Sunday, April 30, 2006

#36 - A Death In Belmont

I picked up Sebastian Junger's latest nonfiction work, A Death in Belmont, on that very afternoon where I wasted my hard-earned money on Plum "No Plot" Sykes. This is the book I should have been reading; this is a book that deserves to be bought.

Junger's story of how his family came into contact with the man who eventually claimed, and then denied, that he was the Boston Strangler, is fascinating. An older woman, Bessie Goldberg, was raped and then strangled in the affluent suburb of Belmont where Junger and his family lived. A black man, Roy Smith, who was cleaning the Goldberg's house that day, was charged and convicted of her murder. Years later, a manual labourer, Al DeSalvo, eventually comes under suspicion of actually committing the crime, meaning Smith was innocent.

Junger's book attempts to find absolute truth where none truly exists, who really killed Bessie Goldberg? Was Roy Smith innocent? Did Al DeSalvo kill her? It's murder mystery with no happy ending (all of those involved are now dead; any evidence has either been destroyed by time or the necessity of space), and without any clear indication of the truth being uncovered any time soon, all he can do is hypothesize about what might have taken place, from all sides of the story.

As much a conversation about race as it is about the truth, as much an investigation of how far the legal system in the States has changed since the early 1960s as it's about the idea of wrongful conviction, A Death in Belmont is my favourite kind of nonfiction, the kind that reads like fiction.

Although, I'm not convinced, like a lot of nonfiction, that it's not just an extended magazine article with a lot of extraneous details thrown in, on the whole, Junger has a great tone to his written voice and I even didn't mind how he used his personal ties to the story to pull everything together (Capote would be horrified! The use of the first person! Argh!)

Much more entertaining than Plum "Harlequin Can Kiss My Ass" Sykes.

Three Things...

I'm only mildly embarrassed to admit:

1. Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together" is currently the most-played song on my iTunes. Now, there is good reason for this—being a band widow means pop music may flow through the veins of this house. Once my RRHB gets home, it's forever banned from the airwaves. I take full advantage of this by listening to it very loud and dancing around in my underwear. Yes, I said, I'm mildly embarrassed to admit these things.

2. I can't stop eating barbecue rice chips. I'm obsessed. And they're not real chips, so it's not that bad, right? Damn prednisone.

3. I can't stop thinking about Pride and Prejudice. I watched the Keira Knightley film again on Friday night and was obsessed looking at the differences between Austen's original (now that I've read it) and the adaptation. A couple of things really bothered me: Keira's posture and the way she stroked Darcy's legs at the end of the film; oh, and the fact that she was always wandering around in her bedshift. As if. And then, if I wasn't obsessed enough, I watched Bridget Jones's Diary. Again. For, like, the millionth time, just to see the similarities there as well. All I have left is to watch the PBS mini-series that everyone keeps raving about. I'm only 10 years off the bandwagon on that one. Talk about being tragically unhip.

So that's how I've spent my weekend? You?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Movie A Day - Friends With Money

I know I'm not doing the Book or Movie A Day challenges anymore, but I like the way the titles look.

Sigh.

Annnywaaay. I went to see Friends with Money this weekend with Wing Chun. It's taken me a while to post about the film because I've been thinking about it so much and it took me a while to elucidate exactly why I liked it. And it comes down to one thing: it's about women, women of a certain age, going through womanly things. Oh, it's all clear now, isn't it?

No, really, it's about four friends, each with very different lives and very different problems. One is wealthy and happily married (Joan Cusack), another is happily married but extremely unhappy (Frances McDormand), the third is unhappily married (Catherine Keener) and the last is just plain troubled (Jennifer Aniston). Each woman openly, even freely admits that they might not be friends now if they weren't friends already, a long-lasting kind of knowledge about one another informs the performances of all four lead actresses, and truly makes the film feel like you're watching a slice of their lives instead of a celluloid world.

At one point, Jane (Frances McDormand) simply stops washing her hair because it hurts her arms to keep them up there. A perfect and honest picture of depression, and despite the fact that everyone's worried about her, she still manages to be a good friend to Christine (Catherine Keener) when her marriage finally breaks down. In the middle of it all is Olivia (Jennifer Anistan), who has quit her job as a teacher and become a maid. Franny (Joan Cusack) revolves around them all like a strange sort of life coach, trying to fix everything and buying expensive tables at overpriced benefit dinners so they all can be together.

And just to bring it all back to me (I know, I'm sorry), the film made me think a lot about how much I've been contemplating life in general these days. A very poignant Jane bemoans the fact that she's now in her forties instead of just turned forty, and that's kind of how I feel these days too. I'm in the next stage of life, whatever that may be, too old to live like I did a decade ago, but too young to hang up my dancing shoes forever; I'm still treading water in terms of imagining what life has in store for me.

In a way, I'm a late bloomer (it takes me forever to do things; we didn't even get married until now and we're 34), and sometimes I think it might be because I wasn't sure I'd even make it this far. A little part of me was always convinced that I'd never live this long, my mother lost her life at thirty-four, the same age I am now, and I always saw that as the end. Now that I'm half-way through the year, and ready for another birthday in a few months, I can't help thinking that I've never even considered that life actually moves past that age.

What do I do now? What am I going to do with the rest of my life? How do I face it all? What makes me happy? Why does it make me happy? It fascinates me that one line from an 88-minute long film sets me off on a philosophical and psychological journey that probably won't end with the close of this sentence.

To sum up: it's a great little film, mandatory viewing with a group of equally lovely and amazing girlfriends.

#35 - The Debutante Divorcee

Okay, I know I vowed to read less crap, but when I left the house yesterday and actually forgot a book (which meant that I lost an hour of valuable reading time on the commute to and from work), I had to buy something to read. So, I bought The Debutante Divorcee by Plum Sykes. I mean, I couldn't waste a perfectly good streetcar ride, oh, I don't know, looking at the scenery, could I?

And wow, what a ridiculous book. I mean, ridiculous. I mean, even Candace Bushnell looks like high literature in comparison.

The paper thin plot revolves around Sylvie Mortimer, freshly married and already abandoned on her honeymoon when she meets Lauren Blount, heiress and the debutante divorcee of the book's cover. The two become fast friends and in a whirlwind mess of fashion, parties, and ridiculous situations, they do what simply amounts to a lot of nothing.

The "conflict" in the novel comes from Sylvie wondering if her ultra-fab TV-producer husband is having an affair with a devious woman in their jet set circle. Shall I ruin it for you? Oh, come on, it's not like you're actually going to read this book are you? Of course you're not. So, yeah, he's not having an affair it's all a big, say it with me, misunderstanding. Yawn.

You know, I've come to the conclusion that British chicklit is just so much better because it's not ultimately obsessed with fashion, fur (I KNOW, the horror) and the rigid ideals of beauty. When you place a book like The Debutante Divorcee next to any one of Gemma's books it's lacking a certain sense of reality. It's like reading Danielle Steele, only more ridiculous if you can imagine that. There's a difference between something being romantic and something being utterly vapid. The Brits understand that; it's why Bridget Jones did so well, and it's why the Plum Sykes and Lauren Weisbergers of the world will sell books, but are missing the magic.

And the dialogue, good lord, if I met a man that spoke like Hunter, Sylvie's husband, I'd have to kill myself figuratively and bleed all over the pages in protest. With all the "darlings" and "sweethearts" and jewels and yachts, I was yearning for something, anything that approached a real emotion in this novel. And, like this world Plum creates, it simply doesn't exist.

Sigh. I hate it when my brain is so tired all it can handle is dreck, but I resent myself so much for it in the end.

