Friday, December 30, 2005

"Champagne Flu"

So, I've discovered that drinking far too much champagne in celebration of your nuptials ends with a serious bout of barfing (3.5 hours just wasn't enough for my body—it was in it for the long haul).

After 48 hours of feeling like the dog's breakfast, I'm finally starting to feel better. Hey, at least I got to watch 4 movies and when do you get to just sit around and watch 4 movies?

At least I had a good time and isn't that what your non-wedding is supposed to be, serious fun?

#65 - A Great And Terrible Beauty

Sometimes, I wonder if I should count YA novels towards the final count, but when the book runs over 250 pages, I think it's a solid book. Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty is a fanciful tale about a young girl named Gemma whose mother is murdered. She's sent off to a finishing school (it's the Victorian age) where she discovers a lot about herself (she's got magical powers) and finds herself in over her head in terms of how to use said power for good.

A lot happens, but I found the book kind of silly, perhaps because I'm not a sixteen-year-old, but I loved the character and might read the next installment next year.

So I made it to 65 books this year. I wanted to hit 75, but I didn't even come close. Guess that's my goal for 2006!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Happy Wedding?

We just got home from our "non-wedding" and it's very strange and wonderful to be Mrs. RRBF. I had the most fun of my entire life with everyone (*except my Hannah) there to celebrate the marriage of me and my now-RRHB (rock and roll husband). And I'm still so plastered, I can't believe I'm typing).

Friday, December 23, 2005

#64 - Galveston

Paul Quarrington's Galveston comes out of nowhere to knock you on your ass just like the storm hitting Dampier Clay. I had put the book down and picked up Tipping the Velvet it its place—what a mistake that was! The beginning of Galveston didn't really grab me. I sort of read happily along, feeling out the characters and half-enjoying the tragic mess of each of their lives. But then, as soon as the wind picked up and the rain started, a hurricane of words on the page sped along, and I couldn't put it down. All in all it's a supreme read and one I truly enjoyed.

Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy!

In the spirit of the season, I'm going to forgive the following people today:

1. To the person who honked at me while I tried to get on the Gardiner this morning to go to work, I'm sorry if you thought I cut you off, but I'd rather not die on the day before the day before Christmas, and I had to either get in the lane or hit the concrete wall. I chose the latter.

2. To the crazy lady who butted in front of me not once, but twice (once at the bank, the next time at the drug store); it's okay, we forgive you for being rude, at least you smiled when you were jumping ahead of me, each time.

3. To the idiot tellers at the bank who gave me a hard time about cashing my cheque from a US bank, I know you're only doing your job, but I'm just looking to get paid.

4. To the wacky drivers of Toronto, I know you're all just trying to get home for the holidays, so I'll forgive you for blocking the intersection, for honking at a traffic jam to get into the beer store parking lot that was holding up traffic, for just about every wrong turn and foul temper that made my afternoon that much longer.

I forgive you, all of you, in the true spirit of the holiday.

God bless us, every one.

Happy Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Deliverance & The Graduate

My Zip.ca membership has been working overtime these past few weeks. I ordered a bunch of older movies, ones that I'd never seen, but read a fair amount about, including The Graduate and Deliverance.

My favourite lines from each:

"Mrs. Robinson - you are trying to seduce me."

(See organic, organic I say!)

"You push a little more power into Atlanta...a little more air conditioners for your smug little suburb...and you know what's gonna happen? They're gonna rape this whole landscape."

You said it Burt and ain't it still the truth.

#63 - Tipping the Velvet

Let me get something straight, I have nothing against velvet, nor do I fear any tipping of it, but lord, this is the first book in a long, long time I really didn't like. The story felt so contrived and soap-opera-inspired that I was bored mid-way through. And considering Sarah Waters's epic is over 400 pages, that's a lot of trudging to get to the end.

Generally, I love a good Victorian thriller, but this is neither thrilling nor purely Victorian. Oh, it's chalk full of great historical tidbits—if I truly wanted to know that dildos existed in 1985, which I really didn't need to know. And if tons of hideously cliched sex scenes get you off, well Tipping the Velvet is the book for you. Because it certainly wasn't for me.

I don't like it when books feel contrived. When they set out to prove a point more than tell a story. The story itself was a good one, a young girl in Victorian England leaves home when she falls in love with a music hall singer named Kitty Butler. When Kitty can't face what life would be like coming out in that century, she betrays Nan, the protagonist, who then runs away.

A lot of other things happen to Nan before the story comes full circle toward the end as Nan joins a burgeoning socialist movement at the behest of her 'sweetheart,' a very noble and dedicated woman named Florence. But in the end, it felt too much like the author's voice was interfering with Nan's story. That characters were simply devices for her to explore the lesbian community in the 1890s, which I think is a fabulous goal, and if it felt organic, I'd be the first one to cheer from the rafters.

All in all I finished the book because it was a book club choice and I'm looking forward to debating why I hated it so much at our next meeting! After loving Fingersmith so much I was convinced I couldn't go wrong suggesting the book, whew, how wrong was I.

Edited to add: Is a sex scene any less contrived because it takes place between women? Just because the sex in the novel is lesbian sex should I hold it to different literary standards? I don't think I should, but this book, if you look at it in terms of shows like Queer as Folk where the point of the matter was to bash the viewer over the head with the idea of gay sex until they came to accept it, maybe I should be more sympathetic to the book. But if it's badly written with 'torn bodices' and 'panting', it's bad writing, regardless of its subject matter. However, the fact that it was her first novel might be worth mentioning. And Sarah Waters's Fingersmith is truly excellent; there's not a cliche in sight.

My Name Is Earldyne

So, here's what karma does to you: if you complain wholeheartedly about not wanting to eat what you've brought for lunch, said lunch will end up on the floor, totally ruining any chance of eating it in the first place.

Oh, and then add insult to injury -- you will have no money to buy a new lunch and because your job is stuck in the middle of suburbia with no close bank machines to remedy the situation -- you have nothing else to eat.

Damn karma.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

In A White Boy Rap-Off...

I think Chris Parnell would kick Tom Green's ass. I'm just sayin'. And that's not to say that I don't heart the pants off of Tom Green, because y'all know that I do. I bought and actually read his book last year—in hardcover. Yeah, you know it.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Holiday Shopping - Celebrity Style

Awesome celebrity sightings yesterday while Christmas shopping. We saw Christopher Walken wearing plastic leisure pants and a down jacket in Yorkville, not once, but twice. The second time it looked like he was with Art Bergman, but there could be more than one craggy looking aging rock stars in Toronto with small dogs—you never know. The RRBF half-considered saying something to him but didn't. I wondered if he'd mind if I asked him to dance with me right there on Bloor Street.

Then we saw Bruce Greenwood as we were driving out of Yorkville. He was standing on the street looking like he wanted to cross, but when we stopped to let him, he waved us off. He looked kind of pissed off too, and he was wearing this awful sweater; it was white with blue dogs. Dude!

And we saw Christie Blatchford too. She was in Aveda on Bloor Street. I didn't have the courage to tell her she writes some of the worst run on sentences in the history of Canadian media. But I thought it. Does that count?

Mock-lorette Party Extravaganza

I am hungover. First off, I'm not even supposed to be drinking with the meds, but last night I made an exception. Next, I'm not really in any shape to be out all hours of the night, but again I made an exception. My lovely friends were kind enough to take me out last night to celebrate the impending non-wedding. I had such a good time I can't thank them enough.

We ate a fab meal at Kalendar, then went to the Supermarket, which for Kensington is way, way too hip. It kind of scared me actually. Then we went to see the drag show at El Convento Rico, yay dancing! Yay cool looking drag queens I couldn't see. Boo slimy fellows trying to dance with you. Boo spinny room because you've had too much beer.

Then, we topped off the evening with a College Street staple: nachos at Sneaky Dee's.

It's hard to sum up the evening in one or two funny, witty comments, but in the end I felt very special, which is a nice feeling. Although I'm damn glad Scarbie didn't dare bring the veil she threatened me with. Also, it was nice to be out in the world after spending so much time at home by myself, I had almost forgotten how nice it is just to be a girl and hang out with your friends.

And it's pretty damn fun to shake your ass too.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Podcast = Word of the Year

The OED has picked "podcast" as it's word of the year according to The Book Standard, which is kind of cool. It's wonderful how technology has infiltrated everyday life and how everyone now is either blogging, listening to podcasts or downloading some hot tune from iTunes.

I think the best present anyone could get me is the Oxford English Dictionary. My daily email from them sort of pales in comparison to what it might be like to own the entire glorious set of bajillion volumes. Oh, the things I would learn.

Like today for example, the Word of the Day was "girl power," and are you as shocked as I was to learn that it was not, in fact, a product of the Spice Girls marketing team, but the Catholic church who coined it, well the church according to a British writer anyway. In 1952, Malcolm Lowry's book Let contained this sentence: "Nearby is a Catholic church within which it says: ‘We want girl-power for our convent'."

Words are awesome.

