31 October 2007

Hallowe'en can be a real drag...

Today, in celebration of one of my favourite holidays - yet more scanned photos from 2001 (and 1998, and 2002) showing my complete lack of imagination in Hallowe'en costumes. They may, however, reflect two of my past (and unsuccessful) career aspirations: drag king and drag queen. Apparently, I wasn't butch enough for the former nor femme enough for the latter. Oh well.

1. Hallowe'en 2001

a. Prince

As an October Fools' Joke on the only male co-worker in the office I was then working in (hereinafter "The Guy From Ottawa"), my four female workers and I conspired to dress and act like him all day. We were all present and ready when he arrived - the above photo shows me greeting him as he came in for the day. The pink thing in my right hand was the closest thing he had to a bible... a very fascinating pamphlet on the topic of above-guideline rent increases.

The co-workers would not consent to a group shot at the time. Such wimps. My nickname at that particular workplace was Exalted Ruler* and accordingly I believed I could bully everyone into this... but NO.

However, fun was had by all for the rest of the morning and well into the afternoon as we all took turns pretending to be The Guy From Ottawa:

Viz. me aping The Guy From Ottawa's typical pose of gazing out the window when he should have been working, dammit!

(b) Princess

But the fun did not stop there! We women had brainstormed and come up with a nefarious plan - that I would don my evening Hallowe'en costume and then come back in pretending to be an aggrieved costumer that The Guy From Ottawa had met with earlier in the week.

We managed to fool him!! (and, man, is it ever funny to see how people react when you pretend that they know you and they don't but are trying to be polite...you know what I mean, don't you?). Anyway, I managed to keep up the charade for a couple of minutes but then blew it by starting to laugh.

By this point, I sensed that The Guy From Ottawa was probably ready to kill me, so I hightailed it right down to the Harvey's for a double burger and fries. I even brought him back a Diet Coke!

And here is the costume in more or less its full glory (sans blue fun-fur jacket):

2. The Royal High Empress Kristina of Sparkleville

I do love my floor length dresses. So much so that I wore this one (acquired at Thrift Villa in Parkdale for $20 - a mere bagatelle!) two years running for Hallowe'en. How lame is that? Having said that, I did make significant modifications to the costume as a whole - I'm sure you'll notice the difference right away.

(a) 2002 - Drag Queen

In which Kristina almost cuts it as a true drag queen. If only she would wear makeup!!!!

And - note the fuschia cowboy boots with the dress. Tres chic.

(b) Glenda

The costume design modification is rather obvious here, I think. Can't remember what the button said. Probably "Je suis locataire et je vote" ("I'm a tenant and I vote" in French - I had dozens from a past workplace at one point). It is a very little known fact that landlords are everywhere - even in Oz.

So - two completely different costumes, right?

3. Hallowe'en in June

This is a shot of me heading to some "Hallowe'en in the Summer" party during Pride Week 2001:

This was actually meant to be a costume. I don't remember what, though. Probably "sunburned freak with shades she thinks are cool who blew it again when trying to cut her own hair".

The next photo, on the other hand, does not really represent a costume, unless you count me trying to look like a cool European goddess a "costume", which may well be the case:

It is a little known fact that all of the Toronto (nay, the Canadian) glitterati pose for secret photos in the basement of the 519 Community Centre next to the diaper changing table in the ladies'. Don't tell anyone, or I might have to kill you.

And now for a short break to keep our sponsors happy (note: this may not make sense to my American or overseas friends. If not, feel free to E-mail me and I'll explain it for you, if you really want to know, that is):

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Kerr's Halloween Candy
Originally uploaded by mezzoblue

(You know, the stuff that everyone saves until last from the Hallowe'en loot bag if they haven't already forced it on their little brother.)

Taste that stale sugar. Feel the molasses taffy rip out whatever teeth you have left in your head. Ah, those Hallowe'en memories.

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This message was brought to you by the Conservative Party of Canada. We don't even bother to call ourselves "Progressive" anymore. What's the point?

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programme.


I repeat... this is not a costume.

What is it then, you ask? It is a very, very rare sighting of me in robes - approximately 3 minutes after I became a full-fledged lawyer - 11:00 a.m. or so. The fact that I look like the world's happiest penguin is probably related to the fact that I was heading to the nearest pub by 11:05 a.m (minus the robes, of course).

In the five years following, I have never since had to don robes. My gigs do not require that I attend at "big court" as some of us lawyers who only really deal with administrative tribunals lovingly refer to it, so I am actually not allowed to wear robes in any current work capacity. You cannot imagine how devastating I find this. Really.

