Sunday, April 27, 2008

stella's gettin her groove back but the song keeps changing by the hour

holy cow, it's been awhile! just saw the date of my last entry and can't believe that over a month has passed. i suppose that's a good sign and that i've been doing more living than documenting.

i'm in a very strange place at the moment where i find myself on the verge of a life change where new options for the direction of my life are bubbling up to the surface and i feel like i need to listen to the voices of influence and do something to make a change. the difference this time is that the change in question is not necessarily about a job or a new fitness regime, it's about creative energy.

have seen some incredible films lately and a part of me really feels the urge to pick up a camera and start playing around or to put pen to paper and get a screenplay going. feel like i could be part of that world. understand it on some level. don't get me wrong, i don't fancy myself the next big thing in terms of directing it's just that i am so enamoured by people's life choices and how they deal with the bends in the road that i somehow want to add some of the stories i've heard over the course of my life to the mix. i guess part of it is that i love being in the company of people who have devoted themselve to the telling of the small stories. the unglamourous. the messy and complicated. love that the plight of a single individual who is not really "important" in terms of power or prowess is seen to be worthy of listening to and getting to know.

have also been feeling pulled to leave the classroom and explore another avenue of education. am suddenly more aware of the possibility to help shape ideology and practice within the field by participating in research and planning on a greater scale. have been encouraged and acknowledged by others as having the potential to be successful here but, until now, have felt unprepared to do so. now, after having heard about others around me dip their toes in these proverbial waters i am wondering if i haven't missed the boat for next year by accepting a classroom position.

am also feeling the need to develop my participation in the creation of ideas outside of work. am craving a yin to it's yang. have started reaching out to like minded friends and have found willing participants there. am starting to take this desire more seriously and feel like now's the time to really turn a whim into a regular practice.

incredible what a little sunshine can do. all of these things have only come to the surface since blue skies have returned. am convinced that there's a connection despite my lack of buy in to all things granola. whatever it is, i'm grateful for it. i needed to feel moved to do something more than i think i realized.

Friday, March 14, 2008

strength in numbers

have you ever noticed that when you focus on something that it suddenly pops up everywhere in your life? you know, like you read a book, decide you'll travel to a locale it mentions and suddenly every news story you see, every random conversation you have somehow comes back to that locale?

well, i've been thinking a lot about the life of those who live according to their ideals, who strive to make their life's work about something that means something to them. i've been comforted to find that i'm not alone in my struggles to find another way of carving a path for myself that feels right.

i've been incredibly inspired by the work of a crazy bulgarian (christo somebody, starts with a j and has f's in it..) and his socialite crazy parisienne wife who have mounted large scale art exhibitions across major cities like paris and new york. masterworks, a program on tvo has been airing documentaries about their struggles to stage an interactive art experience with no other goal than to bring pleasure to the people who interact with the space. they spend all of their own money, only have the work up for two weeks and hire local people to do all of the prep and take down work.

it's been amazing watching these kooky free spirits stand up against people like jacques chirac and go to town hall meetings with people who state that central park is a piece of art itself and to stage something there would be like painting over a renoir with a degas. so interesting to see the incredible resistance to pleasure for the sake of it. the suspicion toward these people who "must" have an alterior motive of some sort.

the first project was to wrap pont neuf (bridge in paris) in white silk. this one took several years to make happen. the second involved putting up hundreds of orange gates in central park which had orange fabric billowing out from under them. this project, proposed in 1979 was not approved until 2005! talk about perserverence! was incredible to see them get up each time they were shoved down by bad press, angry artists, unsympathetic mayors. the best part was watching all of the footage of people stopping to stare at the fabric as it moved in the breeze. the smiles, the serenity, the magical way it transformed the space in the dreary winter. it was so moving to see so many visibly moved by the experience. i wondered how christo and his wife kept their faith, marveled at how they could even have conceived of such a project in the first place.

