Saturday, February 28, 2009

Paris, je t'aime.

Paris is a muse. A blank canvas on which you paint what you like. Picasso abstracted it. Hemmingway romanced it. Recently, 18 directors filmed their own take on the it.

The city is yours for the taking. For the some it's a way to escape the pace of New York and play chess in the afternoons. Others see as it as more posh than Melbourne, or more exciting than British Columbia. Somewhere without husbands or parents or cares.

To me it was sleeping late, riding the tube and an endless alleyway of art galleries.

Here are a few photos from the trip:

I didn't go inside.

La fille dans la veste rouge.

This is a desk.


Sky blue sky.

Nineteen Eighty Six.

The greenest building in all of France.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Reminder.

Going on vacation gives me the picture-perfect excuse to see as much art as possible. Incase you've been wondering what I've been up to since I dropped off the face of the earth, I've rounded up a laundry-list of the art that's mattered to me over the past few days.

Richard Avedon's black-and-whites of Rudolf Nureyev, Bob Dylan and Edie Sedgwick were almost the end of me. The Foam exhibit, which was the first major retrospective since his death, was probably the best thing I've seen since hopping across the pond.

Alain Jacquet and Gerard Fromanger informed me that in France, the pop was very, very political. Take that, Warhol. In other political "news", while Obama was chatting with Mr. Harper, I was staring at Francis Picabia's L'adoration Du Veau and thinking that it sums up the Harper prime-ministry quite well.

George Grosz's work from Ecce Homo was the most fun I've ever had being sad. Joseph Beuys used felt insulation to protect his art's inhabitants from the noise and dangers of the outside world. And I have to say, I felt safe.

Daniel Buren proved that stripes are always in season, Jeff Koons Ushered In Banality, and Gilbert and George took a dump on religion.

And at the Palais De Tokyo I signed wavers, played with electricity and found out that the United States is controlling my every move through electro-waves in Alaska. Five dollars says Sarah Palin is involved.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bob Marley cover band buildings.

The four most important things my first 48 hours in Amsterdam have taught me:

Smile: (Almost) Everyone here is friendly. So when an aryan prince or princess is gawking at you with a toothy grin, smile back.

Go green: Everything is created for stoners. Yesterday we ate at a restaurant that offered two pages of specialized pancakes. We chose Indonesian: chicken, sprouts and peanut sauce... on pancakes. Today we're heading to the fluorescent light museum and then going to a boat filled with kittens to play with. While these activities are evidently created by someone who was herbally intoxicated, they are not without merit.

Dockers are necessary: I'm sleeping on a bunk bed in a small sea-liner. Almost everything in the city works with a nautical theme (or a Breaker High reference).

Everything is old: The museums, churches, art galleries, apartments, department stores and schools are all in buildings that look ancient in comparison to the modern-silver sky scrapers that line the Toronto horizon. But the best old thing in Amsterdam is the clothing. Affordable, eclectic vintage is an easy find. Finally.

More from Paris, over the next few days.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

One day, we're going to move to Paris, I promise.

The four most important things my first 24 hours in France have taught me:

Stay thin: Paris hates fatties. Elevators are tiny, hallways are thin and it turns out XXXL is a size that only exists at Old Navy.

Keep it clean: Parisians will always be better dressed than you. The key to keeping your self esteem in check is staying as well groomed as possible. Never leave the house without showering. If possible, shower twice.

Pack chapstick: You must kiss each person you meet on both cheeks. Even strangers and especially enemies.

Give up on the gay-dar: Most Parisian men are fashion forward, affectionate and hyper-stylized. Without North American skate shoes, unkept hair and the inability to dance, it's impossible to make a call between gay and Euro-sexual. 

I have more rules to learn this afternoon in Amsterdam. Until then, bon soir. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How I learned to stop worrying and sing along to Katy Perry songs.

Last week there was a 40 minute display of the human body at the Royal Ontario Museum. Inside the crystal fantasy was a display much more bold and daring than the architecture.

It was a display of human flesh. Naked female bodies, gyrating against each other: Pornographic and insulting. Crude... but sensual. Erotica at its finest. Finally, the ROM has gone in a bold new direction. These are the things the critics might have said, had they seen the display.

The two girls met at the Museum's entrance. With anticipation running down their backs, they hunted for the best place. In these situations, there is always somewhere to go. These things happen, even if we don't see them.

The staff at the Museum saw the girls, but they did not see the performance. The young, warm bodies were the building's best kept secret that night. Even the climax went unseen.

Unseen, but not unappreciated. The singular review is in, and it's good. She says there will be another date.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Professional Video Gaming Tournament Day 3:

The final shot:

By this point in the weekend, the men’s washroom smells like a damp hockey bag. The hotel’s cleaning staff cannot be impressed.

The techies running the website have not eaten in twelve hours. Games are running late. Almost every other person is wearing sweatpants. If it weren’t for the army-sized supply of AMP energy drinks, people would be sleeping in corners.

Realizing I have been in the Renaissance for three days without hearing the phrase “hotel party”, I make a decision. I break the most obvious rule of sports journalism: I go home before the final game is over. Luckily, I can watch a broadcast of the championship live, with streaming audio commentary from the comfort of my couch.

Thank god for the Internet. The Internet, and free energy drinks.

Update: My team loses. I’m not sure if this is good for my story—or bad. But thanks to the live commentary, I actually understand what's going on.

