September 29, 2007

Yup. As Scary as It Looks.

Go and buy a Toronto Star today. Come on, I don't usually tell you to do that. It's just that while I can link you to my stories on Argentina with Land Rover, it's the pics that make the piece. There's a nice little slide show on the Star site, and I'll be doing a Diary on my site in the next few days.

September 27, 2007

Hugh Laurie Fans Only...

Okay, I don't usually do this crap, but in honour of House starting up again last night, here's a little valentine for the ladies....pop on the sound.

I watched it twice to make sure it was worth posting.

Survival Tall Tale

When gigantic disaster occurs and chaos ensues, one of the first thoughts that goes through my head is always the same: What a great time to disappear and become someone new.

Oh be quiet. As if you haven't thought the same thing. In a society as tightly regulated as ours (I guarantee your toilet has a serial number), it isn't often that records go *poof* like in 9/11, or Katrina, or the tsunami. We exist because someone assures us we do.

Tracking after 9/11 was easier than those other two disasters, mostly because the victims were white and wealthy and everyone knows that means they count more. So how some nutter woman has managed to go for six years scamming everyone makes it all the more mysterious (or humorous, depending on which way your brain bends).

Tania Head, a self-created survivor/hero/tragic heroine, started her real life on September 11, 2001. Seizing the chance many of us ponder, she has recreated herself. Just like a character in Sims, she created who she really wanted to be in that tragic moment when the towers went down.

She gave herself advanced degrees and Very Big Jobs. She even created a fiance, an apartment and a golden retriever named Elvis. You don't get more Sims than that. Of course, the downside is that she's been dining out on her tale of survival for all these years, speaking and giving succor to survivor's families as she tells her Wonder Woman story of escaping what their loved ones didn't.

I'll stop piling on for a moment. The true sad part of all of this is that there are people who feel so alone, so removed and so isolated that this is a plausible, doable thing. Not a fleeting "Wow. No more Visa bills, I won't have to sell tires for a living, I can finally break up with her" kind of thing that is dismisssed as soon as it appears. No, this is somebody who can finally be a star in their own invented life, because their real life is too painful to continue with.

You know people like this. Even if you don't notice them anymore, you know them. Does Tania Head have full blown crazylady Munchausen syndrome whistling through her blond bob? Probably. I don't know. But if she does, I can see why our compartmentalized, isolating culture sure wouldn't have helped her out. It's easy to be lonely in a city crowded with people.

Sometimes people just need to feel special. Sometimes they just need to feel valued. Sometimes they just need to feel anything at all.

September 25, 2007

I Do...Sorta

A German woman running for public office has proposed that marriages expire after 7 years.

Give this woman the job.

Oh, put down the stones. I've said the same thing several times before, admittedly tongue-in-cheek because otherwise people say I'm a marriage-hater. I'm not, really. I mean, I ended up not liking mine much, but I'm quite happy for people that figure out the combination and happily dial away day after day, year in and year out.

Her point is that so many marriages crash anyway, if they just expired it would remove so much of the hassle. If you wanted to re-up, that would be fine. Think of it; after 7 years, you're still madly in love, and you get to throw another party and get all new tea towels. Conversely, you find yourself sputtering 'why, why?' all day long, you know you only have to stick it out for a year or two, and you're done. I've actually known people that if they'd been forced to wait that year or two, probably would have ended up staying together.

I only know of a handful of great marriages; and I've always been grateful for the honesty those couples have shown me in relating that the basis of their marriage has been as much tough slogging as merry moments. I know many more couples who delude everyone, but more sadly themselves, and trudge through their lives as if it's a dress rehearsal. The sorry fact that bites them in the end? This is it. Live what you love, or face eternal regret.

I think the uproar around Gabriele Pauli's suggestion is only being fueled by those who protest too much.

September 23, 2007

Hugging Llamas

Back last night from Argentina. I am a changed woman (which will no doubt cheer many of you). What an awesome, awesome place, and what an amazing adventure.

I'm busy writing and filing stories and can't waste any of the good bits on a blog, but after being out of computer/phone contact for a week, I'm still drilling through a tunnel of stuff and getting caught up.

I have eaten, slept, walked, driven and peed in places I never would have thought possible. I have met some amazing people, seen mountains beyond description, and finally have some stamps on my passport.

And I know my children missed me, because they have no clean clothes left.

September 14, 2007

Sorry If You're Eating

With the exception of sports, I enjoy a healthy interest in a variety of subjects I have only an armchair participation in. I like deep sea fishing shows; I love Discovery channel, whether it's to see how a catapult is built or how crayons are made.

