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Cinematic Prosody… Which Movie and TV Soundtracks Run Through Your Head?

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heart and heaven

It can singe and melt the icy sinews of your heart… or…

… it can feather-float you to the heavens.

I’m talking music.

We all know that the occasions, the special moments of our lives- the melancholy, the joyous, the romantic, the heartbroken – are marked, like scratchy tick marks on a jail cell wall – on our interior core by the music scent wafting through our ears at the time.

But aside from those life-marking events, music is also a crucial ingredient of our enjoyment of the artistic media we consume. And so, I’m pondering today about movie or TV music that has penetrated deeply to our inner core in barely recognizable ways.

You may have already reflected on this and designed your own soundtrack “favourites” list, or perhaps you’ve coasted along merrily, experiencing and enjoying without a conscious awareness.

I bring this up right now because I’ve grown aware lately – almost like the discovery of a hidden cave grown over with vines – that the beginning theme music to the Netflix show House of Cards has me entranced.

There’s a symbolic weight that presses into my chest when it starts up. It needs playing at high volume to feel the mass and ravenous teeth of Jeff Beals’ score.

It grabs on and transfixes me immediately. Just listen carefully to its incessant, droning undertrack of alternating bass notes interspersed by a haunting trumpet line that screams POWER.

It’s like JAWS music – duunnn dunnn… duuuunnnn duun… duuunnnnnnnn dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnn dunnnn … set to modern political intrigue… what could be more ironic, more iconic than a music score that impels us to think of sharks and dangerous power. It’s obvious if you think about it.

A few years back I took an online songwriting course through COURSERA where instructor Pat Pattison brought to me a new word that has changed my approach to songwriting as well as listening to music.

The word is PROSODY.

Prosody is matching the rhythm and sound in music as you would in poetry. Melodic synergy.

Musically, this means coordinating the meaning and sound of the music to the meaning and the sound of the lyrics… in other words… making musical poetry.

In soundtrack music, the meaning doesn’t always come from words. It’s possible to make the case that the meaning of words are more powerfully affected by the sound of music than by the other way around.

The challenge of writing music that achieves prosody is no easy feat. Most TV and movie soundtracks leave no audible footprints in the sand, no languorous aftertaste.

But there are quite a few notable and memorable movie and TV music themes that invoke the feelings and the emotions that coax a good story into becoming a great story…

GREASE

Rocky is better because of the music, Cheers was better because of it: MASH, The Sopranos, The Godfather, Chariots of Fire, Hawaii Five-O, The Muppet Show, Forrest Gump, Grease were all elevated by the accompaniment of their music theme and score.

Just as an aside, many people might add the multitude of movie scores produced by John Williams to their memorable list.

You’ll remember the Star Wars franchise, the Indiana Jones features, ET and many more, but I’ve never been a huge fan of his over-produced symphonic knock-you-over-the-head scores.

While not bad obviously – he’s made a ton of soundtracks and a ton of money for himself – but they’re not on my list.

I find a lack of nuance and variety in his writing that detracts from the potential, the prosody.

But now that I’ve knocked him down, I have to turn around and resurrect his status because the theme music he composed for Schindler’s List is nothing short of a lifetime masterpiece. I can’t listen to the stream of mournful violin notes without tearing up and envisioning the solitary, red-coated little Jewish girl. Overwhelming prosody.

Strong music themes generating harmonic prosody become a deliciously lingering earworm that when absorbed, bring a flood of cinematic ripplings through our minds, often tied to inner smiles or touches of melancholy. They’re beautiful, disturbing, bliss-inducing, unescapable.

House of Cards means more to me, has a weightier meaning because of the background theme. It makes gravity feel 3 times heavier than normal.

Now THAT’s prosody.

Prosody

Oh Maudie… Story Of A Life

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Maud Lewis painter

Maud’s bent and twisted body – aged from a physically taxing lifetime –  drew in and, softly, expelled its final breath… at last she drifted away in peaceful silence.

I wanted to reach up and hug her comfortingly, consolingly, in my arms.

You see, some smiles are too rare, too precious, to be drained away like a diamond floating softly to the ocean depths, forever lost to this world.

MAUDIE… the movie. I think it could have been called A Beautiful Life.

I’m a bit of a cinephile… or probably more accurately, I’m a popcornophile who takes shameless advantage of moviegoing as an excuse for a salted-maize addiction.

The storylines and sense of transport I feel within a movie theatre are wondrously dreamlike. There’s an ambience of significance and awe in a darkened theatre that I don’t appreciate as fully when I watch films on the home screen.

What’s on this weekend?, I’d say to one of my young buddies.

In what seemed only a few moments ago, I relished taking the Main West bus to uptown Hamilton with one of my boyhood friends like Renato or Jerome – we’d wolf back the scrumptious Cheeseburger Platter at the Arch Restaurant before ambling down King Street to the Capitol Theatre or Palace Theatre.

I’d plunk my 2 quarters down – earnings from my paper route – onto the counter of the outside front booth, and then it was the obligatory pass by the snack bar for some popcorn and a Kit Kat chocolate bar.

We’d sit in the balcony of the cavernous theatre with the ornately sculptured, curved ceiling, before the screen flashed to life like an early summer sunrise, and then, Bridge Over The River Kwai, or Bonnie and Clyde, or James Bond (the oh-so-sauve Sean Connery variety) began.

bonnie-and-clyde-poster

The lights slowly dimmed, the curtain accordioned up to the ceiling.

The opening scene of Bonnie and Clyde began with the “click-click” Brownie camera sounds of the opening credits with black x white still photos of Faye Dunaway (Bonnie Parker) and Warren Beatty (Clyde Barrow) slowly fading away into murderous blood red.

To this day it remains my favourite opening montage to a movie ever. Talk about foreshadowing in the first breaths of a film.

As always, I’m in a constant state of cinematic awe over the writing and directing and acting abilities that can bring me so many real and imagined scenarios. I fall head-over-heels in disbelief at the spectacle, as if Santa really and truly does come down our chimney each Christmas.

Anyway, that’s neither here nor there because I’m here today to ramble on about a flick that we saw this week in the local Movieplex: an understated, almost unheard of cinematic wonder called Maudie.

Maudie.jpg

If ever a movie was made that could grab you by the curmudgeon’s heart and squeeze tender, gentle smiles with its story of unconventional love, this one is it.

The camera leads us along the “small” life of Maud Lewis – a severely arthritic woman passing her life in the rural Nova Scotia backwaters – that had my heart twisted in tender tangles.

What sets Maud story apart from the everyday ordinary is her strong will and capacity for painting simple things in colourful Folk Art-style.

