Monday, June 30, 2008

Domestic Drag Show: "Hot Lips" by Kelli Ali

Here's your Canada Day treat...the first domestic drag show in three months!

The song is "Hot Lips" by Kelli Ali, and the clips were filmed at various times over the past month, usually during crazy heatwaves.

It didn't take long to get the hang of iMovie 7. It's a nifty free video editor, but before you say "your editing sucks and so does your video," let me remind you that these are flippant entertainments filmed entirely by myself. The day I get a pocket-sized, portable, always-available cameraperson is the day I explode into non-static creativity.

Another caveat: EVERY clip in this project is hand-synced to the music. That's 76 clips. That's a very tired Muffy.

Coming soon: the never-before-seen Schnapps video, suppressed due to an assumed lack of interest! I'll dig it out of the vault and put it online.

Also coming soon: the final episode of the "Creepy Pedro" radio play! It's only taken six years to finish.

Day of The Mail

Over time my anxiety rises. When I leave my apartment I turn my eyes to the sky so I won't have to look at the mailbox, pretending it isn't there and that it doesn't contain anything. But eventually I need to face the awful truth: there are LETTERS in my mailbox, and they must be opened.

Today this task was long overdue and I was dismayed to find SIX letters addressed to me. I sat down in front of the computer, logged into online banking, and started reading the bad news.

A letter from Bell telling me that I'd really, really enjoy watching "ExpressVu digital TV." No I wouldn't.

A bill for this month's car insurance payment. Don't these folks know my car is ill? Have they no decency? This is like sending a tax form to the relative of a dying grandmother.

Speaking of tax forms, a notice from the Canada Revenue Agency that I miscalculated my taxes this year...and I get $149.85 back. Whew!

A bill from Royal Bank thanking me for paying a huge chunk of my credit debt, but kindly reminding me that there's much more left to pay.

Another letter from Royal Bank containing a new debt card, this one with fancy chip technology. I am convinced that this chip stores confidential information about my right buttock.

A bill from CIBC, notifying me that this month's balance due is...$0.51, thanks to an odd interest fee that I have no memory of accumulating.

After all that worry I'd say I got off pretty lightly. I cannot always be so fortunate.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

New "Domestic Drag Show" In the Works, Plus iMovie 7

I've mentioned that a new "Domestic Drag Show" was in the works. Since it's more of a "music video" sort of song as opposed to a "storytelling" song, I've just been filming bits and pieces over the last month with the intention of quick-cutting it together in iMovie.

Just to prove that I'm not talking out of my butt, here's a screenshot of the first thirty seconds of the project.

Much of today was spent trying to understand iMovie 7. While the previous version seemed deliberately obtuse, this one is downright kooky in its desire NOT to be useful, while simultaneously opening wide its metaphorical arms and screaming "LOVE ME, I'M CUTE!"

Still, iMovie 7 is a definite improvement over the previous version I was using. You can reuse clips, for one thing, and the trimming tools are a bit more powerful. But I'd give it all up for a proper timeline.

Incidentally, it's been noted in the past that my tripod isn't tall enough; it always shoots me under the chin. I have fixed this problem, as the screenshot above shows. Did I spend a ton of money on a professional camera setup? No, I invented a patented "tripod extender," shown below.

It isn't pretty and it sure ain't portable, BUT IT WORKS!

Beckzy Has a Cold

I never fooled myself into thinking that my car has a bright and glorious future. Beckzy is well-worn and poised for the retirement home.

The thing is, she runs so WELL. Sure she sounds a bit farty when she accelerates, but LOTS of old broads sound like that. And if her doors let in the rain and there are a few coffee stains on the quote-unquote "upholstery," who am I to complain?

But today Beckzy began to make a new noise, a sort of pleasant whine which changes pitch depending on her speed. I tried to pretend that she was singing to me out of sheer joy, but self-deception won't get me very far (and will probably just leave me stranded on a highway somewhere). Nope, Beckzy has an as yet undiagnosed problem.

If she went belly-up on me tomorrow I would be very sad, but I would survive. I told Vanilla today that driving my car gives me an incredible sense of freedom. Vanilla said "Driving also gives you the freedom to pay bills." She knows.

So please say a prayer for Beckzy as I gird myself to take her to a mechanic. I'll probably get fleeced but hopefully my darling car will be better for it.

I'd Buy Anything By...Manfred Mann

Somehow, when I was twelve years old, I became fixated upon a Bob Dylan song called "The Mighty Quinn." I think my father used to sing it. For Christmas that year I received Manfred Mann's "Watch" album, in which "The Mighty Quinn" was transformed into an extended psychedelic freakout. This album, improbably, became the soundtrack to my junior highschool years.

Here is a contemporary performance by the band -- then called "Manfred Mann's Earth Band" -- showing that in many ways their songs were just excuses to jam. Check out the sublime guitar/keyboard interplay between Chris Thompson and Mr. Mann himself.

Eventually I realized that this whole "Manfred Mann" thing was much looser and stranger than I'd imagined, being a revolving door of top-flight musicians who performed around Mr. Mann and occasionally produced albums. They'd started out as an entertaining "British Beat" band (the "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" stuff), moved into R&B, then eventually became the whacked-out prog-rockers who I fell in love with. Their mystical, drug-inspired lyrics were pure magic to me as a child.

During the '80s they flirted with African rhythms and new wave -- which serious musician didn't? -- and then Mr. Mann started exploring free jazz...and eventually they moved out of my consciousness altogether. But I'll still pick up any Manfred Mann album I find, and I'll love it whether it's pop fluff like "Pretty Flamingo" or a thick slab of progressive sludginess.

