BEST OF FRINGE NORTH (519) 2019
Finalist for 2019 Cayle Chernin Award for Theatre Production
“The tightly-paced and engaging An Atlas, A Necktie & Other Concerns makes you think about the life choices we make and sometimes regret.”
— Critic’s Pick, NNNN, NOW Magazine
“There’s a real tangible soul within the show and the entire cast really captures that, with each character feeling well-rounded both in writing and performance.”
—Mooney on Theatre
“A delightful play with as many twists and turns as an escape room game—Greenwood’s writing and her cast shine.”
— Deborah Smith, Artistic Director, Scripted Toronto
Read about An Atlas, A Necktie & Other Concerns on Broadway World.
An Atlas, A Necktie & Other Concerns is a comedic one act play about four lifelong 30-something friends, each with very different takes on how to lead the best life, locked in a strange escape room. There’s the sensible nine-to-fiver, the nonstop partier, the ambitious artiste and the peacekeeper with a potentially life-changing secret. Despite their one-of-a-kind love for one another, they can’t seem to stop holding each other back. But if they can just 4-7-8 and put their longstanding beefs aside to solve the riddles, they might just break free.
Written and directed by comedian, playwright and award-winning screenwriter Lauren Greenwood. Starring Blythe Haynes, Chantel McDonald, Myrthin Stagg & Yvonne Addai. Stage Managed by Duaa Zahra. Sound design by Tasha Schumann.
Best of Fringe North (519)
July 19 & 20, 2019
Various locations in Orangeville, ON
MEET OUR CAST
Yvonne AddaiYvonne is a theatre artist from Saskatoon and currently based in Toronto. She is a graduate from the University of Saskatchewan (B.F.A Acting). Her recent credits include Monday Night (Highway 55 Production/Live 5), Overhear (Nutrien Fringe Saskatoon), Pride & Prejudice (Persephone Theatre), The Shorts Cuts festival (Hardly Art Theatre), The Woodcutter and the Lion (Sum Theatre) and Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Theatre Naught/ Live Five). Yvonne has also been involved with Greystone Theatre in the productions of Cabaret, The Golden Age, Les Belle Soeurs and Coram Boy. She is thrilled to be part of this production.
Blythe HaynesBlythe holds her BFA from the University of Alberta, but calls Toronto home, where she is an actor, award-winning voice artist and producer. She is a co-founder of Gangway! Theatre Co. with playwright KT Bryski, and together they focus on Canadian, female-based stories. Their show Six Stories, Told At Night debuted at the Toronto Fringe this past year and was short-listed for Best of Fringe. She is currently co-producing the new musical Pregnancy Pact with The Edge Productions, which opens in Toronto this spring! Find her on twitter: @HaynesBlythe or check out Gangway!’s website for more details gangwaytheatre.com
Chantel McDonaldChantel is an actor born and raised in Toronto. Select theatre credits include: playing Louise in tears of a bullet in the 2018 Toronto Fringe, Agnes in Orphaned Egret’s production of She Kills Monsters, and Tracey in Bob Del Rio’s Professionally Ethnic at Summerworks 2017. Now Magazine named Professionally Ethnic one of the outstanding ensembles of the season. She has also appeared in Kazik Radwanski’s feature film Tower, Chris Power’s Bloodslinger and Kyisha Williams and Lindsey Addawoo’s short, Queen of Hearts which premiered at the 2018 Inside Out film festival.
Myrthin StaggMyrthin is an actor, writer, and producer based in Toronto, Ontario. She is a founding member of Loose Leaf Theatre Company, with whom she helped create Me With You a critically acclaimed play about mental illness. Previous theatre credits include: better than this (Moose and Moa), Noises Off (Soulpepper Theatre), Me With You (Loose Leaf Theatre), The Hunt for Red Wille, Moonshine (Toronto Irish Players). Selected television and film credits include: Star Trek Discovery, Diggstown, Cavendish, Mr. D, Killjoys, Designated Survivor, and Reign.
MEET OUR CREW
Duaa Zahra – Stage ManagerDuaa is a third year Performance Production major at the Ryerson Theatre School, and is thrilled to be joining the team of An Atlas, A Nectktie, & Other Concerns. When not found working in the dark abyss of the backstage, Duaa can be found supporting local Toronto theatre, petting every cat and dog she can find, or avidly yelling at the TV over a hockey game. Recent works include: Stage Manager, Body Parts, Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival (2019), Technical Director, The Penelopiad, Ryerson Theatre School (2018); Stage Manager, The Ties That Bind and Gag, Toronto Fringe Festival (2018); Assistant Lighting Designer, Springworks, Ryerson Theatre School (2018).
Lauren Greenwood – Writer / DirectorLauren is a Toronto-based award-winning screenwriter, playwright and comedian. She has a passion for absurdity and human connection that is prevalent in her work. Lauren received the 2019 Telefilm Canada New Voices Award with her feature-length screenplay Gaslight. She has previously written for the Canadian comedy series Out There with Melissa DiMarco. Her first short, Red Balloon, directed by Avi Federgreen, is currently in pre-production. As a standup comedian, Lauren produces and hosts Send Noobs, a bimonthly comedy show in Toronto that features new talent with a focus on women, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ performers. As an improvisor, Lauren is currently a member of the Second City Conservatory program. She also combines her love of the craft and the German language as a specialist script translator for German productions looking to attract attention on the international market. Lauren holds an honours BA in English and German, an MFA in Screenwriting, and is a proud member of the Playwrights Guild of Canada.
EXTRA SPECIAL THANKS
This production would not have been possible without the support of the following people and places:
Meaghan Denomme, Akif Greenwood Gürle, Adrian Greenwood, Susan Greenwood, Laura Bast, Christopher Greenwood, Tasha Schumann, Blaise Couturier, Vidya Persad, George Diamantouros and the entire family and staff at Sneaky Dee’s, Karine Kazan, The Imaginarium, Allie Pearse, Hoodo Hersi, Ashley Cooper, Kat Letwin, Nkasi Ogbonnah, Mel Hergott, Janelle McGuinness, Jacob Hogan, Cihang Ma, Stephen Karmazyn, Susan Eagleson, Crystal Wood, Devan Islas, Dmitry Kichenko, David Jung, Vadim Kretschmer, Sandra Kretschmer, Hilary Gibson-Wood, Shari Hollett, Evelyn Marie Anne Long, The Second City Training Center, and everyone who attended our incredible fundraiser!