Slowly over the years, an appreciative audience for her simple outdoor nature art scenes grows. In the 1970’s, two of her paintings were ordered by the Nixon White House.

Maud lewis painting.jpg

Maud’s tale of dealing with her arduous physical infirmities and the cruelties of the ones who should love her most is filled with compassion and sentiment so heartbreaking and yet still uplifting. Beautiful, touching, but never falling into syrupy or maudlin.

The mixture of movie art with painting art is lovingly expanded by the aching, alluring Maritimes’ backdrop through the seasons of the year, through the seasons of living.

MAUDIE… An exquisite, small film of a graceful, small life, done in a beautiful fashion that, like a tide returning to the eastern shoreline, brings home for me once again the notion that not everyone needs to, or must live life on the grand stage.

Greatness arrives in many guises, some never seen to the outside world.

No. More important to me is the essence of Maud Lewis, the reminder, that the final sketch of our lives surely should be a verb, an activity… not a noun, a passive observation.

MAUDIE-Poster-

Passions and Reflections …

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Ruby:  Every piece of this is man’s bullshit. They call this war “a cloud over the land” but they made the weather and then they stand in the rain and say “Shit, it’s rainin’!”

COLD MOUNTAIN (Movie)

cold mountain

Certain movies come to have extra meaning for us.

Stories of longing, or joy, or sorrow, or zany moments…

It’s because they reflect ourselves back to us as if we’re standing buck-naked in front of a mirror… we realize, “This is MY story” … sometimes we don’t even realize why we’re feeling this …

Or we watch longingly and tell ourselves, “I wish this was MY story“…

And of course there are many that we view and genuflect, “Thank God this ISN’T my story.”

I think this is why I’m not a big fan of sci-fi or horror movies (But of course I’ll be going to see the new Star Wars!). I don’t see my reflection anywhere in the picture.

And most times I definitely don’t want to see myself there. I don’t feel a personal connection to having a spaceship battle or slashing someone’s throat, spattering pools of hot crimson blood. They can be fine for an hour or two of escapism and entertainment, but they won’t find a place on my favourite flick list.

Movies – when I stop munching popcorn long enough to pay attention –  are often my mirror and where the reflection unearths my passions and what the future holds.

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Throughout life, passion is a result of struggle.

For the young, the struggle is to attain an identity and become a functioning adult.

For the middle-aged like myself, the struggle is to find meaning whilst a blanket of heightened sense of mortality envelopes us.

Meaning and purpose for these years should revolve around issues bigger than which buffet to patronize, or which toilet paper is softest on my bum.

…………………

There are light fluffy Christmas flakes, tiny little daytime shooting stars wafting from the grey sky outside my window as I write this.

Little pillows of cotton fluff adorn the tips of the towering Ponderosa Pines and I can hear chickadees chirping through the chilly air as they forage for seeds to keep their systems running warm and smooth.

December, with it’s shorter, colder days is a perfect month to reflect and take stock …

To me, a balanced, healthy person needs to look after a number of areas within their life to sustain what we might describe as happiness, a calm reflection of what is important to them.

We can wake up each morning and allow life to happen to us, wearing a blindfold while teetering on a cliff’s edge, waiting for a sharp breeze to send us plummeting …

… or we can arise with a determination to shape our direction with our eyes wide open and bright, skipping confidently along the rim of the Grand Canyon, seeking ideas and plans for a vigorous, well-lived life.

Life should be a little like doing core exercises at the gym. It’s not always obvious that as we pile on the crunches, strengthening the middle, it supports all of our other regions so they perform at their best.

In this life that is MY movie, my core … here are just a few of my miscellaneous December life reminders and reflections:

  • look after my own well-being – if you always give those around you the oxygen mask first, what good are you when you’re the first to die?
  • writing – helps me discover the inside me that hides away, even from myself. Life is filled with mysteries, none so great as who we ourselves are.
  • creativity – I have to nurture the seeds and persist in writing, music, cooking, anything that requires imagination and deeper thought. Not every moment, every attempt produces a work of fine art, but fine art will never appear unless my bum appears in the seat to make the attempt. Over and over.
  • investing – the life I live and person I choose to be is not going to come about unless I can sustain a livelihood. Taking time to read and digest, and then make good judgments about investments is critical.
  • physically – life itself is under threat if the physical body isn’t maintained. Our ability to function and thrive in daily life rests on a healthy, fit-based lifestyle.
  • finding growth – the mind needs its workout as much as the physical body. Learning and growing by experiencing new and unique challenges gives us verve and enthusiasm.
  • spiritual peace – a calm place to breathe and reflect – whether through religion or meditation or yoga or laughter – supports and cushions each difficulty we face. Life isn’t ever going to be easy no matter the amount of $$ in our bank accounts, so a steady base carries us past the trials we inevitably encounter
  • love – family and friends are the personal glue that holds our lives together. The Christmas spirit is alive in each of us when love is a part of our days.

Passion of many colours, textures and flavours is what makes my heart beat loudly in my chest.

If Cold Mountain‘s Ruby is right and “Every piece of this is man’s bullshit

… isn’t it reassuring to know it’s bullshit of our own making … finding our own joys in the days we have, choosing to be a true reflection of the person that looks back at us in the mirror?

rockwell_mirror

I’m Dreaming of a … Christmas Movie …

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White-Christmas-1954-15
Sisters …
Sisters …
There were never such devoted sisters
Never had to have a chaperone “No, sir”
I’m there to keep my eye on her …

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I’m a total sucker for chick flicks. 

So I should be one gloriously happy dude at this time of year.

Most Christmas movies tend to fall into the chick flick category, right?

Have you noticed that the Christmas movie racket has gone into overdrive apeshit production?

Old-time comedienne Lucille Ball, in her classic chocolate assembly line sketch wouldn’t be able to keep up with the output of Christmas moviemaking these days … it just might be a syndicate run by Harlequin. The plethora of made-for-TV-Christmas movies has snowballed out of control.

Even my tender girly-boy heart finds most of the Christmas movie scenarios just too cheesy, syrupy, sickly sweet.

Of course I don’t hate all Christmas movies. As a matter of fact I love a lot of them.

Formulas are everything in making a Christmas movie … heart strings must be tugged in just the right way.

A great Christmas movie must have a solid character(s), conflict that moves the story along, and deepset emotions that help us identify with the characters.