The End Of A Fast-Talking Era

My recent thoughts about the decline of Gilmore Girls aside (and anyone who knows me knows how much I heart that show), I read this article and my heart broke just a little bit. I can't even imagine what the show is going to be like with someone other that ASP at the head or where it'll go in its final seasons. Gasp! What will the Faux-vo do without its Tuesday night schedule imprinted on its little grey brain?

Who? Moi?

Ever since I bought some Jo Malone perfume, I've been caught smelling myself more than once. Yes, this is just as embarrassing as it sounds. But it's so funny, because I'm allergic and the majority of perfumes give me a headache, wearing one that doesn't is a totally novel experience.

Sooo, it means more often than not, I've got my nose hunkered down to my chest sniffing myself. Because it smells so good and I can't believe that it's me that smells that way. It's a total boost, one that I needed desperately as I'm having a kind of bad disease week.

As much as I enjoy being a band widow, there are parts of being left alone so much that are kind of hard. For example, when my RRHB got back from tour and saw me for the first time, he said he "recoiled in horror." Honestly, those were the words he used. He backtracked and said it was because he hadn't seen how puffy I was from the new dose of prednisone, but still: Recoiled. In. Horror.

Doesn't do a lot for a tenuous ego that's strapped to the edges of sanity for the most part these days. So anything that I can do to feel kind of even remotely attractive, be it perfume, or a new haircut, or new shoes, I'm kind of indulging myself. Well, I'll admit it, I'm over-indulging, but as of May 9th (when I see the super-fancy disease doctor again), I'm back on new drugs for the disease, which will, in turn, make me feel like complete crap all over again, I'm taking the good where I can grab it.

Now, if I can only stop smelling myself in public...

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

#34 - On Beauty

Zadie Smith's third novel On Beauty, thankfully better than her second (Autograph Man, which I really didn't like) and a more mature book than her first, marks a change in the progress of her art, I think. It's a serious book (not without comic touches and her own deft style) that could be studied and analyzed and debated and on and on. In short, it's serious literature. And there's no doubting that Zadie Smith is seriously talented.

Was Carlene Kipps one of these women who promises friendship but never truly delivers it? A friendship flirt?
This idea of a 'friendship flirt' works kind of as a metaphor for me in terms of my reading of the entire novel. At all times, I had the idea that I was reading something great, something magnificent, something prize-worthy and canon-inducting, but I also thought there was something off, something not quite right, but I couldn't put my finger on it.

I've never read Howard's End, which the book writes back to (as I understand it), but I'd like to now, just to compare the two novels. The Howard in Smith's book is a stumbling, bumbling white art professor whose infidelity ruins his thirty year marriage to his black wife Kiki. Their three kids, two in university, and one still in high school, are almost typical middle class suburban US kids, each with their own agenda (Jerome's a Christian, Zora a super-student and Levi a wanna-be 'gangsta' with a heart of almost gold). The main conflict in the book, between Howard and a rival thinker named Monty Kipps, conflates when the latter arrives at Wellington, the school near Boston where the former has taught for ten years.

And I can't put my finger on it, but as much as I loved this novel there was something in the book that just didn't feel authentic despite the fact that it brought me to tears toward the end, especially when Howard's marriage inevitably breaks down. It could be the dialogue, the American-ness of it all, it could be the fact that Smith sometimes uses words and phrases that could be simpler, it could be entire characters introduced for pages upon pages and then never brought up again, it could be a number of things where on the whole, I questioned On Beauty. But that didn't take away from a pretty great reading experience and as I'm not writing a paper or defending a thesis, just keeping a silly little reading blog, I guess that's all right in the end.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

My Eyes! My Eyes!

I went to the hospital today for my visual field test. Easiest. Test. Ever. You sit on a chair, rest your chin and then stare into a little plastic box with your eyes covered and then push a button when you see flashing lights. I, of course, saw flashing lights everywhere, so I'm sure I failed, but whatever, I didn't get pricked, prodded, x-rayed, MRI-ed, shot full of dye, or any other number of annoying things that usually happen when I'm at the hospital. Oh! And I was early, so I was in and out of there in 10 freaking minutes.

How sweet is that?

It's maple syrup I tell you, maple bloody syrup!

What's Next?

Will they remove the mute button too? And I know the age of the Faux-Vo is coming where they won't let you fast-forward through commercials, but couldn't they just give me a couple of years of uninterrupted bliss? Buggers.

Good, Honest Truth

From Margaret Atwood in this podcast interview on Bookbuffet.com. When the interviewer asks about Ms. Atwood's intentions when writing a book, she answers honesty, that it is to "strive to write a good book, if that's not the goal [and I'm paraphrasing here], then you're not really a writer."

I love the simplicity in that statement. It encapsulates both the ideal of writing and the essence of the goal, but at the same time it doesn't belie how difficult the task most certainly is for novelists.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Brain Dead

I'm trying to read On Beauty and not getting very far because it's a kind of concentrate-hard book and I'm so tired and sleepy and drowsy that it's impossible to follow the words on the page.

But how pathetic is it to want to go to bed, to sleep, at 7:34 PM?

I'm too tired even to watch TV.

Damn disease!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sex And The City Years

I'm not ashamed to admit how much I miss having new episodes of Sex and the City to look forward to. For a while there, Bravo was airing marathon sessions of six or so episodes in a row, and I Faux-Voed them all, because they made perfect tv watching when the WG-fatigue hits in the early evenings.

And one of the most surprisingly wonderful things about the disease, is that I have energy in the mornings. Not while my blood was missing mind you, but now that it's been found, I actually wake up chemically rested (I'm taking sleeping pills because the prednisone keeps you awake) with energy at a decent hour.

This morning, I woke up at 7:30 AM and cleaned the house, well half of the house, the other half will have to get done throughout the week. Then, I went to brunch with Sam, and yesterday, I had lunch with another girlfriend. And it's that sitting around, eating, with a good friend that makes me so happy that I have energy. Anyway, having brunch two days in a row made me think of Sex and the City and how much I miss the show, and all kinds of other good stuff.

Earth Day Revolutions

Yesterday, being Earth Day, I sat down and wrote out some revolutions that I was going to try to stick to. And it shocked me, as I walked around shopping on Saturday afternoon, when I told people that I didn't want a plastic bag for my $11.00 t-shirt because it was Earth Day, that no one a) really cared or b) even noticed.

Here's a sample of the conversation I had buying said $11.00 t-shirt:

Ragdoll: "I don't need a bag, just a bit of tissue paper."

Idiotic Store Clerk: "That's good!" [Insert horsey giggle here] "We don't have very many!"

Ragdoll: "It's Earth Day, so I'm trying not to collect any plastic bags."

IDC: "It's your birthday! That's nice."

Ragdoll: "No, it's Earth Day."

IDC: "Congratulations! This t-shirt's a real bargain..."

Honestly. That was my conversation.

Next up I went to the super-expensive department store and bought some super-expensive, yet all natural perfume (thanks for the tip Indigo), which won't make me sicker and will still leave me feeling pretty. Again, I had a funny conversation about Earth Day as the lovely and charming clerk deposited my gorgeous bottle in a lovely box with tissue paper and ribbon. I didn't take a bag though, which was something anyway.

My revolutions mainly consist of little things I can do, turning the heat down or off, using the halogen light bulbs, cutting down on what I consume and how I consume it, taking public transit when I'm not working out of the city (which I do all the time) and walking more.

The idea of Earth Day, however, didn't stop me from shopping, which I am slowly becoming more and more afraid I might be addicted to. Sigh. Not the idea mind you, the actual shopping. It'll be good when my RRHB stops touring because once he's home I know I won't have two days on my own to wander around downtown after brunch looking longingly at shoes I'm trying to rationalize spending $400.00 on.

