Sunday, November 16, 2008

Anaheim Hills fires



Golden Orb. Ringed by fire. Evacuations. Grim scenes as fire marches forward.

There are some phrases you never expect to hear. Some are poetic. Some are simply devastating. The above phrases have appeared in newspapers and online to describe a wildfire is destroying my Anaheim Hills neighbourhood. More than 200 homes have been destroyed and some 22,000 people evacuated. Many of my friends can't go home as the freeways are closed. They're sitting in hotels or in friends' homes from Rancho Santa Marguerita to San Clemente to Santa Monica hoping that when they get back that the smoke damage will be minimal. That the wicked embers that are raining down on the hills won't ignite their house. That the hills and lushly landscaped gardens surrounding their community are watered enough by the community association and won't explode into flames. It's dry - less than 5% humidity.

For people living on the East Coast it's hard to imagine 5% humidity. The only way I can explain it is this - imagine your throat feels like sandpaper all the time. It wakes you up at night doing the umm hmms, clearing your throat. Drinking several gallons of water a day doesn't help. You have to moisturize your skin like crazy or it cracks at your fingernails and on your legs. Your hair is stick straight even if you're born with curly hair like me. And when the hot Santa Ana winds hit it's game over. Then the fires start. And the smoke insists on creeping its way through screens and into your home and settling into everything you own. Long after the fire is put out the smell of smoke terrorizes you.

I'm in Toronto and the rain turned to snow last night so watching CNN is terrifying. I've already survived one house fire. I most certainly don't want to experience another. Even from my perch across the continent.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Jimmy Choo, Gucci, Oprah, Brangelina


I’m stirring a pot of custard on the stove and desperately trying to avoid lumps so I’m using a whisk but because the heat is high some yellow liquid splatters my black Joe Fresh top. I curse because I like to curse. I curse because I don’t feel like changing. I wear black because it requires the least amount of time and imagination particularly when you have a toddler. It’s not as if I don’t often incorporate splashes of colour into my wardrobe but, of late, they’re usually a result of finger paint or mashed fruit or a pattern resembling my son’s sticky hands. And at this moment, with a stained blouse and bubbling custard, at this moment, as I’ve entered my late-30s, been married for five years, and been freelancing forever, it’s at this moment I realize that stressing about creating creamy pudding is one of a zillion things that belong in my rearview mirror.

1. I realize I will never ever, ever look good in skinny jeans. In tight trousers, my legs look like tubes of toothpaste that are pinched unevenly in the centre.

2. It’s unlikely I’ll have another baby. And I’m cool with that.

3. It takes longer than six weeks to lose the baby weight. Unless Harley Pasternak is your personal trainer and Bob Greene (Oprah’s pal) is cooking for you. Or if your name is Angelina Jolie.

4. I’ll never weigh 115 lbs again – passed that milestone in Grade 11 – and now I should be happy with 130 lbs. But I’m not there yet.

5. The friends I’ve made in university are the ones who will be with me to the end, barring any disasters, such as affairs, theft, or murder. So I better tell them I love them more often. Ditto family.

6. If you’re in an awful job or have an ulcer for a boss whose modus operandi is torture, leave. When the economy is in a black hole, first come up with an exit strategy and leave for something better. Don’t linger for more than six months or you’ll start to believe you’re incompetent. And life is too short for that.

7. Every girl over 35 should have a luxury item (or two. Or three). Buy the designer handbag of your dreams, a Gucci, a Louis Vuitton. It’s true, you can’t take your money with you. Money is just a backdrop.

8. Forgo the kitchen scissors and your sister’s best friend’s first cousin’s salon and, for God’s sake, get a good haircut that costs at least $75.

9. Invest in Jimmy Choo. It will be the sexiest and most comfortable footwear you slide your toes into. Alternate them with your sneakers.

10. In my universe there are three kinds of people – those who dole out help; those who aren’t afraid to take help; and those who are helpless (but never ask for help). Divide your time between the first two categories and may you never find yourself in the third.