It's difficult to recommend albums because the band has gone through so many changes. I'm partial to the "Earth Band" period so I recommend "Watch" as a good sampler, but the "Angel Station" album is PARTICULARLY moody and evil...if you find it, buy it and love it. You can stare at the cover art for hours.

Point-Form Hostessing

Let's make sure the music isn't too loud.

Do you all have drinks?

Thank goodness I bought more beer and vodka today, as though I knew this unexpected drop-in would happen. Do you want a beer or some vodka? I hope you like Dr. Pepper with your vodka.

Hmmm, I have gauged the ages and musical tastes of all my guests and I've decided on two types of music: The Beatles and Kate Bush. How wonderful to see a roomful of people swoon to George Harrison singing "Something!"

Get downstairs, you two. Don't you be neglecting everybody else.

Holy cow, where did the cat go? SHE'S BEEN LOCKED OUTSIDE FOR AN HOUR?

Now it's time for everybody to go home. I'm very sorry I didn't have chips or munchies or anything.

Yes, you really need to get into the taxi now. Love you.

The sun is coming up and the birds are chirping. I can't believe I've stayed up so late.

We are all allowed to be disruptive once in a while.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

In Praise of Elton John's Drummer

If you grew up listening to radio pop-rock during the '70s, you may be aware of a distinctive drum sound that has never reappeared.

I don't know exactly how to describe the sound. The simple explanation might be that the kick drum and snare drums are gated, have their volume boosted across all frequencies, and then are sent through an effects processor which adds a short plate reverb. Michael B. Tretow -- who produced some early ABBA singles which used this technique -- described it as sounding like a turkey being thrown against the wall.

Yes it does, a bit.

You'd hear this drum sound on any highly-produced pop-rock song which wasn't yet experimenting with disco: ABBA, Electric Light Orchestra, Supertramp, Harry Nilsson...and the "classic" Elton John line-up.

During my "breakfast walk" this morning I choose -- at random -- to listen to Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" double LP. Besides being perfect in almost every way -- the exception being "Jamaican Jerk-Off," which makes me scream every time -- this "thumpy drum" sound appears in most of the can hear it in "Benny and the Jets" and "I've Seen That Movie Too," though it would be used at its most extreme in "Better Off Dead" on his subsequent "Captain Fantastic Album."

While luxuriating in this distinctive sound I found myself paying attention to the elaborate rhythms of Elton John's band at the time. Considering that the songs were nominally based around piano, there's a surprising amount of rhythmic interplay between ALL the instruments, with Nigel Olsson's drums being particularly tricky. Again, I don't know which "drumming terms" to use, but I suppose the right word is "fills." Olsson's fills are perfect. He'd never hit a drum unless it accented the rhythm that the other instruments were playing at the time.

So here's to a drum sound that I haven't heard again since...

...though now that I think about it, you can hear a similar effect in "The W.A.N.D." by Flaming Lips, which must be one of the greatest songs ever, and is always an intricate thrill to dance to:

Given what I understand to be a Flaming Lips tendency to pay "homage" to their '70s influences, I suppose this make sense.

Things You Can Say To Your Cat

Since we're talking about "cat intelligence," here's a list of phrases you might wish to use when interacting with your cat. I can't guarantee that they'll understand what you're saying, but note the simple syntax (excluding the final phrase, which expresses an idea that spayed or neutered cats would probably find nonsensical anyway).

Who's my pretty cat? This is a rhetorical question.

Awww, puss-puss-puss. An affectionate statement.

What do you want?

Look at you! Say this when the cat does something remarkable.

Want to go outside?

Want your treats?


Yeah, you're my BEST girl. This is said while petting. May inspire jealousy if you have multiple female cats.

You'd be a BEAUTIFUL pair of mittens. Say this in a lighthearted way that makes the cat think you're being sweet, and then say "Har. Har."

Are you sad? Are you the saddest girl this side of the Baden Tower?
Usually said in a mocking tone of voice, when the cat is upset about something trivial. You don't need to know where the Baden Tower is in order to say this.

What're you lookin' at? Not accusatory. Said when the cat is looking intently at something which you yourself can't see.

I'm sorry. Say this after a fight.

It's not that I don't love you, it's just that...well, you're a cat, and people would talk.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Sherlock Holmes Solves Some Mysteries

The Case of the Oily Foundation

Even if you have a singularly oily T-Zone, purchase a non-greasy prep lotion such as the one marketed by Quo. It will give you that "fresh-faced lass" smoothness and also prevent your foundation from sliding off.

It was worth being mocked by a cosmetician to solve this case.

Yesterday's Gluteal Soreness

You're wondering why you woke up with a mysterious muscle-soreness running all down your right side? It's because you spent the day previous chasing a duckling under the cars in the parking lot. Seriously, Muffy, have you not yet learned that nature is cruel? You must rest your old bones.

The Mystery of the Early-Morning Cat

Have you not noticed that the cat ONLY does her early-morning yowling when the balcony door is open? Had it not occurred to you that this door lets in an uncommon amount of light, making the bedroom brighter than usual? Have you yourself not been fooled by this illumination?

It's not a wonder that your cat is being fooled, as she is dim-witted.

The Strange Case of the Rotting Vegetable Odour

It's garbage day, and all your windows are open! While YOU eat food which is so packed with preservatives that its half-life is measured in centuries, others eat fresh provender which decays more quickly.

So not to worry, my dear Muffy...that smell is coming from outside!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Scrutable [Song Lyric] Corner: "Mother's Home Again!"

