Flowers

So much symbolism wrapped up in something so temporal

So much symbolism wrapped up in something so temporal

I didn’t bring you flowers today.

I know I usually do on Thursdays,

But that’s just it, the problem,

I usually do on Thursdays.

Flowers have become rote;

Like the sunrise and sunset.

Assumed, ignored, a fact,

Something we take as a given.

And not just by you, you see,

But by me, the florist, the neighbour.

If you don’t get flowers today,

It’s not that I love you any less,

That you have become less important,

But that you are too important for trivia.

Flowers should be special—are special—

Like each and every sunrise and sunset.

They should be adored and admired

Like I adore and admire you every day.

Flowers should make people stop

And smile, and breathe, and think.

Every flower should be a memory

Burned into our brains, triggering

Love, joy, serenity, excitement, bliss.

I didn’t bring you flowers today.

I know I usually do on Thursdays,

But not today.

Today, I brought you feathers.

Let’s go to the Ex – Part One

Every year for two weeks in August, going back to the Ex has nothing to do with trying to rekindle an old flame…or does it?

Ending on Labour Day, the Canadian National Exhibition plays host to families from throughout the Greater Toronto Area, often dragged by parents trying to relive their own childhoods.

At 134 years old, the grand lady is starting to seriously show her age. She struggles every year to keep up with a population that is increasingly more comfortable keeping its head in a Blackberry or iPad.

She’s creaky. She’s doddering. She smells funny. But she’s ours, and I think we’ll keep her for a few more years yet.

Here are some of the people who agree with me.

PS If you want to learn more about old things Canadian, check out this great blog Bite Size Canada by T.K. Morin

Shapes and colours – Toronto style

A seemingly random assortment of images highlighting the unusual and unexpected.

Summer in the City – Toronto-style

No monsters today, just people taking in the sights and enjoying the beautiful weather on a Sunday afternoon.

Monstrous Toronto

While wandering the streets of Toronto yesterday with a couple friends, we stumbled through the Kensington Market region in the downtown core, which becomes an urban pedestrian market every Sunday.

At one end, a series of creatures emerged from the overgrown garden of a house, catching my eye and my imagination.

I haven’t been through the artist Moses Kofi’s web site, but offer it (and some of his creations) here for your amusement and intrigue.

PS I am in no way connected with the artist…I just really like his stuff!

Just say k(no)w

What once was common knowledge may now be a lie

What once was common knowledge may now be a lie

There was a time in my life when knowledge was vitally important to me. A time when nothing was more important than learning new facts that would help me understand my universe. I wanted to be smart and being smart meant knowing lots of stuff.

This belief lasted decades. Kept my shelves full of books. Kept me glued to documentaries. And in many circles, made me “that” guy.

More recently, however, I have come to decide that knowledge isn’t all that important in my life. That its pursuit, while never a waste of time, can never be an end unto itself. And as much as anything else, I have decided this because I have learned that knowledge is transitory.

I don’t mean transitory in the sense that I will ultimately forget the very facts I spent all that time learning, although this is true. You can’t believe how much stuff I don’t remember. Rather, it is the malleability of the knowledge itself to which I refer.

Facts are not absolute and unchanging. Facts are incredibly well supported theories given what we know right now. Tomorrow, those thoughts I considered facts today may no longer hold.

I look at the book I received from my great-grandmother decades ago—a very trusting woman who understood a young child’s thirst for knowledge. When this natural history was published in 1886, its contents were fact. In the intervening 127 years between now and then, however, many of the “facts” have changed or been significantly reinterpreted.

The same is true for the science I studied and practiced only 20 years ago. In many ways, I might as well have been chipping rocks to make spears as measuring compounds on scales and in Erlenmeyer flasks.

Knowledge doesn’t just expand—more true for some than others, sadly—but it also morphs into new and wondrous things, like so much quicksilver. Grasp knowledge too tightly and it runs everywhere, and again like quicksilver, may poison you and the people around you.

I no longer feel the need to know anything but merely to allow knowledge to wash back and forth over me like a tide, and with each arc of the moon, taking what I need to function that day and leaving the rest to chance or another day.

I don’t know and for the first time in my life, I am comfortable with that.

Who's the dodo now, eh?

Who’s the dodo now, eh?

A matter of character

Method improv taken a tad too far

Method improv taken a tad too far

When we create stories, we try to come up with truly amazing characters; characters that will resonate in our audience’s memory, long after they’ve finished with our story. Unfortunately, what usually happens is we end up with characters that flatten on the page, becoming two-dimensional versions of our goal. The character may flare momentarily when their plot becomes particularly exciting, but for the most part, they are lifeless and have no depth.

Like subtext in our dialogue, so much that makes a character real has nothing to do with what they are saying or doing. It’s the intangibles, the subtleties that inform their speech and actions.

Would Darth Vader, for example, have been nearly as imposing without the emphysema? What would you think of Forrest Gump without his omnipresent blankness?

Years ago, in an improv class, we did an exercise in character when the instructor told us to endow our character with some physical attribute, but not to share that attribute with others, whether verbally or by incorporating it into the scene. Let the attribute impact your character and see what happens was the request.

I decided that my character’s left foot caused him excruciating pain every time he took a step. As the scene unfolded and my character found it necessary to move, I found that my sentences grew shorter, more clipped, and my patience with people wore thin. Requests to come look at this or hand me that were met with general reluctance and irritation. Everything about my character screamed leave me alone.

I did not wince when I walked. I did not massage my foot while seated. I did my level best to give no outward sense of what was wrong.

When the instructor surveyed the other students, both within the scene and watching, about what our various attributes were, none of us really knew. All they could say was that my character was very angry and a bit of an asshole.

When told I had an extremely painful foot, it was obvious. And please realize, I am NOT an actor. This was not about my Oscar-worthy performance.

But it does show that by making a very small choice about a character, a choice that has nothing to do with plot, you can significantly inform that character and how he or she interacts with others and his or her environment.

When I worked on my first screenplay, I looked for something that affirmed how cool a customer my antagonist was. I wanted something subtle that would indicate he had the ultimate confidence in himself and his manifest destiny. Something that said I have all the time in the world because the world will wait for me.

It was my last point that settled it for me. My character would never use contractions in his speech. From his perspective, every word he uttered was important, was specifically chosen for maximum impact and so why would he remove any of the letters. And because his destiny was your destiny, you would sit patiently and absorb everything he had to say, no matter how long it took.

Now the average reader or movie goer may never consciously notice this, but for many, they’ll experience the malevolent calm of the character.

And perhaps more importantly, as with the sore foot in the previous example, the contraction-free speech informed how I wrote the character. It forced me to slow down as I wrote his dialogue, to consider each and every word he spoke, to ensure they fit the creature I had created. Ironically, that I the writer served him the way he would expect to be served.

Based on the reader feedback to date, it is working.

Look at the characters you’ve created and ask yourself what physical tic, affectation or neurosis informs their lives. If you can’t identify one, can you introduce one to increase the depth of the character or heighten his or her reactions?

Even if it only helps you to better understand and write your character, the exercise will have been worth it.

(Images are property of owners and are used here without permission, because I didn’t eel like asking.)

Too cool for fish school

Too cool for fish school