9.30.2008

Being the healthy kid

Some of you may already be nodding your head in acknowledgement of what comes next. For the rest of you, allow me to explain what I mean by being the healthy kid.

My brother Peter was diagnosed with kidney disease some 15 years ago. Since then, he's had an organ transplant, lived through a thyroid cancer scare, survived the failure of the borrowed kidney (after 10 years), reinitiated dialysis, and taken more medication than most people have seen in a lifetime.

Not surprisingly, my brother's illness created an imbalance in our house. Not an imbalance of love - my parents love me almost too much, trust me - but an imbalance of attention. I have always understood that this is the way it has to be, because my brother does require more attention that I do.

I get it. I really do.
I cannot imagine what it's like to have a child who is sick or has special needs.
And I certainly cannot understand what it's like to accept the fact that your body is comprised by forces outside your control. That your life span has been shortened. That you may never see your kids grow up.

But this understanding doesn’t mitigate the mixed bag of emotions that comes with being the healthy kid in the family.

What I do want to point out is that most healthy kids have been told the following (or similar):
  • "We don't worry about you, you're fine!"
  • "Why are you so glum? You're healthy - you should be happy!"
  • "You can't blame your brother for that - he's not well."
  • "We can't that day, sweetheart, we have to take care of something for your brother."
  • "Try to be more understanding, please."
Your reaction tends to vary. You might agree. Or you might feel disappointed. Sometimes you get tired of carrying such heavy parental expectations. And sometimes you even get angry that your sib gets this Get Out of Jail Free card.

Then of course you feel guilty for thinking your sib has an advantage, but the guilt is a whole story in itself.

I am very familiar with the sick feeling that rises in the pit of your stomach when you see the situation from afar... You, healthy, rosy-faced and your sibling standing next to you, sallow, tired, round-shouldered. That you should be in health when you have no children to take care of, no responsibilities.

Like I said, it's a mixed bag of emotions. Neither good nor bad. Just there.

Above all, please know that this was not written as a pity plea. It is neither a reprimand to my parents, nor a warning to other parents who may have a sick or special needs child in their family.

It was written mostly as a reminder to other healthy kids that yes, your feelings still count. You get so accustomed to stuffing your feelings in your pocket that you forget to take them out every once in a while for some fresh air.

So don't be afraid to ask for a little attention and compassion when you need it. You're allowed. Really.

9.29.2008

Tips for writing clever status lines

Isn't there a saying about fish and feeding a man for a lifetime? So...

Browsers just wanting a fish, go here for ready-made Facebook status lines.
Browsers wanting a fishing lesson, continue reading...

1) Take the title or lyrics of your favourite song and put yourself in the action. This is also applicable to band names.
  • Ex. Alexei is livin' on a prayer.
  • Ex. Alexei says party, you say die!
2) Reuse popular slogans and well-known lines from television.
  • Ex. Alexei is just doing it.
  • Ex. Alexei would like to buy a vowel.
3) The words and antics of Jerry Seinfeld, George Costanza, et al are always useful.
  • Ex. Alexei says 'no soup for you!'
  • Ex. Alexei says they're real and they're spectacular!
  • Ex. Alexei double dipped.
Are these helpful to anyone? Let me know...

9.28.2008

Ms Julie returns home, sweet home

The train that I am currently on (VIA Rail train 668, Toronto-MontrĂ©al) is scheduled to stop in every village and hamlet between here and home. Thankfully, it is mostly populated by mid-term plagued students so the ambience is fairly quiet, leaving me plenty of time to bring you…

Highlights from The Word on The Street Festival! WHEE!

Neil Bissoondath read to me.
Peter Dubé, Andrew Hood and I posed in orange porta-potties.
• I beat up Derek Webster with copies of Maisonneuve magazine (the irony…)

Check out Ms. Julie’s blog for upcoming photos of the non-stop fun and hijinks.

Other random notes from my trip to Toronto:

• The Royal York Fairmount has fancy, lemony-scented toiletries that you will soon be able to see in my own humble water closet – but only during the Holidays and other special occasions.