Throughout 1928 The New Yorker ran a sporadic "song lyrics we'd like to hear" section, most of them satirizing the over-sentimental "moon/June" ballads of the time. In the 1928 Christmas issue (December 22) Don Marquis gave us this screwball ditty called "Mother's Home Again!"

I know that this is hardly the time for Christmas cheer, but view this as a window into the secret lives of your sweet, innocent grandparents. It's a surprisingly nasty piece of work.
'Twas on the Eve of Christmas
A face against the pane
Peered in at the firelight;
'Twas worn with vice, and plain;
But all the children shouted:
"Mother's home again!"

Mother's out of jail, Dad!
Let us ask her in!
Make her Christmas merry,
With food and fire and gin!
Mother's out of jail, Dad,
Let us ask her in!

She's watching through the window
Her babes in happy play;
Do not call a copper
To club the Jane* away--
Remember, ere you strike her,
That once her hair was gray!**

Soon at some new night-club
She'll be pinched again,
For Mother is so popular
With all the dancing men--
Invite her in to visit,
Mother's home again!

She's staring through the window
At the Yuletide glow!
Oh, do not throw the old wife
Back into the snow!
She bore you all your children,
And oft has told you so.

Mother's in the street, Dad!
She is out of jail!
Put morphine in the needles,
And some ether in the ale,
Mother's home for Christmas,
Mother's out of jail!
* I assume this is from the 1920's slang word for "sweetheart," but may also reference a 1925 New Republic article called "Flapper Jane."

** Either a forced rhyme, or Mother dyes her hair now, or maybe she got her head shaved at the jail?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Scrutable Poetry Corner: "Lines To My Next-Door Neighbor"

Here's a poem from the December 15, 1928 issue of The New Yorker, and it really resonates with me. It's called "Lines To My Next-Door Neighbor."
I don't mind your callers,
Since youth must have its flight;
But what I do object to
Is quite a different thing

Since New York walls are made of paper,
If you must talk
Will you please talk
Loud enough so I can hear
What you talk
Oh, I agree! It's MADDENING to hear human voices muttering JUST BELOW a comprehensible volume. Part of me wants to press my ear against the wall, and my other part says "Jesus, Muffy, don't be so nosy!"

Why do I want to listen? Certainly not to hear anything juicy. I just want to find some justification for why I'm forced to hear the sound in the first place. A nonsensical-but-deliberate noise is far more annoying than a noise with a rationale, in the same way that it's easier to excuse a rambunctious birthday party than it is to excuse a "just because we felt like it" kegger.

PS: The above poem was written by the virtually anonymous "J.C." If he or she was unwilling to clarify their identity...well, so am I!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Rollerderby Virgin

Today was day three of my whirlwind social tour, which involved driving around all weekend to do new things with interesting people. Am I bushed? You bet! It's been a fabulous time.

My Sunday trip was to see the Tri-City Roller Girls perform for friends, family, and foodbank. I've never seen a rollerderby before -- on the basis of the late-night television show that I occasionally watched during the '90s I'd assumed it was just a bunch of people jumping over alligators -- and I was impressed by the skill and strategy of the actual sport.

I also enjoyed the other significant part of rollerderby these days: the attitude-fashion-lore. Tattoos, rockabilly styles, amazon moms with starstruck children, a guy who looked like Elvis in the "suicide seats."

With both teams being somewhat arbitrarily-assigned home-towners -- the Vicious Dishes and the Venus Fly Tramps -- I found it difficult to know who to cheer for. I finally settled on the Vicious Dishes because I know more of the members, and I vividly recall sitting in my parent's living room at the age of fourteen, listening to Depeche Mode with the woman now known as "Mean Little Mama." Old loyalties die hard.

I'll definitely try to keep up with their future exploits. May I see the day when they teach those Hamilton women a thing or two?

How to Write a Non-Fiction Book About Technological Innovation

Recently I've been on a "history of computing" kick." I've always been fascinated by the explosion of possibilities during the early days of computing -- Whilrwind, the PDP series, the Alto, the Arpanet -- so I have been reading (and re-reading) some wonderful books about the subject.

I started with "Crystal Fire" by Michael Riordan and Lillian Hoddeson, which describes in meticulous detail the development of the transistor (and, by extension, the microchip). These sorts of books often try to "play up" internal conflicts in order to add tension to the subject, but this time it must have been easy; William Shockley -- whose mismanagement skills resulted in an exodus of researchers who eventually built Silicon Valley -- sounds like he was a real jerk.

Right now I'm re-reading Michael Waldrop's "The Dream Machine," which I highly recommend. It follows J. C. R. Licklider's extraordinary career, from MIT to ARPA, touching on all of the people he inspired and the technologies they in turn developed. These people conceived of -- and built -- everything we know about personal computing today: graphical user interfaces, object-oriented programming, plasma screens, laser printers, mice, networking, word processing. I'm particularly interested in the information about PARC, an institution that has fairytale connotations in my mind.

Eventually I'll be re-reading two more classic works -- "Hackers" by Stephen Levy and "The Soul of a New Machine" by Tracy Kidder -- but I'm already experiencing a sort of "computer book" fatigue. I notice that there are common methods for presenting information in these books, and I can't help getting slightly annoyed every time I run across's gotten to the point where I can see them coming ten pages in advance.

Here are a list of cliches to avoid when talking about the history of computing, both to improve future books on the subject and so I can get them off of my chest. Each cliche will be presented as a title followed by a paraphrased example.