Holiday Shopping

Where to begin? I'm a cold-hearted scrooge this year with the whole wonder and magic of Christmas lost years ago to season after season of disappointments. Oh. So. Cheerful.

But there's one thing I do love, and that's shopping for presents. But because I've been so under the weather lately, I haven't even really started my holiday shopping and am at a loss as to whether or not I'll get finished by, ahem, the 25th. See, the main problem is that I generally buy people books, but now that I work for a publisher, I can't really do that anymore. Or at least can't give people books without them knowing where they came from -- the cat's kind of out of the bag on that one.

What does a girl who only ever buys books as presents do when that option is no longer available to her?

I'll be sitting in the corner sucking on my candy cane trying to figure it out.

Let's Get Political

Although I'm not usually outwardly political in this space, an article in today's Globe made me furious. So the US Ambassador is 'upset' with the current non-government because, and I quote,

"[The US Ambassador] said Canada shows little respect for U.S. concerns. He acknowledged irritants such as the softwood lumber dispute and the war in Iraq, but called on Canada to accentuate the positive."


Why should we accentuate the positive? Should we be jumping for joy at the fact that Bush is destroying the environment without a concern for future generations? We should celebrate the fact that neo-conservatives are reversing 40 years of hard earned rights for women? There might be a lot of things wrong with the Liberal Party, but everything seems fodder for "election", which I honestly believe is a complete waste of our time. Harper didn't need to take down the government; Layton didn't need to side with him, the whole thing smacks of playground antics.

Men grabbing at power because someone else is perceived as weak to pursue their own ends. Oh, I'll be voting on the 23rd, but it might not be for the party that I've voted for in every single local, provincial and federal election since I was 18, and that's saying a lot to get someone like me to change her mind.

Now, has anyone read eOnline lately—what's happening in the real world?

Edited later to add: Oh, and are we supposed to take it at face value that this "criticism" of the Liberals is coming at a time where the neo-Conseratives, the party most likely to let Bush sweep in and use up all of our natural resources like we're another state, are poised to take power and turn North America into one big blue-loving map? Pul-lease.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

The New York Times 10 Best Books of 2005 and the 100 Notable Books of the Year articles are up. For the most part, I based the majority of my reading in the past on these lists. Now I use a combination of these lists, the Globe's list, Chicklit recommendations and book club, Canadian prizes and word of mouth suggestions from friends. It's a constant challenge to find the next thing to read. Oh, and I'm trying to throw in some classics, although that usually only lasts for about a week. It honestly took me ten, no almost fifteen, years to read Crime and Punishment.

Lord knows I love a good list. And I'm happy to report that I've already read four of the books on the Top 10 list: Saturday, Prep, The Lost Painting and The Year of Magical Thinking. Not bad for a year in which I've been sick, moved house, lost a job, found a job, written 4 abridgments, taken 2 classes, planned one non-wedding and went to Europe for 3 weeks.

Alas, I have read but one book on New York magazine's list. Is it okay that Didion keeps popping up and I keep counting her? I think so, it'll be the book found on most lists this year, I'm guessing.

Monday Night Fights

We had a semi-busy weekend, on Saturday we went to see Body Worlds 2 at the Science Centre. The RRBF loved every minute of it; he couldn't get enough. I was not so taken with the exhibit because I couldn't get over the fact that the specimens, if you could call them that, were once living, breathing people. There were even some parts I just couldn't look at all, but I am glad we went, if only to get to hold a human brain in your hands. I mean, when do you get to do that?

We got home around 3 PM and I collapsed on the couch. My sinuses were so sore from the stupid disease that I passed out and was in bed by about 9.30 PM. So much for going to a poetry reading with Kate.

Then on Sunday we drove up to Peterborough to see my aunt and uncle so he could bottle up the giant jug of wine our neighbours gave him. We now have over twenty bottles of homemade wine that'll probably last the entire year because I don't drink it.

Then I had class last night. They critiqued another one of my stories, which is always good, but so hard to sit through. It's funny how I can be so objective for someone else's work, knowing that my comments are genuine in their intentions to make the piece of writing better, but I can't do that with my own work. I'm mortified when people talk about my writing. I'm frightened to death of what people think. I'm convinced it's a piece of crap and why am I even bothering. I'm disappointed that my imagination doesn't work better. I'm angry that everything I write comes out like one big, giant cliche. The list of self-doubt goes on until I can't stand it anymore and I'm sitting there in class thinking, "Why am I doing this to myself? I'll never be a writer."

In the end, it sort of feels like a boxing ring: left hook comes from classmate A, "show don't tell"; ragdoll puts up a good block; the bout continues when classmate b throws combination punch, a left jab, straight right, left hook, "it feels like you're including everything, you need to make some decisions about the story so it reads better"; ragdoll feints, throws a limp uppercut, and then dances back towards her corner; classmate c punches into the ring and weaves around, making it incredibly hard to catch her; ragdoll is down for the count, and it's a win by knockout for classmate d!

We were talking a lot about the story until I finally said, "Can we stop there, it's all a bit too much." And then we moved onto the next match, so the next person could line up for a long ten rounds of betterment.

Bah!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Cocktail A La Wegener's

Now that I'm back taking Septra, it's the trifecta of meds I'm used to in terms of the treatment of the disease. For the next two weeks anyway, I'll be on imuran, Septra and prednisone (until it's totally weaned off). So, of course, my body is getting used to another combination of pills, my mind is resisting taking them and my soul is very tired today.

But we had a lovely holiday luncheon at work. Which is kind of funny considering how subdued and, well, decorous the party was considering the holiday festivities at my last job usually ended up with a visit to the strip club. Honestly. I'm not even kidding.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Where Will Ragdoll Be Tonight?

Oh, it's burning question you all are asking isn't it? Well, I'll be at the Taddle Creek launch, celebrating my poem along with the other contributors, at Supermarket in Kensington Market. If you're free, come out! If not, go buy a copy!

What A Sentence

Only Annie Proulx has a gift like this:

"At first glance Jack seemed fair enough, with his curly hair and quick laugh, but for a small man he carried some weight in the haunch and his smile disclosed buckteeth, not pronounced enough to let him eat popcorn out of the neck of a jug, but noticeable."

From the story that inspired Brokeback Mountain.

Somehow the teeth got lost in translation, seems Jake didn't feel a prosthetic set were really necessary.

Imagine All The People

I've been reading Galveston by Paul Quarrington, which I've been enjoying. Two of the characters are sitting around talking when one explains that they don't have memory, an idea of how their life played out chronologically, but memories, and he has trouble putting them all order. And that's kind of what my memory is like too, I think.

One of the scenes (can you call it that if it actually happened to you?) that sticks in my mind or has been stuck there now for twenty-five years, is of the morning my father came into my room to tell me that John Lennon had been shot. It was early because I wasn't awake yet, and I was young, nine years old, my room still decorated in blue butterflies, not yet sleeping on the waterbed he would buy me when I was a teenager. My dad came into my room and said, "John Lennon is dead." And then he went and looked out the window. I don't know what I said, but I remember that it was very important news at the time.

My father would have been somewhere close to the age I am now, but I never think of him in that way. Never compare his chronology to my own like I do with my absent mother. He grew up listening to the Beatles, felt akin to their songs, their lyrics, which trickled down to me, who grew up with him. And now a quarter century has past since that morning, and I can give no reasonable explanation as to why it's there, tucked away in my brain, why other things have been lost or forgotten, or why this sticks—I just don't know. But maybe I don't have to know. Maybe I can just remember, maybe that's the point.

Poetry Thursday - April

April

Months late, I dive into my New Year's resolutions.
Promptly giving up sugar, caffeine, cigarettes, you.

Days, moments, seconds, minutes, hours pass
But even when I'm tired of will power, I manage

To hold back the cravings and call out a victory
Stomping angrily on budding grass and happy birds

I smoke in my sleep, visit past lives, then drink too much
And spend the next day penitent, doing spring cleaning.

Promptly giving up sugar, caffeine, cigarettes and you,
For the second time in as many weeks.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Dr. Mr. Fancypants

So, I saw the fancypants disease doctor yesterday, which was good. They're stopping the prednisone because my bloodwork is so good (yay kidneys getting better!). But the super-extreme exhaustion is still there. So the answer is more tests and more drugs. I'll be starting Septra for the next three months. It should help with the sinus stuff from the disease. More side effects, I can't wait.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Do You Hate Yourself As Much As I Do?

Last night in my creative writing class, my teacher said something that struck me. We were talking about creating characters that a reader hates and whether or not that would work in story. For the most part, it's hard to read a book or a short story when you absolutely despise the main character, simply because you don't care, and then you don't bother—there's no emotional investment. After we talked for a while about how to approach it, the teacher said, "Because everyone likes themselves," meaning no one outwardly hates themselves, so why would they be so hateful in a story.

