Literary Cussin’s …

So I was chatting a few days ago with my mom as she returned from a night out with my godmother. There was some sort of special night marking Barbados’ independence, and among some of the guests there, my mom (honourary Barbadian that she was) saw Canadian writer Austin Clarke.

I’d heard about Austin Clarke years before I’d ever read any of his material. My mom used to recall stories where she’d taken a night course in English with a couple of friends and had to read one of his books. She hated it, so much so, she never finished the book and never picked up another book by the man since.

My mom recalled pointing him out to my godmother and asking her if she read any books. “I tried reading his latest,” my godmother replied, “But I just couldn’t finish it. It was horrible.”

Why, I asked. Was it the story line? Because I heard there was a problem with the storyline.

The reason? Coarse language. It was the very reason my mom put down one of his earlier books so many years ago.

Now, I’m obviously from a different generation and society, where I’ve been surrounded by language like this fairly regularly. And, I must admit, I am guilty of having used this language myself, sometimes out of sheer frustration, but other times just for the sake of saying it.

But one point my mother brought up – and I can see where she’s coming from – is that, it’s one thing to say or hear such words. But to see them leap up from the page … the weight is a bit different. I remember being a bit taken aback the first time I read such language as a young teenager. Now I might linger on the words a half-second or two longer nowadays if I see them in print, but I don’t really flinch.

It does make me wonder, though: is seeing cusswords in books still a big deal. Some folks might say “no” and keep reading. Others might be more selective in the things they read and stop reading books that contain these words.

Sometimes in a newspaper, magazine, or on TV or radio, they sometimes use the words in a specific context to a story. Does the same apply for a piece of fiction? Poetry? When is it considered superfluous and unnecessary.

I eventually would like to write novels someday. Do I censor myself or leave the censoring to others?

My mother would rather I write children’s books instead. I guess in that way, she’d be able to read them.

It’s OVER!


For all my peeps who are avid watchers of Prison Break, you might appreciate what I’m about to say, which is in response to the fall finale episode that just aired:

WHAAAAAAAT?

Are you KIDDING me?!?!?

How is that ending even … FRIGGING … possible??

And it sucks that the show’s now on hiatus.

I may just have a seizure. Thanks, Fox.

UPDATE: Okay … so the hiatus is only for a couple months. I can live with that. At least it’ll give me a chance to catch up on all the episodes I couldn’t watch. Sigh of relief.

No seizures – for now.

My First Zanta Sighting

Tonight on my way home, I spotted Toronto’s mental, scary, unpaid, un-musical answer to New York’s Naked Cowboy. That’s right – Zanta.

I got my first glimpse at everyone’s favourite nutbar, in his trademark Zanta hat, camo shorts, running shoes and socks, and a jacket over his bare torso.

Only he wasn’t behaving nuts.

As I passed him on Front Street, by Union Station, I saw him talking to a couple of people in his really quick, I’ve-eaten-a-jar-of-coffee-beans way of speaking he has. But he was … calm.

No push-ups. No grabbing his own butt and pretending to make farting noises.

I saw him on Front Street, near Union Station, on my way to the bank.

Very un-Zanta. Maybe he actually is normal …

At Least It Wasn’t Real

Out dancing with friends last night, a new acquaintance and I were both parched and decided to head over to the bar for some water.

As we were shuffling and side-stepping our way back towards our group of friends, small bottles in hand, I was separated by a small gang of three trying to push past me in the opposite direction.

I was pushed slightly off-balance, into this girl facing the DJ booth.

“I’m soooo sorry,” I said. As I started to say, “Some people kinda pushed me”, the brunette turned around. She was wearing those big sunglasses as are all the rage, and obviously drunk.

“Heeeeey!” she yelled over the music, almost in that, I-think-I-know-you-from-somewhere. “Kiss my monkey!”

“What?” I said, looking at her strangely.

She then held up her left hand. On her index finger: some weird little finger-puppet-thingy that looked like a monkey. She then was yelling something drunkenly incoherent to me, and wiggling this thing around on her finger, and I’m pretty sure she ended the sentence with “C’mon, kiss my monkey!”

I thought at first it was one of those weird bachelorette party requirements, or something. But that thought passed. It was clearly weird.

But seeing no way out of it (considering I was sandwiched on all sides by early twentysomethings), I did the only thing I could. I gave the monkey a peck, then tried to move through the crowd as fast as humanly possible.

Nope – not one of my better moments.

But I’m so glad it wasn’t a hand puppet.

One Beer, Two Commercials

Everyone that drinks beer has that staple labels they live by, whether out at the bars, at home or hanging out with friends.

I don’t drink that much beer at all. Except for one – Red Stripe.

Maybe it’s the little Jamaican in me. But besides not finding it as harsh as other brands, I love it and am fiercely loyal to it (and can now justify the yellow T-shirt with the famous logo I got years ago when visiting my relatives).

But it’s kinda hard to come by. Out on the town, very few bars seem to serve them. So I’m forced to imbibe mixed drinks instead.

It’s not sold at the Beer Store, either – I have to scour the shelves for the six-pack of stubbies at the liquor store in the Imported section. And even the quantity of the stock’s small in size.

So, given how hard it is to actually find, you’d think they’ve have NO ad campaign whatsoever, right? Strangely enough, no. I discovered they have commercials.

