Monday, August 30, 2010

Where Has All The Junk Mail Gone?

Deb: Okay, I am so afraid to say this out loud or to put in print in case I hex it, but ... MY JUNK MAIL HAS GONE AWAY. I did nothing to bring this joy about, I swear. If I did, I would spread the word, but I cannot take credit for the fact that MY JUNK MAIL HAS GONE AWAY! It started quietly, insidiously, about a week ago. I thought it was some sort of a cruel joke. I thought that maybe at the APPLE annual picnic one of the geniuses had picked my name out of a barrel as a target for geek taunts. Maybe I was an experiment. I woke up one day and rushed to my computer––sad but true––and there were only five junks sitting in the junk area. As the week went on I had four, three, two, none! What? It has been none for days and days now. I whispered this news across the table to my husband, but he had only time to sneer at me as he was busy deleting numerous marriage proposals from Russian brides and scores of ads for the Viagra he would surely need if he was going to service them all! I don’t get it. I feel like I just won the lottery. Callee callay!!!!!!!

And now I sit there in front of my screen wondering what the hell I am going to do while my kettle is boiling and my toast is toasting. I am devoid of things to delete. Sigh. Maybe I’ll keep myself busy by answering this lovely email from a very nice young man who is new to the country and has lost his money on “our very clean and efficient subway system” and who needs me to send him $2000.00 right away. Poor devil, he misspelled “monie”. He clearly needs my help. I’ll just get out my checkbook as I celebrate the fact that MY JUNK MAIL HAS GONE AWAY!

Barbara: lol!!! So funny, Deb. Knowing how tech-illiterate we both are, are you sure this isn’t just some random computer typo (like we are both wont to do)? The kind that cures junk disease, but that can never be re-created as it is so obtuse and far-fetched? You know, like mistakenly punching an “option” “command” “f3” “junk mail” combo that makes no computer sense, but succeeded in eliminating all those unwanted pleas for help, sex, or money (or rather, monie)? Because otherwise I have no explanation for you. Computer glitches usually foul everything up, lock the system down, cause crashes. Not THIS. It’s a miracle.

Wait a minute … it’s a miracle! Everyone! We should form a pilgrimage to Deb’s! We should stand together in reverential awe before her empty junk mailbox! We should make ritual offerings to the Computer Gods and hope they deign us with the same fortuitous blessing! Yes! Please join me while I pray.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fight Or Flight?

Barbara: If the suspense was killing you since Monday’s post (a little self-aggrandizement, anyone?), here’s the story about when I kicked a car-jacker’s balls. But wait, before I elaborate, I have to add that this is a very handy tale. I can pull it out at get-togethers during awkward moments or to get things rolling. It’s a kind of party-trick.

My story happened several years ago. I had spent the day on the set of a little indie film I was shooting—the film where I met Deb, actually—and I was feeling giddy and excited, but also tired and spent. My husband was out of town and my daughters were still young enough to need a babysitter. As much as I love my girls, I was thinking it might be nice to wait to go home till after they were tucked into bed. Selfish, yes, but I was shooting a movie! It was all about ME for a whole 13 days. It was a glorious time…. But I digress.

I decided to go to the mall and maybe buy myself some sweet something. Yes, lingerie, if you must know, but I would wear it under my costume! I could write it off! So, after shopping and whiling away the time until I was sure the girls would be snug in bed, I headed for my car in the parking lot. And when I say my car, I actually mean my husband’s. And naturally, for the sake of a good story, hubby is a car enthusiast who works in the automotive industry. Suffice it to say, the car was very nice. And, as luck would have it, the producers on the little indie film I was shooting wanted to use his nice car in a scene that day, hence the reason I was driving his car.

It was late—9:00—and dark. My husband’s beautiful car was virtually alone in the vast lot. I approached and noticed that a window was smashed. I was beside myself. Hubby’s beautiful car! My precious me-time ruined! I got on the phone to hubby right away and told him the bad news. We commiserated for a while—bad luck, crappy news, poor me (he was very sympathetic to my ruined me-time), yadda yadda (yadda, yadda). All this to say that I spent a good ten (apparently very vulnerable) minutes surveying the damage and reporting it to him over the phone. I finally got into the driver’s side, left the door open, and (stupidly!) threw my keys on the passenger seat to survey the damage to the interior.

Then through the eerie dark, I hear a low voice: “Give me the car.” I turn to see a masked guy, about 6 feet tall, standing at my open driver’s door. He has one hand on the roof of the car, one on the door, and he’s blocking me in. He didn’t look very old, maybe 18. Nice eyes. I swear, I remember that—eyes like a baby. I stare up into his baby-eyes and he says again, low, deep, like a man: “Give me the car.”

And I lose it. I scream like a banshee on crack. Fight or flight? I guess I got my answer that night. Right or wrong, I am fight. I throw the cell phone down (oh yeah, hubby gets to listen to me screaming insanely while he sits 380 kilometers away in a restaurant with his work colleagues), and I start to kick at this guy’s balls with everything I’ve got. I have this Marx Brother’s image in my mind of me kicking and screaming while this hapless thug bitch-slaps my feet away from his crotch. Felt like hours of terrifying slapstick.

Finally, he looks behind him—and this is the really scary part because he’s looking at someone ELSE—and making his decision for reasons I can only guess at, he turns and leaves. I fumble for the keys—which are somewhere in a pile of broken glass on the passenger’s seat, remember?—and I get the car started and I drive away. But I drive only to the other side of the mall so I can call the police and maybe still catch the fucker.