But I thought that was such a funny thing to say, coming from such a different place where someone does actually like themselves. It's a concept I've been struggling with for years. I've always hated myself, hated things about myself, thought I was a bad person, thought bad things happened to me because I was a bad person, worried about how other people must hate me too and had a hard time even taking the palest of compliments. I guess he was trying to say, that even people that the reader hates wouldn't necessarily hate themselves, so you need to find an element that they can relate to, to make them more human.

The example he used was Travis Bickle, from Taxi Driver. He's a totally despicable person, but you don't hate him, and you don't really know why. I chimed in that maybe it's because you see him fall in love, and that gives him an edge of humanity, something that makes him not just pure evil. It was an interesting discussion. I'm still thinking about it today, and maybe trying not to hate myself just that little bit less so all my characters don't come out as fuct up as I am...

#61 & #62 Two "Classic" Books

I finished Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Around the World in 80 Days. Funnily enough, I don't have a lot to say about either of them, but might later on...

I will say, however, that I am consistently amazed at the types of books that have become "classics."

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Rocking The Royal Theatre

So the RRBF's show went very well last night. The theatre was almost full and the show went off without a hitch. They sounded amazing and it was nice to see everyone give them a standing ovation at the end. Even my perennially grumpy father loved the show—and that's saying something.

I'm super tired today though, and am still working on my last abridgment. I'm in the home stretch. But I'm kind of glad that when I'm finished this book we'll have a bit of a break before everything goes crazy for the holidays. And there's just one more Fembots show of the year, next Friday in Brantford, which means my RRBF will have a bit of a break too.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Zesty Cracks Me Up

Heh.

#60 Life Mask

I picked up Emma Donoghue's Life Mask on a whim one day before seeing a movie a few months back. I had read Slammerkin after reading about how much everyone on Chicklit loved it, and remembered how much I enjoyed it. (I had read it deep into the night, and there's a wickedly fun twist in the middle that made me gasp out loud, and I was by myself because the RRBF was on tour). But not knowing anything about this latest novel, I bought it on a whim.

Much to my surprise, it's a completely different novel about the British artistocracy during the period of 1787-1797. In particular, it's about three members of 'the World', the Beau Monde, whose lives are tied together by friendship, scandal and society.

The novel follows the lives of Eliza Farren, an actress who eventually marries the Earl of Derby after a courtship that lasts almost two decades (see, he's waiting for his unfaithful wife to die, how cruel society was then, how cruel!), the aforementioned Earl of Derby and Anne Damer, a sculptor who dogged the gossip of being a Sapphist for much of her adult life. The human story is set against the backdrop of the political unrest of the time, the French Revolution, and the changes to both society and the social order.

It's a complex book that manages the history, story and politics extremely well, creating this fictional world out of real events and real people. And I really liked how it was set too within the world of the theatre, creating yet another layer of to the metaphorical idea of this 'Beau Monde' all of these characters exist within.

Way back in university, I had taken a class in Restoration literature, and I remember the teacher outlining a basic day for members of the upper classes: they would sleep to well into the afternoon, get up, eat a sticky bun, get dressed, pay their calls and then go to the theatre. I love the intimate details of Donoghue's book, how it brings to life that very scenario, but also casts it into a fresh understanding in terms of our own obsession with celebrity in this day and age. Add to it the civil unrest of the time, the political potboilers between the Torys and the Whigs, and it makes for a fascinating read. It's a bit hard to keep all the Ladys and Lords straight, but I still get a thrill from it all, considering it's one of my favourite periods of British history to read about.

What's next? I've got a number of things on my to read list to try to get to before the end of the year—I hope to make it to 75, but with only four weeks left to do it in, and with re-writes and final drafts on my next two abridgements to get through, it's not looking likely. It looks like Stephen King will win again, damn him!

Friday, December 02, 2005

A Rainy Night in Soho

So my RRBF was singing an old Pogues song this morning, "Dirty Old Town," and asked if I had the record around, which I don't. But I remembered the song from a tape an old high school boyfriend made for me years and years ago, after he had written out the words to "Bottle of Smoke" on a jean jacket, after we had broken up, gotten back together, broken up and gotten back together again. Another song on that tape, "A Rainy Night in Soho," was one of my all-time favourites the year between high school and university, when I was sick with the Wegener's for the very first time.

"You're the measure of my dreams," Shane sings, "The measure of my dreams."

And I'm glad I still know the words, and thank you iTunes for having the very song I want to listen to at the very moment I'm feeling sentimental for old boyfriends and days when I still cared about what was written on the back of my jean jacket.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

RRBF News

The RRBF had a good show last night in Guelph, and his Now magazine cover is on newsstands today. Also, what might just be the sweetest thing he's ever said is now here on TorontoLife.com.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Born in the Sign of July

The lion inside me
roars mute, quiet to
the outside world

A victim of my
misplaced sun sign,
born perhaps a month too late

A victim of my
constant craving for
warmer weather

Summer in the city
feels foreign
hot pavement aches underfoot

I long to be
beside the lake,
feet dangling

Sweat melting all
signs of sunscreen,
hearing your car

Drive up the road
butterflies everywhere
including my stomach

It’s been a long year
long road, from
childhood to now

Where I still fit
on your lap
in your heart

At least for now
until we leave
summer vacation

Spent, like the last
few dollars
in my wallet.

We don’t fit
in places with
hot pavement

I roar up north
rip my clothes off
during a thunderstorm

Let loose that lion
that privilege of my birth
for you to hear the roar

Poetry Wednesdays

My friend Kate just started a really cool blog. She's brave enough to put her poetry right out there for comments, throwing it to the virtual wind and seeing what it catches. So I'm going to copycat her and post a new poem up here on Wednesdays. Considering I've only written about a dozen poems, I can't do it every day. So here you go (see next post), please keep in mind that this poem was just rejected by Contemporary Verse 2. Bastards!

Little Victories

Ah, what fun the mail brings! In this cyber-centric world, I'm always impressed when I get exciting mail. Two things came this week: 1) the new issue of Taddle Creek, the one with my poem in it; and 2) my advance copies of Frankenstein and Robinson Crusoe, which look amazing. They go on sale March 28, so mark your calendars now—just kidding. Kind of. They'd be perfect Easter presents, come on! Support the arts! Support the artist!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Testing Tests

There comes a point in any sick girl's day where she's entirely sick (ha ha) of a) taking medicine and b) having tests. This point comes very soon after a burly woman of Eastern European descent pokes, pulls and prods her, leaving bruises all over her chest, during an echo cardiogram (which is an ultrasound people, an ultrasound—there's no need for bruises, no need!).

Entirely tired of bringing along a book to read in waiting rooms while waiting for a doctor. Entirely tired of seeing a puffy, pimply face. Entirely tired of being so bloody tired. Entirely tired of watching daytime television, even for a moment (with the exception of Ellen dancing, that's always fun).

Ah, but the end is in sight. The great prednisone countdown of 2005 has begun. As of tomorrow I've only got two weeks left on the evil drug. Whee-hoo! Now that deserves a bit of ass shaking and some high kicks!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Medical Analogies

Sooo, I'm so out of it that I've been reading way, way too much celebrity gossip. How do I know this? I just had a short conversation with an old friend via IM and this is what I said:

Ahren says:
which med is causing all the grief...the 3 weeker or the 6 monther?

ragdoll says:
the three weeker

ragdoll says:
it's the tara reid to the paris hilton

Yes, the prednisone is the bad fake-breasted, falling down drunk, low-rent version of the meds I'm taking right now. I am going straight to hell.

Missing Out On Life

Now that I've added a cold to the ever-growing list of ailments, I'm starting to get seriously peeved at the number of things I'm missing being stuck in the prison of ill-health otherwise known as my house.

1. The Lowest of the Low Goodbye Shows at the Horseshoe. I spent so much of my youth seeing this band, and one of the first post-high school rock shows I went to with my then friend, now RRBF, was the Low. So many memories. So crappy that I was stuck at home blowing my nose into kleenex.

2. Going to the movies. I want to see Harry Potter, Walk the Line, Rent and so many more—but I can't. Because I can't leave the house. Because I'm sick. AGAIN.

3. Holiday shopping. 'Tis the season and we've got a new niece who needs Christmas presents. Grrr.

4. Dinners with friends, old-fashioned drink-ups, catching up over a pint, basically being social beyond email and instant messenger. I'm sick, tired and lonely.

5. Looking good while leaving the house for trips other than to the doctor. Which I haven't done all week really. Oh, and the RRBF keeps laughing at me and saying things like, "It's okay honey, I know what you're supposed to look like."

Sunday, November 27, 2005

What's Led to What

A bit of exhaustion (a mere understatement), led to a sore throat, being in the company of other ill people, led to a sniffle, a sneeze, a splutter. All of this led to feeling under the weather, caught in a snow storm, a fury of fickle attention to good nutrition, being lazy, being tired, being medicated. Which leads to a cold, a bad cold, an achy cold, a fuzzy head, a heavy chest, a dose of vapour rub, a dash of cough medicine, a warm scarf, a cup of tea, vitamin c, and garlic, nature's cure. A good night's sleep, a warm blanket, a good book, a mediocre movie, a long day's journey spent between the many walls of my house. Will be spending today writing, sleeping, reading and resting in an attempt to led the cold right back out where it belongs, on the side of the street covered in slush, buried in muck, well away from my brittle constitution and my lack of immune system.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Globe 100

The annual Globe and Mail 100 list comes out today, telling us all about the best books published this year. It's my second-favourite issue of the paper, right behind the truly awesome crossword they do at the end of every year.

