Thursday, June 30, 2005

Is There Anything As Still As Sleeping Horses?

Ever since I first saw a movie being shot (December 2003) if I make an active effort to pull myself out of the story, I can find even the most banal crap engaging by watching the filmmaking. Last October I spent a night watching both "You've Got Mail" and "Runaway Bride" all the way through for the second time on this premise. Well, also on the premise that watching the TV is more fun than getting work done, but still.

Couple this with the fact that I've started reading novels again, and so am a much more discerning viewer when it comes to story, again. Back to my old snobbery, in many ways, though I have also decided (temporarily, undoubtedly) that literature is bilk and if Saul Bellow can't get me interested in the first ten pages I'm sure as hell not going to stick around for another five hundred and ninety. Narrative delight or nothing, boyo.

My movie reviews are as follows:

"What About Bob", which of course I've seen before, is fairly bad, especially Drefus's histrionics, although the lines "All I want is some peace and quiet" "I'll be quiet" "I'll be peace" still make me laugh out loud, particularly the way good old Bill laughs in the pillow. He laughs as hard and hysterically as I laughed when I was fifteen and my Mom asked me if pee and poo humour was still amusing to me.

"Ordinary People" is very good.

"Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason" despite the pink and purple accents on the cover is really not good. To accomplish dry British humour, engage dry Brits. Though Bridget running with giant boobs in her silly shoes was funny. The Thai prison scenes were uninteresting except for how all the Thai people kept calling her "Be-shit". Now, the A&E "Pride and Prejudice", that is a funny, funny show. "Shelves in the closet: happy thought", the horses rearing up outside when Mary Bennet sings at the ball, that's courtship humour. The point is not that the Brits are willfully stodgy, but that they don't know how to be anything but. Except of course for Ian Wright (wow, check out the hilarious instance of incorrect spelling on this page).

"Bubba Ho-Tep". Whatever points it loses in dragging a little, it makes up with many of Elvis's lines, particulary, re: finally feeling the smallest movement in his elderly penis: "Just the tinest flutter, like a pigeon having a heart attack". Also notable: Ossie Davis's JFK's delivery of the line: "Wow" re: Marilyn Monroe in the sack. Also, fine sound editing on the wheelchair, folks.

Also, I want to marry the man who wrote that story.

But only after I marry Bill Calahan.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Ridiculous Overanalysis

I love haircuts.

I went to elementary, middle, and high school with this girl who had shoulder-length curly hair and she had never had a haircut, once, her hair was curly because it was her baby hair. When she told me this in math class, I remember being sad for her that she didn't know the delightful feeling of how different your head feels after a haircut.

So, I got my semi-annual haircut.

Thankfully, I've never had a hairdresser relationship. You know, where you always go to the same one because they know you and your hair needs and your hair neuroses so well, and they do your hair exactly the same way and even if you grow to hate each other, you can't break the chain without feeling like you, you know, dumped them. No, fuck that. I'm a one-night-stand haircut kind of girl. At best, a weekend. But that's it. This haircut was by the guy who cut my hair back in January or whenever and he's moving to London in two months, so no more hair by Mike.

While I like getting haircuts and the immediate aftermath of the haircut, there are some aspects of the haircutting experience that I can never get comfortable with. The first and formost is the conversation aspect. At some future point when I totally don't care at all what people think of me and start doing things like farting mid-conversation (I actually sometimes do this already, but only while walking outside in noisy environments)(don't tell anyone I told you this) I'll sit down in the chair and say "Hey, I'd rather just enjoy this haircut and zone out without feeling the need to make useless and boring conversation, so if it's all the same with you, I'm just going to sit here and not say anything."

But then I start thinking about how someone snipping away at the hair around your head is so personal, that they're seeing the head part of you really up close from all different angles, and I realise I talk to make myself feel more comfortable and also to distract and even entertain the haircutter. But with entertainment, the question then turns to: is the conversation interesting to the haircutter or can the haircutter hardly stand that an aspect of their job involves jabbing about impersonal (for all our sakes, I hope so) chitchat with strangers when technically they are there to just cut hair?

During my haircut, haircutter Mike and I chatted about some banal-ish topics (how to morph his wardrobe to anticipate the mad London style into which he is about to be plunged (magenta and canary yellow items), what music we were listening to) but the best part of the entire hour and a half session was when we talked about what people talk about in the haircutting chair and then fell silent for long bouts of time eavesdropping on other conversations.

Haircut was good, am free to explore other haircutters without making Mike feel like I dumped him, and secretly think that Mike is leaving hairdressing because he can't stand it anymore (chitchat included) because when I asked him this, he avoided the direct question.

But next time, I'm going to travel back in time to 1980 for my cut and get some sort of ridiculous Dorothy Hamill wedge-shag-type dealy and y'all think I'm joking but I'm not because Elizabeth McGovern is the cutest girl in the world in Ordinary People.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

I Guess Everybody Has Their Own Thing That They Yell Into A Well

Today my cat, who is usually purely ornamental, caught a bird.

