Friday, September 29, 2006

What to do on Saturday September 30

This is a late posting, especially since most people do not surf the internet outside of work, but if you do not have anything planned for Saturday night (7pm to 7am Sunday morning), experience Nuit Blanche Toronto!

This is a combination of everything I enjoy: running around the city, nightlife that has nothing to do with going to a club or bar, and interactive art.

Some of my personal favourites:

HOW TO RESPOND IN AN EMERGENCY: A series of incidental performances and spontaneous outbursts by authority figures and security guards, 2006 Diane Borsato
A car is up on the curb, throbbing with base, vibrating with music. A pair of cops is on the scene. They are agitated. The moment calls for immediate action. They step up into the headlights, take each other into a dramatic embrace and begin to dance.

Ballroom Dancing: Darren O'Donnell, Performance
Dare to dance with Darren O'Donnell to the tunes of his team of 10-year-old DJs. Children and adults alike are invited to play in a gymnasium transformed, disco lights and all, into a kid's ball-room-meets-nightclub DJ-ed by children. How often do you give yourself over and dance with abandon to Sean Paul? Rest assured if 10-year-old kids are DJ-ing, you'll likely hear him more than once.
A nap area is provided for adults who need to crash.

Call On Me Anytime: Sabrina Saccoccio, Social Experiment/Performance Art
What ever happened to the custom of calling on people? Prior to Nuit Blanche, a calling card is delivered with the promise to return. Join the artist as she calls on her friends at their homes. This intimate investigation of impromptu community attempts to access the hospitality of five friends in one night. A performancecome-social-experiment, being turned away is a possibility, but a living room dance party may also be in the cards.

I think I'm going to have a fit! I don't usually drink Red Bull but I just might specifically for this event. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Putting the 'O' in politics

Liberal MP Belinda Stronach is singlehandedly reviving my interest in Canadian politics!

Recent divorce court documents allege that Stronach was the 'Angelina Jolie' to former hockey thug, Tie Domi and his estranged wife, Leanne (okay, hardly Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston - but you get the idea).

This is the latest twist in the on-going soap opera that is Stronach's life. Really, it's like a Jackie Collins book: wealthy blond heiress becomes the president of her father's company before turning to politics. Married and divorced twice (husband #2 was a Norwegian speed skating champ!), the tart dated square jawed Conservative, Peter McKay, before publicly dropping him and his party for the Liberals, apparently without warning. In the days that followed, cameras peered at poor Peter as he weepily clutched his dog while hiding out at his father's farm. And just when I thought Stronach had gone straight, the Tie Domi affair comes to light. That strumpet doesn't quit!

Entertainment Tonight Canada covered the Stronach Domi affair with slo-mo cuts of the guilty pair. Not since Pierre and Maggie Trudeau has Canadian politics been so sordid and juicy. It is hard to tell if Belinda is becoming the heir apparent to Pierre or Maggie at this point. Only time will tell if Belinda ends up doing pirouettes behind stuffy monarchs or sleeping with the Rolling Stones then blaming it on bipolar affective disorder. Either way, it's a win-win situation for me.

Marathon Post Mortem

Hanging out at the water cooler...

Me: Sooo...what did you do this weekend?
Co-Worker A: I bought some groceries and then made myself a taco salad.
Co-Worker B: I watched the football games and ate some lard.
Me: Oh really? Well, I ran a marathon.
A & B: Wow! You're a god amongst men!

This is what would happen...if I had any co-workers or a water cooler. But I really did run my first marathon yesterday at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon and it was an unreal experience.

I had a lot of things going in my favour. In addition to being giddy from a lack of sleep, I was recovering from a cold. Previously, I had won the first edition of RVD while suffering from bronchitis. As well, I ran my fastest half-marthon shortly after losing my voice. A cold could only mean great things.

I started the day at 6am by stuffing my face with Vector cereal, sports bars and Wonder Bread as quickly as possible. I am naturally a fast eater but the speed required this morning was more on the the level of competitive eating.

At 6:15 am, I was out the door and walking towards the start line. The gun went off at 7am and off we went. Within the first few kilometers, I ran into my friend, Tony, who was doing the half-marathon.