Long story short, the cops arrive in minutes, the perps are gone (never to be caught), I make my statement, the very nice and helpful cop lectures me on fighting the guy (“It’s just a car, ma’am. Next time, give it to him.” I nodded obediently, knowing all the while that my instincts would be hard-pressed to let me do it.), I drive my broken car home, I assure my panic-stricken husband that I am alive and well, he drives the 380 km in 2 ½ hours (yes, that requires significant speeding), and I get a great story out of a potentially harrowing experience.

I might balk at an open water swim, but when push comes to shove in the right circumstances, I guess I got me some cojones I can jangle.

Deb: I will say that hearing this story again in detail––that I have never really heard fully––made my blood run cold. We were all aghast when Barb showed up on set the next day with frayed nerves and this tale to tell. The part that Barb has forgotten is that the first day on our set was September 11th, 2001. This is the way our film and friendship started. I will not go into details of what we were feeling on that day as I am sure that all of you can share equally the fear and confusion we felt, especially our New York friends. But I do remember, embedded in my brain, the story of Barb trying to fluff off what had happened in that way she has of not taking full credit for her bravery. I also remember the sickening feeling in my stomach when I thought of her beloved husband hearing this happening in real time and yet being powerless to do anything about it. And I remember––and forgive me if I am wrong, Barb––but I do remember you saying that we all felt like such victims on September 11th, and that none of us in the big cities knew what or who would be hit next. And that you said that it was because of just that feeling that you refused to be a victim. You said that you did not know if you may have done quite the same thing otherwise. Am I remembering that correctly? I was so impressed by Barb in this scenario. She went in that moment from being the stunning sweet actress I was getting to know and laugh with to a woman of huge substance. She has not disappointed me since.

Barbara: Deb, I’d totally forgotten that feeling about not wanting to be victimized. Thanks for reminding me of that. Honestly, I have no lingering sense of fear around this event, just a sense of wonder. It made me realize that no matter how well we think we know ourselves, we can’t know how we’ll react in any given moment until we do.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Deb: I just read an article in today’s paper that said that Google Labs is testing a new “undo” button on its “send function” that would give us 30 seconds to stop an email from reaching our boss, boyfriend, neighbour, friend or anyone else we have issue with. It’s called “Undo Send”.

Funny that this comes in the wake of my blog last week about the letter I wrote and ultimately did not send to my neighbour. Being able to blog about it got it all out of my system and with your supportive responses I was able to get over it. That neighbour is now, as advised by my dear friend Annette “dead to me”.

But it got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be great to have an undo button in life? How many times have I said something and watched the words ramble out of my mouth, wishing I could leap in like wonder woman and stop them with my stylish cuffs before they reached the ears of the intended.

I wouldn’t want them just to stop mean things I have said in the past, although that would be so sweet. I want them to stop the stupid, the thoughtless, the things we all do every single day that still when recalled can bring a full on flush to my whole body.

Things like the classic, “Congratulations. When is the baby due?”. UNDO! “Well I never liked your boyfriend anyway, he was such a pig…. Oh ... that’s great ... when did you ... umm ... get back together? ... Married? ... Oh ... how ... umm ... yeah ... umm ... nice. UNDO! “Hi, Bob. Oh this must be your mother. How lovely to finally meet ... your wife? ... Of course ... I guess the sun was in my eyes and I ... er ... umm. UNDO!

And I also wonder how many “I love you’s” I’d UNDO that I gave so willingly to boys that were undeserving? And how many self-deprecating statements would I undo because I didn’t have the grace to handle a compliment? How many “snaps” at husband and child because I was just too tired and crabby to answer in a civil tongue? ALL-UNDO!

But as I am writing this and taking a second look at the UNDO as an aid, and as I look back at my life, I realize that all of these gaffes, these knee-jerks, these quips, and thoughtless comments are what made me me. They have allowed me to examine myself and improve myself and to assess myself and to forgive myself. As horrible as some of these memories are, they are the stained fabric of the Deb quilt, the little bits that the Tide-stick of life cannot completely erase. They are there for a reason. So I will UNDO the UNDOING. And, note to Google––it needs to be a helluva lot longer than 30 seconds, my friends. And it should come with a Breathalyzer.

Barbara: Ooh, I didn’t hear about this new button. Undo. Yeah, I’d need way longer than 30 seconds. Oh, the email-letters I’ve regretted sending. Much like your letter to your neighbour—the email I’ve written in anger or in haste always come back to slap me in the face. Hard. But I don’t want to take the email back until much later, after I’ve cooled down and realized IT IS NOT WORTH IT. Some people will just never get it.

Or undoing the haphazard comments made in real life? Me talking to a young hotshot director while she told me about a novel she’d just written. Me: “That’s great! Is it fiction or non-fiction?” UNDO! UNDO! She: “Well … isn’t a novel always fiction?” Me (red-faced, mortified): “Mm-hm, of course.”

I also want to thank you for your last thought, Deb—because I so agree. Why always punish ourselves for our own life lessons? They are difficult but potentially handy tools for growth and self-discovery.

And, yeah, a breathalyzer wouldn’t hurt…

Monday, August 23, 2010

Are There No Limits To My Limits?