Introducing a New Person Who Eventually Became Famous and Who Will Be the Subject of the Next Chapter
Pensive, John Doe found himself wandering the hallways in search of inspiration. Eventually he found himself face-to-face with a nondescript young man in bluejeans and sandals...a young man named Bill Gates.

(Chapter break)

Gates' grandparents moved to the American midwest in 1895...
Mentioning a New Person Who Eventually Became Famous Whose Biography was Cut From the Book For Reasons of Space
John Doe never thought to patent his invention, believing that all mankind should benefit. Other people certainly DID benefit, especially a nondescript young man named Bill Gates.

But that came later...
Mentioning Important Forums and Research Papers
John Doe published his research paper in a tiny engineering journal, expecting nothing to come of his insights. This paper is now considered to be one of the landmarks in computing history and is still read by students today.
Revealing an Innovation to Be Something That We Now Take For Granted
What should he call his new discovery? John Doe spent weeks trying to find the perfect name. Fortunately for us, names like "Spunkonet" and "Poopertron" were rejected offhand. But one, submitted by a nondescript young man named Bill Gates, finally stuck.

"Those other names are silly," said Bill, standing fashionable in his sandals and bluejeans. "Why not call this thing...The Internet?"

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I'd Buy Anything By...Kirsty MacColl

I can hardly be authoritative about Kirsty MacColl because I've only recently fallen in love with her. For years I'd heard her mentioned as a brilliant songwriter, but it wasn't until I started performing Tracey Ullmann's cover of "They Don't Know" that I decided to investigate the source.

MacColl was a witty songwriter with a totally unorthodox voice, and it's sad that much of her music (and image) remained so locked in '80s pop: jangly guitars, slick production, prefabricated synths. Like several other artists I've mentioned in this "I'd Buy Anything" series, I certainly don't like ALL of her music -- I don't even like MOST of it -- but I recognize her talent and I revel in her better moments.

Here's "Terry," one of her earliest singles. It didn't go anywhere but it illustrated MacColl's ability to work clever rhymes, social commentary, and deadpan humour into a song.

As far as I can tell her music only caught on in North America on two occasions. First, in her brilliant duet with The Pogues ("Fairytale of New York," in case you haven't been to a Christmas party lately), and second during her big 2000 comeback: "In These Shoes?"

So seventeen years after "Terry," here's her wildly popular song, and a video that NEEDS to be put in a time capsule as a cross section of common human sexuality. Look quick and you'll see Kirsty twice...I'll let you pick her out.

Kirsty MacColl's death -- at the age of 41 -- was horrifying. While scuba diving with her children in Mexico, a speeding motorboat in a diving-only area struck and killed her. The boat was owned by an influential millionaire who allegedly managed to shift the blame to a lackey and avoid all criminal charges. Many feel that justice was never done.

More Pictures from Guelph Pride 2008

The MC at the Guelph Pride dance was the always wonderful Emily Szabo, and she put some pictures of the event on the Magic 106.1 website. I won't steal them because they're available for all to see!


I promised myself that I wouldn't drink ANY booze before or during the Pride Prom, and it's a promise I managed to keep.

Alcohol certainly gets me out of my shell, however, so I spent most of the night hiding in our change room, which was the handicapped anteroom to the women's bathroom: well-lit, yes, but with small 45-degree mirrors on the ceiling and a constant bass-booming soundtrack (the doorway being next to the speakers). Young girls in formalwear filed past us as we unhappily revealed our most intimate secrets.

This change room was the only really awkward part of the night.

A SUPER nice crowd. Now I understand why adults call teenagers "cute," while I simultaneously understand why the teenagers hate it. Miss Drew was the expected high-energy professional, organizing the king/queen pageant at the last minute and delegating responsibilities to Noir and I. Noir, being the runner and makeup person, was wearing the most amazing belt of brushes I have ever seen.

The pageant was good natured. I'm not sure how these students knew each other -- one said most of them were from "The Hill," which might have meant "Forest Hill" -- but they certainly had their favourites in the contest. Drew sprung a Q&A session on them, perhaps to even out the fact that three of the contestants looked SO uber-polished. "Johnny Depp," quiet, shy, ingenious, won the King contest, and "Sexy Lexy" narrowly beat out "Cheryl Alyssa" as the queen.

Most amazing was the confidence of these people; when asked serious questions they had instant, self-assured responses, even though they had absolutely no time to prepare. I didn't have HALF that confidence in school. Heck, I STILL don't.

I did, however, find the whole situation a little nerve-wracking...but I almost ALWAYS find these things nerve-wracking, so that's no surprise. Having not learned my lesson, I once again attempted fledgeling crowd interaction, stumbling down the auditorium steps and making a beeline to the first person I saw in order to...what? Once I reached that person I realized I didn't know WHAT THE HECK I WAS DOING. So I did the first thing that came to mind, sort of a full-contact shimmy that I hope to God didn't come across as sexual.

BONUS FUN: It was up to me to get directions to the Country Hill Community Centre and I was the "lead car" in our two-car caravan. I was very proud of myself when we arrived in the parking lot, having made no false turns and hitting no pedestrians.

We marched into the centre, dragging our suitcases. Miss Drew was dressed in a sort of rainbow bikini and hooker heels. A middle-aged lady ran up to us and screamed "You're in the wrong place!" We laughed, thinking she was kidding, but then we looked around and saw all these REALLY young kids staring at us in shock and surprise.

We were at the wrong community centre. We had crashed a 14-year-old boy's birthday party.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Huge Weekend Fun!

I simply HAVE to shake off the "cold weather blues." Fortunately, the world is conspiring to get me out of the house so I can exercise my frigid blood. Lots going on this weekend!

