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Shine the Light

I’m out of the closet. Thanks to interweb fairy Jennie Saia at Tip of My Tongue for nominating Burns the Fire for a sunshiney award, advising me to nominate ten blogs I like and write ten, gulp, facts about me. Truth. 1)  I make stuff up. I write fiction and scripts and make movies, bringing…

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To Iran, with Love

I don’t know if you’ve seen Ben Affleck’s Oscar-baiting Argo or Showtime’s once-great Homeland, but while well-crafted, their largely cardboard depictions of Iranian people as fanatical, bloodthirsty, anti-American yahoos has inspired me to pay tribute to some of the most caring, creative and community-minded people I know, in a series I am calling To Iran,…

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As The World Turns

It was 4:00am, I turned in my sleep, when the ceiling hit the floor and the room began to spin. YOW!! As if a puny, mortal howl could bring the cyclone of my spiralling bedroom back down to earth. I flung myself on to the whirling mattress and held on for dear life. It stopped as…

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Life or Death, 3: Top of the World

Michael Goyer dropped dead one year ago today. In front of his wife, my dearest friend Naomi. In a bed set up in their sun-lit living room, recovering from an accident that smashed his elbow and knee. Mike’s life was ripped from his body by a homicidal blood clot and he fought until his heart shut…

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A Family Tree

Forty-eight hours after I saw my Dad die, I stood in front of his wooden casket, in a matching, brown dress. I regarded the box with curiosity, but didn’t feel much. The body inside, the envelope as my husband calls it, wasn’t the father I knew and loved.  We stood together in front of the casket; my traditional…

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My Father Died

My father died. In my mother’s arms. In front of me. He coughed blood and the aneurysm on his infected aorta ruptured. His eyes rolled in his head and his body convulsed. I screamed GET A DOCTOR! and they came running, but my Mom’s best friend of 54 years, my Dad, was already gone. My mother and I…

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The New Me

I needed a makeover. I could hear my mother’s jubilation across town, but I didn’t mean me, Mom, I meant my blog. When I first ventured online, I needed to bust out of the indie film world and boil it all down, so I chose the simplest WordPress template I could find and started scratching…

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Family For-Sale

Do you want to know a secret? Norman Rockwell battled depression his whole life. According to his longtime shrink Erik Erikson, the iconic American painter most famous for his folksylicious portraits of the happy American family- painted his idea of happiness, but did not live it. From 1916 through the 60’s, Rockwell cranked out 323 cheer-worthy covers for the popular Saturday…

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5 Songs to Get Yer Freak On

I got my freak on for my birthday this year, Brooklyn-style, in a run-down warehouse studio with my music-man, two cuzzins, one roach, whiskey, earplugs and a psychedelic-new-wave-funk-punk jam that had me bashing drums and dancing until my feet bled. Sing! Don’t get me started on the Klezmer band that formed at our last bash,…

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Dr. Feelgood

I’m going to die. One day, and whether I like it or not, I won’t have a choice. Neither will you, your best friend or worst enemy. If we could invest in the inevitability, we’d all be rich. The problem is: dying isn’t sexy and it doesn’t sell, while fear, denial and escapism is the…

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Trees Talk to Me

I met Zazie at the park on the first sun-baked day of spring. I was ablaze. I had an idea for a story and needed to share it with someone who could really take the heat. Zazie is open, wild, a free-thinker. Trees talk to me.  In my excitement, I spilled the title first, but…

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MAKE ART, NOT WAR: Meet Etgar Keret

I could be the only Montreal Jew I know who has avoided going home to Israel, despite dangling freebie trips and subsidized holocaust-to-the-holy-land tours. It’s true I was a crack fundraiser for the Israeli dream as a child in private, Jewish school, but I didn’t want to fall for a soldier (let alone be one)…

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I am not alone (Puppy Love 5)

My eyes met Sgnieszka’s as she sat on a park bench under a tree last summer. I went bananas for the pooch and fell hard for her old man, too. They took me home to meet Eddy’s longtime sweetheart Junya and yanked me into their triangle of love. We got right down to business; chug-a-lugging…

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Born to be Wild

There’s a spankin’ new babe in Brooklyn whose sweet stink and brute bawl is kicking my ass off the death train, showing me what it means to be alive. His songsmith Daddy swears the 1970’s band Little Feat are the bomb that stopped the war, so his parents named him LOWELL after the wee-footed vocalist,…

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Life or Death, 2

I keep seeing him in the hospital-bed, after he jumped an eight-foot fence BANG on the concrete, smashing the shit out of his knee, elbow and pride. I keep seeing him after the week-long queue to the hours-long operation, with the bright lights and duelling surgeons. After the wild pain, the drugs. I blew into…

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One Billion Rise

There is a trauma that knifes me in the gut every time I hear the news of another inconceivable crime against women. The voices of my sisters- dead and alive- rise in my throat in a chorus of suffering, fear and rage. Mothers, daughters, sisters, girlfriends, wives: one in three women will be beaten or…

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C’est La Vie (Puppy Love 4)