I like reading about the ancient Roman sewer system and I will happily watch a show on how hedge mazes are grown. I'll watch people decorate houses, though my own is a little ragged, and I'll enthusiastically await the outcome of someone's makeover, though I live in fear I will myself be turned in by my 'friends'.

I'll read anything. I even, or especially, read about food. I like cooking shows, but only the over the top ones involving moody chefs and mystery ingredients. I can appreciate a good tantrum. I clip many recipes, and prepare none of them. I hate cooking, but love those stores that sell all the stuff associated with it.

Today in The Independent from England, a link caught my eye. 'How To Roast a Hedgehog' it said. Now, if you know much about British cooking, you'll understand that the subtitle of this story was more than necessary for clarification - 'secrets of the ancient masterchefs', it declared. It was about anthropological finds regarding ancient recipes. But, you never know.

I clicked on the link, which went to that annoying blank page. I read the small type. Too many people were clicking on this page at the same time. Now, I can't say this with any certainty, but how much do you wanna bet people all over England were trying to get their hands on that recipe? I've never been blocked from a link on that paper yet. It finally went through, and it's every bit as nasty as you imagined.

They've discovered the top ten recipes from ancients times, and even correlated them to some current stuff. You won't be surprised to learn that Haggis hasn't evolved much at all. I guess once you're cooking something in a sheep's stomach, you're pretty much a culinary sensation that defies improvement.

The hedgehog recipe is right there, for any re-enactment purists in our midst. The worst line in it? "If the hedgehog refuses to unroll, put it in hot water". I'm presuming this is after you've killed it with a club.

September 11, 2007

9/11 Six Years On

I generally don't exercise much notice of anniversaries - Hallmark makes little from me. I recall my parents talking about the JFK assassination (I was in utero, the report of his death was a little muffled), and when news programs begin with the words "and today marks the 5th (or tenth or 54th) anniversary of something, I mostly just marvel at the ability of those of us left behind to absorb things and move on. True moments of horror or achievement all lessen, lose some of their power, and gain a little sepia around the edges. It's inevitable.

When the World Trade Centre was attacked, I was in my kitchen, as usual. Working. I have a small TV in there, but it's not on in the day. I was job hunting at the computer when my sister called from her downtown Toronto office tower. She was terrified, and together we lived through a morning that had no framework, no grounding plate. The attack may have been political, but the horror was anything but.

I walked to the school and got my sons. Reports were saying to leave the kids where they were. I wanted by kids with me. It was a day I stopped believing so much of what I was told - faith and trust in others supposedly more informed than I disappeared.

What has transpired in the six years hence has been just as much a violation of humanity as the original attack. How did we get to here?

There's an excellent essay in Salon today. Unlike me, Gary Kamiya doesn't struggle with the words - he knits together the threads of history, instinct, and the impotence of where we find ourselves today.

September 10, 2007

The Ruling Crass

Gotta love elections. Topics just litter the ground like landmines, there for the plucking if you don't mind getting a limb blown off once in a while...

Today's Motherlode in the Star has smacked a few nerves...though so far, most of them are of a pleasant variety. Oh, I've been called a bigot before I even got my second cup of tea down, but in retrospect, I've had worse mornings. I've certainly been called worse by better.

Here's a heads up to politicians: We're not as stupid as you think. Oh sure, you think you're sliding some stuff by us, but for the most part, we get the medicinal value of many things that must be done in a democracy. Don't lie; admit when you've screwed up; don't underestimate how much we hate condescension.

And don't forget a growing generation who would prefer our children know great peace rather than great wealth. Misery doesn't visit your bank account before it moves in - it afflicts all.

The wisest among us strive for balance. We should start electing wise people.

September 6, 2007


Yeah, I'll give Ernie his own headline. I usually work out with Adam, but today I thought I'd give myself a tiny break. I will never learn.

I'm trying to do a thousand things at once before I leave for Argentina. Yes, I'm a leaving-my-household newbie. I go no place, and it shows. I have notes to myself to order the cats' food, to freeze a couple of dinners, and to leave numbers where the tribe is to show up for dinner when I'm gone. I hope Jayne and Arlene are reading this.

I've had shots in various parts of my body, prescriptions filled for ailments that can afflict those who come in contact with dangerous ice cubes, and I've been told to pack for weather that veers from summerish to below zero. Oh, and I have an allowance of 33 pounds. The prescriptions alone will take up half of that.

