Fail blog

Our new favourite website in the salle de rédaction:

fail owned pwnd pictures
FAIL blog.

My apologies

I have always believed that there are some things that don't need to be said. Perhaps it's a sign of my cowardice. Perhaps it's just naivete. I am so utterly transparent in most things that it seems unnecessary to say.

If you want to know what Adriana is thinking, just watch Adriana for fifteen minutes and you'll quickly understand - simply by observing reactions and facial expressions - who Adriana likes, who Adriana doesn't like, if Adriana is hungry, etc.

In recent years, I have tried to be more verbal with my appreciation so that there is no doubt that I am happy to see you, that I love you to the bone, that I miss you very much.

But it's hard work and sometimes I fail spectacularly at this simple task. Why am I talking about this right now?

I had lunch today with M. Le Patron, ostensibly to discuss my employment satisfaction, but we meandered into another discussion on a familiar topic. It started something like this:

*Le Patron: Adriana, pourquoi est-ce que tu est toujours celibataire?
Me: On as eu cette discussion récemment dans la salle de rédaction. Les boys disent c'est parce que je ne suis pas assez bitch.

And I think there may be some truth to that - when formulated differently. The problem may in fact be that I am not verbal enough. That maybe my silence is interpreted as judgment, as lack of love, as disappointment...

When it couldn't be farther from the truth.

**M. Le Patron: When you were satisfied, did you tell them?
Me: I don't know. [pause] I really don't know.

So this evening, I feel devastated by my failure. By the way I may have disappointed the people that meant the most to me. I will begin to make amends as I can, but in the meantime I remind you all, speak up and let your people know how you feel.

I have started by calling my mother. She may drive me crazy, but she's the only person in the world who can begin a story, "When you were little..." She was very glad to hear from me.

*The French is an approximation of what he said. I have poor memory for French dialog.
**He said this bit in English.


Salem Lights

I found this advertisement on the back cover of TV & Movie Superstar Photo Album, a magazine I bought in 1985. The title, layout and teasers are less suggestive than yesterday's featured cover, thus seemingly targeting a broader audience than starlet-crazed teens. However, the fact that it was sold spine-to-spine wth Hip Hop! and similar titles meant that it would inevitably be viewed and purchased by the same young readers.

That's what makes the appearance of this cigarette ad - especially on the much coveted back cover - so ethically and aesthetically objectionable.

Bad photo
What do three 20s-somethings in a pool have to do with menthol cigarettes? And what are they doing anyway? Blue Eyes looks like she's sitting in Toothy Guy's lap, and White Bathing Suit is obviously trying to squish herself into a photo where she doesn't belong. It's difficult to discern the dynamic of the bodies as they are too close together and not meaningfully placed.

This lack of context strips the photo of emotion and does not succeed in inspiring the viewer with the oh-so-important sentiment of "I want to be having fun like that!"

Poor messaging
Menthol cigarettes are so foul to the senses that I'm sure it does take a special person to enjoy the experience, but I'm still unclear as to what the slogan "You've got what it takes" refers. What are they doing that requires spirit? This lame-duck slogan is trying to make smoking cool, but the photo does not support the words, thus creating confusion in the viewer. Can anyone say, 'flagrant waste of resources'?

Sad ethics
And what's with the wording of the Surgeon General's Warning? Quitting Smoking Now Greatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Health. That's not a warning! By definition, a warning states a possible or impending danger. For example, Smoking Poses Serious Risks to Your Health - now that's a warning. Instead, they totally skewered the wording to make it a less harsh condemnation of smoking. In fact, if you read it quickly enough, you may think that smoking reduces serious health risks.

This ad is a (botched!) example of the stealth advertising discussed in Jean Kilbourne's excellent book, Can't Buy My Love, which looks at how advertising offers young people - especially girls - false promises of popularity, personal power and happiness.

The gross misrepresentation of cigarette smoking ("Refreshing low tar") as an act of self-expression is perhaps more grievous to readers in 2008 than it was to readers in 1985. However, lack of awareness cannot be blamed for the bad artistic direction, dubious concept and sloppy execution.

If you're going to lie about cigarettes, at least make it look sharp!

NB. On the verso of this ad there's only a pin-up of Jack Wagner , obviously taken during the Frisco Jones era. Fans of General Hospital will know what I'm talking about.


Hip Hop!

Yes, I did pay $2.50 for this magazine in October 1987. I probably bought it at the metro dép on my way to Villa Maria, or at the maison de presse in the Cote-St-Luc shopping centre. I was fourteen. I can't be blamed.