What we want is a big EMOTIONAL drive, heartfelt connection to the characters, and a sweet dollop of breath-releasing catharsis at the finish line.

elf

And truly, to have a memorable Christmas flick, it must contain at least one of the following scenarios (I’ve given examples with each scenario):

  1. Workaholic Character – A CHRISTMAS CAROL, THE WALTON’S – The Homecoming
  2. Someone Wants To Shut Something Down – IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS
  3. Somebody Dead Or Is Dying – PRANCER
  4. Someone Straight Up Is Santa Claus – THE SANTA CLAUSE, MIRACLE ON 34th STREET
  5. Someone Is or Becomes Unemployed – NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION, ONE MAGIC CHRISTMAS
  6. Someone Has To Repeat Christmas – A CHRISTMAS CAROL, THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL
  7. Someone MUST Find Love Via Christmas – ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, WHITE CHRISTMAS, JUST FRIENDS
  8. Car Accident – ONE MAGIC CHRISTMAS
  9. A Wacky Mixup – ELF, HOME ALONE
  10. And no matter what, make sure it’s snowing during the climactic scene, which takes place on Christmas Eve.

Sure, I can watch Christmas movies to have my heart twisted until tears spring from my eyes, but really I watch them for the simple pleasure of smiling at the end – of going on a journey with a glorious sunset trailing off into the sea.

So, less than two weeks out, here’s a list of my holiday favourites, followed by a couple of films often mentioned on TOP 10 lists that had a lot of potential but left me disappointed:

Anne of Green Gables (1985) – not a Christmas movie at all, but I first saw it with my little kids years ago at Christmastime, and so it leaves me with a warm Christmas-y feeling. A wonderful iconic Canadian story highlighted by an amazingly precocious Megan Follows as Anne. The beating heart of the story is the theme music by Hagood Hardy that brings a welling of tears to my eyes in its first few bars every time.
anne-of-green-gables
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One Magic Christmas (1985) – a quirky Christmas film warmed by charming performances by Mary Steenburgen and Harry Dean Stanton as Gideon, the guardian angel. The film dives into darker, more realistic themes than you get in most Christmas movies, strange for a Disney flick. The ultimate message of the film is heartening and poignant – even for those who may have long-since stopped believing in Santa and magic.

White Christmas (1954) – the standard by which Christmas movies really should be made. It’s fluffy as all hell but who cares. Snow, romance, classic songs sung by classic voices (Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney), dancing and a just-syrupy-enough finish.

Elf (2003) – goofy and innovative with a Will Ferrell ELF character that is slapstick but not over-the-top crazy. I wish they had worked out a better “Santa” ending in Central Park, but there’s enough charm and humour to make it a keeper.

Prancer (1989) – a somewhat dark film that somehow pulls it off because of a real reindeer and a farm girl that nurses the wounded animal  she believes is Santa’s PRANCER, hoping to bring it back to health in time for Christmas. Filled with earnestness and heartache and hope. If your Christmas is too much take and not enough give, I prescribe hot chocolate, some hot popcorn, and a viewing of Prancer.

National Lampoon’€™s Christmas Vacation (1989) – a zany piece that makes me want to laugh in spite of myself. Poor Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), just can’t get anything right – something I often identify with –  and does such ridiculous things that we all identify from our own worst moments that we won’t even admit to ourselves.
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Home Alone (1990) – an unbelievable storyline of an 8 year-old accidentally left behind from a family trip to Europe. It carries us smiling along with its wit and humour, some touching moments with a lonely neighbour and a madcap finale that could only happen in a movie. Great fun.

It’€™s a Wonderful Life (1946) – a cranky and charming Jimmy Stewart classic with an oddball angel Clarence that takes Stewart on a trip into a world where he was never born. Stewart gives a wonderful performance of a difficult character. A character all of us are familiar with … a person looking to find himself/herself and the struggle for finding what it is in life you really want to do. George Bailey teaches us the most important lesson of all, that life, although a long and challenging road, truly is wonderful…

Miracle on 34th Street (1947) – Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle and Natalie Wood as a little girl who’s been told by her cynical mother that Santa doesn’t exist steal this film. I like this version a lot more than the updated attempt starring Richard Attenborough as Santa (1994).
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The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) – well, I’m a sucker for the Muppets so my bias probably shows here. But, the film possesses heart, whimsy, and an infectious joy. Michael Caine gives a masterful performance as Ebenezer Scrooge and who just can’t love Miss Piggy as Mrs. Crachit?

muppet xmas

The Santa Clause (1994) – Tim Allen plays Scott Calvin, who replaces Santa after he falls off the roof. The plot is original, the script is fun, and the pace is surprisingly even. It’s not a classic like Scrooge(1951), or Home Alone or It’s a Wonderful Life, just a pleasant family Christmas film. The characters are likable, even though the parents are a bit clichéd and the film a tad too overly sentimental in places. Just a fun movie to eat popcorn to.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) – the Grinch is a character Dr. Seuss could only have written for the malleable face of Jim Carrey. A great cartoon short adapted into a full-length movie with flowing rivers of colour and costumes and of course, the wonderful gargantuously green Mr. Grinch himself. What child could resist such a beautifully evil beast?
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Disappointments:

The Polar Express (2004) – CREEPY!! This is supposed to be serious animation but it just gives me the willies. I don’t like horror movies and this qualifies as one that gives me bad dreams.

A Christmas Story (1983) – little Ralphie and his dad are both characters who push my irritation button from the get-go for no particular reason. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I’d like to take that Red Ryder BB gun and aim it directly at Ralphie and his obnoxious dad.

………………..

It’s nostalgic to watch an old friend – a movie we love –  each year as a tradition. It’s Nanaimo bar or Mom’s fruitcake without the scale creep.

Movies, like songs, take us back to years and events in our own lives that play inside our heads, inside our dreams.

And what is Christmas all about if it isn’t about dreams.

charlie brown xmas

50 Shades of … Shame …

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christian and ana

Tsk tsk Christian Grey!

Are you serious? You’re showing your face in public again with some sort of boastful, manly pride?

Here we are once more, back in the news with a Valentine’s Day release of the tawdry film 50 Shades of Grey.

Our book-inspired imaginations can finally relax now that we can gaze in stunning Technicolor at your little fantasy world of mental, physical, and sexual abuse. Oops … my apologies Christian, you’d prefer that we call it BDSM to dress it up pretty and sound sensuously sexy.

…………………………………….

I don’t know whether to worship at your feet or spank the living shit out of you.”

…………………………………….

And you, Anastasia Steel?

Ana, you will look gorgeously enticing and naive and innocent, occasionally displaying some subtle signs of estrogen-strength that will float the illusion that dominance by and submission to another… any other … is really quite empowering, somehow acceptable, yes, even dreamily romantic.

Oh Ana, get thee to thy shrink!

Anyway 50 Shades … Congratulations.

50-Shades-of-Grey-Movie

It will be a colossal smash box office event. It will.