Hakim Optical must refresh their logo. I don’t care how catchy a TV jingle they use. Judging by the style of the glasses in the logo, as well as the psychedelic orange neon lighting, I must assume that they’ve had the same brand image since 1974.

• The squirrels in the Osgoode Hall gardens* are admittedly quite cute. Whether they are worthy of having two different sets of German tourists videotaping them is another story. Don’t they have squirrels in Germany? I pity the fools who get suckered into watching that footage (“Look Helmut! See the way they sit on their hind legs! Like humans! Amazing!”).

• On the train out, I was sitting behind a group of Japanese tourists whose members made themselves conspicuous by (respectively) visiting the bathroom frequently, taking pictures of… well, everything, and wearing a white surgical mask. The Michael-Jackson-esque mask raised two important questions: (1) Was she wearing it because she wanted to protect us from whatever contagious illness she had? Or (2) was she wearing it to protect herself from the insidious diseases we all must be carrying? As the voyage wore on, she lost all credibility when she started to wear it only intermittedly, and then eschewed it altogether when she stepped onto the sooty platform at Toronto’s Union Station. Go figure.

The juice is getting low on my laptop and we’ve barely reached the outskirts of Belleville**. Ugh.

---------------
*I always make a stop in the Osgoode Hall gardens because Reggie surely visited the grounds during her honeymoon trip in late 1898 or early 1899.
**”Hey Mel! I can’t see you but I think I spot a Timmy’s from the train station!”

9.27.2008

Ms Julie arrives in Toronto

Ms. Julie's second foray to the Queen’s City was a smashing success.

I departed on Saturday afternoon (I didn’t want to miss yoga!), arriving in Toronto a few minutes shy of nine o’clock. The sidewalks were already crawling with young beauties in too-high stilettos and college boys in their pressed white shirts hoping to make the best of this Saturday night.

A soft drizzle kept all our feet swiftly moving towards shelter. I love Toronto on a rainy night when the sidewalks glisten and clouds of fog mask the tops of skyscrapers. Although I didn’t have an umbrella, I chose to walk to the vegan restaurant I had already chosen for my dinner, covering the ground between York/Front and Queen/Spadina as rapidly as possible.

Equipped with newspaper and notepad, I enjoyed my dinner at Fressen’s bar, chatting occasionally with the dreaded-out barman and eavesdropping on the conversations of young, pretty Torontonians as they communally rehashed their lives. Or compared workout regimens. Or debated the colour scheme at their upcoming wedding.

The food was very good, blending beautifully with the chai latte that accompanied me home.

And then, like any girl with a week’s worth of tired tugging on her shoulders and a super swank hotel room, I spent the rest of my Sattie immersed in a soft bank of white duvet, occasionally poking my nose out to catch an SNL skit on the ridiculously large TV.

After all, Ms. Julie needed to look fresh for her photo shoots on Sunday.

9.25.2008

The writer's dilemma

I recently ran an experiment on myself (don't worry - I was fully informed and gave my unequivocal consent). I called a one-week social moratorium, in which I kept the two appointments I had previously made and declined any other offers. I filled my evenings with writing - or rather revising of Chapters 5 and 6.

It was such a success that I extended it another week, using the time to prepare for the Shuck launch, finish my book review, and blog. I was so happy! The writing was flowing, my hair was shinier and I was sleeping like a kitten.

And yet... This week, I was once again sidetracked by dinners, wine and The Wire. Oof! Crazy thing is - I really love writing regularly. It feels good. It suits me. But I also need human contact.

So the conclusion is - either I give up writing entirely (not bloody likely) or I convince a lovely boy to join me in my writerly life. The two of us could sit quietly for hours on end, each one working away at our pet projects, before looking up at the clock sometime past midnight, giving the other a peck goodnight and then tumbling into bed as one word-weary self.

Sleeping in might also have to fit into the equation, but I could be flexible on that point. Maybe.


And for your flashback of the day, I bring you The Cure... because it's Wednesday (stay in bed).

9.23.2008

A bicyclist's lament

Now that I live in the Plateau and am no longer dependent on a car to get me around, I've discovered the joys of bicycling to the office, the studio, the library, the movies... My greatest pleasure lately is pedalling through city streets softened by the night and the cold, the moon reflecting on my handlebars as I hum my way all the way home.

