Saturday, February 13, 2010

My Olympic Dream (Is that a Copyright Violation?)

I haven’t been sleeping well lately, owing to the constant buzzing of helicopters over downtown Vancouver, but last night I had the worst sleep of my entire life. It’s probably not surprising that I woke up with a headache and a sense of dread; I was startled awake like I was in a scene from Blackhawk Down. I still feel a little foggy, no matter how much coffee I slurp.

And man alive, I had the craziest dream.

There I was in a vast icy cavern, frozen to the bone, looking for warmth as strange, massive creatures roamed around me. Instead of helping me, they thwarted my every move. My hands, arms and legs felt stiff from the extreme cold and my teeth chattered. If I couldn't find an escape, then I had to find fire.

Out of nowhere, I spotted Sonny and Cher dancing on a large round drum! It looked like they were singing, but no sound came from their mouths. “I loved you in Tea with Mussolini!” I shouted to Cher hoping she would come to my rescue, but she just swirled her hips and flipped me the bird.

Then the floor suddenly gave way, turning to water, and I was trying to stay afloat amidst a sea of dolphins, seals and whales. “Where are the oolichans?!” I screamed.

It makes sense, considering oolichans are known as ‘saviour fish’ here on the West Coast. Somebody must have been listening - but didn’t quite get the message. A teeming school of salmon surrounded me.

It was the weirdest thing; I was alone but felt like thousands of eyes were on me. Strange. I managed to escape the water and crawl up on to grass next to a magisterial Douglas Fir. The water had left me impossibly cold and possibly delusional.

Everything shifted and Ashley MacIssac appeared, playinDevil in the Kitchen in - wait for it – my kitchen. And there were more tattooed Cape Breton step dancers than could fit into my place and cops EVERYWHERE! What a blowout! I should have been having fun, but I was terrified and so I ran, and I ran and I ran...and as if I'd stepped through the Stargate, I was back in the icy cave, not knowing how I got there or how to get free.

I ran past a glowing spirit bear. I ran past a kid who looked like Peter Pan and Harry Potter's lovechild. I ran past Wayne Newton. I ran and I ran and I ran. I ran as fast as my cold, stiff limbs could move, becoming more frightened with every step.

I passed Anne Murray and thought I was dead. But then I spotted Betty Fox and Romeo Dallaire and knew I was OK. I had to keep searching. I thought I spotted a campfire, but it was just a flash from a massive Nikon camera on a tripod.

The situation went from bad to desperate when I ran straight into Donald Sutherland. All he said was, “Miss Daniels can I ask you some questions now?”

I thought I was a goner.

And THEN I spotted number four Bobby Orr. Only oolichans would have made me happier. Number four Bobby Orr told me how to escape the icy cave and where to find fire. I made like Alice breaking free from the rabbit hole.

Vas-y! Go! Vas-y!!! Go!!! Vite vite vite!!!

The governor general was there, pointing me towards the Burrard Inlet. I ran and I ran and I ran. I ran down Robson Street. I ran down Cambie Street. I ran down Georgia Street. I spotted a guy I know who runs the desk at the Sandman Hotel and he ran with me. And then he spotted a guy he knows from Merritt and we hopped a ride on the back of his pick-up truck.

He drove like stink, heading for the Inlet. And then suddenly there it was...a massive fiery cauldron with 20-foot flames being stoked by Wayne Gretzky. Life-saving fire! Saved! Saved!

Wayne Gretzky...the only thing better than oolichans! Saved!


What do you mean that wasn’t a dream?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Temple Grandin: HBO Canada’s new movie a tribute to the human spirit

If you haven’t signed up yet for HBO Canada, there isn’t a better reason than to catch tonight’s screening of Temple Grandin. The extraordinary bio-pic stars a near unrecognizable Claire Danes (Stardust, My So-Called Life) as Grandin, one of the top livestock scientists and animal activists in the United States. She’s described on her own website as “the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world.” Grandin, pictured above, is an author and Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University.

Grandin, now 62, overcame enormous obstacles during her childhood and starting a career in humane-methods livestock handling. Along the way she became - and remains - an extraordinary advocate for people, especially children, with autism, as well as an advocate for the respectful treatment of livestock. Grandin, who’s always seen in her signature classic cowgirl wear, is one of the most-influential designers of livestock-moving equipment. Her no-stress system for cattle management is used all over the U.S. She’s also the author of several books, including titles that inspired the movie; Thinking in Pictures, The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger's, Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships, Animals Make us Human and Animals in Translation.

Grandin was fully involved in the HBO project, directed by Mick Jackson (Live from Baghdad) and says she enjoyed it. “It [was] like going in sort of a weird time machine. Just watching the trailer, I [was] getting kind of choked up. I whispered to Claire, I said, ‘Can you believe that's really you?’ She said it was kind of weird for her, too.

“She played me really, really accurate. This is '60s and '70s. This movie ends at the end of the '70s, and the thing about autism is as you learn more and more and more, you keep getting less and less autistic-like. In order for Claire to get some inkling of how to do this part, I found an old TV show tape from the '80s and an old VHS tape from the early '90s for her to watch.”

Thanks to Grandin’s involvement, the film takes great pains to successfully mimic and offer insight into her behavioural patterns and personality; intellectually, emotionally and socially. The film paints a tremendous portrait of a young woman who succeeds, thanks to her own determination and the unfailing support of her mother and educators. Grandin provides an excellent example of what can be accomplished by special needs students when they receive adequate support.

“It's important to get autistic kids out doing different things. I want to emphasize, autism is a big spectrum ranging from somebody who is going to remain nonverbal, all the way up to famous scientists.

“You would have no technical equipment here. You would have no hotel here if you didn't have people that were interested in things, because after all, who do you think made the first stone spear? It wasn't the yackity yacks around the campfire. That's for sure,” says Grandin.

The Autism Society Canada estimates that one in 165 children has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Temple Grandin, Sat. Feb. 6, at 8 pm on HBO Canada