Thank you all!
Eating healthy with the power of salad.
While salad was originally considered to be a side dish composed primarily of raw leafy greens, a salad nowadays can be almost anything below room temperature tossed in a bowl. Pasta. Potato. Ambrosia. All salads, therefore: All healthy!
Below are some of our new favourite salad recipes that you can enjoy guilt-free!
1 cup of chopped up hotdogs
1 cup bacon, crumbled
1 cup of grated cheddar
Dressing: Half a bottle of ranch
Stir together in a large bowl. Serve using salad tongs.
1 cup of crushed cookies (your choice)
Dressing: 1 can of whipped cream
In a salad bowl, spray whipped cream directly onto cookies. Serve with a sprig of mint.
Ice Cream Salad
2 cups of ice cream
Scoop into a bowl. Eat. Salad!
[Image: CBC Comedy]
Read my latest article on CBC Comedy!
ISO Nanny for a Spirited 33-Year-Old Woman
I’ve been getting a lot of spam from scammers lately. Reading these eloquently constructed, high concept emails, I’m starting to understand why they are called scam “artists”. They truly are masters of the written word. I still think they could benefit from the guidance of an expert in the craft, however, so I’ve taken the liberty below to critique these pieces and provide helpful feedback that they could incorporate to make their very-true stories even more compelling (and grammatically correct)…
Dr. Mikko Juho needs some serious grammatical help for his VERY IMPORTANT MATTER:
Before Ally Berg can be friends/companions/pen pals, she’ll need to focus on proofreading:
Mr (sic) Anvanith Gui has some issues with specificity:
Mrrrrrrrr. The lawnmower was a hot bee droning back and forth across the grass. The unrelenting sunshine had pushed the grass up higher than usual. Watching the rows upon rows be shorn down gave Miranda the same feeling she used to get from watching viral videos of disembodied hands slicing mounds of kinetic sand: Dull satisfaction. The young man — either Dan or Don or Doug, something like that — pushing the mower across her lawn chomped fervently on a large piece of pink chewing gum. He blinked up toward the house but, of course, couldn’t see her staring out at him from the picture window.
It was the smell of the grass she missed the most, but she could remember it if she really tried. It was a damp smell. One of life. Of living. It’s hard to smell without a nose. It had been just long enough that she could laugh at the ridiculousness of the statement. But without a throat, the laugh was silent. She was and she wasn’t.
The remembering of smells and laughter made Miranda curious. It had been days, maybe weeks, since she examined her body. She glided up the stairs into the bathroom. Her body used to be slumped against the bathroom wall like she’d fallen asleep on a gently rocking subway car. Now, her body looked like a black-yellow-orange bloated person-shaped bag. She watched a documentary once about a body farm used by the FBI to help them identify stages of human decay, so she knew the how and why behind the dark fluids that pooled around her. It still didn’t make it easier to accept. She returned back downstairs dismayed. She was glad she couldn’t smell anymore.
In that moment across the country, an old high school friend opens his laptop. He checks the news. 104 dead in Kabul. Wild fires in California. A truck in London driven into a group of tourists, 4 dead, 15 severely injured. He shudders internally and pulls his bathrobe instinctively around him, as if it could shield him from the horror in the world. Searching for lighter fare, he opens one of his social media accounts. An inspirational quote has cycled to the top of his feed. It reads: “The secret to being happy is accepting where you are in life and making the most of everyday”. He exhales a sign of relief. It’s from Miranda.
Miranda floated down to her kitchen, as she’d done a thousand times before. She wasn’t hungry anymore, like she’d been in real life. She wished she could have felt like that while she was still alive. Her mother was always quick to intercept Miranda on the way to the fridge. Her mother had become thin and willowy after Miranda’s father left them for a size 0. She warned Miranda constantly that she’d inherited her father’s slow metabolism. That sugar will make you sick and and probably kill you. She died herself of malnutrition complicated by a smattering of other ailments. Miranda wondered if she was out there, somewhere, floating around.
She approached her laptop. It sat on the kitchen table, open, webcam set up on a tripod beside. It almost begged to be of use like a sentient furnishing in Beauty and the Beast. But it was dead. With no fingers to plug it in or turn it on or even worm over the trackpad, it remained a useless brick. Miranda kicked herself for the thousandth time for pre-scheduling her social media posts all the way to Christmas.
Shhhhttt. Flop. She rushed to the door. A new piece of mail had plopped on top of the small pile collecting in front of it. It was a letter from the Humane Society for the previous owner of the house. A reminder to donate. All Miranda’s bills were digitalized, so she never got any mail. Out the beveled door window, she watched the post woman waddle away with her laden bag. Miranda didn’t know her name. She didn’t even know her face.
In the Hague, a frazzled university student gnaws on his iPad stylus. He logs onto his online tutoring site. In his inbox, an old message reads: “Great work this week, Yorick. Looking forward to diving deeper into passive construction next week. Best, Miranda” He clicks on her profile. A photo that artfully combines approachability and professionalism. Under her name, orange letters announce, “Last online: 5 weeks ago”. He has an important exam coming up. He hastily clicks the link “Find a Tutor”.
She drifted into the hallway. She was greeted by the smiling faces of the people she used to consider her best friends. Sandy, married in Florida with three kids. Expecting a fourth, according to a saccharine video uploaded to Facebook for all the world to see. In it, her three children, ages 7, 5 and 2, ask their father to look in the oven. When he discovers the bun inside, they break down into fits of giggles. Tears of joys are shed by the adults. Six months ago, Sandy sent an email apologizing for being so out of touch. She had promised then to come visit soon.