But I have a few complaints I would like to air out. Put on your helmets, people.
  • However misguided your parents may have been on other matters, your mother was right on one point: Look both ways before crossing the street. If I see one more person step out into the street with no concern as to whether or not they're in the path of an oncoming bike - or car - I just may forget to swerve. Older Asian women seem to be particularly prone to this behaviour. Just stop. All of you.
  • "Hey you! Guy on the bike with your headphones on... Stop listening to music while cycling, you tool!" I don't care if you're Montreal's karaoke champion and your title is at stake, there is absolutely no good reason to have your iPod on while navigating city streets. The nice thing about cars and other cyclists is that they make noise. Give yourself a fighting chance - make sure you can hear them coming. Or risk depriving this world of your heartfelt rendition of "Unbreak my heart".
  • Also, a quick note to the lovers spotted earlier tonight on St.Laurent south of Rachel. I know that we common people can never understand the depth and beauty of your love - and that frankly, we're all just jealous anyway - but do you really think it's a good idea to ride side by side on a major thoroughfare? I know how important it is for you to stare deeply into one another's eyes at all times, but maybe do it in a way that won't endanger your lives and the lives of other cyclists behind you just wanting to get home from yoga and have dinner already.
  • And while I'm at it, "Hey Westmount SUVs! Yes, I know you're from Westmount, I recognise your parking stickers! Please refrain from weaving in and out of lanes as you look for parking, because if one of your lot cuts me off one more time, I may have to accidentally fall on your pricey car with my scratchy bike. I don't care if you're dizzy from hunger, feverish with anticipation at the meal you'll soon enjoy at a trendy Plateau eatery, you're annoying the rest of the universe.
Whoo... There, I feel better...

9.22.2008

Ms. Julie does Toronto. Again.

Ms. Julie will once again be wowing crowds in Toronto this Sunday, September 28 at The Word on the Street Festival. If you're in the neighbourhood - Come by! Say hello! See a show with me!

9.21.2008

More funny Facebook status lines

After a quick Google search, it turns out that my blog shows up third when you punch in the words Facebook status lines.

Oh, I can better that ranking, baby. Step aside... here come ten more.
  • Mats thinks you look good in 'dem jeans.
  • Mats is mm'mmm'good!
  • Mats is more than a feelin'...
  • Mats thinks he can dance.
  • Mats wants more taste, less filling.
  • Mats is voting you off the island.
  • Mats says, "Stop Facebooking! Go back to work!"
  • Mats can hear the drums, Fernando...
  • Mats is qualified to satisfy you.
  • Mats is crispy on the outside, soft on the inside.
NB. To my loyal readers, please excuse my flagrant pandering to the Facebook-mob, but when there's a need, I must fill it. Blame it on my mother for making me into such a people pleaser (you still like me, right?).

9.20.2008

Photo meme

Take a picture of yourself right now. Don’t change your clothes, don’t fix your hair…just take a picture. Post that picture with NO editing. Post these instructions with your picture.

Palanca, post-yoga, post-yoga, pre-bath. Steve! Why am I doing this?

9.18.2008

Toothbrush technology

I was trying to buy a toothbrush on Sunday night when it occurred to me that some industries don't require this much advanced technology.

Highlights included:
  • The Colgate Navigator (not to be confused with the SUV model favoured by rap stars), which helps avoid excessive pressure on gums and reduces the risk of injury to gums.
  • And the Cadillac of mouthcare, the Crest SpinBrush ProClean (two trademarks). Ergonomic design. Premium designer colours. Dual action technology. Babes - and batteries - not included.
I'm one of those people who are confounded by too much choice. When confronted with four feet of toothbrush display, my eyes shift out of focus and my jaw goes slack. Once I've eliminated every model with a Dora the Explorer masthead, I have difficulty discerning which toothbrush model will best suit my dental care needs.

And beyond that, what exactly are my dental care needs? Am I worried about gum injury? Should I be?

I chose the Vitalizer because it had a nice combination of fuschia pink and neon green. I'm sure marketers will be thrilled to discover that after their scientification of toothbrush brands, it all comes down to which toothpaste has the nicest colour.

