Thursday, June 24, 2010


While I am totally a fan of the instant-gratification model of doing things, because every human being is, at our horrible little infant cores, I can be convinced to wait for something every once in a while. This waiting model, prided by abstinence-model sex-educators all over this continental landmass, can lead to some insane Christmas-morning countdown type behaviours. And sexual behaviour, come to think of it, but, in the great tradition of abstinence-model sex-educators all over this continental landmass, let's just gloss over that part and move on, okay?

I'm thinking specifically of pop-culture events, like movies or music or books, because waiting for those in this day and age seems almost...old school. I remember back in 2004, when the Beastie Boys were releasing To The Five Boroughs, seeing the CDs stacked up behind the register at my local record shop and just being absolutely mental with anticipation. I begged the startled teenage clerk to sell it to be a day early. After Hello Nasty, which I was 100% obsessed with for, like, three years, TT5B was six years in the making. I read about it in magazines and online, little snippets telling listeners that the Boys were in the studio, that there had been delays, that they were working with an old-school sound and OH MY GOD IT'S BEEN SIX YEARS ALREADY GIVE ME THE MUSIC.

When you're anticipating something so hard, it begins to take on mythical proportions. This Christmas is going to be the best Christmas ever, this birthday is going to be the wildest birthday ever, the Ramadan is going to the hungriest Ramadan ever. Little kids are especially prone to this kind of OTT excitement. Not surprisingly, since little kids are also the demographic with the most excitement-building accessories: from advent calendars to visits with the mall Santa, from hand-written birthday party invitations to putting the tooth under the pillow the night before. Children are trained in the art of fully losing their minds about an upcoming event; by the time they reach adolescence, they're more than happy to wait in line at midnight on a Monday night in three-degree weather for a video game or concert tickets.

Clever marketing schemes abound for building intense levels of interest and anticipation. Currently, even though it stars Michael Cera and he's a totally miscast noodle, I'm stoked for Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, the new flick from Edgar "Shaun of the Dead" Wright. It's based on a Canadian comic that's set in Toronto - not some anonymous large hipster-infested city, but Toronto, my chosen city - and populated with various hipsters and nerds and music goofballs and psychotic teenage girls. And it promises to be funny. And I'll probably start dressing like some of the female characters, because I'm easily influenced. Scott Pilgrim's website currently offers a chance for potential audiences to remake themselves in the image of a Brian Lee O'Malley character, complete with stubby legs and outlandishly coloured hairdos. I'm obsessed.

The last thing I looked forward to with this kind of intensity was also a comic book: Brian K. Vaughn's impeccable Y:The Last Man. Starring Yorick Brown as the titular Y, Vaughn's comics chronicle the "gendercide;" while women are fine, Earth's males have all suddenly and simultaneously expired. It's a ten-volume series comprised of 60 issues. I started reading them right after the ninth volume had been published, and, new to the comic-book world, assumed that the final volume was somewhere on the horizon.

More than a year later, delirious with need for resolution, after re-reading my nine volumes with a Talmudic intensity, the final chapter was published and purchased. And read. And re-read. And scrutinized, and discussed with fellow nerds and nerdettes. Finally, with the satisfaction that can only come from waiting for an experience to be complete, I slid the book onto the shelf with all its comic-book brothers and surveyed the scene.

Be it a book - I was highly invested in the wait for Jonathan Safran Foer's sophomore novel Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close, which was lovely but not the masterpiece I'd been hoping for - a video game, a movie, a clothing line, a vacation, a concert, a wedding day, a new car, a trip to the amusement park, or even just an icy can of Coke Zero, waiting for something can be so deliciously fraught with it's-going-to-be-good tension that it almost overshadows the actual event. In the best of all possible worlds, the built up excitement is met head-on by the awesomeness of the experience: the waiting buck buys the best possible bang. And for all those schmucks who were conned by their abstinence-model sex-educators all over this continental landmass, that bang might be more literal. For the rest of us, well: "We're going to Disneyworld!"

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Intimacy Issues

One of my pals, who writes a very good blog, is having an issue. It seems like the potent combination of public posting + intimate subject matter + small-town-ish neighbourhood has equaled some folks coming up to her on the street and cackling, "I know who you're writing about!"

Ugh. This makes me crazy. I'm not a fancy writer by any stretch of the imagination: I don't cite my sources or quote verbatim, lending this here webpage all the credibility of a Hollywood starlet denying her booze consumption. I sometimes - often, all the time - engage in flights of the imagination, making up slightly wild stories and embroidering ones that might be considered true. This has a lot to do with style (what? I have style) and less to do with ensuring the utmost in journalistic integrity.

I don't post recipes, I don't talk about politics, I don't write fiction. I feel no need to post a disclaimer on my blog that warns readers that the contents are untested opinions that have been dilligently researched by way of me having a thought and then writing it down. Most non-professional blogger fall into the same category: have a thought, write it down. So it goes.

It frustrates me that my blogging pal is getting all this flak from her geographically intimate readers. Any storyteller has the right to change, to shape, to modify the contents of his or her own tale, and we do it all the time in real life. When asked, "How was your day?" most of us leave out the details of brushing our teeth, pooping and thinking about what it would be like, really, to kill a zombie. We say we're fine, and that we went to work and watched some television, and keep our mouths shut about our internal breakthrough regarding zombie-killing weaponry (which, I'm going to posit right now, should include an aluminum baseball bat, a shotgun and a machete. At least).

When I blog, I don't always keep it 100% real. Not that I'm a liar, but I change names and locales, I exaggerate events, I leave out identifying moles and tattoos. Like me, my pal writes a blog that is based on her life: her experiences and her thoughts on those experiences. And, like me, she disguises or leaves out some details to protect the innocent and annoy the guilty. I like it when friends can say, "I was there with you!" and I afford them that opportunity as often as I can. And when the stakes are low - we went to get ice cream and here are my thoughts on Hagen-Daas - it's nice to wave at my friends and say, "Hello!"

But when the topics get sensitive - sex, drugs, friendships, relationships - she and I are both more likely to generalize. Say I launch into a post about how I was friends with a girl since high school and we were really tight, but ever since she moved in with her boyfriend, it's been weird between us. Does it make me feel better to say this girl's name is Laura and she lives in a condo on the waterfront? That her fella works for Rogers? That we once made out, years ago, under the influence of a New Year's Eve party's keg? Nope. So I don't: those details are fake. But the underlying topic - losing a friend to a new partner - is real, has happened, and is one that I might write about, because the experience is more universal than just me, sad and alone, listening to Morrissey and feeling rejected.

Intimacy isn't something I'm likely to exploit just for the sake of a blog post, and neither is my friend. Even though we're writing about personal stuff, we protect our friends and lovers by not telling strangers in Helsinki all about it. For people to assume that we're moronic writers who have no idea of the consequences of the written, published, online word? That's insulting. That's stupid. It sounds harsh, but reading someone's blog doesn't make you friends. I love knowing that there are people out there whom I never met, and will never meet, who give some form of a damn about what I have to say. And I love knowing that there are people out there who read this who know and like me, in person.

It annoys the living hell out of me that someone who falls somewhere in the middle, an acquaintance, would read my friend's website and decide that, because she has access to something my friend has given the whole world access to - her thoughts and feelings on a particular subject - that she can run up to my friend on the street and bray, "I know!" Because she doesn't. And she won't. And if she keeps reading, maybe she'll come to understand that.