#33 - Salt Rain

Normally, I choose books to read based on a number of things: I read a good review; it's an author I like; there's a movie coming out; it's a classic; someone's recommended the book or I've heard a lot of buzz about it. In the very, very rare instance I'll read a book based on the cover, which is why I read Sarah Armstrong's first novel, Salt Rain. With such a gorgeous green cover, it felt extremely relevant to be reading the novel on Earth Day of all days.

Armstrong's from Australia, and like Camilla Gibb's Sweetness in the Belly, her novel also transported me to a world quite unfamiliar to my own. Set in the valley of the Australian backcountry, where they have a rainy season and farmers are used to extreme flooding, Salt Rain tells the story of Allie, a 14-year-old girl whose mother has just gone missing in the Sydney Harbour.

Allie's aunt, Julia, Mae (her mother's) younger sister, takes her back to the farm where they were both raised. The complex family relationship countered with the volatile nature of the environment (the floods) balances a dense and sombre novel. While the crux of the Salt Rain revolves around Allie finding out about the truth of her birth, the prose, thick like the rain forest, with level after level of metaphor, works remarkably well with the simplistic storyline.

As much as the book is Allie's story, her quest to find her father and to know the truth about her mother, it's also about Julia. The two women find their way around each other, navigating the steps of their new relationship, as hard as that is when its defined by bloodlines and death. As Allie sits in opposition to her aunt most of the time, Julia faces her own demons in her family history. She's letting the farm go back to nature, planting trees instead of harvesting them, and feels the wrath of her grandmother and uncle. How the two women come to an understand that eventually leads to a quiet revolution in both of their lives is both touching and necessary.

And for a novel I picked up on a whim, I was so pleasantly surprised by Salt Rain that it kind of took me aback. It's nice to see something so beautiful from an aesthetic point of view, actually be that way too between the covers.

#32 - Anybody Out There

For anyone actually keeping track, there are spoilers below, so if you don't want to know what happens in Anybody Out There? Marian Keyes's latest novel, don't read this mini-review.

Okay, with that out of the way, I finished Marian Keyes massively huge latest novel (it's 592 pages, feck, I know the type is huge, but come on), in record time. Yes, it's chicklit, so it's easy to read, but I think too because her books have become so predictable to me (I've read so many of them) that I kind of hoovered through it instead of savouring the book, like I did with the other novel I read this weekend.

The novel continues the story of the Walsh clan, now with Anna, the second youngest daughter, who is home in Ireland after something traumatic happening to her. Um yeah, the trauma? [Here's the spoiler part] Is a car accident that kills Anna's fresh husband Aidan, and leaves her scared, injured and a 33-year-old widow. But we don't find that out until we're well on the way of being two hundred pages into the novel. Of course, I'm saying to myself, "Oh, she's been in an accident and her husband is dead, which is why no one's a) talking about him or b) slagging him off because he's not there with her, helping her recover."

But on the whole, it's kind of annoying, not knowing. I mean, I understand that Keyes is trying to capture the shock of it all; the veritable other world Anna lives in until halfway through the book when she fully comprehends the fact that her lovely husband is dead. But to some extent, I also felt strung along, like "just tell me what happened already." You know?

There's a lot in this novel to like if you like Keyes; it's very much more of the same, the same cute prose, the same cute storyline, but there's a lot that doesn't need to be in here (did I mention it's almost 600 pages?), like her sister Helen's crazy private investigator subplot, and sometimes, the chicklit-ness of it all kind of got to me (I know, I'm asking for it, aren't I). However, it was a band widow weekend, so it was a very appropriate book. Yet, after reading and loving Pride and Prejudice so much, and taking a look at all of the very worthy and huge books I have on my shelf, I might take a break from chicklit for a while.

And then again, it's summer, and what's better for summer than a sweet, pink book about romance and happy endings?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Band Widow Weekend

With my RRHB safely off to his show in K-town, I am blissfully entrenched in my band widow weekend mode already, and it's only 5:56 PM on Friday night. Oh, I'm not ashamed to say I'm already in my PJs, am halfway through the latest Marian Keyes novel, and will be watching the 9 PM airing of The Interpreter on TMN. I might even throw in a couple episodes of my new favourite show, Pepper Dennis, that are fabulously waiting for me on the Faux-Vo.

Then, it's all brunches, Banff stories and Friends with Money, with a quick trip to the osteopath planned for tomorrow afternoon. I've already run all the errands (groceries, cat food, office supplies) and, with the exception of the house cleaning, which I will do at my leisure, I've got nothing but free time staring me in the face.

The short, weekender trips are much easier to take than the long-ass three week stints in terms of being a band widow. It kind of makes you appreciate free time and hanging out with yourself. Even if that self is exhausted, puffy from medication and terribly chubby at the moment.

Ahhh, bliss...

And if you live in Kingston, go see my RRHB play tonight. You'll have a good time. I promise.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Gemma!

One of the first rules of blogging: don't talk about work. One of the second rules of blogging: don't blog about work. After my awful experience of my last job (third rule of blogging: always slag off old, jackass boss on blog, because what are they going to do, fire me again? Pulease.), I try to keep my writing life and my work life separate.

However, working in publishing kind of makes that impossible...especially when awesomely fun things like having lunch with my fav chicklit author, Gemma Townley, happen. Oh, she's so lovely! Very smart, witty, funny and awesomely talented.

Toward the end of the lunch, as she was signing my copy of Learning Curves, I said, "I really love your books. I compare all other chicklit to Gemma books [and I do, see previous posts]."

And she replied, "You do not!"

I said, "I absolutely do!"

Fourth, and final, rule of blogging for today: learn to keep gushing under control unless covered by the veil of a pseudonym.

#31 - Sweetness In The Belly

This is who I am, perhaps who we all are, keepers of the absent and the dead. It is the blessing and the burden of being alive...None of us are orphans if everyone we've ever loved has died.
I can honestly say that Camilla Gibb's Sweetness in the Belly is unlike any book I have ever read. Not in the way she tells Lilly's story, backwards and forwards, past and present, between her time spent in Ethiopia and in London, a white Muslim in a world that constantly forces her to the outside, but in the story itself. What little I do know about Ethiopia comes from images on the news: years old pictures of starving children, Sir Bob's concert, flies landing on open eyes and the rounded, distended bellies of children.

And perhaps that's my own ignorance, I mean, of course that's my own ignorance, which is why I am moved by this book so very much. It took me into a world so different from my own that it's impossible not to think about how narrow our own lives are here. Perhaps that's not the right word, but that's how it feels, my world of comfort and complete meals, warm clothes, clean sheets, shoes.

I'm always one to tell people that suffering can't be compared. That pain is pain and people feel it equally, nothing that hurts should be discounted because someone beside you has suffered more or less than yourself. Yet, this book put my life into perspective, or maybe gave me the perspective to feel so much for the main character, Lilly, displaced more than once by her skin colour, her gender, her beliefs, her love for an adopted country and a man who went missing with the revolution.

Told with a voice keen with longing and strength of character, Lilly, a white woman, half British, half Irish, ends up an orphan in North Africa. Raised by a Muslim man, strict in religion and the teachings of the Qur'an, she makes a pilgrimage to Harar, Ethiopia, where she finds that being white and a woman excludes her from continuing her education. Banished to the home of a poor, ex-lover of the sheikh (the man she was sent to learn from), Lilly slowly finds her way in her new adopted home and eventually falls in love with a young, idealistic doctor named Aziz.