Ha!

9.16.2008

More Facebook status lines

My Analytics are through the roof thanks to browsers seeking notable status lines for Facebook, with 6+ visitors daily redirected to my blog through Google.

And because I love traffic, here are some more status lines for your FB-ing pleasure:
  • Ovechkin is having a no-pants day. Whee!
  • Ovechkin knows what you've done and is not impressed.
  • Ovechkin has a stapler and knows how to use it.
  • Ovechkin is about to make his move...
  • Ovechkin will kick your ass.
  • Ovechkin is hung over. Make the monkeys stop dancing...
  • Ovechkin will not ask you again.
  • Ovechkin is very busy and important. Go away.
  • Ovechkin has a sense of humour - it's your joke that wasn't funny.
  • Ovechkin is accepting donations.
Oh, I've got a million of these... Check out more status lines here.

9.14.2008

AC/DC

Sometimes when you're on the dance floor and you've got your groove on, you're vulnerable to doing things that are morally objectionable.

Like dancing to AC/DC's Thunderstruck.

I just should have left the dance floor, dammit!

9.12.2008

French music. French musings.

Just a quick note to remind you that Ariane Moffatt is the kind of sweet, romantic Quebecois songbird that's perfect for a crisp fall day, and if you don't like her, you may want to find your heart because you've obviously misplaced it. Look underneath the coffee table.

While you're at it, visit Parce que on est jeune et joli. This blog is genuinely funny, with content that's fed by Hope-Folly's wit and natural talent for observing... and eavesdropping. Her perverse interest in the strange workings of the human mind/body is as great as my own, and I admire it greatly.

And we both started a blog to ease a broken heart. Rock on, sister.

9.11.2008

Great Facebook status lines

Every day, 4-5 people are directed to my blog because they conducted a search for "clever Facebook status lines" or "funny Facebook status lines" or some such formulation.

Obviously there's a need. And I intend to fill it.

Here is a random sampling of clever status lines that anyone can use on their FB profiles. Remember to replace 'Saku' with your own name, k?
  • Saku is missing you.
  • Saku thinks you're gorgeous.
  • Saku is working on his spellink.
  • Saku is around...
  • Saku is the grandmaster of funk. Get down.
  • Saku's heart is aflame.
  • Saku is new and improved.
  • Saku is enjoying the status quo.
  • Saku is hungry. Feed me.
  • Saku is All of the Above.*
Let's keep this list going to help the un-inspired.

Get more Facebook status lines from Ad.

*Courtesy of Olivia C.

9.10.2008

Best practices in social media marketing

I recently read an article on Mitch Joel’s blog in which he challenged his readers to write about the best practices in social media marketing. Of the entries I read, there were many ideas that impressed me, including Chris Brogan’s thoughts on the importance of listening and Kristie Wells’ insistence on being human.

Why did they impress me? Their simplicity. When I began my research, I expected to find recommendations of a more technical nature. Silly me. Considering the nature of social media, it shouldn’t be surprising that its best practices are essentially human-based.

My own contribution to this ongoing discussion is also remarkable for its simplicity: proofread what's been written before hitting 'Send'. Yes, yes, roll your eyes at the copywriter insisting on the importance of checking for - and correcting - spelling mistakes, dropped words and grammatical mistakes.

And yes, I realise that making mistakes is part of being human, but if you are writing on behalf of a client or are selling yourself as a professional, it's important to build credibility by showing diligence in everything you do - or write.

Make no mistake about it:
  • Publishing a properly proofread text shows respect for your readers.
  • Sending polished communication demonstrates an attention to detail that will also (in the reader's mind) reflect positively on the quality of the company/product/service.
  • An error-riddled text will dilute the message, no matter how important it may be. Proofreading preserves the integrity of your message.
Also, if you're conducting a conversation in a language not your own, ask an expert to check it over for you.

So please take a few minutes to re-read what you're written before publishing. The effort is easier than you think - and the benefits are greater than you imagine.

9.09.2008

KRAFT Bagel-fuls

Excuse me - but just how hard is it to slice a bagel and spread some cream cheese? Does it really cause that much mess and stress? Are toaster-related accidents on the rise? Won't it take just as much time to thaw the Bagelful? And do we really need more packaging? How much fat is in one of those monstrosities?