then i went to a book club meeting focusing on the novel eat, pray, love where a woman quits her job to get her internal house in order, starting with a mission to teach herself how to allow herself to experience pleasure for the sake of it. again, this theme of stepping of the beaten path to listen to the part of you that can't fake it anymore.

a couple of friends also shared their reactions to into the wild. film about a young man who wants to face life on his own terms and literally goes into the wild alone to test his limits. while many who see the film feel that his is a story of misguided youth i saw it as a story told about a point of view that is seldom discussed, written about or mentioned in film. we don't really celebrate our dreamers and visionaries, those whose struggle is an intellectual/emotional one that doesn't always yield the kind of results we feel are to be examined.

personally, i also found myself itching to do something to satiate my own need for doing something that would 'fill me up' so i got together with a friend and painted for a few hours one evening. we were all calmed and rejuvinated by the experience, grateful for the process moreso than the product. all found ourselves eager to make opportunities to tap into that kind of experience more often.

to round out this recent flurry of experiences surrounding the celebration of ideas and idealists, i watched a friend's film that he'd prepared for his thesis. it spoke to the dangers of idealizing a past and how it can limit a future. he spoke openly about the burden of glorified ideals as well as their beauty. he documented his struggles to make things make sense, to find an authentic way to be in the world that wasn't marked by other people's fingerprints.

in all of these things i saw equal amounts of pleasure and pain. saw heartache, felt confusion and the messiness that comes with writing your own script. still, i am feeling a little more encouraged, a little more comfortable with the discomfort.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"my kid could paint that" -see it!


not since capturing the friedman's have i walked out of a theatre and been so abuzz with ideas, emotions and reactions to a film.

once again, the documentary has proven to kick scripted film's ass in terms of drama and emotional investment.

as i was watching i was literally thinking on four different levels, constantly seeing things in a new light as the film progressed and another point of view was introduced. was so stirred and provoked that i wanted to talk to the screen, turn to my seatmate and break into discussion about a point that was made.

but i's the premise: a four year old girl whose dad's a low level manager at a freeto lay factory by night, amateur painter by day gives her a canvas to keep her occupied while he paints. She takes a liking to it and creates something a family friend thinks is great and wants to hang it up in his bar. people express interest in it, the family thinks it is hilarious and agree to sell it. a gallery owner (read shifty, insecure frustrated artist) sees the painting at the home of the person who bought it and wants to exhibit her work.

don't want to ruin it for you, but basically, people pick up on the story and a fascinating chain of events ensues.

among the concepts i found most interesting were: a) point of view of mom and dad. their fundamental differences in approaches to the hype become almost iconic by the end of the film. they are so pointedly representative of two social constructs that they start to seem constructed. i mean, you couldn't write it better if you tried. watching the documentarian ask the same question to the two separately effectively establishes these points of view and then, at a critical juncture of the film we finally see them together, asked a probing question at the same time. watching them react to each other on film, in the moment, was so intimate and telling that it felt painful. as an audience member you watched the penny drop in the subject's minds as it drops in yours. so powerful.

b)film as a comment on voice of women-(this one didnt even come across my radar until a scene where an older woman with poorly dyed orange hair and a pink gingham dress spent 12000 on a painting she didn't want.) as i watched, i started to notice that the women in the film all had strong instincts that drove the way that they made decisions and defined themselves. in all four cases -local journalist, mom, marla-the young painter, and the woman who reluctantly bought "ocean", the women had a clear sense of what it was that drew them to the art/story. as things became more complicated there was a moment where each overtly struggled with the course things were taking. each voiced her concerns and dis-ease in her own way. it was incredible to watch these people go from a place of assured contentment to a point where they denied their 'gut' instincts to appease the men in the film-dad, slimy art dealer, documentarian, husband of gingham dress woman...again, incredible to see it play out-materialism and pseudointellectualism on one side and integrity on the other.

