Friday, May 30, 2008


I'm a musician. Let me pause to make some room for the snickering. OK, for those who know me that is outright raucous laughter. I understand it. For those who do not know me let me make this perfectly clear: I cannot play an instrument. I can barely hold a guitar the proper way. I'm the only guy who can blow into an empty plastic pop bottle off key. And I can't sing. No, I mean I can't sing the way Mike Tyson can't write iambic pentameter. I remember telling this woman that I couldn't sing and she calmly assured me that of course I could sing and that that I have just been conditioned by cold hearted music teachers in school ... then I sang. I sang so badly not only did she go deaf, she went blind ...

Still, I'm a musician. And it all relates to video. When I was inspired by Elizabeth McClung's weekend adventure challenge to cut a video with every one's pictures and video, I began thinking about the music before I had seen any of the images. For me, cutting often is all about the music, it certainly begins there. Particularly if it is images only; music becomes tremendously important. In the video business we call this "music video" style editing; not in the annoying lip syncing, belly button flashing, hair flipping, bling flashing actually promoting a song sort of way, but simply putting image to music, or the other way around.

For the Weekend Adventure video I wanted something upbeat with a nice pace to reflect the fun implicit in the images but I always wanted something with a little substance, with lyrics that conveyed optimism and yet could also understand the poignancy of Elizabeth's challenge: Go out, live life, have fun, cause life oft times throws you a curve ball regardless of what you may be planning. Jem's It's Just a Ride fit the bill perfectly. An upbeat, catchy melody, and a message that was life affirming because it acknowledged that the ride is filled with bumps and detours and doors opening in your path but it's still a ride and all rides should be enjoyed.

When I sang the song in my head (even singing in my head caused my cat Gypsy to wince, that is how pathetic I am) I looked at the images on the computer and it all just came together for me. In my editing style the song goes down first ... first, even though this is a video. Music first so the images could follow the music. Sure, I had an idea what I wanted the images to do; grouping them by "adventure" starting off with each individuals pics in a group to help with identification (I had some quotations rolling as well) and theme. That was pretty obvious and I certainly could have done that without music. But video has a rhythm. It has a rhythm even without music, without a soundtrack. We've all seen static images left on too long ... it can illicit a physical sensation that is almost painful, like your chest tightening. Maybe that's just me. I feel it. An image not given enough time I feel right behind the eyes, like a brief flaring headache. So I put the music down first, and let that be the rhythm of the images.

In the editing software that I use (Final Cut Pro for all the geeks in the house) I can set a duration for any still image I bring into the program. The default is 10 seconds .. way, way, way too long. I have two presets: One at five seconds and one at four. Four seconds is actually how long I want the images to last on screen. I think that duration gives even a completely static image enough time to "tell its story" to give its information without overstaying its welcome, if you will. So why the five seconds? Because if you put transitions on either side of the image (like a dissolve, fade to black etc) that eats up some of the time that each image lives on the screen.

That length is not a hard and fast rule of course. If you watch the Weekend Adventure video, there is a section just before the chorus where Jem sings "break down, don't you break down, break down .." and I cut photos into each one of the "break downs" which is less than four seconds, more like two seconds or so. I'm betting that those photos don't seem less than half the length of others, because the images are moving and they are matched to the music in a way that it makes sense; it flows.

I think I've always seen images and music as elements that should not only exist together, but need to go together to be at their most effective. This probably comes from the movies. A great soundtrack does not just accompany a movie, it enhances it, improves it, embellishes it. The Third Man, directed by Carol Reed; the use of the zither as Joseph Cotton chases Orson Welles around the streets and through the sewers of post war Vienna ... the jarring music and Reed's off kilter camera angles and the brilliant black and white chiaroscuro all combined to give those scenes a breathless, edgy quality. Combined, mind you. Reed's camera work and editing is brilliant but that music adds so much to the scene, it would not be as effective without it.

There are dozens of examples; a bit more recently The Ghost and the Darkness, set in colonial Africa, uses African inspired music to great effect. The music is heavily percussive and filled with chants and not only does it reflect the film's location, it pushes the movie pace. In the early scenes, when Val Kilmer arrives in Africa to build his bridge, all optimistic and filled with testosterone, the music is big, orchestral, effusive and with the African rhythm more subtle, hidden under the strings. As the story progresses and the man eating lions begin to terrorize the area, as all of Kilmer's beautiful clean engineering is destroyed by feral violence, the strings are stripped away from the soundtrack; the drums come out, thudding like blood and the chants become more guttural, grunting, like the hunger of the lions and the fear of the men that leaves breathing short and blood hammering. The scenes are not cut to the beat but the beat informs them, it adds the poetry to the language of the visual images.

I certainly don't aspire to such artistry but I think I understand that power of music to inform image. I have a certain reputation for it in my field. I have worked with other editors on long, complex corporate videos; usually in such cases where the bulk of the video is highly expository, there is a desire to break up the talking heads and close up shots of steel presses with musical montages. These little scenes provide a reprise from the pure information but they still must have a purpose, they still must illustrate something about the product or company. Often, working on these kinds of videos the refrain was "let Kellar do the freaking montage".

Cutting to music is more than just matching cuts to the beat. It is understanding how images need to match up to the rhythm; when cutting to extremely fast beats I like detail shots, extreme close ups, like a pair of eyes or a just the logo from a large machine or the curve of a neck of a bottle of chef sauce (hey, I never said corporate video was romantic). In corporate video you use, largely, instrumental music, because you do not want to distract from the imagery and the message.

That kind of cutting is challenging, both on a technical level as well as a creative one. Where it gets more purely creative for me (let me whisper the word "artistic" in your ear in my most manly of voices) is not just cutting images to the beat, its using music to illustrate the image. This is where you you lay down the images first then stripe in the music afterwards ("striping" is a perfectly archaic video term for inserting a video element, it has to do with the way old school video decks used helical heads to record image and sound onto tape ... wake up, we're done with the geek speak now). Here, the challenge is to find the music that not just compliments the image, but illustrates it. I've been told I have a talent in this area. My friend Karen Baldwin-Porter, an actual for real can play an instrument musician asked me to put together a memorial slideshow for her husband David; when she saw it she told me "You got me with the music, I knew you would get me with the music" I created a similar slideshow as a memorial to Collette's mother Margaret ... and really, you know, I'm happy to do it, but its a duty I do not want to make a habit of. People also complimented the music, were even surprised at the song choices but agreed that it gave impact to the pictures. You can also take a look at this Hayley video where I had some fun cutting to the music.

That is how I am a musician, I think. I'm never gonna be able to play an instrument. Tom Harpell, my friend, my teacher, my mentor in all things video and a pretty mean blues musician, once told me that he could teach anyone, even me, how to play the blues harp. Tom, I love ya brother, but we all know that ain't gonna happen. Its ok. No regrets. I have my own way of playing music. You tune up your harp. Give me a second while I start the computer ...


Some things don't work out as planned. Actually, very few things work out as planned, that is why I plan for them not to work out; and that plan is often thwarted too. Let's just call that Life and move on.

I planned to put together a little video to celebrate Elizabeth McClung's call to arms to take a weekend and go out, be silly, have fun. And her readers did. From goth girls in cemeteries, to poi spinning, to traipsing in graveyards, to weaving, to Memorial day excursions in graveyards, to carrying rakes on bicycles to trying to visualize pain to more graveyards, people took up the call.