* Friday night: I'll be performing at (and helping to judge) the drag show that's being held at OK2BME's high school "Pride Prom." This is just fabulous. MY high school prom options were "wear a suit and dance with people I didn't like" or "watch 'Freaks' with friends in a basement." And while "Freaks" was lots of fun, a Pride Prom would have been better!

* Saturday: The Multicultural Festival! Okay, it ain't what it used to be, and it'll probably rain, but the food will be good.

* Sunday: The Tri-City Roller Girls get suited up and elbow each other in the face! As an added bonus this is being held in New Hamburg -- my hometown -- so I get to watch scrapping women where I once watched Mennonites looking sad. That IS progress.

Here's hoping your dance card is filled and your weekend is a pretty one!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Ambitious Kitchener/Waterloo Buswalk Tour: Route Eleven

There is a right way and a wrong way to do a Buswalk Tour.

The right way is to plan for a weekend of calm weather. Stock up on supplies and sunscreen and make sure your camera battery is charged. Find a schedule and a map for the route you want to take and ensure that you can get there on time. In short: look ahead.

Unfortunately, the right way is also the least interesting way, and it simply discourages me. If I can actually ANTICIPATE the potential tedium, anxiety, and sunburn involved in the tour...well, I just won't go. I have learned this from experience.

A few Sundays ago I suddenly decided -- on my way home from breakfast -- that it was time to take a tour. I had twenty minutes to gather supplies and catch my bus to route three -- Ottawa South -- and of course I missed it.

So, at the central terminal, I waited for whichever bus would arrive next, which turned out to be route eleven, "Country Hills." Throwing all caution to the wind I climbed aboard the bus expecting to find a map, but as we chugged off I realized that all the maps were gone; I was riding into nowhere with a small, stinky boy and two wheezing alcoholics. The day was exceptionally hot and cloudless. I had no idea where I was going.

That was, officially, "the wrong way."

(For ALL the pictures go here...this blog entry will only show a few of them and give you an overall sense of what happened).


Here's the place where I got off. Having no map to guide me, I simply waited until I was suitably lost and until the drunk people left. Not a bad-looking neighbourhood, but a disconcertingly large number of robins bobbing around.

Every time I do a Buswalk tour I immediately come across a park which leads into a forest, and this time it was "Alpine Park," a depressing wedge of unsheltered grassland. The forest on the edge, however, was a magical tangle of paths and undergrowth and shade, with the occasional cryptically-vandalized tree.


On the other side of the forest, in a sprawling schoolyard, two men were playing with model planes while their children kicked a deflated volleyball around. Whenever you find two men playing with gadgetry you will be engulfed by giddiness and a degree of welcome that you wouldn't find if they were -- for instance -- fixing their cars. I stood with them and watched the planes fight the strong breeze which did nothing to cool any of us off. The children sulked with their neglected volleyball, kicking, bitching.

The second rule of a Buswalk tour is that I will eventually find a power corridor. This one cut between the enormous, low housing complexes that make up a large part of Country Hills. It lead me to the first of the many fences that would thwart my journey, forcing me to detour back and walk through the slightly crappy residential area for the third time.

Why do I say it was "slightly crappy?" Maybe it was the balconies covered in junk and bristling with satellite dishes. Maybe it was the huge parking lot, berefit of trees or benches. Maybe I thought the broken planters were a little sad, or perhaps I was most disturbed by the used maxi pad which lay a-droop on the newspaper box.


Mapless and feeling a little down, I decided it would be best to work my way back into the city. Since this required finding a way across the expressway, I followed Ottawa Street: my nemesis, choking traffic, exhaust fumes, the sun at its highest and hottest. Two chihuahuas in a beat-up pickup truck barked hysterically at me as I crossed the street, trying to leap out of the window and bite my shoetips; it was a strangely personal and sweet moment for all of us.

(Two days later the Kitchener/Waterloo Record printed a front-page picture almost identical to the one I took below, to highlight that this intersection really really sucks.)


I walked back along Ottawa street past aging bikers with beers nestled in their chubby crotches, staring at me, staring at the ugly neighbourhood. Warehouses, impromptu sidewalks, rusted metal, cars on blocks, great hot sky.

Near the intersection of Ottawa and Mill I found a set of railroad tracks. I am unable to resist railroad tracks; they are secret, forbidden places which show you the underbelly of the city. Walking on railroad tracks is like looking at the world's hidden bumhole. It is also generally without any shelter from the sun, and it can potentially be a trap.

I didn't see any good bumholes but I DID realize that I was walking into a trap: crossing BACK under the expressway -- going in the wrong direction, then -- and wedged between factories and the Rockway Golf Course. You do NOT want to tresspass on a golf course. Their security guards have little tolerance for shaggy, sunstruck vagabonds.


A brief moment to catch my breath under the underpass and view some not-so-bad graffiti, then I decided upon the Next Big Risk in my journey: I took advantage of an open gate to enter the forbidden and highly illegal expressway boundary.

So picture this: I was walking through the waist-high grass and brambles of the boundary. The highway itself was up a high slope to my right, and to my left -- across an eight-foot chain link fence -- was the golf course. Behind me were the railway tracks and ahead of me...who knows? I just knew it was the direction I needed to go.

It was a long walk. I was baking in the direct sunlight and beginning to feel light-headed. Across the fence, golf games stopped to watch my ridiculous trek through the grass. The fence turned inwards and I had no choice but to climb it, leaving me still sandwiched between two places I could not go, and then...