I've read 6 out of the 100 (Saturday, Three Day Road, The Wreckage, The Time in Between, An Audience of Chairs and The Year of Magical Thinking). I've got about another 7 or 8 on my to read list, but they don't count. I also think it's kind of funny that neither of the GG winners are on the list: David Gilmour's A Perfect Night to Go to China nor John Vaillant's The Golden Spruce (which I have read). The Giller winner is there, which sort of shows they kind of got it right, but I still am in shock that Three Day Road didn't win the GG, it's by far the best book of the year, IMHO. Or maybe I've got it all wrong and the Globe's list is way off, but somehow, I don't think so...

And I don't see Best Abridging [ragdoll] for Little Women. Heh. Just kidding.

Money Changes Everything

In addition to being the worst songwriter in Canadian songwriting history, it is now confirmed that he's also a giant a**wipe. And people are still buying Nickelback records? If the drummer played on the record, he should get royalties. Like Chad's not making enough bloody money already? And his name is Chad which is preppie for a**wipe anyway.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Knit Wit

A couple of years ago, I took a beginner's knitting class at Romni Wools here in Toronto. For $75.00, and for three Sundays in a row, you meet at the bottom of the store and they teach you how to knit. My friend Sam actually introduced me to the class, after she had gone and found it extremely helpful.

My grandmother tried to teach me how to knit when I was a teenager. She gave up after a while because I was left-handed and couldn't figure out how to knit in reverse. This time, I'm knitting right-handed and not worrying about being left-handed and trying to figure it out that way. It's a good exercise for my brain anyway.

My mother, of course, in addition to being a wonderful cook with her own burgeoning catering company, was also a great seamstress and an excellent knitter. People hired her to make sweaters for them. I still have a couple of them. Nothing I would ever wear but they are beautiful. In my quest to know my mother better, to know myself better maybe, I've tried to be like her and do these things, more because it helps me remember her than the fact that I'm any good. Because I'm so not good at either sewing or knitting. I think I'm a half-decent cook, but that fact was highly debated this summer at the cottage by my brother and my RRBF.

Annnywaay. I've been knitting for a few years now, but haven't graduated to anything bigger or more complex then squares, well, rectangles if we're being specific. I can knit scarves and have made one really nice one, but I want to make something more interesting. Like a sweater or a poncho. I don't do it enough to get really good, but I keep trying, which I suppose is all that matters.

The problem being that I don't knit consistently enough. I do it in spurts, a bit here, a bit there, so that when it comes time to start a new project (I'm knitting a scarf for an ex-neighbour), that I forget everything. Oh, the basics come back to me, knit, purl, knit, purl, but I can't remember other things, like how I was taught to slip the last stitch at the end of a row and then what? What comes next? I try purling, it looks funny; I knit the stitch and it looks okay but it's not the clean 'ladder' look that I was taught at Romni. Who knows. I'm just making it all up as I go along. Kind of like when I was in grade 10 and decided I'd make myself a skirt by sewing two pieces of material together and that's it. And I actually wore it. More than once.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

OMT (Add-ons To Trials and Tribulations)

6. So glad that Tom Cruise fired his sister aka "publicist" just in time for this juicy bit of fright night to find its way before the eyes of the unsuspecting public, I mean, his fans. What a wingnut. And why and how is this news anyway?

7. In response to a very loud, shouty email I sent to this fellow about getting unwanted spam, I received this (it's now my most favourite email EVER):

Thought I bid you good bye - we have no business - no need to
communicate any further - hopefully it's good bye forever....besides it was just
some friendly advice - I hear a cry for help. You seem like a very very very
angry, tense, moody, miserable person aren't you - is life that
un-pleasant that you let a little email work you last nerve - you let someone you
don't even know effect/affect you like that - some more good advice from a
NOW concerned community colleague who shares this city/country/world with
you - I hear they have a lot of good doctors and lot of shiny new pills
that'll cure this - go visit somebody for that - or try breathing, stretching
and just letting it go, or tai-chi. Whatever you do something but do it b4
you break into road rage or hurt seriously yourself or somebody seriously +
never be a reaction to anyone or anything. have a beautiful life - try
having a more positive outlook to but now your scaring me.....



Dude obviously has way, way too much time on his hands. But, heh! How does he know me so well after such a short period of time. Not.

Band Widow

So I'll be a band widow tomorrow night as my RRBF heads up to North Bay to play a show. He's got rehersal tonight, and then he's away tomorrow night. There are so many things I could do, writing, reading, sleeping—but I'm so bored of being in my house feeling crappy that I wish I could actually leave and go see a movie.

Wow, this blog post is boring even me. I'll stop now.

Working From Home: Trials And Tribulations

1. Is it really too early (10.22 AM) to be eating cheesies?

2. How long should one wait before taking that shower she really should have taken three hours ago?

3. Why, oh why, must every site I turn to give me juicy information I can't help clicking on about the utter and final demise of Jessica Simpson's marriage?

4. Is it that bad to want to get all your work done so you can watch The Notebook at 4 PM for the, like, 18th time? Because it's so not over for me, either, dude, totally.

5. There's snow outside! It's winter in Canada! I'm so excited. Yawn.

#59 The Time In Between

I've been reading David Bergen's The Time in Between for months now. I started the book way back in the summer, read about a quarter of it, then went on vacation. By the time I got back, I had moved on to so many other books that it took me some time to get back to it. It took a conversation with a co-worker to get me to pick the book up again, when she mentioned that it hit her so hard she still hasn't completely recovered.

And at first, I didn't see it, I found the book kind of slow going; it didn't grab me like so many of the others I've read this year. But now that I've finished it, I can totally see what she means—the slow burning, sparse prose creeps up on you and takes a hold almost like a good ghost story.

Set mainly in Vietnam years after the war, the book tells the life story of a mainly absent Charles Boatman, first through his eyes, then through the eyes of his daughter, Ada. Having fought in the war, Charles returns to hopefully deal with his demons, and then goes missing. Ada and her brother Jon arrive in Vietnam to try to find their father, or at the very least, find out what happened to him. There's a pivotal scene in the middle of the book, exactly placed, that I won't spoil, but it's a moment that grabbed me so hard that I had to put the story down and take some deep breaths before I could continue.

The setting is such an unrelenting part of this book. Forced to deal with their tragedy in a foreign country, Ada and Jon, while looking for their father, inevitably fall upon their own paths of self-discovery. Rich with metaphor and filled with mystery, the backdrop of being an outsider in a country already riddled with the aftermath of the war becomes an intrinsic part of how Bergen chooses to tell the story. It's almost as if Vietnam becomes a character in its own right, a living, breathing part of The Time in Between.

Dealing with themes of loss, family, understanding and the cultural differences between life in northern British Columbia (where Charles eventually settles with his three kids after their mother dies) and life in Vietnam (where the majority of the story is set), the book feels so universally human, if that makes any sense.

Having it win the Giller seems fitting, and it does a little to take away the sting of Three Day Road being shut out of the awards this year. All in all, I'm glad I actually took the time last night to finish it, to read the last 10 pages that had been bookmarked for months. The time in between The Time in Between finally coming to a close.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Rejection!

So Contemporary Verse 2 doesn't want my poems. They "reviewed [my] work carefully and unfortunately [my] writing does not meet [their] needs at this time." So carefully that they've cut and pasted the form letter into an email addressed, "Dear Poet."

Kind of reminds me of my rejection letter from UBC when I applied to graduate school—they paid careful attention to my application as well, and then spelled my name wrong on the letter.

At least my Taddle Creek poem is coming out in two weeks. That's one success for this miserable failure of a year anyway. I'm getting pulled down by the tired, achy, exhausted body...what does that Superman show say: "Somebody save me?"

Okay, now I'm even depressing myself. On to the next journal!

#58 Bee Season

While I was waiting to see my kidney specialist, I finished Bee Season by Myla Goldberg. It's the story of fifth-grader, Eliza Naumann, who suddenly finds herself the apple of her over-achieving father's eye when she wins her school's spelling bee. The book follows Elly's spelling bee successes right to the nationals, where she comes this-close to winning.

The intimate and delicate balance of Eliza's family life starts to fall apart against this backdrop of the spelling bee season—and through her experiences studying with her father, her life also changes.

I liked the book a lot, but thought that maybe it tried to do too much, and it became a bit overwhelming towards the end. However, I think she's incredibly talented, and I'm looking forward to reading Goldberg's new novel, Wickett's Remedy. I also have no idea how they've adapted it into the movie that's currently playing...but again, I'm immensely curious.