Millions of women with submissive stars floating in their wide, moony eyes will drag their gal pals, maybe even boyfriends and husbands to the event of the year.

The sequels will be in filming mode before you can snap a whip on a woman’s ass and “playrooms” will fill with nouveau riche moviemakers sporting huge smiles.

And me? Well, I’ll still be scratching my head at the hypocrisy of what women want in this world; and also the men who believe that objectification and dominance over women is just fine, thank you very much.

In a way, 50 Shades transports me through time and history … the story’s insinuation that men can sit back and assume a controlling, dominant role, well, it takes me back 150 years to the plantation porch – back to the good old days of Lincoln and slavery and the quaint notion that having a master/servant relationship is tolerable in any sort of sane world.

…………………………………….

I want you sore, baby,” he murmurs, and he continues his sweet, leisurely torment, backward, forward. “Every time you move tomorrow, I want you to be reminded that I’ve been here. Only me. You are mine.”

…………………………………….

Almost 3 years ago I wrote a post expressing my disappointment in current-day liberated women who flocked in huge numbers to read the BDSM mega-hit 50 Shades of Grey.  Well … have I softened on my stance over that time you ask? Definitely… NO…

https://lwgsummerland.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/50-shades-of-green/

It clearly taps into a large female segment who tingle to an interior women’s world that is beyond my understanding.

Obviously, I can’t claim that 100 million readers are all mistaken in their admiration and might I say –  desire –  for a sexual fantasy like this.

We all have interior domains that thrive inside – worlds of bizarre and untold fantasy that we would never want the rest of society to be aware of. I’ll cop to guilt on many fronts where fantasy of various makes and models thrive. But never a fantasy that places someone in a lowly, denigrated position …

A Toronto Star article this week made this point: “ … it’s not the BDSM that has Joe-Anne Dusel, provincial co-ordinator with the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan, worried.

“The elements of isolation and humiliation that go on outside of the bedroom are serious red flags,” Dusel said, noting that in the book, Grey tracks Steele’s cellphone, follows her to work, threatens her and isolates her from her family and friends.

“These are the tactics that the women who walk through our doors report on a daily basis they are experiencing in our own lives,” Walker said.”

We read the daily news and take in the dark, disturbing stories of Jian Ghomeshi, and Bill Cosby, and Ray Rice, and Chris Brown, and Charlie Sheen and we shake our heads saying “tsk, tsk”. And then paradoxically, we fill the local theatres to watch it acted it out as a desirable fantasy. Huh????

The book’s author E.L. James has long defended her books against accusations they promote violence.

But you know what? I don’t blame Ms. James for her book or the characterizations that are portrayed.

I don’t “blame” anyone.

It merely tells me that despite ALL of the strides that Western civilization has made in terms of gender equality and respect, there is still a huge number of those – both men AND women – who believe, or at least fantasize about a world where men can exercise total control over women.

 

… leaving me wanting, unzipping his fly, and pushing me down onto the couch so he’s lying on top of me.
“Hands on your head,” he commands through gritted teeth as he kneels up, forcing my legs wider…
“We don’t have long. This will be quick, and it’s for me, not you. Do you understand?
Don’t come, or I will spank you,” he says through clenched teeth.”

And those same women will sensuously sigh and raptly eat it up with delighted visions of denigration. Denigration at the hands of a handsome muscled hunk that treats them like a spent cigar butt on the street… enjoying a puff or two… but believing that it’s really just someone else’s trash.

It just leaves me sad…

oneshadeofgrey

50 Shades Shelters

Clap Along If You Feel Like Cookin’ …

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Man-cooking

This is definitely not ME! Paying close attention to recipes is not in my playbook…

Why do I feel so damned Pharrell Williams “HAPPY” when I’m cooking up a storm in the kitchen? Even if the kitchen isn’t “a room without a roof“?

What kind of a real man eschews the world of sliding under cars to manhandle greasy gaskets, or watching blood-spattered UFC supermen, to “perform” on the stage of culinary arts?

I think I must be what you would call gastrosexual.

Cooking and food – as we all know –  is really a metaphor for the warm and soft, fuzzy aspects of our lives.

Food provides calories, but isn’t just sustenance, would you agree?

Food means sharing, friendship, family, love, sex, laughter, discussion.

Throw a bottle or two of wine into the equation and it also means political arguments, RAUCOUS laughter, louder talk, dysfunctional families, wine goggles, raunchy sloppy sex.

dinner-argument

A typical Sunday night at my house…

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Sometime during the 1980’s I remember a great heated discussion in the (now defunct) Canadian back-to-the-earth magazine Harrowsmith about the cover photo of a woman holding a hot steaming loaf of bread, fresh from the oven.

The blush and shiny glow in her cheeks hinted to some readers of a post-orgasmic flush and maybe even a hot-and-ready yeasty bun in her own personal oven.

To naive little me, it looked like a woman proudly offering up a beautiful loaf of bread, but I’ll admit that sometimes a cigar isn’t just a cigar. Yes, once again, sex rules the media, and it’s everywhere.

Switching to the movies, one of my favourite “family” cooking scenes from cinema comes from none other than big John Candy and little Macaulay Culkin in Uncle Buck.

Whenever my kids are home and I’m stirring and chopping away in the kitchen, inevitably, one of them will whisper the classic line loudly, “Dad’s cooking our garbage“.

Now you might prefer the more serious-toned Julie and Julia for your film cooking chops. This is all well and good but makes cooking and cuisine a job to be wrestled into an organized round of beginning, middle, and end.

DING, the round is over … the recipe has been followed exactly … there, done!

Damn, forgive me. I keep getting sidetracked from the message I’m here to talk about today.

Which is … that I have a different approach to edible art.

The Alternate Zen of Cooking

Aside from the obvious connections between cooking food and family and love in its various forms … for me, cooking also means musical themes, and exploration and travel.

How so, you ask?

Cooking can be regimented and stiff, or, if you’re like me, free-form like jazz.

I know that for some, food preparation is a rote symphony – you measure every quarter note and 1/4 cup to the T… you place every rest and teaspoon in its perfect momentary place. The cuisinary maestro is to be strictly adhered to for the music and vittles to sound and taste so sweet. This is fine, I suppose.

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In Marrakesh, Morocco, Karina ensures I measure everything for a Tagine dish just so …

I was told by Karina, my cooking guide in Morocco this spring to:

 Respect the Recipe”

Bahhhh… I want to play my cooking-style like uplifting jazz, using a recipe only as a guideline where a list of ingredients is important but amounts vary from time to time, and my imagination allowed to summon up a flavour that I favour on that day.

More lemon today, more ginger tomorrow, less oregano and cumin this time around. Maybe quinoa in place of rice.