Hatty lived in Argentina with her life partner. Jane was climbing the corporate ladder in New York. Ella, who lived just a few towns away, just simply cut everyone out years ago like they never were. In terms of family, Miranda assumed she had a gaggle of half-siblings as far as her father could toss his seed, but she had never met any of them. Her father. Hank. He had stopped reaching out after Miranda made it very clear at 18 that she never wanted to speak to him again. He had never been one to respect her wishes, but for some reason that one stuck. He would be the last person to wonder if she was dead or alive.
In a downtown bar, Theo waits for his Tinder date Thea to come back from the bathroom. It’s been going surprisingly well so far, considering his success with the app. He had just been on the verge of deleting it permanently when she flickered across his screen. She super liked him, which meant something. A super like was special. It was more than a swipe. As he stares at the fake succulent in a tiny pot on the table, he marvels at how similar the names “Theo and Thea” looked, but how different they sounded. Just one letter off. Imagine how it’ll look on their wedding invitations. He’s getting ahead of himself. He reminds himself what happened last time with Miranda: Things were going so well — just like this —- then she just ghosted. When Thea returned from the bathroom, all smiles, Theo lies and says he has to go.
Miranda tried to remember Theo’s face. It was hard because they’d only seen each other a handful of times. One of those was also in a darkened movie theatre, so her memory was an eyebrow here, a nostril there, stubble, full lips, kind eyes. Most of all she wished she could explain to him that her sudden exit had nothing to do with him. He didn’t even know her address, so he wouldn’t come looking. She cried silent, nothing tears.
Through the window, she watched the neighbour let her bichon frise out into the backyard. Their last name was Milton, at least that’s what it said on a kitschy sign on their lawn — “The Miltons” — but Miranda didn’t know her first name. She looked weary, as if she’d been gently beaten all morning. She yawned an aggressive yawn she would probably never allow her kids to witness. She looked over to Miranda’s house bored as she waited for the dog to finish its business. Miranda waved to her for the first time ever. She didn’t see. Couldn’t see.
Back upstairs, her flesh was black and papery. How long now had it been now since she last checked? Her calculations were interrupted by Dan or Don or Doug, the bee mower boy, who had started up his machine. She peered over the frosted sticker that covered the lower half of the window. He worked hastily this time, rushing through the job, looking irritated. She glided downstairs to the front door. When he was finished Dan or Don or Doug stomped up to the front door. Instinctively, Miranda backed away, out of sight which was unnecessary. He looked right through her as he hammered the doorbell. BINGBONG. BINGBONGBINGBONG. The bell was like a bomb going off, shattering weeks of silence into a thousand invisible shards. She moved as close to the glass as she could, staring intently into his irritated face. BINGBONG. His finger driving itself into the button.
He waited more.
“This is the last time I’m cutting your grass for free.”
“You only paid me in advance til the end of August.”
“It’s almost October.”
“I’m not going to cut it anymore, Ms. Kawalsky. Not until you pay me what you owe!”
Silence. He stepped across the porch to the living room window, peering in with both hands shading his young face. All he saw was a pristine, minimalistic living room staring back. Not Miranda’s aching non-corporeal form.
She once saw on HGTV that grass grows two to six inches a week, depending on the weather. She wondered how long it would have to be til someone figured it all out. Someone was bound to notice soon, right?
This week I failed.
On Monday, I found out that a feature-length script I wrote didn’t advance to the semifinals of the BlueCat Screenplay Competition.
When I saw I didn’t advance, I expected a sting in the place I squirrel away my sense of self worth, but it didn’t come. The next day, I expected to wake up feeling defeated, but I woke up feeling amped. None of it made sense.
I walked out to get some grocery store sushi and contemplate this lack of negative emptiness. An embarrassingly awesome pop song rolled onto my playlist and I found myself literally dancing in the street like I just won the standing long jump at my 9th grade track meet. It still made no sense.
I dug down. I riffled around in my emotions like they were inside the goddamned Tickle Trunk. I found the answer: Failure isn’t bad.
This failure, in fact, was actually disguised as a small success. It meant that, although I didn’t advance to the semifinals, I made it to the quarterfinals. Out of 3272 scripts, mine was one of 272 selected. Pretty rad, amirite? Before they announced the semifinalists, I went back and reread the feedback that was included as part of the entry fee. It was positive and validating, in spite of the fact that I didn’t advance.
In my rooting around, I also realized that failure is just one step on the long road to success. No one has ever succeeded without failing first. It takes a million gillion hours of working your ass off to make it to the point at which you can even begin failing. And if you manage to have the stick-to-it-iveness to continue failing, the succeeding is already queued up.
I guess most importantly, I realized that failing means trying. If you’re failing, you’re in play. You’re creating. You’re pushing. You’re hustling. You’re improving your craft. You’re becoming a master. I decided I’m going to heartily embrace failure, cause it means I’m on my way.
Apparently I’ve always had a thirst for romance and a flair for over-dramatization.
June 12, 1995, age 10:
“Dear Diary, I want someone who I can hold hands with, tell them I love them all the time. I want a guy that will tell me to hold his jacket or sweater or something. I want a guy who will not be shy and he will tell me he loves me all the time, too. Basically, I want a nice, attractive, romantic guy.”
April 20, 1996, age 11:
“Okay, here’s my DREAM DATE!! First it’s about dusk and we take a long walk along the beach. Then we come to a gazebo and it’s got mood lights all around with candles and great supper. After we’re finished there’s a boat on the shore, we cast off. When we’re far away from shore we put down the anchor and take out the seats and we lay down in the bottom of the boat looking up at the stars and rock back and forth.”
December, 1998 (A Dream), age 14:
“I’m riding on an almost empty bus with Brad Pitt. I am sitting with him and talking for a long while. I’m sitting by the window and he’s on on the outside. All of a sudden I lean over and we’re kissing. We kiss for a long time (which is VERY good). We are on the way to Hollywood. But as we get closer Brad turns into a snot. The process is slow, but eventually he is really snotty with a snobby attitude.”
January 3, 1999, age 15:
“Only a year til the Millennium! Happy New Year! Me and X have been seeing each other for about a month now. That is a really long time for me. I’m not sure if I want to commit though. There are so many options, I don’t know if I’m ready to settle down with one person.”