Doctor Update

Today I saw my kidney specialist about all the strange exhaustion stuff going on. He confirmed what I sort of thought anyway, that it's all probably a side effect of the small amount of prednisone I'm taking. This gives me hope. It means I'll only be feeling crappy for another couple of weeks. He also wants me to tell everything to the super-special disease doctor that I'm seeing in two weeks who might have more insight.

So things are looking up. I've talked to work and they understand everything. I've seen the specialist, and he knows what's going on and doesn't think it's my kidneys (yay!); and I have an appointment with the fancy disease doctor in two weeks if I'm still feeling like there's a bowling ball on my chest and I can't walk to the corner because I'm so tired I feel like I'm going to fall down.

I still have to have the test on Monday, which is kind of yukky, but at least it'll rule out for-sure-for-sure that I don't have an infection in my heart.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Are We In Trouble?

Because we're much, much older than the norm (link via Gawker). Um, and we're Canadian. Do you think that makes a difference? And what about all those 20-year-olds who got married and are now divorced, huh? Huh?

The Worst Part...

...is that I don't feel like myself lately. My brain can't focus, I have no energy to do anything. I keep crying because I don't like not feeling like myself, not feeling useful, not feeling like I'm living up to my potential, whatever that might be. There are so many things I wished for when I was a kid, I think, or at least I knew to trust my instincts, that everything would be okay. That I would be okay. The worst part of all of this is losing that inner voice. The lost cry of my own personality being drowned by the disease and my seeming inability to wake up these days.

Would anyone think less of me if I took a break?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

OMT (One More Thing)

Yesterday, we were sitting backstage after the show, and I can't remember where it came from or if JKS said it himself, but I found this incredibly inspiring:

"I'm an artist. I create the world, not the other way around."

So that's my approach to life and art and blogging and working and being sick and being alive and being tired and reading and thinking and everything. It's truly my world. I'm creating it. It's not creating me.

Frustration With A Capital "Fr"

So I stayed home from work yesterday as per the ER doc's instructions only to find out he never sent the order for my new test. It's now scheduled for November 28. On top of that I never heard back from the specialist, so it seems that whatever's in my chest can't be all that tragic considering no one's really taking it all that seriously.

Our friends were in town playing with Sarah Harmer at the Glenn Gould Studio. It was wonderful to get to see the show, it's beautiful inside and truly sounds amazing. The whole evening was kind of surreal. I'm feeling so out of it that it's hard for me to stand up for long periods of time, so I was glad it was a sit-down show. But at the same time, it's so anti-rock that I didn't know quite what to do with myself. Do I "woo!"? Do I "whoop!"? Can I holler? Should I dance in the aisle (um, no definitely frowned upon)?

The whole evening was full of strange callbacks to my past. Danny Michel was playing with Sarah Harmer. He used to be in this band called The Rhinos. When I was at university the couple times I saw them play I was either drunk or on acid (please don't tell my father). The first time, we were so hammered we totally sat at the front of the very small club (The Toucan) and talked to the band through the entire set. Oh, silly girls.

The second time, they played at this strange club in Kingston (I can't remember the name now, but maybe it was A.J.'s), and I sat on this set of stairs beside the stage. I was so high that I kept reaching through the iron bars to take their things: hats, scarves, mittens, beer, anything I could get my hands on. It was totally bizarre. They kept coming back to look for things and I had moved them, and then moved away so they had no idea what was happening. Oh, being high on acid. So silly.

So it's strange that I have such an intimate memory of him, of his band, and he has no idea who I am, other than the girl he sort of kind of yelled at when the CBC guys gave the rest of our friends crap for smoking outside—the smoke was blowing back in on them. And I wasn't even smoking—because girls with Wegener's really shouldn't be smoking, as much as they might want to.

Earlier that evening, Sarah Harmer and The Weatherthans covered Islands in the Stream, by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. I listened to Kenny Rogers so much growing up at the cottage, that it made me all warm and fuzzy thinking about my grandfather, playing poker and these strange "talent shows" all the kids used to put on in the middle of the summer for our parents. Which made me think of how I grew up, what a great time I had, all the people I love and loved, and all the other things you remember from your childhood.

It could just be the meds that are making me introspective, imagining links from events today that connect me inexorably to who I was ten, fifteen, even twenty years ago. It could be that my body is so tired that the only way for me to expel my energy is through willing my brain to work despite everything that's going on. Who knows?

Oh, but the strangest part of the evening? Danny Michel pulling a totally pimping pair of crocodile leather shoes out of his car, holding them up saying, "Check these out!" Apparently, he thinks they're kickin' but he's not brave enough to wear them just yet. Then everyone finished packing up their rock gear to move on to the next part of the evening. This was the part where I went to bed and they all went out and got hammered. I hate the disease.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

#57 The Year of Magical Thinking

Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down and dinner and life as you know it ends.

It was aptly fitting that the book I took with me to the doctor's today was Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. A highly personal and extremely effective memoir about the sudden death of her husband John Dunne and the illness of her daughter Quintana, Didion's book just won the National Book Award for nonfiction.

It's a superb read, and it actually calmed me down to the point of thinking it's the perfect book to have with you when you're sitting in a hospital waiting room. Didion's writing style is sometimes hard to follow, she writes long, complex sentences without a lot of punctuation, but that's because they echo long, complex feelings and issues like grief, death and illness.

Her magical thinking is such a brilliant way of looking at how to cope with the death of a spouse, someone she had been married to for almost 40 years, that it becomes a bit of a trope within the book itself. She can't give away her husband's shoes because what would he wear. She doesn't want to move the last stack of books beside his bed because what will he read when he gets back. When she finds out Julia Child has died, she thinks she and her husband can have dinner, wherever they are.

Yet, there's another element to the story: her daughter's illness. It's another example of magical thinking. Didion's own mourning and grief over the death of her husband is totally interrupted by her daughter's terrible illness, and the book moves back and forth over the experiences around these two devastating tragedies that define her life in this period.

It's not a book of advice, nor is it a self-help book, rather it's a brilliant examination of the process of grief and mourning. Throughout everything, Didion notes that her own experiences as a writer, as a reader, tell her in times of trouble, of dis-understanding, to go back to the literature, back to the written word, to find the answers. In an extreme bit of self-reflexivity, Didion's given so many people dealing with tragedy something magical of her own—this book for us to go back to.

"This is my attempt to make sense of the period that followed, weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I had ever had about death, about illness, about probability and luck, about good fortune and bad, about marriage and children and memory, about grief, about the ways in which people do and do not deal with the fact that life ends, about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself."

Frustration With A Capital "F"

Okay, so I made an appointment with my family doctor today to see if I can find out why I'm so tired these days. I've been having this strange pressure in my chest that sort of feels like I've got the wind knocked out of me, and think that might be why I'm so tired. Annnywaaay. I see the family doctor for three fleeting seconds before she's on the phone with Emergency (the clinic is in the hospital), and calling up my kidney specialist to tell him that I'm in her office feeling lowly.

Sooo, she sends me downstairs to the ER. And it's exactly what you'd expect: bedlam. It's the very last place on Earth I want to be. In fact, I can think of no place I'd actually call hell, except an emergency room at a crowded downtown Toronto hospital. I didn't think I needed to go the ER, I just wanted to make sure I didn't have an infection in my heart, which I've had before, because that's what it kind of feels like.

I got to the ER at 11 AM. I left at 6 PM. I had blood drawn, an EKG, and myriad other tests to confirm that maybe it's not pericarditis, but maybe it still is—because I have to go back TOMORROW for another test.

The whole point of me going to see the family doctor was the following: A) not to bother my specialist with the minor ups and downs of my health that may or may not be related to the disease; B) to determine if maybe I'm so tired because of the disease; and C) to AVOID AT ALL COSTS the ER because it's unnecessary and, well, not a bloody emergency.

The resident was super-nice. But he has no answers. He doesn't know if it's the disease. He in his cutie-patootie faux-hawk and super cool brown cords can't tell me if I'm sick because I've got a disease or if I've caught some strange viral infection. His advice? Go see my specialist ASAP. That's actually written on my ER orders: Go see [insert name of ragdoll's super-duper specialist here] ASAP.

There's nothing more frustrating than feeling like you're wasting time and precious resources. I had work to do. I have a life to lead. I have a disease to battle. None of these things can be done from a bed in the ER ward listening to the truly ill people wailing like they need a wall and dying in beds beside me.

"2B?NT2B?=???"

Shakespeare via your mobile phone. Makes it even shorter and more succinct than Tom Stoppard. And is that necessarily a better thing? I don't know. How much value do words lose when you strip them of their sentences, shorten them to the point of extinction and then pull them out of context?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Slowly Melting = Good Karma

Making it through an entire day of work feels almost like climbing Mount Everest. Okay, I've never actually climbed Mount Everest, so I'm sorry if I'm offending any true blue mountaineers out there. By the time I get home I'm flushed and semi-feverish, or at least I feel that way, totally exhausted and thinking about bed. I put on my pajamas (jogging pants, sweatshirt) and I turn on the television. So. Not. Exciting.

