Wednesday, June 28, 2006

TRH Movie - The Lake House (Spoilers, Beware!)

Wow. What a stinker. Tara's already relayed how hard it was for us even to get to the theatre to see this piece of crap, so I'm not going to go over it again. Suffice it to say that The Lake House wasn't even funbad. And I was disappointed.

In short, it's the love story between Kate (Sandra Bullock) and Alex (Keanu Reeves), who both live in a gorgeous glass house on, you guessed it, a lake. Here's the trick though, they're each living in separate realities—two years apart. Kate's in 2006, while Alex is in 2004. How do they have a love affair then? Well, they communicate through a magic mailbox beside the lake house. You heard me right: a magic mailbox.

Yes, magical mail fairies come and deliver the letters (because computers and/or the internet simply don't exist in the film's reality) from one to the other across the space/time continuum. Because they have flowery prose and delicious scripted personalities, Kate and Alex fall deeply in love. But here's the catch (spoiler alert!), because Alex is two years behind, he can try to find Kate in his time, and he does, multiple times. He chases after her train, has the same dog, oh, and hell, they even make out at some party—and she doesn't remember. Keep in mind that Kate's a lonely doctor in Chicago whose only had two boyfriends, so you know, making out with some hot random stranger at a party is just something that would slip her mind. Noooo, she wouldn't play it over and over again in her mind, having some, ahem, private moments at home or anything, noooo, it just slips right away from her because she's miserable. There's only room in her brain for doctor stuff and unhappiness.

Then, all kinds of other silly sh*t happens that's totally implausible, Alex doesn't show up for a date, she doesn't even bother to look in the newspaper to find out why, or even bother to do anything except break up with him, in a letter of course, because their love cannot overcome the boundaries of time.

Yawn.

Oh, and Alex dies in one of the scenes in the first third of the movie, only you don't know that it's him and, because Kate's a doctor, she rushes to save him, only, again, after making out with him two years ago, she still doesn't recognize him. Oh, and he's not wearing any ID either, and no one at the hospital tells her that it's him.

See, confusing and silly right?

And why do all miserable female doctors in the movies these days have to have paranormal love affairs (Reese, I'm looking at you)? What's wrong with a good old-fashioned romance where the couple actually lives, eats and breaths in the same city? It's a shame too because I like that both Sandra and Keanu are 'of a certain age' and they've got great chemistry, but my goodness, it's a mess of a movie.

There's a happy ending though. Take some solace in that.

(And I'm sorry if I spoiled the movie for you.)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Moments of Regret

The other day I had a strange allergic reaction to the sun. Earlier in the day, I had stood outside for less than a half-hour, basking in the warm weather, feeling the heat right deep down into my bones. It's a shame that the medication has negative side effects with the sun—I blew up to the size of a balloon and turned a bright, patchy red all over. And my skin didn't itch so much as it stung under the surface. The same thing happened over the majority of last summer too, although instead of hives, I ended up with a strange rash where the sunscreen either wore off or I forgot to apply enough.

And then I had a moment of self-pity. One of my favourite things to do in the summer is lay out in the sunshine, all hot and sweaty, wearing enough protection that you don't burn (and I don't tan anyway: I go from white to off-white) but still feeling like a sun goddess even if I don't end up looking like one. I started to be angry with the disease, frustrated that it seems to take all of the things I love to do away from me.

I used to dance when I was a teenager, and then my hip died. And deep down I knew I'd never be a dancer (with shoulders like a brick sh*thouse and a giant ass), just about everything was wrong with me, but I miss the freedom I felt, and I miss the constant movement. Still, in my dreams, I jump around, race about to the music and I still love to go out dancing, but for years my hip prevented me from doing any kind of aerobic exercise.

For a while, I sort of considered myself a not-bad looking girl too. It was funny, we were joking about the peak moments of youth at breakfast a while back, and I sort of half-goofed that I climaxed at 24, 10 years ago now. And then I got mad that the best years of my youth were sort of robbed by the disease too, and I started feeling sorry for myself all over again.

Getting past the negative thinking is the hardest thing to do when it comes to living day-to-day with the disease. Mourning the idea of who I am or what I should be and coping with the reality that my life has turned in a direction I didn't quite expect. In a few years, I'll have lived longer with the disease than without, but I still can't quite bring myself to accept the fact that I can't do everything I want to do because my body has kind of put a stop to it.