5. This isn't a costume either

Just to complete the perspective, here is my fabulous law school graduation outfit from 1998, including furry collar thingy (anyone know the rationale for that?!). Note that when you shell out $30K plus to go to school (and please don't ask what I did to afford that kind of coin unless you have at least two hours to spare...), they give you a little loot bag at the end of it. Can't recall the contents though - probably a tie clip, a flyer saying "let us frame your degree for you for only $50.00" and an alumni donation registration form.

Whatever happened to the days where they actually gave you GRANTS to go to university, anyway?

Sorry - no photos of me in undergraduate drag. That's because I blew it off. My parents were furious when they figured this out some two months later. At least one of them got over it, though. ;-)

On that happy note, I remain,

your faithful and obedient servant,


A PS AND A WARNING: the following is only very tangentially related to Hallowe'en (as JJ would say, "nothing changes", eh?). However, it is related to secret handshakes and probably the odd costume or three, sort of.

And now for the footnote:
* in case you bothered to click the "Exalted Ruler" link above and wondered why you were referred to a page discussing the history of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks (hereinafter BPOE or Elks) - obviously you didn't read that page too carefully. Specifically, under the heading "Fraternal Traditions of the BPOE" lies the following explanation:

The BPOE adopted several fraternal traditions similar to the Masonic Fraternity. An altar, decorated with the Holy Bible, is found in the center of every Lodge throughout Elkdom. Old Glory served as the altar's drapery until 1956, when it was given its own distinct place of honor to the right of the altar. An "Exalted Ruler" governs each Elks Lodge as the "Worshipful Master" does in a Masonic Lodge[emphasis added].

Pardon? "What exactly does that explain?", you ask.

Is it because I admire the symbolism involved?

A most fitting representation, the stately elk is, for a distinctively American, intensely patriotic, family oriented organization subscribing to the cardinal principles of Elkdom, "Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity."

Er, no.

Is it because I would love to belong to a group which started off as the "Jolly Corks", a name borrowed from a bar trick?

Well, that's more like it - but nope.

The explanation is, in fact, far more boring than that, as you may have gathered. I had occasion many years back to work at The Arthritis Society (as part of a "workfare" deal which had just been introduced to the province. Thanks, Mike Harris. Having said that, to be fair, The Arthritis Society was a great place to work). That job primarily involved hitting up corporations to hold Casual Fridays and... writing to service organizations.

As regards the latter duty, I was fascinated to learn that when hitting these orgs up for money, you will not get anywhere unless you address the leader in the appropriate fashion. Hence, I made (somewhat of) a living writing reams of letters which began "Dear Exalted Ruler", "Dear Worthy Grand Knight", "Dear Worshipful Master", etc. Everything, in other words, other than Dear Tremendous Fearsome Water Buffalo" and "Dear High Faluting T. Rex"

And so, six years or so later, I insisted on my favourite as a work nickname.

And - if you want a slight chuckle, check out these Elk history and humour tidbits.

Amazing what one can find on the internet. Frankly, I can't say I'm too upset that they don't let women into these groups.

Wishing you a wonderful Hallowe'en, and don't eat too much of that molasses taffy or your teeth might fall out! (Thanks, Mezzoblue, by the way, for the flickr photo of the Kerr's candy. I'm the only other Canadian who actually likes the stuff, apparently. You are not alone.)

29 October 2007

memories of mosaics, etc.

I came across these old photos this morning - so excited! Instead of going to work on time I immediately had them scanned at Grand & Toy (I am so technolame as not to have bothered to buy a scanner for home. In my world view, four or five skeins of a Handmaiden product is far more useful.).

These were all made in late 2000/early 2001 or thereabouts.

1. Cute Flower Wall Hanging

This was made for a very close friend and was photographed by him on his wall in this photo. It is approx. 12-13" diametre and the backing was made from the top of a lazy susan found in his building's laundry room.

Patterns used were adapted from The Mosaic Idea Book by Rosalind Wates.

2. "I have seen the light"

The same friend (a treasure from trash hunter extraordinaire...) gifted me a very ugly but functional lamp (sans shade) that he had found outside his building after someone moved. I decorated it with beads and stained glass, grouted it with silver grout and found a cheapo shade at Zellers.

In this photograph, the Orthodox icon lends a nice irony, I think. I should note I am not religious, but very superstitious. In this regard, I have had icons on the east wall of pretty much every room in every apartment I've lived in, just in case. I have moved 15 or 16 times since coming to Toronto and the icons have always been the first things to go up, even before the phone (and later, the computer) was plugged in.