But tonight I had a function to go to for work. Flare magazine had a cocktail party to celebrate their year, and it was a lot of fun, despite my lack of energy. In fact, I had a My Name is Earl moment. I had forgotten to dump my business card into the buckets for the door prizes until the very last second, when Zesty pulled a fast one and dropped it in. And I won a $250 gift certificate for Yorkdale Mall! Bring on the shoes, bring them on!

Perhaps the world is being kind to me because I'm feeling so poorly lately. Who knows? But it was kind of funny.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Side Effects

So I am now officially puffy from the prednisone. The side effect is awkwardly called "Moon Face." Which makes it sound so lovely. In essence, my cheeks are all puffed out and I look kind of like a chipmunk. Kind of fitting for this time of the year.

My skin has also erupted into some strange acne too. Which means, of course, that I'm washing it, using toner, using masks, anything to try and control it. This sometimes results in me picking away it for hours, squeezing things that I should honestly leave alone.

Today, my throat is super-sore, and I've been working from home the past few days to try and feel better. Thank goodness I've got an awesomely understanding boss and workplace. I couldn't cope with it otherwise. There are some small blessings. If I was still working for the Boss From Hell, I think I would have lost it.

I went to school last night, which was fun, but too exhausting. I came home and just about collapsed on the couch. I've made another appointment with the doctor for Thursday to see if there's anything they can tell me about the disease and whether or not it's actually getting any better.

My spirits are falling, and my RRBF keeps asking me if I want the pillow. It's kind of funny, he's such a romantic, offering to smother me so I'm out of my misery. In jest of course, ah, the things we do for love.

It's brutal that I'm too tired even to read. And you all know how unlike me that is...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Wegener's Weekend

There are so many things about the disease that I can't handle these days. The whole psychology behind it, the idea that it's living in my body, working against me, turning my immune system inside out, is hard to grapple with on a daily basis. But more then that, what's worse is not being able to stop thinking about it either. I've spent the past few days at home, working from home, but I have so little energy that even resting this much isn't making much of a difference.

And then you start to get self-critical, blast yourself for watching too many episodes of Felicity that Zip.ca has sent you, and feel guilty for not getting enough work done.

But the truth is that I can barely get out of bed these days and my head is in such a fog that I'm surprised I can concentrate on anything for more than 10 minutes. How do people cope with this?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Wegener's Granulomatosis

If the disease is only 'grumbling' and not full-blown, I'm am afraid to know what a massive attack might look like at my age. I am so tired I can barely move. My sinuses are killing me. It feels like there's a log on my chest. It's all so very strange.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Today I Remember

Today is for my great-grandfather, G.H. Copeland, who crossed the border from Ohio, signed up in Windsor and was shipped off to England. He carried a Ross rifle that didn't work, fought at Ypres (the second time) and Passchendaele. He helped the Allied forces win the First World War.

Today, I think about my grandfather, G.H.'s son, James Copeland. He marched in Italy, lived with shrapnel in his foot and liberated Holland. He spent his war in a tank and came back a changed man for two reasons: his new family and the war itself.

But most of all today I think about my grandmother, Janet Mardon, a war bride, born in Angel in London. The story goes that she met my grandfather during an air raid, falling in love in the dark, almost instantly. They got married in a fever. She wore an expensive wedding dress she sort of inherited (she was a seamstress) when the wealthier woman's nuptials got cancelled. My grandmother came to Canada on the Letitia, landed at Halifax, and then took a train to Toronto with my aunt, a toddler.

After I lost my mother, my grandmother became a beacon of strength in my life. She lived a hard life, but she loved us too. She was proud, fierce and beautiful to me, a role model on the importance of family and the fury of love.

Today I'll close my eyes and remember the mud, the horror, the terror of the First World War. The bravery of my great-grandfather and hundreds of thousands of young men like him. Today I'll close my eyes and think of my grandfather meeting happy Dutch faces waving ribbons upon their arrival. Today I'll close my eyes and think of my grandmother walking the streets of a bombed London wearing her Wren uniform, helping out where she could, building the strength that defined her character for years to come. Lest we forget.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

My Boyfriend's Back...And There's Going To Be Trouble?

There's a strange adjustment period when my RRBF gets back from being away on tour. Of course I'm glad to see him, but after about a month by myself, I'm also set in a new routine. So it's strange when he's back and I'm all grumpy because he's in my way, but not in my way. And he's all out of sorts because he's been on the road for a month and not used to going to bed, getting up and going to work.

But because now I'm so tired from the disease, and barely making it through the days, I'm glad he's home, if only to help me get through my life for the next little while. It's the small mercies.

Next step: our non-wedding in December.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Je Suis L-a-a-a-me

So I had my first story workshopped last night in class. It was gut-wrenching and heart-breaking. My fellow students are quite amazing, and all really good readers, which means they put the story through the gears and it will be the better for it. But I am so super-sensitive that it's almost impossible for me to not take everything personally.

Here's what I discovered:

1. I make up lame names. For some reason, the male protagonist is called Christian Meadows, and the female protagonist is called Eve. Yes. Christian Meadows. Eve. I did not even see the problem with it when I was writing it. Perhaps I should be writing Harlequin romances instead.

The names will need to be changed.

2. My sentences are too long. And I love long sentences. But shorter might be better, hence I'll have to edit. We all know how I feel about editing.

3. I am no genius. This is of no surprise to anyone. Heh.

On the whole, it was a very positive experience, and one I'll be repeating six or seven times during the course of the class, but ouch—if I could only get over my pathological shyness and actually not take the constructive criticism to heart. It hurts. Like a band-aid that comes off too early. Ouch.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Jarhead

I bit off more than I can chew this weekend. I'm so tired and achy tonight that I'm glad I'm finally home and can put on my pajamas. I'm actually all shook up, and not in a good way. First off, I went and had brunch with some friends, which was nice, and not too stressful. Then, I worked for a while on my book for Sterling. Then, Wing and Glark picked me up and we went to see Jarhead.

Welcome to the suck, indeed. Despite a solid cast with excellent performances by just about every young man there, despite some innovative and interesting direction, despite a story that's actually kind of timely, despite all this the movie's still terribly mediocre. Nothing happens. Now, I know that's sort of the point, all the build up, hundreds of thousands of troops in the Gulf, and then a war that only lasts for 4 days, but still, something should have happened.

Instead, we get a sort of stream of consciousness film that plays more like it should be on stage than anything else. And it got me thinking, about how it's Remembrance Day next week, about how war has changed so much in my lifetime that even the glorification of it has been deconstructed to the point where it's hard to see the ins and outs of obvious right and wrong. Sam Mendes had a chance to make a statement with the film. He didn't take that chance. He played it real safe, sort of flew under the radar so much that the movie isn't about war; it's not about the oil; hell, it's not even about the soldiers—it's a coming of age story wrapped in the context of war that works as an allegory for Swofford's (Gyllenhaal's) broken soul. And you know, what's even worse is that the film isn't bad, it's just seriously mediocre.

I guess that's why I'm disappointed. There are boys, Canadian boys, American boys, over there now dying senseless deaths, and Mendes filled up his film with a hell of a lot of quasi gay porn and bombastic male posturing. Perhaps that's what it was really like, but then that makes what's happening today even more futile. And with the current war in Iraq turning out to be more like Vietnam than even Bush himself gathered it could, I'm disappointed that in this day and age of media cynicism, the likes of Michael Moore, and the big Hollywood machine, that Mendes didn't stand up and shout at the top of his lungs with this film. Who knows? Maybe he did and I just missed the point. Oorah, indeed.

Now I'm overtired and feeling really quite ill. I wanted to get more done on my book, but it'll have to wait until tomorrow. There's always tomorrow.

Spare Cash?

Somehow I don't think that this was what the Barenaked Ladies had in mind when they listed off all the things they could and/or would do if they had a million dollars.

The next step in this utterly ridiculous "joke" is to then film a reality television show that exhibits all the crackpots who actually take him up on the offer. Oh. Wait. Maybe he's making a movie out of it all instead.

But it's all art for art's sake, isn't it? And in that sense, the ridiculous becomes the sublime because to have it any other way would mean the entire system would collapse.

So Glad I Went

Life always surprises you at the strangest moments. My cousin's wedding was wonderful, and I had a great time. The food was incredible, and it turned into a celebration of the best order.

I am very glad I stopped feeling sorry for myself. My eyes are still sore and puffy, though.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Totally Frustrating Day

I woke up this morning with a red, puffy and irriated eye. It pretty much kept me up half the night. I spent the other half tossing and turning. There are books, clothes and pillows on the side of the bed usually occupied by my RRBF. It was an awful night.