You might remember Tony from my running blog entries around this time last year: I had signed him up for a half-marathon as a "birthday gift" despite the fact that he had only ran one mile in training. He not only completed the half-marathon in the time he predicted (2:30) but went on to do the Run Ottawa Half-Marathon and, now, the Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon without my machinations.

This time around, Tony was even less prepared, having run a total of half a mile in preparation. Yet, Tony is a master of the sprint and stumble. Thus, he was able to keep up with me and finished with his best time yet (2:23). For me, Tony provided enough companionship and distraction to make the first 18 km a fun morning jog.

After separating from Tony, it was a lonely and painful trek from 21km to 29km. My MP3 player helped me like musical accompaniment during a root canal. Only the prospect of meeting up with Flocons and his fiancé, (>_<), at the desolate landfill known as the Leslie Spit, made me pick up my pace in order to arrive at the designated spot at the agreed time. When Flocons and (>_<) joined me on their bikes, I felt like Lance Armstrong minus the exceptional athletic prowess. Both took turns giving me water, offering sports gels and massaging my ego. They even gave me an unfair advantage over other runners when they used their bikes and bodies to help block the strong head wind - just like Lance's Tour de France team. My friend, Effie, flew in out of nowhere at one point and for the next kilometer, I became subject to a session of good cop, bad cop. Encouraging rounds of "you look great" and "keep it up" were sprinkled with "don't stop now, maggot". It was great. Unfortunately, a burst tire took Effie out of the run and it was back to the soothing, melodious tones of Flocons and (>_<). I speed walked kilmometers 39-41 because every part of me ached: my feet, legs, butt, abdominals and weirdly enough, my arm pits. Flocons and (>_<) peeled off in the last kilometer to avoid being berated by race officials and I was left on my own again.

As I struggled to run/walk the last kilometer, a fellow runner named Susan suggested we run together. Once again, companionship helped prompt me to do things that I otherwise would not be able to do. So, I'm sorry to say that within the last 500 meters of the run, I shouted something like, "Pick it up, girls!" and sprinted away from Susan and another female runner for individual glory at the finish line. This antic shaved a minute off my time but it leaves me feeling a little sheepish nonetheless.

I finished in 5:05, just five minutes over my projected marathon time. It was a great experience and one I recommend to everyone: you do not know what it means to be alive until you feel the wonders of runner's diarrhea.

P.S. That's a photo of 75 year old running phenomenon, Ed Whitlock. He ran the marathon in 3:08, which means that by the time I stumbled past the finish line, he probably had had a refreshing nap and was enjoying free lunch and drinks from a throng of admirers. Cheers to that.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Superior life forms in our midst

Canadian astronaut, Steve MacLean's recent spacewalk has made me realize that astronauts are superior beings.

Here are people who are not only highly intelligent but also physically fit. Yet, they are not over-achieving corporate assholes who use their brains to serve shareholders then run on treadmills to stave off the imminent mid-life crisis. Rigorous NASA testing weeds out the possibility of an 'asshole in space'. These are well-adjusted and ripped eggheads who just want to go where few have gone before.

But back to Steve MacLean: during his 7 hour, 11 minute spacewalk, MacLean used positive Canuck talk to reassure everyone (“We’ll be taking care of business getting the solar arrays prepared”) and used Flanders-like language when his tool broke ("Son of a gun") while doing what was deemed a "tough and repetitive job". Sadly, in a similar circumstance on Earth, I would have been swearing a blue streak and used violence to solve my problem.

Steve MacLean and his fellow spacies are not as sexy as athletes but it's a shame that their understated excellence is often overlooked in the search for role models for the kids. Perhaps what NASA needs is the bitchy drama of a reality show where the prize is getting shot into space. When this show inevitably gets made, remember that you heard it here first.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years ago today

The events of September 11, 2001, in the U.S. seem like a lifetime ago. The way the world operates and the public consciousness have changed so much in the interim that it is hard to believe that a mere five years have passed.