April 7, 2000, age 16:
“Anyways, tonight I went to X’s house with Y and X. We had a big bottle of vodka and I had an empty stomach. Like, half a glass later– Lauren’s hammered. I couldn’t stand up straight, my eyes were fuzzy, I couldn’t see, I was dizzy, slurred words, trouble with co-ordination, etc… so it turns out I’m a destructive drunk.”
Here’s a fun ad-lib from the Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 3 “The Queen’s Justice” in which Jon Snow and Tyrion basically just discuss climate change.
CLIMATE CHANGE = White walkers
GLOBAL WARMING = The dead
OCEAN ACIDIFICATION = The Night King
JON SNOW: GLOBAL WARMING is coming for us all… It’s hard for me the fathom, it really is. If someone told me about CLIMATE CHANGE and OCEAN ACIDIFICATION… You probably don’t believe me. Grumpkins and Snarks, you called them, do you remember? It was all nonsense.
TYRION: It was all nonsense and everybody knew it. But then Mormont saw it, and you saw it and I trust the eyes of an honest man more than I trust what everybody knows.
JON SNOW: How do I convince people who don’t know me that an enemy they don’t believe in is coming to kill them all?
TYRION: People’s minds aren’t made for problems that large. CLIMATE CHANGE, OCEAN ACIDIFICATION, GLOBAL WARMING, it’s almost a relief to confront a familiar monster like my sister.
JON SNOW: I need to help prepare my people for what’s coming.
Total Recall. Beauty and the Beast. Aladdin. The Lion King. Cinderella. A Star is Born. Charmed. Murphy Brown. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Roseanne. Twin Peaks. Will and Grace. Everything that was once good in film is now good again.
I got to thinking: If I’m going to harness the power of the remake for my own career, I need to tap into the origins of film itself. So I reached way back to the 90s — the 1890s — to create the below remake of the very first film: Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat by the Lumière Brothers.
Please enjoy my remake titled Arrival of a Train at Dupont Station.
Below, the original: Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat by the Lumière Brothers.
When a presenter accidentally announces the wrong film for Best Picture at the Oscars, the losing cast and crew are thrust into a terrifying alternate reality where they must create a winning film to get back home.
When it’s discovered that a destructive breed called “humans” are on their way to Trappist-1f, the leader of the Alien Repel and Resist Squad must enlist its fellow beings to fight this alien race before they destroy their peace-loving planet.
When I was a little kid my grandmother (or as we called her “Oma”) taught me my first German word: Kartoffel, which means “potato”. At the time, I had no idea how extremely beloved these tubers were to Germans, so in hindsight it makes sense that would be the first word I learned.
After living in Germany for six and a half years as a grownup, I discovered that the only things Germans love more than potatoes are puzzling figures of speech. One such example goes: Die dümmsten Bauern haben die dicksten Kartoffeln! which literally translates to: “The dumbest farmers have the fattest potatoes”.
Over the years, my love of strange German idioms also grew strong and deep like a potato. Here’s a list of some of my (non-potato themed) favourites along with some examples of how to properly use them in English.
- Lass die Kirche im Dorf!
Literally: Leave the church in the village!
In other words: Don’t get carried away.
Example: You don’t want to eat your weight in potatoes? Leave the church in the village!
- Die Arschkarte ziehen
Literally: Pulling the ass card
In other words: Having bad luck
Example: We’re out of potatoes?! We really pulled the ass card today!
- Ich hau mich auf’s Ohr!
Literally: I’m going to throw myself on my ear!
In other words: I’m going to bed.
Example: I’m exhausted from all the potato eating. I think I’ll throw myself on my ear!
- Dumm wie Dosenbrot!
Literally: Dumb as tinned bread!
In other words: Really really dumb.
Example: That guy hates potatoes? He’s dumb as canned bread!
- Eier in der Hose haben
Literally: Having eggs in the pants
In other words: Being brave
Example: Some people like a man with eggs in his pants. Personally, I love a man with potatoes in his pockets!
- Das passt wie die Faust aufs Auge!
Literally: It fits like a fist fits an eye!
In other words: Perfect
Example: A potato in the pot is like a fist fits an eye!
- Pi mal Daumen
Literally: Pi times thumb
In other words: Approximately
Example: Pi times thumb is how much I need potatoes in my life.
- Da haben wir den Salat!
Literally: There we have the salad!
In other words: It’s all fucked up
Example: No potato salad? Now we have the salad there!
- Seinen Senf zu etwas abgeben
Literally: Give your mustard to something
In other words: Give your (unsolicited) two cents
Example: I’ll give my mustard to your potato salad recipe: It’s potatastic!
- Im falschen Film sein
Literally: Being in the wrong movie
In other words: Finding yourself in a strange or confusing situation
Example: Carrots for dinner? I feel like I’m in the wrong movie.
- Die beleidigte Leberwurst spielen
Literally: Playing the offended liverwurst
In other words: Being adorably offended
Example: You act like an offended liverwurst when you go into potato withdrawal.
- Den Löffel abgeben
Literally: Giving up the spoon
In other words: To die
Example: He gave up the spoon! And the potato, too!
The Bachelor — “Everything That’s Wrong with Society”
A gaggle of loathsome female archtypes use their breast implants to gain the favour of some pathetic slag in order to win a quick annulment and .00009 seconds of pseudo-fame.
Jersey Shore — “At Least You’re Not These Assholes”
A group of human-like apes dressed in club clothing drink hard liquor, rub genitals and throw feces at each other in an attempt to make its viewers thankful for their own ability to distinguish between literature and cuss-words sprayed in piss on the side of a public building.
Kim and Kourtney take New York — “Who Let These Ninnies Get Famous?”
Two useless twats compete to be the most vacuous female ever born by seeing who can complain more about things people in the third world have never heard of.
Miami Ink — “Defy Your Parents”:
A group of inky losers prevent others from ever getting 9 to 5 jobs.
Toddlers in Tiaras — “America’s Next Underage Sex Symbol”
Psychotic mothers provide closeted pedophiles free access to legal child pornography.
Pimp My Ride — “Penis Envy”
A hack rapper helps young men announce to the world that they have abnormally small genitals.