Plus, feeling sorry for myself doesn't really get me anywhere. It doesn't get my Page A Day done, it doesn't get my Summer Reading books finished, and it sure as hell doesn't make my RRHB's life any easier. In the end, it gets easier every time the disease flares and now that the meds are actually working, I'm thankful for my life, even if it means staying out of the sun. Hell, it's better for my skin that way anyway.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

#46 - Thirty-Three Teeth

Chris Cotterill's Thirty-Three Teeth fits the idea of summer reading to the tee. It's a fun mystery with supernatural elements whose main character is the national coroner of Laos, Dr. Siri Paiboun. There's the usual cast of supporting characters, the quirky nurse, the police officer who isn't an idiot, and a colourful amount of spirits, all making themselves integral to the procession of the plot.

Thirty-Three Teeth kind of feels like Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. It has the same kind of light tone, even though there are actual murders in Cotterill's novel. Unlike a typical mystery, this book is more character driven than pure plot, and I kind of like that. Plus, it's not often you have a septuagenarian main character, which is interesting too.

I got a bit confused in terms of the actual mystery because there were several strains happening all at the same time, and I was reading the book mainly before bed, so I was already tired, but on the whole I enjoyed it.

And that's number 2 from my summer reading list! I'm still way, way behind my goal of 30 books by August 30th though.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

#45 - Strike/Slip

My RRHB, after hearing "Slips and Tangles," a song from Left and Leaving, said, "That's it, I'm done." Meaning that there was nothing he could create, write, perform that could even approach how much he loved that particular song.

In a way, that's exactly how I feel about Don McKay's latest book of poetry, Strike/Slip. I might as well stop even attempting to write poetry at this moment in time because I'll never come close to putting the words together with such an exacting elegance as McKay, one of Canada's foremost poetic masters.

Strike/Slip burst open any silly lit crit that nature poems, or the idea of exploring the relationship between humans and the world we inhibit is taboo, over, or even close to being done with. Each poem meditates to some extent on the natural world and McKay's talent brings it all back to an intensely human experience, a human condition, if you'll allow me the existential indulgence.

And they are perfect. Perfect in their forms in their metaphors in their similes in their imagery in their substance and in their impact. I read and reread many of them on the streetcar over the past few days, savouring every word like a smartie I wish would never melt in my mouth.

But one of my favourite lines, from "Song of the Saxifrage to the Rock", goes like this:

Who is so heavy with the past as you,
Monsieur Basalt? Not the planet's most muscular
depressive, not the twentieth century.


Or "Abandoned Cables", where "tangles" of overgrown, massive wires are "unshriven entrails", remnants of our industrial society, and now meant to rust by the side of the road, forever abandoning both their function and use, but still a constant reminder to those "po-mo cappuccinos" that real work exists.

Brilliant. It's a book of poetry that I'll keep close to my heart, beyond the subtle self-indulgence of Plath, beside the calculated whimsy of Gwendolyn MacEwan, and way, way up there above everything I long to be.

And that's #1 off my Summer Reading List. Whee! Only 29 to go...

Playing Catch Up

Life has gotten a little crazy this week. Here's a breakdown of what's gone on:

1. We visited with the family for Father's Day and then drove like mad up to Guelph to see The Weakerthans, who were opening for The Tragically Hip (do you think they'll sue me for breech of coolness re: the name of this blog?). My RRHB sang on "Dedication" (the Sarah Harmer part) and we watched the rest of the show from backstage. Very Almost Famous, sort of.

2. I've been doing my Page A Day challenge; it's going well. I've almost written a whopping 12,000 words. Not bad for a story I only started three weeks ago.

3. My summer reading challenge has gone down the toilet already. There's just too much to do other than read these days. I'm trying not to be too hard on myself.

4. I met, had lunch with and then interviewed Curtis Sittenfeld today: a totally wicked and awesomely fun experience. She's super smart, has a very dry, ironic sense of humour and is as fabulous as her writing. I love it when that happens. Oh, and the ladies we lunched with from Chatelaine were equally charming, lovely and funny. I love it when that happens too.