c) proof of talent-this was a biggie. after having been immersed in the world of this family for a certain ( and i'm sure very thoughtfully plotted) amount of time, it was incredible as a viewer to find myself suddenly rethinking everything i'd seen based on one piece of 'evidence'. it took me by surprise and i actively fought the impulse to suddenly jump camps, shift loyalties. still, once revealed, the 'evidence' made a neutral movie going experience from that point on, impossible. it brought to mind bigger questions, of our fickle relationship with faith. of our competing desire to want to celebrate human achievement and unique self expression and our distrust of the unusual.

d)what is art? the biggest thing i took away from this aspect of the film was that it was the amateur artists themselves that made the most effective argument against the validity of the very art they make! watching these guys sell their souls for some artistic street cred was sad. no moral compass whatsoever. they were lost. made to seem all the more so in contrast to the women and their certitude.

most interesting was they way that one statement by a psychologist (not an art critic) turned the tide of public opinion in one fell swoop. to hear the opinion parroted across contexts was like watching a flu virus spread. people are so unsettled by abstract art that in order not to say the wrong thing in response to it, they cling to what an 'expert' says and claim their comment as their own, secure that, even if not popular, their stance is at least legitimate in some way.

was also great to see ridiculous way that people interviewing the four year old as a means to gage the authenticity of the true greatness of her work totally missed the point. at one point, the documentarian asked her how she knew when a painting was finished. ridiculous! she's four! when she can't give an answer she's not revealing the fact that she's not a true artist, she's being four! she's reacting the way most people do when they create something with no end goal in mind other than enjoyment. it blew my mind that her developmental age never seemed to factor into an explanation for a less than desired response to a "probing' question. we are seriously regressing on the critical thinking scale...find myself longing for real journalism, for the days of donahue...

e) documentarian as voice in film-while i am used to this technique with political pieces like sicko and supersize me,or when the subject of the film is family or is autobiographical in some sense, but hearing the reflections of the filmmaker during the film , breaking the fourth wall so to speak really added a new dimension. there's a moment where the lens that has been a source of comfort to the family being filmed becomes tainted. once the mom realizes she's been had the betrayal she feels is palpable and the guilt expressed by the documenatarian became my own, felt equally culpable for having gone along for the ride on his heels.

so, as you can see, it's pretty provocative stuff. hope haven't ruined it for you. do see it though, would love to hear what you think!

Monday, February 11, 2008

there are still some musicians in the music industry...who knew?

now, while i do love awards shows, i'm not usually motivated to write about them afterward. usually sharing the moment live with my favourite actor or some random underdog in the foreign film category, does the trick. but today, watching the tacky e! rundown of the best and worst dressed of the evening (i swear there was nothing else on!!) i was remided of how drama free the whole event was and how, for the first time in a long time, i was really entertained by the music.

as a musician of sorts myself, i was blown away by alicia keyes. the girl can sing! she's flawless. great intonation, phrasing...she's got an incredible musicality that's informed by a bunch of different genres, so intelligent. her delivery is incredible too. just mindblowing.

must say that i found myself a big fan of the foo. have always loved dave grohl. true rock and roll guy. gives'er every time. really takes me back to my hair thrashing high school days. nice to see him keeping the torch of rock alive.

while i love feist's musicianship and the way that she really plays with her voice like an instrument, i was a little disappointed that there's not more depth to it live. saw her on snl awhile ago and felt the same thing. was great to see her among the throng of performers though, as she really is doing something special.

loved the grobin and boccelli duet. made me long to sing italian again. something about singing that stuff that gives you a chance to channel sound in a way that no other genre can.

kanye's a great performer and is one of those guys who would have been a charming but annoying kid to teach. incredible that the same creative mind that can create great hooks and visual looks can write such crap as "you can be my black kate moss tonight" how he slammed fifty cent instead of thanking his mom in his speech. the guy has cajones the size of saturn.

also love the cirque beatles tribute. stunning. even if it did go on a bit long.

