Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Things That I Have Learned Today

In the grand TRH tradition of creating lists when I'm too tired to write a proper blog post. Here are some things that I've learned today:

1. I'm right to oppose my RRHB's pleas to get rid of our land line and only use cell phones. Not only is that bad for the environment, but it's annoying too. Oh, and he's always mocking me for turning the phone off when I'm not using it (it's a work cell phone so I've pretty much only got it on during business hours). This way I only charge it about once a week, thus saving that energy for other good things, like running this damn computer.

2. The world is seriously pissed at James Frey. Now he's been dumped by his agent and idiotic people in the States are suing him—over 'misrepresented reading experiences'. Yes, I'm being serious.

3. My RRHB is more famous today for having an article up on the homepage of Sympatico/MSN. It's here if you want to read it.

4. The world (well, the Oscars) seriously loves the Annie Proulx-inspired Brokeback Mountain. But you've got to holla when "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp" is nominated for Best Song. And go Terrence Howard.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Kicking It Old School

On Tuesday night, the RRHB and I went to a benefit for a film that our friends are producing independently. It was the first and only time this week I actually left the house for something other than work or school. The whole night was fun until about 10 PM when my stomach started acting up again and the whole am-I-or-aren't-I going to barf thing started up. Stupid meds.

Bob Wiseman played. The first show I ever crept into when I was underage was a Bob Wiseman show at the Rivoli. I went with my crazy ex-boyfriend from high school who ended up becoming a heroin addict. The RRHB was there too. We were in a car with windshield wipers that didn't work and it was raining. I wore a Mexican poncho my father had brought back for me from some vacation he was on.

Six months later I was with a different boy and half the school wasn't talking to me because of said "drama." Six months after that I was diagnosed with Wegener's for the first time. I listened a lot to Bob Wiseman that year.

Then, I spent a few years at university going to Bob's shows, watching him in different bars, learning all of his songs, each time probably with a different boyfriend-of-the-week. Once, after one of his shows, he was packing up and we were introduced, albeit briefly. He said, "You have a very interesting voice." And then just looked at me strangely.

Ah, the joys of being so young.

"We got, we got, we got, we got, time."

It's funny how when you're young, you think that you actually do have a lot of time. These days, I think I'm already one foot in the ground with all the crap from the disease. But it's nice to remember how much fun I used to have, even if I can't have so much of it these days.

The Mantle Of Truth

A Letter to James Frey (after the style of McSweeneys).

Dear James Frey,

O ye truth slayer! O man who exaggerates! O man who battles with drug and alcohol addiction! How dare you challenge the world's belief in truth! How dare you, gasp, "lie" for the sake of narrative indulgence! How dare you, gulp, use the benefits of writing a memoir to write a great book! Shame on you.

Yawn.

I'll bet you're thinking twice about the good fortune of finding yourself in a position to reap the benefits of the Oprah Book Club right about now. And I'm guessing Oprah's pretty unhappy she stopped sticking to dead authors.

But after seeing your humiliating visit on Oprah, James, I'd have to say that it must really suck to be you right about now. However, the bajillions of dollars you've made in royalties and will continue to make off of your hotly contested memoir A Million Little Pieces should go a long way to keeping you warm at night. But honestly dude, the whole thing is just so ridiculous. It's a great book. You should be proud of writing it. You should be proud of your voice. That's what matters.

So what if you changed a couple of things here and a couple of things there. In the end, it's embarrassing to me that so much of the world has started to slay you like you're personally responsible for the death of truth in popular culture.

Now let me state that these are people who hold up Paris Hilton as an icon and who honestly believe that Nicole Richie doesn't have an eating disorder.

The whole thing was ridiculous, Oprah was ridiculous. It's a memoir. In truth, it's more creative nonfiction than it is anything else. Of course you wrote what you thought would be a better story, but in the end that's never going to matter because not a single person on that stage defended you.

Not a single person stood up and said, "What's wrong with all of you. He didn't set out to lie to you. He wrote a book that had a powerful and lasting affect on people."