5. Tomorrow is Needle Day, Week Seven. So far, and keep those fingers crossed, I'm not feeling any overwhelming side effects from the new drug. I'm dancing a jig as we speak.

See, see why I have no time? And it's only going to get worse as the summer progresses...

Saturday, June 17, 2006

TRH Movie - Dedication

We spent a lovely evening last night down at the Art Bar, attached to the fancy new Gladstone Hotel, watching Kathleen's film Dedication. It's a beautiful little piece based on one of her poems and set to a lovely score by Paul Aucoin. Two manic days of shooting turned out exceptionally well with some brilliant editing and a grand old vision by Kate herself. Oh, and it was her birthday to boot. But the most exciting thing? Seeing my name in the credits as the Assistant Director and remembering how much fun it was to yell, well I mean, keep everyone organized so Kate could her job done. And seeing it up there on the screen looking so vivid and remembering how long it took them to get the shots, gives me a new appreciation for anyone who makes movies, because the work is the same, no matter how bad the end product is...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

TRH Movie - The Devil Wears Prada

And she wears it well, and she wears Chanel, and Manolos and all kinds of other things...

The Devil Wears Prada is a faithful and fun interpretation of Lauren Weisberger's bestselling novel of the same name. The super-cute Anne Hathaway plays Andy, the ever-fresh journalism student who lands the job of a lifetime at Runway magazine. There's just one problem: Andy's not really a fashionista. In fact, she's just the opposite and, to add insult to injury, she's never even heard of the she-devil herself, Miranda Priestly (a pitch-perfect Meryl Streep), editor-in-chief and fashion icon.

Andy wants to be a journalist and takes this job as a stepping stone. Only it's a serious job in an industry where people take fashion seriously, who seriously know the difference between Prada and Club Monaco (Andy's sweaters of choice). And when she doesn't fit in, Andy becomes the fashionista she never knew she could be, which changes her world forever. Once Andy enters the world of Miranda Priestly, she finds it's hard to get out. Long hours, impossible requests and ridiculous cutdowns, Andy's own life starts to suffer. She goes from 'working to pay the rent' to living, defending, and even dieting for Miranda.

The movie is kind of silly in a fun, chicklit sort of way, and even though the peformances are all very good, I found it a bit boring. Reading about someone being abused and watching repeated patterns of abuse in the workplace just isn't all that fun. And there's some pat scenes (I'm so tired of the uber-makeover scenes in movies like this, as if Andy realizing her inner fashion queen would solve all of her problems, yawn), along with some really cheesy dialogue, but the players rise above it and damn, if Anne Hathaway isn't just charming as all hell.

In the end, I enjoyed it, but not as much as I thought I would. But then, that's how I felt about the book too. But the shoes, well, they are remarkable. All in all, it's good summer fun. I'd give it three highkicks out of five.

jPod Redux

Boing Boing takes on jPod and wins. A very apt and quite persuasive critique of Coupland's book. Still, as much as I might like the mini-review, it doesn't take away from how much I enjoyed reading jPod.

Especially after being one of those droids forced into bad corporate internet chop shops run by bosses from hell who really should end up chained to a factory addicted to heroin. However, maybe that's the main difference between mega-blog Boing Boing and little ole me, he sees the bigger picture and I just make everything about me. Because, well, I'm not setting out to make an impression on the state of the net, at least, I don't think I am.

And no offense Seattle Weekly but there are far, far worse books out there. What's the bee stuck in your bonnet?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Am I On Happy Street?

Okay, so the streetcar that I happened upon to carry me home from work tonight contained the happiest TTC driver I have ever encountered in my life. Here are the signs by which I was able to discern this:

1. He sang the street names like thus: "Spaaa-dinna, oh, Spaaadinnaa."

2. He stopped the streetcar at a green light, held up all the traffic behind him, so he could help a blind woman out of the streetcar, across the street and safely to the other side of the intersection. It was rush hour people. Magically, no one honked.

3. He laughed about the annoying World Cup Wonkheads honking and hooting and generally making a menace of themselves and announced, "Aw, here we go!" like driving down Dundas was an adventure we were all going to partake in.

4. He said please, thank you and you're welcome to everyone.

5. He happily flirted with cute girls as they stepped on and off the trolley car.

Honestly. Next to the Asian kid in the $5000.00 suit who said on his cell phone that he's looking for a career in "idea consulting," it's the strangest outdoor experience I've had this month.