First, what soul-less graphic designer allowed him/herself to be paid for this work? Anyone else getting seasick at the mish-mash of bright colours and screaming headlines? I nearly lost my breakfast when faced with the contrast between Madonna's lipstick, blond hair, white skin and muppet-big eyebrows. Did they have Photoshop in '85?

And what's that weird icon in the centre of it all? Is that a pencil-drawn fedora-wearing paparazzi taking a picture? How did that get in there? As Tha Connaisseur would say, WTF???

Wait a minute... and where did that title come from? This magazine has British pop stars wearing make-up, white guys with feathered hair, and one brown-ish guy jammed into the corner, but there is no hip hop anywhere. I don't see LL Cool J staring out between Kirk Cameron and Rob Lowe, do you?

Maybe it refers to the reaction of girls when they saw a new issue on the shelves? I know I did a lot of hopping when I saw a glossy new cover with dreamy dreamboat Morten Harket. Who wouldn't be excited to see teasers like these?
  • Rob Sobs! Can you dry his tears???
  • 50! Count them! 50!
  • A-HA! Love facts!
  • More hunks! More pin-ups! More dirt!
  • Duran Duran. They're notorious!
For kicks, I may have to buy today's Hip Hop! equivalent to see how things have changed - or how they've stayed the same. Whose tears are young girls dreaming of mopping up these days?


For fans of The Wire

These were spots created by HBO to promote the show. There are no spoilers in any of the three clips. Watch with pleasure unbound.
  • Young Omar

Thanks to Steve Wark for the links.


Salle de rédaction III

Our made-up-word of the day for Tuesday:

, n. f.

1) Combat qui s’effectue dans de la colle.
2) Hutte faite de glace (syn. igloo).


HBO commercial

...but first let me tell you what I had for dinner.

And if you think dinner is not blog-worthy, then you're no friend of mine. A slice of warm bread is heaven in your palm. Eat enough strawberries and you will see God. Peanuts are golden nuggets of flavour. Coconut sorbet will be served at my funeral. If naan bread were a man, I'd marry it. Capisch'?

So are you ready for this?

Penne with sautéed kale and pine nuts, served with a generous dusting of Parmesan. Yeeeaaahh.

Thanks for your patience. Now watch this HBO spot...


Tampax for beginners

My mother recently insisted that I clean out my boxes (and boxes and boxes) of old magazines, cheap novels and outdated catalogs that have been cluttering her basement for years (and years and years).

This is just one of the little gems I found - a Tampax ad dating back to 1985. Some notes:
  1. Copywriter says too much text.
  2. Check out the glasses on Susan. I had a similar pair. They looked no better on me. And they certainly did not increase my understanding of algebra.
  3. I love the juxtaposition of the smart-but-afraid-of-her-body-Susan with the algebra-challenged-but-prettier Karen. While Susan hides her blossoming body with that folder, Karen is all Tampax-protected confidence. Look at that bow in her hair. That unbuttoned polo collar. Oh, Karen, you hussy!
  4. "I thought you couldn't use a tampon if you were a virgin. Karen used to think that too, till her Mom told her that wasn't true." Sounds to me that Karen knows a lot for a 14-year-old. Where is Susan's mother in all this? Maybe Susan shouldn't be learning so much from that lip gloss-wearing Karen and her slutty mother?
Jokes aside, what makes this more interesting is the ad on the back for Jovan Musk: "We help American women stay sexy". The concept is more sobre, the colours more striking. Sexier. Even if it does look like an Absolut Vodka spot, it doesn't have the childish feel of the previous ad.

Rather than being conflicting, the proximity of these two messages perfectly embodies the ambivalent experience of being a teenage girl.

The new body that you're developing is frightening with its sudden spasms, growths and changes. When you're 14, everything feels "so messy and so obvious". You tug on your shirt front so that it doesn't show off your breasts - or lack thereof. And yet, you fantasize about wearing decolleté. You sit at your desk agonizing over the uncomfortable pad between your legs. And yet, you're relieved that you weren't the last girl in your class to get her period.

As scary as it is, you're also learning just how powerful your body can be. What effect it can have on the opposite sex. How good it can feel. As much as you identify with Susan and Karen, you also really long to spray on that Jovan Musk and be a smoky-eyed seductress.

Next week: the cigarette ad I also pulled out of a teeny magazine


New word!

