human body (I tried).

Packing has never been easier. No more agonizing about which pair of jeans to bring. No more folding and rolling clothes to save a few inches of space. No more sitting on top of the bag to make it close. No more wrestling with the zipper.

Packing a hockey bag is like making borscht. Just throw in whatever’s lying on the floor and you’re good to go.

On the downside, my luggage now weighs about 300 pounds. And I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to get it from my apartment to the airport without a crane. But at least I’ll have all the comforts of home while I’m on the road.

By now you might be wondering where I’m going. Hawaii? Brazil? Mexico? Nope. I’ll be spending the next five weeks freezing my butt off in Quebec and Ontario.

The first stop is the United Nations climate change conference in Montreal where part of my job will be to get as much media coverage of the two-week event as possible. Which is going to be a lot more challenging now that the federal government is set to fall the same day the conference opens. I have a feeling the conference will be completely overlooked in the campaign frenzy.

On the upside, that means I’ll have more time to eat poutine and update my blog. I probably won’t be blogging about the conference itself, which is a good thing, unless you’re genuinely interested in carbon sequestration projects, post-2012 Kyoto Protocol negotiations and the debate over emissions intensity vs. absolute reductions. I’ll just fill you in on the really exciting stuff (who’s sleeping with who, who drinks too much, etc.).

A la prochaine . . .

Sunday, November 20, 2005

And now for something completely different

This blog has been a little predictable lately with all this talk about non-hot hot guys and my non-dating dating life so I thought I’d spice it up a bit by posting some fiction.

You can thank (or blame) J. Kelly Nestruck for this endeavor. According to Kelly, I’m supposed to go my 23rd blog post, find the fifth sentence ("To prevent squeegee kids from reaching the windshield?") and write a short piece of fiction beginning with that line.

Then I’m supposed to tag five more bloggers. So Tamara, Kathryn, Nicole, Bill and James, you’re it.

Okay. Here goes:

Lost and Found

"To prevent squeegee kids from reaching the windshield?" cried Ruth Brennan from the passenger seat, twisting sideways to shoot her husband a withering look. "Don’t be ridiculous. We’re not getting a Hummer just so you don’t have to deal with squeegee kids. Just give the guy a loonie and he’ll leave us alone."

But Luke Brennan refused to budge. Hands gripping the steering wheel, jaw clenched, eyes locked on the red light responsible for making him feel like a prisoner in his own car, Luke ignored the steady tap-tap-tap against the window.

Ruth mouthed the word "sorry" at the teenager clutching a filthy squeegee on the other side of the freshly streaked glass.

The boy smiled and launched a violent gob of spit that landed thick and phlegmy near Luke’s left ear. Ruth felt a prickle of shock, not because of the spit dripping down the window but because of the black hole where his front teeth should have been.

The light turned green and Luke accelerated hard. The car fishtailed, churning up gray slush under its tires before straightening out and speeding through the intersection.

"Why should I give that asshole any money?" Luke asked. "He just started mucking up my windshield without even asking. This is why I hate coming downtown."

Ruth sighed. She turned away from Luke and stared out the window, cupping her chin in her hand. Here he goes again, she thought. There was no point arguing with him. He never took her seriously. She once told him she was thinking about volunteering at a women’s shelter and he said, don’t be stupid, only man-hating lesbian socialists volunteer at women’s shelters.

They were barely five minutes into the long drive home to Mississauga and her deep discontent was already bubbling back up to the surface. She was so tired of this bloated, balding man, her husband of 30 years.

Their anniversary was the reason they had come downtown tonight. Ruth didn’t really want a party but Emily, their daughter, had insisted on throwing one. It was fitting since Emily was the reason they got married when 20-year-old Ruth accidentally got pregnant with her. They were happier then, when Ruth actually loved Luke.

Luke wasn’t rigid and stubborn then like he was now. He had to be in control of everything. He was even in charge of his own Christmas presents. Every December, he’d go to the mall and stock up on underwear and socks and maybe throw in a fishing rod or a flashlight. He’d come home and put everything into a box, which he kept in the closet. If Ruth or Emily wanted to buy him a present, he’d make them look through the box and pick something out. He’d produce the receipt and they’d hand over the cash. Then Luke would act surprised when he opened his presents on Christmas morning.

"Well look at that! A fishing rod. How’d you know?"

It infuriated Ruth that he kept buying camping gear when he had never been outside Toronto in his life. Ever since he found out his great-grandmother was a Huron Indian, all he could talk about was how he wanted to go to Georgian Bay to get in touch with his "Native roots." Luke would set up the tent in the backyard every summer and sleep outside "just to practice" but Ruth knew he would never go. He liked the idea of change but was terrified of change itself.

"Never been west of Mississauga or east of Scarborough in my life!" he’d brag when co-workers came back from vacation.

Ruth had always wanted to travel. Her job at the Sheraton Hotel’s lost and found department was the closest she’d come to seeing the world. One minute she’d be on the phone with someone from Italy who thought he left a pair of shoes in room 2209, and the next someone from Japan would call to see if she had found a photo album in room 1328.

Sometimes she got to keep the things people left behind. She liked the T-shirts from far away places best. Once, while Ruth was wearing a Boston Marathon T-shirt, a woman in line at the grocery store asked Ruth about the race. Ruth suddenly found herself telling the woman how hard it was, how much her knees hurt but she kept going because she knew her husband was waiting for her at the finish line. The lie was liberating, the euphoria intoxicating. It was exciting pretending to be someone else. Someone who ran marathons in her 50s and had a husband who loved her.

They were almost home now. Luke slowed the car and pulled into the driveway. He was about to reach down to turn off the ignition but Ruth grabbed his arm.

"Don’t. I like this song. You go ahead. I’ll come in once the song’s over."

Luke got out of the car and went in the house. Heading straight to the kitchen to get his big bag of peanuts, Ruth thought. He was always eating peanuts. It wasn’t the peanuts she minded, it was the way he made such a production out of eating them. Grunting while cracking the shells, splitting the peanuts in half between his teeth, mashing them with his mouth open, slapping his tongue against the roof of his mouth, dropping the empty shells all over the floor. Just thinking about it made her stomach turn.

Impulsively, she jumped into the driver’s seat, put the car in gear and backed out of the driveway. She got four blocks away (one block further than last time) before she pulled a U-turn and, with a sigh of resignation, headed home.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Too hot to get a date: Part III

Nearly two weeks after he said he couldn't find love because women were intimidated by his hotness, Robert finally scored last night.

It was a blind date, arranged by the Vancouver radio station that stepped in to help Robert with his affliction. Sherry, a 36-year-old stunner, was chosen to be Rob’s escort for the night (and by "escort" I don’t mean "hooker").

Like Robert, Sherry also bears the heavy burden of being really, really, really ridiculously good looking. But that’s not all they have in common. For example, they were excited to discover they both enjoy good restaurants. (Does this mean they’ve actually met people who enjoy bad restaurants?)

A reporter from the radio station tagged along and interviewed Robert and Sherry at various points during the evening. Those of us who tuned in to the radio this morning were treated to audio clips of the date.

Three drinks into the night, Robert had had just enough alcohol to impair his judgement: "She’s stunning."