3. Sunflower Table

Although I've posted this before, this is the best picture I have of it. And I still love it.

4. "I've really, really seen the light!!"

(or, by the look of it, the inside of a pub or three. I think I had friends over that night and was bragging about the lamp).

Given the level of sunburn on the face, this photo was likely taken in the summer of '01. I base this assumption also on the 2001 calendar shown in the photo and the layout of the apartment. Having said that, it could well have been taken a year later than that - it would certainly not be the first time that I have forgotten to change the calendar from year to year.

5. Film Noir

This photo is a fragment of one photo of several I took when, apparently not realising that I did not know how to use a camera, I went through a very pretentious "arty black and white" phase. The rest of the photo contains my mother, who was visiting... and it is actually quite a nice picture of her.

I attach this fragment for three reasons:

(a) top corner
: if you look very hard, you will see two shadowy figurines. They are those creepy little artist model dolls that IKEA had all over the shop at one time. I had stained them mahogany and then outfitted them in little butch and femme outfits. For some reason, they then started to creep me out so I gave them away in the next move.

See what I mean? Creepy. UGH.

(b) middle: another mosaic piece, my Bird of Paradise chair. Here it is, photographed tonight in full vibrant Technicolor:

Of course, she looks far better when covered by dirty sheets and other laundry as it usually is. I had to leave the bag on the seat lest she feel naked - she is very sensitive and prone to catching cold in the harsh Canadian winters.

Some detail pics:

I don't recall what the significance of the blue strings attaching the bird to the tree are. I'm sure it was all very deep at the time, though.

A tree trunk and a flower. Cool, eh? And... easy!

Now, back to our regularly scheduled (if rather blah) programme.

(c) bottom corner: do you see two funky patterned taper candles which are bent and twisted? This photo was taken during August 2001. At the time I lived in a 1920s walkup on the top floor in a corner unit with a tar roof and no AC. The week the photo was taken, temperatures reached over 35 degrees Celsius outside and well over 40 in my unit. I came home from work one day and the originally straight candles had morphed into what you see here.

So, a little bit of nostalgia from the Millenial Annals of Brouhaha!

28 October 2007

modern antiquity

The latest instalment of Brouhaha's Treasures from Trash:

Did I hear you say, "Tell me more?" No? Well, you're getting more anyway (did you really think I was going to let it go with just one photo?! Sheesh.).

The other day, I located this in the junk pile in my building's shared laundry facility:

I was thrilled! A priceless ancient hellenic vase - for free!

Examining it very closely, I noted the following:

Fine Hellenic detail! And... an ancient crack, together with millenia-old dirt:

I danced back upstairs, singing songs of hellenic triumph that I learned at Greek School (scroll to the bottom) and headed immediately to the spare room to take photos to send to the Antiques Roadshow.

JJ, who was watching the Food Channel when I came up and was very likely relieved not to have to hear the usual "you won't believe what happened in the laundry room" rant, ambled in about 10 minutes later:

JJ: Why are ye so happy, lassie? No absolute wankers hogging machines and dumping clothing from the dryers onto the floor this evening?

KB: Look at my ancient greek vase! (5 minute monologue/babble ensuing about how we are going to be millionaires, that this is the greatest discovery in the diaspora ever, etc.)

JJ: Have you gone aff yer heid? That's no a grrrrek vase, honey.

KB: Sure it is... look at it! Touch it!

JJ: (touching the vase dubiously) It's dairrrty.

KB: (frantically) Don't brush that off - it's ancient greek dirt!

JJ: (pause) Er, honey... ah don't think that is probably an antique vase.

(then silence from JJ for at least 10 minutes as KB rants on along the lines of "how dare you tell me what's greek and what is not greek??? When have you ever been in Greece? Why do you think you know more than I do about greek things? Huh? Huh? and stop leaving your dirty laundry on the floor..." Meanwhile, KB was actually feeling rather sorry for JJ because, after all, he had never had the opportunity to see real-life buildings like these:
and so was clearly in no position to assess the value of Greektiques, unlike KB.)

JJ: Have you finished yet?

KB: (miffed silence).


Then, JJ turned over the vase to reveal:


My mother was right. Silence can be golden.

The dilemma then became - what to do with my not-so-precious urn?

1. A plant holder? JJs suggestion - a good one, except that I have a black thumb. Whatever I even look at and admire, dies.

2. A beer holder?

Not bad, but something is missing...

3. A beer cosy?

Um, no.

So, finally, the perfect idea hit me...