I have a bad feeling. Something is wrong. I grab the phone and call my friend Junya. She’s the invincible 86 year-old wife of the 90+ Eddy-  tender war vet, family guy and my senior crush. I can’t stop blogging about them and their fluffy, little pooch- who first winked at me from a park bench…

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Life or Death, 1

It was a miracle. Early last spring, sporting jeans, flip-flops and a hack-saw, my husband’s 77 year-old father took it upon himself to climb the 30-foot apple tree in our backyard, to prune it within an inch of its life. Ned begged him to come down. His Dad waved his saw in the air, ha…

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All Living Things, 2: Flesh & Blood

Ok, I lied. In this post about a guy I met who saw a deer road-killed on the highway, muscled its massive, hairy carcass into his trunk, butchered it outside his state-of-the-art cottage in the woods and engorged his stainless-steel freezer with Bambi’s handi-wrapped steaks. I bull-shat when I said the guy was a stranger, because…

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I Love Jew, Philip Roth

After reading that you’re ‘done’ writing. (Photo: Philip Roth in 2010. Credit: Nancy Crampton / Handou) Dear Philip, Like you, I grew up basting in the trauma, neuroses and antibiotic chicken soup of our unstoppable people, one of the chosen ones, always pushing, probing, head-scratching, brow-beating, shirt rending– chosen for what? To do what?? And why me,…

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All Living Things

I was grateful, feasting on spiced turkey and cranberry-stuffed squash, when a mild-mannered business dude and his fuzzy-haired professor wife dropped a story on the table that rocked my world and made me question my relationship to all living things. I wonder what you think. It struck this busy, urban couple that they had too much…

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D.O.A.

If you haven’t noticed, I think about death a lot, cracking wise around the corner. It forces the moment, keeps me on the tip of my toes and reassures me that, at the very end, I’ll be in the arms of a lifelong friend. I won’t be alone. As a pigtailed, little girl in the…

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Never Say Die (Puppy Love 3)

I can’t stop thinking about the old man and that fluffy, little pooch. When the vet warned her days were numbered, my geriatric pal thought it was from the same epidemic that snuffed his older brother, 67 years ago. It didn’t hit him that tuberculosis doesn’t infect dogs because back in the killing fields of WW2, it…

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The Truth and Everything but

I write fiction. Real people are my inspiration but unlike science, I will never clone you. It’s near impossible for a fiction writer to expose the truth of the human condition, let alone offer hope for redemption without an allegorical massage. In the land of make-believe, we serial pretenders run like the wolves, tits bare…

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Puppy Love 2: The Resurrection

Spoiler Alert: The following is the sequel to this furry little tale. I thought she was a goner. Dead dog walking. The old man told me she had canine TB and less than six months to live. Our sadness embraced. After I fell hard for his pooch, the old man invites me home to meet Junya, his…

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Pussy Riot Power

My maternal grandmother was born in Russia, 1905. A Jewish girl, she was chased through the hardship-splattered streets of her shtetl by a wild pig. To add angst to injury, when she hit adolescence, she and the family were run out of the country by pogrom-happy bands of Jew-bashing soldiers. My grandmother went on to live…

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Love and Dance

Front-row, center. So close, I could see some women onstage didn’t shave their legs or under their arms. So close, I could feel their sweat as they catapulted their bodies in space, I could smell their feet. So close, I could smell myself. In the dance world, there is a heartbreaking word: Pina. Philippina ‘Pina’…

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Puppy Love

I meet a dog on the leafy streets of my hound-mad neighborhood, lounging on a bench in the shade. Small, fluffy and impossibly white; a Zen portrait of a clean conscience and absolute faith. My heart gongs when I see her. I move in closer and notice that she is resting on a pair of knees. The…

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Tongue-tied

Yow. I had gum surgery last week. A Herculean display of drilling and scraping and god-only-knows-what-else my otherwise pretty, proper periodontist was doing in there after she coolly injected my entire being with enough novacaine to freeze the student debt and then sliced into my mouth like a ravenous carnivore into a blue steak. It was…

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Go, (HBO) Girls

HBO’s fearless, new comedy GIRLS has got… balls. It would be anatomically correct to say it’s got vagina, but female reproductive parts are not as easy to grab. And grab me, GIRLS has, and I’m only two episodes in. GIRLS follows the post-collegial misadventures of four twenty-something bosom buds in NYC. Unlike it’s skinnier, glossier…

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Feel The Love

Last week, my man and live-in music composer bought me a turntable and hooked it up with two speakers and a woofer in my office, and then he dropped a brand-spanking vinyl copy of my rock-star crush Jack White’s blazing new album Blunderbuss into my hot, little hands. These acts of lovingkindness gave me no choice but to dig into my…

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Hear Me Roar

On the slogan-happy occasion of International Women’s Day, I would like to give a shout-out to people everywhere, in particular to those of you who believe that feminism is dead and that we don’t need a day in the spotlight to trumpet our power and herald our cause. I am here to raise my digital…

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Where is My Vote?