Strapadictomy (strap-a-dic-to-my, pronunciation key: strap-uh-dik-tuh-mee): Surgical procedure through which a patient is implanted with a penis.

This is how Powell and I made up a new word today:

Powell: I'm the only person in the world whose cat has had a sex change operation.

Me: Poor Alfie.

Powell: You mean Alfina.

Me: I bet you he's mad. Erm, she's mad. First the castration, now this...

Powell: Probably just wishing 'Someone strap a dick to me!"

Me: Did you just say 'get a strapadictomy'? That's hilarious, Row! Do you get the wordplay?

Powell: I said STRAP A DICK TO ME.

Me: I though you said 'strapadictomy', like an operation, like an appendectomy. But with adding a penis instead.

Powell: Lord, that is clever. I am quite good... But Palanca, I say, your hearing is terrible...

Feminin-ish squabbling ensued, Fadi had to break us up, buy us popsicles, etc., but we were still quite pleased with ourselves. If this isn't enough culture for you, check out Slate's new Open Book project.



Last night, while the rest of you were snug in your beds, Powell and I drove to Burlington, Vermont to pick up her roommate from the airport (despite my troubles at the Canadian border).

Ours was the only car on the dark highway through northern Vermont. Row speculated that we would soon be set upon by a serial killer with an axe. I was more concerned about us being caught in the ideal conditions for an alien abduction. The moon was fat and beautiful, peeking through cotton candy clouds.

Somewhere past St-Albans, Powell cries out, alarmed, "What's that, Palanca?"

Turns out it was a drive-in screen rising on the right side. Angelina's lips, fat and beautiful, peeking through clouds of trees.

I haven't been to a drive-in since I was a kid. We went to see For Your Eyes Only. I remember being entranced by the blacked-out female bodies swimming across a screen of colours.

I want to go to the drive-in... who's in?


The Great Bear Massacre of 2008

This is what happens when we get a little bored around the office...

I suspect the kiwi.


Road trip!

I was in Val David this weekend for some kayaking. Circumstances intervened however, and we ended up going to the beach, eating too much, and playing charades until 3am instead.

On our way to the beach, there was a vintage stainless steel mobile home (kind of like the one at right, sans the pool and merrymakers) parked in someone's front yard.

Just the sight of it made me want to steal it and take off on a road trip. You know... pack a few t-shirts, eat in terrible roadside diners, keep driving to the tip of Key West, roll in the sand, watch some lesbians get married in a sunset ceremony, and then drive home - just because I can.

Sigh. At least I can see the mountain from my office window...


Mommy voodoo magic

I did something the other day that I rarely do. I was feeling so out of sorts, I actually called my mother and asked her to levarmi la media.

Media, as far as I can tell, is a bastardization of invidia, which means jealousy in Italian. Invidia, naturally, is a spin on malocchio or 'evil eye', as only those who are obscenely jealous of your beauty, charms and intelligence will give you the evil eye.

So the rough translation of this phrase would be: "To lift the evil eye"

Like I said, it's not something that I do very often, because I don't believe that there are legions of people out there living in feverish jealousy of my oh-so-glamourous life. If I ask my mother to levarmi la media, it's because (essentially) I need motherly comfort.

It's a little ritual we have and just knowing that she's sending me some love vibes makes me happy.

The ritual itself doesn't have to be done in person, and involves some muttering, an Our Father, a bowl of water and olive oil. The nature of the muttering can only be revealed at midnight on Christmas Eve (yes, more superstition), and a few years ago, I actually remembered to ask my mother on the 24th.

She wrote out the prayer she mutters and I still keep that paper in my wallet.
I haven't tried it though. Any takers? Anyone feeling pookie?


Best things said by other people

There was a time when people turned to philosophers and great thinkers for the words of wisdom that reflected their own experience and/or provided some inspiration for transforming their experience.

Today, for the most part, we turn to pop culture for that very same validation/inspiration, relying on lyricists, screenwriters, and comedians to deliver those precious few words that will flip the switch inside our brains and let some happy adrenaline flow in.

Ever notice that when someone delivers a snappy line, it's frequently followed by someone else asking, "Where have I heard that before?" or "Which movie is that from?" or "Is that from Seinfeld?"

This should not be surprising. Those of us born in the 70s and 80s were mostly raised by television. Reading isn't as popular an activity as it used to be. There are still many great thinkers in the world inspiring those with an open, curious heart, but in a so-called fast-paced world, most of us get our wisdom where we can find it. And with fries on the side, please.