Summer Reading

I'm twelve days too late to join this Summer Reading Challenge 2006. The main gist of the challenge is to try and read 2 books a week from a self-decided list, classics, books that have been on your pile forever, or any other fun theme you decide upon.

As it's now June 13, I should already almost be 4 books into the challenge. However, I'm going to start this week, which means I've got a lot of reading to do by next Monday. And how am I going to decide upon my list? Well, I've got some ideas. I figure between now and the end of the summer, that should equal a total of about 30 books (at least that's what I'm going for). So, here's my list, let me know what you think!

THE SUMMER READING 2006 CHALLENGE BOOK LIST:

1. I'm going to take the following titles from the 880 I still have left to read: The Sea, John Banville, Slow Man, J.M. Coetzee, The Master, Colm Toibin, Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell, City of God, E.L. Doctorow, and Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres.

2. I'm going to read more poetry this summer, in big chunks instead of here and there: Beowulf, Seamus Heaney, Whetstone, Lorna Crozier, Strike Sparks, Selected Poems 1980-2002, Sharon Olds, Strike/Slip, Don McKay, Airstream Land Yacht, Ken Babstock and Inventory, Dionne Brand.

3. I'm going to catch up on the up next Canadian classics that have been on my to read pile forever: Runaway, Alice Munro, A Map of Glass, Jane Urquhart, Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood, Cease to Blush, Billie Livingston, A Perfect Pledge, Rabindranath Maharaj and Until I Find You, John Irving (I know he's American, technically, but the book is set partially in Toronto so I'm counting it).

4. I'm going to read some classics: Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham, Pale Fire Vladmir Nabokov, The Good Soldier Ford Maddox Ford, Howard's End, E.M. Forster, The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton and The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky.

5. Lastly, I'm going to read some mysteries just for fun: Thirty-Three Teeth by Chris Cotterill, Before the Frost, Henning Mankell, The Poe Shadow, Matthew Pearl, Affinity, Sarah Waters, The Children of Men, P.D. James and The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova.

And if I finish all of these, I'm going to throw in some nonfiction: London: The Biography, Peter Ackroyd, Miracle in the Andes, Nando Parrado, Anna of the Russians: A Life of Anna Ahkmatova, Elaine Feinstein and Being Caribou, Karsten Heuer.

Add all the reading I've got to do for work and I should be super busy between now and September 1st. Oh, and I've got to get my Page A Day finished as well.

Go big or go home, I always, ahem, say.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Page A Day Challenge

Aw, I'm a big fan of my own self-imposed challenges. This summer, it's the Page A Day Challenge. I'm going to try to write one full page every day (as the title, ahem, suggests), in one story without editing from now until the end of August. If I miss a day, I can choose to write two pages, as long as I keep it up for the majority of the working week (weekends excluded, but good for making up missed pages).

Anyone out there with me?

1001 Books

I got a very fun book today: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Damn, who doesn't love lists? I just finished going through it, and I've read 121 of the titles. It's got a heavily British focus in terms of the modern literature (does every single book by Ian McEwan deserve to be read?) and any list that doesn't include Margaret Laurence, probably my favourite Canadian author, isn't complete in my mind. I've listed all the books I have read, more for my own sanity than anything else.

I'm not sure if I'll use it as a guide to what classics I should be reading, but maybe. There aren't enough African writers, nor Canadian, and they're missing the best of Faulkner in my mind, As I Lay Dying, but hey, if you have to start somewhere, it's a pretty cool book to go through in terms of making sure you've read the best literature the world has ever produced.

