Whoa, nelly!

I suddenly notice that it’s been precisely ONE YEAR since I updated this blog! Oh dear, that won’t do at all. Time to fix that.

But what a year it’s been…! Moved in with the Mister after renovating the ruined second floor of a Danforth house into something liveable, continued bringing Glad Day Bookshop into the 21st century and began a new book blog for Xtra. Busy but happy times!

More to come…

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Thanks for everything

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Happy Thanksgiving weekend, Canada!

It’s a cool grey day and I’m just starting to move after working a 17-hour day yesterday. I’m exhausted but content, the perfect mood for reflection and, given the day, dusting off the old giving-of-thanks format. I’m very grateful these days for this list:

20121007-160722.jpg- My family, consisting of my Mr. Darcy and Tegan the Jack Russell Terrorist — who delight me every day — and my faraway sister, parents and amazing niece I see on holidays like this. I wish I had enough time and energy to give them more than I do.

- That goes double for my friends. Being grateful for them is a given, of course, but I am so lucky to be surrounded by some truly great people.

- Riverdale Park, a place I’ll miss terribly now that summer has gone. I spend so many happy hours there, as pictured above.

- Glad Day Bookshop, the little LGBT shop I once loved managing in the mid-nineties and now, through the magical mysteries of fate, I am now managing again. While I loved how my freelancing schedule allowed me more flexibility to spend time with those aforementioned friends, it’s been amazing to go to work each day and truly love it. Every day, I feel needed, stressed and happy.

- Facebook. Is it evil? Of course it is but it keeps me in touch with my friends, the daily news and our customers (a strongly overlapping Venn diagram there). Its strange mix of work-and-play is a constant source of pleasure so thank you, Mark Zuckerberg, you little megalomaniac.

- Pema Chodron, the Buddhist nun who’s the closest thing I have to a religious leader. She’s salty and wise and guides like a lighthouse in the storm.

- Super Fresh Mart on Church Street, for carrying bags of crazy-delicious British-import jelly babies at an actually reasonable price. Also, their late-night bacon-and-cheese croissants are lethally delicious!

- Matt Elliott and Andrea Houston, two reporters relentless in their efforts to improve Toronto for citizens in general (Matt) and for queer teens in particular (Andrea).

- Kristyn Wong-Tam, Toronto city councilor for Ward 27. It’s a great relief to have someone who works on behalf of my neighbourhood, who’s smart and engaged and who isn’t totally fucking embarrassing.

- The end of “normal,” at least in vocabulary. I love how we’re all slowly but surely wrapping our tradition-crusted brains around words like heteronormative, privilege, cisgendered and neurotypical. Solving the problem of labels by adding more labels isn’t perfect, by any means, but they’re creating positive discussion.

- The Chipotle barbacao burrito. Seriously, I’m so grateful this exists.

- The BBC’s Doctor Who, my favourite pop hero since I was a kid and a concept that, despite indifference from the mainstream public and active hostility from broadcast execs, has remained unstoppable for 50 years now because its creators and fans (usually one and the same) have loved it so much. There’s a lesson I strongly heed there.

- And that other UK hero, James Bond movies in November. Their release dates always come around my father’s birthday, making for a happy tradition of taking my dad out to a movie, one that stretches back to 1987′s The Living Daylights. I’m also thankful that the producers of the new Skyfall had the good sense to ask Adele to create its theme song and that she absolutely nailed it. I’ve been playing this gorgeously apocalyptic ballad for days now:

 

And there’s a good message for any Thanksgiving, the one day we try to ignore our struggles and focus on family, friends and the things that inspire our gratitude: let the sky fall…we’ll face it all together.

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Katrina: I’m still furious but fixing

As Hurricane Isaac bears down on the US Gulf Coast, seven years to the day of Katrina doing the same and worse, I still can’t forget these simultaneous images from August 29 and 30:


The rage I felt back then has never really subsided (nor should it, I think) but I got the opportunity to channel it into something productive when Darcy and I took a vacation down to New Orleans in October 2010 and spent a day volunteering with the St. Bernard Project. We spent a Monday afternoon with a dedicated group of volunteers, smearing spackle over drywall and trying to rebuild a neighbourhood still devastated after five years.

Today, St. Bernard Project writes:

While Isaac’s path is still uncertain, today our staff and volunteers are working with our current and past clients, making sure their homes are secure and they have an evacuation plan in place.

SBP needs your help to purchase materials and supplies necessary to secure the 40+ homes that are currently under construction. And more than ever, we need your help to continue our work rebuilding New Orleans long after the threat of Tropical Storm Isaac has passed.

Seven years to the day of Katrina, I made a small donation to help and I hope you may too.

There are still some who say, “Why bother?” Why bother trying to rebuild an area that just gets pummeled by a major storm at least once a decade? But you could say the same about cities built on fault lines or below sea level or at minus zero six months of the year. We bother because they’re people’s homes. And when terrible things happen to good people (as they always will), we must step up and pitch in. Otherwise, well, why bother?

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Relapse!

If the first trailer for THE AVENGERS back in October inspired this reaction, imagine what this new one has done to me…


If you need me, I’ll be holed up watching this obsessively for the next two days.

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Jack, meet Oscar

Left out in the discussion around the Academy Award nominations announced yesterday was any talk of the year’s happiest movie trend: the rise of the Jack Russell Terrier.

Sure, I’m biased but hearing people walking away from The Artist and Beginners (two utterly marvellous films, go see them now) and going on and on about just how damn fantastic that dog was is pretty satisfying to someone who loves his own like I do.

Yes, two of my favourite acting performances this year, by Michael Fassbender and Kirsten Dunst, were robbed of Oscar recognition this week but at least people are recognizing my favourite dogs, even lobbying for their new superstar.

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An early Christmas present

…from The Globe and Mail as city reporter extraordinaire Jonathan Goldsbie alerts me to this reprint today of a tweet from three weeks back:


I’m delighted and, yes, proud to have been doing a tiny part in this cause. I’m horrified that it’s taken the death of children but I really do feel like our society has turned a corner on gay and lesbian rights, especially when I read about the UN appeal this week or this blog post from a mom that went viral last August. On this score, at least, I feel like we’re heading into better times.

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Ryan G. Hinds’ tips on tunes for the holidays

Toronto cabaret performer Ryan G. Hinds loves the glitter and warmth of Christmas but not its soundtrack. “Bad Christmas music is a great way to torture your guests,” he laughs. Hinds once endured James Brown’s “Santa Claus, Go Straight to the Ghetto” at a party and don’t get him started on what Christmas has done to Barbra Streisand: “All these Christian carols when she’s the biggest Jew ever! It’s sad.”

“There’s so much heinous music out there it overwhelms the good stuff,” Hinds says but he recommends “A Christmas Cornucopia” by Annie Lennox. “It’s so pretty and not overly Christmassy — nice traditional music that sets the mood without all the clichés.”

“As an adult,” Hinds says, “Santa Claus imagery just makes me sad because I don’t believe any more.” Religious holiday music, he says, “is easier to connect to somehow. We may have walked away from it (or been driven away from it) but the old feelings are still there. ‘O Holy Night’ brings back memories of going to church with my family and I like that.”

For me, there’s no better Christmas music than the sugar-frosted jazz Vince Guaraldi composed for the classic Charlie Brown Christmas special but, should I wander near Hinds’ church, I do love this version of ‘O Holy Night” from an odd source: the soundtrack to Home Alone. Composer John Williams found a children’s choir that really makes the carol a thing of beauty. Enjoy, and Merry Christmas, Ryan!

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