Barbara: I am a chicken-shit. Simple as that. At least that’s how I feel more often than not. If I find myself facing a bit of a physical challenge, something most of you would shrug at, I start to, oh my god, hyperventilate. It’s frickin’ ridiculous.

Let me give you a few examples: Every year I go to my sister’s cottage. It is a little piece of heaven with a beautiful lake. Both my sisters are strong and enthusiastic swimmers and they love the chance to get their exercise out on the water, swimming for miles from one side of the lake to the other and then back again. Now, I love the water and I love swimming, but put me in the open water and my heart starts pounding and my breathing starts to accelerate. I am strong, I know it. When I’m at the gym I can fake-row for 30 minutes without breaking too much of a sweat. I can bike for much longer. I workout; I have some upper-body strength (my husband may mock this claim). But still the open water is freaky for me. It’s not a fear of under-water creatures or even of drowning. But it is this strange hopelessness. It comes over me, taunts me, maligns me: “You can’t do it. You can’t do it.” I’m the Little Engine That Couldn’t.

Last summer, I visited very good friends out in B.C. and one of them offered to take me on what’s called the “Grouse Grind”. The Grind is a famous 3-kilometer hike straight up a mountain near Vancouver. I love hiking and being out in the wilds. The Grind is something I always wanted to do. I was really excited. But as we drove there, my (very fit) friend––who had done the hike many times––described the trail: it is literally thousands of steps straight up. Not a winding, steep trail as I had imagined. But friggin’ stairs. Thousands of them. (Did I say that already?). The maligning voice started taunting with a vengeance: “What are you thinking?” “You’re going to make a fool of yourself.” “Everyone will have to wait for you.” “You’ll be the whiny baby who couldn’t do it.” And sure enough, we hit the trail and my anxiety kicks in and my breath jars and my heart races. It’s hard enough climbing stairs that never end, never mind doing it with a bad ‘tude.

My husband really wanted me to share his passion for scuba diving. So, despite my absolute terror, I finally tried it. I panicked so badly, the instructor had to hold my hand the whole way. The whole way!!

I’m a pretty good downhill skier, but my husband and girls are kick-ass. One year, they challenged me to ski an extreme bowl. I gulped hard and agreed. The bowl started on a 75 degree vertical, then got less steep but more treed. The run is 6 kilometers of pure torture. I cried for the first 3 k. That’s, like, an hour of crying. During which, mind you, I am skiing. I’m succeeding, but not appreciating the fact, get my point?

So what happened? I crossed the lake with my sisters, no problem. Zen happiness. I made it up to the top of Grouse Grind (1 ½ hours of climbing stairs). Pure cathartic adrenalin. I made it to the bottom of the ski hill in one piece. Absolute euphoria. I challenged myself to try scuba diving one more time. Did it, didn’t panic, loved it in fact. My husband was elated. I was elated.

But I still found myself clasping my husband’s face between my hands and very gently but firmly informing him that I would never, ever, ever scuba-dive or extreme ski again. The Grind? Maybe. Swimming my sister’s lake? Quite probably, hyperventilation and all.

What’s the point of this post? Um … I don’t actually know. I’m a wimp and I know it. Not proud of it. But I’m also realizing that I underestimate my own strength and power way too often. And that’s not a good thing.

Well, they do say that knowing your weakness is half the battle, right? And I did once kick a car-jacker in the balls. But that’s for another post….

Deb: First of all, Barb is an excellent downhill skier with beautiful style, but did not learn to ski in the cradle as her husband and kids did and I think that is part of the thing. When it is taught from early childhood, it is like walking or breathing, but when the lesson is learned later it comes with the manual of what could happen “if”. I once told Barb that instead of feeling badly about not doing the extreme ski again, she should be proud as punch that she did it once––and knocked it off her list. After all, is it worth the sickening worry?

I am also a scaredy-cat I am ashamed to say. I have always been a fit, healthy girl and I work out five or six times a week. I just registered for two types of dance classes today. But anything that seems “extreme” to me makes my blood run cold. I don’t even swim in open water of any kind. I figure you know where you stand with a pool. At this point in my life, I want to live as healthily and well as I can, taking no chances. I guess it all depends on what you think is “taking a risk” in your life. If you know in your heart that the fear is healthy then I say GO! But if it is debilitating then maybe you should stay. Risk isn’t always facing mortal danger. I have seen Barb take risks in the most ordinary everyday ways and I have been amazed and in awe of her!

Barbara: Aw, Deb, thanks. Back at ya, by the way. And you’re right, there are lots of ways of “taking chances”. I just wish I could apply that courage a bit more often and with a bit more gusto.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Note To A Neighbour

Deb: Dear Neighbour,

You can imagine how moved I was when I met you on the street today and you greeted the news of our pet’s passing with a slight grin and an “Oh”. In your eyes, I could see the gleam of “Good! One down, one to go.” My soul was further stirred by your milk of human kindness pouring out all over my head as you railed on about how much they bark and how this is disturbing your television watching. I explained to you that while the dogs do bark at squirrels and raccoons, what you fail to realize is that they lay out there for hours at a time making no sound at all. I also reminded you that when they bark for more than a few seconds, we come out to stop them or bring them in. But then I HATED myself for making any excuses to you at all, you dried-up old humourless lifeless sour pinched prune.