all in all was great to see music celebrated and performed by bona fide musicians.

good on ya!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

walk down memory lane

whenever i've read anything about the structure of early native societies, i've always been interested in that person whose job it was to be the guardian of the tribes' lineage. that guy who could trace families for generations and could recount the causes for change and upset in the structure of the village.

i'm always impressed by people who have the unique ability to remember names, first and last. am stunned when someone tells a story and is able to include not only the year something happened (skill i lost when i was no longer able to mark years by the grade i was in...) but the season as well!! incredible!

i recently had occasion to spend some time with a "time tracker" in the form of my aunt. she's visiting from ireland. swapping stories one evening she proved to have an encyclopedic knowledge of not only our family's history in each of the regions in which it's taken root, but the histories of our neighbours and relatives thrice removed.

as she spoke, effortlessly weaving names and dates into anecdotes, i began to wonder what her secret was.

a bit of a backseat thriver myself i immediately speculated that, like me, she's always just had her feelers out wherever she's been, taking it all in, unnoticed. i wondered, did she collect these names and connections like i did images? did she write them down or make a mental map when she'd meet someone new, pencilling in a connective line from one to another already embedded in the web?

and how do these lines become etched? are they rehearsed over tea in a neighbour's kitchen when there's nothing on tv? is the information swapped like trading cards on a schoolyard?

women's work it seems. as the idea emerges, i take stock of my previous encounters of these "social web savants" and note that there's not a man in the bunch.

i think of my own trunkful of memories that serves as my coffee table. constant reminder of things past. ever present in my present.

when i question her about her abilities, she shrugs, confused. simply survival. would've been chastised and shut out by the local women if she weren't able to keep the connections straight. wouldn't be able to participate in the conversation if she couldn't keep up. when you're in a small irish town there are rules, scripts to follow.

guess it's like an organizing pattern, a tool , a schema you can use across situations to get yourself sorted, to put things in their place, to determine your place...

as she spoke i kept thinking that someone should write it all down, should film it. felt like hers was a knowledge that couldn't be constructed from paper at a later date by a less skilled hand. listening to her was like watching a skilled craftsman of a trade that few apprentice anymore.

i've lived in my building for five years and don't know a single neighbour by name. ours isn't a shared story anymore. my history isn't stored by those whose walls border mine, it's in cyberspace and digital cameras, happening in parallel with the person at the other end of the telephone line, or email or camera.

who will tell the street's story? where will the new lines be drawn?

don't know that i have answers for that one, don't know that it's necessarily something to be upset about (would be the first to bitch about being stifled by a community that had decided who i was before i opened my mouth..).

just know that i have a sense that i was in the presence of something more than just a storyteller.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

these boots are made for more than walkin!

so it's thursday and thanks to some nasty salt damage and some fallen hems i ran out of pants for the week and had to wear a skirt to work. for those womanly women out there who wear tailored suits daily with cute fitted jackets and gorgeous heels this may seem an odd conundrum, but let me explain. as an elementary teacher my outfit on any given day has to take me from sitting in a rocking chair-where kids have a prime view up said skirt if not the proper length, to teaching a gym or dance class where i am required to cavort with the rest of them demonstrating a grand jetee or lying down and doing crunches, to supervising students at recess on yard duty. given these conditions i have to choose my outfits carefully and skirts usually only come out on non yard duty, non gym days, which is why this was a bit of an occasion for me.

but i digress...

so i am wearing a skirt. a black skirt. a black skirt and i only have comfy brown boots. which means that if i don't want to be shamed on the subway i have to wear my black boots. which is fine except that they're my "make my legs look long and my feet womanly" boots with high heels and pointed toes which are only meant to be worn for a couple of hours, tops. i decide to bite the bullet and pray that i can prolong the hobbling phase of the anticipated pain until noon where i can walk around in my socks for awhile until my students get back from lunch.