11. Volunteer. Donate. You need to balance your capitalist karma with your philanthropic karma.

12. Remove your makeup properly at night and moisturize, moisturize, moisturize, at least twice a day.

13. If you’re thinking of getting another tattoo, take your sister or best friend or your mom to the salon, before you sink money into something resembling a Duran Duran logo.

14. Ah, celebrity gossip. So vapid. So wacky. Sooo interesting. Britney. Paris. Lindsay. Brangelina. Tolstoy it ain’t but read it often and ready it proudly just don’t take it to heart. Then recycle it.

15. You’re standing at the gates of your own history. Don’t look in the rearview mirror. Don’t mix metaphors.

Be brave. Be strong. And above all, be fashionable.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

CNN unveils holograms on election night


Minutes ago I slopped my Coke Zero all over the carpet when CNN unveiled a hologram during coverage of the U.S. election. Reporter Jessica Yellin was 'beamed in' from Chicago an excited Wolf Blitzer exclaimed... there she was with a sharp blue line around her standing on a red dot talking to Wolf as if this was an ordinary occurrence.
She did mention Princess Leia (although maybe reference to Star Trek would have been more appropriate)? She twinkled in and then was gone.
Weird, futuristic and kinda thrilling too.
All in all CNN is kicking butt tonight.
CNN is promising more 3-D holographic interviewees. Say so long to old-fashioned split screens.
Oh Gawd oh Gawd oh Gawd. The results for Kentucky and Indiana are in and it's sick because McCain is leading.
Obama for President!!
Oh hunkety hunk Anderson Cooper is on! Will be right back...

Friday, October 31, 2008

Obama's loss traced to....

Amidst all the U.S. election dreck on the web this news story about Obama's loss is searing the air. Send it to your friends...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Baby Mak Attack

It's a sweet and salty thing to come home. I've been in Toronto on and off for six months. The city is the same, few surprises and everything is the same, like autumn, which you smell long before the leaves change colour. And yet everything is different.
Friends have multiple babies and hundreds of commitments, it might be six weeks before we get together. Juggling nap times. My colleagues progress exponentially in their workplaces. Does every Rye grad work at the CBC except me? Yes, yes they do. Or they are writing screenplays that will be bought by Endeavour and they will make millions and never cry again and live in gumdrop land and never cry again. I want that life.

I went to AMC to see The Secret Life of Bees. What I really should be doing is looking for work or plucking story ideas out the areas of my mind that remember what it means to hold a full-time job. Instead I dropped Danial off at Pearson, Kamran at daycare, and went to see a odd duck of a film. Don't look for a review here.

At 4:30 I collected Kamran from daycare and he dropped the book he was reading and came running to me. He made a sweet, sharp inhalation of breath and toddled over with his six-tooth-grin, drooling, arms askew, hair in his eyes, paint all over his clothes. He fell into my arms and stroked my hair. Since he's a toddler it was more like a wolverine showing me affection and it was honest and loving and adorable. "Buy byeeeee" he waved to the caregivers and we hoofed it out of there.

Me to We - 2008








I played a small part in an astounding event, Me to We - 2008, which took place at the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto on Oct. 17. Drop me a line if you want to know what it's all about. Thanks to Darren Goldstein who took all these photos.

Boss From Hell Should Go Back to Hell

There was no good-bye party, no we’re-gonna-miss-you card, no hugs and smiles or ‘best wishes for the future’. Instead I slipped away as inauspiciously as I had begun the job just two months earlier.

It wasn’t a kick in the teeth, it wasn’t even a stripping of my medals but a week after it all went down my dignity feels smudged. I feel mildly annoyed and I’m replaying the situation over and over in my mind.

My boss was someone who is more of an ulcer than human being. She was an angry blonde troll who walked through the hallways hunched over and scowling as she went to the balcony to inhale cigarette after cigarette.

She gave no direction. She was inaccessible. In two months I had one meeting with her. And I was a new hire.

She was short-tempered. She terrified the junior members of the team. She didn’t know how to delegate. She tossed important assignments at all of us in passing and said things were due immediately. If anyone asked for help her stock response was “figure it out.” If anyone needed advice or direction – she is the senior director after all – she would shout “I am no going to micromanage this.”