You also went on to express your displeasure at the reno going on beside our home and when I said that I was happy for them, you sneered your displeasure. I have one basic question for you: Why the hell did you move to this neighbourhood? With its dogs and cats and children and renos? Our son is a grown man now and yet we still love to hear the little ones with their laughter and screaming and whining and crying. These are the sounds of living, you dried-up old humourless lifeless sour pinched prune. HAD to say that again. Cause frankly it was the only thing stopping me from hitting you with the bitch-mama of all words, the C word! MY KINGDOM for the sound of its hard consonant hitting your flat smug face like a plank! My mind was racing! Don’t do it. Soften the C! Dear God, soften the C!

So gathering my composure which was no small feat, I will say this, you chunt...
If a barking dog is the only thing that ever makes your life a tragedy than you will be a very lucky woman indeed. I hope their yips are the only sorrow you experience in your life. But without question, this neighbourhood is an odd choice to live in with someone of your discerning tastes and boundaries. I think an adults-only no dogs/no cats/no chunts condo would be more your style. But of course the no chunts rule would catch you up, wouldn’t it?

Well, I guess your only recourse if you choose to stay in this hood is to hire a plumber to pull the tree trunk out of your ass. Then neighbour, sit for just a minute, turn off the TV and listen to life around you. And if it isn’t too late, join in. You won’t regret it.

****Thanks in advance to our dear fun and liberal followers for allowing me to vent in the blog. This is the EXTREME version of the more polite version I wrote to prunie. I had full intentions of slipping it into her mailbox. Now, I don’t have to. Wow, blogging is waaaaaaaaaay cheaper than therapy.

Barbara: Call me a chunt, but c’mon, Deb, have you never heard the awful racket of birds outside your window at six in the morning?! Their incessant little chirps just grating on your nerves and driving you batty? And cats? Have you not had at least one or two over the summer meowing at your doorstep, rubbing their catty fur all over your mat while they beg for attention? Or squirrels?! How the hell can you stand their caterwauling from tree to tree? And don’t even get me started on crickets. Have you ever tried to read a book on your porch while these annoying pests lay waste to the peace and quiet of a city night? I much prefer, you know, REAL sounds, like honking horns and electric hum and TV voices. Or best of all: that deathly silence that spreads out between a bored couple with nothing to say to each other. Now that is grand.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Landscape And The Mind's Eye

Barbara: I read recently somewhere (can’t remember where––thanks again, aging brain) that Love of Landscape is a distinctly Canadian characteristic. It makes sense. We Canadians are surrounded by so much of it. Sprawling landscape. Hundreds of thousands of square miles that are wild and empty, devoid of human touch. We can thank our historical habit of converging our cities and towns around hospitable rivers and lakes in the warmest corners of the country. As a result, we have vast unspoiled spaces cozying up to cosmopolitan beehives.

Obviously, I know that Canadians aren’t the only ones who appreciate landscape, but it had never occurred to me before that some people might actually take landscape for granted. I can’t imagine it. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t breathe a kind of Zen sigh of peacefulness when I was “on the road”. One of my absolute favourite aspects of summer is the Road Trip. Honestly, this country just begs for a good long road trip to someplace you’ve never been. Or to someplace you’ve been many times, but never on that route. Or same destination, same route, but different adjectives.

Being a lover of the Road Trip means giving over to the moment. You have no choice but to look around you at the changing scenery, to appreciate the way the light plays on the native plants, and to see again how the foliage changes from one area to another.

It is a gentle sort of miracle for me to be suddenly outside myself and my worries, concerns, and battling ideas, and find myself thinking—truly, I swear—about NOTHING. For several hours, I just watch, mesmerized at the wonder of our countryside. Of any countryside. For someone who is so awfully and compulsively wrapped up in the mundane and the stressful, the road trip with its shifting landscape is such a relief. Both a wonder and a wonderfully soothing … break.

We’ve had a few road trips this summer—as we do every summer—to my sister’s cottage, to my Dad’s house in the country, visits to friends. Getting there is absolutely, completely half the, if not fun, certainly the joy. Unadulterated, spa-like, mesmerizing, breathtaking, soul-replenishing JOY.

Deb: Oh, Barb, how true does this ring! I had a few overnights this summer in Ontario, which boasts some of the most beautiful land and lake I have ever seen. Add to that my fifth season shooting in Regina. As we trucked to Indian Head every day, it hit me: I was not bored like I thought I would be, having been there five years in a row. In fact, the opposite was true. Yes, it was the same flat land as it was every single day, but it was bliss. The “big sky”––a gross understatement if I ever heard one––was looming over us! I could not take my eyes off it. Every bit of it. We shot at the edge of a field of canola, all yellow waves of control. I was staring at it. We all were. It was hypnotizing us and it was all we could talk about, focus on. And as we watched it, the earth seemed to curve. I swear. It looked like you could see the rounding of the planet. Saskatchewan. Land of the Living Sky. Oh, yes!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Frisker Mochrie R.I.P.O.S. (Rest In Pursuit Of Squirrels)

Deb: Frisker is not afraid or in discomfort anymore. He was really only in distress for a total of an hour while we got dressed in the middle of the night and took him to the emergency clinic. We said our goodbyes quickly, both of us through leaden hearts and drenched eyes. It took only 20 seconds and he had his reward. His reward for twelve-and-a-half years of faithful service to our hearts.