Revolution, war and religion all combine to make it impossible for the two to marry, and Lilly eventually must flee Ethiopia as Halie Selassie is deposed. She spends the next years searching for Aziz from London, where she now makes her home and her living as a nurse. As a truly displaced person, Lilly's story is both moving and addictive. Once I started this book, I couldn't put it down. Good thing my RRHB still has about a billion hours of TV to catch up on, or else he might have been perturbed at me spending hours lying in bed, imagining dry, dusty streets, damaged and broken ideals, inapprehensible suffering, and the deep-seated joy and peace in simple honest beliefs.

As bittersweet yet inspiring as strong coffee in the morning and as satisfying as a swim in the lake after a long summer day, Sweetness in the Belly truly captured my attention.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Dare To Dream

I don't care what anyone says. I'm still dreaming about giving up my day job.

Strange Coincidences

Last night I had one of the most surreal evenings I've had in a long, long time. A friend of ours is visiting from London, and she came over to see us before she heads back across the pond on Friday. At first the plan was to make dinner at home, but my RRHB wasn't interested in making pizza and salad for a guest, so we went out.

I was so tired (gasp! me! tired! shocking, I know) and grumpy from working (not being the job makes me grumpy but because it was a bit too much yesterday) that the last thing I wanted to do was go out for dinner. I wanted to kick back in my sweats and hang out for some old fashioned gossip with Elyssa.

Annnywaaay. We went to a local restaurant called Mitzi's Sister. Just as we sat down, I noticed a couple of cute kids playing and thought, "it's nice to see families out in the neighbourhood." Then I didn't give them another thought. We started our conversation in earnest, discussing our days with Elyssa and chatting about Mitzi's Sister when I heard someone say, "Ragdoll? Is that you? I recognized your voice!"

Well, it was Mark, this fellow my RRHB and I went to high school with. In fact, one of the greatest memories I have of high school is watching Mark and my crazy ex-boyfriend playing imaginary snap (with no cards) at my kitchen table at my fifteenth birthday party with my grandmother. My grandmother loved Mark and always talked about how handsome he was. I don't know if he ever knew that.

So he says to me, "Holly's been looking for you!" Now, Holly was one of my closest friends in high school, in grades nine and ten there was a group of us who were pretty much inseparable, and she and I spent a lot of time together. But as these things go, you grow up, people move away and you don't see them anymore. But every now and again, I'd run into someone who'd say, "Oh, I saw Holly and she wondered how you were," and we just never connected. So, I gave Mark my card, we all chatted for a bit (it was his lovely family I noticed) and we went on with our dinner.

Until five minutes later when Holly, beautiful Holly, showed up at the restaurant. It was magical, wonderful and truly one of the most surprising evenings I've had in a long time. I haven't seen her in probably close to fifteen years and it was so absolutely fantastic to see her again. In fact, the "reunion" of old friends has been quite a trend in my life lately. Just the other weekend, Zesty and I had brunch with some of our other old high school friends who we haven't seen in forever, and that was one of the best days I've had in a long time too.

And it got me thinking that the universe is an extremely powerful thing. Holly had been thinking a lot about being a mom and all the stuff that happened to me just before I got to high school (my mom's car accident), and wanted to see me. Then, we find out that we live within blocks of each other and her cousin actually lives around the corner from me and my RRHB.

But also that I've been having an extremely hard year with the disease and trying to get healthy, and I think the world is sending all this wonderful stuff my way just to let me know that everything's going to be okay. And the best thing is hearing about other people's memories, how it makes you think of things that your mind had long forgotten (apparently, I was a fried egg for Halloween one year, heh!). But most importantly it's to remember that there was a reason you were drawn to these people in the first place and that energy doesn't go away despite living in different places, days, months, even years passing, and it made me giddy just to sit there talking to her.

The world is truly a magical place.

#30 - Pride And Prejudice

"There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more I am dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of either merit or sense."
-Lizzie Bennett to her sister Jane

For some reason, I thought I had read this book already once in my lifetime. After seeing the latest movie version and umpteen other related films (Bride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones, etc.), I guess I knew the story so well I just assumed I'd already read the original.

I was completely mistaken. From the first delicious sentence, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife," I realized that I'd never been down this path before. Now, I'm hooked. All I want to read is Austen, non-stop Jane, just like The Jane Austen Book Club, but obviously more interesting than that silly book.

Now, I know there's nothing new I can say about Pride and Prejudice; I'm not even going to attempt to because I'm sure everything worthy about the novel has already been said. What I will say is that reading Pride and Prejudice was an experience of unadulterated bliss. I spent every spare moment over the Easter long weekend with my head in the book, much to the detriment of my poor RRHB.

And one thing I did not expect was how funny the novel is, quite like reading Restoration comedies; I actually laughed out loud on more than one occasion. And despite knowing the story backwards and forwards, I exclaimed, "Oh, no, Wickham!" when Lydia ran off, squeezed out a couple tears when Jane and Bingley finally got together, and gasped when Lizzie saw Darcy on her visit to Pemberley. Imagine that—a book written two hundred years ago might just be one of the best books I've read all year. It has so thoroughly influenced modern fiction, and especially genres like chicklit, that I'm so glad I actually got around to realizing that I'd never read the original. Ahem, I guess there's good reason why it's called a 'classic.'

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Going Too Fast

We drove up north on Thursday night so we could have a full day there on Friday. I was a bit hesitant to go up so late because the cottage hasn't been opened up since last fall, which would mean piles of mouse crap and all kinds of other annoying things. And because I'm so tired by the time I go to bed (exhausted at 4 PM, hang in there until 10 PM, collapse in bed with a book, asleep by 10:15 PM kind of thing), I didn't know if I'd have the energy to even sweep the floor by the time we go there.

My RRHB is on an opposite schedule to me. He's just come back from tour, which means he's used to being up all night, driving all ages and not going to bed until well into the morning. Hence the fact that he'd be more awake to drive the giant rock van at night than in the morning. So, we threw some food into some cotton bags, grabbed our PJs and off we went.

It was a gorgeous day yesterday. Perfect for cottage cleaning. It wasn't too cold or damp for April and we got a lot done. Namely, we brought back a giant dresser of my grandmother's for the house here because a) it's too big for the room b) there are already 4 dressers up there and c) we're trying to clear as much out of the cottage as possible.

We would have got a lot more done if the dump had been open (it was Good Friday), but we've already made a plan to go back up in a month, the weekend before the May long weekend, to finish organizing all of the furniture and actually get the cottage cleaned right out. How does so much stuff accumulate in such a small place? It never ceases to amaze me.

But I'm hella tired today. It was a long day of going through the mud room, where everyone (including myself) seems to have thrown everything they don't want to deal with in terms of the cottage over the last three or four years. It's clean and organized now, quite a feat!

#29 - Haunted

When I first read Pamie's description of the experience with the novel Haunted, and then heard all the stories about the crazy things Palahniuk does at his readings (the raw meat smells, the breath holding), I had pretty much made up my mind I would never, ever pick up this book.

I'm not a big fan of horror movies. They scare me too much. I have trouble separating the fact from the fiction. My RRHB took me to see The Exorcist when it was re-issued a few years ago. I have never seen another horror movie in the theatre. Oh sure, once in a while he'll force me to watch Sean of the Dead or something of the like, and I'll survive—but I won't like it, that's for sure.

Just let me give you an example, you know that totally silly movie with Richard Gere and Laura Linney The Mothman Prophecies? Okay, that film, that timid piece of Hollywood dreck, scared me so much that I slept with the light on.

So, the creepy, freaky world of Haunted wasn't going to be easy. But all the other girls I was reading the book with (even Sam) managed to finish it, so off I went. One part of me wished I was still doing the Book A Day challenge because then I could read it quickly (with a deadline) so the scariness doesn't keep freaking me out and make me check under the bed before I go to sleep.