The stream. A cheery water feature which ran through the golf course and under the expressway, twenty feet wide, about a foot deep. Cutting right across my route, across which lay Courtland Avenue: the only street which could take me home.

While scouting under the overpass I found what appeared to be a loose line of rocks crossing the stream. I either had to go back -- over the fence and along an hour's worth of shadeless route -- or try to walk across the rocks.


The rocks it was.

Step by step I tested each stone. Some of them were unstable and a few were just clumps of submerged algae. I was carrying two heavy bags full of supplies and wearing the eyeglasses which distort my vision. There was simply no way I could get across without falling in.

At the other side, perfectly dry, I looked back in amazement. I was still a long way from home but least I hadn't toppled, gotten covered in goose feces, and ruined my camera. A testament to my ability to walk zombie-like through adversity; I would have been perfect machine-gun fodder during the first world war.

Up Courtland, past beautiful factories that I was too tired to take pictures of, I finally made it to King Street and sat down in the shade. The number seven bus would eventually come and take me far, far away from Country Hills.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Great Computer Migration of 2008

Picture this dramatic scene.

The old eMac and the new iMac meet face to face for the first time. Instead of having a jolly chat about my personal foibles and my inability to keep their keyboards clean, the iMac becomes aggressive and takes instant control: Firewire cable, Migration Assistant, only one goal: to suck all the important information from the eMac and turn it into the obsolete doorstop that we've all suspected it to be.

If the eMac already looked like an E-Z Bake Oven in comparison with the new iMac, it looks doubly pathetic when lashed helplessly to its usurper.

Macintosh computers have a much-vaunted, invincible, seamless integration, except when I try to use more than one of them at a time. The Migration Assistant connects properly to the poor eMac but refuses to do anything more; it just sits for two hours "waiting for the drives to appear." A call to technical support reveals a crucial piece of information that everybody needs to know: "Migration Assistant just always works." That is nice to hear.

My happy tete-et-tete with the technical support technician is interrupted by a dentist appointment, where I get my chipped tooth fixed by chatty oral hygienists who don't know the subtext behind "I Touch Myself" by The Divinyls:

"I always thought they were saying 'I love myself!'"

"Oh no, it's 'I touch myself.'"

"Whew! I mean, 'I love myself,' that's going pretty far! They'd never get away with that."

When my jaws are strapped apart with a pink rubber tent, one of the hygienists says I'm being "awfully quiet," and they laugh hysterically because I am unable to reply. They allow one of the tent flaps to hang over my nose where it sucks into my nostrils with every breath.

I return home with a lip that feels like a totally unfunny balloon animal. My two computers are still connected, as useless and helpless as two dogs who have become locked together having sex. Rather than dump water on them, I decide that attempting to get Migration Assistant working has already taken longer than just manually copying everything over myself.

So that's what I do for the next half hour: copy applications and data through the Firewire connection. Then I bundle up the poor elderly eMac and banish it to its temporary home in my living room, where it can join other sadly forgotten things like my pussycat.

Next, the real hurdle: configuring the system to work with my Sympatico internet account. I hold my breath through the entire procedure, waiting for it to fail the way all non-Apple software always does. Except that it works perfectly the first time, of course, whereas the famous-super-fabulous Apple Migration Assistant just wasted two hours of my day.

My first task, then? Communicating to you, dear blog readers, using my spiffy new computer...I am back in business at last.

Since "business" includes making silly videos and "Daily Muffy" episodes, I'm happy to report that the next "domestic drag show" is still in the works. More importantly, this weekend Vanilla and I documented an ambitious new Daily Muffy. It's called "Protest!" and here's a quick teaser.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The iMac, The Sims 2

My super-duper, ultra beefed-up iMac arrived yesterday. Since I don't currently have anyplace to put her, the as-yet nameless computer will be living on an end table, with a footstool for a seat.

I am already a disciple of the Cult of Mac, being totally in love with its practicality, stability, and integrated nature. But this 24" iMac is simply the most gorgeous thing, its design both elegant and forgettable; even when I'm crouched over on a footstool using it I manage to forget that the computer is even there. Except that I'm using a Dorothy Parker anthology as a mousepad, which makes the user interface a bit clunky at times.

Anyway, I was shocked when I launched Safari...and I was suddenly connected to the internet! The computer isn't even HOOKED UP to the internet yet, at least not via tangible wire. And then I realized: this sneaky little computer was detecting and using somebody ELSE'S wireless network. In fact I have SIX wireless networks to choose from in my menu.

Being new to such things I'm not sure how common this is, or if etiquette (or threat of legal action) dictates I don't steal a bit of their bandwidth until I resolve my "two computers, one modem" issues. Is it bad to do some web browsing on somebody else's network...and can they tell when I'm doing it?

I couldn't take the computer home without buying ONE game, so I paid the usual hugely-expensive price for a Mac conversion ($75) and bought "The Sims 2." I was terribly addicted to the original version and I'm once again amazed at the study that goes into these games. Whenever one of my Sims does a characteristic finger-snapping habit I just about go into "simulation ecstasy." I'm also thrilled the way that the Sims respond subtly to other Sims in their vicinity, turning their heads slightly to look at them now and then. It is, more than ever, like watching actual humans engaged in day-to-day activity, albeit humans who need to be told when to go to the bathroom.

The most useful enhancement to this version that I've found so far is the ability to greet and dismiss visitors as a group, instead of marching up to each one individually and wasting precious energy. It also seems that the "needs" decay a little less rapidly, which keeps you from getting into an exhaustion cycle when it's time for a party.