Not a single person stood up and said, "How can a person possibly remember every string of dialogue they've spoken in their entire lives. Memory is by definition a difficult thing. Memory by its nature calls for recreations and adaptation."

Oh Oprah, so glad that you can be so high and mighty, talking down from your mountain about the death of truth in the world. Who did you vote for? What fictions have you created in your own life just to get through it? Here's one: you call your dogs, your children. The last time I looked there was a slight biological difference between dogs and kids. Aren't you lying to yourself just a little bit or adapting the truth because that's how you feel or how you want something to be perceived?

But heh, ho, it's okay, it's okay for everyone to hang the mantle of truth upon you, poor James Frey, because you wrote the book, and some web site decided to debunk the fundamental facts. It's not journalism. It's not an autobiography. It's a memoir. An account of what happened. The form by its nature reeks of incorrect facts, misinterpreted events and opinions that are more point of view than by the book. I am honestly surprised that Oprah, refusing to see both sides of the story, didn't bring a single person to that taping who might have seen it your way.

And if anyone in this world believes that truth isn't something that's mutable, well then I'd suggest you acquaint yourself with a little known philosophy called post-modernism. Look it up in a dictionary, if you must.

You know James, my friend Kate made an extremely smart point in an email she sent to me today. She said that what's the big deal when there's an entire war being fought, billions of dollars being spent, and lives being lost in the war in Iraq, which is for all intents and purposes, based on a pack of lies. Anyone see George W. up there in the audience calling out for the truth?

Honestly, I think you should have told everyone to shut the hell up. Especially the blow-hard journalists who claim to search for truth when the black and white, right and wrong, good and bad, nature of our society stood up, had a martini and left about a hundred years ago laughing because it's never been true in the first place.

I'm furious with Oprah. I'm furious with a lot of people and stand by the fact that your voice is authentic, which means a hell of a lot more to me than whether or not you spent three hours or three months in jail.

Hold your head up James. And hold on.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Should I Be Surprised?

So the new and improved, slightly 'evolved' Stephen Harper is the new prime minister. Huh. I was more stupified to learn that a measly 64% of the population actually voted and judging from the results, I'd say there were many opportunities to make a difference that were wasted.

Some of the things I heard on the radio:

1. A woman who said she was too wrapped up in her own "bubble" to vote. Is she kidding? What could be more important to her than the right she has to decide what happens to her own body? On what kind of a country she's living in? On whether or not health care will continue? No offense honey, but nothing in your life should have been more important than voting. It takes five minutes. You even get time off from work to vote if you need it.

2. One woman wanted the Conservatives to win but voted Liberal in her riding because she thought the Tory (and I loathe to call them that) candidate wouldn't win. So a lot of thought went into that vote, that's for sure.

3. People were voting for the Conservatives because they are 'sick' of the Liberals. This makes absolutely no sense to me. The same thing happened in Ontario after Bob Rae and the NDP frustrated people; they voted for Mike Harris, who then proceeded to be the worst premier the province had seen in decades, maybe ever. It's a knee jerk approach with no understanding for the larger issues, the greater good. And now when the crazy sh*t starts happening and things start to change, people will start complaining and wondering what went so very wrong. When unemployment creeps up and our troops are getting killed in Iraq and we carry a deficit for the first time in over a decade, then they'll all be wondering why they voted for the knucklehead in the first place.

Monday, January 23, 2006

If You Do One Thing Today

Please vote. It's the most important election of our adulthood, this one. The ramifications of today's election will resonate for years to come. I'm not one to tell you who to vote for, please just vote.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Weekend Antics

So a couple friends of my RRHB came over on Friday night and we played cards. They were all drinking our neighbour's homemade wine ($20.00 for 25 bottles—oh what a steal!). After the exasperating few days I spent being very ill after the non-wedding, and because of the meds, I abstained.

For the very first time in a long while, I sat and watched the three of them get absolutely hammered. It was pretty enjoyable, especially when they gave me a new name to go along with my new last name, and I shall forever be known to the three of them as Sparkle Poirier. Heh.