Five drinks into the night, Sherry started to see a new side of Robert: "He’s definitely not as arrogant as he appears."

Switching from wine to tequila shooters, Sherry’s vision started blurring: "He looks a lot better in person."

("Um, Sherry," the reporter said, covering the mike with one hand. "That’s the bartender. Robert’s down there, lying on the floor.")

A bottle of beer in one hand and a rum and Coke in the other, Robert was writhing on the floor and yelling at the top of his lungs: "If my nickname is Hot Guy, her nickname needs to be Dynamica!"

Okay, so that’s not exactly how the date went down. The quotes were real but I took some creative liberty with the context in which they were said. I had to. The date was downright boring.

Robert and Sherry were smitten with each other. By the end of the night, phone numbers were exchanged and plans for a second date were in the works. It was a match made in botox heaven.

Who knew something that started off so shallow would have such a happy ending?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

CSI: Tim Hortons

I can’t turn on the TV without seeing that mysterious Tim Hortons "hot smoothie" commercial.

The one where the colour-blind woman is painting her living room hot pink and her husband comes home and says, "Wow! It really is pink." She asks if he likes it and he says he does. Except she doesn’t realize he’s talking about the pink drink in his hand, not the colour of the living room wall. Hilarity ensues.

It’s not the most original commercial but it’s powerful. Every time I see it, I want to vomit.

It’s the close-up of the frothy pink concoction inside the cup that triggers my gag reflex. It looks about as appetizing as a steaming hot cup of Pepto-Bismol. Did they have to made it such a toxic shade of pink? And what is a hot smoothie anyway?

So I decided to head straight to the scene of the crime to do some deep undercover research. I walked up to the Tim Hortons counter and asked the hard-hitting investigative questions.

Tim Hortons employee: Can I help you?

Me: Do you guys sell those hot smoothies?

Tim's: Yup.

Me: Um…I’m just wondering what's in them.

Tim's: It's a vanilla base with a flavour.

Me: So there's no coffee in it?

Tim's: No.

Me: Is there caffeine in it?

Tim's: No. Just a flavour.

Me: What flavour is the pink one?

Tim's: Raspberry.

Me: Are there raspberries in it?

Tim's: No. Just a flavour.

Me: Are they popular?

Tim's: Oh yes (nods her head vigorously).

Me: Have you tried them?

Tim's: Yup.

Me: Do you like them?

Tim's: Uh-huh. Yeah. But I like the hazelnut one the best.

Me: Okay. I’ll try a small raspberry one.

Tim's: Okay. $1.35 please.

After she handed me my hot pink hot smoothie, I peeled back the tab on the plastic lid and took a sip. I was pleasantly surprised. It didn’t taste anything like a steaming hot cup of Pepto-Bismol.

It tasted like warmed milk with about 10 teaspoons of sugar. A little too sweet but not as bad as I expected. The fake pink colour was a bit off-putting, though.

After about half a cup, it felt like a sugar bomb had exploded in my stomach. I couldn’t finish it and had to throw it in the garbage.

The verdict? It wasn’t as gross as I thought it would be. But don’t take that as a ringing endorsement. Let’s just say Tim Hortons is guilty -- guilty of selling really bad fake smoothies. Mystery solved.

Monday, November 14, 2005

What’s the rush?

Add my name to the long list of Canadians who do not want a Christmas election campaign. Christmas is filled with enough bickering and dysfunction as it is.

It doesn't matter whether the election is held now or two months from now. The Liberals are going to win. The Liberal Party may be corrupt but the Conservative Party is too extremist, the Bloc too separatist and the NDP too socialist for most voters.

Like it or not, Paul Martin is going to be prime minister as long as Stephen Harper is leader of the Conservative Party. Prime Minister Stephen Harper? Not gonna happen.

Martin has said he will call an election within 30 days after the final Gomery report is released on February 1. So why force an election now?

Oh, wait a minute. I get it. It’s not about what we want, is it? All of this posturing is about fighting for political power, party survival and getting as many seats as possible.

It would be comical if it weren’t so ridiculous.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Too hot to get a date: Part II

Remember Robert? The guy who says he’s too hot to get a date? Well, the story just keeps getting better.

It turns out Robert is a former catalogue model. Yes, that’s right. A catalogue model.

Someone needs to tell Robert that being a former catalogue model is not a trump card you pull out when you’re trying to prove how hot you are. Just because you once wore waist-high nut huggers in the Sears catalogue does not mean you’re a supermodel. It’s like starring in a porn movie and calling yourself a serious actor.

The real reason Robert can’t get a date isn’t because he’s too hot, it’s because he’s a moron. In case you need further proof, read the hilarious expose on Robert in today’s National Post.

Just when you thought Robert couldn't sound like a bigger ass, he manages to do so with earnest, non-ironic quotes like this one:

"It’s hard always being the centre of attention, that’s what it boils down to," he explains. "Not every woman can handle it. It’s not that people come up and hit on me, it’s just the fact that when I walk into a room, everyone notices me. I stick out like a sore thumb. My last three girlfriends broke up with me. They didn’t like the attention."

He goes on to say he recently dyed his blond hair brown because "I don’t want people recognizing me from the Web site. I want to be able to carry on with my day-to-day life without hassles."

He doesn’t say what kind of hassles exactly. Perhaps he’s referring to the hassle of being outed as Vancouver’s biggest loser? Or the hassle of being a national laughing stock? Or does poor, deluded Robert still think he’s dealing with the hassle of being irresistible to women?

What’s even more incredible is the Vancouver radio station that first alerted us to Robert’s affliction has managed to find three women who actually want to go on a date with the guy.

The radio station is asking people to go to its website and vote for the woman who most deserves to go on a date with Robert. Personally, I’m voting for Daphne. She’s 37 and says her dream guy is between the ages of 25 and 37 with no kids and no desire to have any.

Hang on a second. She won’t date a guy a day over 37 but she’ll date someone 12 years younger than her? Lock your doors! There’s a wild cougar on the loose.

Anyway, the "winner" will be announced on Monday. Robert and the "lucky" lady will go on a date sometime next week. Maybe they can stay in and rent Zoolander.

Stay tuned for Part III.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Madonna and ABBA together at last

Have you heard the new Madonna song? "Time goes by so slowly (unh, unh, unh, mmmmmm, mmmmm, something, something, something, do, do, do, doodle loo) I'm tired of waiting on you."

It’s awesome. I can’t listen to it without being overcome by the urge to throw down a piece of cardboard and start poppin' and lockin' all over the place.

The video for "Hung Up" is even better than the song. Madonna looks like a total fox in that retro Jane Fonda leotard. I probably would have cut the scene where she's riding the giant ghetto blaster, though. That’s a little weird.

My only other complaint is that my favourite fashion accessory -- the sequined belt -- is about to become obnoxiously trendy. People everywhere are going to be wearing sequined belts thanks to the video. That was my thing.

Still, it’s a wicked song. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the album when it’s released in all its disco-inspired glory on November 15.

Monday, November 07, 2005

They’re back!

Two of my favourite shows -- The Hour and The Rick Mercer Report -- finally return to the small screen this week. Yessss! (she says as she make a fist and jerks her arm like she's pulling the handle on an invisible slot machine).

