Friday, April 11, 2014

Who's zoomin' who?

Terrorism made September 11th a date none of us can forget. For entirely different reasons this year, residents of Toronto have incentive to set digital reminders or circle the date on calendars.

That day is the end of registration for the job of Mayor of Hogtown, the entirely unflattering nickname that has stuck to this sprawling, metropolitan city. Actual Election Day is October 27th.

Incumbent Mayor, Rob Ford has, during his tenure, acquired a prodigious level of international media notoriety, solidifying his status as head hog. His campaign for re-election is fueled by an unlikely anti-hero aura, eclipsing any moral authority required by civic office, which threatens to undermine his opposition too.

Themes of understanding, rehabilitation and redemption are invoked by Ford Nation spin-doctors. Team Rob is at pains to point out that no individual is entirely infallible and a man's foibles are his own, providing they don't impede the execution of his duties.

To court support from those who agree, he's aligned his aspirations to an iconic constituent whose travails are comparable.

"Big" Ben Johnson surely knows this territory more than most.


September 24th 1988 is another one of those dates we easily recall. The day our hearts thumped at the sight of our likely lad humbling Carl Lewis, and an elite Olympic sprint field, before the world.

Shame, scandal and steroids summarily rescinded Ben's gold medal, and his world records, but couldn't disqualify his sport-celebrity, albeit tainted, due to the giddy high of his moment of glory.
 
Energy put into what has to be seen as cheating, realised his goal in Seoul, and what was done could not be comprehensively undone.

Indeed, just as our bellicose burgermeister seeks a second term at City Hall, so too was Ben afforded a second chance. His own personal ambitions and a public unwilling to let go of a heady thrill, continued to offer opportunity. It was during that time I fell into the vat of adrenaline, gamely running behind Ben in a field full of horses, when his comeback trail passed through an episode of Neon Rider. 



Featuring a redemptive storyline, that show was titled "Phoenix." Come to think of it, that's a word the Mayor's camp could use, in acknowledgement of the damage Mr. Ford's behaviour has done to his career, and signal the intent to transcend it. Apparently though, their strategy is more-of-the-same, which could cost the election.

Still, with tabloid mentality in the mix, plebiscites can be unpredictable, so we watch as the thick-skinned Ford forges on. What is probable is that his celebrity will survive the outcome of the vote and revive at some point, in another form. Perhaps reality TV?

A spot on "The Biggest Loser" or "Hog Dynasty" anyone?

Ben Johnson meanwhile (nobody's fool if you take my word for it) maintains his profile and lines himself up for a prominent personal training challenge to add to his Maradona and Ghaddafi credits. 
 
This is a counter-intuitive, unholy alliance - but, to borrow a phrase from Aretha Franklin's 1985 disco hit ... who's zoomin' who? 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

As the tundra thaws.

Can it be that it was all so simple then,
or has time rewritten every line ...

That couplet query from the classic tune "The Way We Were" has been crooned by everyone from Doris Day to Gladys Knight, Bassey to BeyoncĂ© - even sampled by Wu Tang, but originally featured in Barbara Streisand's 1973 film of the same title.

Undoubtedly intended for wistful romanticism in the context of the screenplay, the universality of sentiment lends itself to broader interpretation, in the tradition of the greatest song lyrics.

A chilly mid-March trip to Ottawa, the stoic capital of Canada, and a foray to its impressive Museum of Civilization, stirred some misty watercolor memories in the corners of my mind, which I've parlayed into a dot-to-dot, didactic dispatch from the diaspora.



Here, images of imperial impetus, implicit on London's festooned Coronation Arch, surpass largesse and God's love for King.

This was, in fact, brilliant billboard marketing strategy by Canadian politico Sir Clifford Sifton, encouraging immigration en masse from Britain amid the euphoria of Edward VII's crowning.

Invite them and they will come. All so simple then, in 1902.

However, just as each successive singer re-interprets a familiar standard, so too is history, in time, rewritten ... every line.

Sifton's Conservative immigration policies expressly discouraged such "undesirables" as Asians, Jews and Blacks, while millions of Continental Europeans were seduced and settled. Still, post-war, and particularly post-Expo '67, patterns of immigration ensure
what's too painful to remember, we can't simply choose to forget.
 