4. A modern antiquity votive candle holder!

Here is the project in the making: please let it be known that I shed blood in making it!

I should note, for those who want to try mosaic, that this is a very rare occurence, which may have much to do with the evil bottle on the right.

Anyway, here is the project without the unifying grout:

...and with!

There is a little china rose right in the bottom. Note that when you put a votive candle or tealight inside and light it, the flame causes little sparks of light to fly out of the urn! (this is also why I couldn't photograph the rose properly). This is a cool trick caused by the mirror tile inside. Why do you think Quack enjoys this urn so much???

I couldn't get the light show to photograph properly - believe me, I tried. So - if you want to try for this cool effect, you'll have to take up mosaic in five easy steps:

(a) get a receptacle (if no priceless Greek urns handy, a small flowerpot will do)
(b) smash teacups and mirror tile
(c) glue broken teacups to the outside of your receptacle with tile adhesive
(d) glue smashed mirror to the inside of your receptacle with tile adhesive
(e) let sit overnight, then grout

Nothing to it!

Hmm... do you think I could fool the Antiques Roadshow now with a priceless MOSAICED urn from ancient Greece? Let's see what happens when I turn it over, as did JJ:

Oops. "Made in England"?!? And what's that chickenscratch? (my signature in Greek with the date. Why I have totally different initials in Greek than English - blame my parents!

And finally (at long last) you may be thinking that I have given up knitting. Au contraire. Here is a sneak preview of one of my WIPs...

zombie fighting "lawsuit"!

...or, how to dress for success on a poverty lawyer's salary:

My "creative lawyering" (quotation marks intentional) suit jacket!

So - how did this nefarious plan come about? I wish I could tell you that this was a brilliant idea I've had percolating for months and months because I am such a great artiste.

However, instead, this is something my tortured brain came up with halfway through trying to make a cardigan for my good friend Barb with some sweater in progress pieces which she (a non-knitter) found in her aunt's house when cleaning it out.

The inspiration

Barb, when she gave these to me, said "I'm not sure what it was supposed to be." Well, when seeing these four pieces, neither was genius knitter Kristina, to be honest. My first thought was "why would anyone knit four sleeves for a sweater?" After approximately 25 minutes of my usual deep philosophical musing, JJ came into the room and said "I hope you didn't pick that colour for my cardigan." Eureka!!

This was another element to the donated pieces that I found very, very confusing initially. I finally figured out that it was intended to be the base for a buttonband (I think).

There was also a fully completed back. (The knitting is lovely, by the way. Thank you, Barb's aunt - although your colour and yarn choice [Paton's Canadiana 100% acrylic, Pepto Bismol colourway] don't really work for me - no offence intended!).

Barb, being the very nice, kind and selfless person that she is, gifted these to me so that I could make something for myself. Well, I, being equally nice, kind and selfless, especially when it comes to knitting... HA!... really had the best intentions of making something for Barb with the pieces and regifting it to her.

Until, that is, I started (for no reason obvious to me) hyperventilating about the fact that my nice little research stint might soon come to an end, which means that I will have to go back to wearing (insert Jaws music here): BUSINESS DRAG.


So, naturally, I decided to go and find the ugliest suit jacket in my closet and cut it to shreds.

NB: the flying saucer shaped object in the bottom centre of the photo is not a falsie. It is a shoulder pad. The world's largest shoulder pad, I should think (at least it is now... its twin succumbed to my "I actually wore a jacket with Stayfree Maxi shoulder pads in 2002?!? And it wasn't Hallowe'en? I actually wore it to WORK?!?!" inspired panic attack.

I .. ahem... forgot to take a "before" photo of the jacket, which is just as well. I really don't know what possessed me to buy an oversized and doublebreasted BEIGE suit jacket (even from Thrift Villa!) - maybe it was me trying to look authoritative and mature the first few weeks on the job. Instead, I imagine I looked like a chipmunk who came across a christening suit discarded outside the Goodwill. And an anaemic one at that. Beige!!! I can't believe it...

But I digress. I decided to try for a highly ironic "I AM wearing business dress... see? There's a tie, and a collar" look. Never mind that I can't actually sew or line anything... but I had to try as I think the person who does my alterations would start laughing so hard if I came in with this request that I could never, ever go back.

Explanation, not excuse, for the extremely lame stitching job you see here. I think it adds to the anti-Bay Street message, myself. I should start a couture line: Bespoke by Brouhaha.