I missed these shows about as much as I miss my daily gingerbread latte during the 10 months of the year when Starbucks doesn’t make them. In other words, I missed them a lot.

I’m normally a Tim Horton’s kind of girl. But my loyalty flies out the window when Starbucks whips up that holiday-season crack-in-a-cup. I had my first gingerbread latte of the year this morning and it did not disappoint.

The return of George Stroumboulopoulos, Rick Mercer and gingerbread lattes. Could this week get off to a better start?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Too hot to get a date

No, I’m not talking about myself. I’m talking about Robert.

Who’s Robert? Robert is a 33-year-old single guy living in Vancouver. Robert is hot. Maybe a little too hot. Apparently, Robert has a problem meeting women because of his high level of hotness.

Robert took the brave step of going public with his plight during a radio interview this week. Hot Rob explained he’s just a nice guy looking for love but women are intimidated by the fact that he’s really, really, really good-looking.

Exposing his sensitive side, Robert said he tries to shield women from the ugly side of his beauty. For example, he doesn’t like going to a restaurant on a first date because he knows every woman in the place will be staring at him. Drooling even. And the last thing he wants is for his date to feel jealous and insecure.

People don’t understand how hard it is to be so hot, he said.

Poor pretty Robert. It’s heartbreaking to think of him crying in front of the mirror, hot tears streaming down his flawless face, screaming "Oh God! Why did you have to make me so beautiful?"

Luckily for Robert, a Vancouver radio station is stepping in to help him with his affliction by "setting him up with someone who will see him not only for the hot guy on the outside but the hot one on the inside as well."

The radio station posted a picture of Robert on its website and is asking single women in Vancouver to email the station if they want to go on a date with the guy.

I admit it. I was intrigued. I mean, maybe Robert had a point. Maybe women were intimidated by his good looks. That can’t be an easy thing to live with. It’s tough being lonely, gorgeous or not.

And then I visited the radio station's website and saw what Robert actually looked like:

Robert’s not completely unattractive. But hot? Too hot to get a date? I don’t think so. Any lingering compassion I had for the guy vanished. He's not hot, he's delusional.

"He looks like a gay flight attendant," said my less diplomatic friend Annelle.

It’s ironic that the radio station is trying to find someone who doesn’t just judge him on his looks, yet its provides nothing about what’s on the inside. We know absolutely nothing about Robert other than the fact he thinks he’s hot. And that he uses way too much gel in his hair.

Lame guys like Robert are the reason Vancouver is filled with a disproportionate amount of single women. Do you people finally understand how dire the dating scene is out here?

Oh, and Robert, if you’re reading this (which you probably are because you seem like the kind of guy who googles himself regularly), I suspect you have a problem meeting women not because of your looks, but in spite of them.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Hot Gomery action!

Watching the sleazy sponsorship scandal unfold hasn’t exactly left me feeling hot and bothered. Nope. The only thing it’s done is make me realize that I actually kind of like Jean Chrétien.

I know, I know. I’m supposed to be “outraged.” But seeing Jean Chrétien come out swinging at his press conference yesterday only endeared me to the little guy from Shawinigan.

It’s hard to be angry with someone who is so damn entertaining. His press conference was classic Chrétien: scrappy, unrepentant, aggressive, blunt, defiant, theatrical. The wild hand gestures were a nice touch too.

Plus, he reminded us that he actually, you know, did stuff when he was prime minister, like standing up against Bush on Iraq and signing the Kyoto Protocol.

Much fun!

Monday, October 31, 2005

The great pumpkin carving challenge

See these pumpkins sitting on my dining room table? I carved one of them last night. Can you guess which one is mine? (Hint: it’s the mean looking pumpkin with the bushy eyebrows.)

I am quite proud of my pumpkin, which I hope will frighten dozens of children tonight when they go door-to-door asking for candy. If one child bursts into tears of terror after seeing my pumpkin’s evil scowl, all of my hard work will have been worth it.

My friends Annelle and Leandro, who didn’t quite seem to grasp the fact that Halloween is supposed to be scary, carved the “cute cat” and “grinning idiot” pumpkins.

It’s not their fault. They didn’t know any better. They’ve never carved a pumpkin before. Annelle even made the rookie mistake of saying she’d bring over a few stencils. Stencils! There is no greater affront to the art of pumpkin carving than stencils. It’s as crass and uncreative as paint-by-numbers.

Every pumpkin purist knows all you need is a sharp knife and a black marker. Of course, a well-executed pumpkin also needs a well-executed plan.

I spent a few days thinking about a design for my pumpkin. After much deliberation, I decided a down-turned mouth, squinty eyes and huge caterpillar eyebrows would be the best way to convey a menacing expression.

I showed a sketch to my friends after dinner. Their response? “It took you two days to come up with that?”

Amateurs! I should have known they could not appreciate the subtle genius of my design.

I laid down several layers of newspaper on the living room floor and we got to work. My favourite part was reaching in the hole to pull out the seeds and stringy membrane with my bare hands. Of course, Annelle and Leandro used a soup ladle.

Despite our collective lack of artistic ability, all three pumpkins turned out great. We put candles inside them and turned out the lights in my apartment to see how they would look. At that moment, I think we all became about eight years old again.

All three Jack O’Lanterns will be on display tonight. They will be sitting on Annelle’s porch since she’s the only one who actually lives in a house. Children living in the 18th and Cambie neighbourhood are invited to view these masterpieces between the hours of 4 and 8 p.m.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

It all adds up to nothing

Number of American troops killed in Iraq: 2,000

Number of Iraqis killed since the war began: 30,051

Amount the Iraq war costs the U.S. every month: $5.6 billion

Number of weapons of mass destruction found: 0

Number of links between 9/11 and the Iraqi government: 0

Number of excuses left to justify the war: 0

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Romantically challenged

One of my favourite weekly rituals is waiting for the new issue of the Georgia Straight to hit the newsstand.

I don’t read it for the articles. Actually, I don’t read it at all. I just head straight to the back pages where sex is for sale.

Buried among the tawdry ads for escort services, massage parlours, she-males, campus cuties and busty blondes are the two things that make the Georgia Straight worth waiting for -- the Savage Love column and the "I saw you" ads.

I read the "I saw you" pages religiously because they manage to entertain and shed insight into the human condition at the same time.

The concept is simple. Let’s say you’re walking down the street and you see someone who takes your breath away. You make meaningful eye contact, maybe one of you even smiles. But you pass without exchanging a word.

Missed opportunity? Not if you place an "I saw you" ad, which might read something like this:

"You: Prince Harry look-alike walking down Davie Street at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 23. Tall, red hair, gray wool scarf tucked under your chiseled chin. Me: Drooling uncontrollably. Want to make me your princess? Email me at"

Vancouver is full of painfully shy and socially awkward people. The "I saw you" ads usually fill two pages. Sometimes there are more than 100 ads in a single issue.

How did it get to this point? Why are people in Vancouver so chicken when it comes to the art of romance?

A recent article in the Tyee attempts to answer the question:

Has our reliance on e-mail made it more comfortable for us to initially connect through the web? Maybe we are forgetting how to banter with strangers. Has e-mail stifled all spontaneity? Perhaps it is because we can't backspace or delete a sentence once it's out of our mouth.