 As my scattered pictures can attest to, the social fabric of Canada is sewn with imported memories from disparate realities and far-flung motherlands. We are a populated, yet sparse Precambrian template where tropic meets temperate, turning tundra into hybrid identity.

Don't tell me Jerk Poutine doesn't make sense in this melange.

Back in the sanctuary of my venerable copper-roofed refuge, the Lord Elgin Hotel (on, you guessed it, Elgin Street - after James Bruce 8th Earl of Elgin who became Governor General of Canada in 1847), I mine for more insight into the way we were.

And I find gold.

It turns out that our good peer, was deployed northward after four challenging years as Governor of Jamaica. One territory reeling from profit-loss after the end of four hundred years of enforced agricultural labor, to another where farms were selectively granted gratis. Both requiring responsible structural self-governance.

A cooling Carib-cauldron, for the flux of a frigid frontier warming up.



But, as I've discovered during this throwback winter-of-old, it can't have been easy as a pioneer, regardless of circumstance. So much so, that even when the weather improves it's advisable to keep looking above, as the thaw presents a discrete set of issues.

This is testimony that nothing is ever truly simple, answering one question in the song - the one about simplicity and time, yet highlighting the next conundrum therein.

If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we? could we?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Stanislavsky meets Waldo at Hollywood and Vine.

Ever heard the phrase "there are no small parts, only small actors?"
 
This is usually attributed to Konstantin Stanislavsky, the Russian progenitor of Method Acting, or Czech novelist Milan Kundera if you really want to get academic about it.
 
Alternatively, if you care to laugh at the expense of vertically-challenged thespians, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, and even Kevin Hart, fit the bill for cheapshot anecdotes. For the rest of us working actors, those words offer solace when the size of our roles requires ... um, full focus.

With that in mind, channel-surfing becomes not so much a U.K. watersport, but a prescription for missing some "Where's Waldo" moments, such as these, featuring our very own Ackeelover as Waldo incarnate.

For starters, promotion is in full shwing for "Working The Engels," a hilarious new Global/NBC, half-hour sit-com, starring Andrea Martin. Look for me as "Jeb Peters" in what is likely to be the 4th or 5th episode to air.

You'll excuse the cheeky selfie-spoiler. Use it as motivation to watch.
 
Vigilance for me as "Lang" in episode 2 of "The Strain" will be more of a challenge. Have your popcorn and beer readily at hand before settling in for this new FX drama. However, until it becomes available on your local network, this visual-aid from my dressing-room prep will tick some boxes. 
 

Sit-com? Check. Drama? Check. Time for a movie don't you think?

Enter "Bobby" in the UPTV original "Apple Mortgage Cake," due this Easter. The winsome and talented Kimberly Elise, latest addition to my growing list of screen exes, stars in this inspiring true story of Angela Logan, who admirably bakes away a life-crisis.
 
I'm not sure how, or if, an iPhone selfie relates to classical Method theory, but I'm happy to have technology for proof that Waldo and Stanislavsky do meet at the intersection of ego and career.
 
Or Hollywood and Vine. Just don't ask me what to call actors with small parts, ok. I wouldn't know.
 

Friday, February 14, 2014

It's life, it's love, it's joy, it's everything.

By the time you read this, Valentine's Day will have passed.

But fear not young lovers, for I design these thoughts to endure, like true love itself. Chocolate lays a credible claim to the title but for my purposes here, Cupid's award goes to another. Music, the food of love.

Anyone who ventures to this page will know within short order that, by "music," I refer to Reggae. The Jamaican sound calibrated to cardio, programmed to pulse and honed to the beat of your heart. That same organ used as the universal symbol for love.

Being a multi-faceted industry, well past infancy, there's a wide selection of Reggae extant. Genres and sub-genres, good and bad. Bad, "good" stuff and yes, even good, "bad"stuff. But the best of the product soothes the sensory like inevitable breeze, biding-up with the natural world.

There's Reggae for every occasion. This Valentine's Day is when I'll remember first hearing this new work from Tarrus Riley.





















Reggae chromosomes regenerate themselves. Progeny of the music-form routinely carry on batons of their forebears. Tarrus has a foundation pedigree, which is hardly unique (Reggae heads will get the insider pun), but it's the select few who supersede the benchmarks of their lineage.