I was unable to participate in the challenge due to the behemoth known as Deadline sitting on my head ("Ignore me," he says "I'm a 500 pound gorilla with a mohawk haircut and a tattoo of Popeye on my ass, just try to ignore me")I had to stay home and work.

Still, these great adventures needed some sort of record and making a video without any pretense of commerce is fun for me. So I took people's images and video and put together a video that I hoped would would stand as some sort of record of the weekends.

The video was created but I carelessly overlooked some important details and we had to put that particular creation to rest. No fear. The video rises again. Call it Son of The Weekend Adventure, or the Sequel.

Again, I want to thank everyone who gave me permission to use their images. And thanks for Elizabeth to get the whole silly bar rolling.

The music is Just A Ride by Jem. I am not usually a real pop song kind of guy but it is a nice tune to cut to and I think the lyrics work with the images and with the whole concept of the adventure. The weekend was fun for most people but it was a challenge for others and a cause to reflect for some. The ride we are all on is fast, slow, scary, boring, impressive, forgettable, blissful, painful and, eventually, destined to end ... Put the helmet on. Grab the handlebars. Enjoy the ride.

It's just a ride, it's just a ride No need to run, no need to hide It'll take you all around Sometimes you're up Sometimes you're down It's just a ride, it's just a ride Don't be scared now Dry your eyes I t may feel so real inside But don't forget enjoy the ride

The Weekend Adventure from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

JEFF HEALY: MARCH 24 1966 - MARCH 2 2008

Jeff Healy died this past march. I have been thinking about it since it happened and, as is the usual case with me, it took some time for the thoughts to coalesce into something I could actually write about.

I don't know how famous Jeff Healy really was. Certainly here in Toronto he was well known; musician, bar owner, radio show host, a pretty big fixture in the town's music scene. He had some success in Canada with the Jeff Healy Band, a couple of hit records including Angel Eyes; ironically because that was a song least Representative of what this man could do. So he had some national fame but he took himself off the "record charts" turning his back on popular music and devoting himself to what he loved the most, blues music and (his preference) traditional jazz. I suppose he had some international fame as well. You can see him in the Patrick Swayze movie Roadhouse; although Jeff's character is called Cody (or something) he was playing Jeff; a blind white boy with a sense of humour with his guitar on his lap who played some of the most blistering blues/rock you ever heard. The movie won't to be everyone's taste but it has two things to recommend it: Sam Elliot ("that hurts, don't it?") and Jeff Healy.

Living in Toronto I was fortunate enough to have seen Jeff several times at concerts, blues festivals and at his original bar Healy's. I loved Healy's. It was this little basement place at Bathurst and King. Not sleazy but not fancy, small and dark and crowded just like a good blues bars should be. Collette and I saw Long John Baldry there most recently and it was a perfect venue to watch the Big Man do his thing. In Feb of last year Jeff opened Healy's Roadhouse just down from the Sky Dome on a very touristry strip that include Gretsky's, Second City, Don Cherry's etc. Its a big place, there is good music but boy, I miss that hot little basement.

I don't really recall what year my brother Ed and I saw Jeff at the Skydome. A baseball stadium is a shitty place to watch a concert but who could resist this: Jeff Healy, Jeff Beck and Stevie Ray Vaughn. C'mon. Could have shot me. Would have died with a smile on my face. I could not have imagined then that I would be writing this, not much more than 15 years later and of those three musicians, only Beck survives.

A personal memory of Jeff was when Collette, myself and her niece Billie-Marie went to see the Woman's Blues Review. In those days this annual event was held at this intimate church. When we seated ourselves Billie was looking around then turned to us with this excited look on her face "That's Jeff Healy! He's right behind us!" She had not been living here for long at that time and was still surprised to see "famous" people in everyday circumstances (a pretty good definition of a Canadian celebrity). She looked back at Jeff then at me and said "I keep looking at him but I don't want to be rude by staring" I pointed out "Its ok sweetie, he can't see you" I looked at Jeff and there was this little smile on his face.

Jeff Healy was one of these disabled people who was not disabled. He battled the cancer that finally killed him his entire life. It took his eyesight at age three. It didn't see to slow him down much. He had the music career, the bar career, a career as one of this country's leading experts on traditional jazz music, he did some film work. He had his wife and he had his children. I can't imagine how difficult his life actually was; certainly in the last few months of his life he was dealing with terrible pain but he finished up a new blues recording and was preparing live performances.

I recall watching one live TV taping with Jeff. Although he primarily sat on a chair and played with the guitar in his lap, he loved to get up and dance around when the mood struck him. As he got up, Jeff yelled "I have no idea where the camerman is but you may want to move!" as he bopped around the stage, head back, the guitar held across his waste, smiling and the music .. the music just flowing out of him

I will miss you Jeff. Good journey. Say Hi to Stevie for me.

Here is a video of Jeff Healy doing a cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I keep coming back to this issue of self definition. In an earlier post of my own I questioned the label of disability and wondered if I qualified and what that would mean. Elizabeth at Screw Bronze contemplates the same issue and wonders where she fits into the "disability world". In my last post I ruminated about names and what they mean to us and how much of our self-definition is tied up in the oldest label we, as individuals, have. In her blog, Wheelchair Dancer writes about fitness and our views of what being fit is both for able bodied and disabled people; read the comments left to her post, I found them very interesting.

Here in Toronto they are going ahead with the creation of the province's (and I think the country's) first "Afrocentric" school. This is a complex issue and I have no desire to really delve into the details of whether this concept is going to be effective in addressing the issue of the high drop-out rate of black students in the city. Still, Collette works for this board, she has worked with kids for over twenty years, so obviously this is an issue that floats around this house quite often. What interests me is the viewpoint expressed by some of the people behind this endeavour, that too many black youth do not have a strong sense of their identity, of their heritage, that they are lost in a society that does not reflect them. I can't speak personally to this issue; I have never really been a part of a racial minority (though I remember when living in Quebec, before my language skills improved of often feeling "left out" even when I knew it was not intentional, the people around me did not share my language and I did not share theirs, it was a linguistic impasse) so I can't really say if these feelings are legitimate.

I have, however, felt like a minority in my life, like an outsider. I grew up in a large single parent family and we were poor. I mean, at some points, really poor. When we lived in Odessa Ontario I remember going with my mother to some neighbour's water pump, filling a bucket up, and carrying it back to our house. I remember, later, in Kingston, living in a house when we could not afford heat. Ma and I once again were fetching back a pail (this time filled with furnace oil) and also huddling under blankets with my sibs because we had no oil at all. As a kid in school I wore hand me downs or clothes donated by the Children's Aid Society. I vividly recall getting a coat for Christmas from some charity that was a girl's coat; wearing that to school was like a badge of my poverty and it left no doubt that I belonged to a different social strata from other kids, that I was an outsider.

As time went on, the financial lode lessened a little (other sibs got older and moved out so it meant there was a bit more money to spread around) but the division that money created between myself and others never went away. School trips, school supplies, clothing ... I always lagged behind everyone else; as I got older I could rationalize this, I knew my mother was doing all she could and I could feel good about it but my badge was often recognized by others and pointed out to me, so there was no escaping it. So that was my label: The Poor Kid. I could see everyone else's label as well: The Gay Kid, The Fat Kid, The Black Kid, The Weak Kid, The Stupid Kid ... Where do these labels come from? Who is handing out the badges?