When I joined I was told that she was a superior boss and that she believed in professional development. I looked forward to working with her. Instead I ran into a bull with no thought, logic, or strategy.

One of her preferred modes of intimidation was to stomp into my office, hurl abuses at me – F%^&CK was her favourite word – while I was meeting with my staff and then stomp off in a huff as if her mother had been insulted.

“I feel like I’ve been dropped on my ass,” one staffer moaned to me.

“I hear she’s in a good mood today,” another staffer said quietly. “I’m so tired of this shit, getting tossed around like a rag doll.”

“I just want to do my job,” said another.

The director’s behaviour was curious and I am convinced she is a sociopath and has a personality disorder.

What makes no sense to me is how she has managed to ascend in the company. Likely by terrorizing people or just by sheer bullying force.

A couple of weeks ago during a late-night meeting with her she told me that I was increasing her workload not reducing it. My response, “Did you even want to hire me?” She blushed and looked down at her lap. “If I didn’t want to hire you I wouldn’t have,” she said gritting her teeth. “Well, I don’t get a great vibe from you.”

“What do you mean by vibe?”

“The word ‘vibe’ is pretty self explanatory.”

Silence. And more silence.

And then my thoughts filled the icy atmosphere in her office. “I’m happy to give my six-week-notice and stay until the end of my probation period. That gives you time to find a replacement without disrupting the department too much.”

She coloured again. “No, let’s just meet weekly and see if things improve.”
Last Thursday she called me into her office and introduced me to an HR rep. I knew what was happening.

“You’re still on probation and unfortunately we have to let you go,” she said. Oddly this was the gentlest she’d ever been.

I smiled. “Oh, great!” I turned to the HR rep, “This was actually something I brought up [with the senior director] a couple of weeks ago so I’m pleased she took my suggestion. Thanks so much.”

The senior director looked embarrassed. She didn't want this. She wanted me to wail so she could gloat. She got up and left and I invited the HR rep to my office. I handed over the BlackBerry and my ID and then pulled a large envelope from a drawer.

“Here, why don’t you read my resignation letter while I tidy my office? I wrote it a couple of weeks ago but was hanging on because I really love my team.”
I’d already packed two weeks ago and was ready to leave.

“Why didn’t you bring this to HR?”

“I’m a contract worker. I didn’t know if I have any rights. Does verbal abuse, cursing and so forth and mismanagement, management style and personality clash constitute illegal behaviour?”

She shook her head. “But it could still be a matter of record.
“I’m sorry we’ve met under these circumstances.”

“I’m not. It’s a relief to leave.”

The HR rep said it’s good I didn’t resign, “because we’re giving you four weeks pay.” She took a copy of the resignation letter and said she’d get it to the VP of the department. I know it won’t make a difference. History is written by the victors and all that.

I shook her hands and left. I touched base with my team later. One said he wanted to hang himself. Another was so angry she could hardly speak.

“Listen, guys. This is a war. Your general has just been shot. You have to step over the body and keep going. Don’t look back,” I said.

They understood. They can’t show allegiance to me or even talk about me because the senior director will make their lives hell.

Later that night I reached out to senior executives at the company. One senior VP wrote me a gorgeous reference letter that made me cry. Another assured me I had done nothing wrong, that she was thrilled with my work, and that the senior director has a horrible reputation. The VP of the company said he’d gladly take phone calls and be a reference for me. He was very sorry he wouldn’t be working with me on a daily basis anymore.

Another friend assured me that karma eventually finds the villains. It just takes a damn long time to do so, he added.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Escape from L.A.

Southern California had curled its slender, tanned arms around me and clinched tight. But there had to be more to life than a three-carat diamond and $1,200 Jimmy Choo clutch


July 8, 2008
The Globe and Mail


In the middle of the night, some people snore. Others have sex. I shop online.

When I spent the mortgage payment on a handbag from LouisVuitton.com - I must stress it's a wonderfully classic purse that I will bequeath to my future granddaughter - I knew I had a problem. I had started to measure the wealth of my being by the cost of my baubles.