Can I please stop being treated like a moron by big industry?

If frozen-tubular bagels aren't a sign of the apocalyse, they should be.

Are those locusts I see coming over Mont Royal?

9.08.2008

My appearance on 30 Rock

All summer long, I've been sending vibes out into the universe to suggest that Tina Fey write a Single-White-Female-themed episode in which she is stalked by moi. As I have yet to receive a phone call from my cosmic BFF, I give you a 30 Rock update instead:

Season Three debuts on October 30 at 9:30 p.m.

Blake Lively and Leighton Meester from my secret-shame must-watch GossipGirl will be making a cameo this season to reveal Liz Lemon's unsavoury past.

Season Two on DVD is available for sale on October 7.

Enough said. I must go back to sitting by the phone. I'm waiting, Tina!

9.07.2008

Difference between men and women

If during a discussion, a woman is required to describe someone to her audience, her description of that person will greatly change depending on whether the audience is a man or a woman.

For example, when she is describing a woman to a man, she might say:
"Tall, blonde, purple sweater, big boobs."

When she is describing that same woman to another woman, she is more apt to say:
"Tall, blonde, bad teeth, tacky stilettos that she couldn't walk in, but nice purple off-the-shoulder sweater. Was trying to pick up John with her big boobs."

When triggering the memory of a man, she will use the markers a man is more apt to retain - and she will use less specific detail.

Also, knowing that a woman will be far more observant and critical of other women, she-who-describes will know exactly which markers women are more apt to retain - and she will use far more detail.

It's all about knowing how perception differs between the sexes. It's certainly not a general rule, and the description would be different still for a gay man, but if you hover around the edges of conversations like I do, you'll start to notice the differences too.

Who's going to back me up?

---------

En passant, over the last few days I've had numerous discussions about why I should be a huge Radiohead fan and why that never happened. As a conciliatory measure, I  am throwing in a video for one of the Radiohead songs I can appreciate. Enjoy the flashback.


9.05.2008

Shuck by Daniel Allen Cox

Get out your agendas, folks.

Daniel Allen Cox's new novel Shuck (Arsenal Pulp Press) is the semi-autogiographical diary of a New York City hustler who tries to make sense of his life through pieces of found trash.

The official launch is October 3 at Chapters bookstore (1171 Sainte-Catherine) from 7pm-9pm.

Word on the street is - Ms. Julie will be there to fawn over the gathered literati and bubble over with enthusiasm at the first sight of an autograph pen.

Come support Montreal writers, you philistines!

9.04.2008

Interviewing

Following Mr. Robertson's departure and my meteoric rise to the Big Desk, there have been many changes in the office.

In addition to creating a brainstorming space with a fabbo peanut-shaped table and fun flowerboxes for the wall, Martino* and I have also reorganized our office to welcome two new colleagues - a full-time English copywriter (Dario** starts in ten days) and a French editor/content strategist (send your CVs to emplois@90degres.ca).

As candidates must work very closely with us, Martino and I have been sitting on the interviews for both positions. We were initially worried that it would cut into our work time, but the dynamics that unfold during the interview process are too fascinating to pass up.

(because whenever the human ego is involved, it's going to be one helluva show).

For those of you that doubted it, yes, it is possible to understand the essence of someone's character during a half-hour interview. Even with a marshmallow-soft-good-cop like me on the panel.

Interesting things noted during our many interviews:
  • Candidates are always trying to impress you with their positive attitude, but if they get comfortable with you, and they are not truly positive, their true attitude will present itself (usually at Minute 26).
  • You need a 'bad cop' in the room to make the magic happen.
  • Candidates will try to pull the wool over your eyes by presenting work that is not entirely their own, never realising that when the ooh-ing and aah-ing is done, their poorly executed writing test will give it all away.
  • There are some truly atrocious spellers out there. That's a-t-r-o-c-i-o-u-s. In the test, this may be overlooked due to the limited time given to finish the exercise. In a cover letter, however, it is instant death.
  • It's getting increasingly easier to identify boob jobs - even through the layer of business wear. The tan is usually the first indication.
  • Many people overestimate their talents, just as many people underestimate. Thus the importance of the writing test.
There are more interviews to come. I just hope they're half as entertaining as the last batch.