Haunted is a series of interlinked stories, each introduced by a prose poem, with narrative sprinkled in that sets the novel at a writer's retreat. Only this isn't your average writer's retreat—no one's leaving. The short stories are written by the subject of the preceding poem, and everyone has nicknames (Earl of Slander, Miss America, etc), which somewhat reflect why they are there and who they are.

The tales are succinct and are more like morality plays in a sense. It's a book of stories, but it's also very much about storytelling and storytelling techniques. And there's an historical aspect that I liked very much as well, how many of the characters kept mentioning the retreat in terms of the Villa Diodati, where Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein (the real Frankenstein, not the one I abridged, there was no Villa in my writing experience, sigh). I guess in a way he's sort of writing back to the Romantics, to Poe, continuing the tradition before we were over-stimulated by slasher films, where you could be scared just by words on a page.

Palahniuk does this exceptionally well. There's a literary bent to his writing that steers it away from Stephen King territory (but correct me if I'm wrong because I've never read a Stephen King novel), and the one quality I truly admire about this novel is how he never takes the stories where you might imagine they would go.

If I had to pick a favourite, it might have to be "Slumming" by Lady Baglady. In a way, it's almost a parody of Jay McInerney's Good Life, which I found kind of refreshing. The ooky-spooky stuff is still there but I liked the commentary about how poverty is the new rich and how ridiculously wealthy people were dipping themselves in urine scents and partying under bridges.

And the title is perfect. It works on so many levels. Damn book, I can't get it out of my mind even though I've moved on to a murder mystery (something Murder She Wrote-ish) so I can finally get some sleep.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Whirlwind...

Last minute flight up to the cottage tonight where my RRHB swears I won't have to do anything except sit in their rock and roll van and enjoy the view. Full update on Saturday...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Prednisone Blues

So the prednisone crazies continue to be the worst side effect (even worse than my puffy face) that I'm facing these days. The littlest thing seems to upset me; things that normally wouldn't bother me, like getting a rude email or someone being mean to you for no reason. You know, the stuff that you learn to sluff off like dry skin after using a loofah by the time you're in your thirties. Well, that's the stuff that's making me bawl. And I can't control when or why it happens. Which means that today I was sitting at my desk crying like a teenager about a mean email. I mean really? What happened to my backbone, did it disappear with my blood and never return?

Then I got home and relayed the entire story to my RRHB, bawling again. I've spent the better part of an hour all tolled today crying. For. No. Reason.

The prednisone weepies are way worse than the prednisone voice telling you to dive off a building. But at least I'm not hearing those at the same time or I'd really be in trouble.

History Remade Video Sneak Peak

Found this entry on another blog this morning. If anyone wants to see my RRHB's new video, the one they made with the cell phones, take a look and let me know what you think!

And just for the record, my RRHB is the one on the right...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

For Shame

Shame on you Rona Ambrose, our 'so-called' Environment Minister. Isn't it your job to make our responsibilities to the Kyoto Accord targets happen (link via Grist)? Isn't that what our good tax dollars are paying you to do? Certainly not paying you to pass the buck and/or make pathetic excuses about needing more time. The whole point is that we have no time.

Here's an idea. Use the big old brain you've got and think about some solutions. I mean, it can't be that hard—Oprah had a whole show about it, and she's only one woman. Get people to change their light bulbs. Get them to read the new Vanity Fair issue that's on stands now. Subsidize Bullfrog so it's more affordable for everyday people. Tax the sh*t out of SUVs. Just do something instead of sticking your finger up your ass and saying, "it can't be done."

Now there's a message we want to be sending to our kids.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Back to Work & Things To Do Wrap Up

Last night I had such a hard time dealing with the idea of going back to work. Of course, this culminated in a lot of crying over other things, issues with my father, other family members, being grumpy with my RRHB for being away so long, and just the general tiredness of dealing with the disease and all of the various side effects of the prednisone.

The "prednisone crazies" are out in full force. My skin is breaking out and I've gained weight; as well, I've got some chest acne, pain in my left hip and a puffy face. On Saturday I went to get new glasses and was so frustrated with looking at my puffy face in the mirror I almost broke down in Lenscrafters. It's funny, it's not like black dog depression; I can realize that it's the prednisone crazies, but that doesn't stop the tears from falling freely.

The emotional roller coaster kept me awake for hours. This meant I was ironing the pants I wore today at 1:30AM. I was well prepared for today. I packed my purse and knapsack the night before, planned my breakfast (made a smoothie), organized all of my meds (the supplements I'm taking at lunch) and made a list of the things I was taking for lunch. As a result, when the alarm went off this morning, I didn't feel panicked and frustrated, nor did I worry I was going to be late. In fact, it was a stressfree morning.

And that feeling carried on throughout the day. I had myself all in a panic about a meeting with HR this morning to talk about the sick leave. Not that could be helped, I mean, after all, the last time I went back to work after a sick leave I got fired by the Boss From Hell. But in the end, everyone was happy to see me. Everyone commented on how well I looked, how much they liked my snappy new haircut.

Most importantly, I made it through the whole day and I'm only semi-exhausted. I'm actually quite proud of myself.

Now, to the list...I didn't do too badly. Here's a wrap up:

1. Complete my own version of John Allemang's Book A Day challenge. Follow with a Movie A Day challenge as well (the challenge here will be limiting myself to just one movie a day). I'm spending way, way too much time in front of the television.
I read 15 books since posting my list on March 22nd. Not quite one per day, but I didn't do too badly. If you count it as a work week challenge, I did all right. Not bad, if I do say so myself.

2. Finish unpacking our boxes and transfer the unused contents to plastic storage bins that can go in the basement. This is so my RRHB (when he gets back from tour) can completely demolish the first floor. This is a selfish goal to some extent because I'm so sick of only living on one floor of the house that anything I can do to help the renovation along, I'm going to do.
This was too much for me. The boxes are too full and too heavy and I need my RRHB's help. I did move some of the plastic boxes to the basement, so that's a start. I'd count this one one third done.

3. Go through all my old writing and transfer as much as I can to the new computer. I bought a cute little clipboard from the Pottery Barn, just to hold up my pages!
I've started this too, it's an ongoing process, one that'll probably take me a few months to complete. I did, however, put all of my writing in one plastic bin, but I've got so much that I'll need another one. I need to make a trip to Staples this week to buy some more storage containers. So, still working on this one too.

4. Create a menu plan for the next three weeks. Then go grocery shopping.
Yeah, didn't do this at all—but I did do a lot of grocery shopping around the advice of the naturopath, which was kind of the point.

7. Research yoga classes for the diseased. Do such things exist?
8. Clean the downstairs hallway. Part of #2.
Done and done!

9. Get our taxes organized. Take everything to an accountant.
I have the name of a good accountant, but I haven't done any organizing yet. Another project for this week. Will keep you posted.

11. Clean out the car (see #10).
Didn't have the energy for this either. Fingers crossed it gets done this weekend.

13. Write each day (and not just on the blog).
I did this! Done and done!

15. Write all of my non-wedding thank you notes.
Still on the list.

16. See the eye doctor (appointment made), family doctor (appointment made), naturopath (appointment made) and osteopath (appointment not made yet...). This is all in the goal of spending the next 2.5 weeks getting as well as I humanly can get in the time I've got to myself.
Done and done!

All in all, not too shabby, I think, not too shabby—good effort!

#28 - Blankets

Blankets, Craig Thompson's , illustrated novel completes my Book A Day challenge (for now). I'm going to give it a couple of days (with working) to see if I can maintain the same pace, but I doubt it.