In school, there is no doubt that kids labels to other kids. Kids crave acceptance and it seems the easiest way to achieve that, is to apply categories .. I'm a jock, you're a nerd, she's a Barbie, he's a Goth, she's black, he's Muslim .... Some of these labels are ones we carry from day one, from our birth, from our families and backgrounds. You are black (or Jewish, or Muslim, or Native or Italian, or Irish ...) that's it, its what you are but that only seems to become important when you are among others who are not. In reading about the Afrocentric school I came across a story by a now mature black woman who, as a recently immigrated child, went to her new Toronto school and found herself surrounded by white faces; she wrote about being "frightened" in this situation. Where did this fear come from? From the white kids? From herself? From the uniqueness of the situation; coming from a place where everyone was the same, where everyone is like you, to a world where you are now different from those around you.

These labels of race and religion and culture, these badges we are born with, are given to us by our history, our geographical location, by our parents and our ancestry. And they are often reinforced by the same. Toronto has a Catholic school board and it has private schools for Jews and Muslims and now a public school for Afro Canadians ... so people learn about their labels, they are clearly encouraged to wear their badge for all the world to see. You could call this cultural pride, you could also call this self imposed segregation. In designing an Afrocentric school, are you reinforcing a culture, or are you just separating yourself?

Honestly, these issues of culture and race and religion, though important, do not hold a personal interest for me. What I think more about is the issue of self-labelling, of self actualization I guess. Who are we? How do we view ourselves? When I questioned whether I was disabled it was because I don't see myself that way but do others. And if so, does this exterior viewpoint alter my own personal reality. The woman who came here as a child from the West Indies may never have thought of herself as black until she was surrounded by white people, then it became an issue.

The TD Bank are running a couple of TV spots that have me thinking. The ads feature a couple of old timers, sitting outside the bank, bemoaning the fact that everything has become too convenient and how banks never catered to our needs before; whatever. What interests me about these ads is the background. There are a couple versions of the spot and in each of them, as the old dudes are bitching, we see a woman in a wheelchair whizzing by. Different woman in each ad. What I found interesting was, when we see a close up of the bank, there is no ramp ... there is clearly a steep concrete step. So now we know why the women are zipping past the bank .. they can't get inside it.

So, the woman in the wheelchair may want to label herself as "just a woman" but every time she hits that stair or that tiny bathroom, she is given back the label of "woman in a wheelchair" or "disabled". The black kid in school may want to be "the kid in school" but then he is given the label of "Afro Canadian" or "student of the black school" and he becomes something else.

I am a guy, into my fifth decade, married for 25 years, owner of my own tiny business, never in any serious trouble with the law ... but I have long hair, a beard, ear ring and a tattoo. I really don't think much about these attributes. I've had the hair most of my life (think about the name of the blog, let the light bulb come on [I have a hairy dog too]) and the ear ring and tatt have been around for a while too. And it surprises me when they get a reaction, both from individuals and institutions. I had a problem with my bank card a few years back, it got eaten by the machine or something so I went to a local branch of the Royal Bank up in Vaughn where I was working at the time. It was summer, edit suites are hot, so I was wearing shorts and a tank top and the people at that branch were treating me as if they had just seen me on America's Most Wanted. I have been a customer of the Royal Bank for over 30 years, I've paid off two student loans with them but because of my physical appearance I was given a label: Scruffy Dude Not To Be Trusted. Now, I often describe myself as an old hippie, but I never associated that label with something negative; my label conflicted with their badge.

To be human is to have an identity. As we go on, that identity morphs, evolves, changes. Very often there is a conflict between our own sense of identity, and the labels that others places upon us. It gets tricky when you are trying to figure out who you are, you may want a label, to sort of fix it in your own mind; but our inner monologues may be written in a language that others cannot easily read. So our label is misinterpreted and when we look down and see all the various labels we wear we often see a bunch we never put there ourselves. That is our challenge, identifying the labels, no matter from whence they came, polishing them, changing them, positioning them so the "right" ones are more prominently displayed.

For me, what I coming to see, is that what we really need is some readily available blank labels, placed high, for all to see. Have your pen handy, to scribble in the definition that suits you at the moment but understand that others have access to your labels as well; so carry a spare Sharpie and don't be afraid to lend it out. Let them scribble, read their label, try to understand what it means.

Just make sure yours is written in a bolder hand.

Monday, May 19, 2008


In an earlier post I mentioned our friend Michelle, who provided us with the ammunition (moth balls) needed to repel the dreaded ninja-skunk. As Collette read the draft she said "Hun, there's only one L in Michele's name" And I said "Right, one L, I knew that" These days the gap between the things I know and the things I actually remember is too wide for every generation of Kineval and the Ghost Rider together to jump across. I've made this typo with Michele's name before. When she performed in one of my student movies (we didn't have cameras back in those days, we actually just drew multiple pages really fast) I misspelled both of her names. So its Michele with one L and Collette with two L's ... or is it?

As long as I have known Collette, she has spelled her name with two L's. As long as Collette has known Collette, she has spelled her name that way. It is just how her name is spelled .. isn't it? When Collette was applying to teacher's college at the University of Toronto, that venerable institution delved deep into her paperwork and informed her that her name was, in fact, spelled with only one L. Collette was somewhat devastated by this. She enjoys being a "two L" Collette. Two L Collette's are rare and beautiful and exotic creatures rarely glimpsed by modern man and .. oh, ok, sorry, I get carried away. But she really does like having that little tangible distinction afforded to her by the spelling of her name. I think Michele feels the same way. When Collette lost that L did she lose her identity? The thing that makes her unique? Well no, not really, because we are made unique by a variety of factors all of which may shift and change over the years. Is your name you? I don't know, but it is your first possession. And it may be your last. Beyond the important legal ramifications of your name, it is the one tag that you carry with you forever.

When I was in high school I went through a phase where I hated being called Vic. I don't even really remember why. Maybe it was due to associations with sleazy famous Vics like Damone, or Mature, I'm not really sure (young people, don't look baffled, Google is your friend). These days I usually introduce myself as Vic. Few years back I started working as an editor at Tantara Productions. I introduced myself as Vic. Shortly after I started there I had arranged for a client to come down and work with me. My edit suite (if you call the former broom closet a suite) was in the back of the building so I told Dean, another editor, who worked up towards the front, to let me know when my client showed up. Hour or so later I just happened to be crossing the corridor when I heard Dean saying "Sorry, there is no Victor working here" I had to go flying up and catch my client before she left the building. Now Dean was a bright young dude and I don't believe he indulged in any kind of creative chemistry but he had been unable to make the association between Vic and Victor. I asked him "Don't you know that Vic is just short for Victor" His response was "I just thought your name was Vic"

Its a funny thing, most people do hang on to whatever version of my name I use when I first meet them, either Vic or Victor. I probably am the same way. I become kind of sensitive to people's name and if you call yourself Debbie I don't know if I'd call you Deb ... well, I might, but I would feel bad for you afterwards.