as i walk toward the subway my feet make that click clack sound and my girly shoes beget a girly walk and before i know it i feel fantastic. like i actually am one of those polished women i see and marvel at from time to time.

when the kids arrive they're full of compliments, "miss, i like your boots, yeah your skirt is nice too," sweet. it's one of the things they don't tell you about in teacher's college, they notice every detail of your being. i cant work a new ring into rotation without it being noticed. i remember the first time i wore open toed shoes with painted nails i had to publicly address it and have everyone have a look because they were so distracted by looking at my toes that my lesson was going nowhere. so today i caught them staring at my feet while they were at the carpet, some of them reaching out to touch them at one point.

so i'm feelin good, havin a good day, knocked eight items off my to do list and decide that i am going to reopen my lavalife profile and see what's out there.

not two minutes in, while checking a message i received from a guy in atlanta addressed "hello dear"..(groan) i get an instant message "hello" from a guy in mississauga. now instant messaging kind of freaks me out. i don't mind the chat it's just that ending the chat is very awkward and sometimes i'm not ready for the sudden diversions in direction they sometimes take.

so i tell myself i'll just make conversation. period. just breezy and non committal, what the chill crowd calls fun! so i dive in and after asking me what i am doing mr. romantico (his name, not mine) replies that he's just chillin followed by the letters "oic" for about four of my other responses in the conversation.

while the text messaging lingo is making my language loving soul cringe, i overlook it and try to focus on the message...except that the message "oh, i see" is not giving me much to hang my hat on.

just as i am composing something sweet yet definitive to free myself of the awkward situation he types "so do you want to get together for a coffee or dinner?"


so now i have to backspace my exit clause and think fast on my feet. i thank him for the offer but say that it may be a little too soon just yet....

he then asks a couple of questions about where i live in mississauga. clearly didn't read my profile.

i'm confused and stalling and then he asks if i have instant messenger and offers his address.

i'm clicking on his backstage pass to try to glean some more information about this kamakaze dater and before i know it, he's giving me his phone number!

i keep turning him down as gently as i can and am running out of diversionary tactics.

such a strange situation. most times i am waiting for a guy to make a move after drawn out get to know you random but safe questions and "lol"s and now i've got one who's ready to go, out of the gate. so complicated.

not sure what's worse, feeling a connection with someone who doesn't ask you out, or chatting with someone that isn't into knowing you, that does.

ah well, at least i tried.

damn boots are more powerful than i imagined!

Thursday, January 3, 2008


one of the things i love best about my job is the fact that it affords me regular opportunities to take a break every few months in the form of holidays.

the first few days are always about running errands and slowly winding down. then, once i've had some me time where i'm not accountable to anyone but my couch i get to make dates with friends who i keep in touch with but rarely see in person.

so important to invest time in friendships, create new memories rather than rehash old ones. luckily, at this stage of my life i have the kind of friendships that allow me to step in and pick up where i left off. good people are good people and are who they are despite what the years or circumstance have thrown their way.

remembered this year through visits with friends that there's a depth of strength and fun and inspiration in these people that i've not really turned to enough. too busy, too tired to drag my ass out of my hood and my routine sometimes to take advantage of it.

it's been great seeing how we're all trying to make our way in the world the best that we can and that everyone's just as unsure about it all as i am. there's comfort in our collective struggle to live our lives meaningfully.

hard to believe another year's upon us. i'll be 35 in march. scary. so foreign. still get it wrong when i'm asked how old i am, don't identify with the number that represents me and my journey so far. feel about 26. feel like there's still so much to learn and do and be and experience. thought i'd be further along that mental list than i am but don't know what i would've had to give up in exchange for a different path.

that said my resolution for the year is to try to get my feet a little bit dirtier by getting out into the world beyond my cozy world even when i'm tired. going to try to build upon what i have instead of what i feel i lack. going to try to face the age that scares me to death with a brave face instead of a defeated one. going to try.