I lost every single game we played at Euchre, which is fine because I really just like to play cards, I don't care if I win or lose. And drunken euchre players are always funny. And then the evening digressed into talking about politics because it's on everyone's mind.

Then today we got up and had breakfast with a dear old friend of ours, who we regaled with tales of the drunken debauchery from the night before. He laughed. A good time was had by all.

But here's the coup de grace of my day—we saw Underworld: Evolution. I'm still processing it. But damn, I love that series. It's an okay sequel, not as good as the first movie, but certainly a good set-up for the third, which I'm already hoping to see in the next few years.

Now, I'd like to take a survey. Put your hands up if you think small children should really be allowed to see a film where people are shot, decapitated, mortally wounded, viciously killed, de-blooded, and a whole host of other cool vampire and werewolf-like stuff happens? Yeah, I didn't think so. Shame on you parents who brought their five and six-year-olds to see a film meant for an adult audience. Oh, and Scott Speedman is totally hot. It's almost a crime.

It's a very full weekend for a girl with Wegener's Granulomatosis. And it's not even over yet!

#3 - Never Let Me Go

Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go might just be the most well crafted piece of writing I have ever read. Not a sentence, not a word, not a single piece of punctuation is misplaced or out of step. In short, it's a bloody brilliant book.

The book tells the story of three clones: Kathy, Ruth and Tommy. Each has a particular role in their lives; their destinies so to speak. Ruth and Tommy become 'donors' (of what is exquisitely left to your imagination), while Kathy is a carer, someone who spends her days taking care of the donors after they've, well, donated.

All three grow up in an extremely cloistered way at Halisham, a private boarding school for other clone children, designed for them to express their creativity and have a well-rounded upbringing. Once they're finished at Halisham, the three end up at a place called the Cottages, where they spend a few years becoming adults before their real jobs begin.

There is a deep sense of suspense written into the novel. It's a page turner in the purest sense, but the plot and the chapters are so intricately developed that you don't feel like you're being manipulated. The book moves along so quickly that it creates a world in your head even before you realize that your imagination has taken the story over and made it into something of your own. If that makes any sense.

I know I've only read 3 books so far this year (well, I have read 4 but I can't talk about the other one until it's been published, which isn't until March), but it's the best book I've read in a long, long while. Truly deserving of its Booker nomination, and later on this year when I read The Sea, I'll be able to compare the two—but something in my mind tells me Ishiguro will come out on top.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

RRHB Hits #20

He's number 20 out of 20 -- but come on -- that's still totally awesome.

What's Up Doc?

So here's a list of the things I've been doing this week. It's so not exciting:

1. Attending a conference for work. It was three days long and even though you don't do anything, you literally just sit there hearing about all the fun stuff that's coming down the pipes, you are brain dead and exhausted at the end of it.

2. Going to school, watching television (hello Jack Bauer), listening to Metro Morning, going to work, eating dinner and sleeping.

3. Oh, and I barfed, again. Also not fun.

4. Reading Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and loving every single word.

5. Discovering that it's actually easier on me to walk from Dundas down to King Street vs. trying to navigate the stairs of the subway station. That's how pathetic I am at the moment from the disease. Talk about a weakened state.

6. Trying not to take too much Gravol but then giving in because it's better to be sleepy that to be throwing up. Can I get a witness?

7. Missing my friends because I couldn't really carry on any email conversations while I'm sitting in a conference.

8. Wanting to sleep like Rip Van Winkle because I'm so tired.

9. Waiting for a hug. Really from anyone.

10. Wishing I could stay home all the time and watch Ellen.

And that about sums me up this week? What's up with y'all?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Procrastination Pays

My RRHB was clearing out one of the rooms he's going to demolish on the main floor of our house when I got in from brunch. One of the boxes he pulled out was from my old work, after they 'let me go' I wasn't allowed to pack up my office—they just wanted me gone. I couldn't look at the stuff before now, I guess, because the box has been sitting in our storage room for months.