My 1001 List: 121 Down, 880 To Go:

Oroonoko, Aphra Behn
Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
Moby-Dick, Herman Melville
Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe
Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot
Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
Crime and Punishment, Fodor Dostoevsky
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
Around the World in 80 Days, Jules Verne
The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy (probably my all-time favourite book)
The Awakening, Kate Chopin
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton
Sons and Lovers, D.H. Lawrence
The Rainbow, D.H. Lawrence (another of my all-time favourites)
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce (as above)
Women in Love, D.H. Lawrence (do you see a pattern emerging? I went through a Lawrence phase after I finished my undergraduate degree)
A Passage to India, E.M. Forster
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
Lady Chatterly's Lover, D.H. Lawrence
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
Miss Lonleyhearts, Nathanael West
Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller (I heart Henry Miller and all his yummy, dirty goodness)
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
Tropic of Capricorn, Henry Miller
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
Native Son, Richard Wright
The Stranger, Albert Camus
Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
Wise Blood, Flannery O'Connor
Junkie, William S. Burroughs
Lord of the Flies, William Golding
Lolita, Vladmir Nabokov
On the Road, Jack Kerouac (all-time, all-time favourite)
Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe (see above)
The Naked Lunch, William Burroughs
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
A Clockworld Orange, Anthony Burgess
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, John Le Carre
Everything That Rises Must Converge, Flannery O'Connor
The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon
Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys (love, love, love that book)
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe
The Godfather, Mario Puzo
The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
Surfacing, Margaret Atwood (the first Canadian I've seen)
Sula, Toni Morrison
Ragtime, E.L. Doctorow
Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
The World According to Garp, John Irving
Burger's Daughter, Nadine Gordimer
Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie
Waiting for the Barbarians, J.M. Coetzee (another favourite)
The Colour Purple, Alice Walker
The Life and Times of Michael K., J.M. Coetzee
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera (given to me by Katie, in Banff, at a time when my life was neither light nor bearable, will always be close to my heart)
Perfume, Patrick Suskind
The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
The Cider House Rules, John Irving (probably my favourite Irving)
Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanetter Winterson
Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Foe, J.M. Coetzee (see above; he's my one of my favourite writers)
Beloved, Toni Morrison
The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (I hated every word of this book)
Oscar and Lucinda, Peter Carey
The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie
Cat's Eye, Margaret Atwood (her best novel, in my opinion)
A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (my second-favourite Irving)
Possession, A.S. Byatt
The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje (I own four different copies of this book, that says it all, doesn't it?)
Jazz, Toni Morrison
The Robber Bride, Margaret Atwood (never really understood what the fuss was about)
The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides (honestly? The movie is better)
The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields
Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh
The Shipping News, E. Annie Proulx (love, love, love her)
The Master of Petersburg, J.M. Coetzee
A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
Morvern Caller, Alan Warner
Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood
Fugitive Pieces, Anne Michaels
Jack Maggs, Peter Carey
Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden (aw, the movie, so bad)
The Hours, Michael Cunningham
The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver
Tipping the Velvet, Sarah Waters
Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee
The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood
White Teeth, Zadie Smith
Life of Pi, Yann Martel
Fury, Salman Rushdie (awful, awful book)
The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
Atonement, Ian McEwan
Youth, J.M. Coetzee
Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
Unless, Carol Shields
Fingersmith, Sarah Waters
Family Matters, Rohinton Mistry
Elizabeth Costello, J.M. Coetzee
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon
On Beauty, Zadie Smith
Saturday, Ian McEwan
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

TRH - The Test Kitchen

In the hopes of avoiding the "what are we doing for dinner fight", I've been trying to build our daily repertoire of recipes with "new" and "exciting" dishes. For the most part, I'm passable in the kitchen. My mother, who had a real talent with and for food, didn't pass all the good cooking genes down to me. But I do enjoy cooking, which is good, right?

I've started making meal plans for us during the week (shot to hell because my RRHB was out on tour a couple nights this week and now he's working nights, sigh) and have bought everything I need beforehand. We've got a good library of cookbooks, but I've mainly been going through Simple Suppers, the latest Moosewood Restaurant tome. So far, I've made Asian Braised Fish with Greens (verdict: good, but the sauce was too sweet for the RRHB). The recipe called to serve it on rice, but I used potatoes instead, and used tilapia as the fish. One thing I'm not sure of though, are scallions green onions or something different entirely?

And last night, I made Pine Nut-Crusted Fish. Now, I went to a nice grocery store, not too, too expensive, but definitely more pricey than going to Kensington Market, where we do a lot of shopping. I walked up to the fish counter (only recently starting to cook fish on a regular basis with both of us starting up again after many years being almost complete veggies [the RRHB especially]) and asked the nice fellow (butcher? fisher?) for tuna. He showed me a couple of steaks, one quite large and one much smaller—perfect for the both of us. And when he hands them back, I'm shocked to find the cost of said tuna is $19.23! Wha? We might as well go out at those prices.