The ads make things safe. "Mediated communication is becoming more commonplace," explains Dan Perlman, a Professor of Family Studies at the University of British Columbia and an expert in classifieds advertising. "Most of us are accustomed to writing things down through e-mail rather than saying it aloud. These ads give us more control of the situation."

More control but at what cost? Have we lost our ability to flirt with attractive strangers in person? I mean, some of the "I saw you" ads are downright pathetic:

"Numbers, Sept. 25. Stared at you for hours. You with a group of friends – all noticed me staring. Me, alone at the bar overlooking the dance floor. Can’t get you out of my head."

"Saturday, October 1st around 23h00. Both waiting on Granville near Davie for the bus to Broadway, you had two braids in your hair and I was wearing a maroon toque. Hopefully that wasn’t the only chance I had to talk to you."

A friend of mine blames Vancouver’s apathy on its mild climate. Vancouver never really gets very hot or very cold, and neither do the people who live here. Hot climates ignite passions and tempers. Cold climates force people indoors.

Because Vancouver’s weather is generally pleasant 12 months a year, most people spend their time outdoors, doing things apart from each other in a temperate and even-keeled kind of way.

I have another friend who thinks Vancouver men aren’t assertive because they eat too much estrogen-laden tofu.

Weather and tofu conspiracy theories aside, being single and female in Vancouver is hard on the self-esteem. The existence of "I saw you" ads only encourages more anti-social and timid behaviour.

Why can’t we just say "hi" and go from there?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Neither wicked nor awesome

Sometimes something is so good, so cool and so utterly and absolutely brilliant that it can only be described one way: wicked awesome.

The expression is not to be used lightly. It is reserved only for those rare occasions when the sheer wickedness and awesomeness of the thing makes all other adjectives inadequate.

So it was a shock to find out that wicked awesome has now become a commonly misused expression. It’s about as descriptive as calling something "nice."

I was doing a Google search for "wicked awesome" and was amazed at the amount of non-wicked, non-awesome things it pulled up. Seriously. Try it yourself. Go to Google images, type in "wicked awesome" and take a look at some of the crap that comes up.

Like this picture of a goat.

The goat may be cute but it is not wicked awesome. I’ll tell you what’s wicked awesome -- curried goat. I used to work at the Sheraton Hotel when I was in high school and they served curried goat every day in the staff cafeteria. I didn’t understand why the dish never made it onto the guest menu. It was wicked awesome.

Someone out there thinks George W. Bush is wicked awesome. This photo also came up on my Google search. He may be wicked or awesomely wicked, but definitely not wicked awesome.

The most popular item in my Google search for all things wicked and awesome? Guns. Yes, lots and lots of people think guns are wicked awesome.

Not surprisingly, there were a lot of wannabe rock stars who consider themselves wicked awesome. Like these guys. Hey kids! You’re not wicked awesome if you’re playing Stairway to Heaven at your high school battle of the bands competition.

Some idiot called this eyesore wicked awesome. A stick figure? My friend's 10-month-old baby can draw better than this.

It's official. Wicked awesome is now devoid of all meaning.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Who killed Calvin the cat?

I was riding my bike home from work last week when I saw this Lady Diana-like shrine set up down the street from my apartment building.

Before I skidded to a stop and jumped off my bike to take a closer look, I knew something horrible had happened to Calvin.

The explanation, right there in large black type, confirmed my worst fears. Calvin was dead -- killed by a hit-and-run driver on October 7.

I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach. I didn’t even know his name was Calvin. I just knew him as the beautiful, friendly cat that lived on the corner of Cardero and Comox streets. He was always outside, usually writhing on his back in ecstasy while having his stomach rubbed or his ears scratched by some random passerby.

Calvin was my kind of cat. The kind of cat that thinks he’s a dog. Not only was he unafraid of strangers, he went out of his way to nuzzle his head against the leg of anyone who walked by.

If you stopped and stayed for a while, he’d wrap his body around you and purr like a purr-machine (okay, that’s not a very good analogy but I couldn’t think of anything better).

If Calvin could talk, he’d say, "Here I am. Love me."

The spontaneous outpouring of flowers and poems and teddy bears and photos for the laid-back little guy is a testament to how many lives he touched.

I rode the rest of the way home that night with tears in my eyes. Calvin had a special place in my heart because his affectionate and trusting nature reminded me of my own cat, Buddy. Well, technically Buddy was our neighbour’s cat but she spent more time at our place. So I think of her as mine. In her heart, she knew who her real owner was (me).

Goodbye, sweet Calvin. You will be missed.

Photo credits: My friend Dominic took these pictures of Calvin’s shrine this afternoon. He called today, asking if I needed anything like lozenges or ice cream to ease my strep throat. I told him I needed someone to take some pictures of the shrine because I was too sick to leave the apartment. (Actually, I didn’t want to leave the apartment because it was pouring rain but I didn’t tell him that.) So out Dom went in the pouring rain to snap some frames. He doesn’t even like cats. What a guy!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Sick . . . again


FROM: Sarah’s mind
TO: Sarah’s immune system
DATE: October 14, 2005

We need to talk about your poor job performance.

You’re supposed to defend my body against invaders. Your strategy is simple -- recognize the enemy, mobilize forces and attack.

Did you skip the training seminar or lie on your resume? Once again, you’ve let a virus slip past security and explode a germ bomb inside my body. Thanks to you, I’m sitting here with a throat that feels like it’s lined with sandpaper and eyeballs that hurt to move.

I know you’re not a total slacker. There have been times you have leapt into action so quickly and with such force that you’ve almost killed me. If an errant piece of shrimp or a sunflower seed finds its way inside my body, you freak out.

But if a virus finds its way inside my body, you welcome it with open arms. This has got to stop. I’m sick of being sick. And I’m sick of worrying that I’ll have to chase my next meal with a bottle of Benadryl and an EpiPen.

Why do you hate me so much when I treat you so well? I get lots of sleep, I exercise, I eat well, I don’t smoke, I’m practically an obsessive-compulsive hand-washer.

You’re like the mean thug that smashed Nancy Kerrigan’s kneecap. Maybe you don’t like my music or the way I practice my dancing in the living room. Maybe you’re bitter and unhappy and it makes you feel good when I’m sick. Or maybe you’re addicted to daytime television and you know the only way you’ll get to watch it is when I’m feverish and delusional.

I don’t really know what your problem is and I don’t really care. I’d just appreciate it if you chilled out while I’m eating and unleashed Chang the next time a virus enters my body.

Consider this your last warning.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A very tasteless Thanksgiving

Dinner at White Spot followed by topless bull riding. How did Thanksgiving get reduced to this?

The topless bull riding was Annelle’s idea. Dinner at White Spot was mine. Carl was the one who suggested doing both.

At least the restaurant was empty. Most people were at home, with their families, eating turkey, enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving.

Our dinner, while neither home-cooked nor delicious, was free thanks to the $100 gift certificate White Spot head office gave me after I got the Norwalk virus and vomited for 12 hours the last time I was there.