For example, I love the Dalai Lama (so giggly, so tiny, so wrinkly!), but I spend more time in a movie theatre than I do meditating on the words of His Holy Cuteness. Also, given the choice between taking a stroll with Virginia Woolf, or having ice cream with Tina Fey, I would be hard-pressed to make a decision.

That being said, I don't think we have anything to be ashamed about. I think it kind of comforting to be getting words of wisdom from other people - from equals - and not always from epic and enlightened super humans whose greatness very few will ever attain.

Here are some words that have made me reflective of late. Please feel free to share your own.

In my opinion, the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person will still think the sun shines out your ass. That's the kind of person that's worth sticking with.
Mac MacGuff. Juno.

I'm not depressed, I'm just paralyzed by hope.
Maria Bamford.

Too many guys think I'm a concept, or I complete them, or I'm gonna make them alive. But I'm just a fucked-up girl who's lookin' for my own peace of mind; don't assign me yours.
Clementine. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

I'll be beating my heart's record for speeding.
Modest Mouse, "Dashboard"


Andrew Bird

This no-Internet-access-at-home situation is starting to pose a problem with my productivity. I have two amazazing posts in the brewing, but I can't find the time to finish them. I tried to come in early to work today to finish them, but sleep is sometimes nice.

I have to start considering other Internet access alternatives.

In the meantime, here's a video by Andrew Bird. The video is, um, well, I leave it up to you to decide... But the song is very beautiful.


Bad Adriana!

Yesterday night I had the option of staying in and blogging, or going to a fancy pool in Westmount.

Obviously, I'd like to thank the nice rich people for going to some fancy rich destination and leaving the pool to us plebes.


The nature of memories

Today I went on a marathon bike ride with Mani and Paula (hey, I haven't had an Internet connection for three days - I had to do something). We started at Marché Bonsecours, cycled west to the tip of Parc René-Lévesque in Lachine, and then back again. That's 40+km of pedalling along Montreal's fine bike paths.

With all that time to think, I made some fairly interesting conclusions about the nature of memories. Gather around kids - I'm going to share them now...

The last time I visited Parc René-Lévesque was late fall, early winter of 2007. SM and I went for one of our usual strolls. I had cherry green tea (my fave) from Second Cup. It was chilly. As we rounded the southern arc of the path, he told me about his friends who were CEGEP teachers - one in Abitibi, the other in Montreal. As we came back along the northern arc, he reminisced about the video store he went to as a kid, and all the terrible movies he saw.

The interesting thing is - there was nothing really remarkable about that day or what we talked about. We often went to Second Cup. We often took long, rambling walks. We often discussed. I didn't feel the need to go home and record it when it happened, and I haven't thought about it since. It was only once I returned to the same place that the memories came back, and that I recognized that day as being worthy of a keep-able memory.

Furthermore, now that I have remembered the moment, every time I go to this park, I will naturally remember that day. Why? Because the act of remembering has upgraded the memory from a mostly-dormant, less-accessed part of my brain to a higher-up, more frequently-accessed part of my brain.

What amazes me is that we have no real control over what becomes a memory and what is forgotten. Mere circumstance often dictates what we remember. Being in a certain place will draw forth memories at random, and once the moment is remembered, it cannot be easily forgotten.

What other good memories are currently dormant in my fuzzy little brain? Where will I next be when a place or thing triggers another flood of words said? The anticipation is actually... delicious.


Ms. Julie gets a blog

If you want to know more about English-language writing from Quebec, you can now get updates on the Love Ms. Julie blog.

Reviews. Special guest bloggers. Photos with Stephen Colbert. It's everything you've been dreaming of...


Shenpa is a bitch!

I've been struggling with the concept of shenpa this week. What's shenpa? As Pema Chodron explains, shenpa is ineffable - you cannot describe it in words, it is immaterial.

But that doesn't lessen the experience of shenpa.

Some words used by Pema Chodron to explain shenpa include attachment, hooked or stickiness, but as she notes, those words do not sufficiently explain just how badly shenpa can kick your butt.

Here's an example of how shenpa works:
Someone tells you that you look fat in 'dem jeans. That feeling in the pit of your stomach? That's shenpa. When that comments feeds into your low self-esteem and you react with anger - towards the person or towards yourself? That's shenpa too. When you start to eat/smoke/drink/swear more to cover up the hurtful comment? Yep, that's still shenpa.

