It Was Meant As a Joke. I Didn’t Get It.

I was never cool as a kid.  I didn’t get the inside jokes most of the time, and unless it was a literary reference or involved movies or music from the 30s and 40s, I rarely understood pop culture references.  I was middle-aged before my time, and I’m not getting any younger.

That being said, I still sometimes try.  For example, I am enamoured of Twitter and so witnessed the trending of what seemed to be an impossible film.  I gave in to my need to be cool:  I watched the re-run of SHARKNADO on Thursday night.

I am not proud of myself for doing this.  It was a dreadful, dreadful movie that the director and others have said was meant to be a bloody, gory, inside joke about horror films.   It took 18 days (that many?  given the quality of the appearance of the movie, I would have said 8 tops, and 3 in post-production) and a million dollars to make (or maybe two, depending on who you read in researching this) and earned lousy ratings (maybe up to 1.4 million people on the debut night) for the SyFy network.  Still, the network and everyone involved in making this piece of purest schlock says it was a hit! People loved it! They’re looking at a sequel, maybe with Johnny Depp!!

If you saw it and enjoyed it for what the network and movie makers say was its purpose — a light-hearted albeit gory summer movie — then good for you.  I have other movies, better movies, with which to take a break from the summer heat, starting with another movie about sharks, a cheap-to-make but easy to look at and frightening as hell little number called JAWS. Still, if SHARKNADO rocks your boat (or your Hummer or your helicopter or your chain saw or your frickin’ bar stool) then… yea??

The thing about jokes is, they’re supposed to be funny.  And inside jokes are supposed to be presented with a wink and a nod to the audience.  Yes, I got some of the references to other movies (not least, JAWS, when they paraphrased “I think we need a bigger boat”) and a couple of other pop culture toss-offs, but it wasn’t enough.  Every plot contrivance possible was built into the story: separated young-ish middle-aged couple with conflicted adult children; slightly crazy best friend who becomes hero blowing up a Hummer & dying; drunken friend who becomes hero saving dog & dying; idiot boyfriend of wife who just dies; orphan waitress, former shark victim, whiz with a shotgun, with crush on husband; bus filled with stranded children; old folks’ home — at an airport!! — in danger of sharks in their swimming pool; husband as Jonah but with a chain saw.

All those stories, with completely mis-matching footage, cheesy special effects and at least six actors who really ought to look into real estate as a different, wiser, career path all added up to 90 minutes of my time I will never get back.  Still, I did learn a couple of things I want to share:  inside jokes are great fun, as long as you’re already on the inside.  They’re not meant for outsiders and it was foolish of me to think I could be one of those people.  And the other thing I learned is

whale shark

when the life guard — or a surfing champion named ‘Fin’ — says get outta the water, get outta the water!!

(photo of whale shark from National Geographic)


Another Random Day…More Random Thoughts

Rachel Maddow, I think I love you. And I know I admire your spirit & sense of humour & heads-up attitude and, especially, your stick-to-itiveness-without-getting-bitchy.  Gov McDonnell will never come on your show because he doesn’t have your balls. So to speak.

Twitter is like a love affair: it has several interesting benefits, and also many, many demands for your attention.

Missing someone’s company is not the same as wanting them back in your life.  However, I really miss my girlfriends and very much want them back in my life.  And I really miss my book club friends, too.  Reading is still fun but not quite the same.

Speaking of books, I finished A GATHERING OF SAINTS by Christopher Hyde this week.  My father had this book in his library and I’m pretty sure he loaned it to me once, but I cannot remember reading it before.  At all.  But, I got it out of the “family library” when we broke it up a few years ago, and I’m so glad! It’s really, really good!  I mean, engaging, fascinating, thrilling, can’t put it down sort of book.  Thanks, Ross… someone I miss and do want back in my life.

Cookies from an Italian bakery are so much better than cookies from any other kind of bakery.  And almost as good as my own chocolate chip & oatmeal raisin cookies.

Time travel stories give me a headache from thinking about them too much. So why am I so excited to see AWAKE on NBC next week?  Maybe because I bought a new bottle of Bufferin yesterday?

