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.