Cooking is like playing in the sandbox with the kids, it’s fun and learning all mixed together in an agreeable mess.

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Lugme, a delightful Cusco friend, stacks our freshly-baked guinea pigs into a container for the short walk back home from the community oven … a tasty Peruvian delicacy…

A wonderful bonus of today’s connected world is the availability of ingredients from every region of the world, all of the time.

Any day of the week, I can choose to eat Asian, African, Middle Eastern, Peruvian, French, Spanish, Caribbean, Hawaiian, or whatever style of food you can name with one quick visit to the local supermarket.

Is this a great world, or what?

I can hear you already. You might believe strongly in the 100-Mile Diet.  I get it. I want the local grower to do well too. But, I figure that the peasant farmer in Quillabamba, Peru or Wenchang, China or Ladysmith, South Africa deserves a livelihood as much as my friendly orchardist down the road. I support both. ‘Nuff politics, OK?

Even if I’m not travelling, cooking transports me to other worlds and exotic locales.

A special meal is like catching a plane and taking a vacation in your own home – a STEAK’ation if you will.

We can create recipe sex in our own homes where Thai meets Italian meets Brazilian and an incredible taste explodes for us like an atomic bomb in our mouths.

But at some point I grow tired of staring at the map on the wall and making dishes from afar.

The true measure of great cooking, eating, and enjoyment is to settle in the dust of the region where that food originated.

Just put a forkful (or chapati-full, or chopstick-full) of locally-cooked, flavour-laden food where the street sounds and smells encircle you … music floating on the evening air… then close your eyes and absorb all that surrounds you.

Here, I’ll take you on a short cooking-style trip right now… hang on… it won’t take a lot of your time or money!

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Oscar showing us Spanish-language students in Cusco how to prepare “Ahi de Gallina”.

I’ll throw a great little Peruvian peanut-chicken stew recipe at you here from my Cusco, Peru master-chef amigo Oscar? Listen for the pan flutes playing through the thin, cool Andean air.

Oscar makes lovely gourmet-style meals for large groups using only a 2 burner propane-fired hotplate. Try this in your own kitchen and feel free to adjust the amounts.

Ahi de Gallina (Serves 6 – Oscar gave this recipe to me in Spanish, but I’ll make it a bit easier with translation)

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 100 g white cheese (mozzarella or cheddar or monterey jack)
  • 1 1/2 onions
  • 4 aji peppers (any small hot pepper will do)
  • 1/4 litre milk
  • 50 g roasted, ground peanuts
  •  150 g chicken stock
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 150 g water crackers
  • 4 garlic cloves

Preparation:

  • Boil the chicken breasts in 2 litres water with a clove of garlic, some salt and pepper for 15 minutes
  • Drain the broth but reserve 1 litre of the cooking liquid and hand shred the chicken into small strands
  • Chop 1 onion, garlic and peppers into small pieces (remove and discard seeds from hot peppers)
  • In a large frying pan on medium heat, saute the chopped vegetables in a small splash of oil, add salt and pepper to taste
  • After a few minutes, add the milk slowly in equal portions to the crushed water crackers
  • Add cubed cheese, the peanuts, and the chicken broth and stir for a minute
  • Pour the entire mixture into a blender and liquify until smooth
  • Cut the remaining half onion into julienne strips and add to the frying pan and saute for a minute before adding in the blender mix and the shredded chicken
  • Stir over heat until it reaches the boil point and add more milk or broth for a smooth consistency
  • Serve over rice or potato, accompanied by olives and hard boiled eggs

…………………..

Now when I travel, I want to spend time in the company of local cooks and learn their magic with local traditions and foodstuffs. Few things in life bring us more warmly, more peacefully, together than cooking and sharing a meal.

And I’m just at the start of this journey. Morocco, Peru, Spain, Cuba, China, even Newfoundland and the Northwest Territories of Canada … the list will grow and recipe sex will make the spicy ambience of life a bit richer.

So it might seem crazy what I’m gonna say but I’m just gonna put on my Pharrell cooking hat and keep pirouetting and gyrating my Happy-dance as I blend the fusionary, culinary, provisionary, sometimes flavourful, sometimes disastrous kitchen concoctions and dream my way to the furthest corners of the world.

1967 … Back to the Future …

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Grade 5 Glen Echo School 1967

My Grade 5 class 1967 – Glen Echo School, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada … I’m bottom row, second in from right.

Yeah, I was bleeding alright … all over the driveway.

And I screamed bloody murder with monster salty tears streaming down my chubby little cheeks.

My brother Gord’s friend Ron had pulled back hard on the rubber band and shot a U-shaped fence staple from a slingshot into my exposed lower leg from about 6 feet away. But it was a game, and so this end result should have been anticipated. Is it possible that maybe we weren’t the brightest kids?

When I pulled the two pronged galvanized projectile from my leg, the blood poured out pretty profusely. Everybody was apologetic and concerned and all, but you know, this was 1967 and I was 10 years old; these were the sorts of games we played to cement our childhoods.

Where were the parents you might ask? Oh puh-lease

Parents and kids of the 1950’s and 1960’s led pretty independent lives — we met at mealtimes, and outside of that, we were all mostly free to head in whatever direction we wanted. From any age.

But remember, this was a naively different time when we were still just standing at the front door of the haunted house that held all of the understanding of the dangers of child abuse and abductions, drugs, war atrocities, and all of the other scary things that go bump in the night.

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My leg felt like this …

Boy's bloody leg

…but probably looked more like this.

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It was all normal stuff from an era that no longer exists.

Hell, as a 1990’s and 2000’s parent, I would never have dreamed of sending my kids outside to play at 8 in the morning, and then not expect to see them until they came running in starved at lunch time.

Not only would I have not dreamed this, but frantic neighbourhood watchers would have sent apoplectic police officers to my door before an hour had passed.

………………

Like a wistful Ken Burn’s PBS documentary, this blog post has me delving into ancient 20th century history.

And it’s truly unsettling from my perspective because the message that runs indelicately through my head is that this means my lifetime on our good earth is running low on ticks of the clock … and since we’re talking 20th century, that’s an analog clock, you know, the kind with hands that sweep around the circle.

Burn’s documentaries beautifully lay out history in sepia tones. Dreamy nostalgic music floats through while sentimental rivers of images appear like miniature puffs of smoke that recede into the pale blue sky. I like to think of my life’s experiences in sepia, it lends romanticism and import that would otherwise be absent.

1967 was a big year in the 20th century – for me, and the rest of the world too. I think that 1967 is the first year where I’m really cognizant of my being an individual person. This is striking because I was only 10 years old in ’67.