This time, our meal consisted mostly of alcohol. It seemed safer that way. The only thing worse than spending Thanksgiving eating at White Spot and watching topless bull riding would be waking up the next morning felled by a second round of food poisoning from the same restaurant.

As for the topless bull riding, like I said, that was Annelle’s idea. She thought it would be fun to check it out (in a detached, anthropological way) after a guy on our swim team tried to pick me up by suggesting it as a first date.

A few other people caught wind of our plan and invited themselves along. Which is how eight of us ended up at the Buffalo Club watching the drunken clientele riding the mechanical bull.

It was like a frat party. Or what I imagine a frat party would be like since I haven’t actually been to a frat party. But I’ve seen frat parties in movies and this came pretty close.

There was cheap beer, bad music and spring-break-style drinking games on stage. One highlight was a trip to the bathroom where the girl in the stall next to mine let out a long, loud belch before violently vomiting all over the floor.

You know you’re getting old when all you want to do is slap some sense into these kids.

I wanted to hate it, and I did hate it, but I am ashamed to admit I also had fun. Once was enough, though. I can’t imagine ever going back. This is not how I normally like to spend the holidays.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Three things I learned the hard way this week

Before you read this and conclude I’m some sort of moron, let me just preface it by saying that I almost never read reviews until after I’ve seen a movie or read a book or tried a new restaurant. The less I know beforehand, the better.

Not reading the reviews means I am always surprised. Sometimes pleasantly, sometimes not. If something has won awards or generated a buzz, that’s enough of a recommendation.

But once in a while, this seemingly brilliant strategy backfires. There’s a difference between not knowing what something is about and knowing so little you go into it ass-backwards.

Three things I learned the hard way this week:

1. Mama Mia is not a musical about ABBA. It is a musical set to the music of ABBA. The plot has nothing to do with ABBA. It would have been nice to know this before the curtain went up on Wednesday night. Instead, I spent the first five minutes of the musical wondering what a wedding on a Greek Island had to do with ABBA.

2. A History of Violence is not an arty title for a movie about a man thoughtfully reflecting on his life. It is exactly what it says it is. A history of a man’s violent past. It would have been nice to know this before the movie started last night. All I knew was that it was a Cronenberg film. I thought the title was ironic. Instead, I found myself sitting through two hours of gratuitous, pointless violence. Actually, the first half of the film was pretty good. But the second half was too bloody. As a whole, it was empty.

3. Black hair care products are not just for black people. It would have been nice to know that smooth, lustrous hair could be found in a $5 tub of African Gold Coconut Oil before spending hundreds of dollars on useless high-end salon products. A friend told me she used the black hair care shelf at Shoppers Drug Mart to keep her thick, wavy hair under control. I bought my own African Gold yesterday and am now a coconut oil convert. It really works.

I’m starting to think that maybe a little research isn’t a bad thing.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Grape-Nuts is for lovers

Most of the time I think men and women are more similar than they are different. But every once in a while a guy will reveal something so stupefying or baffling that I start to think maybe men really are from Mars.

Take the issue of breakfast food. A benign topic of conversation that bridges the gender gap, right? Wrong. I didn’t realize cereal was so controversial until a group of guys ganged up on me at a party and berated me for liking Grape-Nuts.

"No wonder you’re single," said one guy. "You cannot serve a guy Grape-Nuts for breakfast. No guy under the age of 75 eats Grape-Nuts."

Thinking this was merely the uninformed opinion of a drunken moron, I grabbed another guy at the party and pulled him in for an informal focus group.

"Oh my god! Grape-Nuts?" said the other guy. "What are you? A senior citizen or something? That is not sexy. You’ve got to serve a guy real food. Like eggs and bacon."

The laughter grew louder as more guys jumped in to mock my breakfast cereal of choice. I still don’t understand what was so funny.

I love Grape-Nuts. They stay crunchy in milk for a long time. They’re delicious. They’re not too sweet. They’re good for you. They come in a small box so they don’t go stale before you can finish them. What the hell is so funny about that?

There must be guys under the age of 35 who also like Grape-Nuts. Someone, please, back me up!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Maclean's gone wild!

It only took 100 years but Maclean's has finally realized sex sells.

In case you haven't seen it yet, check out this article about the rise of "trashy, raunchy, really, really bad female behaviour."

It's sensationalistic, titillating and totally over-blown. I love it! It's about time Maclean's tarted itself up.

The magazine suddenly seems less boring than it was when I let my subscription run out six years ago. Cover stories about surviving divorce, buying a house and taking care of aging parents just weren't relevant to me.

Not that a story about drunk college chicks dancing topless at bars in the hopes of starring in a Girls Gone Wild video is relevant to me. Or anyone for that matter. But it sure makes for a fun read.

Monday, September 26, 2005

J’adore Montreal

It’s been such a long time since the last time I was in Montreal that I had forgotten what an amazing city it is.

Even though I was there for a conference, I managed to hit most of Montreal’s major attractions. I didn’t get much sleep but I had a lot of fun.

I rented a bike on Friday morning and rode around the city for an hour. Later that night, I walked through old Montreal and marveled at the architecture.

A bunch of us went out to a gay club on Saturday night to see a drag show and ended up closing down a bar on St. Laurent. And, yes, I stuffed myself full of delicious, salty poutine on the way back to the hotel.

I also made a point of addressing everyone in French. Some people would immediately reply in English (is it that obvious?). But most were patient enough to respond in French.

Like the guy behind the counter at Tim Hortons who let me order a toasted honey wheat bagel with butter, an orange juice, a chocolate chip muffin and a medium tea, with two cream and two sugar, entirely in French. It took a few minutes but he let me stumble my way through the order and yelled out "Parfait!" once I finished.

Aside from the language, the nightlife, the architecture and the poutine, what really sets Montreal apart from Vancouver is the men. The men in Montreal make eye contact with women and (gasp!) actually talk to them. Had I stayed any longer, I might have ended up with a Quebecois boyfriend or two.

Luckily for me, I’ll be back in Montreal for two weeks at the end of November for another conference. I never thought I’d say this about a two-week conference, but I can’t wait.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Montreal bound

I’m spending the next four days in Montreal and I’m not very happy about it.

Not because I don’t love Montreal. But because I’ll be trapped inside a conference room listening to esoteric presentations about the "COP11/MOP1 Issues Primer and a Post-2012 Regime." (I didn’t make that up. That’s actually on the agenda.)*

It’s not even the conference I mind so much but the fact it’s being held all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Couldn’t they have held the conference during the week?

It seems like a waste to fly all the way out there and not be able to enjoy Montreal’s nightlife or stuff myself full of poutine.

And in case you’re thinking, "Yeah but you can still go out Friday and Saturday night."

My answer is, "No I can’t. Not when I have to get up at 7 a.m. to attend the ‘COP11/MOP1 Issues Primer and a Post-2012 Regime’ presentation the next morning."

Nope. This trip is all business, no pleasure.

* Don’t be intimidated by the title. This is just how policy wonks speak. They like to make really simple concepts unintelligible. That's why they say things like "COP11/MOP1 Issues Primer and a Post-2012 Regime" when all they really mean is "Key issues at the upcoming United Nations climate change conference."