We make our own soda these days. It’s actually quite fun to do, less expensive to drink, and a bizarre topic of discussion at the dinner table. Go SodaStream!

Writing a book proposal that includes, but is not limited to cooking, still means doing a lot of cooking.  Jeffrey is eating well, but cooking to a sort of schedule is sort of weird.  And I still haven’t made GoldenRod.

I love Meyer Lemons.

The Grey Cat loves olive juice.  Not olive oil but olive juice… She is a funny, funny cat.

It’s Oscar night on Sunday, and I am reminded again of how few movies I’ve seen in the past couple of years. I used to go all the time! Well, for a while I actually had to go because of my work but still… I love the actual going to the movie and the eating of the popcorn and the communal sharing of the movie experience with other people. Although, sometimes, on a weekday matinée, it’s only 4 or 5 other people.

I have been gagging my way through the Republican debates (and let’s avoid any discussion at all about how these are not actually debates….) and visions of Barry Goldwater keep dancing through my head.

Do you think when he leaves the White House, Barack “Barry” Obama will release an album of Al Green/blues covers? ’cause if he does, I’ll buy at least a dozen copies.  We have Republican friends who just love good music…

And finally, I would like to live in a thatched roof cottage someday.  Maybe just as a long-term holiday rental but a real thatched roof cottage.  Near Oxford.


Why I Follow @RealHughJackman (…and others)

I am not a gorpy fan girl.

First, I’m way too old to be called “girl” except by my best wine-and-lunch buddies.  Second, I’m not gorpy.  Oh, I may occasionally get tongue-tied by someone whose work I really admire, but I rarely drool on anyone important, and I never forget my manners.

However, I will admit that sometimes I can be a fan, occasionally a very big fan.  Some of the people I admire most are people I enjoying following on Twitter, although I also “follow” them in real life – through their books and movies and plays and quilts.  And there are some people I just like to follow on Twitter, knowing that they will never follow me, which is fine of course. I mean, @VP is never going to follow me but I still like to read what he has to say.

There are some people with whom I’m becoming sort of friends (Twitteriends??), @janetsomerville (& her wonderful teen lit students) and @mrtylermartins and @ninatypewriter and @shksprn.  And I recognize that I’m very lucky that there are a few people of whom I think great deal, people who follow me on Twitter (like @OneBigTable and @EMILIOTHEWAY and @QuiltingMuriel and @simonwinchester and @reallylittle, amongst many others) and that always makes me smile.

But being a fan on Twitter is nothing compared to be a fan in the second row of the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto watching @RealHughJackman sing and dance and story-tell his way deeper into my heart.

Okay… for this performer, I get a little gorpy.

First, he’s gorgeous.  I know, I know.  Looks aren’t everything.  But there’s this lithe, dark man in a formal suit, no tie, moving around the stage like there’s rubber in his knees and tungsten in his thighs and he’s got a few wrinkles enough to be wisely experienced and a smile big enough to be forever fresh, and the fact that he just forgot to shave that day (this was not a three day growth, this was “I lost my razor and don’t give a damn”) only made the whole package more than just hot.  It was very…. manly, kind of like Cary Grant meets Gene Kelly.

Second, he loves what he does.  And if he doesn’t love being up on that stage singing and dancing, he’s the best damn actor ever.  That show was two hours long, no intermission, and I was completely, totally entertained.  Except by the women singers, who were mic’d too hot, thus rendering them nearly useless in terms of understanding the words they were singing.

Third, he loves his father and he loves his son, and he absolutely has no problems telling you that, just as I’m sure he tells them.  Hugh told a wonderful story about his dad coming to see him on a (literally) flying trip from Australia to NYC to see him perform at Carnegie Hall, and of the 1785 women and 214 gay men in the audience that afternoon, all but three of us were in tears when he told it.  And then his son, Oscar, came out on stage near the end playing a didgeridoo, and the hug and top of the head kiss…. again with the tears.

