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McGill Reporter
October 9, 2003 - Volume 36 Number 03
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Off campus

Lunching

Moroccan tile

Now that the weather's getting colder, we'll want to put on extra layers to keep us toasty warm. And what better way than by padding your belly with flavourful kosher fare from the world of North Africa? El Morroco II's lunch specials start with hearty soups — practically meals on their own — and offer a main course range from tuna salad to chicken couscous. Best to order mint tea at the end instead of their coffee, but only if you like it sweet. The Arabian Nights-like setting is a riot of carpets, wrought ironwork, pillows and miniature leather camels.

El Morocco II
3450 Drummond Street
844-6888

Strolling

[murmure] map

Ordinarily, dialing up someone on your cell phone in the middle of an art exhibit would be considered the height of bad taste. No more: on October 9 [murmure] a "public interventionist and interactive art project" will take over St Laurent and surrounding streets with art you can telephone.

How does it work? Well, signs placed throughout the multicultural neighbourhood will provide phone numbers for passersby to dial. At the other end, a pre-recorded message will tell you a story as you stroll -- histories, anecdotes and personal recollections about the buildings, people, and events of the area.

[murmure] is presented as part of the Montreal International Festival of New Cinema and New Media. Check out www.murmure.ca for more details.

Launching

Book cover of A House by the Sea

Every time my father sneezes, he recites half the Qur'an, the ninety-nine names of Allah, his prophet and all forty-nine Imams from Ali onwards. When he sneezes in public it becomes an embarrassing liturgy. When one sneeze follows another I cannot control my laughter. And then I begin to hiccup. Between the ages of two and eleven I thought my father was King of the World, Master of the Universe. Seven breaths away from Allah, and only one breath short of the Imam.

Excerpt from A House by the Sea, by Sikeena Karmali. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, to Gujarati Indian parents, Karmali studied in Egypt and Italy, and is a McGill grad of the Middle East and Cultural Studies programs.

Karmali recently edited Exiles of Bolshevism: Central Asian Emigration, 1918-1932, and is the Canadian editor of Brown Sugar Magazine. A House by the Sea (Véhicule Press) is her first novel.

Karmali will launch A House by the Sea at Paragraphe Bookstore, 2220 McGill College, on Wednesday, October 15, at 7 pm On Thursday, October 16, at 6 pm, she will read from and discuss her book at the South Asian Women's Centre, 1035 Rachel E., third floor.

Living the L.A. Life

Recent McGill Psychology grad Kristen Bussandri visits the star-studded town and get swept up in a whirlwind of movie sets and music videos

Moviemaking angel illustration
Tzigane

They call it the City of Angels. Millions of people flock to L.A. to realize their dreams of fame or to make their mark in the entertainment industry. Most leave very disappointed. But in the three days I was in L.A. this summer, more happened than I could ever have imagined.

After backpacking around the South Pacific and living on tuna for two and a half months, I was excited to be back in North American civilization with my travel mate, Becky. Dressed in our best backpacker gear, we marched around, entranced by the lively vibe of the city. While returning to our hostel just off Hollywood Boulevard, a man approached to ask us to appear as extras in the movie they were filming in the club next door. The movie was Hot Spot, a comedy being produced by Larenz Tate (Dead Presidents, Menace II Society) and his brothers. We instantly agreed and were instructed to return around 10 pm, dressed just as we already were.

We showed up on the set, elated, and were cast as extra "VIP party people." An assistant placed the extras in the shot depending on the clothes they were wearing. This was not good news for me, in a jean skirt and six-year-old decaying flip-flops, while everyone one else looked like they were trying to get into Studio 54. Then we were instructed to look like we were dancing, even though no music was playing. We looked ridiculous: everyone was moving to a different rhythm and bumping into one an other, all of us trying to get our face on camera without making it obvious. Those around me kept discreetly shoving me over and poking me in the bum. Hours later, everyone else was moaning about how their high heels hurt their feet, while at least I was comfortable in my flip-flops.

Being on the set was a thrill. You see how movies are made, the director's yelling out, the dancing is rowdy. Also there's the chance to be seen by someone who could make you a star.

I had a hard time falling asleep that night. My mind was racing with questions to ask those in the music industry when we were to go back the next evening. In the morning, I dragged myself out of bed and ate about five pancakes, famished from the adrenalin pumping through my body. A minute after Becky joined me in the kitchen, a woman ran into the hostel and grabbed us, asking if we wanted to be extras in a music video shot in the same spot as the night before. We agreed, but there was no time to get ready. So there we were, back in the club, dressed in raggedy backpacker clothes once again. At least my top showed a little cleavage. I was determined to be in a shot and not be pushed around this time!

We were placed in front of the stage and told that the music video was for the hip hop band Those Chosen, who are releasing their debut album soon. Despite it being morning, and despite the lack of music, we were supposed to be fans at a concert dancing with our hands in the air. I was exhausted, full of pancakes and trying my best to not appear too dorky while doing my best hip hop moves next to these huge gangster-looking guys. When not coughing from the fake smoke or wiping the sweat off our brows, everyone was having a blast. You get to see the magic behind the creation, and partake in the glamour, if only for a day. During the break we helped ourselves to free food, a huge bonus if you are a traveller on a tight budget like we were. Barbequed chicken, individually wrapped Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, homemade apple pie, licorice, gummy bears, salads — a far cry from the canned corn and tuna fish I'd had while travelling.

The break gave me the chance to talk to people on the set — a film producer, a record producer, club owners and friends of the stars — and get invaluable advice about the music industry (be as independent as possible, learn all you can about the business so you don't get duped, and make a solid demo and develop your own image). I also heard fun celebrity gossip — the father from Family Matters has an air-conditioned doghouse and J.Lo looks her age in real life, with big pores and wrinkles.

It was hours before our next half-hour stint. Tip: movie set time is always stretched out. Since we were not being paid, the people on the set were all very kind and treated Becky and me like royalty.

We left the set with many hugs and business cards, with just a three-hour break before filming Hot Spot that night at 10. I had just enough time to buy a decent pair of heels so I wouldn't feel like such a vagabond and increase the glam factor a bit. We ran back to the hostel to shower and get ready, and felt as though this was the closest we would become to being stars. We loved every minute of it. Everyone in the hostel knew us as the "movie chicks" and wanted to chat about our experiences. We felt like badly dressed mini-celebrities!

I barely slept those three days, in L.A.'s constant rush of adrenalin. You always have to be somewhere, be on the phone, be busy. Your heart's always beating and you're flushed and feeling stressed, in a positive way — you feel energized.

During my short time there, a window of opportunity opened right before me. The people I met helped me to further my dream of becoming a professional singer with their advice and contacts. If you are ever in L.A., keep your eyes and ears open, act naturally and be willing to sacrifice your time to help others out. Who knows what could happen? I might have had help from fate, luck or chance. Then again, maybe it was just an angel.

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