I choose an easy one, a graphic novel, but having never read one before, I didn't quite know what to expect. It's a sweet tale of the author growing up, falling in love and questioning his Christian faith, told in a balance of words and pictures. I'm consistently amazed at the ability of graphic novel authors to a) achieve a tone with such a small amount of words and b) tell such wonderful stories in their pictures.

As I was awake with nerves and whatnot last night until after 2 AM, it was an easy book to read in order to try and calm down, and that so much of it was inspired by different parts of scripture (in how he's learning about his faith, testing his faith, finally coming to terms with how he approaches his faith), meant it sort of calmed me down too.

The love story makes up most of the middle section of the book and it's easy to see how the author fell in love with his heroine. She's quite remarkable and led one hell of a hard life. This book makes me want to read more graphic novels, but I wouldn't even know where to start.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Poison?

And no, not the rockin' it awesome Turk-dancing, lip-synching kind...the I'm so dumb I can't believe I did that kind.

So, the cat sh*t in the tub. This is something she does often. She and my RRHB's cat don't get along. It's a fact of our life together. I needed to clean up said sh*t and dumped in what I thought was tub cleaner—it wasn't, it was toilet bowl cleaner. Clearly noticing I made a mistake, I quickly dumped the real tub cleaner into the tub. Now that was an even bigger mistake. Apparently, I mixed bleach and ammonia, which according to my RRHB, who I called bawling because I couldn't breathe, I made a homemade form of mustard gas.

What's wrong with me? Oh, I know, I'm a complete and utter knucklehead.

#27 - Black Swan Green

David Mitchell's Black Swan Green is the kind of book you just devour. It's a year in the life of Jason Taylor, a thirteen-year-old boy who lives in Black Swan Green (a small village in Worcestershire), who stammers, has a wicked imagination, writes poetry and suffers at the hand of adolescence. Told in a sweeping stream of consciousness narrative, the book totally brings you into the mind of a boy that age, and it's pitch perfect.

To an extent, the book reminded me a bit of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, but maybe only because both Mitchell and Haddon use similar narrative styles. Ripe with details about what it's like to be a kid, the book oozes adolescence, which brought me right back to grade eight and left me standing around George's (can't remember his last name) living room listening to Duran Duran and flirting over X-Men comics.

It's an impressive novel. Truly. Which, of course, means that now I'm going to have to read Cloud Atlas.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

#26 - The Birth House

I had picked up Ami McKay's The Birth House a while ago, read the prologue and decided that it might not be the book for me (I thought the prose might be just a tad overwrought). But after hearing such good things about the book from, well, just about everywhere, happily, I gave it another chance and ended up quite enjoying the novel.

The book tells the story of Dora Rare, the only woman born in generations of boys, who grows up in Scots Bay, Nova Scotia around the time of the First World War. Taken under the wing of Miss B., a local legendary healer, Dora becomes a midwife. Much of the conflict in the book revolves around the arrival of a Dr. Gilbert Thomas, an obstetrician determined to take the 'pain' out of birth at his new hospital, and an almost metaphorical battle of the sexes erupts as the women hold on to their own traditions.

It's almost a folkart piece of fiction, with newspaper clippings, letters, journal entries and remedies intertwined with the story itself. McKay's voice, as Joan Clark points out on the cover, is "fresh as a loaf of bread," and I'd have to agree.

So it looks like I'm getting to finish a book every other day, slightly off my original goals, but I'm doing all right. My wish is to make it to 30 or so before I have to back to work on Monday!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Movie A Day - Brokeback Mountain (#10)

I'm not sure if I've fully digested my thoughts about Brokeback Mountain. It's hard to separate what I think from all of the hype surrounding the movie, especially the controversy it caused on Oscar night when it didn't win the coveted Best Picture trophy. In all honesty, it's a touching, luscious film, a true love story that compliments the gorgeous scenery and sparcity of dialogue. But Jewel aside, I might have to say that I liked Ride with the Devil better (please don't throw anything at me), but I can't really put my finger on why. Maybe it's because I like Tobey's brooding slightly better than Jake Gyllenhaal's, but who knows. In the end, it's kind of irrelevant anyway.

There was slight movie of the week feeling about the film, which I normally enjoy; it mainly came up in terms of how much the characters had to age, and it's hard, when they're all so young to begin with, that I didn't find it believable (Anne Hathaway's wigs, ouch). The performances were exceptional, and I remember reading an article way back in the day about Leaving Las Vegas, about how the Oscar should go to career-worthy performances, performances of a lifetime (the writer was talking about Elisabeth Shue), and I kind of think that refers to Heath Ledger in this film.

All in all, I loved Annie Proulx's short story and I loved the aching feeling throughout the film of how love tortures as much as it fulfills. And I can't help thinking that it's a groundbreaking film simply in how it approaches the idea of a love story, honest and real, without making any judgments. I think that's totally liberating, if that's okay for me to say.

But was it better than Crash? Absolutely.

Oh, and Randy Quaid? With your, um, seven or eight lines of dialogue, and one or two scenes with a horse, shut the hell up.

The Prednisone Strikes Again

So it seems that every time I see a doctor these days, it results in more tests and more appointments. It's the health challenge that's for sure. Yesterday, I saw the eye doctor, which completes my round of health-related visits for now, and knocks #16 off the list. I've still got to see the osteopath, but that's only because he didn't have any appointments for the time I had off.

Annnywaaay, apparently, the prednisone is causing me to have abnormal eye pressure. In short, it was normal the last time I saw the eye doctor and totally abnormal now, which means I've got to go get a visual field test done. Then, I need to see the eye doctor again in three months to be sure that once they've weaned me off the prednisone that my eye pressure returns to normal. Or else? Well, I could end up having some sort of permanent optic nerve damage. Fun wow!

I also got my prescription for health from the naturopath yesterday. It's a lot of supplements for the next three months, which I hate because I'm sick, sick, sick to death of taking pills. I've also got an immune stabilizing tincture to take and a homeopathic remedy that I do once a week for six weeks. It's pretty crazy, actually.

So I'm ready for work on Monday (really?), I'll have new glasses (if I can get them tomorrow), a new haircut, some new clothes, lots of good remedies for rest and stuff, and a whole health plan to finally kick the ass of the disease instead of the other way around.

In the end, I'm thankful for the time off, so I guess it was good that my blood went missing, but I'm even happier that I'm feeling better because it simply couldn't have gone on like that forever.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

#25 - In Cold Blood

Truman Capote's masterpiece has most certainly held the test of time. In stark contrast to the solipsism of the film, where Capote's own obsession with the story of the Clutter murders in Kansas in the late 1950s almost drove him to utter madness (at least that was my impression), In Cold Blood remarkably and deftly tells the tale with an omniscient third person voice that remains almost authorless.

Of course, Capote's long-winded, aptly rich prose remains his own, but the idea of the "nonfiction novel" so cherished as a new format in the film, demands a point of view that approaches journalism, but it doesn't necessarily step into Good Night, Good Luck territory ("we report the news, we don't make the news").

That's the greatest achievement of the book I think, of how Capote manages to truly and precisely tell the story, make it his own, but be absolutely clear in his distanced point of view. The book would not have succeeded had Capote's own neurosis, his obsession with Perry Smith, or his quest for greatness been anywhere near the story. And I guess that's why the film marks such a diversion from the pure voice of the book.

I think that's what amazed me most of all on my second reading of the book, how different the film presents Capote vs. how in control of the narrative he remains all through the book. I loved it the first time I read it almost ten years ago; I loved it again now.