I am tempted to write the line: There is a shot. Then a fall. He whimpers, shakes and goes limp. Deflated, his soul leaves his Robotic blue body. I have been up far too long.
M.I.A. saves viewers from pre-award show boredom.

A blond with a vaseline smile conks her head and points a microphone at a very pregnant Mathangi Arulpragasam. “Finish this sentence for me!” she says with sing-song dripping from her lips. “All I wanna do is….”

Mrs, Arulpragasam looks at her with Bitch Please all over her face. “Stop the genocide in Sri Lanka,” she says.

She pets her bursting, sequin-covered belly and announces that she is prepared to go into labour at any moment. Nearby there is a go-cart to take her to a parked helicopter, which will then fly her to her home, where she will have a home-birth in the pool. That is, if she goes into labour.

If M.I.A. stopped showing up to award shows, we’d be stuck listening to Miley Cyrus talk about her K-Mart jewelry.

Thanks M.I.A., we owe you one.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Professional Gaming League Tournament, Day 2.

Ian Camacho speaks like a military Sargent. He means every word.

He has been playing video games since Pong was popular. Now he plays Gears of War with his 18-year-old son.

Camacho is the leader of a troop of roughly 300. Each one wears a black t-shirt with a white "TKS" slogan. TKS is Camacho's online gaming league. I'm told TKS stands for "Too Kool Squad" (although it might be "Too Kewl Squad"). Camacho also helps organize trips to tournaments and gets other parents involved. Right now eight boys are staying at his house in Toronto.

He has a code of conduct for his gamers. He punishes for cheating and disrespect. Players must possess both skill and maturity. Camacho gives advice and helps out when he can. He says he's become a father figure to many of his gamers.

Comacho is a man who usually looks like he is on a mission. Poised is an understatement. And if Ian Comacho really were a Sargent, he would probably be very good at defense.

"Someone made up the story of the psycho loser playing in his bedroom," he scoffs. "If that's the typical gamer, where is he?" He swings his right arm. He scans the room. "If that's the typical gamer, where is he?" he asks again. "He's not here."

And to be honest, he really wasn't.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Because no one reads blogs on weekends, here's something most of you don't care about (but should): video games.

Professional Gaming League Tournament, Day 1.

Quarterback sized blonds with matching haircuts are running the event and the guys who are winning seem way cooler than the ones who are loosing. It’s a lot like high school, except one thing. Everyone is getting along.

In the first hour and a half of the tournament, only five females enter the room. Two appear to be mothers of gamers. Two appear to be girlfriends of gamers. Only one touches a controller.

There are a few odd parents displaced throughout the room. One is sitting at the back by himself, a briefcase under his seat, talking on a cell phone. Another, a mom in heels, watches her son play.

The uniform is a hooded sweatershirt, a ballcap, baggy jeans and skate shoes. The average attendee is probably below the legal drinking age.

A pre-teen on his cell phone summed up the general appeal: “Seriously, you should come. It’s so sick. They’ve got huge TVs they’re giving out huge cans of energy drinks.”

Friday, February 06, 2009

This song is for the people
Who tell their families that they're sorry
For things they can't and won't feel sorry for

Cancel your plans to go dancing, drink cheap beer and attend art-gallery after-parties. Stay home and listen to the Mountain Goats. Enjoy the weekend.

Last week I got an unexpected call.

It was Canadian Blood Services. They were interested in having me donate, again.

I thought back to the donor form, ticking off where I had travelled, what I had pierced and which medical problems I suffered from. Luckily, I haven't got any tattoos in Thailand, but I did remember one line on the form I couldn't ignore.

"I'm sorry, I'm no longer able to donate." I mumbled.

"Oh? Is it a medical problem?" the woman asked.

I was silent and focused on the word "problem". Eventually I spoke. "Um, sort-of.." I hesitated. "I guess."

I was transferred to another woman, who was to take me off the donor list. She asked me what kind of medical problem I was having. Awkwardly stumbling on my words, I made announcement I have stumbled over in the past. One I have lied about, avoided and side-stepped whenever possible.

"I uh.." I took a deep breath. "I had sex with a man."

"Oh.." she said. The woman was clearly uncomfortable. "When did this happen?" she asked.

Really? I thought. Does she want to know the details? Regardless, I told her when. And I insisted I hadn't donated since. She seemed to believe me.

"Just so you know," she said. "This is a permanent closure. But I want to thank you for saving six lives."

I wanted to say something. Something about hypocrisy and outdated stereotypes and a tory government. Or something about the people dying from a lack of transfusions. But all I could think about was the lives I wasn't saving. And why I wasn't saving them.

I probably should have said something. But I didn't.

I just mumbled a goodbye, and hung up.

Monday, February 02, 2009

It hurts to be the first to put up a white flag.

Admitting you are wrong is the worst of it. Especially if you spent a lot of time insisting that you were right. But, push always comes to shove, and eventually someone has to give up. Otherwise, you will both end up with a black eye, or worse.

If it helps you sleep, you can chalk it up to being the better man (or woman). You can tell yourself you are bigger than them, smarter, more compassionate, more realistic and the giver--not the taker.

You, being this bigger, smarter, more compassionate and realistic giving person, realize that at a certain point you must put the old wars in your life to rest. You've watched the history channel. You know that, eventually, even the Berlin Wall fell.

But if you call cease fire, they better point their cannons down. Because if they decline your invitation to dinner, ignore your calls or worse--pretend not to know who you are--it's on.

If that happens, remember the rule: they don't get a black eye. They get two.