As thrilled as I am with the new "aspirations and fears" model, it does seem like there are too many collapsible menus, as though the old streamlined interface has bloated a bit.

Still, it's certainly a fun game, and it will be even better once I've downloaded some additional custom content. I hope it's no longer necessary to edit each mesh by hand in order to make it Mac compatible!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

After the Sound, the Colour

I've enjoyed watching the invent of sound wash over the New Yorker film reviewer, leading him through the typical stages of denial and anger and now into acceptance (at least, he no longer talks about it).

But the poor guy...he's barely recovered before December 1928 brings him...COLOUR!
The great scientific advance in the art of the cinema, starting this week's new era, is the Technicolor film (all in color) at the Embassy--"The Viking."
Having learned his lesson about sound, does the reviewer embrace colour as the next major development in film? Or does he belittle it?
As a matter of fact this picture is rather pretty, though certainly not art. The sea is too green and the sky too blue for sensitive people, but if you like your colors bright and gay you won't mind that.
So don't's just a gimmick and not "art," and you should probably wear sunglasses in the theatre.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Reuben's Calls Out Frances Williams

Move over Evelyn, Frances is the next target in the Reuben's "YOU HAVE NO PRIVACY, CELEBRITY!" ad campaign.
Somehow we never quite associate the electrifying FRANCES WILLIAMS with such grossly material things as buying merchandise--but then, when it comes to Holiday shopping--(and when we say shopping we're speaking of Reuben's now!)-- we all meet on common ground. We'd like to delve deeply into MISS WILLIAMS' rapturous reactions to our precious presentation of fascinating feminine fripperies...the ducky Atomizers, the the snooty Boudoir Lamps, the fussiest of fussy Sweetmeat Boxes...mmmm! don't we wish we had the space to say more!
As if sharing a stage with The Marx Brothers wasn't harrowing enough, now all of Frances' friends knew exactly where she bought that ducky Atomizer.

PS: Just in case you were wondering, an "Atomizer" didn't blow things up, it just sprayed perfume around.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Corona for Christmas

There's a wee touch of selfishness in your gift of a Corona to HER-- You're probably intending to borrow it now and then yourself! And why not? Corona can be loaned with impunity. Your manly touch can't hurt it anymore than can her own dainty fingers.
Look at the way she's HOLDING it though, as though she had a muscular disease. Is that what having "dainty fingers" meant? Maybe she's thinking "oh no, machine grease all over my nightgown."

I also like the way that he's staring appreciatively at the Corona, not particularly caring about his wife's flimsy clothing. He is basking in the joy of Christmas gadgetry and wives need not apply.

PS: Only seven keys on the top row? Those really WERE simpler times.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Coming Up...

Now that the tornado warning is over, I can put aside my hurricane lantern and bottled water and tell you what's happening next.

FIRST: I've started work on another "domestic drag show," the first in months. I'm continuing to experiment with a "no storyboard" approach, partly to stretch my editing savvy but mainly because I hate drawing storyboards.

Stay tuned! It should be ready in another week or so.

SECOND: Speaking of things I haven't done in a long time, I went on another "Ambitious Kitchener/Waterloo Buswalk Tour" today. I'm not sure what I'll call it yet -- "Ottawa, Sweet Ottawa" maybe, or "Day of the Robin," or perhaps "Stuck Between the Tracks, the Fence, the Expressway, the Golf Course, and the Water Feature." The last one sums it up best but it's a little too long.

I should be able to post the writeup and the pictures by tomorrow afternoon.

THIRD: Don't forget that Victoria Parks and I do the Club Renaissance "Glamourspunk" nights on the second Thursday of every month. Hey, that's this week! You should drop in!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Pictures from Guelph Pride

I try not to steal photos -- unless they're worth millions of dollars -- but here are some that non-Facebook blog-readers will otherwise not see. And since I don't generally get pictures of myself "on stage," these ones reveal the Muffyshow in action.

Plus I think they're especially good. I'm not sure if Tamarra Vivian was selective in what she put online, or if she simply avoided those moments when I was gurning like a drowning fish.

First picture: taking advantage of one of the many instrumental breaks in Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy."

Second picture: interacting with the crowd without -- you know -- REALLY interacting with them, which would be scary.

I learned this sort of interaction from dogs and cats.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

An Interesting Facebook Phenomenon

Every once in a while on Facebook I am deluged by "friend requests" from mysterious men. The only friends I have in common with these people are a small group of the sexier drag queens and she males in Kitchener and Toronto. I look at their profiles and see that ALL of their friends are attractive she males in provocative clothing, usually with their legs in the air. There is a definite trend. My own profile picture (of me kissing a hamster) seems slightly out of place.

What's most fascinating, however, is that these men ALWAYS list themselves as "Male, seeking women." I can't help wondering if they are being flattering to the people they're stalking (assigning them an unreserved female gender), or if they're so closeted that they can't even admit they want to have sex with men...even though the only people who will ever see the profile are the very men they're trying to have sex with.

This is actually sort of fun for me. I try to keep my list of Facebook friends small, because I don't view friends either flippantly or as objects to be collected. Usually a friend request is an agony for me, because I'm torn between only accepting "real friends" and not wanting to hurt or reject anybody (or burn any bridges). So I sit there pondering the Accept and Ignore buttons before just giving up and making a new Facebook friend.

These mysterious men with their conflicted desires are the only Facebook friends that I can easily -- even gleefully -- reject with the understanding that they are not IN ANY WAY friends of mine. This is a form of power that humans have been reveling in since sex took on the glittering sheen of weaponry...and like all weapons, it should only be used against those who don't really care about you.