There is more, to my name, though than Vic and Victor. But before I go there, I have to address a Victor issue .. when you meet me, and you know my name, please for the love of all that's holy don't say "like that guy from the soap opera" No damn you! I'm like the guy from Rat Patrol and the Forbin Project .... ok, thats done now. Back to my name; there is more to it than Vic and Victor. I sign my name v.j. kellar, exactly like that, no caps. Why? Well, that is my writing name I guess, how I sign anything creative that I've written. In this world there have only been a couple of people who have called me VJ, being Collette and my eldest brother Edward, two of the people who have been among the strongest supporters of my writing, as it turns out. A few others are beginning to use the appellation and I am ok with that, I just want royalties ... just kidding (no I'm not, cough up the cash)

I often wonder about the Victor- VJ thing myself, I'm not really sure how I came up with that as a writing name. Before that point no one really called me VJ. I can't even think of any writers who I admired at the time who used initials. Perhaps it was some attempt to establish a separate persona, distant from the everyday and mundane world and therefore more free to explore the inner world the existential world thereby gaining precious insights ... but probably I just thought it was "cool"

What if we could pick our name? One of my sisters is called Venus. Yup, Venus (look, it was the sixties, that's all I know) As one could imagine, she took a lot of crap growing up. I seem to remember my mother giving her the option to change her name but she did not; by that time she was Venus and unlike a lot of us, she had earned the name in many ways. Edward's wife, who I have known for a very long time, started out as a woman named Sharon. She is now a woman named Eartha. This was a conscious choice for her, an important choice for her and clearly helped her re-define or perhaps even define herself. That is a function of strength, I think, to make a decision that outwardly declares some inwardly motivated change. We all go thru stages, thru changes but we rarely advertise them in such a public fashion. Deciding I don't mind being called Vic instead of Victor is not that kind of change, it really came out of me deciding: It doesn't matter what you call me, I'm still the weirdo I've always been.

When we are named, what is the motivation there? A lot of us are given names that hold some historical importance in our family. In my family most of our middle names have family significance; my middle name of James is in honour of a close friend of my father's at the time. My sister Marianna has no middle name, I'm pretty sure her actually name in Mary-Anne ... does the hyphen count? Did my mother run out of names?? Just how good were the sixties anyway?

One of my other sisters is named Tyna. Not a typo, that is how her name is spelled. One of Collette's brothers is Garry. Michele has the one L, Collette may or may not have the two LLs .. does any of it really matter? Short answer is yes; I have screwed up enough people's names in credit rolls over the years to know that we like to have our identities correctly noted. Because our names are our identities whether we like it or not. Our names are our badges, that public part of us we must share with someone in order to do any kind of interaction. Our names hold a power, if they did not we would not change them, we would not defend them, we would adjust or alter or even despise them; our names mean something.

I don't know if our names are who we are, but they were spoken before we are born and they will be spoken after we leave. So get them right.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


An update on Miss Hayley's epic encounter with the dreaded ninja-skunk. Although the Skunked is an effective product we are dealing with, after all, a substance so toxic it rates above whatever hair products are used by Don King and Donald Trump. So as I was out yesterday in search of moth balls to fortify our perimeter, Collette had to give Hayley another treatment.

Trust me, this is not a happy border collie. Hayley does not mind her baths, but she rarely volunteers for one.

But, two baths in a row? With only a night separating the two? I mean, really, this is too much.

I think at this moment Miss Hayley is contacting the UN about crimes against humanity .. or, more properly, crimes against the World's Smartest Dogs.

So, as to the moth ball situation. This was something that should have been simple; I mean, wildlife aside I do live in Canada's largest city. You really can't spit without hitting a mall. So I thought, a quick nip out and I should be able to return with arms loaded with a bounty of moth balls. No, of course not, things could not be so easy. What should have been a quick errand developed into the Quest for Stinky Skunk Repelling Modules. I swear, at one point, in the check out line at Canadian Tire, I saw Sir Percival, looking haggard and loaded up with self-tapping screws and battery chargers. At least his quest was not a total failure.

I have heard that moth balls may have been banned. I have yet to confirm this but it wouldn't surprise me. Moth balls aren't "green". No, they are cheap and they work and seriously, how many people still use them anyway. Being able to buy them would be ... logical. And especially in Toronto the Good that just will not do.

My alternative was to look for a commercial product called Critter Ridder (seriously, that's what its called, not even I could make that up). Supposedly this product is "organic" the meaning of which I really don't understand. Farts are organic but I don't want to buy of bottle of them. And where a box of moth balls sells for a few dollars, a jug of this stuff is 35 bucks. But it should be effective, it "rids" all kinds of critters ... including dogs. Um, Houston, we may have a problem.

While I was pulling out my hair out (and we can't have that, if you know the name of this blog) Collette was in contact with our friend Michele, who lives in a small town about an hour away from us. Apparently, small town Ontario is either: a) Too backward and uneducated to be green aware or b) Doesn't have the time and money to waste on nebulous environmental concepts that are basically nothing more than marketing. At any rate, Michele's quest was far more successful than my own (send a woman to do a man's job, well duh) and she scored something like 16 boxes of moth balls. So we should be able to build a powerful perimeter and some serious memories of our grandmothers' closets.

Ok, on to the video. This is the last of the Hayley puppy footage. This features a long trip in the wayback machine. This is Miss Hayley just a few months old, in her first visit to Earl Bales park. We are pretty lucky where we live; 15 minutes by subway from downtown Toronto but surrounded by walking trails, big parks and deep ravines. Not only does Earl Bales have the ravines and the creeks (and ski hills) it leads onto a golf course that is a great place to let the dogs play in the winter. If you go to the post titled Why My Dog Doesn't Pee On My Shoes, you will see the video Hayley & Friends; part of that is Hayley and Max in the winter, romping around the golf course.

The Earl Bales video is pretty short, so I tossed in some pics, both Hayley as a puppy and some more recent stuff. And I don't know if the first song choice is as funny as I think it is (of course, nothing can be as funny as I think I am) but I like to cut to it.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


The American government and the U.N. wasted time and money searching for WMDs in Iraq. They should have come here, to North York Ontario, because this is where all the truly toxic weapons are hiding. You think Saddam had biological weapons? Ha! The truly dangerous bio weapons are all in north Toronto, baby. It is an insidious, pervasive, soul-damaging bio hazard whose effect lingers for days and devastates all come into contact with.

Even more dangerous than the toxic weapon itself is its cunning delivery system. Silent, stealthy, well camouflaged. Lurking and moving with ninja-like effectiveness, the weapons platform seeks its target then delivers its deadly payload with computer-like efficiency ....

Yup, Hayley got nailed by a skunk last night. We knew the enemy has infiltrated our neighbourhood. We've been smelling him for days. To the extent where we've actually said "Damn, that skunk must be living in our yard" When we moved into this house last summer skunks were not an issue because we had a family of raccoons living back there; I have a feeling that, to skunks, raccoons are like an entrenched enemy army. Unfortunately, to raccoons, Miss Hayley is like Seal Team Six. She scopes out the enemy locations, infiltrates, strikes ... several times she trapped the babies in an unused grate out there and gleefully led me out to admire her first strike capabilities. Raccoons were totally safe, of course, this is a herding dog, not a hunting dog. Still, Mamma Raccoon apparently did not like the idea of her babies being treated like sheep so she moved on. And the skunk moved in.

Which brings us to last night's military campaign. It was late, close to midnight and I will use that as my excuse for forgetting about the enemy among us. Its also the beginning of the Victoria Day holiday weekend and that that means, in this neighbourhood, fireworks. Miss Hayley does not like fireworks. To her border collie brain fireworks means "Don't tell me to relax, some one's shooting at me!!!" So I just wanted to get her out of the house before the real noise began. Down the stairs, open the back door, Hayley slips out, I get almost back up the stairs, ancient addled mind kicks in "Did I smell skunk?" semi-gimpy body whirls around, goes down the stairs, into the yard, round the corner of the house and .... Does anybody have a haz mat suit I can borrow?