Let me backtrack. Four years ago, I married a wonderful man from California. I left Canada for him and moved into his condo about 25 kilometres from Laguna Beach in Orange County - the O.C., like the one on television.

We lived in a desert community landscaped year-round into a tropical oasis filled with bougainvillea, bird of paradise, undulating palm trees, swimming pools, hummingbirds on the balcony and arroyos nearby for hiking.

I got a gig as the L.A. writer for TV Guide Canada. I shared onion rings with Sandra Oh in Los Feliz and slurped soba noodles with Chris Rock in West Hollywood. I discussed 24 with Kiefer Sutherland in Beverly Hills and interviewed Salma Hayek in Pasadena. I took on freelance work. My writing was published in the Los Angeles Times.

Quietly, Southern California curled its slender, tanned, Cartier-bracelet-laden arms around my waist and clinched tight.

I watched dolphins play off Coronado Island; I rocked out at the jazz fest in Dana Point; I hiked in Griffith Park; I biked trails along the Los Angeles River; I ate 60-cent burritos in the farmers' market; I spotted A-list stars at beachside caf├ęs; I enjoyed sunsets at Santa Monica pier.

I became hooked on the unbelievable outlet shopping. (If you go, I highly recommend visits to Carlsbad and Cabazon.)

I bought into the sexiness of this place, where you find more fantastic gorgeousness (real and acquired) and weird absurdity than anywhere on the planet.

I ignored early misgivings.

I'm South Asian and hairy in some unfortunate locations, so I went for laser treatment. The dermatologist, whose face was shiny and tight like Saran Wrap, said I needed Restylane injections to destroy my wrinkles.

"Dude, I'm only 35," I said.

The word "dude" should have been an indication that I'd lost it. To make myself feel better, I went to Neiman Marcus and bought an $80 pot of cream blush.

Last May, I had my baby boy in a Newport Beach hospital. Half of the maternity ward overlooked the Pacific Ocean. Hunched over from contractions, I lurched through the hallways gasping, "A view. I want a room with a view."

Hispanic cleaners scurried to tidy up a labour-and-delivery suite. I was a monster.

About a month later, over lunch at a cheap Mexican restaurant, my girlfriend suggested I upgrade my wedding ring. "Why don't you get a three-carat diamond? I know a great place near 7th and Hill."

I plucked my $290 Versace sunglasses out of my $1,200 Jimmy Choo clutch and huffed out of there. "How dare she suggest that?" I muttered, as my $400 Prada slides click-clacked on the sidewalk. "My ring was 12 grand!"

On the way home, I passed a squadron of moms in Mercedes SUVs driving their preteens to cheerleading practice. One girl was whining, "I want to be famous when I grow up." As if that was a viable career option. Thanks, Paris Hilton.

The breaking point was the 3 a.m. online shopping splurge. I bought an LV bag with a matching wallet - as I nursed my newborn. A year earlier, I'd invested in a massive Gucci hobo. But I've used it for overnight trips, as a diaper bag and as a briefcase, so it's totally, like, worth it.

It was time to burn my Chanel straitjacket. I packed up my things and flew north. I'm temporarily staying near Toronto with family. God bless them for welcoming my insufferable arse back.

I'm looking for full-time work in the city and trying to find decent daycare. My husband, Danial, is commuting from L.A. to Toronto while we plan our future.

Turns out, when you need to detox from being a shopaholic, there really is no place like (a sensible, Canadian) home. There is a lot more to existence than great purchases, eternal sunshine and access to celebrities. My son needed a good role model, not to mention a university fund.

Now, I only shop online for special occasions. Our wedding anniversary is around the corner and I do have a birthday this year, so I'll get something sparkly. On sale, of course.

In the meantime, call me if you need recommendations on L.A.'s hotels and shopping. I know where Lindsay Lohan and Kim Kardashian sell their designer outfits and handbags. And log onto Zappos.com, Bluefly.com or eluxury.com if you need ... Oh, never mind.