Hence the Pine-Nut Encrusted Fish recipe coming to life last night. It calls for bread crumbs, garlic, oregano, and lemon peel (whizzed in the blender) along with the pine nuts. Then you fry the fish. And holy crap, if it's not the yummiest thing I've ever cooked. In fact, with the exception of one pasta recipe, all of the thing we've tried from the Moosewood cookbook have been exceptional.

I also tried to make a spinach dish with raisins and the rest of the pine nuts. It didn't turn out as well, mainly because I mistakenly dumped all of the water I had already drained from the veggies out into the pan and had to start all over again...but the fish was good!

More Embarrassing Things...

That I'll confess online and nowhere else...

So, because I've got more energy, I want to exercise. Said exercise is also the key to losing some of the prednisone weight and allowing me to be able to indulge in the odd bag of rice chips.

However, I am far too chubby and out of shape a) to put a bathing suit on and head to a pool and b) to go to the gym. So, I've been jumping around, literally, in my house to, you guessed it, Mariah Carey.

Yes, I realize this totally blows the cool, RRHB lifestyle of going to see kick ass shows (he opened for Amy Millan this weekend, very fun) and turns me into a person who is too embarrassed by the state of herself to actually go to a gym like a normal person, but at least I've got the energy to do something.

Like everything else, it's a start down the path to good health, something which I'm desperate to enjoy for the next thirty-odd years of my life.

World Cup Watch

These are the farkwits in my neighbourhood. There were two, count them, two parades on the weekend celebrating the soccer. Well, perhaps not soccer entirely but because I don't know anything about said parades I'm making assumptions. Yes, that makes me assy.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

#44 - Swapping Lives

Jane Green's latest novel, Swapping Lives reads like reality television on the page. A fairly flimsy premise: 35-year-old journalist Vicky Townsley, looking to make changes in her life, says off-handedly that she'd love to swap lives with someone who's married with kids. It's the life she's always dreamed of and what she wants more than anything. Her editor thinks it's a fab idea and off they go, trying to find the perfect Swap-mate.

They find her in Amber Winslow, a 'Desperate Housewife' from suburban Connecticut, bored and frustrated with her own 'keeping up with the Joneses' (Green honestly uses that phrase at least six times throughout the manuscript). Amber's husband is old money whose family has been broke for generations; now he's a successful trader on Wall Street. They're fabulously wealthy—the epitome of the American dream.

The moral of the story: the grass isn't always greener on the other side. However, both women make changes in their lives based up on their experiences in the swap. Green's prose is repetitive and the characters, especially Amber, are kind of one-dimensional (there are playboys, bitchy suburban housewives, and not one but TWO friends named Deborah [she couldn't pick a different name?] on either side of the ocean). But I read the book to the end, and, on the sliding scale of chicklit, Green's new book comes in somewhere on top of Plum Sykes but nowhere near our beloved Gemma.

Edited to add: The one thing that I did like about this book was that the heroine, Vicky, started off single and ended up single, still looking for love but happy and fulfilled by her life. Now that's a twist in chicklit, one that I'd like to see more of...

McClelland & Stewart 100th Birthday Party

Last night, on the eve of BEC, McClelland & Stewart celebrated its 100th birthday. The gala (complete with a couple people wearing pretty fancy dresses, not me I'm afraid) was at the Distillery district, in a great room called The Fermenting Cellar. A host of infamous Canadian literary talents were there, including Margaret Atwood, who, after Avi Bennett and Doug Pepper, gave a keynote speech.

Of course, I was the only one not to catch a glimpse of her, but instead wandered around aimlessly searching for her, trying to fulfill my authorlust. Peter C. Newman, Adrienne Clarkson, and many more, authors, authors everywhere.

And it's nice to see the lovely people that you work with out and about being themselves, kicking back with some wine, and having the guy from Google (awesome!) tell you that he only got his job by being a sharpshooter.

Now where can I sign up for lessons? I'd love to work for Google. Heh.

Friday, June 09, 2006

"Funbadness"

I heart Scott Brown. He has invented a word that completely and utterly encapsulates why I see so many bad movies: fundbadness.