We heard the birds making a big indignant noise outside, so I went out to investigate and sure enough, the squat, striped, furry form of Miss Missy crouched over a medium-sized bird, that looked up at her and opened and closed its beak at her but no sound came out.

Unlike her more feral and ferocious late daughter, Missy didn't pay enough attention to me to know to try and escape with her prey when I walked up. As it was, it was fairly simple to scoop her up and carry her inside and shut the door. It was such a good feeling to do this, to be the omniscient force to remove the predator from its helpless prey. Having read enough books as a child about the ferocity of otherwise benign household pets when they terrorize small talking mice or small talking rabbits and wishing myself into the scene to simply lift them away, my feeling at finally being able to do this was, as Nicholson Baker might say, an almost overwhelming sense of joy.

Missy was more animated than I've seen her in years, running from window to window and whining to get out. She's a pretty class A whiner already, but the whining at this turn of events was insistent and really focused and I was as proud of her as if she was my own quarter-life-crisis child, finally finding her Special Purpose.

I had high hopes for the bird too. It seemed more in shock than hurt. Missy never catches birds (this one must have been asleep on the lawn or something) so I don't think she knows what to do with them once she's got them between her paws. Just bat them around until they die, is what I guess she would do. That's the thing about Pepys; she ate those birds. She used every part of the buffalo if you know what I mean, so I had respect for her predatory ways.

The bird had a lot of bird friends around too, and I was hoping they would be able to hop around and stir this bird out of its shock and encourage it to shake off trauma and embrace life again. I knew I was interfering in the natural order of things, but it was for the betterment of all.

Several hours later, I went out to see if the bird had flown its ivy resting place and it was gone.

I felt like the carpenter of my own happiness.

I let Missy out again.

Then my dad spotted the bird's corpse in the pond. It had obviously tried to fly or hop away and it fell in the water and drowned.

I hadn't changed the course of the world after all.

I refuse to see this as an allegory.

Friday, June 17, 2005

My Four Jobs

Despite my aspiration to not be as insanely running-around busy this summer as I have been all year, the lack of any deus ex machina wheeling itself down from the heavens and granting me a normal job has inspired my current lifestyle, and also the title of this post (also inspired by that TV show back in the 80s, but I digress).

Job One is one of those stictly at-home contract-type dealyos. It involves creating a manual for a job, hiring someone to do that job and then training them to do it. My current rate of procrastination on this job is utterly shameful, although it was the first job I had nailed down for myself before leaving L.A. (even more shame!). I'm going to do some work on this tomorrow, I swear.

Job Two is really multiple jobs, but I group it under one heading. It involves using my fancypants knowledge of this here English language to try and help:
1) Quebecois health workers hand in reports in English that correctly differentiate "aid" from "aide",
2) Completely disorganised grade eight students understand what a noun is and hopefully pass English 8,
3) Smart kids without chops in the writing department gain confidence and strategies to help them do well on the English Provincial next Wednesday,
4) Irritated college students understand that no, I will not write their paper for them,
5) Super-awesome hyperactive Korean 10-year-olds who yell on the phone and get so excited trying to tell me something that they skip words to slow down because I can't understand what they are saying.

My favorites are #s 3 and 5, particularly 5, who is a smart little show-off living in a crumbling apartment with stains on the walls and attending private school and who will most certainly be more determined and therefore successful than her peers like only the poor immigrant kid can, and I really want to take her and my little cousin to go play in the creek in Hay Park one of these afternoons and have popsicles afterwards.

Job Three is a small firecracker burst of excitement, as it is my first real film job. I'm the assistant to a casting director who is casting a TV pilot (although it's technically the first episode, because they already have a pilot). It's a small gig, yes, and it isn't going to be a lot of work, but duuuuude, I'm working in the industry and for once being paid cash-money to do it. And I'll get to fly-on-the-wall for some Producer-Director-Writer-Whoever discussions. My boss is one of those ideal-type bosses who has you over to her house, which is a tranquil hideaway of sun through the skylights and mellow music, and feeds you tea and then, as you yawn for the fourth time, says "you're tired" and lets you sit on her couch and read the first 16 pages of one of her novels (which she will later lend you) and chill out while she putters around upstairs.

Job Four is the most normal job-type job I have. It involves doing random stuff that needs doing in my friend's dad's law firm. Currently: moving paper around from files to binders and binders to binders and some things to the trash. The firm is in Bentall One (Vancouver's answer to the WTC) but is tiny, with just dad-lawyer, daughter-lawyer (not my friend; her sister) and legal assistant and me. And sometimes the family dog. The legal assistant is a completely fantastic mix of being so anal that she lines up everything perpendicularly ALL THE TIME and so wacky that she talks to herself in funny voices in her office, uh, ALL THE TIME. Everyone's very friendly, even the dog, there are lots of cookies around, and the work is that kind of organizational-type labour that would get mind-numbing if I were doing it all the time, but two or so days a week makes for a nice break of orderly calmness in the midst of uncertainty, mad-scheduling, and doubt.