Ghost Hunters — “Yup… Still No Ghosts”
Paranormal “experts” sit in abandoned buildings and whisper “Did you hear that?” to each other for 47 minutes straight.
So You Think You Can Dance — “Yes, They Can All Dance”
A group of celebrated dancers no one has ever heard of compliment other, lesser known dancers, until at least two thirds of them shed tears of joy and are never heard from again.
Teen Mom — “Too Dumb for Condoms”
Delinquent children rub genitals in order to produce more delinquent children and are shocked to discover that babies are harder than grade eight math.
Big Brother — “Like Rehab but Sadder”
A group of depressing D-list celebrities agree to check themselves out of their current rehab facilities and accept a few hundred dollars to further publicly degrade themselves.
Hell’s Kitchen — “Public Flogging with Sass on the Side”
Aspiring chefs are verbally flagellated by a sadistic cuisinier.
The Biggest Loser — “Fat Shaming”
Obese people are humiliated in an attempt to correct irreparable self-confidence issues that caused them to become obese in the first place.
America’s Next Top Model — “America’s Next Ugly Cry”
Undernourished girls attempt to avoid bursting into tears while trying to impress a former supermodel.
American Idol — “Hasn’t Every US Citizen Sung for You Yet?”
Former popstar judges scrape the bottom of the US talent barrel looking for the next completely irrelevant sensation.
The Voice — “We are NOT American Idol”
A totally different group of former popstars scrape the bottom of the same US talent barrel looking for the next completely irrelevant sensation.
Keeping Up With the Kardashians — “God Save Us All”
Proof that the apocalypse truly is nigh (and has been since 2007).
[Resurrected from my old blog; originally posted on January 9, 2012. Now revamped and updated with today’s latest reality shows!]
EXT. GARDEN OF A FAMILY HOME – DAY
A grandfather, CLAUDE, putters about the garden, weeding and carefully tending to his flowers.
Behind him, his granddaughter, HENRIETTE, 10, dressed in bright 1970s garb, plays with a wooden airplane, dive-bombing the various plants that come into her toy’s flight path.
Claude smiles at her as she plays.
Be careful not to trample the flowers, Henriette.
Grandpa, I know.
When did you get so cheeky, huh?
She giggles and twirls around, swooping her plane with increased intensity.
As she spins around, her foot catches on a clump of dirt and she topples into the
closest flower bed.
Claude rushes over to help her up.
What did I say about being careful,
sweetheart? Did you hurt yourself?
As he dusts her off, he sees a lone poppy lays crushed into the damp earth where she fell.
In horror, Henriette looks between the flower and Claude.
I’m sorry, Grandpa.
Claude doesn’t seem to hear her as he stares into the crumpled redness of the petals.
EXT. ROAD – DAY
Two soldiers, dressed in First World War French military uniforms, speed in an open jeep towards a farmhouse in the distance.
Come on, hurry.
Cover your face.
EXT. FARM HOUSE – CONTINUOUS
Claude and Pascal jump out of the vehicle and rush toward the house, sleeves over their mouths and noses.
They mount the porch and Pascal bangs loudly on the door. A woman’s screams can be heard coming from inside.
Open up, it’s the French army!
The door opens a crack, exposing the eye of a OLDER WOMAN, 60, who x-rays the two with her gaze.
Ma’am, we must evacuate you.
A poison gas bomb has been released
less than a kilometer from here.
Get your things. You must leave now.
We can’t leave.
What is going on in here?
Claude pushes the door open, revealing a YOUNG WOMAN laying on a couch in full labor.
She screams again as a contraction takes over her body.
At the very least, get in the basement
and cover your faces with damp cloths.
Come on, Claude, we have to continue
We can’t just leave them like this!
We don’t have a choice, man, come on!
Pascal turns to exit, but Claude is frozen to the floor. The young woman stares at him in blood-soaked terror.
I’m staying here. They need help.
How can you possibly help them?
The cloud is coming. There is no
stopping it, no matter how many
soldiers are standing in the way!
You go on ahead. I’ll
meet you at the base tomorrow.
Don’t do this! You need to get out of here.
I will be fine. Go!
Pascal claps Claude on the shoulder before running out the door.
We need to get you both
into the basement.
The older woman and Claude carry the young woman toward the basement door.
INT. BASEMENT – LATER
The older woman crouches in front of the young woman as she pushes and screams. Claude holds the young woman’s hand.
Push, Celeste. Push!
You’re going to be OK. You’re both
going to be OK. It’s all going to be OK.
Claude looks up to a tiny window at the top of the basement wall. Darkness has fallen.
INT. BASEMENT – MORNING
Celeste caresses her sleeping newborn baby, exhausted and sweaty. She looks up to smile at Claude, who smiles back. The older woman has fallen asleep in a chair in the corner.
I’m going to go check the air.
Claude places a damp cloth over his face, opens the basement door cautiously and heads upstairs.
EXT. FARM HOUSE – CONTINUOUS
Claude exits the front door with the cloth over his face.
It’s a glorious morning, the sun is shining brightly and the air is completely clear.
Slowly, Claude lowers the cloth from his face to take a quick sniff of the air. He takes a deep breath, detecting no gas, and exhales as if the air has breathed new life into him.
Looking down, Claude sees a single poppy growing next to where he stands. He bends down, plucks it and heads back into the house.
INT. BASEMENT – CONTINUOUS
Claude returns. The older woman stirs and wakes as he enters. Celeste coos to her new child.
Excuse me, ladies, but I have to be going.
They both look up at him with gratitude on their faces.
Thank you for your help.
I didn’t do anything. You’re
the ones who did all the hard work.
The young woman giggles and the old woman beams at him.
I should be the one to thank you.
You reminded me that beauty exists
in these ugly times. This is all I have
to repay you.
Claude hands Celeste the poppy. She takes it from him and smiles. She brushes the soft petals against her baby’s cheek.
What is your name?
Then I will name her Claudette.
Claude smiles and exits the basement.
BACK TO PRESENT:
EXT. GARDEN – DAY
Claude looks up from the flower into the puzzled face of his granddaughter.