Funbadness brought me (and my dear friend Tara) to many a movie on opening weekend, including Dirty Dancing: (wait for it) Havana Nights. Cuba! I can't list on my fingers and toes the number of truly bad movies I've actually seen in the theatre—all by my own choice with no expectations they'll be any good.

Now what funbadness would that be?

And yes, I'm seeing an advance screening of The Devil Wears Prada next Wednesday. How jealous are you? It's no Nicolas Cage on fire while riding a hog, but it's something. Oh, and Scott Brown? I too marveled in the wondrous funbadness of Reign of Fire. It's Matthew McConaughey fighting dragons for heaven's sake, dragons! It's awesome.

#43 - Terrorist

I'll say one thing for Terrorist, John Updike's new novel, it's certainly the perfect book for the current climate. Considering the media fury over the death of al-Zarqawi and the young men they arrested here in Canada, not to mention the ongoing efforts of George W. and company in Iraq, a novel about an 18-year-old boy who becomes embroiled in a terrorist act seems rather timely. What's odd then, is that's all the book truly has going for it: a good hook.

I'm embarrassed to say that I've never read any other Updike. I started Rabbit Run years ago and it remains sitting unfinished on the shelf. And perhaps it's just my own personal taste, but he's not really a writer for me. I found this book to be trying too hard, to have angry, awkward and not entirely believable characters. The story is fascinating, but Ahmad's (the teenager in question) faith doesn't come across as authentic, nor does his dissent into the crucial act that defines the book feel real. Not to mention the fact that he's stiff and speaks in such muted, oddly writerly tones that Ahmad's almost a caricature.

But what bothered me the most were the lack of truly redeeming female characters, Ahmad's mother was an artist who was not particularly prone to childrearing, Ahmad's quasi-crush ends up being a hooker, and the two other women, one a spinster, the other an obese librarian, were so one-dimensional that I had a hard time finishing the book.

I had a teacher write on an essay once, "You are certainly a good writer, but this is not well written." That's very close to how I feel about Terrorist. It's, of course, the job of the novelist to be consistently challenging our ideas of stereotypes, our ideas of the world around us, but in the way the Updike presents the Muslim faith, he does nothing to dispel the very misconceptions that exist in the world. And I know that's not the point, that he's writing about fundamentalism from the point of view of said fundamentalist, but Ahmad's speeches, his thoughts, his actions all feel so put-upon that I have a hard time imagining him in the real world.

There is no doubt that Updike remains one of the great modern literary giants of American books, and so much of his latest speech at BEA points to this fact (where he, ironically, rails against the internet, the very tool used to disseminate his speech, um, whatever), but just because he can write doesn't mean that everything he does write will automatically be great fiction. Despite how much it wants and/or tries to be.

It's an interesting book to read after finishing Sweetness in the Belly considering how much deft and talent Gibb shows when discussing the same faith (albeit in two very different ways). Because I think the point of a book like this should be understanding, at least that's my humble opinion, and it's a shame that Updike presents me with the same dogged images/characters I hear about in the news every day. There's no underlying enlightenment, like in Gibb's novel, to make me feel like this book has changed my world. All in all, I'm just glad I managed to get through it.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Weekend Antics

This was how my weekend went:

Friday night attended the launch party for Taddle Creek's latest issue. Celebrated my poem with my weekly half-pint and sat in the rain. It was lovely. Heard one really great poet and then left.

Saturday during the day I fought with my RRHB, then we went grocery shopping, made a meal plan for the week, came home, did the laundry, made a really yummy dinner of tilapia and bok choy, and went out to see Christine Fellows. It was an amazing show. She had an artist using an old school overhead projector drawing and illustrating her gorgeous songs. She wins the award for best use of old school technology: the last time I saw an overhead projector at an artsy-type event was Dave Eggers. He only drew pretentious stick figures, which we all adored, even if they were more to be cool than to be an artist, per se. At least that was my impression.

Sunday I had lunch with the girls, we laughed, at a ridiculous amount of delicious food at the Rude Native, gossiped, and enjoyed each other's company. I came home and within the hour had to go out for dinner with my RRHB and his family for his birthday. More gluttonous eating at The Swan. Watched the season finale of The Sopranos. Fell asleep totally exhausted and thoroughly amazed that for the second weekend in a row I didn't collapse with disease-inspired exhaustion.