Amber Nasrulla lives in Orange County, Calif.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Baby's Day Out

My life is a jumble right now. Dividing time between Toronto and the O.C. Well, who am I kidding. I've spent the last 4 months living with my folks - they are lovely enough to look after my 13-month-old dollop of deliciousness, my son.
Looking for work here has been a slog. Been on a bunch of interviews, felt like they went well and then been disappointed with the results.
Today was a write-off. I applied for a job at Canadian Living, at Redwood Communications, and at CTV. Let's see how things unfurl.
It was hot here - about 30 Celsius, kinda muggy so we decided to stay indoors. Took the baby to an indoor mall where there's a jungle gym for kids and he enjoyed himself. Climbed up a big plastic slide that is attached to a fake Jeep. He's very dexterous and able to handle himself.
Oh crap he's crying. Gotta dash. Be right back.

Monday, April 14, 2008

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

My child won't sleep. I think he might be a vampire. Help me. Please someone help me get him to go to sleep. I'm so zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Sunday, April 13, 2008

George of the Hollywood Jungle



By George! Gorgeous George! Heeeeeere's George! George Clooney. George Clooney. George Clooney. I really have nothing to say or write except that this fella is so hunkadunk that I just had to include him in here at least once. I'm not a stalker. Honest. sigh.
A special thank you to AMPAS for letting me post this.
Be brave, be strong, and above all, be fashionable. George, George, George, George of the Jungle. Watch out for that....

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Herodotus, Tibet, China

Last night I dreamed that I was lassoed to a Bengal tiger and he (it was definitely a male) was pulling me through a jungle. Oddly he wasn't interested in devouring me or hurting me he just wanted me to get out of the jungle as quickly as possible. When we came to a wall (I know, bizarre) he stopped and turned into something else entirely. I don't remember what but he was some sort of humanoid and very kind. And then he evaporated. I stared at the wall and woke up. It was 3 a.m.

Ryszard Kapuscinski
So, this morning I was reading Travels with Herodotus (thank you, Showwei for recommending this wonderful Polish author)...and when I read this passage I gasped. So, without any permission whatsoever from the publisher I'm putting it here.

"The Chinese built the Great Wall to defend against invasions by the restless and expansionist nomadic tribes of Mongolia. These tribes, in great armies, hordes, legions, emerged fro the Mongolian steppes, from the Altai mountains and the Gobi desert, and attacked the Chinese, constantly menacing their nation, sowing terror with the threat of slaughter and enslavement.

But the Great Wall was only a metaphor - a symbol and a sign, the coat of arms and the escutcheon of what had been a nation of walls for millennia. The Great Wall demarcated the empire's northern borders; but walls were also erected between warring principalities, between regions and even neighborhoods....

That is how the world's energy is wasted. In complete irrationality! Complete futility! For the Great Wall - and it is gigantic, a wall-fortress, stretching for thousands of kilometers through uninhabited mountains and wilderness, an object of pride and, as I have mentioned, one of the wonders of the world - is also proof of a kind of human weakness, of an aberration, of a horrifying mistake; it is evidence of a historical inability of people in this part of the planet to communicate, to confer and jointly determine how best to deploy enormous reserves of human energy and intellect.

In these part, the idea of coming together was but a chimera: The very first reflex in the face of potential trouble was to build a wall. To shut oneself in, fence oneself off. Because whatever comes from without, from over there, can only be a threat, an omen of misfortune, a harbinger of evil - perhaps the most genuine evil there is."

hmmm. Tibet and China today. The Israelis building a wall to keep the Palestinians out. The U.S. building a wall to keep the Mexicans out. And on and on. Now if only I can figure out what walls I'm building and why.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Biggest Loser

It's not healthy to watch The Biggest Loser for a bunch of reasons. One - I'm stuffing my piehole with Fruitella while I watch. Two - I'm surfing the web looking for jobs as I'm trying to move back to Canada from California and the fatties on the telly are distracting me. Three - the contestants can lean on their personal trainers to keep them in step and me...well let's just say I'm assaulting the fridge between sentences and during commercials.
Giddy'up y'all. There's nothing left to say but a lot left to eat.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Heather Mills gets £48-million