He added years to our lives by making us sit down with him and play when we entered the house stressed. He made us laugh on more occasions than we can count and he melted us every time he picked out his toy for the day. He was even a hero. Our hero to be sure, but his sister Fanny’s hero when he saved her from drowning in the pool. Fanny had not been with us long––she was still a pup––and for him, I am sure, she was a pain in the butt. But when we heard him wailing––a sound he had never made––we ran outside to find him leaning over the pool’s edge trying to pull her out of the icy water with his paw. He was terrified of the water, which made his heroic act that much more special. I’m sure right after he saved her and she ran over to steal one of his stuffed babies for the umpteenth time, he thought, “What the hell did I do that for?” But he couldn’t help it. His instincts kicked in. And so have ours. Our instinct to stay close to home and mourn him. To give him his due. To stop our world and feel his absence.

We are following our instinct to go about our business, then break down when the moment overwhelms. Our son is a camp councilor this summer, so the poor guy is struggling with the fact that he was not here when Frisker, his boy pup, left us. We will have a little service and bury Frisker’s ashes when Luke comes home. We will put them in amongst the cedar trees where Frisker happily wiled away the hours, his snout peeking out from the foliage, his fat little arse burrowed in the cool dirt.

I just took up his bowl this morning from its spot and it was as if he had just died all over again. But with the bowl tucked away, we put another foot forward. And we focus on wee Fanny who is confused and unsure of herself. She still runs out the door, stops, turns around, barks and waits for him. She loved him as much as we did. And more than that, he was her Yoda, her role model. He was a good boy. He was a good Frisker. As Colin posted on Facebook: “He was a serious dog who brought serious Joy into our lives.

Frisker Mochrie

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Wine Whine

Barbara: Okay, so I’ve never been a big drinker, a drunk, a souse, or a lush. Nor am I a beverage aficionado. But I do like my glass of wine. I like the thought of it, the look, the bouquet, the taste (oh, yes, the taste!), the sensuous feel of the glass in my hand, and the slightly cock-eyed buzz, especially after a day-from-hell (and I’ve had my fair share of those). I was one of the first to join the legions who bowed in deference to the genius doctors who proclaimed a glass of wine a day a prescription for good health.

But the truth is: wine doesn’t frickin’ like me. Not anymore anyway. It’s like that smart, cool girl I covet to be my new buddy with all her sassy talk and “We have so much in common”, only to have her punch me in the guts when I am least prepared, taking me down, making me regret my rash rush to love and trust. I drink down that burgundy libation, enjoying every sip, savouring the flavours, the effect, and then BAM!—either a few hours later or the next morning—I feel nauseous or crampy or both. It isn’t fair!!! I mean, I’m such a responsible drinker! I like it and I want it! I frickin’ DESERVE it! And it could not give a shit. Love ‘em and leave ‘em. (I told you this was going to be a whine.)

So, I don’t know what to do. Or where we stand, wine and I, in our tortured relationship. I continue to lust after it and it continues to bait me with the occasional happy experience and then sideline me with its wrath. I swear off it for a while, but then I miss it. Or there’s a special event that begs for some chinking of glasses and swilling of booze…. Like a Friday.

It makes me think of a conversation Deb and I had a while ago. We were observing that it seemed like so many of our older female friends seemed to drink more than they used to—or at the very least, seemed to be more affected by alcohol, turning into the moony, drunken cougars of the ugly clich├ęs. So is it that they/we can simply no longer handle our booze like we used to? Or am I alone in my whino-troubles?

Behind every older woman, is there a glass of wine that’s sick of her?

Deb: OOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH BARB! I am sick for you. As sick as you are yourself. I am here to assure you all that Barb is the most responsible drinker! I have never even seen her drunk. Tipsy maybe on a few (very few) evenings. How HOW can you be punished this way? Why has the grape turned on you, my dear? Why the hell can’t it be a cantaloupe reaction? I would be despairing myself. Not that I have a problem, as truly I do not. But I love my red wine. Look forward to it. Don’t over do it, but love it. Don’t drink hard liquor, but oy, the wine. We MUST fix this, Barb. Off to the Mayo Clinic with you. Do you think they will see it as the priority it is????????

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Quick, Channel Two!

Deb: My Mum called me the other day to say that the original The Day the Earth Stood Still was on TV. She told me what channel it was on and I said, “Thanks Mum, that’s great, but you know that you own it, right? We gave it to you three Christmases ago.” She said, “Oh I know, but ... it’s on TV!”

This is a scenario that has repeated itself over the years much to my amusement, but I have to say, I get it now. As crazy as it sounds, and even if it is pure nostalgia, I get it. We all know how wonderful, how convenient it is to be able to rent, buy, or PVR a movie (TiVo to our friends south of the 49th parallel) and watch it at our convenience. But I have to say, I finally know what my Mum meant. Because I remember like it was yesterday gathering around the TV waiting with great anticipation to see our favourite shows. It was an event. Friday afternoon was talent round-up on the Mickey Mouse Club. Christmas brought The Wizard of Oz and Mary Martin’s Peter Pan, which happened only once a year!!! Can you imagine? Wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I have warm glowing memories of my Dad and I hunkering down to watch Rat Patrol and The Avengers. I can still remember like it was yesterday that my bedtime on Wednesday night was right after My Favourite Martian. I would sit on my parents’ bed all scrunched up in my PJ’s waiting till the clock struck 8:30. Then Uncle Martin’s antenna would retract and that was my cue to hit the sack.