I'm on the right track.

Read With TRH

Okay, I want to try something different, something that I haven't done before—everyone who knows me knows that I love to read. And I want to share that love. And then I want to talk about that love to anyone who'll listen. So, I've picked a book I'm going to read over the next few weeks. It's called Cease to Blush by Billie Livingston.

It looks like the perfect summer read: saucy, fabulously fun and kind of sexy. What could/would be better for a hot afternoon in the city?

So, I've got extra copies of the book to giveaway in the hopes that someone, anyone, might want to read it with me, and then I'm hoping the author will be available to answer any questions in this space that we might have.

I don't want to call it a book club because, well, you know. But I do want to experience a shared reading of the novel online through my blog.

Email me if you want a copy of the book. I've got three that need homes.

Sweetness in the Belly - Camilla Gibb Chat

So, I totally gushed and gushed about Camilla Gibb's Sweetness in the Belly, which means I'm way, way excited to participate in Chicklit's chat with the author tomorrow afternoon. If you're not busy, join us.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

TRH Movie - The Break-Up

So, I had the chance to see an advance screening of The Break-Up last night and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I went in fearing the curse of the Hollywood romance, which tends to ruin every single film if its two stars are linked, demolished by Hollywood gossip and destroyed by the glee of reviewers taking utter delight in condemning the product on the basis of said curse. And it's frustrating because it ruins many a decent film, with Gigli being the obvious exception, oh and, Proof of Life, which is terrible, and Eyes Wide Sh*t, I mean Shut. Well, maybe there's something to the curse after all.

All this means is that it's next to impossible to evaluate the film on its merits alone, what with the ridiculous amount of media attention the two stars have gotten, despite their attempts otherwise. Even knowing how wrong it is to search for clues of Anistan's personal pain in her performance, you find yourself (well, myself) doing it anyway, and then feeling hella-guilty afterwards.

Annnwaaay. The Break-Up, touted as the anti-romantic comedy of the summer, certainly succeeds in what it sets out to do. Gary and Brooke, Vaughn and Aniston respectively, meet at a Chicago Cubs game, fall in love and buy an awesome condo. After a particularly stereotypical dinner with their respective families coming together as one, the two have a massive argument and break up. Well, at least Gary thinks that they do; Brooke is under the impression she's 'teaching him a lesson' in how to be a better partner.

Funny business ensues as they both refuse to move out of their fab condo. And the ensuing situations all result from the fact that each is staying put until they absolutely can bare it no longer. The forced encampment, a staple of situation comedies, feels a bit cliched, but Vaughn and Aniston are both good, and have great chemistry, so it sort of works. It's not a great movie, but it's definitely better than I expected.

Both main female characters are stereotypical (Brooke plays head games; she wants Gary to go the ballet [and to "want to want to do the dishes"] but come on, any woman in that relationship would have given up that dream long ago, slapped on her Manolos and gone with a girlfriend anyway; Addie, her best friend, counsels and consoles with the best of them, yawn), but the movie is really about the evolution of Vaughn's character. In that sense, again, it's an anti-romcom, which is kind of nice.

Justin Long is hilarious as the obviously out receptionist at the art gallery where Brooke works, and the always terrific John Michael Higgins plays her Tone Ranger-loving brother, whose a cappella bursts annoy Gary to no end. And it's even good that most of the bits in the commercials don't necessarily represent the extent of hilarity in the movie—always a pleasant surprise. But in the end, the film succeeds because of Vaughn, his chemistry, his charm, his comic timing, and his ability to capitalize on the greatest casting coup of all times, Aniston, who is just coming off the world's most publicized break up of her own, and plays exceptionally well off of him.

All in all, I enjoyed it, and was glad to see it, despite the knuckleheads who are always at these free preview thingys. Even a half an hour into when the screening was supposed to start, they wander into the theatre looking aimlessly for seats, bothering people who are obviously saving them because they're the best in the house, munching on popcorn and speaking at the top of their lungs. How many ways can you say annoying?

Needle Day - Week Four

To celebrate needle day, I give you jPod favourably reviewed in Slate.