Today my cousin is getting married. The wedding is very small, just a handful of people at a restaurant, but I wanted to have a productive day before I went. I got three pages, if that, written on my latest book for Sterling. The rest of the day was spent trying in futility to rest. The first time I went back to bed, the neighbours were building something: loud banging, the odd power tool. The second time I went back to the bed, the cat wouldn't stop whining for his dinner. I gave him said dinner, then he whined some more—for more dinner. As if. Oh, and I did I mention the loud rock music coming from next door and the phone ringing?

My eye is still red and sore. I've got new clothes to wear, but no nice shoes and I was too tired to go shoe shopping. Between the meds, the sore throats popping up like bad ex-boyfriends, the absolute frustration with feeling so weak and tired all you can eat all day is frozen waffles but being utterly unable to sleep, and the complete and exacting sadness from the disease on the whole, I'm having a rough day.

#56 The Secret Life of Bees

Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees follows the life of Lily Owens, a young white girl growing up in South Carolina during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Living with an abusive father, T. Ray, and cared for by Rosaleen, her black housekeeper, Lily has never known the truth about her mother, who died in a shooting accident when she was four. Lily killed her, and has lived with the grief ever since.

A number of events drive Lily and Rosaleen out of town. Armed with a few possessions of her mother's, including a honey label with Tiburon written on the back, Lily and Rosaleen make their way there. Lily hopes finding out who makes the honey will help her find out about her mother, and it's this goal that finds them living with a trio of sisters, August, June and May Boatwright. Lily's instincts are correct—there is a connection between her mother and the sisters, but it takes much of the book to work it all out.

There are so many reasons why I liked this book so very much. Kidd's prose is sparse, but direct, lean without a hint of aggression, and simple without being simplistic. The story is tight too, the whole book happens over a summer, but it doesn't feel rushed or forced.

And it's about a motherless daughter searching for the truth about herself and her mother, so it drives hard into my own heart like the last few hours of a road trip when you're so close you can taste being home. Lily finds so much more than she thought possible, first love, a home, kindness, honesty, truth and a sense of purpose.

Knowing can be a curse on a person's life. I'd traded a pack of lies for a pack of truth, and I didn't know which one was heavier. Which one took the most strength to carry around? It was a ridiculous question, though, because once you know the truth, you can't ever go back and pick up your suitcase of lies. Heavier or not, the truth is yours now.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Prime

The weather has turned so very strange in the past couple days. It's super-hot for November, more like the end of September, and people are turned out in the oddest ways. I saw a man tonight at the movies wearing a French-inspired black and white striped long sleeved shirt with a pair of black racing shorts. This was his date attire. He got up this morning, felt the sun come in through the window and decided to cross dress between Lance Armstrong and the mime on the corner in Montreal.

Annnywaaay. I went to see Prime tonight with Wing Chun. You know, I was totally afraid that it would be another complete let-down, but it wasn't. It's not a great picture by any means, but it's solid, and has a funny script. Bryan Greenberg (ah, Jake!) is super-hot, and Meryl Streep is excellent as per usual. Uma's a bit flat, but I'm not her biggest fan (Kill Bill obviously excluded).

The film turns the whole May-December romance stereotypes inwards as a much older woman (37!), just divorced, falls for a very young man (23!), and they have a complex, but rewarding relationship. He's in love for the first time; she's in love after a very long time. The one problem? His mother is her therapist. But it's not slapstick, even though it could be. It's kind of tender and sweet, and it shows how love sort of happens and then you have to deal with the fall out. I liked it even better than P.S., which has the same theme: young artist falls in love with older, influential woman.

Hell, and Bryan Greenberg is super, duper, duper hot. I don't care what EW says.

So, It's The Other Way Around?

Is it wrong of me to think of this as somehow anti-Canadian in some way? I can understand how thinking that Harry Potter might have some sort of fallout for the Winnipeg band in terms of how huge a machine it actually is, but is it really going to adversely affect their careers in any way? And so what if it does?

The whole thing reeks of money grubbing to me, but that's just me—I suppose they're really worried about their artistic integrity. But that's a big supposition, in my opinion...

Oh. My. Eye.

Ouch. This re-design sort of scares me, and was it necessary?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Aw, He's So Famous...

That someone put him up on wikipedia. How cute is that? He'll be so happy to hear that Austin Powers is number one and he's number two. So. Cute!

#55 When in Rome

After having a pretty interesting discussion over at Chicklit about the genre chicklit, I decided to knock back an easy read today: When in Rome by Gemma Townley. I heart Gemma Townley. She's totally underrated in terms of the phenoms of chicklit (Sophie Kinsella, Melissa Banks, Lauren Weisberger, Ms. Weiner, Ms. Keyes, etc), but I think she rises to the top, for more reasons than one.

1. The plots might be predictable, but they're never contrite and don't have obvious holes, like so many books I've read in the genre lately.

2. The heroines often have the same problems (two boys, one love; bad job, like shopping) as many chicklit books have, but they seem to rise above and use their wits to get them out of situations vs. their acumen when it comes to men.

3. She's a fun, flirty writer, and that's hard to achieve.

4. There are a lot of cute pop culture references that I love, and that seem to fit, which means they don't feel forced in any way. They just work. Like in this book, the heroine, Georgie, is obsessed with Roman Holiday. It just feels right for the character, even when she ends up in Rome and cuts her hair off, all stereotypical products of a good Audrey Hepburn movie, but it works both for the character and for the book.

5. I love books that I can read in two subway rides: one to work, one home from work. It's a minor pleasure in a busy life.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Shakespeare Debate

One of my favourite quasi-academic topics is Shakespeare, or rather, the debate surrounding his identity. Who was that masked man, allegorically, of course? Bookninja sent me over to a fun article in the NY Times this week that puts forth a newish-oldish debate about Shakespeare's religion, and that he was a closet Catholic. Considering he wrote in Elizabethan England, that's actually kind of interesting to think about.

If I had any inclination to go back to grad school, I might actually think about examining some of his plays in light of the theory. How differently might they be read? I know, it's early in the morning. Just ignore me if I've already put you back to sleep.

Oh, and just for fun, here are a couple of articles I've written about the Shakespeare question, two of my favourites: one from my old work and one on Chicklit.

Happy Halloween?

We had one kid come to our door last night. One poor lonely little ghost with a plastic pumpkin. I almost gave him the entire bowl of candy because who wants it hanging around the house?

I suppose it's my own fault, considering I had an appointment during prime Halloween trick-or-treating time. But still, one kid? Now I'm stuck with 150 pieces of candy and no RRBF to eat them.

Next year I'll do it up right. Maybe I'll even remember to change the outdoor light bulb so they know I'm sitting there on the steps with a big bowl of candy for them.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Bless The Small Mercies

My very first royalty cheque arrived in the mail today. What a welcome surprise. Especially because today I started crying spontaneously at work because I felt so bad. I'm working from home tomorrow. And I think I might call the doctor and see if he has any suggestions as per why I'm feeling so rotten.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

In An Attempt To Reach Out

I have emailed long lost friends, answered the phone every time it rings (three calls from my RRBF, three other calls (two wrong numbers and one firm doing market research). All in an attempt to avoid writing. How do you procrastinate?

I've been actively grading the songs in my iTunes Party Shuffle as well, pretending that's work. The last few to come up:

1. Mr. Brightside, The Killers (four stars)
2. Take It Or Leave It, The Strokes (three stars)
3. Hey Ladies, The Beastie Boys (two stars [I'm in a mood!])
4. The Future Hangs, Cuff the Duke (five stars)
5. Please Don't Make Me Cry, UB40 (four stars)
6. Countdown Our Days, Fembots (five stars)

I've watched a couple episodes of Coronation Street, and a half an hour of Veronica Guerin.

I've vacuumed some, washed the tub, dusted and put away my clothes.

I've danced around my office to The Strokes and The Pogues. I bought Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart. Fond memories of bad high school dances.

I've written quite a few silly blog posts.

In fact, the only thing I haven't done is take a nap—but don't count that option out.

Today's Inspiration

Comes via a link from Bookninja:

In the end, it didn't quite put me off. Now I know where my novel is heading, I don't panic when a first draft is drivel (and it is always drivel), and most of all I understand that writing is mostly a question of hard work.


That's the part that I have trouble with, the hard work part, most of the time I want to write it and have it be done, sort of like it is with the blog.

(She says as she's been sitting at her computer for hours revising the story for her creative writing class, looking over two poems and changing one or two words and writing more of her abridged classics).

Confidence Builder II

In the attempt to procrastinate even more regarding my abridged versions, I've just sent off some poems to Contemporary Verse 2. Judging from the big, fat rejection I got from The Fiddlehead, I'm not hopeful, but am going through the motions if only to develop a thicker skin. I sent 4 poems off: "January (My Violent Heart)", "April", "Born in the Sign of July" and "October's Teenage Wasteland." I'll keep you posted if and when I hear anything.

Confidence Builder

I think I forgot to mention that I'm taking a creative writing class this fall. It's a 'graduate level' course that focuses on workshopping fiction with a goal that by the end you've got 50 pages or so that are in good shape to shop around. After reading the first stories by two of my classmates last week, I had a shiver of self-doubt that I'm ready for something so polished. However, I'm sticking with it, and just sent off my first story for discussion in our next class, which is November 7th (we're skipping Hallowe'en, for the parents in the group).