Poor Hayley. Skunk spray doesn't hurt but I think it must be humiliating. This is not the first time the World's Smartest Dog has encountered this enemy. At the old house she got hit two or three times in one month. So she knows skunks. She's smelled the WMD before. And this is a dog that learns, she has a great memory, especially for things that are unpleasant. You'd think she would have learned not to mess with the black and white cat; except there really is a black and white cat around here that is one of her mortal enemies. And, well, something in her yard that moves, Hayley is going to be on it. We have passed wild bunnies around here (no, really, we do live in a city with 3 million people even if we are surrounded by all this wildlife) and if the bunny freezes, Hayley does not even see it. If it takes off, she goes into full collie mode. Apparently skunks do not freeze. Why should they? They are armed better than John Rambo on his best day.

So Hayley gets the blow and I am left standing there saying "Shit, here we go again" My first mistake was letting her out into the back (usually in the presence of the enemy we take her out front to pee where we can watch her) but the real mistake was not having the moth balls down. Moth balls work, people. Put them around the perimeter of your yard and they will keep the skunks at bay. Collette's dad used them to keep away black bears up north. And no, they are not harmful to dogs. So, if we had had the moth balls down ... Someone owes a border collie a huge apology. And that someone writes this blog.

Luckily we still had some of the commercial skunk shampoo that we purchased last year from a local vet. Its called Skunked, and it works. When we had Gigs we gave him the tomato juice treatment. The way to use tomato juice, is you rub into the coat, let it dry, then brush it out; it can be quite effective. But Gigs had lab fur. Hayley has a coat you could make an entire fashion line out of so the juice is not near as effective. But Skunked works, thank god. So there I am, middle of the night, out on the patio, subjecting Miss Hayley to a further ignominy piled upon the embarrassment of us realizing that the world's smartest dog doesn't know a skunk from a cat ...

So, here we are the next day, Miss Hayley is mostly de-toxified (she may need a little touch up) but she still is carrying the shame of being outwitted by a life form that lives on grubs. I am off to buy moth balls and set up up our perimeter, and we are launched upon another summer engagement against our insidious enemy. So do not be afraid to come visit .... but bring your own haz mat suit.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


This is a strong country. The great rocks push up out of the earth, rounded and hard and powerful, made smooth by moss and lichens, they are like the muscles of the earth, like the core of the planet, pushed up out of the ground. Sun comes hard off the water, cutting diamond shapes on the waves, flaring off to get caught in the smokey dark barbs of the trees, dropping like shards down into the deep tangles of the bush.

The wind comes hard into this part of the Canadian Shield. It comes from out of the immense expanse of Lake Huron, ripping into the Georgian Bay, funneling into the bays and inlets and channels that punctuate the ancient grammar of this land. It is a hard wind, often cold, and it touches you, you feel the vastness of it, like it leaves its origin in your hair and on your face; a scent of snow and open water, even in the summer.

The trees bend against the wind, curving but not breaking, carrying their strength in their shapes, the branches blown back by the wind but still growing, still stretching out into the huge, overpowering sky.

Only three hours away from Toronto, the Georgian Bay seems another world sometimes. You can breathe here, feel that great wind and you can stand up on high on a rock or on a dock or in a canoe and you can hear .... The wind in the trees, brushing the pine needles like a conversation; the sussurus of waves on the sand beach; the call of loons that vibrates up your spine like an electrical current; the lapping of waves against a wooden dock, a gentle sound that seems so loud, as loud as music, as quiet as the movement of blood under your skin.

Springhaven Lodge, in Pointe au Baril Ontario, is a very special place for my family unit. This is Collette's home. Her father started the lodge 40 odd years ago and his sons run it to this day. This is where Collette grew up; a little blond haired kid and her yellow lab pretty much living in the water.

This is also a special place for Miss Hayley. She has been coming here her entire life. Playing in the water, racing through the bush, discovering snails on the beach, racing up to the road to Uncle Dennis' house for some goodies from Aunt Kay in her kitchen. I've cut a little video compilation of some of Miss Hayley's early moments at the lodge. This video spans a couple of years; you can see the progress of her coat as she ages.

Things have changed at the Lodge, our lives have changed but it will always be a special place for us and no matter what the future brings we will have the memory of this land and when we need to, we will be able to close our eyes and feel the great wind against our face.

Monday, May 12, 2008


This started out to be a post the sole purpose of which was to show my latest Hayley video. Some more of the old footage I recently re-discovered and am editing together into some short clips. I also wanted to test out the video sharing site called Vimeo as an alternative to YouCrap. The video is here, its down at the bottom of this page; for rabid Miss Hayley fans you can scoot on down and take a gander and avoid the meanderings that follow. I'm curious to know what people think of the quality of this clip, I tend to like the compression that Vimeo offers; if you want to leave a comment on that it would be much appreciated. You can, you know, comment on this form and even keep it anonymous if you so desire.

The title of the video is Hayley and Friends and features Miss Thang playing with a couple of her old doggie buddies, Kier Bob and Max. Yes, her buddies, her friends. Miss Hayley has accumulated a lot of doggie friends over the years. At least, that is how we typify it. Her friends. Er, wait a second, is that possible?

If you've been reading along you know that Hayley recently turned ten. On that day in a park I met John, a fellow border collie owner (his border is also called Hayley so we often debate who is the "good" Hayley and who is the "bad" Hayley, so far I think Miss Thang is is ahead on points but it may come down to a split decision). John is a dog trainer for whom I have a great deal of respect. I told John "Its Hayley's birthday" and he gave her a cookie and he said "You know, they really don't have birthdays" I said, they don't age and he said, of course they do but "birthday" in an entirely human concept.

This is not an original idea of course. We are constantly applying human parameters to our pets. People call their dogs their kids; I don't call her my child but Hayley's name for us are Mom and Dad; she didn't come with that on her own, we taught it to her. I think if Hayley could choose names for us it would be Keeper of the Cookies or Holder of the Blanket or perhaps Open the Damn Door I Have To Pee.

People go to extremes humanizing their dogs. Giving them hair cuts, knitting them mini skirts, making them eggs Benedict, custom engineering them paw controls so they can drive their new Porches ... ok, so I made that last one up but you get my point.

All of us give our dogs names; this in itself could be said to be humanizing but hey, you have to call them something and it has to be something unique. You can't be in the middle of a dog park and shout "Dog" or "Mutt" or "Pork Rind Breath" and expect your dog to be the only one to respond ... what, isn't Pork Rind Breath a common euphemism for a dog? Ok, maybe its just me. So naming your dog is a practicality, there is a pragmatic reason behind it. But often the mere fact of giving them a name, and in our case a very human name, imparts a sense of personality, a sense of humanity.

We often view dog behaviour through human eyes. People think their dogs get sad, get mad, get depressed, get overly focused on career goals and putting the need to be the in the corner office ahead of together time .. ok, so I made the last one up, you see the pattern here. Well, dogs certainly have emotions, or at least they do feel things beyond the simple demands of food, thirst, shelter, horniness. Dogs feel fear, that is survival instinct. Dogs are social animals, pack animals and they feel separation anxiety ... that's why, when you leave them alone without exercise they eat your floppy disks, your eye glasses and your new Italian leather pumps (back in college I knew a woman who had an English bulldog who did all of those things) Do they feel sadness? Well, again they feel something, and maybe we interpret the anxiety of being separated from the pack as being sadness. I'm pretty sure Miss Hayley often feels a desperate sense of disappointment that she is not graced with parents as intelligent as she ... "Hey doofus, why are you asking me if I want to go outside, I'm standing in front of the frigging door, what the hell else would I want?" rolling eyes and flipping ears.