A lot of it is garbage. A funny poem from McSweeney's. A picture of the young beat generation writers, Kerouac, Burroughs. A funny newspaper clipping of Johnny Rotten holding a press pass with an awesome look on his face. Essentially, a pile of stuff that I used to personalize my office while I had one.

But in a copy of Girl With A Pearl Earring, I found a $50.00 bill. Now, that's way above and beyond finding money in your pants or your winter coat. Usually, you're lucky if you find $5.00 or $10.00. But $50.00? Man, that's my spending money for the week. See, it paid for me to ignore the residual effects of being forced out of that job—I'm $50.00 richer than I was yesterday.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Grossest Day Ever

So, ever since the non-wedding, my stomach has been precious, to say the least. But today it finally went overboard. Not enough sleep combined with some yoghurt for breakfast equals a truly nasty trip to the bathroom where my imaginary friendship with James Frey seems more real than ever. You know when he's talking about pieces of his stomach coming up, yeah. I've been there. It's not a fun place to be.

Dear Stephen Harper

Dear Stephen Harper:

With all your tax-cut bullsh*t and your faux 'evolution' (I think I just barfed a bit in my mouth, seriously), I have just one question for you. Will you be funding all of us liberal-minded, free-thinking, social-program supporting, non-neo-conservative thinking Canadians who will want to move if you, shudder, are elected to a majority government as the Globe and Mail is reporting?

Thanks,

ragdoll

Frey Redux

There's a great article in today's Publisher's Weekly about the whole controversy over James Frey's memoir. I suppose it's not shocking that the editorial team moved the book into nonfiction because they hoped it would sell better, anything and everything to get people to read is an honourable thing to do in my mind.

But the people who are crying because not every word is 'true', I might have to go all post-modern on their ass and ask them what does truth mean in today's world? We can't get a straight story from anyone; news is embellished for ratings; creative nonfiction vilified for turning out a solid narrative; actors are held up on pedestals usually reserved for well, writers, poets, statesmen/women and politicians; and truth becomes so utterly relevant to the person who is speaking it that, again, I don't see what the big deal is.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

James Frey Fizzles?

With the publication of the creepily in-depth investigative journalism of The Smoking Gun, whose mug shot gallery remains one of the all-time greats in terms of internet pages, James Frey must be shaking in his sober boots about now.

And as I jump onto the blogosphere bandwagon for just a moment, keep in mind that I have read and enjoyed A Million Little Pieces. On the whole, I found the whole premise of The Smoking Gun's article to be slightly surreal, but I guess when you reach the kind of Oprahfied success of Frey, you're sort of inviting the detractors, especially if you written the best-selling nonfiction book of, like, all time, the Bible excluded of course.

But what I don't understand is why people care so much, and I'm finding so many parallels with what's going on right now in Canadian politics, where smear campaigns, name calling and corrupt finger-pointing seems to take away from the real issue at hand. Did Frey write a great book? Yes, he did. Did Frey take liberties with some of the events for the sake of the narrative? I'm sure he did. What does that man in terms of it being classified 'nonfiction'? Well, not much considering there's license with the classification anyway.

So what if he embellished here and there? So what if he made some of the events more intense than they were -- it doesn't make the book any less powerful to know that the author may have changed a few of the details. It's an accepted fact that it's hard to write a memoir. That it's almost impossible to remember exactly what happened to an extent that your life will still make for good reading. In the end, Frey seems to be on the end of a long line of people wanting to attack him simply because of his success.

A Million Little Pieces is a really good book. It's got a great message and its author seems genuine in his quest to be a better person, to live a good life, so what if memoir is more fiction than non, does it make it any less persuasive or any less of a read? I don't think that it does.

Funny how Frey's own advice will come back to haunt him. I'm guessing that the simple idea of "Holding on" might be coming in handy right about now.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

#2 - A Long Way Down

Nick Hornby's delicious novel is meant to be devoured in one sitting like a Toblerone bar. Out of the two books I've read so far this year, it's definitely the best, but that's not saying much as the comparison novel is The Da Vinci Code.