TV was a regularly scheduled event in our world, and our lives were conducted by the beat of Mitch Miller’s baton. When the shows you loved were on, all activities would stop and you could hear the hum of the rabbit ears all over your street! I guess I was so caught up in trying to drag my Mum and Dad into the 21st century that I forgot what I was missing.

But when Mom called me the other day it hit me like an anvil hitting the Coyote on the head. And I remembered. I remembered when I was in my twenties and living on my own. I was barely out of the house and I treasured my newfound independence. Then my Mum would phone and tell me that Andy Hardy or Shirley Temple was on. I would scurry to the TV to turn it on, to watch it with her, and it filled me with the warmth of being at home with them. There we were the two of us, making tea together during the commercials even though we were miles apart. And I guess that’s all she wants now, and I love it.

Mum and I sharing the TV experience, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel.

Barbara: This is so sweet. I love the shared experience. Especially with a loved one. Phil and I were on a plane together a few months ago and each had our own screen for our own entertainment. But we picked the same film and watched it (virtually) simultaneously side by side. It made the whole experience better. The same reason I love watching movies in a movie theatre. So many of you sharing the same ride at the same time.

When I was growing up, the significant show was The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights. My mom would roast chicken and bake French fries and we would all gather in the family room, perch our plates on our laps, and eat dinner as we watched the Disney movie of the week.

Funny how for us this is a cherished nostalgic memory, but for child-raising experts it’s one of the big no-no’s! I can say this, we don’t watch nearly as much TV together as we did “back in the good ol’ days”. I miss it ☺ 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Reviews In LIfe And Art

Barbara: I’ve been thinking about reviews lately because a) Gae at Trying to Stay Afloat in a Sea of Words brought up the subject last week in her blog, and b) my film opened last Friday and obviously got some reviews. Now, the question Gae asked was how can we accept reviews when they are often so unreliable for our own standards. She had just seen a Broadway show that she and her friends hated for many sound reasons, only to read later that the critics loved it for all the same reasons. It threw off her sense of judgment. It made her question how we can possibly have—if not consensus in art—some kind of accurate barometer. How can something be so completely wonderful to one person and so loathsome to another? And how are critics truly different from any other discerning, intelligent, knowledgeable person with an opinion?

The truth is, as much as I’ve hated a critic or a review—both for myself, my projects, or my favourite pieces—I think it’s also what makes art art. It reminds us that anything created by the human imagination can also be examined and evaluated. And so it should be! Art is like a crystal prism: you turn it one way and one colour is refracted, turn it another and a different colour shines through, and on and on in infinite variations. It isn’t a static thing that is either GOOD or BAD, end of point.

Let’s face it, it sucks to have someone hate your work. Yes, the film did have a few detractors—it is a quirky, complicated vision—but it also had great reviews and zealous fans. Of course, I obsessed over the negative words. I’m funny that way (omg, are we not all like this?!). But then, after awhile, I found myself slowly shifting from disappointed to galvanized. Critiquing is actually a sexy process if you think about it. It undresses the work, then tweaks and prods and strokes. It sees everything from close up. And every critique is a little different and performs the deed in its (his/her) own way. You hate the process, love it, resent it, desire it, dismiss it, yearn for it, push, pull, push again, grab it back. When it’s through with you, you lie worn and exhausted on the bed. Spent. But strangely satisfied.

Many of you are creative people and will be subject to reviews of some kind. I just want to remind you that if and when you ponder the reviews or the possibility of reviews, you should also see it as a part of the whole experience. Your work is now bigger than it was before, bigger than you. So make sure you take your satisfaction.

Deb: Barb, I LOVED your take on critique completing art despite the pain it may cause the artist. My husband and I have a theory about critics and critique of art. They fall into two categories. Those who loved Moulin Rouge and those who hated it. We use that one as an example because we have discovered that there is no one in-between. You loved it or you hated it. The same with Across the Universe. Now I know that the same could be said of many, many films but there are a scant few films that fall into the love it or hate it category.

We were having a dinner party with two couples who are dear to our hearts. Both couples hated It’s a Wonderful Life. We stared at them and time stood still. What? Are you ... and we stopped ourselves from saying ... are you fucking crazy? We even tried to lure them with the fact that Jimmy Stewart’s performance (particularly on the bridge) is one of the most brilliant acting moments of all time. So here is the thing. Do you a) berate them? b) belittle them? or c) respect them? Well, despite the fact that we a’d and b’d them behind their backs after they left, we had to live with the fact that this is their opinion and that makes it of real value.

We tease our sister-in-law about loving Rat Race because we thought it was the lamest film ever. But is it? She loved it. She laughed. It spoke to her, therefore, it is of value. After all, a critic is just one opinion. A film-educated opinion I grant you, but one opinion nonetheless. I saw Terms of Endearment weeks after losing my beloved aunt at fifty-two and my dear friend in her twenties after childbirth. I HATED IT! The timing was awful for me, given the subject matter. Was I being objective? No. Neither are critics. They are influenced by what they think is cool and current and avant garde and by what affects where they are in their lives right at the second they saw the film. They would deny this, but it is true. Because they are human.