A Lot of Small Things That Don't Deserve Individual Blog Posts

I am never in uptown Waterloo between 4:30pm and midnight, but today I walked home late in the afternoon -- enjoying the sultry air and the slowly easing humidity -- and I was shocked to find that a group of cool, wonderful people were congregated on EVERY CORNER.

I talked to one group of long-lost acquaintances, walked another block, and then talked to another group. All of us were part of a long, lazy line of good-natured chattiness.

What uptown Waterloo needs is a string of affordable sidewalk cafes.

Somebody has finally cleaned the fountain in the park beside the retirement home. For the last two months that fountain has been a stagnant pool of wet duck feces. I did enjoy watching toddlers try to climb into it as their parents screamed in terror, but I will enjoy it much more when it is sparkling and bubbling and cheerful again.

Until somebody puts dish soap in it.

Speaking of pranks, some happy-go-lucky hooligans have hung six pairs of shoes on the George St. power lines, presumably to practice their bolo-tossing skills. This is one of those enduring acts of vandalism that surely causes a headache for city workers, but which always looks sort of jaunty and harmless on the surface.

Bullet points look terrible in this blog template. That's why I'm writing in full paragraphs with bolded words as separators.

Yesterday at lunch I noticed that something was stuck in my teeth, and after a bit of wrestling I pulled it out...and it was a tiny chunk of enamel. Since I didn't eat a "bacon, lettuce, and enamel" sub that day I could only assume that it was from my very own teeth, and I scheduled a dentist appointment for today.

They looked in my mouth and confirmed that, yes, a piece of one of my molars had chipped off. They considered this to be strange but didn't seem particularly worried. I stopped being worried too once I found out that the repair would be covered by my insurance.

I am still waiting for my new iMac to arrive, which I ordered almost three weeks ago. This is like anticipating Christmas but having people keep moving the date back, until by Valentine's Day you don't care much anymore.

If anything, my cat's morning "yowl-a-thon" is growing all the more intense. She is, in fact, yowling at me right now. I really do think that this is a function of her age, as suggested by Eli in the comments.

Thank goodness the American Democratic primary is finished. I was seriously losing sleep.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Guelph Pride 2008!

Guelph Pride was, as always, a huge amount of friendly fun. I do miss the sunny atmosphere of the old "Pride Picnics," but it's nice to be able to drink and dance, and to not have to get up at 8am.

I put up some pictures on Flickr but -- as usual -- they're mostly of the dressing room:

Dramatic Dressing Room

Look at this gorgeous place! There were only three of us performing...and they gave us FOUR MIRRORS! Not to mention the treats and the smiles and the great DJ and the enormous amount of respect for everybody, and a truly stellar bartender.

But I couldn't drink too much because...I drove! My first extended late-night excursion, following Mapquest directions and discovering that my highbeams don't work. And driving in heels. A necessary experience!

Thanks, Guelph, for another wonderful Pride...I'm already looking forward to next year!

Cosmetic Breakthroughs for Sweaty People with Wrinkles

At its very center my life is a never-ending attempt to look as good as possible for as long a time as possible, meanwhile fighting to hold the effects of aging at bay.

Actually that's not my life at all, I'm only kidding, but it's a substantial part of my WEEKENDS. So here's what I've learned recently.

As I've said before I have really greasy skin, and this is a problem because I wear CoverFX cream-based makeup with a heavy coating of powder. Oils are constantly seeping through the foundation around my T-zone, spreading and puddling to such an extent that migrating waterfowl occasionally get trapped on my nose and die. A tragedy for everybody.

One method of controlling this "puddling" is to constantly apply powder to the affected areas. In the past I have used a large foundation brush, but this causes the now-oily cream foundation to smear off as well, resulting in gradually-worsening Picasso-face.

After getting equally bad results from a thin, stiff eyeshadow brush -- which smeared off the cream AND didn't blend the powder -- I tried out a Quo "All Over Shadow" brush. This is an extremely soft, puffy, rounded brush about the size of the nail on your middle finger, and it applies foundation with enough strength to make it stick, but not so much to scrape off the cream foundation or keep the powder from blending. Wonderful!

But none of this stops my second problem. After a few hours "in face," the jolly "smile lines" around my eyes become engraved into the cream foundation, giving me a decidedly un-jolly "Kabuki" look. Re-powdering makes the problem worse, and putting additional cream over the creases does nothing useful whatsoever.

Victoria Parks to the rescue! During our Paris adventure she recommended using a damp sponge to smooth out those lines. I finally tried it after coming home from the Guelph Pride party! Creases-be-gone! Get a wedge-shaped cosmetic sponge, put a bit of water on it, squeeze it out so it's almost dry, and then lightly wipe the creases away.

This might take some fine-tuning, since applying powder afterwards brings the creases back immediately. Back to the lab, Frankenmuffy...there must be a solution.


Beware: you can bruise your feet with high heels.

This happens to me so infrequently that I forget about it every time, but during some circumstances -- like jumping around on a stage at the Holiday Inn during Guelph Pride -- I manage to damage my feet in an incredibly painful way.

It feels like a constant burning inside the ball of my foot, which becomes a sharp pain each time I take a step. Since my foot doesn't actually swell up or anything when this happens, I assume that the bruising is of some tissue deep inside...a muscle or a joint or something.

The last time this happened was when I tried to break in a pair of very high feather mules. The deceptive thing about this is that the pain doesn't actually start until a few hours later, so you've got no warning that something's wrong until it's time to recover. And that takes days of hobbling around and inspecting your foot for gangrene.

So be careful, girls...feet will only take so much.