Some of my best friends are Iranian (see: The Heart of a Revolution, and Life of the Party). Some of them, ex-political prisoners under a regime that tried to beat their souls into submission as they tortured their bodies and murdered their friends. At dinner the other night, talk turned to an old activist friend…

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The Bold and the Beautiful

Catapulting me out of blogger’s block is not a crash, a war, a flu, nor the glory of Spring, it is the coming of BRUNO, Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest messianic provocation about a gay, Austrian fashion reporter who assaults our tender psyches with his bare-all fashionista flair. The alt-title says it all: Delicious Journeys Through…

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Collage

This is what I feel like when I don’t write. This is what I feel like when I do. Collages by Brenda Keesal * FAN THE FLAMES * I love to hear from you. Click FOLLOW THIS BLOG VIA EMAIL and join the global party. Don’t forget to send back the confirmation email you’ll receive. I…

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Amen

The American people have finally elected Barack Hussein Obama, a visionary black and white man with a Muslim name and a global pedigree, as the new President of the United States. I am thunderstruck and elated in the way that love floods the heart and spreads everywhere. So grateful, I want to share this moment…

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Dulcinea’s Lament

Dulcinea Langfelder. If her name doesn’t get your blood rushing, her latest show surely will. Born and bred in Brooklyn, New York, Dulcinea Langfelder is part Slovak Jew, and part Sicilian Catholic (which, she believes, might contain Muslim roots). She is a woman of the world for whom the party is on stage. Langfelder’s last show was…

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Love for All

I drop in to see my pal Ahmed at his antique shop slash junk store. Unlike Barak Obama, he is a Muslim and sports the post-Ramadan weight loss to prove it. Ahmed loves old stuff and artists; a pot-puffing peacenik who unlike most of the downtown types I’ve known, has an innate faith in people.…

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The Great Schlep!*

Last night, my husband and I went out for Chinese with my parents. Old-school, they’re off to Miami for the winter, so before they go we’re trying to squeeze in as many good meals as we can. The place was packed (with Jews, natch), and as we salivated in line, my American Dad announced, “You know…

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Life of the Party

I’m still reeling from the effects of an unforgettable party last Saturday night. A party spiked with the blazing heart and soul of fifty Iranian activists and ex-political prisoners living in exile all over the world. They came to Montreal for a conference about the 1980’s massacre of Iranian political prisoners: to re-connect, to strategize,…

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The Heart of a Revolution

I am attracted to but also repelled by the cynicism and irony I see everywhere (periodically through my keyboard), that some of us like to think helps us deal with the traumas of our world. Mostly, I think, it masks our anxiety and fear. But, as the German auteur filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder warned so flawlessly in…

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On Writing

I’m hot. After the cold shower that was spring in Montreal, the heat is back with a vengeance, and so am I: to create, to blog, to burn the fire. Sticky thighs have glued me to the rubber exercise ball that doubles as my desk chair, there is nothing to stare at but a flat-screen…

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Rigor Mortis

I just came in from the garden, our tiny, heavily mortgaged patch of paradise on earth. As an inbred city girl, I’m increasingly fascinated by the mystery of life and death in our little backyard. Last month, I stumbled on a stiff mouse in the cut grass; last week, I uncovered a bird under the…

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Life & Death

One piss-hot summer night in the late 1970’s, eight buzzing teens squeezed our throbbing flesh into my pal Murray’s souped-up, yellow Duster and barrelled down the highway, bouncing potholes at 160 km an hour. The music was slamming and the muffler roared as, in his perpetual hurry, Murray flew over the lanes in the drunken…

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I Love to Laugh

Jews (as if you didn’t already know), tend to survive the harsh realities of life with humor, so we can stop crying and shed some light in dark places. Last weekend, I saw my oldest and funniest friend, from faraway Toronto, for a few precious laughs. Glory (her make-believe name) and I stood on a busy street corner…

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Music is healing

Montreal is climaxing culture these days. The loudest shout-out of the moment is the star-studded Festival International de Jazz de Montreal that scorches the already red-hot streets of our downtown core with its worldbeat blowouts. Teeming with tourists, you can yell out my name in the crowd, but you won’t find me. I – am swinging…

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Hot Sex

Forgive me for the titillation, but it is rare for me to want to share something so badly I will use any cheap trick in the book to catch the eye. I am referring to the one-and-only eye of French Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby who wrote a book about the final months of his life after…

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Where for art thou Borat?

Since a certain Mr. Sagdiyev (Borat- to his friends, fans and foes) blasted his way into the mainstream lexicon and my heart, I have been aching for more of his fearless, merciless tackling of the elephant in the room. When I saw my first Borat clip from the Ali G Show (What is the best…

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A Day in A Life

My oatmeal and banana this morning was bloodied by global injustice and crimes against humanity in the news. I chewed on one atrocity after the other (Woman; wakes from a coma, locked in a cellar for 25 years by her father for whom she bore 7 children), and (State-sponsored terror; Zimbabwe self-destructs) to name just…

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