Are you OK, Grandpa?
Yes, darling. I’m fine.
Claude grabs his granddaughter, pulling her in for a hug.
I’m sorry I ruined your flower, Grandpa.
It’s OK, honey. Why don’t
we plant some more together?
Henriette squeezes him back as he gives her a kiss on the top of the head and they stroll off together toward the house.
I live in Germany, a land where everything cool is 15 years in the future, for example: Contemporary music, fashion and acceptance of other races. The things that I’m used to enjoying in North America which seemed totally mundane are still extremely exotic here. Like brown sugar. Or cream soda. Or root beer. I can usually find whatever I need at the Asian specialty food shop, which is odd because you’d think that they would be catering to the Asian community, not homesick Canadians who don’t want to interrupt their plans for early onset type II diabetes.
But in Chinatown in Toronto, the Asian stores don’t need your business. They don’t need to cater to your strange white person preferences. Everything is written in Chinese as a way of deterring your patronage… Like, “I think this is a cantaloupe, but it could also be some kind of seafood?” I lived in Chinatown for a few years, so I actually forgot how to shop at other grocery stores. I would walk into a big box grocery store and be like ‘Where do they keep the dried squid? Do they even stock Ginger Balls? Did they sell out of square watermelons?’
In Munich, it can be hard to get authentic foods. It’s getting better now, but there was a time when Pizza and Sushi were made and sold at the same place. Unless the cook is half Italian and half Japanese, I am not putting either of those in my mouth. I guess I understand the machine-gun principle behind offering Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese food—I mean, why not cover your bases?—but as a customer… you can’t really expect that they are going to do any one of those particularly well. I once ordered the sampler plate and got a sushi stuff egg roll floating in green curry soup.
Munich is a relatively safe city… Very low crime, squeaky clean. The only thing that really terrifies people in Munich is this thing called a Zug, which translates to ‘draft’. No, I am not talking about forced military service, I am talking about a slight breeze indoors. Now, drafts are very dangerous in Germany. Nothing scares a German more than moving air. In Germany, drafts are the number one cause of the common cold. Contrary to popular belief, germs do not cause colds—drafts do. Every German knows that necks are particularly sensitive to drafts. If there is a draft, you must immediately cover your neck to protect yourself from getting a cold. If you sit in a draft when you already have a cold from a previous draft, you’ll likely be dead before sunrise.
The panic that moving air causes is the reason why there is no air conditioning in Germany. Anywhere. Not at work, not at home, not even on public transportation. Once when my Dad and brother came to visit, my husband and I took them to the Alps for a day trip. On the way home, the train broke down and 200 people were forced to sardine themselves into a bus intended for 85. It was already a hot day and the stank of 200 people who just climbed a mountain was not really contributing to the atmosphere. So when the temperature reached about 40 degrees, I asked my Dad to crack the window above him which only slid about 4 inches. As soon as those 27 fresh air molecules entered the bus, the guy sitting across from us whips out a T-shirt from his backpack and covers his neck. The struggle is real, people.
At the age of 38, Jonas Freimann, scientist, philanthropist and philosopher, had discovered a way to abolish world hunger.
As a young man, Jonas had wanted to become a zoologist, but upon entering his studies as an undergraduate, realized that saving the lives of his fellow humans was a far nobler cause. The process was simple: Simple carbohydrates, such as potatoes, grains and rice, were saturated with nutrients. These nutrient rich foods were then replicated exponentially.
These foods were then sent to the far reaches of the world, where more replication stations were established, and more food produced. All that was needed for sustenance was contained within these simple products. The plan certainly left something to be desired for the taste buds, but in lieu of death by starvation, the blandness of the food certainly seemed more bearable. In time, Jonas hoped to further improve the process.
It was on this day, the 30th of May 2015, when Jonas announced that his process had been perfected, and the whole world rejoiced at its completion. A press conference was held that would be transmitted and translated in real time all over the world. Most of all, Jonas wished to communicate to the world that a new age of technology had begun; one that put human needs above profit, philanthropy above apathy and love above greed.
Jonas was ushered backstage early on that day where he was fitted with a microphone and had his hair was flattened by a stylist before being pushed out on stage along with a panel of other experts. A flurry of questions from the media ensued as soon as he appeared. The camera flashes and the buzz of noise were almost more than he could take. Yet, this was his cause, so he pressed on, sat down and took a deep breath.
The first, a shallow question indeed: “How much do you expect to profit from this discovery?” Clearly a tabloid magazine looking to discredit him by twisting his response. “Nothing,” he replied flatly, “All the money that would have come to me personally is being rerouted into the fund, in order to create more food for the less fortunate. I wouldn’t feel right profiting from giving people what they have a natural right to.”
The next, a better one, but rather simple: “How long did it take you to develop this process?” “I’ve had the idea since I was in University. Food was never an issue among me or my ivy league compatriots” (laughs from the crowd) “but when I walked along the street on the coldest of nights, and saw the homeless clinging to life on the air vents of office buildings, I knew something had to be done to solve this problem. I started volunteering at homeless shelters, dolling out stew to those who were quick enough to get it, but it never felt like enough. I knew I could get the education and the materials to make this dream not just a dream, but a realization of a dream.” The crowd beamed. It was clear the media was very pleased with his answer, despite the fact that he was speaking truthfully and from the heart.
As the conference was coming to a close, the head of the National Science Commission stood up. “Dr. Jonas Freimann is an outstanding individual with unequivocal intelligence and drive. Not just any drive, but the type of drive that makes the world a better place to live in; a drive that improves the lives of others. I am happy to declare today “International Hunger Abolition Day” in honour of Jonas Freimann and all of his accomplishments in the interest of people everywhere.”
A roar of applause burst out in the crowd, and for a moment Jonas couldn’t believe if he had just heard correctly. Being recognized by his colleagues and those that he helped was thanks enough, but it was hard to accept that the whole world would celebrate every May 30th in his honour. “Since the sphere is the most perfect of shapes, equal all around in every right, I would like to present Dr. Freimann with this silver sphere as a reminder that people all over this sphere we call home are now as equal in privilege as the dimensions of this shape.” The head of the NSC presented Jonas with a small royal blue box. Inside he found a small, silver ball, composed of a lustrous metal, no bigger than a golfball. He thanked the head of the NSC heartily and smiled at the cameras as they clicked and flashed. The whole day had been a blur, but nothing could overshadow his sense of pride in knowing that very night, people around the world were eating what they deserved.