Monday, September 19, 2005

Doing hard time at McGill

Let me get this straight. Paul Coffin defrauds the federal government of $1.5 million. He fesses up, pleads guilty and the judge orders him, amongst other things, to teach a course on business ethics at McGill University.

What? Shouldn’t the judge have ordered him to take an ethics class rather than teach one? It’s like ordering Puff Daddy (or Puffy or P. Diddy or whatever his name is this week) to teach a course on responsible gun ownership. It’s just weird.

“I sentence you to a plum teaching job at one of the best universities in the country.” Some punishment.

Friday, September 16, 2005

It's like a toilet for the shit in my head

I’ve been blogging for a whole year now. To celebrate, I thought I’d compile a list of frequently asked questions about this blog. But then I realized the only question I ever get is "What’s a blog?"

So I’m just going to look back at the past year instead, starting with why I decided to create a blog in the first place.

It's not an exciting story. I had been enjoying reading other people’s blogs for a while and began to think, "Hey, I could do this."

Plus, I’ve always liked writing. A blog of my own seemed like a good idea.

This leap from private writing to public blogging is where a lot of people get stuck: "Okay, you like writing but why put it up on the Internet?"

For me, there are lots of reasons. Posting stuff on the Internet helps make writing a habit. If I get lazy or busy and don’t write something for a week, people get on my ass about it. It’s good motivation.

It can be theraputic. This blog is like a toilet for the shit in my head.

Besides, I’ve been doing it for years. I didn’t have any friends when I first moved to Vancouver five years ago. I spent my Friday nights holed up in an Internet café writing weekly emails that I called "The Hollywood North Report" to people back east.

Then I joined a gay swim team, was elected social coordinator, made lots of friends and the dispatches back to Ontario and New Brunswick eventually fizzled out.

This blog is a sort of resurrection of the original Hollywood North Report.

At first, the only people who read my blog were my friends and family. Then, complete strangers started reading it and leaving comments. A few of them mailed me chocolate and Tim Hortons gift certificates. Some of them asked for large pictures of my butt.

I even met some of these former strangers face-to-face. Kathryn stumbled across my blog while googling George Stroumboulopoulos. Then I started reading her blog. We became friends on-line and now hang out in the real world too.

The last time I was in Toronto, I met Bill and Kelly, who have two of the finest blogs on the Internet. I doubt I would have ever crossed paths with these guys if it weren’t for the blogosphere.

It hasn't been a completely positive experience, though. I almost shut the whole thing down when I was stalked by a crazy blog stalker.

This person left all kinds of nasty, hateful, abusive and sexually explicit comments on all of my posts. Every time I deleted one of their comments, another one would pop up.

I eventually switched to a different commenting system, which let me weed out the wacko.

Other than that, it’s been awesome and I plan on blogging until I run out of things to say. And just for fun, here are my favourite posts from the past year:

1. Four hours with George Stroumboulopoulos: I meet George and make a fool of myself on national television.

2. Does this mean I have to start censoring myself: I make a glib comment about liking Tim Hortons gift certificates and dark chocolate and suddenly people are mailing me Tim Hortons gift certificates and dark chocolate.

3. The end of an era: The sad yet wonderful experience that was my grandfather’s funeral.

4. A date with Doogie Howser, MD: You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. Who knew a trip to the podiatrist’s office could be so dramatic?

5. The axis of stupidity: The Cardinal, Stephen Harper and Sponge Bob: Right-wing politicians and religious fanatics. A running theme.

6. Vancouver men: I am always complaining about how lame the guys in Vancouver are. This pretty much explains why.

7. Tired of the "boring urban white girl" look: The day I stopped straightening my hair.

8. And I thought you read it for the articles: I have the third biggest butt on the Internet.

9. All I got for my five-year anniversary were these lousy stamps on my sandwich card: The Vancouver Sun quoted part of this post in an article about blogging about work. My boss saw the story and called me into his office. Luckily, he thought it was funny.

10. My first post: This wasn’t even a post at all but an email I sent out to some friends and family after I finished the Ironman last year. For fun, I threw it up on the Internet. It kick-started this whole thing so I feel obligated to mention it.

Thanks for stopping by :)

Monday, September 12, 2005

Stroumboulopoulos jumps ship?

Rumour has it that George Stroumboulopoulos is returning to the airwaves with a new radio show starting September 18.

A reliable source in Toronto tells me CFRB has been running on-air promos for the George Stroumboulopoulos Radio Show. Apparently, it debuts on Sunday night from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. EST and will be broadcast weekly in the same time slot.

I don’t know whether this is just something to keep George from losing the black t-shirt off his back during the CBC lockout or if it’s a more permanent gig.

I emailed CFRB to see if the station would confirm or deny the rumour but I haven’t gotten a reply yet. There’s no info about this on the CFRB website. Anyone know anything?

UPDATE: Got an email back from Carlo Massaro at CFRB who confirms George’s new show does indeed begin this Sunday. Even better, it will be broadcast on the station's website so those of us who don’t live in Toronto can tune in too!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The perfect ride

Between my commuter bike and my racing bike, I have logged more than 10,000 km of riding in the past three years. Some of those rides have been amazing. Some have been horrible. But nothing compares to yesterday.

I have finally experienced the perfect ride. I found it along the ribbon of highway that winds its way up to the base of Mount Baker in Washington State.

The newly paved road was buttery soft and almost car free. The sun was warm without being hot. The scenery -- forbidding mountains and glaciers -- was the most spectacular I have ever seen from the seat of a bicycle. The company was pretty good too.

It didn’t start out smoothly though. The plan was to drive to Abbotsford and ride our bikes across the border. We thought it would be faster to get into the U.S. that way. But it turns out that spandex-clad cyclists are now a potential terrorist threat.

We were detained for an hour because the American border guards didn’t like Jonathan’s British passport. He was fingerprinted, interviewed, subjected to a background search and forced to fork over $65. Once we got the warm welcome over with, we were on our way (that’s me in the middle).

The goal was to ride to the base of Mt. Baker, about 75 km away, within three and a half hours. As the only girl in the group, I knew I would get dropped once the real hill climbing began. But only four of us made it all the way to the top and I was one of them.

I spent most of the long ascent alone feeling completely dwarfed by the mountains. I realized this -- the open road, the stunning mountains, a day spent with friends -- was about as good as it gets. Who needs a boyfriend when you have a bike?

The return trip wasn’t as fun. The descent was long, cold and full of hairpin turns. John and I rode back together and we were both nearly hypothermic by the time we hit flat ground. And then once our legs thawed out, our quads started cramping.

So we just put our heads down and rode back to Sumas, knowing beer and burgers were waiting for us. It was the perfect end to the perfect ride.

Friday, September 09, 2005

What happened?

Here’s a hypothetical situation. Let’s say you met a guy while hiking the West Coast Trail this summer. A guy who happened to be funny and smart and cute and interesting.

Let’s say the two of you hit it off and sparks fly. But he lives in Calgary and you live in Vancouver. So you exchange phone numbers and email addresses, with a promise to keep in touch.

And you do. Long, flirtatious emails fly back and forth for about a month. He talks about coming to Vancouver. You start thinking, “Hey, maybe this could go somewhere.”