Fourth, he’s not the world’s best singer.  Actually, he’s about 37th on my list of favourite singers, and I cannot believe I would ever buy an album of his (although if he should record Peter Allen’s ‘Tenterfield Saddler’, I would download that on my iPhone – it’s a wonderful song, very Australian, made me feel I needed a XXXX, and he did a superior job on it).  BUT he sells the songs so well that he doesn’t need to be a great singer.

And, for what it’s worth, I believe the world needs a re-mounting of “Carousel” starring Hugh Jackman.  That would be his great live musical theatre role.  Forget the movie version “Les Mis”, Hugh.  The best Thenardier ever died 20-plus years ago, back when “they” first talked about making a movie out of this play, and without my dear Graeme Campbell, the movie just won’t be the same.  Even with you.

Fifth, and I cannot stress this enough, Hugh Jackman is this giant movie star and Tony winning musical theatre star who is drop dead gorgeous, wickedly funny, wildly entertaining, but he is also a completely ordinary bloke.  Really.  And maybe that’s a trick.  Maybe the best of our “stars” are those who make us believe that they are just like us, only with bigger bank balances.  Only what I believe about Hugh Jackman is that, before he is anything else, he’s a romantic husband, an engaged father, and a terrific son and brother.  The rest of it is just… tinsel and make-believe.

I’m really glad I got to see all those things – the ordinary bloke, the father, the son, the guy who’s having too much fun with Dave the would-be screenwriter and tea drinker, even the glimpses of tinsel.  Thanks for a brilliant afternoon, Hugh Jackman. You’re still making me smile.

PS:  @RSantiagoHudson – thanks for looking me up.  I wish you followed me, but I know you’re not a Twitter freak – yet!  I’ll be watching for you… on Twitter and on tv!

What’s Your Twitter Handle?

If I’m going to ask what YOUR handle is, I probably should give mine, yeah?  So, if you Tweet & want to follow/be followed, I’m @the8tregirl

I got into a bit of a discussion yesterday on Twitter with noted theatre critic J Kelly Nestruck and dramaturge/actor Toby Malone about selling stuff on Twitter, and what happens when someone whose writing skill is greatly admired – thus why you follow them – becomes a shill for various retailers, which is why you may now need to unfollow them.

How each of us feels about it I will leave to you to think about  – or ask, if you really need to know – because what I want to focus on is how interesting it was to have this discussion at all!  I read Kelly’s criticisms faithfully and I will be going to see Toby in OUR TOWN at Soulpepper next month, but I know neither man personally. Except… now I kinda feel I do.

Not just because of the conversation about shilling, but because I’ve been “following” both on Twitter for a few months, and now both of them are “following” me (just as an aside, I am vaguely uncomfortable using the word “follow” because it has stalker-ish connotations for me, which I know are ridiculous in this context but still, it’s there in the back of my mind), so this sort of conversation could happen again.  And I hope it does!

This is one of the benefits of sharing interests and perspectives on Twitter.  It’s just 140 characters, but that makes you focus.  There’s no room for fluff and adjectives – it’s all idea and muscle.  Or should be, the aforesaid shilling aside.  I am a person of catholic tastes, so I read/am read by people in various industries and pursuits, and again, I think that’s the pleasure of Twitter.  In no other reality (or at least, not since I stopped doing my talk show) would I have the chance to share ideas with Simon Winchester and Molly O’Neill, or find out about Janet Somerville, a great teacher in the GTA who’s working with Grade 11 & 12 boys, helping them fall in love with good books and tweeting about them,  or be able to help my friends and colleagues share their successes in theatre, literature and other pursuits, and of course I have previously mentioned my slavish devotion to @herbadmother, who makes me laugh and think and cry, which is tough to do in 140 characters.

This, of course, completely ignores the two gossip sites I follow like a cut ‘n curl maven

Facebook is wonderful, goodness knows I love the blogosphere as writer and reader, but Twitter has captured my imagination in ways I wouldn’t have believed a year ago when I first started Tweeting for the theatre that shall not be named.  It offers such great opportunity for personal enlightenment, for professional development, and yes, even for selling stuff you think nobody wants.  And, let’s not forget, there is a decided fun factor.