Anyway, so in my usual depraved fashion the design took shape. Unfortunately, the nightmare picture left in my brain last Thursday while on the streetcar in the financial district right at 5:00 p.m. - a line of about 100 people in suits, marching resolutely down University Avenue toward Union Station, most of them talking on cell phones (aghghgh! Zombies!!!) - caused me to become overzealous with the scissors. My de- or re-constructed suit jacket contains pretty much whatever I could salvage from the carnage.

The Collar

I was actually quite impressed that I didn't do quite the hatchet job on seaming this as I would ordinarily.

Oh, and a tip for those as sewing-challenged as I - handsewing through 2 layers of suit jacket material plus lining is not best endeavoured without a thimble... although in a pinch, parquet flooring and gravity will do.

The Button Band

As I was trying for an ironic look, I did manage to salvage the two front buttons and the band (plus, this saved me the hassle of trying to figure out how to make buttonholes). There were two other buttonholes in the original knitted piece at the bottom and I decided to use funky ceramic buttons for those. Only one shows in the photo. I'm not sufficiently motivated to get out the camera again. The other one is light green.

The Breast Pocket

I just couldn't resist. This is a fully functional lined pocket. The perfect repository for business cards, pens, a lace square or:

The Anti-Zombie Handkerchief!!

This pocket will NEVER be used to hold a cell phone (I lost mine and will never replace it unless someone makes it a condition of a job paying at least $50,000 more than I make now - and from what I gather, most people are now wearing these ET jobs that light up their ear, anyway).

The sleeves

The sleeves still have their original lining - I am patting myself on the back for that one!

Note the four cute little buttons at the bottom - original detail. I was going to chop the lower parts of the sleeve off and add knitted cuffs from Barb's aunt's sleeves but was too lazy and unskilled to pull this off.

The iron on heart and flower decals serve a practical aesthaetic purpose. They are there to hide two huge cigarette burns.

("How does one get cigarette burns on the upper sleeves of a business jacket?", you might well ask. The answer: if you ever have the misfortune of attending the Landlord and Tenant Board on a day when there are 100 plus hearings and a full moon, you will soon find out - especially if you smoke and your stressed out clients also smoke and you try to advise them in the smoking area to calm them down....)

Inner lining and Dunhill pocket
I have to say I'm quite proud of these as well. The cigarette pocket is a necessary design feature for me - I suppose one could use it to hold other things, like lighters (I typically store my lighter in my right brassiere cup. Don't ask.).

For those three people who are still reading, here are some specs and design notes:

- size = 36 inches (original jacket = women's size 8)
- design: my own. Knitted pieces made by Barb's aunt
- knitting pattern = unknown as I did not knit the pieces and there was no pattern with what I was given, though I suspect Patons had a lot to do with it.
- yarn = knitted pieces are Paton's Canadiana (100% acrylic), colour 164 (Pepto?). Trim and seaming are Brown's Sheep Worsted (85% wool, 15% acrylic), Limeade and Red Hot Passion (from remnants in the stash). Approx. 1 skein total of Brown Sheep
- notions = 4.5 mm Aero straight needles, 4.5 mm bamboo crochet hook, 2 iron on decals, 2 ceramic buttons, 2 suit buttons from original suit, craft needle, tapestry needle
- time spent = 10 hours approx.
- date started = 27 October 2007
- date finished = 28 October 2007


- I seamed the knitted pieces together using a crochet hook. I may never seam with a tapestry needle again! This entailed crocheting one single crochet round around each knitted piece, then attaching where needed with another line of single crochet.
- The right side border is garter stitch: 2 rows Limeade, 2 rows Pepto and 1 row and bindoff in Red Hot Passion
- The left side border and bottom border were originally supposed to be i-cord edging. However, I do not have the Nicki Epstein book, couldn't remember how to do this, and was too lazy and stubborn to look it up. So, my first intention was a garter border similar to the right side. However, due to more laziness, I gave up after only one knit row (on the wrong side). Imagine my surprise when this, combined with the crochet row and the bindoff row (on RS) created something which looks very much like i-cord edging! Let's call it "I-Cord Edging for Lazyass Numbskulls".

- it took me the majority of the time spent on this project to seam the suit pieces to the knitted pieces and to sew in the lining and pockets. This time factor would be greatly reduced with a sewing machine. (I have a tiny one which I can't figure out how to use, and which would anyway likely not handle knitting).

(Almost) looking forward to business drag again...


PS. In case you still think I'm completely selfish, here is something I'm working on with Barb's aunt's sleeves (the sleeves of Barb's aunt? where are the grammar police when you need them!) to give to Barb... maybe.

I'm not sure what it will be yet. If you have any ideas for me, please Email me ;-)