September 11, 2001, was my first day attending college. Listening to my personal radio on the train, I heard about a plane crashing into one of the towers and I naturally assumed it was caused by pilot error. When a second crash came soon after, I was in shock.

I immediately understood the scope of the attack because I had just visited the World Trade Centre the previous May. I had marvelled at its size; standing at its base and craning my head as far back as I could, I was still unable to see the top.

Ridiculous but true: one of my first thoughts after hearing the beginnings of the collapse of the WTC was, "I never had a chance to get to the top." During our visit to the WTC, my friends and I were too cheap to pay admission into the observation deck and yet too uncouth to be allowed into the restaurant on the 107th floor. I wondered if the rude concierge who barred us from entry on two separate occassions had escaped safely.

However, my full understanding of the severity of the attacks was delayed because my sole source for information was the radio. Without access to television or the internet at home, I listened to CBC Radio day and night to keep up with the latest news. Yet, nothing brought home the chaos and terrifying details like the video footage I saw days after it was first captured.

I now understand the apathy that many disasters are greeted with when media coverage consists of a brief paragraph in the newspaper or a quick mention on the news. Without images, or video, most people just don't have a clear picture on which to build understanding.

Then there is the problem that comes about with an overload of images. I worry that future generations will not understand the impact of 9/11 because they will be so accustomed to seeing the usual images asociated with the disaster. The rawest footage featuring the most grotesque detail came out in the days following 9/11: a lone figure falling down the side of the building, body parts in the rubble, etc. Within weeks, much of the imagery was sanitized and neutered. The twin towers on fire as an image risks becoming synonymous with the Mona Lisa or various war memorials: packed full of meaning for those who remember but remote shorthand for something meaningful for others.

What were you doing on September 11, 2001?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Three punches in the head

After a steady diet of trashy celebrity smut, I thought nothing would shock me. Yet, the news stories of the last few days have created new, raw areas where I thought only thick callouses remained.

First, the death of Steve Irwin. Everyone predicted it would eventually happen everytime he pranced around while swinging a python around his head, but who wasn't shocked when it really did? And a stingray?! I would have guessed something small and deadly like a spider or scorpion would have been Irwin's downfall.

The latest debate concerns whether the video recording that captured Irwin's death should ever see the light of day. I personally have no interest in seeing the tape because what can be more mundane than some watery image of a man getting stung, even if it is fatal? It's the kind of image that shows up in the Caribbean vacation videos of friends and usually elicits only mild interest. It would be no great loss to the public and yet a great relief to Irwin's loved ones to have the video destroyed

A video that I did watch intently was the Austrian Police record of Natascha Kampusch's tiny prison. As I devoured the fantastic details of Natascha's eight year imprisonment, shock and horror turned to critical concern.

By all accounts, Natascha has had only brief contact with her parents while entering a media blitz less than a month after escaping her captor. If her release had occurred a few years earlier, there is no doubt in my mind that she would have been immediately returned to the care of her mother or father. Yet, because she gained her freedom as a legal adult, everyone appears to accept the entourage of psychiatrists, psychologists, and lawyers, assigned by persons unknown, that keep Natascha far from family and those that knew her before the kidnapping.

A BBC article written just as the details of the story were being released asked psychologists what she should do next. One specialist on abused children recommended a return to "as normal a life as possible." He also predicted that Natascha would have abandonment issues because her parents never rescued her and that she should be reunited with her parents as soon as possible. Thanks to Natascha's expert handlers, a normal life with loved ones is not on the agenda as she goes on another round of media interviews.

Speaking of not normal, Suri Cruise has finally been revealed to the unwashed masses. Yet, having tackled the growing suspicion that Suri either did not exist or was physically deformed, the photos are now fueling new rumours. My favourite, Perez Hilton, has been repeatedly lining up photos of Suri with Katie Holme's previous flame, Chris Klein. The implications are obvious. And then there are those who cling to the fake baby theory by dismissing the Vanity Fair cover as obviously photo doctoring.

A nice scab is developing over the spot where these three stories ripped through my mind. I dare Suri, TomKat and any other celebrity to just try and top this week. It's just not possible. (Giddily preparing to be amazed.)