My newly acquired muscles will be needed more for heaving satchels through airports than actually wrestling a Land Rover, I fear. I'm asking my editor all manner of silly questions, and he is humouring me. Bless him.

So today, I thought I'd give myself a wee break. Ernie is never as tough on me as Adam. He's the kinder, gentler version. He has this thing he does at the end of a workout where he sits behind you and stretches your arms and shoulders. It's wonderful and calming. Adam undoes my boxing gloves, says 'good job, you smell like a bog' and that's that.

I am a fool. Ernie delicately killed me. I didn't even know until a few hours after I got home. He made me do pullups with this big rubber bank around one knee. I started cheating and bouncing with my free leg. He wasn't impressed. He then literally lifted me up and hoisted me over the bar. The man is a beast.

There's a runner's club of ladies that come in to work out, and I gaze longingly at them as they laugh and help each other, sharing a comraderie and basically ignoring Adam's stern looks as they literally fill the gym with their shared efforts. I am jealous of their kinship; I am jealous of their fitness; I am jealous of their cute little outfits.

Maybe one day I'll join a runner's club, but without the running. Until then, I will alternate between Adam pretending he's tougher than he is, and Ernie pretending he's sweeter than he is. Either way, I know I'll still end up back with them any time I have to prepare for anything - they'll be thrilled to find out I finally understand my brain is tied to my body, and where one goes the other will follow.

Right now my body is following my brain onto the couch with a glass of wine. Oh, and Ernie? You forgot my stretching.

September 5, 2007

They Named the Kid What?

I have veered around the whole Anna Nicole Smith trainwreck from the beginning. Not from any overriding integrity, just from boredom. The classic tale of small-town-girl-gets-implants-and-makes-odd (if not really good) just had no traction with me.

Marilyn did it first, did it better, and all the other pretenders to the throne should just go play somewhere else. ANS only hit the radar when she died. And the sad, sorry truth is that when famous people play out their hand in exactly the way we always thought they would (dead of drugs or booze or carwrecked), the anticlimactic shrug that follows just makes you want to fold up your lawn chair and go home.

I will say, the only remotely interesting thing on these occasions is watching how others conduct themselves. For that factor alone, ANS has set the bar high. Her loathesome mother duking it out for custody of her granddaughter, and the two 'men' in her life getting up every day and putting on their best 'pretend you loved Anna' face.

There's a new book out shortly that accuses these two of milking the public with a conspiracy. Doesn't someone have to care for a conspiracy to work?

That lawyer guy doesn't look like he's had relations with anyone, either Anna or the baby's father (as the book claims) since he lost his virginity to his elderly piano teacher in senior year. HIs paternity claim was a hoot. As for that Birkenhead/stock whatever guy, he probably impregnated ANS when she rolled over on him in a drunken stupor one night. I think he was a room service guy setting up a tray of danishes and quaaludes for her, and now he's sold his life to one of those lame, lame TV entertainment shows who insist we need to know all about an infant who has already surpassed her mother in personality. By her first birthday.

The child is actually probably being raised backstage by keygrips and line producers at the TV show. At least I hope she is - it's her only chance.

September 4, 2007

Alarm Clocks and Backpacks

So of course it's Tuesday, but my brain is screaming "Monday". The house is too quiet with the boys back at school, though I must admit I am mighty thankful to the school for providing a welcome back BBQ for the kids' lunch today. I opened the fridge, and it looks like a bunch of Vikings have been through it.

I bailed on my workout session today after waking up with a migraine. They schedule themselves (migraines, not workouts) at the most inconvenient times. I have a mountain to climb, damn it, and I don't have time for pain. The good news of course, is the promise of sub-zero night temperatures in Argentina, which means right outside the tent we camp in one night should be headache relief should I need it. I actually took a boo at the hotels we'll be at - I'm sure Robin Leach is hiding behind a planter in the lobby of a couple of them.

The editor who is sending me on this mission is making fun of my 'training'. I can hear the quotes in his voice. He told me yesterday the best thing I could do would be to start smoking, to mimic the shortness of breath in high altitude situations. I don't think he likes me much, frankly.

Watching the news of hurricanes, earthquakes and wild fires, I have to admit I'm honing my geography skills. Sometimes I forget how protected we are, nestled here in southern Ontario. Well, I forget until I'm preparing to stick my head up like a gopher on the prairie.

Back to work - the house is so quiet, I'm actually wishing the kids would come home.