Friday, June 29, 2007

Brylcreem and Brooches on AMC

Just watched a promo (a "making of" ) on AMC for Mad Men - a series by Matthew Weiner.

It takes place in 1960 at a top New York ad agency and details the work and personal lives of the men and women that make up the company.

Of course, I'm completely in love with the idea of it. I was so glad to hear the confession by Weiner that he's a bit of a fetishist for the "look" - going so far as to make sure the fruit in the fruit bowls on set were the right size for the era. It looks perfect. I'm going to give it the benefit of the doubt that it's good and complex and deep too. The promo did it's job - I am looking forward to watching the premiere episode.

My only concern is how they will manage to tell the stories without unintentionally condoning the reality. If, as they say, they are treating the sexism and racism of the time period accurately then the show might not actually provide a lot of roles for actors who are not white men. You see where I'm going? I don't want revisionism in drama, don't get me wrong. I'm just a wary of opting for a setting that might inadvertantly provide the same roles it did then to actors now - although I am sure the writers took this into consideration.

In one clip from the promo, the main ad man, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) talks to a black waiter in a restaurant. The white maitre d' comes by to make sure the waiter isn't being "too chatty" - and Dan, surprised, assures him they were just "having a conversation". Realistic and sympathetic - but the black actor (in 2007) is still playing a waiter. Granted, this is not the only role available to him anymore - and perhaps there is much more to his character and his storyline than I glimpsed. But it still gave me pause.

I guess Sopranos had similar issues. If you were an Italian actor, hurray. If not, please move on to the next show, thank you. But I don't think that should've prevented the Sopranos from getting made. And I wouldn't want to prevent Mad Men from reaching screens either. Like I said, I'm eagerly anticipating it and I certainly won't judge it till I've seen it.

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, emerges from Mad Men. Will it be popular? Will it instill a certain nostalgia in young white guys for a time that perhaps looks pretty swell from the outside? Will it influence women's fashions? (We've already been tilting towards belted waists and Spanx.) Will it push smoking back into vogue among a certain set? The repressed office atmosphere of the time - rampant with casual sexual harrassment - will be an interesting contrast to today's office equality with-a-broader-cultural-side-dish "raunch"*.

One scary thought - what if this is just Entourage (a show I can't watch more than 20 seconds of) set 47 years ago?

As you can see, for all my love of Nostalgic Americana, I have reservations about the actual conditions of the time. So now I wait till the show airs.

Anyone up for a premier night cocktail party? Suits and frocks required. Gimlets served.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Books, Books, and More Books

I went to Indigo's website and checked when the 2008 Writer's Market comes out and how much it will be.

Then I noticed at the bottom of the page, a little section called "May we also recommend?" based on, I presume, what I had clicked on.

This is what it said:

May we also recommend...

Dead Reckoning by Robert C. Brewer


UFOs - 7 Things You Should Know by Robert C. Brewer.

At first I thought this was some sort of omen (Publishing is deadly! You seem delusional!), but I soon realized that the compiler of "Writer's Market 2008" and the other books share the same name save one initial.


Ran into friend and former Starbucks regular, S., yesterday. She is a voracious reader and asked me what I'd been reading lately. I've been reading Agatha Christie. (So had she!) I read all the Poirots (I think) when I was quite young and now I'm old enough to appreciate Miss Marple. So far I've read:

Murder at the Vicarage - a very funny book, narrated by the Vicar of St. Mary Mead and the first Marple book
They Do it with Mirrors - takes place at the Serrocold home for delinquents that Christie set a few mysteries in
4:50 from Paddington - a murder witnessed as two trains pass in the afternoon

If I could, I'd read them all in Harper Collins' hardcover "facsimile editions" (click any of the above). They've re-issued some Marples and some Poirots with fantastic old covers. They're not cheap, but I did find one at a used bookstore recently.

I haven't watched any of the BBC series with Geraldine McEwan yet, but I hear it's very good. It airs on CBC and PBS too.


Also read:
Mobile Library: The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom

Still reading:
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer

To be read:
Enemies; A Love Story by Isaac Bashevis Singer

To write:

So, what are you reading?

Note: As for whether I purchase used/new books; today I made a decision. Books by dead authors (or out of print books) I can buy used. Books by living authors I'll buy new or borrow from the library. I think it will ease my conscience. I'll let you know.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Public Service Announcement

I needed a plumber.

I thought about it. I decided to check the website for that show, Holmes on Homes, 'cause Mike Holmes seems straight as an arrow, and if he recommended a plumber, hopefully they'd be honest. There is a list of contractors on the show's website, so I clicked plumbing on the scroll-down menu and contacted the first one on the page. The plumber (who is actually the guy that does the work on the show) came in today and he was FANTASTIC.