So lets get to the point of this missive (yes, yes sometimes I actually do aspire to make a point, stop sniggering) Does a dog have friends? I have a feeling that my dog trainer buddy John would not say that a dog has "friends" as we think of it. Dogs are social, they want to be around each other but there is a lot of work going on here, a lot of establishing and reinforcing of roles, of sniffing out who the strong is, who the weak is, who the sexually receptive is ... well shit that sounds like Saturday night in a lot of bars I used to frequent. Dogs recognize each other, they remember individual dogs, probably based on smell and the wagging of tails .. yeh, this really is like that long ago bar ...

But does a dog have friends. Hayley certainly has other dogs that she prefers to play with; you could probably call these dogs "sheep" cause usually they are the ones that don't seem to mind being herded as they chase their ball. But Hayley also has other dogs that are not sheep, that do not run or wrestle or fetch and I know she affords them a special status. I know she does this because she has this special cry, a high pitched, ululating, more typically border collie kind of cry that she uses only for certain dogs and certain humans as well. We call this her "pack" cry, reserved for those creatures four legged or two legged who she thinks belongs to her pack. Are these her friends? She seems excited to see them; the special cry, tail going in circles, butt all wiggling ... yeh, you know I miss that bar .. um, sorry, digressing ...

We miss our friends. I don't think Hayley does. I don't entirely believe that dogs live only in the moment, I believe that they have memories or at least associations (Hayley dislikes going to the vet, she dislikes it cause upon her very first visit the vet pinched her with the needle, she would not dislike it if she had no memory of that) but I don't think dogs "pine" for creatures absent .. with the exception of the pack leaders. But I think Hayley has friends. I think she is excited to see these dogs not only because they allow her to terrorize them ... sorry Hayley, I mean train them .. but because she has some special connection them. She knows lots of dogs and she meets lots of dogs on a regular basis but there are a select few who she seems to have made a part of her pack. These dogs don't live with us but they are in Hayley's pack. For a dog, I suppose, that is friendship.

So, here we go, Hayley playing with a couple of old friends. She has not seen KierBob or Max in many years but I have no doubt that when she does, there will be much crying and salivating and bum wiggling involved ... that's it for now, I have to go to the bar.

Hayley & Friends from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


I still miss her. Every day.

She was a small woman. And I think she looked old as long as I could remember. Face and hands etched by a hard life; a life hard, it seemed, before it had much chance to be soft. I didn't know that, then, back when I was a kid. The idea that she could even had a life outside my perimeter of existence was an alien idea.

She may have been small but she was a strong woman. Certainly, physically strong. I have a memory of picking up a refrigerator and moving it by herself. That memory may be flawed but there was not doubt she was strong in that way; people with that kind of life, that kind of past, develop personal strength.

She was strong in other ways. The kind of strength I never appreciated as a kid but came to respect as an adult; I admire it to this day. Strength of commitment. Not readily apparent but she must of had that. To raise eight children by yourself, to deny yourself companionship and freedom, that is strength of commitment. Strength of individuality; hell yeah, she had that in spades. Everyone in my home town knew the weird little woman with the dark glasses and the big hat and the flags and the red outfits. Drink a bottle of beer in a cup ... I mean, take a bottle of beer and place it in a cup and drink from the bottle ... tell me that isn't weird. Read a newspaper cover to cover everyday even with a grade 4 education and perhaps dyslexia ... she was strong.

Strength to be yourself. I struggle with that myself, sometimes. When I look back at the times I have been least happy with myself, it was when I was trying to be something and someone I was not; even when for perfectly viable reasons, like career and or to please somebody else, I am never happy when denying whatever it is that I am. I look back at her, with all her superstitions and bizarre speech patterns (she could never pronounce peoples' names, she called Collette "Clodette" the whole time she knew her) and odd clothing choices and I see her smile and say Fuck it, if she could be happy with herself so can I. She gave that to me. I thank her for it every day.

Perhaps it was her sense of individuality that gave me what creativity I have. She supported that even when she could never really understand it. She always supported my writing though I doubt she "got" much of it; but she was proud of me and knew that it made me happy. I don't think she got the video thing either but, again, she supported me wholly, right or wrong. When my first student video won an award, at the gala that evening (we both sported our sunglasses all night long) they came to collect the big trophy to put in a case; my mother almost clocked the poor girl saying "Hey, that's my son's" with that small, powerful fist balled up. That was strength too; crazy strength perhaps but that's the kind I love the most.

I think of myself as a storyteller and Ma was certainly that. She would tell her life story to total strangers, all in one go, meandering and wandering and including famous people in it somehow. I used to think that Ma's stories were incoherent but now I would like to think of them as surreal .. or magic realism, or something. She taught me this: You don't really need a linear plot to have a good story.

She also taught me to love music, movies, chicken fried rice and my family.

So here is a little Mothers Day video of Ma, cobbled together from some old pics and videos. Its silly, out of date, non linear and doesn't make any sense at all. I think its fitting

But this post is a Tale of Two Mothers. The other one was small too. And twinkly and Irish and mischievous. And she had hidden strength as well. Strength to leave her home and her family and travel to strange new lands to support the man she loved. Strength to work her fanny off, raise her kids and .. later in life .. speak her mind in a frank and sometimes brutally obvious fashion. Collette's mother Marg passed away just this year. Here is the slide show I created for her memorial.

We both miss our mothers every day. We miss their laughter and their strength and their commitment and their goofiness. I hope they are together someplace. And know that we think about them, even when it isn't Mothers Day.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Inspired by a recent comment: "You have posts about your dog, posts about movies, posts about disability, this blog's all over the place!"

Well, duh. This blog is just my brain. An expression of my mind. And yeh, my mind is all over the place. I am not linear. Hell, my video editing software is non linear so why should my mind be the same? I mean, I know how to get linear, I understand that as a goal. Whether writing fiction, writing a script or editing someone else's production, I think of myself as a storyteller. An old fashioned story teller. Beginning, middle end .. even if the end is often the beginning or the beginning changes the end once you get there, I believe in a storytelling line. The line may curve, hell the line may do a figure eight, but there is a line and I believe in tracking it.

How I get to that line is another matter. Video editing is storytelling but it really is about assembling stuff. Back in the days of tape to tape editing "assemble" edit was a technical term, basically going shot to shot down the tape. When you assemble edited you took everything from your camera tape, the video and the audio, and cut it into your edited master, what we now call the timeline. You built the story, shot by shot. Later, you could go back and "insert" stuff, be it video, narration, music, titles, over the existing assembled track. The assembled track, without the inserts, before the music and the titles and the animation was called the offline, it was the basic story elements, assembled to create the linear timeline; the inserting is onlining, putting in the finishing touches that complement the story without necessarily taking it in a new direction.

My mind is both linear and non linear. As I bump along thru my world information just funnels in, often without me being entirely aware of what it is, and its all assembled on a timeline somewhere, waiting for the offline.