And then, suddenly, silence. You don’t hear from him in more than two weeks. At first you assume he’s just busy. After a few days, you wonder if you said something in your last email that offended him.

So you re-read it five, six, seven times, picking apart each sentence and looking at it from every angle until you’re 86 per cent sure only an overly sensitive, quivering mass of jelly could be offended by what you wrote.

Then you wonder if maybe he didn’t get your email at all, that it got blocked or lost, and he’s sitting there in Calgary thinking you’re the one who’s not interested. You want to ask him if he got your last email but decide not to because it seems sort of pathetic and desperate -- two things you most definitely are not.

Then you wonder if maybe he started seeing someone in Calgary. And while this makes you a little sad, you’re okay with it. You’re a romantic but you’re also a realist and you know these long-distance things rarely work out in the end.

You just want to know what happened before you close the door. Not knowing is driving you crazy.

So what do you do? Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I want my CBC

I have a confession to make. I didn’t really miss the CBC all that much during the first few weeks of the lockout.

But then the disaster in New Orleans happened and I suddenly found myself lost without Peter Mansbridge.

I’ve been following all of the awfulness online and in the newspapers. But it isn’t the same. This is a story that belongs to television.

Because I have basic cable, I haven’t been able to watch CNN or any of the other all-news channels. The local newscasts are useless. Unless you’re interested in weather and traffic and inane banter about pig-catching contests.

CTV national news is supposed to be good but it’s not on until 11 p.m. and that’s way past my bedtime. Over on Newsworld, it’s nothing but chirping crickets.

The New Orleans disaster has made me realize, among other things, how much I miss The National.

It was on at a reasonable hour. It was in-depth (or as in-depth as television news can be). It seemed balanced and fair. Maybe even a little boring, which is way better than the alternative -- flashy graphics and helmet hair and warp-speed pacing.

I tried watching the BBC “World” Report but found it too Euro-centric (hello? cricket scores?).

We know New Orleans will never be the same again. But what will happen to the CBC when the lockout is over?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Farewell to summer

Holy crap! It’s September. How the heck did that happen? I know it’s a cliché but, dammit, time really does fly when you’re having fun.

At least we said goodbye to summer in style last weekend. There we were, two chicks cruising down the highway in a VW station wagon with our bikes strapped to the roof and a cooler full of bananas and Doritos in the back seat. This is the part where I’d write about how our hair was blowing in the wind but I can’t because the windows were up and the air conditioning was on.

The five-hour drive from Vancouver to Penticton is one of my favourites. Mostly because of the dramatic change of scenery along the way. The drive starts in a temperate rainforest and ends in a parched desert. Along the way, the mountains get smaller, the trees recede, the air gets drier and the sun gets hotter as the cool, wet, green coast slips further away in the rearview mirror. Ahead is nothing but sage grass and dust and crumbly rock.

It’s just too bad that one of the most beautiful places in the province also happens to be its Bible belt. This is Stockwell Day territory. There’s even a massive billboard on the way into town plastered with Stock’s grinning face, which had the unintended effect of causing Annelle and I to shudder simultaneously.

Shuddering aside, the purpose of our trip was threefold:
1. Have fun.
2. Watch the Ironman.
3. Cruise for guys.

I should clarify that goal #3 was strictly for my benefit as Annelle is married and her husband reads this blog (hi, John!). I may have failed math in Grade 9 but it didn’t take me long to put two and two together:

Small town + thousands of hard-bodied triathletes = hot action.

So we did what everyone does in Penticton on Friday and Saturday nights -- we cruised the strip ("the strip" being a three-block stretch of Lakeshore Drive crammed with dingy motels and drunk teenagers).

The cutest thing we saw was a middle-aged man pushing a pug in a baby stroller. We laughed, which seemed to upset the dog’s owner who explained, "He’s old. He can’t breathe. He’s blind in one eye." Talk about a mood killer.

The thing is, the Ironman is a terrible place to meet men because they’re all in bed by 8 p.m. and they don’t drink.

There were, however, plenty of men at our campground but . . . um . . . how do I put this in politically correct terms? They were rednecks. Call me crazy but my idea of camping does not include cigarettes and cable TV and yelling across the lake at 3 a.m.

I actually wasn’t planning on writing this much about last weekend. Annelle took dozens of pictures and I was just going to post a photo essay. But her husband (hi again, John!) took the liberty of erasing some of the best pictures to clear up room on the camera. So you’ll have to visualize the redneck campground for yourself.

And instead of photos of the actual Ironman athletes, you’re stuck with a picture of me pretending to cross the finish line.

And a picture of Annelle swimming in the lake.

It’s kind of sad to admit that another summer is over. It’s cool and rainy as I sit here typing this. We knew it was coming. While we were swimming in Okanagan Lake last weekend, we stopped a few hundred metres from the shore and treaded water for a bit. Annelle looked over at me and said, "So I guess this is our last lake swim of the year."

And while it would be nice to live in a climate where you could swim in a lake all year, I don’t think I’d want to. Fall, winter and spring are what make summer so sweet.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Girls gone wild!

Okay, we’re not exactly going wild but we are going to Penticton for the weekend (that’s about as wild as it gets these days).

My friend Annelle and I are hitting the road tomorrow for three days of camping, swimming and cycling in the Okanagan. It’s going to be exactly like Thelma and Louise. Except we’re not going to shoot anyone or blow up a tanker truck or have sex with Brad Pitt. And we probably won’t drive off a cliff at the end of the trip either. Now that I think about it, it’s going to be nothing like Thelma and Louise.

But it’s still going to be fun. The only wrench in the plan is that everyone else in B.C. is heading to Penticton this weekend too. There will be at least 40,000 people in town to watch the Ironman on Sunday. Which is exactly what we'll be doing too. But it means every campsite, motel room and RV gravel pit within 20 miles of Penticton has been booked solid for about a year.

We have a reservation at a provincial park on Friday night but have nowhere to stay on Saturday night. However, we are not above using cleavage and tears to sweet talk our way into a campground (or into some Brad Pitt look-alike’s motel room).

And on that note, I’ve got to start packing.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

And I thought you read it for the articles…

This blog gets almost 200 hits a day. It’s not a lot of traffic but it’s enough to make me curious. Who are all these people and how did they find my blog in the first place?

Well, it turns out they stumbled onto this site while searching the Internet for pictures of big butts.

How do I know this? Because some German guy who likes big butts sent me an e-mail this week, which I have cut and pasted below:

hi sarah,

i’am thomas from germany. i was searching for "big butts" on the web and than i found your blogger-website.

i can see your gorgeous butt on a tiny image . . . i wish i can get a very BIG IMAGE OF YOUR GREAT BUTT. . .

please send me a message if u intressted to chat with me anywhere . . . ;)

and PLEASE . . . send me this gorgeous pic of your great butt in yeans . . . hmmmm . . .

thx . . . greez from germany


So I did what anyone would do* in this situation. I immediately laughed my ass off. Then I went to Google, did an image search and typed in "big butt." And there it was. My butt was the third image to pop up on the screen. Out of thousands! And my butt’s not even big.