It was the year of Canada’s 100th birthday — or Centennial —  and there was a huge international party going on in Montreal called Expo 67. Across the land, Canadians spent the year wandering their streets, schools and businesses in geometric-striped or paisley shirts, and mini tent dresses, singing, “CaaaaaaNaaaaaDaaaaa… One little , two little, three Canadians … we love thee

I visited Expo 67 twice. I loved the awe-inspiring country pavilions — Iran’s brightly-toned blue tile walls, the Sputnik satellites hanging in the sloped-glass USSR building, the Buckminster Fuller geodesic-dome U.S. pavilion that had monorail trains gliding right through its middle. The breezes of the St. Lawrence River were filled with the intoxicating smells of foreign dishes with names we couldn’t pronounce.

It was so exciting that I hardly needed the extra adrenaline boost found in the amusement park area called LaRonde, it was that cool. At one point, I got lost from my parents and aunt and uncle in the park which really pissed off my Uncle Dwight. Come on, I was TEN!

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Humankind began to grow up in the 1960’s. Incredibly, in 1967 many of us were just beginning to realize that war was a bloody miserable thing to march into. It really wasn’t the glorious, fun-filled tromp into camaraderie and dancing with easy local girls and drinking and singing we thought it was.

Television brought Vietnam into our living rooms each evening. There were terrible bloodbaths and chemical burns, and innocents shredded in the crossfire just like in World War 1 and World War 2 and every other war that had played out over the millennia, previously unseen in our living rooms. It was scary and painful and messy. We were all scared shitless of nuclear war annihilation.

We’d been Lee Harvey Oswald‘ed and Albert DeSalvo‘ed by now, but still had no signs yet of Richard Speck, Sirhan Sirhan, Mark David Chapman, James Earl Ray, Clifford Robert Olson, Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer to name just a slight few. We were semi-naive babies taking one last delicious suck on our thumbs.

But despite any worries of the time that existed, I loved 1967 for a whole bunch of reasons.

  • There was a shiny new (alright, 2 years old) Maple Leaf flag flying over the Expo 67 celebrations in Montreal.
  • Elvis married Priscilla.
  • Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup.
  • The Mad Men era where men were men and women were subservient was in its final throws.
  • The summer of free love bloomed in San Francisco.

Maple Leafs 1967

………………

It might be strange to you but an even more important cause for my love of all 1967 was the movies that hit the theatres. It was a classic year in cinema.

  • To Sir With Love
  • In Cold Blood
  • Wait Until Dark
  • The Graduate
  • Bonnie and Clyde

All great movies. Thoughtful, serious, funny, emotional movies.

Remember at the beginning of this post I said kids and parents went their separate directions?

Here’s a perfect example. On Saturday afternoons, I, along with one of my friends Jerome, Renato, Larry, or Frank would jump onto the Main West bus that traversed Hamilton from east to west. It was about a 30 minute ride to the central core of the city. We’d hop off downtown and find our way over to the cavernous 2,259 seat Capitol Theatre, or the majestic Palace with its huge balcony, or sometimes the relatively plain-Jane Tivoli.

Give the lady at the front kiosk your 25 cents kids’ admission, head to the snack bar for popcorn and a big chocolate bar and you could ensconce yourself in the theatre for the whole afternoon.

Why watch Bonnie and Clyde get gunned down in bloody slow motion just once when you could sit and watch it again a second time? Faye Dunaway was just way too pretty to leave behind after just one performance. Jesus, even Warren Beatty was too pretty to leave behind with only one viewing. And it took at least two viewings to understand Buck Barrow’s joke, “And she called him over and she said, “Son, whatever you do, don’t sell that cow!

You could enter the theatre at 11 am and not leave until 11 pm if you wanted. Of course, we didn’t because I had to deliver the Hamilton Spectator newspaper to my customers by 5 o’clock or I was dead meat.

Bonnie-and-Clyde-1967

I think that if I could play out my own Back to the Future scenario, 1967 would easily be my year of choice.

I’d luxuriate in the warmth of my long-gone Mom and Dad, and the rest of my family. I’d eat lots of MoJo’s and french fries at Van Wagner’s beach on Lake Ontario. I’d spend hours playing football in the park across the street from my house, pretending I was a famous Hamilton Tiger-Cat receiver like Garney Henley. I’d ogle poor blind Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark for even more hours at the Palace theatre.

More importantly, I could make sure I ran far and fast away from Ron with that damn staple-shooting slingshot.

Then today, I wouldn’t have to look down at the two bumpy little scars on my lower leg when I happily reminisce about my youth.

I’m Coming Out of the Closet … Again.

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Hand of a child opening a cupboard door

A year ago in this blog I came out of the INTROVERSION closet. And so in this, my 2nd annual coming-out post, I’ve selected a different closet from which to emerge.

Yin Yang, Hot Cold, Vanilla Chocolate.

The attraction of opposites is common and complementary.

I’m more like the repelling blend of oil and water within the world of gender roles. After all, what kind of real man likes romantic, sappy, poignant movies that tell stories of love lost and won, lost again and then re-won?

What kind of real man can endure Katherine Heigl or Rachel McAdams playing the hard-nosed but oh-so-soft female executive in a man’s world?

Most men’s heads are a vortex of sports, beer, cars, and sex. Real men thrive on action and violence and muscle cars. Real men don’t like quiche. Real men spit and swear.

I’m not a Harlequin romance reader or cheesy soap opera fan but I must — somewhat reluctantly — thrust my hand out of the macho-closet into the tissue-ready Chick-Flick world.

I’m the oil slick on the surface of this water-world of REAL men.

couple-watches-chick-flick

I like CHICK-FLICKS. Bite me.

Give me sweetly-saccharine Sandra, give me Blonde Reese (Legal or Illegal!), give me Chicago-syrupy Renee and Serendipitously-seductive Kate and Castaway Tom and Silver-lined Bradley and cutesy-Sleepless Meg.

Hold the Terminating Arnold, hold the Die-Hard Bruce, hold the Rambo Sylvester and Delta-Force Chuck.

I embrace this frilly feminine turf filled with feelings, relationships, and emotions. The rise and swell of sorrowful violins is tender therapy.

But really, chick-flicks are all about finding two hours of vicarious love in the form of a charismatic leading man or winsome heroine.

Like in a well-written novel, a clever chick-flick puts us squarely in the starring role — we peer from behind Audrey Hepburn’s neckline or Paul Newman’s blue eyes for a short time.