Tonight's burning questions - how much money is enough money? Does money buy happiness? When I was a teenager, I used to hang out with the daughter of a multimillionaire. She was the most miserable person I have ever met - vindicative, insecure, cruel, mad, and uneven. (I don't remember how we became friends.) Her father was an alcoholic and her mother just a diluted version of a parent. This girl had every material possession a teenager living in London could want. The latest Louis Vuitton bags, gorgeous clothes, diamond necklaces (yup, more than one), trips to anyplace, a selection of Mercedes Benz to drive, a safe filled with cash every day, and so much more. If I bought a pair of Bally boots she went and bought five. She was that kind of girl. What she really wanted was a peaceful home life. A loving family. Peace of mind that she could never seem to find.
I'm thinking about my childhood chum a lot today after reading about the Heather Mills - Paul McCartney divorce settlement. Mills gets £48-million ... and has been quoted as saying that she's very very pleased. I should think so. And yet there was a gleam in her eye during those interviews outside the London courthouse that suggested she wasn't completely pleased. Like maybe she would have liked to have obliterated her ex-husband. And not just that £300-million would have been enough. Crushing his spirit and Britons' love of him would have come close.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Oprah's Big Give

Ami is putting my baby Kamran to sleep and I'm watching Oprah's primetime show Big Give and I'm about to commit Oprah-phemy here but I am sick to death of this woman. She is everywhere. I think she might be a triplet. And each sibling fights the other sibling for bragging rights as to who is the bigger philanthropist. Who has the bigger legs? Who owns the newest pair of Spanx? The challenge for the teams is to give Christmas to a kid "at least once in their lifetime." Bllleeeeeeeeecccchh Blerg. Pheeteoooeee. Oprah, just adopt the world, pay all our bills, and move on. Eat sweet potato pie, mashed potatoes, and any other carb you've been depriving yourself of, have a monster meltdown and be real. Please.

Fame



“Yesterday my girl said, ‘Mom, I know I’m gonna be famous really soon’. I’m so proud of her. She’s got confidence.” A girlfriend of mine in Orange County mentioned this as we were heading to lunch last week. Her daughter is 13. I was astonished.

Whatever happened to “I want to be a doctor when I grow up” or “I want to travel the world when I grow up” or “I dunno mom, I think I want to be just like you”? But this is the culture of Southern California. Buy, buy, buy or you’ll look and feel inferior! Replace your flesh with plastic wherever possible. Banish your wrinkles. Scrape your face with acid. Stop eating. And don’t forget to shop. Forget about your education or saving the world or your studies or anything else old fashioned that requires time and energy. The best outcome is fame. Better get there quickly. And don’t make any unnecessary stops along the way.

I’ve been living in Orange County for four years and slowly the muck has begun to settle in my brain. I think it’s the Paris Hilton syndrome – be famous for no apparent reason. I interviewed an analyst once who called Hilton the Bubonic Plague of the 20th century. I liked that phrase a lot but I can’t blame Hilton for the soul-crushing atmosphere in both L.A. County and O.C.
It manifests itself in many ways. First it’s almost impossible to make really good friends in L.A. I mean the really good kind of girlfriends who’ll be there for you in a heartbeat, say, when you break-up with a guy, or your house burns down or your pet dies or whatever.

A bunch of actresses I’ve interviewed have said this – from Sandra Oh to Kristen Bell to Hayden Panettiere to Salma Hayek. I don’t know why this is the case. It may be that everyone is competing for the all-seeing eye, attention from the paps and tabloids and Entertainment Tonight so standing on your own apart from the crowd guarantees you 14 seconds in the news lineup.

I don’t know why I find this so disturbing. There’s nothing wrong with wanting attention. Toddlers do it because they want to be the centre of the universe. But for little ones it’s a survival issue. If no one hears you screeching you might not get your dinner. As for people who yearn for attention later in life, I don’t know how to explain it later in life. Maybe it’s the money. Typically with fame comes money. But not always.

I have to think about this some more to explain my love and loathing of Los Angeles. As for my friend’s daughter? Well, she’s only in Grade 7 so I’ll keep you posted.

The First

I'm here. It's new. And so I'll be back soon.

amber