On New Year's Eve, four people, as disparate as four people could honestly be, end up atop of Toppers' House, and infamous high rise where Londoners go to kill themselves. As luck would have it, the four sort of talk each other down, which begins and odd and strangely unique friendship between them.

The sadness of each of their lives remains entirely empathetic; it doesn't make the move into parody, but remains real and honest and good. The characters aren't necessarily likeable, but I've learned from Hustle & Flow that you can even sympathize with a pimp, if he's human enough.

All in all it's a book I truly couldn't put down. I read in one giant gulp, half awaiting the brain freeze I was sure was to follow. It never came. And I feel oddly satisfied, in a strange Sunday kind of way.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Hustle & Flow

Now, I know I can't compare my semi-charmed life to that of the main character in Hustle & Flow, but that movie has been in my head all night. Especially when DJay says, "I'm squeezing a dollar out of a dime when I ain't even got a penny."

It's like a metaphor man, one that ain't even all mixed up, but so pure that I could rest my head on it and dream big, because everyone has got to have a dream.

Oh. The. Irony.

How ironic is it that I'm reading this article about newspapers surviving in their long forms online? Just when the author touts the success of Gutenberg and dead trees. Heh.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

#1 - The Da Vinci Code

So, the very first book I've finished this year is North America's most over-read, over-interpreted, overly successful novel. Soon to be a major motion picture, I have little more to say about it except that like 25 million other poor souls, I have finished it. But one thing I'll say for sure, Dan Brown is a master of writing short chapters. And I think the casting agents did a super good job. I can totally see all of the actors cast in the roles as the characters in the book. Yawn. I'm very sleepy now. Maybe I'll dream of the Holy Grail. Double yawn.

But I know I'll be screaming, "It's fiction!" at the top of my lungs the week the movie is released, just like Ron Howard.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Is This Guy For Real?

Honestly. Is he actually writing these things down and believing that he's speaking the truth? But when a national magazine spreads such anti-feminist and, frankly, anti-women propaganda you've got to wonder about the state of our union.

Of the sentences that make me the most angry: "Thus, every December 6, our own unmanned Dominion lowers its flags to half-mast and tries to saddle Canadian manhood in general with the blame for the Montreal massacre..."

Huh. In every single, thoughtful tribute to the Montreal massacre, one of which I encountered at a downtown Toronto hospital, people spoke out against the violence, which is increasingly dangerous and/or over-exposed in our culture. I doubt that most feminists would blame anyone other than Marc Lepine for the actual massacre, but perhaps the date has come to stand for a more general protest to support the fight to stop violence against women; sort of like how we remember the contribution by our Canadian soldiers by wearing a poppy, we don a ribbon on December 6 so we don't forget.

And then: "If abortion is, as Kate O'Beirne calls it, feminism "holy grail," there are more than a few countries that must wish they'd never stumbled upon it. In the seventies, the average Russian woman apparently exercised her "right to choose" no less than seven times. Today, abortions outnumber live births. As a result, Russia is at the start of a demographic death spiral unprecedented in a relatively advanced society not at war."

Right, so the problems with Russia have nothing to do with a severely oppressed country battling economic and sociological problems. Nothing to do with the lack of food or medicine or access to basic life needs—oh no, it's because Russian women are having too many abortions. Anyone ask the question as to why other methods of birth control aren't available, or even assume they just might not be considering the termination rate is so high. No, no, Mr. Steyn, you're so right, it's the fault of feminists, that's what it is. Ridiculous.

And what's probably the most offense line in the entire, abysmal article: "That's a Gloria Steinem line, of course. These days Gloria is -- what? 83? 112? -- and still looks fabulously hot, but, like The Feminism of Doria Gray, it's her ideology that's gotten all wrinkled and saggy."