I'm also trying to do some work on producing a film next fall, and then some writing, and I really need to get a haircut and go to the dentist and renew my driver's license.

And I also need to pencil in some time for smoking weed up on the high school field and for sitting on a rock by the ocean all day until I feel deaf from the lack of any noise but the wind.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Let It Speak To You

After the bombings on Sept. 11th, there were a number of songs banned from radio play. (You can read the full story here).

The idea was to avoid playing songs that might strike a nerve for a nation in shock and grief. It's a nice idea until you realise that, apart from putting a lid on "Great Balls of Fire", they also suggested DJs avoid playing "Imagine" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water". One of the banned songs was Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young". It's a fantastic pop song, but the title gives it a bad rap. I've heard the sentiment of the title darkly invoked by morbid teenagers and the riders of motorcycles. But the song is not at all about death, it's about life. It's an update of Herrick's "To The Virgins, To Make Much of Time", which was similarily rather naughty advice to the nubile to drink deep of the draught of life before time passes by.

But although the song's title has an ironic, or at least tongue-in-cheek, twist to it, I have to agree with the sentiment. I think that when someone dies before the age of, say, 18, it's rare that they've become a complex enough person to be considered anything but good; they are too young to be much more than potential cut short. This can be the most tragic part of losing them.

Billy's statement of preference for laughing with the sinners over crying with the saints are the words of someone who has embraced life and the dark and the light that life is made up of. Only the good die young, but those who have gone beyond just being good and looked for something more than that are those who have really lived life and cannot, therefore, die young.

It's a tragedy for us that Trajan is no longer here, and that his contributions to the world have been cut short. But amidst this grief, be solaced that he lived his life in such a way that we cannot say that he died young.

You might have heard I run with a dangerous crowd
We ain’t too pretty we ain’t too proud
We might be laughing a bit too loud
Aw but that never hurt no one...

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

A Strange Homecoming

On Friday, my friend Trajan Martin was killed in an accident on the Vancouver public train system. It's weird to write about this to an ostensibly public audience, or at least, an audience of people who didn't know him, because as my friend said to me, if you never knew him, you just aren't going to get it.

But I'm going to try and help you, world, get it, because I want you to know what it is that we all lost on Friday. That may sound a little overdramatic, but to people that knew him it won't.

Trajan is a difficult person to describe. He was extrodinarily charismatic, but also shy, admired by kids from the smoke hole and teachers alike, eccentric, very funny, and weird. He had pet fascinations with squirrels and craigmont soda and manipulating vowels. He wore bow-ties and sweater vests to youth parliament sessions.

He was also the most popular person in my class in high school. I don't think a single person in my grad class would disagree with that. And he wasn't popular in the typical way, in the king-of-the-hill, standing on top of the dog-pile kind of way. He would just talk to everyone. And not in a condescending, precious, oh-aren't-I-magnanimous kind of way either. He just wanted to know what other people had to say and he wanted to tell them what he had to say. I think he gave my class the permission for us to realise that smart and cool are not mutually exclusive concepts, and that it's fine, and even great, to be your own strange self. His persona had mythic proportions.

I had the good fortune of acting opposite him, of working on youth parliament projects with him and sitting next to him during alphabetically-arranged-seating grad events. I remember making smart-ass quips under my breath that he would then hear and amplify for the enjoyment of all. I remember him falling out of his chair laughing at our co-actor Kevin's performance of a crusty old Brit out on a date. I remember some backbencher scornfully asking him, during a North Shore Youth Parliament Question Period, whether he thought he had the power to change the world, and Trajan answering in the most serious and assured way, that yes, he did.

When I was in Japan for a year, he was on a similar exchange in Turkey and we wrote letters back and forth that consisted of a constant one-up-manship of outlandish tales and convoluted return addresses. His final letter was written in incredibly small handwriting on the back of a chocolate bar wrapper and included a wad of tiny paper artifacts from Ankara: bus tickets, bubble gum jokes, a packet of sugar from the Hilton, parts of a box of Kraft Dinner. Although hinted at, he never did tell me the full story of "the night [he] ate shit". Any leads on this anyone?

He was the kind of human being who was very good at digging past bullshit and I think he always tried to encounter the world on his own terms. To be in your late teens and have someone your age around to model this kind of living was quite something.

In short, he is the very last person you could imagine dying in a chaotic and meaningless way at the age of twenty-seven.

And now, he has fulfilled his obligation as valedictorian and organized the reunion of our class, albeit a year early and in the most terribly sad way possible.

In his valedictory address, he urged us to strive to be real with others and ourselves. From his model, I would add that we should also strive to stride big through the world, engage with people around us, and take joy when joy is to be had.

His model would also urge us to drink cheap-ass grapefruit pop and eat Kraft Dinner and watch really terrible B horror movies until passing out, but that one I think you can take or leave.