But what really makes Twitter extraordinary, beyond the effect that any other social media has in the world right now, is the power it has to affect… everything.  We see it in the unrest in the Middle East, same thing that’s happening (to a lesser extent) in the demonstrations in Wisconsin and Ohio, and with the creativity of flash mobs that have been bringing music and dance and moments of guerilla theatre to the marketplace.

I don’t go a day now without checking in three or four times to see what’s going on, if I have direct messages, personal responses, and in turn offering my own humble opinions or random thoughts or, sometimes, just plain trivial passing whiffs of almost ideas.  Also, I like keeping up with Thomas Gibson’s feet, but that’s a very personal situation I have with his beautiful, beautiful shoes….

Molly O’Neill @onebigtable

I am one of those gorpy fan people.  I can’t help it.  I try not to embarrass myself, but somehow I always bloody do.

There was the time I stepped on, crunched on, Jane Fonda’s toes… in the midst of her exercise celebrity!  There was the time I ploughed into Robin Williams while he was shopping with his son (and this was literally the day before he started shooting DEAD POET’S SOCIETY, a movie on which I very peripherally worked)!  There was the time I baked Rick Moranis butter tarts, only to find out they were just about the only goy food he didn’t like!  And then there was the time, at the airport in Boston, where if I had stood staring at Dr Andrew Young for one second more, I think the Secret Service would have arrested me; I so wanted to go over & shake his hand and just say ‘thank you’ but no, I was the complete & utter gorpy fan person.


So now I try to avoid too many situations where I can be gorpy, but today, without leaving my house, it happened all over again.  See, I am a huge Molly O’Neill fan.  If there are 3 people who know who she is…yea!  You must be friends of mine.  For those of you who don’t… she’s amazing.  She writes about food and people and life with such gentleness and insight.  She’s the writer I would like to be someday, and she even has a ‘beat’ I would love to cover.

For about ten years, Molly (like I know her – Molly!) was a food writer and columnist for the New York Times/Sunday Magazine.  I cooked from her column a lot, and never had a failure/disappointment with her stuff.  But it was the way she wrote that always delighted me.  And to this day, I have a story of hers, saved in my “Writers I Wish I Was” file (seriously, I have this file, centre drawer, right hand side).  It’s about her dad and her brother (big time baseball player Paul O’Neill) and a taxi ride.  Simple stuff, and yet so not.

Anyway, I kind of lost track of what she was doing for a few years and then I found out about One Big Table on Twitter.  I am a Twitter freak and am always exploring for new people to follow, new (or old) interests to ignite, and amongst the several publishing firms I follow was hers!  Which lead me to follow @onebigtable on Twitter and eventually to her website.  And that got me all excited about finding her again, and following her, and longing to get her book but you know the state of my cookery bookshelf… it’s a little crowded.

But this afternoon she had a contest… and I won!  Well, I was one of three… but that still makes me a winner!  Coming soon in the mail to me is a brand-new copy of ONE BIG TABLE by Molly O’Neill.  Please picture me with big cheesy grin.

And it gets better!  I tweeted my thanks, she tweeted back… and now Molly Freaking O’Neill is following me on Twitter. Now please picture me with an even bigger and slightly stupid grin.  God, I’m so gorpy.

I really shouldn’t be this excited about someone following me on Twitter, I know that.  But I am.  More excited, in fact, than I was when J. Kelly Nestruck started following me as the tweeting voice of another life, and I was pretty damned excited about that!

I mean, have you ever met someone you really, really admire, and it turns out that you made a really good impression on them?  Do you remember how that felt?  Well, that’s sort of what this means to me.  My father loved MFK Fisher; to him, she was the perfect food writer, not just because of her love of food & place, but because she told the stories of food & place so well.  That’s who Molly O’Neill is to me, my MFK Fisher.

So when I get the book and have absorbed it, and when I know the website better, I will be cooking.  And I will be inviting friends to join us at our table as we share food & stories & life.

Thank you Molly O’Neill.  From the bottom of my Paderno stock pot, thank you.