So, I have posts about Hayley playing in the dogpark. While we are there I am observing the main action, my crazy border collie playing with her mates, maybe I am even shooting video footage. But other things are happening too. I'm observing the fact that too many people in the park seem to want to roll thru it rather than observe it; I'm hearing "Its A Kind Of Magic" in my head which drifts up from when Collette and I saw We Will Rock You; I'm watching a father spending "quality time" with his son and dog which means he is walking ten paces ahead cutting a deal on the cellphone while the kid and the dog are moping along by himself; I'm replaying a movie scene in my head, specifically the final duel from Sanjuro, where Toshiro Mifune and his opponent are facing each other down, hands on swords but not moving, not budging, so quiet it could be a still shot but its not, it is a scene replete with contained energy, energy restrained and ready to explode and although nothing happens for a long time the tension makes my chest tight and when the single, fatal blow is struck it is almost with relief ... That is all rolling through my head.

It all goes in and eventually, it will all come out. Years ago I wrote a little short story called Composting For The Mind and it basically explained my "creative" process, of letting everything filter in, drop down in the mental soil and just percolate till I need it. That applies to more than creative ideas. That is just how my mind works. There is an old brainstorming technique called "webbing" where you stand at a white board and people just fire out ideas and you write every single one of them, all of them without editing, and put it in a bubble and you just go on like that till the ideas stop coming. Your place all the bubbles in a big circle around the board. You leave one empty space in the middle and in there you put down the project on which you are working. Then you go and try to draw lines, or webs from all those random ideas down to your project title, if you can't make a connection, you take that bubble off. Hopefully, by the end, you have a few salient bubbles connected to your project, proven salient by the fact their webs have survived that editing process.

So I guess this blog is my web. Or maybe my offline edit. Definitely compost (I have a lid for the compost bin but hey, its old like me, there may be some holes so sometimes, something stinky may seep out .. sorry, suck it up). Blogger gives you all these tips about creating your site and one of them is "make your blog be about something" Well, this is a Jerry Sienfeld blog, it was never really meant to be about anything. Its about my life and my life, like most lives I suspect, is definitely non linear. Being an editer and a storyteller, I am compelled to try to online this sucker, to make it linear. That is the big final edit, all these posts are simply the assembled raw footage.

So yeh, this blog is all over the place. Its going to be about Hayley, and movies, and Collette's journey to her epic 60K walk in the fall, its going to be about ability and music and my family and all the ways on the net people try to connect to one another. There will be funny stuff, and profane stuff and sad stuff and insightful stuff and just plain goofy stuff; I think I call that life.

There's a lot of stuff in my mind but there is always room for people to share and hang out and take the journey with me. Have a seat.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Another post reflecting on Hayley's tenth birthday, ten years of living with the Queen Terror of the Dog Parks. If you want to skip right to the fun stuff, there is a video at the bottom of this post. This is itty baby Hayley, right after we got her, just a girl having fun, before she realized she was a working dog.

There is no doubt that Hayley means the world to me, and Collette as well, but I really wonder why that is. What is this connection between dog and human and human and dog ... that may be part of it right there. I feel a connection to Hayley and I'm pretty sure she feels a connection to me. Yes, and beyond the obvious "Hey dude, you feed me and if you stop that I would die or at least scrounge for bagels and lox and since I can't leave the house I'd still die" situation. In my last post I mentioned how Hayley seemed to bond with us so quickly. I took her away from her her mother, her litter mates and her farm yet very quickly she seemed to accept her new situation, her new role, her new pack.

Is that it? Humans are family creatures, certainly Collette and I are. Four siblings for her, seven siblings for me and for me, if memory serves me correctly, life at home with the fam could certainly qualify as being a "pack." Collete and I have had a dog since the first year we lived together and I am pretty sure we have had our cat Gypsy since the days dinosaurs ruled the earth and spam was a luncheon meat ... well, he's been alive that long at any rate.

Gigs was a great dog, we had him a long time and I regret none of the time we spent with him. But Hayley is different. Our connection with her is different. There is something there, something intangible and relevant and unquantifiable and demonstrable that you would have to call it love. When Hayley is just laying around, either on the couch with us or on the floor at our feet, she always wants to touch us. When we were visiting Collette's parents up north, her mom was laying on the bed with Hayley. Hayley kept moving towards her and Marg kept moving away till she was on the edge of the bed. "She doesn't want to share," Marg said. No, she does want to share, she wants to share you. She wants to be with you. To feel safe? To have warmth? To know your smell? Hell, that would be love .. only without the roses.

Hayley has been the easiest dog I've ever trained. Why is that? Is it my awesome dog whispery dog training skills? Um ... no. Is it the border collie's inherent intelligence, omnipotence and overall mastery of the universe as we know it? (OK, Hayley dictated that last line .. see, she's just freaking smart.) I once heard an Irish shepherd (and who would know more about a border collie) state that it really wasn't the breed's intelligence that distinguishes them (Hayley, stop frowning and growling at me, its unbecoming a girl your age) but rather it was their loyalty. That's why they are easy to train. They want to please you, they want to work with you, they want to connect.

Its a mutual thing of course. I don't think you can force a dog to any anything. You certainly can't use force on a dog. Any dog. And brother, you can't do that with a border collie. Hayley is trained, when on lead, to walk on your right. Sometimes we need her to switch sides. Yanking on that lead is not the way to perform the correction; saying "other side" or "over" is going to get the job done quickly. That is my part of the bargain. I am going to treat her with love, with respect and she's going to do her job. Not that she's never had a spanking but now just the word "spank" will make the bum drop and the border collie snap to. Its mutual. I don't scream at her, and she doesn't pee in my Reboks.

So yes, there is a very real connection between Hayley and us. But where does this connection come from? Well humans and dogs have been doing this dance for thousands of years and they've done it in pretty much every culture. We made these guys. Sure, there's still wolf in every dog. I've read that border collies actually have a lot of wolf in them; watch a working collie coming up onto the sheep, low to the ground, head flat, ears up, moving slow, shoulders bunched ... you can clearly see the predator stalking its prey. But Hayley, as much as she loves to stalk inert tennis balls, is no wolf. She is a dog. A dog bred to work, to be loyal, to hunt the prey down but right before that oh so juicy moment of pure canine fantasy ... give up the prey to the alpha dog. And not even get a succulent piece of mutton in return. Get a pat on the head, or a cookie, or some slow cat to chase. If we made them, do they belong to us, on some genetic level? Maybe.

But just having the baseline "genetic" connection is not enough. We've all seen dogs and humans where the connection is not present, its almost like there are two entirely different species in the room ... Ok, I put that in there just to see if Hayley is paying attention. "Different? What is this different you speak of kimo sabe?" The connection we have with Hayley is more than that. It is different, it is deeper, it is more personal, I truly believe that. Others have pointed that out to us. When Collette shows Hayley the nail clippers, our dog rolls onto her back and sticks her paws in the air. Hayley trusts Collette. And perhaps that's it. Trust. When Hayley was the puppy you will see in the video I was chasing her in the yard and accidental kicked her in the head. She ran yelping into a bush and would not come to me for a long time. Now, if something like happens, she comes right to me and wiggles and wiggles and touches my hand as if saying "you hurt me but I know it was an accident wasn't it?" Trust. Loyalty. A cold nose on a warm hand. That's a connection.

You can over rationalize this connection (gee, Vic, isn't that what you've been doing for a whole page?) and I enjoy thinking about but, really, that ain't so important. The connection is there, the bond is strong and as Hayley enters into her eleventh year it just grows stronger every day. Where it will lead us? I don't really know, but some times, when we are quiet and laying together in the hammock or on the couch and I look into Hayley's and see that is looking back at me .. really looking back, right into my eyes in that border collie way .. I have a feeling that even if I don't know, she certainly does.