Book A Day Update

I've fallen behind...I'm in the middle of In Cold Blood and it's a dense book that's taking me some time to read. I became kind of obsessed with re-reading the book after seeing Capote. But I should be done today. I've got lots of time on the streetcar this morning heading off to see the naturopath once more before I go back to work on Monday.

Move A Day Update

So I've seen a number of films over the past few days but I've sincerely limited my time in front of the television, which is good...

On Monday I watched Inside Man (#6). Spike Lee is one of my favourite filmmakers, Crooklyn one of my favourite films, so I'll pretty much watch anything he makes with the exception of the abysmally reviewed She Hate Me. The trailer looked great but it sort of belies the film a bit; you get the impression that it's all about action, when it's more of a film noir take on the traditional heist movie. Denzel's excellent, but there's a silly subplot that involves his girlfriend/lover that didn't need to be there that kind of weakens his character. My favourite though? Well, besides the always impeccable Clive Owen and Jodie Foster, Chiwetel Ejiofor, who he plays Denzel's partner. As two hostage cops sent to deal with a bank robbery (run by Owen) that doesn't end up being what it looks like, Ejiofor and Washington are old-school cops in an age of big money and even bigger regrets. The film was a bit too long but it was okay for a Monday afternoon.

On Tuesday, I watched two films (I know I'm sorry!) but I'd been so good up until then and I was so tired and not feeling well after seeing the super-fancy disease doctor that I baked out in front of the tube.

Happy Endings (#7) is an indie film with shockingly good performances by everyone in the extremely large cast. The multiple storylines in the film hold together well, and leave you with a good sense of wanting to know how they all come into one by the end. I really liked this movie a lot, and even came out of it with a bit of a crush on Tom Arnold. Honestly. I'm not kidding.

The Assassination of Richard Nixon (#8). I'd been wanting to see this film for a long time after reading EW's excellent review. Based on the life of Sam Bicke, a somewhat unassuming fellow whose life falls apart inch by inch turning him into a man whose only goal seems to make a point. He can't hold down a job, his marriage has fallen apart, and he can't let anything go, and it's this incessant longing for respect (for what really, because Sam doesn't really do anything to deserve it) that pushes him toward a violent and upsetting act of terrorism. Sean Penn's wonderful, as per usual, but he tended to drop a bit into I Am Sam territory with some of Bicke's mannerisms.

But now I've got about a million shows on the Faux-vo to get caught up with so I might be movieless for a while!

And Later On That Month...

No exact date, Queen's University, 1991.

Sometimes I feel relieved. Free here from stress. Free from the burdens of my intrinsic life [what exactly does that mean?]. Emotions really take you for a ride [um, yeah, cliche much?]. Maybe it's better not to get involved. "I laughed." Everyone always says that when they are despondent. Plato hated the body for this very reason [good to know I've got such a solid handle on Plato, wha?]. It's constantly betraying the soul. Laughs at our emotions because they always seem to get the best of us. They laugh, cry, scream, and hurt more than physical pain can ever imagine.

***

And thus ends Ragdoll's slightly-post teenage take on the power of emotions within the body and its inevitably duality. Do you think I missed my calling as a philosopher? This stuff is cracking me up.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Did I Ever Make Sense?

October 15, 1991.

[Queen's University, Kingston]

I am drowning in a sea of baseball caps and buttheads. There is no escape. I'm being engulfed and swallowed in the swarming mass. People here are identical messes reaching blindly for the same goal of acceptance. Lost in the comatose world of the university. Mr. Bones [note: I have no idea who I'm referring to here, I can only assume it's my high school boyfriend, Mike] is my escape. No one is changing at least the rabbit isn't alone [what freaking rabbit?]. Our friend has just juxtaposed from one stifling situation to another. I am an amicable distaste for them. I am not one of them. Nor will I ever be so. Destitute. Life is desiring more, much more than here will ever be able to give me.

I think I must look lonely because people are always giving me that pitying look. You poor tired soul. The others look at me as a big loser. Stinking, smelling, foul mouthed f*cking loser. Through this I can accept myself. Take advantage of the institution. Don't let it drown me, but float through. Numb, futile and unacceptable. What is acceptance? Talking to buttheads about a great f*ck or a memorable night of boozing. Not my scene. I need to take pride in my solitude. STOP RUNNING [yes, I actually wrote this in all caps]. Learn, expand and engulf. Not let it engulf me. I will be the winner. And I will be accepted. I can feel it's already begun. What they don't know is I'll reject them flat on their f*cking privileged asses.

***

Good lord. Do you think I took myself a little too seriously in my first months of university. And perhaps I was maybe reading a bit too much Henry Miller. HA!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Super-Fancy Disease Doctor Redux IV

I might need to think up a new title...

Annnywaaay. The anemia has cleared up, which means they've sort of found my blood (yay!). I'm also cleared to go back to work on Monday (which is good because I'm getting a bit bored of being by myself so much). However, the disease situation remains the same. The fatigue, the achy joints, the kidney involvement, the sinus infection, it's all unchanged. In fact, it's pretty much the same as I was feeling six, eight months ago. The only difference being they're still not sure how to treat me. So, we go around the bend again, more tests, and I see him in a month. That's when I guess they'll decide which super-fancy drug to put me on to battle the Wegener's.

Until then, I've got to go for a bone density test and an MRI because my other hip, not the tragic one, has been hurting and they're worried about avascular necrosis. Now wouldn't that be a fun complication? My body just seems to be rejecting the drugs at every single turn.

Oh, and he's given me three weeks worth of antibiotics to take, which should be fun...but maybe, at least maybe, it'll clear up my stupid sinus headaches. It's a never-ending cycle it seems. The more confused they are about me, the more confused I am about knowing what's going on...

#24 - The Ethical Assassin

David Liss is hardly a household name, but I think maybe he should be. I've read three of his books now, and I've sincerely enjoyed each one. The first, The Coffee Trader, I found fascinating because of all the historical information, but it was also about the early days of the stock market, which isn't as boring as it might sound. The next, A Conspiracy of Paper, was also good, but not as engaging as The Coffee Trader. Liss's latest book The Ethical Assassin, isn't an historical novel per se (it's set in Florida in the early 1980s, which is not contemporary but not the 17th century either), but it's a great read regardless.

The Ethical Assassin tells the story of Lem Altick, a teenaged door-to-door encyclopedia salesman, who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time while trying to raise enough money to go to Columbia. Lem gets mixed up in the middle of a drug operation, witnesses two people being murdered by the so-called ethical assassin, and winds up on a rollicking adventure that inevitably leads to more crime, redemption and a new girlfriend. I guess you can call it a coming of age tale, a sort of buldingsroman wrapped up in a noir-ish crime novel. But it's also funny and suspenseful (Liss does that whole end the chapter on a 'dum-dum-dum' note that Dan Brown should patent), and really well written.

While the book is mainly about Lem and his dealings with this ethical assassin, Liss manages to incorporate a number of interesting themes in the novel. Crooked cops, backwater crime and the typical bullies aside, the reasons behind the crime behind the crime (the murders) are all tied in some way to animal rights, and Liss is very adept at weaving the socio-political philosophy into the story in an interesting and not remotely pedantic way. All in all I really enjoyed this book, as I have been with many of the more serious (read, non-chicklit) books I've been plugging through.

I'm back on the Book A Day track now. And seeing as I'm spending the better part of the next three days at various different doctors's appointments (super-fancy disease doctor, family doctor, eye doctor, naturopath), hopefully I'll be able to get a lot of reading done.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Crash

I have crashed. Completely. I'm so tired and achy and feeling so gross that I can barely stand up. I'm trying to finish my Book A Day challenge for today, but I might have to get started again tomorrow. I'm am not looking forward to seeing the doctor tomorrow. Not one bit.