Obviously, in Jamaica, they’re going to be advertising everywhere. Take a look at this commercial touting the virtues of Red Stripe:

It’s easygoing. It’s leisurely. But it’s too boring and amateurish for an audience outside the Caribbean (although I did suddenly have the urge to find a beach where I could sit with a stubby and watch the tide roll in and out).

So how DO you sell a beer that’s sold or drunk in very few places?

As it turns out, with a SERIES of commercials (which I guess ran in the States during football games earlier this year).

The secret weapon in wooing that fickle 21-50, like-their-Coors-with-their-beer-nuts target audience? A black dude with a Natural and a Jamaican accent wearing a suit and a Red Stripe sash.

I watched them. There’s like, I dunno, 10, 12 of them? It’s weird. Watching them, they’re not all that funny. Trying to explain them to someone else kind of is.

But here’s probably the best one out of the bunch:

As annoying as the commercials are, I’m afraid the next time I have a hankerin’ for the Red Stripe, the first thing that’ll pop into my head is that floating, disembodied, smiling face, cheering:

“Hooray beer!”

Goodbye, Ed

So yesterday’s glee was quickly doused by news this afternoon that a journalistic giant, Ed Bradley, had passed away.

I was taken aback, to be honest. I’d no idea he was even sick. It turns out, he’d kept his illness – leukemia – quiet. It was part of his nature not to complain, his colleagues said.

It’s funny. As soon as I was old enough to comprehend, I knew who he was. I’d remember my mom watching 60 Minutes most Sunday nights when I was younger; me sometimes leaving the room because I didn’t have the patience to sit through an entire news show. For many years, I think I’d merely taken him and his contributions for granted. I recently learned my brother loved him, had been watching 60 Minutes for a while and looked forward to seeing him in the opening credits.

Later, when I was in school and really started comprehending the kind of work he did, I thought, there’s no way in this world I could EVER be like him. He was investigative. Cool. Knew how to ask tough questions and get his answers. I remember being in my graduating year, looking at all the internship postings and seeing a posting for a scholarship in his name, for visible minorities. I glanced at it, glanced again, and talked myself out right out of applying – I didn’t think I had a chance.

But I think it was only today that I finally, really, got snatches of insight into what this guy did, and who he was.

The man had been to Vietnam, covering one of the most important stories of the last century. And he almost didn’t make it out alive.

He’d done countless stories and garnered many of well-deserved awards for them. This man was journalism personified. He worked hard. And he made sure that his stories were presented the way he intended: fairly and honestly.

But there was another side to him, the side a lot of people outside the industry seem to forget when they’re too busy cussing out the media for inaccuracy and apparent heartlessness. The man was human. He was a jazz aficianado. He loved food. And, as some of his friends and colleagues recalled tonight, a man with style, no matter what he wore.

But his passing today touched a lot of people, and brought out the human side in his friends in the business. This afternoon, one of the hosts of the network I worked at interviewed one of our senior correspondents in Washington – a big bear of a man – who, as it turned out, knew Bradley for 30 years, and was in (and also trying to get out of) Vietnam during the war with him. I watched and listened to him recall what he was like, what kind of person he was like.

And then, with about 30 seconds left in the interview, I saw it, the most touching scene. The stoic facade, the composure he had maintained for the whole interview, started to crack. His chin wobbled, and his face fought not to pull and crumple into that expression we all make, just as we start to cry. I’m sure he knew he lost one of his best friends before he sat down in the chair. But I think at that moment, suddenly, he really knew, and realization of him no longer behing around hit him all at once. That’s the kind of impression he made.

This evening, I was just thinking about the day, and for some reason, I remembered that one time I had to write an essay as part of my application package to a school here in Toronto. I don’t quite remember the details, but I do remember writing that I wanted to be a messenger of truth – something overdramatic and cliche to that effect.

It turns out a messenger of truth’s been in our midst this whole time. Except today, he was called to deliver his message elsewhere. It was good while it lasted. He’ll be missed.

Signs The World’s Not Yet Ending

Okay, for real –

Is it just me, or is life in the world I read about and watch on TV righting itself?

Sunday: Saddam gets the nod for the noose. No- brainer. But I think they should hold off until that other trial finishes.

Tuesday: Britney finally does the right thing and drops her greasy, freeloadin’, wrestling-ruining husband in the pile of Things No Longer Wanted, which includes items like those Cheetos she was eating during her trailer-trash pregnancies, and the some of the baby weight caused by said Cheetos. The best part? She goes ice skating the day after … all the way to the bank. Scary part? I got EXCITED. And I don’t even like her that much. I must be coming down with something.

And today? Even better than earlier this week, and way back in high school when all the kids cheered when we found out O.J. was not guilty, combined:

The Democrats got the House. AND the Senate. Aaaand Donald Rumsfeld was shown the door.

Whaaaaat?!

It’s, like, the trifecta of justice! I’m so happy, I could cuss. But I’ll just settle for having shivers all over my scalp while cussing in my head … which I hope isn’t the pre-cursor to an aneurysm from all the excitement.

If this was only up until now, what else could possibly happen on Thursday to make me do the crazy dance? ‘Cause I’m only a couple shuffles away.

Now, if someone upstairs could only do something about this, this, this, and this, then I know this week isn’t some sort of cruel joke whose awful punchline hasn’t played out yet.

And oh yeah, and if you manage to accomplish all that, I’ve got a personal request: can someone either do something about this, like, permanently? It’s getting on my nerves. I’m also willing to take one of these, which should come complete with this (the second, not the first), and … this, as ample compensation for pain, suffering and mental distress.