Let me recall some Chick-Flick history as a chart of my story:

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1960’s  “Honest to goodness it’s the absolute ultimate!” — Gidget (Sandra Dee)

Sandra Dee in GIDGET and Annette Funicello in the series of Beach movies were my early chick-flick loves. They were wholesome but in an ever-so-slightly slutty way. Men like wholesome sluts. It’s walking on the carnal ledge without cruising the dark side streets seeking the perfect hooker for 5 minutes (or 2 maybe) of fun and pleasure.

Julie Andrews sang, twirled, and beguiled us through the Salzburg mountains in THE SOUND OF MUSIC. She teased us and made a nun’s habit vaguely naughty and sexy.

1970’s. “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” — LOVE STORY (Ali McGraw)

One of my favourite 1970’s movies was LOVE STORY. I had a mad crush on Jennifer Cavilleri (Ali McGraw) with her pouty, intellectually preppy attitude. She also had a vulnerability that melted me into liquid chocolate.

1980’s “I’ll have what she’s having.” — When Harry Met Sally (Meg Ryan)

The decade began with AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN when Debra Winger wooed me with her blue-collar longings and husky voice and ended  WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. Meg Ryan was the perfect chick-flick lead — she pulled at my heartstrings with her neurotic tendencies and operatic restaurant orgasms. Why is quirkiness so appealing?

1990’s “Go to the Mattresses.” — You’ve Got Mail (Tom Hanks)

1995  brought us WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING. Sandra Bullock was my girl of the decade with her crush on comatose hunk Peter Gallagher while honourable Bill Pullman drooled all over her back. Meg Ryan’s cute-vulnerable act continued in a close second place with YOU’VE GOT MAIL and SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE.

2000’s “You know the Greeks didn’t write obituaries. They only asked one question after a man died: “Did he have passion?”  — Serendipity (Jeremy Piven)

The new millenium began and a new cinematic crush walked into my life as Kate Beckinsale brought a serendipitous attraction into SERENDIPITY in 2001. A year later, Mandy Moore sang and stole my heart in A WALK TO REMEMBER Like Ali McGraw in LOVE STORY, this movie reminded me that dying girls can be hot.

2010’s “I don’t want to fall asleep. Okay? Don’t let me fall asleep. Promise.” — SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (Keira Knightley)

We’re barely into the second decade of the 2000’s but already I’ve been smitten with Keira Knightley in SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD. Once again, the quirky factor drew me in. I may be detecting a trend here — quirky + dying = irresistible.

Seeking-a-Friend-For-The-End-Of-The-World

So there you have it, I’ve outed myself … again. But I am egalitarian. It’s not only the female leads that make a chick-flick eminently watchable.

Strangely, I’ve developed man crushes on Tom Hanks (YOU’VE GOT MAIL),  John Cusack (SERENDIPITY), and Steve Carell (SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD / DAN IN REAL LIFE) too. The easy humour and vulnerability of the male leading man roles remind me that masculinity is far more than the stereotypical grunting and rutting of the penis owner.

Love ’em or Hate ’em, chick-flicks encompass the meaning of human existence. We work to live, but we love in order to breathe and feel and experience the depths of our emotional consciousness.

I’ve lived and loved my life to the passionate background beat of cinematic romance for more than five decades.

The greater fear that rises within me now is how I might survive the upcoming Chick-Lit-Flick armageddon 50 SHADES OF GREY. Don’t get me started on that one…

50-shades-of-bad-boys

Desperately Seeking Marilyn

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crescent moon on new york

I was barely able to make out the waning crescent of the moon in the dark sky.

It was just after midnight on a mild September night when we stepped out into the city lights on Lexington Avenue, just up from 52nd Street. I replaced the felt fedora on my head; it was a perfect match to my tan-coloured suit.

There were the familiar rumbling sounds and underfoot shaking of subway cars beneath the Manhattan city street. The sharp smell of cigarette smoke lingered in the still air as a pair of young lovers passed by along the sidewalk in front of Fleurette’s Jewelry store.

We meandered slowly along, side by side, soulfully talking about how pitiful the sad creature from the movie we had just finished watching was. Then she turned, looked me dead straight in the eyes and in her breathy voice said,

“….he just wanted affection – you know,  a sense of being loved, and needed, and wanted.”

She had such a wide-eyed look of innocence and naivety. Who was she really talking about?

And then she stepped onto the criss-cross metal grating above the subway line:

“Ooo, do you feel the breeze from the subway? Isn’t it delicious?”,

she said, her perfectly smooth legs locked straight at the knees, her feet in high-heeled white strappy sandals placed about a foot apart. And then her ivory-coloured halter-style cocktail dress billowed upwards exposing her legs, her white panties, and the inner pleats of the dress that resembled the underside gills of a mushroom. A look of little-girl innocent pleasure painted her face.

It wasn’t a hot night, but what man wouldn’t feel a burning at this moment? The world stopped and lived only for us two for a precious few seconds.

I wandered a semi-circle around her, cocked my head a bit and smiled, “Sorta cools the ankles, doesn’t it?”

An iconic scene of the 20th Century by an iconic figure of the era.

marilyn monroe over subway grate

The abrupt honking of a passing cab snapped me out of my daydream.

Ambling up Lexington Avenue a couple of summers back, it was a warm Friday morning in Manhattan and we were on the hunt for Norma Jean. Yes, that Norma Jean. You might know her as Marilyn Monroe.

It was a scene from the 1955 movie The Seven Year Itch where Marilyn strode out of the Trans-Lux 52nd Street Theatre onto Lexington Avenue with co-star Tom Ewell after having just watched Creature from the Black Lagoon.

We were visiting New York and wanted to see the iconic spot in person and feel the aura of what was but a few seconds from a scene that occurred over 50 years ago. Millions and millions have likely walked this street and across the hundreds of subway grates scattered throughout Manhattan. But we wanted to see THE sidewalk grate where the Hollywood GREAT had stood and purred those famous words in her high-pitched-dripping-sex-all-over-the-place voice.

We asked workers unloading beer cases from trucks, we inquired with hotel doormen, but no one seemed to know the exact grate where Marilyn had cooed and billowed. We wandered back and forth up and down Lexington hoping a sign, a cairn, some marker would pop up saying:

Here, actress Marilyn Monroe captured the world with her engaging smile and undulating white dress while cooling her ankles and naughty bits on her return home from a date in the movie The Seven Year Itch.

But why? Why would this be important? Was I fanatical about Marilyn Monroe? Not at all!

We seek out fame and the famous, the historic, the iconic, the tragic and the momentous. We bookmark our lives by the battlefields and cathedrals and moviestar mansions we visit- we set plaques and monuments as tribute and remembrance. We collect cars, and bubblegum cards, and vinyl record albums, and coins and stamps and vintage wines.