I Saw The Signs

Yesterday was a crackerjack day in the city. I'm guessing the spring forward time shift might have affected people in a strange way, including myself. Having been totally exhausted from the film shoot on Saturday, I got up kind of off kilter, far too early (5 AM, cat wanted out), and then switched the clocks. Then I got ready to go see my Movie of the Day (#6), Thank You For Smoking, with some friends.

As I get on to the streetcar, some half-cracked woman was there wearing way too much makeup and oddly mismatched clothing was ahead of me. She refused to move inside the car and stood there beside the driver. I had to slide around her to drop my ticket in, only I'm carrying a book and a knapsack, so of course, I drop the book and one of the zipper-thingys on my pocket breaks so I'm all discombobulated.

I hear the driver say, "Miss, you need an extra ten cents," but I don't assume he's talking to me because there's a crazy lady standing right there. But then the crazy lady says, "You need to put in ten cents." Even she gets it. I don't. They changed the fares and I need an extra ten cents with my ticket. Ohhhhh. Okay.

Then, as I exit at Museum station, I hear a super loud crash just to my left and see two people get into a car accident. They both stepped out of their respective cars so thankfully they were all right but holy crap the woman was mad. She started screaming and yelling and all kinds of stuff. Traffic stopped on Avenue Road, obviously. And since I didn't see anything, just heard the loud crack, I didn't stick around. I felt guilty for about a nanosecond. Why is that?

Movie A Day mini-review: Thank You For Smoking is okay. It's a smartish-satire with a great performance by Aaron Eckhart. Katie Holmes sucks, but thankfully she's not in it that much; and I'm tired of her in these "she's the hot one" roles because, frankly she's just not, she's droopy. Overall, I liked it, but thought that it didn't deserve the applause at the end.

And some people in our audience enjoyed it a lot, you know those guys that scream, "Look at his face!" as if we all couldn't see it stories and stories in front of us at that very moment. Okay, I know booming grannies are older and deserve our respect, but come on, when you arrive ten minutes late to the movie (after the previews), then take another ten minutes to figure out where you'd like to sit, all the while having a conversation at full volume, decide to sit in the middle of an already seated row and then continue to chatter away as if you're having coffee at the King Eddy, you deserve to be harshly shushed. Please. We respect you, we do, we just don't want to hear from you—in the middle of the movie...

Annnywaaay. So, then I went off on my quest to find a pair of Livs boots, because they're crocheted (how cute is that?). I went to four or five different stores with no luck. They're all gone. Upon my travels I walked by Yonge and Bloor and saw that it was all corded off with police tape because someone lit themselves on fire in a Tim Horton's. At first they thought it was a terrorist attack, but now they suspect he either wanted to commit suicide or simply torch Tim's.

So to sum up, one embarrassing moment on the TTC, one fender bender (luckily no one was hurt) and one tragedy where a man felt that it was better to light himself on fire than finish that cup of coffee. Talk about a manic Sunday.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Film 101

Yesterday, I think I might have found my calling. Kate graciously allowed me to be the Assistant Director on her short film that we shot yesterday. I had a clipboard people. And a stopwatch. And I got to say, "Lock it down, we're going for picture." Which was quite possibly the most fun I've had in a long while. I spent the whole day being giddy and giggling.

Considering I'd never done the job before, and really had no clue what I was doing, I'm super relieved that it all turned out so exceedingly well. Making a movie has long been on my life list of things I'd like to try to do one day (the others include being in a rock video [done, I was in my RRHB's first video briefly], writing and publishing a novel [so not close to being done], being an extra [not done], and so many more that it would be imprudent to list them here). I love movies, watch them all the time, and totally enjoy seeing the complex and fascinating process behind how they get made.

It was a long, long day though. But it's certainly got me thinking about how I'd love to do it again. Making call sheets, assisting the director, organizing people, and still sort of being involved in the creative process was a fun way to spend a Saturday I would have otherwise just been at home. And because it was such a small set, I ended up doing a lot of other jobs too: transport, craft services, some PA stuff, and it was all fun. And I learned a lot too, about gaffers and lights and dulling spray and how much film to use and how to say "rolling" and to gently nudge people in the right direction when they're taking too long and to joke with the crew and to laugh and all kinds of other things.

Now I'm super tired though because I'm still not sleeping from the prednisone, and my feet hurt so much that I'm not sure I'll be going anywhere or doing anything today the exhaustion is that deep, but what a grand time I had. I can't wait to see the final product. I know it's just going to be fabulous.

Bittersweet Tears And Moving On

When my writing seminar ended the other week, our teacher sent around a note afterwards that stemmed from something one of my classmates had said when we all went out afterwards for a drink (cranberry and Perrier, sigh, my life is so boring!). We were talking about the inner life of a writer, what to reveal, what to keep hidden.

A lot of us were saying we write about other people in our lives, in veiled form of course, because that's what seems to come naturally. In the note, he told us to try and be brave enough to reveal parts of ourselves that we don't find easy to break open for the whole world to see. That's where the good writing will come from, deep inside your own fear and inhibitions.

I guess that's kind of like the idea behind the blog, a glimpse into the girl behind the girl, if that's at all interesting. Why I'm thinking about this very early on spring forward Sunday? Well, I went out for a little while on Friday night to a reunion of all of my old chums from my last job.

That job spoiled me for life. Not in the fact that it was the best job I've had or will have but more because of the fact that I loved, respected and admired the people I worked with so much. I miss them. I miss the environment. I miss caring about a project so deeply and putting your heart and soul into it and knowing that you've built something great.

But what the whole thing made me realize is that I'm still not over the whole bloody firing situation. This goes deep, deeper than the actual event, deeper than the idea of being told you have to leave something that you love, and right down into a lot of my own insecurities and issues.

The old VP showed up. In a way, I hold him responsible for a lot of the crap that happened. Not in the sense of my own personal poor behaviour (the ridiculous emails, the acting like a mean girl, the childish temper tantrums), but he's the one that hired the Boss From Hell (and then she promptly got him fired as well), and sort of was the worst captain of our already sinking ship. Thing is, I couldn't talk to him, didn't even really want to be polite and say, 'hello, how are you doing, what are you doing?'

I wanted to see everyone else. In fact, I loved seeing everyone else. But I don't know what it is in me that can't let this go. I'm so hard on myself, so hyper-critical, that I look upon it all as one big failure. And I'm also still so angry with myself that I let the situation get so out of control, that I didn't see how bad it actually was and try to make it better.

In the end, I internalized all of the stress about the situation, which, in turn, my body turned back into the disease. And I know how wrong it is to blame some poor, clueless, fired VP for some of that, but I just couldn't help it. A small part of me wanted to scream at him and say, 'Look around at how many lives you impacted with your ridiculous and utterly awful decisions. Stand up and take responsibility for your failure. Accept the fact that you messed this up and as a result all of these great people had to make major changes in their lives.'

But you know, in the end, I also got to thinking about how it was my life and I had the power to change it. I could have left that job, but I didn't. I could have been a better person and climbed up above all of the crap, but I didn't.

It's been almost a year and a half since I lost that job. And for most of that time, I've been trying to build a new career at a great new employer, and things are going well. But the fact of the matter is I've also been battling the disease all this time too. Things aren't necessarily going as planned there either and being off so much because I've been so sick for so long isn't going to help me get to where I want to go.

Which leads me to the whole point: forces in my life have always led me to change; it's never been the other way around. I've spent the better part of my life just dealing with the tragedy in it and I think it's about time I turned a corner. It might be a good day, being spring forward and all, to do some changing of my own. Now the only question remains how. A bit of spring cleaning for the soul, if you will.