Monday, May 5, 2008


Yup, its a milestone alright. Our Little Girl recently turned ten. Time flies when you are herding pretend sheep in the park.
Sometimes it seems like Hayley has been part of our lives forever. Sometimes it seems like just yesterday that Collette opened a cat carrier on the lawn of our house and out popped this tiny black and white blob, all shy yet inquisitive asking "Are you gonna be my Mom?" For sure, it was love at first sight.
Collette and I often talk about the almost instant bond we made with this little dog. The first night we had her (before we were smart enough to know that the border collie sleeps on the bed) we had Hayley on the floor. She made a small whimper, Collette put her hand down so Hayley could sniff it and that was it, she was part of the pack.
Hayley has gone through three moves with us and never has shown any issue with adapting; as long as we are there, as long as there is a park nearby, all is good in her world. Collette and I have both worked out of the house, Collette has summers off then goes back to work, I am now working at home, we've had roomates, none of that seems to matter: This is Hayley's world and we just live int it ... that goes for you too.
Hayley was definitely an adorable, energetic puppy but I have loved how she has grown into this smart, centered, confident .. and still energetic.. adult dog. Is she as fast as she was five years ago? No, but she still eagerly assaults each new day in the park and stares down the distance for a new victim... er .. I mean playmate.

I am currently working on a video project, going back and editing some of the old video footage I have of Hayley, bringing it up to the current time. In the meantime I cut this little video of Hayley doing her thing in our local park; she is still nine year, this is from about a month ago. Just goes to show, she ain't gettin older, she's gettin ... um .. border collier.

Friday, May 2, 2008


A simple question isn't it? A yes/no kind of deal. You are, or you are not disabled.

I've been thinking of this lately. National Disabled Blogging Day has come and gone and while I had no intention of participating it got me to thinking. Also, reading blogs like and Screw Bronze and The Mouth On Wheels have had me pondering this question. But note, the question is not "what is being disabled" it is "am I disabled" Yes, there is a personal component here.

Several years ago I did something stupid. I fell sixteen feet down from a tree and landed directly on my left ankle. Crack. Ouch. Mutherfucker. Yeh, like that. I shattered basically all the bones in my ankle. Shattered, not broke. Not a break but pieces, lots of little pieces. So this means that I now have two, eight inch steel plates in the ankle, bound together buy seven screws and eight pins ... or it may be eight pins and seven screws. Or it could be paper clips and baling wire, it really doesn't matter. Its metal. Lots of steel, so much so that ankle is noticeably thicker than the other ... damn, there goes my shot at being a world famous .. um. .. sock model (or something). So it was surgery, a couple days in the hospital, three months in a non weight bearing cast and a couple months of physio.

So where does that leave me? Well, I am self employed. At the time I was still working exclusively for Videopulse Studios but I did not draw a salary, I was paid per project on a freelance basis. Which means no health care whatsoever. Now, Collette works for the Toronto Board of Ed and I am covered under her policy. Still, any day lost work meant no money for me. All the time in that cast I could not drive and although I came to be pretty proficient with the crutches, I certainly was limited. Here's the good part. I'm a video editor. I work with computers. I work on my bum. We brought the edit suite to the house and I was working within a couple of days. Lucky I do the job I do; if I was still cooking or in some other occupation I would not be able to work. If I was a freelance camerman I would have been screwed.

Time went on, the cast(s) came off, physio terrorism was endured. Where am I now? Am I abled, disabled? I can walk; sometimes I have a limp and the walking is limited. Most times you would notice nothing. If I'm wearing sandals you can see the scars and the distorted ankle but just walking around, I am fine. I can walk for long distances on pavement or other firm surfaces; Hayley and I still do our two hour walks on the weekends. I can go and down stairs. If the stairs are steep I would need a rail but no big issue. Walking long long distances on soft surfaces is an issue; I went golfing with my brother in law (something I've never done before) and my ankle was wrecked halfway thru. Wrecked. Swollen, very painful and I was just not feeling good. My balance is shot. I was never a big athlete but I always had a great sense of balance; I did gymnastics as a kid and a little bit of fencing. I taught myself to skate at age 40 and while the Olympics would never call me, I could pass. Skating is down now, both for the balance and for the fact that the ankle is still weak, no matter what I do. Running is out. I was a jogger for a period of my life and although I had fallen out of that habit, it is never coming back. I don't run, I basically do a fast hobble. Its not pretty, turn away.

So, am I disabled? I can't do all the things I used to do. I am certainly limited in some ways. But I function and I function nicely. Again, I sit on bum for a living so that has not changed. The amount of camera work I do is not affected; I could never be a full time camera op anyways because of a bad back. So, professionally, it really has not affected me. I can drive now, no issues, get on subways, buses etc. I am quite mobile. I could probably ride a bike but that is another thing I stopped doing in this city. So, limited, yes; disabled?

Well, here we go, this is what we come down to: How do we define disability. Governments have their definitions, insurance companies do, medical communities do. Often, it seems, these definitions are self serving and self defining and may have little to do with any individual. As I began asking this question I started to realize that I had my own definition of disability: Limitation. Scroll up (I'll wait) its right there. I may not feel disabled because I don't feel "limited". I think a lot of society shares this definition; he can't walk, she can't see, they can't hear ... they "can't" do things and this makes them limited. We look at what people "can't" instead of what people "can."

He can't walk but if we give him a wheelchair, he is mobile. She can't see but if we give her a dog and braille and audio transcribing technology, she can be mobile and read and use a computer. They can't hear but if we teach the sign language they can communicate. Are they limited? Sure, in some ways, no doubt. Are they able? Part of my defining myself was if I could work, well I could with no adaptation; what if I had those other jobs? Could I find a way to cook, to be a full time camera op? Probably. Maybe I would need some assistance, but I could do it.

If can be productive but need some form of assistance are you limited? Are you able? I am a work oriented guy so if you can work or pursue your passion, no matter how, you are able. But what of other disabilities like chronic pain or respiratory issues or neurological disorders; there are ways to aid these situations but some, unfortunately, are still limited. Are they disabled? They may be limited but with help, with aid, with medicine, with support .. almost anyone can be able.

What do we do about that? People battle with insurance companies (companies they pay, thank you very much) to get the tools they need, like the right kind of wheelchair or Dragon Speak, tools that would clearly make them more able. People fight with our governments to provide them with the healthcare, the medicine, the homecare (again, we are paying for this) that could change their lives and lift some of their limitations.

Too often "disabled" people struggle to get the aid they need to make them more "able". For too many people I know there is no magic bullet but there is always something that can be done to make some kind of change, and even a small change, some small measure of relief can affect a life in a meaningful way. Just being pain free for a period of time can turn a brain back on and return some one's energy. They could become more able; denying them this certainly disables them. Not considering the needs of people, the needs of all people, all the needs of all people maybe a disability of our society.

So, here we are, back to the question of the moment. Am I, Victor Kellar, disabled? Fuck no. I am able. I have my spouse, my dog, my family, my job, my passions. Am I limited? Hell yes. But everyone is, to some degree or another. The question should be Am I disabled, the question should be Am I able? Able to live, to love, to work, to feel, to think. That is what I need to look at, and it is what society needs to look at. Don't think about what is disabled. Think about what we are able to do, and how we go about that.

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