Shenpa is the demon on your shoulder. It's that inner switch that when it gets flipped, leads to thoughts and behaviours that are unhealthy for your self. It's the most vulnerable, self-destructive part of you.

Now you can understand why I've been struggling with shenpa - it's hard-wired. My particular shenpa has been extremely vocal this week, provoking all kinds of chasing-my-tail reflection and frequent ill-humour, so I listened to a lecture by PC, my ear cocked and ready to latch on to some piece of knowledge that might inspire me.

And that's when she began addressing the idea of accepting your situation as if you asked for it.

I know. [chortle] She's got to be kidding, right? How are you going to get out of a situation if you accept it??

Like this:
a) By accepting it, you stop struggling with it.
b) If you're not struggling with it, you gain a more realistic vision of what's really happening.
c) If you see things as they really are, then you can make better decisions.
d) If you make better decisions, you will get out of the situation.

Or at least that's how I understand it. I could be wrong, but it seems like it may be a good start towards shaking off shenpa. It doesn't sound easy, but I prefer working towards acceptance than being upset all the time.

Between this post and the previous post about bodies, I must sound like one got-it-together chick.

But I'm not.

My only achievement is being actively involved in trying to get it together. Sometimes I lose patience. Sometimes I lose my mind. I'm still working at it though.

Palanca Health Watch: The TB-like cough I've been hacking out all week long is perhaps subsiding, and I was actually able to sleep through the night, alleluia!


Cinematic Orchestra

I'm not a fan of Patrick Wilson, but I really liked this track from Cinematic Orchestra (of which PW is a member).

Ladies, about your bodies...

I had a sobering moment yesterday that I thought I might share with you all.

Engulfed in feelings of fatness, I took up a good portion of my Tuesday whining (out loud and internally) about:
  • having so many skinny friends
  • how much I hate being the non-slim one
  • spreadage
  • the overwhelming sensation that my chair was about to give out...
Etc. Etc. You ladies know what I'm talking about. We all know it isn't necessarily true, but that doesn't stop us from throwing a pity party for one now and again. At lunch, I even tried to explain to The Pope the secret glee felt by women in their 30s when confronted with twenty-somethings who have just discovered knee fat.

"It's the first chink in their armor of invincibility!"

That's when I saw an elegant 50-something at the next table smiling at me, and I realised, "Oooh, crap, I wonder what she's waiting for me to discover about myself as I get older."

Oh, irony. The real kind. Not the Alanis Morissette variety.

To apologise for being so mean to be body, I took a nice hot bath last night and admired the workmanship. The sheen of brown skin. Strong legs. Nice feet. Smooth upper arms just starting to show lines of definition.

Because the thing is - this won't last. Right now I am strong and beautiful and healthy, but it won't always be like this. My skin with get drier, more wrinkled. My joints will lose their flexibility. My butt will sag. So if I don't enjoy all this gorgeousness right now, when will I ever? If I spend my time complaining about all the things I can fix, I will never appreciate the body that stands before me now. And en plus, when will that dissatisfaction ever end? Seems to me that the coming years will only bring more reason to complain - if we let them.

So people, don't line the pockets of cosmetic surgeons. Instead,  be nice to your bodies. Stroke your fine head of hair. Hug your fat if you've got it. Wiggle your toes a lot. You'll probably never have it this good again.


Things I learned on my day off

  • They paint the Butter People. I was walking towards downtown yesterday when I noticed some guy hugging the wide-eyed woman in the front row (holding the child). Turns out, he was bracing himself so that he could paint the length of her back. It looked touching for a moment - almost as if the performance were part of an art installation. I guess they have to paint them one at a time. The statues are too close to be done all at once, no?
  • Vitamin Water is now available in Quebec. Saw the truck parked outside a dep while biking home from yoga. If I had remembered to put money in my lulus, I would have purchased EVERY-TING!
  • If you have a pimple, put toothpaste on it to dry out the pore. It has to be the paste though, and not the gel. But whatever you do, remember to wipe it off before you leave the house.
  • Ghostbusters is still funny after all these years - but for different reasons. First, a pencil-pusher from the Environmental Protection Agency (Yes. This man has no dick.) is the bad guy in this movie. Did Republicans make this movie? Second, the special effects are terrible - in comparison to today's standards anyway. It makes me sad to think that people born within the last ten years or so will never know just how far movie magic has come. Those of us born in the 70s and 80s have seen the evolution to The Matrix (and beyond), but there's a new generation of movie watchers who will never have the kind of the cringing memories of CGI in its earliest days.