At once traditional and modern, experimental and respectful, the man also known as Singy-Singy, has found a commercially viable groove which will have broad appeal and attract new fans. Skit interludes and unaffected chat marry a contemporary approach to classy Rock Steady riddims. The glue is Riley's vocal excellence and topnotch Dean Fraser production.

A very early contender for next year's Grammy. This is one to seek out if you want to experience the feeling "upful," which no music delivers more comprehensively, for the whole soul, than Reggae.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Free February.

Black. History. Month. Three little words we link together in February, then not again until a year has transpired.

I dig history. No wonder I went on to study Archaeology. (allow me a little chuckle at that there petit-pun, and a hope the reader will accept my disarming icebreaker - as such.)

Couple things about history ... (1) it happened, and (2) there's an awful lot of it, with more made every day. It can be micro or macro, ipso and facto. And, it leaves clues in as wide a variety.

I got an early start on this season-of-reason by reading the story of Aminata Diallo, engagingly imagined around a lot of said clues, by renown Canadian author Lawrence Hill. In The Book Of Negroes, describing one woman's 18th-century lifetime, Hill paints a vivid context, collating history into a timeline today's knowledge-seeker can refer to.















The illustrated edition of this book should be in every library near you, though it was controversially re-titled Someone Knows My Name for America and certain other markets. Clearly, that word, Negro, used and abused, carries so much history that it can enter publishing-house boardrooms and reshape itself.

If you're putting off reading this book, or won't go see 12 Years A Slave, then the chances are excellent that you'll never see any of the films which have been pulled together for the 2nd annual staging of the Toronto Black Film Festival this February.



That, in itself, is justification for this focus on Black film. And also why I'll join a TBFF14 discussion panel on screen diversity.

Organisers Fabienne Colas and Emile Castonguay personify the scope of the programming. Inevitably there is copious intersection with non-Black historical and dramatic narratives - 'cos the world works that way.

While the fledgling TBFF14 takes foothold in this big film festival town, miles away they gear up for another. Los Angeles hosts the 22nd annual Pan African Film Festival which twice screens The Skin, a contemporary supernatural thriller from Antigua I appear in, and have previously written about.



Incidentally, February 6th is when we celebrate Bob Marley's birthday. Though, like the relevance of Black/African history,
I must confess, for me it's a year-round ting.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Bigga Ford.

By now you might have heard of the delightful Tessanne Chin. She's that Jamaican songstress and media-darling who recently swept all before her on the way to triumph on "The Voice" USA. Charming, centred, adroit and demure, our Tess rode da riddims of her native wordsong into the hearts and souls of millions.

Well, for every Tessanne, it seems there's an anti-Tessanne.

In a turn of events, closely resembling a Maury Povich premise, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has become the latest flashpoint Jamaican dialectician. Boombastic epithets, viral memes and all.

A nuh Missis Chin likkle girl dis ... it's the bumboclaat antithesis.

Loyal bro, Doug, stumps for Rob's political survival just like sis Tami pulls for Tessi's rising star. Comparisons end there. Y'see, Tessanne is a goodaz gyal, while our Mayor makes uncool copy and has running beef wit' da local sheriff - Police Chief Bill Blair.





















"Babylon newspaper seh so, I and I seh so, so what more the people want to reveal?," mused the Rasta prophet. Now, if everyone's commenting on the same thing, it's that much harder to be original.
Enter those easy-to-reach cultural signifiers for Jamaica, add a dash of reticence to appear culturally adrift - cue tricolour Marley memes.

As Rob rhymes with Bobbobsled down this linguistic luge with me. Paraphrasing Rastafari dread style and pattern is its own cottage industry. Broadsheets, blogs and twitter parody accounts, like @MayorRobMarley, leap enthusiastically at typical Marley-brand imagery to feed Toronto City Hall's Tuff Gong-show.
 
 
"Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise." (Proverbs 20:1).
 
Rob Ford's synapses, inebriated and along for the ride, default to bad words in the face of Bacchanal. Not unusual by itself, until incongruity rears its ugly head in a too-cute performance of base guff, communicating on more levels than he likely understands.

And the hits just keep on coming. Wheel up selecta!

  
 Jamaican language is a dynamic mix-up-mix-up of English and Patwa. Perpetually evolving. It is confident and coolly captivating in cadence. Together with its kin, Reggae, we have a contagious combo. Only the uptight are genuinely immune, but the case of  Mr. Mayor shows signs of advanced Yardie-mylitis.
 