The story I sent off is one of a series I've been working on about the time I spent in Banff during university. Looking at it before sending it off left me on a crazy trail of procrastination, trying to find out about people I used to know (one ex-boyfriend who I treated terribly and regret to this day what I jerk I was), googling different places I remember, trying to recall things that happened 10 years ago now.

But most of all, trying to capture the irony of Banff itself, rich playground for wealthy folks, pitstop for kids running away, easy summer money, beautiful landscape, unreal life, all of those things that make for good fiction. If only I could figure out how to write it properly. Fingers crossed they don't hate it, and fingers crossed I actually make it through class without throwing up. Shyness really is a disease, isn't it?

Saturday Afternoon at the IFOA

We went to the last IFOA reading we had tickets for yesterday. There were four women reading: Lisa Moore (from her Giller-nominated Alligator), Allison Pick (from her new novel The Sweet Edge), Melissa Bank (The Wonder Spot) and chicklit belle of the ball, Lauren Weisberger (Everyone Worth Knowing).

Lisa Moore's book was by far the best of the bunch, from what I could gather from the readings. She had one line about how a windshield reached out and punched the character during an accident that stopped me in my boots. I've got the book at home and might move it to the top of the 'to read' pile, that is after I've got through the three book club books I'm behind on these days.

I admire Lauren Weisberger, and Melissa Bank's book read quite funny, and I'm glad to see 'chicklit' become kind of accepted at such a high-brow event as the IFOA. It's a nice change, and maybe a necessary one...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Testing, Testing

The Dr. Mr. Fancypants had me go for CT scans yesterday, of my head (sinuses) and chest (lungs), to see what the disease is doing. My appointment was for 5 PM. On a Friday. There's nothing more discouraging than having to be at the hospital when everyone else in the world is on their way home for the weekend. On top of that, I'm so tired these past few days that I'm having trouble paying attention to anything.

In fact, I'm so tired that I can barely take care of myself. Today I'm kind of grumpy that I'm a band widow, and I'm missing my RRBF, but it'll all pass once I get some sleep and rest for the majority of the weekend. My only plans are to watch bad TV (24 on DVD) and read. Oh, and to do my abridged versions. I'm so behind!

Isn't my life thrilling?

You know, the worst part of days like this, disease days, is honestly thinking that it might be easier just to let the Wegener's have its way with me. I know it's not a rational thought, probably a side effect of the maddening prednisone, but today I'm even too tired to think about fighting.

But that'll all change this afternoon. I've got one more IFOA reading to go to, and I'm hoping that it'll perk me right up.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Brick Books

Tonight I went to Brick Books' 30th anniversary party. They were celebrating the launch of four new books of poetry, and with one of the authors being a friend of a friend, I decided to go along with Kate. I have such a love-hate relationship with poetry: love the form, love the medium, love language; hate the form, hate the pretension, hate the language (kidding).

The first two poets were mediocre, and one was downright nuts, but that sort of made the evening fun. The last two poets, David Seymour (aforementioned friend of friend) and a truly fantastic poet named Karen Solie, made the whole evening worth while.

Well, then there was the fun "philosophic" walk home with Kate, the truly funny idea of starting the Anti-Poets Poetry Club, and seeing some people I hadn't seen in a long time. Oh, and then being too shy to say hello to my ex-poetry teacher. All in all, a pleasant continuation of my quest to lead a more cultured life.

Popwatch, Bitch!

Because there are few places on the web where the words "apocalyptic gloom" and Ashlee Simpson work better than on Popwatch. Oh this poor, poor man who is unable to realize that little in the world of pop music has to do with anything other than the world ending.

Because I wake up to it every damn morning as I listen to the asinine morning team berate someone for having leaking rectums or something equally disgusting, and then am forced to listen to the second worst song I've ever heard in my life: "Photograph" by Nickelback:

Look at this photograph
Every time I do it makes me laugh
How did our eyes get so red?
And what the hell is on Joey'’s head?


'How did our eyes get so red'? Seriously? Did he actually write that down and get all excited because he then took the whopping huge next step of then rhyming "red" with "head." The man's a bleeding genius of rectal leakage.

See, you can't listen to radio in a vacuum.

James Frey...

...was on Oprah yesterday to talk about his book in terms of her book club pick. The whole episode felt a bit Oprahfied, with the poor woman being saved from her addictions and seeing James Frey today with his happy family, but it also felt real. And it felt real because Frey himself seems very real, very honest and very explicit about his own story.

My favourite part of the whole hoopla surrounding the book? How many people this morning woke up thinking about that book, about that man, about his struggle and about his one simple piece of advice: hold on.

Maybe that applies to people with diseases like Wegener's Granulomatosis too. And not just people with addiction.

Bad Disease Day #1328979654

So I'm starting to feel the side effects with the prednisone, in particular, craving rich bad-for-you foods like cheese and ice cream. I'm waking up at all hours of the night, worrying about silly things, crying and feeling sorry for myself. This morning, I woke up at 4 AM and started putting our mail into different files. I was sort of looking for something that I couldn't find, but that's not really the point.

And then I had kind of a sh*t day at work, managed to feel even more sorry for myself, all the while wanting just to go home, crawl into bed, and ignore the rest of the day.

Now I'm sitting here about to get read to go to a Brick Books party at the Gladstone, happy to be getting out of the house, but miserable because in order to get out of the house, I actually have to leave.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Tuesday Night At The IFOA

Last night we saw Julian Barnes, David Baddiel and Michael Crummey. It was another good evening of readings. And funnily enough, Zadie Smith and Nick Laird sat one row down and across the aisle from us. I had to try hard not to watch them, and keep concentrating on the task at hand.

Now I'm totally exhausted and must sleep.

Happy Birthday To You!

We've got a niece! My RRBF's sister had her baby two days ago, and she's lovely. I went to see her this afternoon. So small...I've never seen a person whose only 1.5 days old before. She has amazing facial expressions: yawning, open eyes, scrunchy face, half-smile (probably gas?), and more. How amazing is that?

Monday, October 24, 2005

North Country

Oh, they had me, they really did—right up until the very end, when a giant, zit of a Hollywood moment ruined the film for me.

To cap off my incredibly culturific weekend, I went to see North Country with Glark and Wing Chun on Sunday afternoon. That makes it: two IFOA readings, one film crew, one rock and roll show, and a feature film—all in one teeny, tiny weekend. It's amazing what having 35 odd people you don't know in your house will make you do...

Annnywaaay, I hate to admit how hard the film grabbed me in the first two thirds. The story was good, the acting was solid, the relationships didn't ring false, the politics were honest, and they had me. Blubbering, sniffling, bawling and batting away the tears at one pivotal moment in particular.

And then it went all MOV on me. And the ending was spectacularly cheesy without having to have to be, and I was mad that I got sucked in at all, because being cheated at the end of a film is like being cheated by the first really hot boyfriend you have—it comes totally out of the blue emotionally, even though you were half-expecting it because he's so good looking you know it'll never last.

In the end, glass ball predictions mean that Charlize Theron will probably be nominated for an Oscar. As long as everyone stops talking about her appearance and let her talent stand for itself, but wait, what am I saying, that's a pipe dream that'll never come true.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Rock And Roll On A Saturday Night

So after Zesty and I left the IFOA, we headed over to Lee's Palace for my RRBF's show. Thankfully, Lee's was pretty full, and people were actually standing in the front section near the stage, looking expectantly up at where he and the rest of the band were setting up. It was a relief to see a good crowd, especially a crowd full of people I don't know and/or recognize.

While we were waiting for the band to start, I overheard the conversation of a couple girls standing sort of on top of us. They were talking about my RRBF's bandmate, how one of them tried to talk to him at Hillside and he was very shy, but polite, not necessarily encouraging any further conversation. Which, being a girl who has a fellow in a band, I can completely see and understand.

Then she said, "And I also met the one in the hat." My ears perked up, "For the FemBots / Weakerthans tour, I was standing outside having my smoke, and he walked right up to me and said, 'Hey! How's it going!'" What? "And then he got closer and totally apologized saying, 'Oh! Sorry, I thought you were someone else.'" Whew. "When he got on stage and I saw he was one of the FemBots, I thought cool." Yeah, well that's where it ends honey. Heh. I'm only kidding. Well, sort of. Okay, yes, I'm kidding.

It's always a bit surreal to listen to people talk about my RRBF in that whole 'rock star' manner. But it's also funny to hear how his rock star sort of lives out in the world too, two different people: one at home, the one I live with, and the one he wants the world to see, the independent rock guy (ie, getting super-excited to see someone he knows, but knowing that he needs glasses so he probably didn't even recognize her until he was almost standing in front of her sort of thing). In the end, it was a good show and the end of a very full night, full weekend, of, ahem, culture?