There is a burning desire in so many of us to visit and draw in greatness – both positive and catastrophic –  from the past and feel a part of it within us. We want to walk on the “hallowed” ground and breathe in the air that Julius Caesar absorbed.

No matter our station, there is a feeling of splendour and ownership if we see and touch the same things that others who have achieved much have seen and touched. We want the sensation of being a part of something bigger, grandiose and monumental.

We want to be unique but at the same time we want to feel like a part of the human family. And for many of us too, I think it’s because we want to be fabulous in some way and do something special in our short lives.

fame-star

What could be cooler than to leave a legacy behind; a song that others hum, a story that resonates through time, a grandmother’s iris plant that thrilled, a photographic portrait that mesmerizes 100 years on?

AND SO?

We didn’t ever, to our best knowledge, stand on the famed sidewalk grate we were seeking out on that busy Manhattan avenue.

BUT … we did grab a hot dog from one of New York City’s ubiquitous sidewalk vendors and imagine ourselves solving a stupendously difficult murder case from TV’s Law & Order. Later, we ventured to the top of the Empire State Building and envisioned ourselves as Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr (An Affair to Remember), or Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks (Sleepless in Seattle). I may have even daydreamed of seeing myself climbing that building as King Kong while Fay Wray or Naomi Watts screamed in my hairy clenched hand.

And it’s everywhere.

In Paris, I imagine myself in the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, a half-mask covering my face… in Berlin, I stand in front of the Brandenburg Gate giving an address to hundreds of thousands of onlookers as Adolf Hitler, or John F. Kennedy … in Tokyo, I am Hirohito …in Beijing, I am Mao … in Ottawa, I am Trudeaumania … in Washington, I “have a dream” of standing before a huge crowd on the Mall as Dr. Martin Luther King.

No matter who we are, or where we are in time, we stand beneath the dark skies, feel the warm caressing of the night breeze, and gaze dreamily skyward at the same moon that Marilyn and I flirted beneath that late summer night of 1955.

Van Gogh Starry Starry Night

Judd Apatow is a Pimp! Our Young Men are the Prostitutes…

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Dear Judd Apatow:

You are an ASSHOLE.

But don’t despair, there’s hope.

Apatow and leslie mann

Apatow and wife Leslie Mann…

I know you think you’ve done amazing things with your Hollywood writing, producing and directing career. And if you were 14 years old, I’d agree wholeheartedly. But you just gotta know, Hollywood box office bucks don’t equal quality. OK?

To be fair, you were the driving force behind a TV show years back called Freaks and Geeks that was truly inspired. Your sensitive take on awkward teenagers coping in a COOL and cruel high school world was heartrendingly beautiful. But you’ve plunged to the depths of depravity in recent years making movies such as Knocked Up, and This is 40, that glorify and promote male infantilism, shallowness and immaturity.

And it’s the misogynism of your characters that really bugs me.

I don’t like it when men put down and/or objectify women as you have your ManBoys Seth Rogen, Jason Segel and Jonah Hill do in much of your stuff. To be fair, I don’t enjoy it either when the tables are turned and women gorge on the weakened entrails of us men.

jonah_hill__paul_rudd__seth_rogen__jason_segel

The world is full of assholes…YES, EVEN I AM AN ASSHOLE…at least to some (badly misinformed!) people or at least some of the time. (Please don’t overload the comment section of this blog post with agreeing statements on this point, OK?) I guess you could say that about most of us.

To soothe your fractured ego, I should tell you that you’re not alone. Following is a shortlist of those on my current Asshole list:

  • Lance Armstrong
  • John Mayer
  • Madonna
  • Billy Bob Thornton
  • Tiger Woods
  • Chris Brown
  • Charlie Sheen
  • The Lumineers
  • Stephen Harper
  • Kanye West
  • Donald Trump

For all I know, you are a really nice guy Judd, which raises the question:

Do we, should we, separate the abilities and talents from the person him/herself?

I don’t have a good answer here. Using Lance Armstrong as one example, I greatly appreciate the athleticism and drive that he brought to his cycling career. Watching him pedal his way up the stunningly steep slope of Alp d’Huez on his bike was a wonder to behold. With or without the aid of drugs, I believe he is an extraordinary athlete who just happens to be an ass in many ways. Maybe I could say the same about you Judd if I only knew you better.

Today’s cinematic world is full of great inspirational and aspirational moviemakers eg. Steven Spielberg, Nora Ephron(late), Ang Lee, Martin Scorsese, Kathryn Bigelow, Woody Allen, Jane Campion. These people, through their artistic genius and skill, can have us sit in the dark and laugh, cry, and think, often within the same scene. I celebrate their amazing prowess. Judd, you have it too. I can see it slyly peeking out and seeping around corners in some of your movies. It’s a waste of talent, shedding its tears in a dark secluded alleyway.

Our young men are watching your cinematic product and living the life that you project as appealing and good. Only you, Judd Apatow, are benefitting…you see, you’re making a bunch of “prostitutes” out of men and collecting millions of bucks on the sidelines and laughing your head off at all the ManBoys you’re helping to create.

Sure, we shouldn’t just shoot you as the messenger. We all have the ability to make choices. But just like prostitutes who are forced into doing things they don’t want to because they have limited choices, your writing and filming takes full advantage of the weaknesses and frailties of young men. Our young fellas are struggling with a world that has changed dramatically in a short time span and is pulling the rug out from under their feet. They need help moving forward, not in slipping back into the anal recesses of their own wretched flatulence.

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Even Shakespeare plumbed the depths of childlike humour, so at least you have some divine company. “O Romeo, that she were, O that she were an open-arse and thou a popp’rin’pear.” –Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene I.  Shakespeare generally reached down with subtlety, nuance, and craft. Try following his lead, you could find a worse mentor out there.

I don’t normally rant on about things like this. And please let me finish by repeating myself. I think you have some great talents that have been hinted at at times in films like The 40 year Old Virgin and Bridesmaids. You have the neurons and synapses in abundant supply to do great stuff.  There’s a dumptruck load of money in your back account now, so don’t settle for the low bar. More truckloads of films making manure-into-money won’t make your smile any bigger at this point.

You’ve passed 40 now. It’s time to grow up. Don’t confuse inanity with good-natured and harmless boyishness. There is some wisdom and humour in you that can be unleashed in fine fashion.

Make the second half of your career funny, but uplifting and aspirational. Find your internal wise wit. I hold hope in my heart that your best time is coming.

Take off that Pimp’s fedora and fur coat and pull yourself up from the fetid gutters. The finishing cut of real man’s clothes will fit you better than you realize.

Cheering you on from the Cinema Sidelines,

Man on the Fringe

Steve Martin to Judd

Apparently I’m not the only one who writes to you Judd!

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