In the dark of the unlit room, smelling of smoke and vermouth from a celebration after the conference, Jonas walked over to the mantelpiece, reached into his pocket and pulled out the royal blue box with its sentimental gift inside. Before setting it there, he admired the ball for a moment, watched the light from the lamps in the street play off its highly polished surface. He smiled at the gift, aware of the symbolism of the thing. Such a small gesture, but so appropriate, he thought. He left the lid open, displaying the ball on the mantel and slunk off to peel his suit from his body and fall into bed.
By June, the madness of the response to his discovery had subsided slightly, and Jonas was free to relax and enter into more research. He wanted to discover a way of improving the taste of the foods being produced. He knew this development would never be as lauded as his first discovery, yet he found something comforting and humbling in knowing he would never make as great a discovery again.
It was around the middle of May the next year that Jonas started seeing references to “International Hunger Abolition Day”. He was walking down the street one afternoon, past a department store, when he noticed a sign: “Get your Hunger Abolition Day spheres here!” The notion pleased him, as he didn’t want people to forget about the importance of abolishing hunger worldwide. He went into the store, and merely out of amusement, purchased the same type of ball he had received the year before. This one would sit beside the other on the mantel, as a personal reminder that the world’s people had not forgotten to continue caring about one another. The ball cost him $15.99, a small investment. Throughout the day, he saw other signs in shop windows, each bringing a smile to his lips. He was truly in awe of the common philanthropic attitudes of his fellow man. When he arrived home later that night, the ball went straight to the mantel, beside the original.
The day of May 30th approached and a parade honouring the cultures of the world who had been helped by Jonas’ discovery marched through the city. The parade was a huge success, if a little kitschy, and people rejoiced with their brothers and sisters from around the globe. The feeling of human goodness and fellowship was liquid in the air, and was being drunk by all.
That night, Jonas had been invited to a party honouring the one year anniversary of his discovery. There was a lot of back-patting and congratulating in addition to excessive amounts of expensive liquor and opulent gourmet delicacies (the untouched portions of which would later be tossed in an alley dumpster).
Later that night, Jonas found himself in the same position he had been a year before, standing in front of the mantel, contemplating humanity and common human efforts, staring at the shiny balls that refracted the street light into his eyes. And again, with a sigh of goodwill, Jonas undiscovered his clothes and discovered his bed.
It was the end of April the next year when Jonas began noticing the signs in shop windows. He thought it was a bit early to start advertising for Hunger Abolition Day, but he surmised that the shop owners simply wanted to gain a little footing over each other. Surely, this was all in the interest of humanity. A week or so later, the signs became more looming, the number of shops selling the spheres was rising, and the overall frantic need to purchase these shiny balls was growing among people as a whole. One sign in particular caught Jonas’ attention: “44% larger Hunger Abolition Day spheres”, this came as a surprise, so naturally, he went into the establishment to see for himself. Sure enough, in a display in the centre of the floor there were the spheres. And indeed, they did look at least 44% bigger, perhaps only 40% in some cases. Regardless, Jonas was baffled. May 30th was about quality of life, not quantity of sphere. Something made Jonas sick in the depths of his abdomen, but he could not place it. Perhaps it was that tuna sandwich he’d had for lunch.
The next year, the same sick feeling returned, but this time even earlier. It was mid-March and the sphere sales were in full swing. Not only had the trend for bigger spheres taken over, but also the need for shinier and more lustrous balls had grown. Signs all over were ejaculating comments like, “Shiniest Spheres in the City!”, “Bigger and Better Balls, we sell them here”, “Sick of low quality spheres? Look no further”, and “Spheres, Spheres and more Spheres!”. It was rare to even find the meaning behind the spheres advertised anywhere. Only one sign that Jonas could find said, “You want spheres, we got ’em” in bold capital letters, followed by “in honour of Hunger Abolition Day” in tiny lettering off to one side.
By the time Jonas was 45, Hunger Abolition Day, or Sphere Day as it was more commonly referred to, had run rampant. Advertising for the event had now begun just after Ground Hog Day urging people to “Get your spheres early and save 25%”. And now, the spheres had become so large, people had to rent special wagons to attach to their cars in order to get them home. The poorer consumers simply rolled them from the store, but this practice was uncommon, as it scratched the highly prized shiny surface of the balls. The richer even began building additions onto their houses to accommodate these large purchases. Most simply left them outside on the front lawn, although, this was risky as sphere theft was on the rise. Jonas had an inkling that Hunger Abolition Day had lost some of its influence over the people of the world.
When he was 48, ten years after his discovery, spheres were as big as houses and only those of the highest status, with the most space and money could afford them. The city dumps looked like inverted cloudscapes with ready-made silver linings. The true meaning of the day was essentially gone. Jonas, feeling particularly low, wandered the streets, searching for anything—a gesture, an expression, a word—to prove to him that his beloved humanity had not gone completely blind.
Overwhelmed with grief, Jonas sat down on a bench to reflect, when he saw a child of about eight walking down the street toward him. The child was engrossed in an object that he was holding in his hand. As he got closer, Jonas could see he was holding a silver sphere, not bigger than a golfball. “Dearest child,” said Jonas, as the child got ever nearer, “what have you got there?” “It’s a sphere, for Sphere Day”. Well isn’t that precious, thought Jonas, a child with a tiny sphere, much like his own. This child, truly, cannot be lost to the clutches of humanity’s disillusions. “And do you know why people buy spheres?” prodded Jonas. “Some old guy discovered spheres today, I think. My mom says the biggest and shiniest spheres mean you’re better than anyone else so I got this to show my friends who’s boss.”