----------------------------

*Martin is not Italian. I just like to wopify the names of my colleagues whenever possible.
**Dario is of my tribe. Viva Italia! There are 2.5 Italians in the office now. Almost enough for a conspiracy...

9.02.2008

September

September is usually my favourite season, my most golden month of the year. I love the clothes. I love the weather. I love the smell of the air, and the mellow yellow of the sun.

But this September (all two days) has only been remarkable for the terrible headaches resulting from my persistent crying.

I wish it were last September. Even though I was living with a very dysfunctional roommate, I was happy. Epanoui, as Mr. Robertson put it. Work was brisk, I was surrounded by an army of crazy good friends, thoughts of the future made me feel tingly, and I had a sweet, gorgeous sexy boy who made me feel grounded and gorgeous and... epanoui. This September (all two days of it), I feel overwhelmed by doubt, distanced from my friends, completely not grounded, unattractive and undesirable and doomed to... well, something unsavoury.

My heart feels like a pile of withered ashes in my chest, I don't sleep in my bed anymore because I hate sleeping alone in that big room. Can you believe this? I am a walking, talking neurote. I have the best life a girl could have and yet, these thoughts have been running through my head non-stop for two days.

I'm not writing this to start an avalanche of reassurances. I'm not asking for your compliments, so please don't send any. Any other day and I would be the first to tell you how fantastic I am (because I am!). I'm writing this to let you all know that it's okay if you sometimes feel unreasonably horrible. It happens and you should just ride it out.

No feeling is final.

So exorcise your demons. Hide in a closet and scream out obscenities. Rip up magazines. Run so hard, so fast that your lungs burst out your chest. Write every shameful thought you've been entertaining in a blog for all the world to see. Get all that venom out. Because once it's out, the words look less powerful, less true, less painful.

If you've read this - consider yourself lucky. It's very probable that in a few hours, when I've realized just how ridiculous I'm being, that I'll delete this post and good.

ad xx

9.01.2008

Rowing Row in the rowboat

Do you ever get the feeling that you're too old to learn something new? Or at the very least, that you're no longer able to learn things in the same way you used to? I know it's the wrong attitude to have, and it's mostly inaccurate, but the universe is trying to tell me something here and I'm trying to listen.

EXAMPLE 1
This weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to a summer cottage/palace for a few days of overeating, too much wine, and sloth. Between two hammock naps, I followed Row down to the water and we took the rowboat out for a spin. I had never rowed a boat before. In fact, I'm fairly certain my hands had never touched an oar.

Row got us across the lake to the small island where loons, mallards and even the occasional beaver paddle around (I felt like I was in a Hinterland Who's Who segment). At the halfway point, I took the oars. It was hard. And it required a lot of effort before I understood the principles of rowing backwards, of pointing the boat in the right direction, etc. I couldn't find the fluidity of the motion and most of my strokes were uneven.

At one point, pleased with the rhythm I was setting, I looked to both sides and noticed that the paddles were barely skimming the water. I was basically rowing oxygen. *Sigh*

By the time we took the boat out for a second time though, I was showing big improvement, but some things still weren't coming naturally to me.

EXAMPLE 2
The NDG Y gang tried to introduce me to tennis. 'How hard can it be,' I thought 'to hit a ball with a racket?' Plenty, apparently. I was a hot, hot mess, no matter what racket they placed in my hand, no matter how gently they lobbed the ball.

The tennis balls gaily sailed past my racket with the insouciance of a brattish child, bouncing towards the fence with a sound not unlike "nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah". I managed to return some serves, but I generally put too much power into the stroke and arced the (meanie) balls over the tall fence and into the adjacent play area.

Me: Where's my young and attractive tennis coach? Like in Caddyshack.
Some smarty-pants: I don't think there's a tennis coach in Caddyshack. Just caddies.
Me: Shut up and teach my racket to hit the fuzzy yellow things, ok?

CONCLUSION
I don't learn new skills as organically I used to. I have to learn to embrace research, coaches and diagrams with more gusto.