I watched Date Night (which got panned) on a plane last week and I slapped my leg laughing several times. My reviews of comedy movies are based on not the two thumbs up but the leg slap. My problem is that I sometimes do not see a film because of the critics. That is a shame and I hate it when I do that. For, as Barb so brilliantly put it, they are necessary to the industry and to the art, but not necessarily to us as people. As artists, we put it out there to be judged and despite the judgment, good or bad, we keep putting it out there. As an audience, as individuals, we laugh or we cry or we slap our knees or we get up and walk out. We are our own critics.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Bug's Strife

Deb: I have spent the better part of my life as a murderer of bugs. Not first-degree murder mind you, but definitely bugslaughter. It’s not like I had an issue with or grudge against a particular bug. I didn’t scheme and painstakingly plan to stalk it and kill it and make it look like a suicide. No, mine would be more what you call a crime of passion. I see a bug. Freak out. Panic. Eyes searching for a well-read magazine. Bam, insecticide. Guilty as charged.

All my life I have been fine with this. I felt justified even. After all, weren’t the bugs invading my home? It’s not like I was cramming my big toe into their anthill or insinuating my schnoz into their hornet’s nest. Wouldn’t dream of it for any number of reasons. And yet there I was, victim to their constant invasion of the home that I fashioned out of the wilderness with my bare hands or, at the very least, snapped up in a bidding war twelve years ago.

So, yes, damn it, I had no choice. It was kill or be stung. And if the bug was bigger than the dog or bug-ugly, I would employ the services of a henchman in the form of my reluctant, sighing husband. I am not proud of this stereotype. I would love to think I fought valiantly against it ,but I did not. A big hairy bug, after all, can knock all reason and courage right out of a girl’s head.

Then one day something happened in my killing spree that brought about a change of heart. I woke up one day and found a little winged creature trapped between the window and the screen. He was flapping his little wings frantically, desperate to get out. My years of skipping biology classes told me he was a boy. And that his name was Bill. With lightening speed and accompanied by my inside voice singing “Born Free”, I cranked open the window and pulled the screen out! Watching Bill fly off to freedom was all it took to change my evil ways.

From that day on, I have become a friend to crawly and winged creature alike, capturing and relocating with the deft workings of a witness-relocation team. I have traded in my rolled up magazines for a drinking glass and a thin piece of paper (my new tools in this insectitarian effort). As I sat out in my garden the other day, I realized that the word of my brave and selfless deeds had gotten out. I could hear the bumblebees buzzing, “There she izzzzzzzzz, she’zzzzzzzzzz a legend, she’zzzzzzzzzz our friend.” You got that right, my little bee buddies. That I am. Yes, indeed I am ... OWWW! MOSQUITO. BAM!

Okay, so I’m a work in progress. You have to draw the line somewhere.

Barbara: Hysterical, Deb! Man, you hit the bug on the head for me on this one!

I have always been squeamish about bugs (and rodents, of course), definitely resorting to my husband for any necessary bug-letting, and usually taking up said magazine-roll. But strangely, very recently, I have noticed myself also going Buddha on the bugs. I find myself (quite despite myself) very gently removing bugs from the home and not stampeding for the nearest weapon.

Just the other day, a massive moth infiltrated the abode. I was in a snit—alone, no white horse nearby, no recourse but my own actions. I was desperate to be rid of it (unlike spiders, which I leave to their bug-catching ways—especially since we don’t have any killer ones here. Poor Rigel and her awful spider attack.) In the past, we have been the sad victims of the treachery of moths—both a larvae infestation of our kitchen pantry and cupboards (which was truly one of the grossest experiences of my home-owning life) and another infestation of my clothes closet. Oh, the carnage. Hard-earned and treasured cashmere sweaters. Just the right-kind-of-sexy t’s. All in the garbage. This nightmare is what flashed before my eyes as I stood apoplectic before the moth.

It, like your bug, fluttered desperately at the window. As if it could read my killer thoughts, it became more and more agitated. It was so HUGE, I didn’t know how to proceed. Then, like you, I found a piece of paper and gently coaxed it off the pane. Again and again, just angling the edge under its little “feet” while it panicked. Finally, it took the bait and found a perch on the paper. I walked as carefully as I could to the front door and, cringing and groveling, shooed it off into the wind.

It was a GREAT feeing. One, because I could do it, and two, because I saved it. Zen and the Art of Insect Liberation.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Death of Alice Blue

Barbara: While Deb and I love to chat about our lives, sometimes we also love to chat about our work (see, there’s a difference). Today, I have a fun work tale to share with you.

A few years ago, I worked on a great independent film here in Toronto called The Death of Alice Blue. It piqued me with its intelligent, understated script and its beguiling director, Park Bench, and star and producer, Alex Appel. Park and Alex cast me in the role of the evil boss of an advertising agency where the true zinger happens to be that we are all vampires preparing to take over the world (advertisers as bloodsuckers––what?!). It isn’t Twilight or True Blood, or any of the usual vampire fare. It is an art-house film that uses deadpan humour to tell the story of one girl, Alice Blue (played by Alex), as she comes of age, slowly discovering she may have the makings to be the most powerful vampire ever. And Evil Boss (me) waffles between wanting to nurture Alice’s great talent and wanting to kill her.

We shot this over a few weeks on a budget that Hollywood would mock, but which nonetheless produced a stylish, cerebral, and funny little gem. In fact, after Alex and Park finally scraped the budget together to finish post-production on the film, it was promptly snatched up by dozens of film festivals around the world, starting with a coveted spot in a Canadian showcase at the MoMA in New York.