Despite being as good a bloodclaat Ja-fake-an mimic as rassclaat Snoop Lion, Natty Rob is no Mystic Man like Peter Tosh, who once scandalized polite society by releasing a song entitled ... yes, "Oh Bumboclaat!"
 
 
My Tessanne Chin references are admittedly a tad gratuitous, but the piece was desperately seeking beautification, y'nahmean?
 
In realworld Jamaica, politicians often flex like rockstars, and cops too. I crack up - no pun intended - visualizing the unseemly outcome if this played out on the public scene there. Rob Ford clashing with a top cop and cussing him all kine a claat
 
If, after a storied career, he wasn't approaching retirement I'd have just the match-up. Robamuffin vs. Legendary Supercop (and coincidental namesake), Cornwall "Bigga" Ford. Then again, they're both facing impending retirement, so why not?
 
#Readytorumble meets #Mannersanddiscipline Uptown.

Ringside sell off.
  

Friday, January 3, 2014

Home is where the heat is.

Wintertime must be the mightiest of seasons. During this season few non-arctic organisms can function to full potential without compromising to the elements. This alone suggests mankind and short haired mammals weren't intended to inhabit regions where winter is so powerful. People who do, have adapted in order to do so. The remainder of us prefer to ... er, hang back on that strategy.

Even winters in the Caribbean can be noticeably cooler, but I can't think of a single tropical animal that has to hibernate.

Since there's an exception to every rule, I expect some bright spark to find a South American Singing Tree Sloth that takes long naps, and hype it to counter my argument. Namely, said hypothesis that we ain't supposed to be dealin' wit' environments which make hard, brittle things, out of soft, pliable ones.



Today was so cold I witnessed a traffic signal go from red, to yellow, then not to green, but to blue! Of course that could've been due to an optical illusion that occurs when your cornea freezes, but it's a minor quibble. It sure looked BLUE!

And this is after I saw what happened to that water inside my shut car. Which was inside my closed garage. Yep, you guessed it - frozed up real good, inside the plastic bottle.

That's, like, triple insulation, is it not?



Regional News is reporting loud, unusual subterranean noises. And ground shaking. Frost quakes they're calling them.

Whatchootalkin'boutWillis?

I ran this by the likable local limnologist who lives down the lane. This is Canada. Here, everybody has one of these.
"It makes complete sense," was his confirmation that we are dealing with cryoseisms resulting from the current deep freeze.

If I was a lawyer I'd feel I could rest my case at this point.
Clearly, beyond a reasonable doubt, we need to reassert our national entitlement to the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Learn and live.

I don't care who you are or think you may be, you will, for a stone cold fact, catch yourself at some time muttering, "ah well, live and learn." Thing is, we don't have to wait for a flashpoint to go there. Learning is constant, whether we admit it or not, and taking stock of its process is tantamount to consciousness.

Walk waking through this world.

Some orator/philosopher probably said that, if not I'll claim it.

Join me in regarding the past four seasons with critical eye, and in learning from the juxtaposition of observation and personal convictions. My focus will be firmly frontal. Pro-gressive.

And who'll dare to deny that "now" is a function of "then," and "future" will also be thus?

So when I reach back to speak of Mandela, of Marcus, or Marley, my intent is to honor these  propulsive, cultural energies.

Of course, if you've been paying attention, you'll know I'm just as likely to trip the light fantastic on Twerkers, Biebers, Royal Heirs or Jayonce Juniors. Doesn't make me crazy, does it?

Well, maybe, but it can't be said that they don't shuffle the deck over at Ackeelover Chronicles. I'm never too far away despite the recent inactivity on this homepage. Ye olde trusty laptop upped and died a couple months ago, but that has become less of a story than the nifty new one I'm learning to use.

There's that L-word again.

Between Twitter @actualApophis, Facebook newsfeeds and right here, you'll see there's no telling where some actors will go for attention. Sex-tape nah mek it again! - blog is da shizzz yo!

Prepare to test your tolerance threshold for hybrid patois and my app-ified selfies. Marvel too at the island-worldview I distill beneath my brand new illuminati NYE party hat.

Stand clear, Happy New Year!