Jonas, incensed, jumped up from his bench and stormed downtown, leaving the child to stare gormlessly after him. As he hurried, Jonas hoped he had not already missed the parade. At the end was going to be the unveiling of the biggest, shiniest sphere ever created at the City Square.
When he arrived at the square, a massive group of people was standing in front of a massive shrouded ball, which was at least a story tall. The mayor stood at the ready to unveil it on an enormous scaffolding arch. Without wasting any time, Jonas dodged a few security guards and began to mount the scaffolding, climbing ever higher and faster. Once he reached the top he jumped down onto the sphere, kicking and tearing at the shroud until it loosened and fell in a giant ring all around the base of the sphere. The glint from the shiny ball was blinding and people had to shield their eyes momentarily.
“YOU HAVE LOST YOUR WAY!” Jonas shouted at the crowd, “YOU HAVE ALL LOST YOUR WAY!” Some gasped, others cried out, most just stared in open-mouthed awe at the man on the ball. “Does anyone even remember why we celebrate on this day? It’s because I, Jonas Freimann, solved world hunger ten years ago today. Today is not about making your neighbours envious. It is not a day to blind each other with the glint from these abominations. This day is a reminder of the goodness of humanity. A reminder of what we can accomplish when the happiness and health of others comes first. You have all lost your way and should be ashamed of what you have become!”
There was general confusion and muttering from the crowd below. It was clear they were trying to come to some conclusion on their own. “He’s right!” shouted one man. “We have lost our way”, shouted someone else. The crowd burst into a frenzy of language, as people apologized to each other and to themselves. “Tell us,” shouted one woman, and the crowd hushed, “how can we reverse the damage we have done?” “Remember to always care for your fellow humans in the future, and never let pettiness get in the way of human love,” Jonas shouted down.
Jonas had not felt this good since the first night of his discovery. The sickness in his stomach floated away and he was glad, once more, to be one among his beloved species. Unfortunately, this feeling of elation couldn’t contend with the condensation that had gathered on the sphere. The cool metal and the warm sun had produced a dangerous combination of slippery wetness. Before he had time to react, Jonas’ right foot flew out from under him, followed by the left. It was only moments later that he was lying sprawled and broken on the pavement. Horror spread among the crowd as the shadow of the sphere was made darker still by the pool of blood seeping from Jonas’ skull.
The papers said things like “Scientist killed by own commemorative sphere”, “Triumph to tragedy: One man’s descent”, “Our greed is what killed the greatest man of our time”. Jonas was a legend as well as a martyr.
Due to the guilt felt by most people, it was decided that the May 30th would no longer celebrate the abolition of world hunger, but instead honour the life and death of a man so concerned with the well being of humanity. The goal of the day would be to reflect on humanity and greed and to work toward preventing another such tragedy. People everywhere were to wear small silver ribbons, as a way of remembering the past and changing the future. Yet, it’s arguable to say that the very next year, those same ribbons were perceivably larger and more elaborate than they had been the year before.
When someone you love dies is when being non-religious gets tough. How can you possibly comfort yourself in the face of overwhelming grief without the certainty that the person you cared about your entire life isn’t sitting on a cloud somewhere smiling down? How can you drag yourself out of a trench of sadness when the alluring possibility of seeing the person you cherished someday when your breath escapes you does not exist? What is the sense of this accursed consciousness if it just stops someday as unceremoniously as an unwound watch? How can life just be tragically, finitely over.
When someone you love dies is when you make spiritual concessions. Although you have never been an adherent to any religion, or even given religion, god, the afterlife, heaven or the soul too much thought at all, you find your mind tweaking your previous convictions (or lack thereof). You begin to believe that if the person you valued believed themselves in a wonderful afterlife, then that must be where they have ended up. If you believe in something enough, who is to say that what you stand behind isn’t also true, at least to you? You begin talking to the sky, wishing the clouds good morning and hoping that they are soft under the gentle feet of the one you love.
When someone you love dies is when you realize that you are not immortal. You will age, your time on this planet will fade and one day, you will be gone just like everyone before and everyone after. You are the center of your own universe, but you do not possess that gift of eternal life. You are not the exception, you are the rule. And the rule dictates that no matter how much it hurts, no matter how much you bargain with your own mind, you will never be able to change this fact. The only thing you can do is be the best daughter, wife, mother, sister, son, husband, father, brother, relative or friend you can be. When you show people how much you love them when you’re alive, they will never allow your memory to die.
When someone you love dies is when you discover the depths of your own sorrow. The worst heartache, betrayal, injustice or pain cannot possibly compare to the loss of someone you truly love. When you were dumped by your boyfriend, you thought you knew heartbreak. Now you know that true heartbreak has nothing to do with teenage romance and everything to do with true love. Not romantic love, but true love—the kind that is absolutely irreplaceable and leaves a jagged personalized hole in your heart when it’s gone forever. Nothing and no one could ever fill that shape. That is sorrow. The good news about sorrow, however, is that it’s simply too arduous to maintain forever. It will ease, scar-tissue will fill the hole and your heart will stop leaking eventually.
When someone you love dies is when you can change for the better. You can take those regrets and turn them into change. All those times you wished you had just spoken to her for just a few more minutes, despite 30 years of love and memories, can be transformed into quality time with the ones you love who are still around. All those lost moments when you could have been telling her “I love you so much”, can be turned into “I love you”’s still. “I love you”’s are transferable, bottomless and no one ever tires of receiving them. You can turn your love for someone who is gone into yet more love for those who are still by your side. Don’t let that love dissipate.
When someone you love dies is when you realize how resilient you can be. You feared that you would die yourself of sadness, but look, you’re still here. Someday—maybe not today, tomorrow or even next year—you will be OK again. You will smile genuinely again. You will laugh heartily again. You will love life again. You will feel their love without sorrow. You will honour them without tragedy. Laugh lines will take the place of tears at the corners of your eyes. Your heart will be light again. Which is exactly what they would have wanted.
After a man who is nearly trampled to death by a stampede of consumers on Black Friday awakes in the hospital, his ward mate—an elderly Sioux man—tells him of the real origins of Thanksgiving, causing him to dream that he is a Sioux youth enslaved by early Americans who must fight for survival in a changing world.