Well, this Friday, August 6th, the little gem gets a mainstream theatre opening at a Toronto cinema! Yes, it will have a one-week run at the AMC Yonge and Dundas 24 (at Dundas Square in downtown Toronto). More venues, more cities if it does well. I know most of you don’t live here, but I still wanted to share what for all intents and purposes is an almost impossible feat. And to remind you that where there’s a will, there truly is often a way.

To get a script written is one thing. To have the script succeed as interesting and dramatic enough to film is another. Then to take that work and get someone to back it financially is excruciatingly difficult. There is a lot of creative material out there, not an equal amount of money to finance it, and no objective and certain knowledge of what will fly with an audience. If viewers aren’t interested, there’s no way of recouping any investment. For every success story out there, there are thousands (thousands of thousands) that get hung up at this critical gate. And if you’re lucky enough to scale the mount, then you must still film it, edit it, and polish it until it’s ready for the theatres. This is an exciting and wonderful phase. Like with any storytelling, here is where the filmmakers make their mark, but they do it collectively with many other creative team-members. When everyone is satisfied, it must then pass the test of the cinemas—do the theatre-owner/managers believe it will attract an audience? This is the nail-biting phase. Believe me, just as many finished films fall by the wayside here as scripts do in the earlier stage. And especially low-budget, independent films with no major Hollywood stars (although plenty of those fall too).

So, all this to say how impressed and proud I am that The Death of Alice Blue ran that marathon and managed to make it to the finish line. If you live in the city and want to join us, please come to the 7:00 show—we will be there to watch it with you and answer questions. Of course, coming to any of the other showings would be great too as that helps boost the numbers (Friday-Sunday: 11:30am, 2:00pm, 4:30pm, 7:00pm, 10:05pm; Monday-Thursday: 2:00pm, 4:30pm, 7:00pm, 10:05pm) If you don’t live here, or don’t feel like schlepping into the city, thanks for letting me share my movie tale. And I’d be happy to answer any questions about the film or making it in the comments section.

And for all of you, the trailer is below to whet your appetite!

Deb: Our son, Luke, saw it at the MoMA and said that our own Barb was wonderful in it so that is reason enough for me to go. Hell, I’d even go if she stunk (NOT POSSIBLE EVER!). But yes, it is so wonderful and important to go and support these low-budget films that people have slaved and scrimped over. And as time goes on (to Barb’s point), they give you less and less of a timeline to get an audience. Two days and you are out of there sometimes. So if you are in town, come and support our Vampy Vampire and if you are not, please support from afar. You can even eat popcorn while you do!


Monday, August 2, 2010


Deb: When I am sad I fall into a hypnotic state. My brain becomes the drug pusher in this “trip” of sleep that takes over my body. Everyone deals with sadness and stress differently. I fall into sleep. Constantly and willingly. I cannot for the life of me stay awake no matter what.

My brain is protecting me. Good old brain. I look at my sleepscape as a gift, one that has been handed down to me through generations. You see, my people are sleepers. At least half of my people. My Dad is the sleeper, my Mom is the night owl partier. When I was growing up my Dad became the cartoon Dad in the comic strips. He could and would nap on a dime. Anytime, anywhere. Parties, picnics, plays, you name it. It was a sore spot for Mom as she saw this as disrespect and something for her to be embarrassed about. And from her point of view, I get it. She clocks her 18 hours of wake time and wears it like a badge of honour. Sleepers are weak from her point of view.

But as I’ve gotten older, I realize that we are all sleep wired. Our brains are dictating to our bodies just how much sleep we need. For me, it’s eight hours, but I’ll happily take nine. Can’t help it. To quote Popeye, “I yam who I yam.”

I read articles about people like Martha Stewart and her four hours of sleep and I am pea green with envy. Can you imagine all the things you could accomplish if you only required four hours? Wow. I could repaint the sky in that time. But I’m not awake long enough so I’ll just paint the bit that’s over my house.

And then I’ll do what I do with all the challenges in my middle-aged life. I’ll make friends with my sleep. After all, It gives me the morning gift of refreshed renewal and when I’m sad, it heals me. One nap at a time.

Barbara: Well, Deb, we are the same on this point. I have always needed a full night of sleep myself—yup, eight to nine hours––and I’ve always, always envied the don’t-need-to-sleep-much sleepers. Those people who get up at the crack of dawn (or earlier), workout, walk the dog, watch the sun rise, read the paper, then go to work, work their asses off, come home, fine dine, socialize, then write their manuscripts. It seems so purposeful, even if it also seems so potentially stressful. Funnily, for the longest time, I imagined you were one of those, Deb. You always seemed to be up and at ‘em. It’s strange how it comforts me to know that you do all that you do and get exactly the same amount of sleep as I need.

I also try to take comfort from those sleep studies that extol the virtues of a good eight hours for health and beauty reasons. But that might just be me grasping at straws—because the little-sleep people seem just as healthy and beautiful as any others (I mean, Martha Stewart? Come on. After all that she’s accomplished and been through, she’s downright babelicious.) So I think your “sleep wired” theory explains that little puzzle.

As for the sad sleep—well, there’s no doubt about sleep’s essential value when I’m in the doldrums. If my problems don’t haunt my dreams, the sleepscape––as you so beautifully call it—is such a tonic for my pain and stress and disappointment and loss. It is the place where I can actually paint the sky then fly through it unfettered, only coming back to earth when it’s time to wake up and face the world.

Sweet dreams, my dear friend.