Wonderful. So he's actually stooped to the level of criticizing a woman based on both her age and appearance, while at the same time claiming that feminism has conquered all of the problems women need to overcome in the Western world. So glad he's obviously gotten the point, ahem, and I'm even happier that he decided to write this pap down, my goodness what if men were denied their right to free speech by us abortion-supporting, well educated, happily feminist women? No, that's right, there are no more battles to fight on that front, none at all, especially considering men like this have obviously challenged themselves to think, act and, well, be feminists. Not.

Oh, you are so right Mark Steyn, "C'mon, gals! Anyone can beat up post-feminist neutered Western males. Why not pick on a target worth the effort?" Why not indeed, sir, why not indeed. Oh, and just because I can: "Shut up Mark Steyn. Shut the hell up while you're still on a pulpit worth sprouting from." And that's 100% Ragdoll.

Oh and just for the record, I heart the Macleans web site; it's one of my favourites, and my heart broke just a bit when I found this article there. What was Ken Whyte thinking? Can anyone tell me?

Edited to add: I know Steyn in his own misogynist way, was trying to call attention to the struggles of women outside the Western world, and in no way does my criticism of him downplay and/or disagree that women all around the world are in terrible positions because of various different socio, economical and political or even religious reasons, my point here is to simply state that he went about making that argument all wrong.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Things To Do: Today Being A Monday In January

So, here's the list of things to do this week:

1. Vote for my RRHB's band on MuchMoreMusic.com.

2. Vote again.

3. Finish North America's most over-read book, The Da Vinci Code. I'm honestly not trying to pre-judge the damn book, but I kind of resent having to read it..but I kind of have to read it for work.

4. Try not to throw up. This one is crucial because ever since the non-wedding, I've been an almost-barf machine.

5. Watch Scrubs. Thank goodness it's back on the air. The world needs more Zach Braff.

New Year's Revolutions Redux

Keep in mind that just a mere 365 days ago, I went back to work after sick leave only to be laid off due to "restructuring." So today when someone said to me, "Ragdoll, the boss wants to see you," my stomach dropped to my knees. The last thing I needed was to get fired again!

Of course, I wasn't getting fired from my almost-new job—she just wanted to let me know that we got cost of living increases, which is always nice. But my panic attack led me to another New Year's Revolution: try to look at things more positively.

I decided that there's little I can actually do to control the health situation. I need to give in to the fact that the disease is sort of having its way with me right now and as soon as it's back into remission, I can concentrate on being super-duper-ooper healthy. For now, surviving is the best I can do.

But thinking positively? Well, that's something I can start right away. And it comes in small doses, so it shouldn't be all that hard to keep for the next 365 days.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Revolutions

In the past, I celebrated the coming of the new year by getting really drunk and dancing the night away, hopefully ending up in bed with some fellow I only half knew. Ah, the ever-present memory; the stench of my youth. Now that I'm such an old lady, the last thought on my mind was finding some excuse to go out last night. Instead, my RRHB and I stayed home and watched a marathon session of The Lord of the Rings—all three extended editions. The. Entire. Trilogy. In a row. We started at 8 PM last night and finished at 5 PM today (after sleeping in until 10 AM, of course). That's a perfect New Year's Eve to me now. How old am I? Sheesh, and just think it was only last year when then RRBF was playing with The Weakerthans opening up for The Tragically Hip at Copp's in the Hammer. Even now, that seems like a distant memory.

Last year, I had one revolution: to find a new job. Funny how it ended up finding me as today's the anniversary of the day I got fired by the Boss From Hell. And to think my bionic hip has carried me through a solid 365 days of walking on both legs with no cane and with no pain.

So much happens in a year that you forget what you hoped to accomplish. I guess my only goal for this upcoming year is to be healthy, to be able to live like a regular girl again. I don't think that's too much to ask of myself. If it's a revolution instead of a resolution, there just might be a chance I'll stick to it and will myself into good health by eating right and at least attempting to exercise.

"Tomorrow's another day," she says as she finishes off the last of the Christmas baked goods...