He was Mike Richter from DanMac Plumbing and Drain Services Ltd and he was super nice, smart, efficient, honest, friendly and very reasonable. I will definitely call him again if I ever need a plumber. They're based in Etobicoke, but I suspect they serve the entire GTA.

There you go. Isn't that the most useful information you've ever gleaned from this blog?

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Just bought Dan Ho's new book, "Rescue from Domestic Perfection". I'd never heard of him before. Apparently he's going to have his own show on the "Discovery Health Channel" - I hope that doesn't ruin him.

The book is wonderful. I feel like it reminds me of how I used to think about style. Somewhere along the way, I started feeling "if I had more money, everything would be prettier" - which is definitely not how I grew up. Even my parents got a bit caught up in the past decade with cooking shows incessantly showcasing gadgets and appliances.

Anyhow, Ho's philosophy is both old-school and refreshing. In terms of stuff, he asks you to evaluate what you own based on:
1. Singularity - is what you own original or someone else's idea of what's "stylish"?
2. Legacy - could you pass it on? would you want to? would anyone else want it?
3. Adaptability - do you have a kitchen gadget that does only one thing that you use once a year? (and... why?)
4. Value - not just cost, but "aggravation" value - is it worth it for you to grow your own tomatoes if you're just going to spend more energy and time and money fighting bugs? maybe you'd prefer to buy them from a farmer's market insetad?
5. Emotion - what is your emotional resonance to your belongings? did you inherit a weird china pattern from your grandma that you stash away? Ho suggests you use it and let it remind you of where you came from and who you love

I'm only half-way through the book, but I already feel somewhat liberated from both the insidious expectations set up by home & lifestyle magazines,and my own expectations. I'm reminded of why I have a blue and yellow and periwinkle and red apartment (yes, for real). And why I have a collection of "adopted" chairs and red mugs that match nothing. Beyond that, though, the book constantly reminds you that the point of it all is love and joy - as corny as that may sound. The point of having dishware is so you can eat on it, and enjoy doing so with family and friends. So simple, so obvious, but good to read nonetheless.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Summer in the City

Denis McGrath has a pretty good analysis of the Eckler/Apatow knockoff knock down on his blog, Dead Things On Sticks. Eckler's own missive at Maclean's is here.

The Toronto Fringe Festival is starting up soon. I plan on seeing James Gilpin's Bride of Sasquatch. Beatriz Yuste is a funny gorgeous woman, and I'm going to try and support her. Check out the "Bride of Sasquatch" facebook group or the Fringe program for more details.

The Worldwide Short Film Fest runs June 12-17. Time to start perusing programs.

Lastly, the Luminato festival is on in Toronto right now. The programs are so varied and each sounds so fantastic that reading the website makes me dizzy. There are both ticketed and free events spanning dance, music, literature, theatre, visual arts, and "celebrations". Tonight Lila Downs plays at Harbourfront (free), and the National Ballet has a live simulcast of their performance at the Elgin Theatre (free, but tix required). All in all, from what I've seen and heard from others, this is a festival worth keeping.

I almost forgot! Booked!, "a new reader's festival" is on now too! I've missed most of it, but there are still two days left, including A Tribute to Stephen King tomorrow at the John Bassett theatre.

Please comment on what you've seen or intend to see!

As for books, I've been on a bit of a nonfiction kick, reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. It is absolutely fascinating, and very worthwhile if you want to learn a little bit about your own subconscious. I've reserved his previous book, The Tipping Point from the library.

I also read Oliver Sacks' An Anthropologist on Mars. In the past year or two I have developed an intense fascination with neurology. Sacks deals with seven different cases in this book, which is a really interesting overview of several neurological disorders, including Tourette's and Autism. I found that when I was done, though, I wanted to research some of the cases in more depth on my own. I think I'll have to clear a whole shelf as I go through Sacks' books. Some good companions to 'Anthropologist' are Dr. Temple Grandin's own book , Animals in Translation, as well as the documentary and website of Dr. Duncan McKinlay, Life's a Twitch.

Right now I'm reading fiction again: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I'm only a third of the way through, but it's terrific. I wish I'd read it five years ago.

As for the writing, I've got 62 pages to go with the first draft revising. Not bad, but not great. There are two parts of the manuscript that desperately need surgery of some kind. I'm just not sure which kind. And if I amputate, will I have to write up a whole prosthetic to help the thing walk? What? You got a problem with my metaphors? Huh?

Ok, let me know what events you're attending. Or don't. Toronto's not that big, I'll probably see you there.