Plus, the picture is totally G-rated. I’m wearing jeans and a black turtleneck. It’s more Amish than sexy.

I’m not sure if I should be insulted or flattered that my ass has such a high Google ranking in the "big butt" category.

In case you’re wondering how my butt ended up on the Internet, it’s all very innocent. I posted this picture to go along with this story about how I was packing some extra junk in the truck after I stopped exercising due to an injury. It was meant to be tongue-in-cheek (no pun intended).

Now it just feels dirty.

* I also sent Thomas a very BIG IMAGE OF MY GREAT BUTT because he asked so nicely.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Wedding Crashers - Review

So a few of us finally got around to seeing this movie last night. I haven’t laughed this hard since Stephen Harper turned up at the Calgary Stampede dressed like a gay cowboy.

There was one scene in particular -- a certain tryst under the dinner table -- which made me laugh until I had tears in my eyes and my abs hurt.

Wedding Crashers is not exactly high-minded comedy. One reviewer accurately described it as American Pie for grownups. There’s lots of nudity and raunchy humour. The plot is pretty formulaic too.

But it’s still very, very funny.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Mutton dressed as lamb

The Catholic church is trying to lure new sheep into the flock with a poster that spoofs the Matrix.

I actually like the poster. It’s clever and slightly irreverent (it’s rated R, for "restricted to those radically in love with Jesus"). Does it make me want to run out and join the priesthood? Oh, wait. I can’t. I’m female. Right, I knew there was a catch.

I have bigger problems with the Catholic church anyway. Like its Mesozoic stand against gay marriage, for example.

To its credit, the church recognizes it is losing relevance among young people. Hence the poster.

But the effort falls flat by failing to address the real reason the church is having trouble recruiting young priests. Catholicism is irrelevant not because it isn’t cool or hip. It’s irrelevant because it’s completely out of touch with reality.

Jonathan Meyer, the 28-year-old priest who dreamed up the poster, proves my point by saying, "If we can get kids to hang a picture of a priest in their room, we’ve done something huge for vocations."

What kind of whacked out teenager would hang a picture of a priest in his bedroom?

My buddy Bill sums it up best on his blog, where he writes:

"The poster is clever and well-done, but from my perspective as an agnostic, it doesn't address the fact that the Catholic Church remains an immensely hidebound, conservative institution -- and that many of its traditions make it somewhat anachronistic in the modern world.

Allowing priests to marry and ordaining women would be two steps that would provide much more substantial results with regard to solving the priest shortage, but the church doesn't want to change.

Fine, then continue to wither in North America and Europe.

Wrapping a pre-medieval institution in the cloak of pop culture will do nothing to reverse that trend."

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Car alarms, what are they good for?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating guns or violence or vigilante justice but I’ve finally met a criminal I can relate to.

According to Fox News (which is where all the really entertaining “news” comes from), a California man was arrested on Tuesday for firing three bullets into a Toyota Camry in order to stop an annoying car alarm.

His actions may seem a bit extreme but anyone who lives in downtown Vancouver will immediately relate. After being treated to a free car alarm symphony every night, I understand what drove the guy over the edge. I have to sleep with earplugs just to avoid being woken up by the idiot who parked illegally on Robson Street only to have his car towed away with its alarms and sirens and whistles howling in protest.

The thing is, I don’t get car alarms. What is the point? Do you actually look out the window when you hear a car alarm going off? Do you assume a car theft is in progress and call the cops? Of course not. Most people ignore the stupid things because they’re going off all the time. It’s like the car who cried wolf.

The Club is way more effective at preventing car thefts than car alarms. (Don’t quote me on that. That’s not an actual fact. I just made it up. But it seems logical, doesn’t it?)

Besides, the Club is a lot quieter. Why do we even need car alarms at all? This isn’t a rhetorical question. I’m serious. If anyone knows the answer, please leave a comment and let me know before I go crazy and start shooting cars in the middle of the night.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Blisters and bliss

A lot of people have been asking me how my hike on the West Coast Trail went. The short answer is that I’ve never been so warm, dry, clean and happy on a camping trip in my entire life.

The long answer is, well, longer. I’ve been back in Vancouver since Wednesday and I haven’t been able to write about the experience until now because I’m having a hard time accepting the fact that the trip is over. But then I’ve never been very good at letting go and moving on.

I don’t want to be here, in Vancouver, in my apartment, in front of my computer. I want to be back on the West Coast Trail.

I miss walking barefoot on the beach at sunset. I miss the sand squishing between my toes, the wind in my hair, the scratchy film of salt on my skin. I miss the smell of seaweed rotting in the sun at low tide. I miss sitting around the campfire completely disconnected from the rest of the world. I miss lying in my tent at night listening to the waves crash against the rocks.

The funny thing is most people come back from the West Coast Trail with horror stories about the knee-deep mud, the torrential rain, and the long, hard hiking over slippery roots and rocks. But I can’t think of one thing to complain about. The hiking was easy, the scenery spectacular and the weather hot and sunny.

It was more like Club Med than a true wilderness experience. The trail through the forest is paved with boardwalks, ladders, suspension bridges and cable cars. Walking along the beach is tiring but easy.

A lot of the trail is on First Nations land and a few enterprising locals have cashed in on the hikers passing through. Like Monique, who served up burgers and beer on the beach on our fourth day of hiking. Or the guys who hauled crab and salmon out of the water and threw it on the barbecue before they ferried us across a river. Like I said, Club Med.

Most people do the 77-kilometre hike in five to seven days. We decided to take our time and do the hike in seven days, which meant we only hiked about five hours a day. As soon as we arrived at our campsite, we set up our tents and then spent the rest of the afternoon frolicking on the beach. We bathed under waterfalls, swam in the ocean, read on the beach, napped in our tents, played cards, took long walks at sunset.

It might sound weird but one of my favourite things about the trip was meeting the other hikers. And because there’s not much else in the way of entertainment, we gave them secret nicknames. There was Hansel and Gretel (a young German couple), the Fragrant Bubbas (a divorced dad and his two teenage sons), the Von Trapps (a large family from Lethbridge) and the Hotties (two brothers and their parents from Calgary). We named ourselves Five Fags and a Hag.

I was especially fond of one member of the Hotties and would make up excuses to walk past his campsite. For example, I would dump out full bottles of water at our campsite in order to refill them at the creek near his campsite. Although the fourth time I walked past his campsite in the span of five minutes in order to "get water" his dad busted me by yelling out, "Thirsty?"

Eventually, the cute (and smart and interesting and funny) Alberta boy picked up on my lame attempts at seduction and we went on a couple of long walks together. Which strikes me as strange now. I mean, we had been hiking all day. Why didn’t we just go sit on the beach somewhere instead of walking for hours?

There’s not much else to add. I've probably said too much already. I'd be slightly embarrassed if he googled me and stumbled across this blog. I told him we nicknamed his family the Hotties but I didn't tell him why I was always filling up the water bottles. Unfortunately, they had to leave the trail on the fifth day due to a family emergency.

I’ve skipped a lot of the details of the trip but I don’t want to bore you. I have one more day off work tomorrow so I’m going to head down to the beach with a blanket and a book. If I close my eyes, I can pretend I’m back on the West Coast Trail.