Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I [Didn't] See The Signs

Too bad, had I known that office pyschopaths actually existed, I might have faired better against my old Boss From Hell. I guess my dream of one day becoming Clarice Starling will never be realized. I'd make a hell of a rotten FBI agent. Heh.

TRH - Movie Update

Even with the major demolition happening of this past weekend, I still managed to watch a few movies. We started summer hours at work, which means I've got Friday afternoons off, and because my RRHB wasn't letting me in the house at first while they tore the walls down, I went and saw Mission Impossible III. I know about all the arguments not to give the crazy-ass Tom Cruise any more money. I know that he's all wacky and has a kid for the sake of publicity—I hear you. But the film has things other than Tom Cruise going for it (or not going against it, rather), namely, Philip Seymour Hoffman and J.J. Abrams.

It's like a giant Alias episode, which means that it's totally over-the-top, totally self-aware and self-reflexive (ah, inside jokes, love them! Cruise shaking a cocktail, Cruise on a bike with no helmet, Cruise writing on glass, heh!) in a way that only adds to its enjoyment. Oh, and while Tom Cruise is a total hambone, he certainly does run fast on his tiny little legs, you go Ethan! The plot might be a bit convoluted but the film still remains a perfect summer movie plus it's way better than X-Men: The Last Stand. Or should I say, X-Men: The Last Crap.

We managed to sneak seeing the film in after we finished the demolition—my RRHB was dying to watch it. But I'll tell you, what a waste of a perfectly good franchise. It's too long, too full of characters that have no use except as plot devices to make up for the fact that there's no real story, and the whole freakish anti-aging stuff they do up top to Sir Ian and Captain Picard makes them look like they belong at Madame Tussaud's. Anyway, I was totally frustrated by this film. Unlike MI:3 where the stunts are so over the top that you realize they're burning money just thinking about them, they still fit into the script and into the style of the picture, the stunts in X-Men seem contrived and just so absurd that you're looking at them thinking there must have been an easier way. The whole film feels like a mash-up episode where Brett Ratner decided that if he couldn't have the stylized X-Men of Bryan Singer, he was going to go way overboard just to prove he's got more, ahem, balls.

Oh, and then we watched The New World. Terrence Malick is one of my all-time favourite filmmakers. I love, love, loved both Badlands and The Thin Red Line, both of which I got to review for HT when I worked there. Just like those two movies, The New World is a beautiful looking movie, with luscious landscapes the backdrop to the story of Pocahontas. Colin Farrell's Captain Smith is a man of few words (works so well in this film) and Christain Bale plays John Rolfe, the man who eventually becomes the Indian princess's husband. In fact, this was my favourite of all three films I watched this weekend.


Last night I had the chance to attend the swanky Canadian New Media Awards through work. I wasn't as interested in seeing the awards (which were nice, although somewhat Juno-inspired, right down to the CBC host, a comedian who had appeared on The Royal Canadian Air Farce) as I was in seeing the inside of the Carlu, which has been newly renovated over the past few years.

As I missed last weekend's Doors Open (one of my favourite things to do in the city) because we were bashing done doors of our own, I went to take a look at the renovated "Art Moderne" splendor. And it's true, it's a lovely venue, it's all golden and shiny, and has a great auditorium. The award ceremony was blissfully short and it's nice to celebrate the industry even if it's a bit self-congratulatory (sponsors being nominated and then winning awards, but hey! who cares, it's all in the name of 'the work,' right?).

All in all I had a good time, which is funny because I hate, hate, hate formal-type events where I stand there awkwardly not really saying anything except to the people I already know feeling strange about being chubby and slightly puffy making a pathetic attempt at small talk wondering if everyone else feels as geeky as I do and not knowing if I should talk about movies and books and television and all the other things I'd normally chat about to my real friends but instead being polite and nodding a lot and thinking about how I'd rather be at home eating rice chips and watching Munich because it's already going to be late until I've had a glass and a half of contraband wine and I'm feeling a bit better so let's dance and keep on going until it's 3 AM and there's nothing left to do except drink up the last of your pint and swear that you'll never do it again tomorrow.

Sigh, if it only happened that way.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Ed Norton...

...Makes Down in the Valley sound really good in this interview. If only the movie were as lovely as he sounds here. And nary a mention of whether or not he's dating his adolescent co-star.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Dust To Dust

I, and everything I own, am covered in a layer of dust. We have finally begun the home renovation in earnest and this weekend, my RRHB and pile of friends, knocked down the entire first floor of my "house."

Hundreds of collective years of dust (come on, if each particle is a hundred years old, that's a lot of years!) has now descended upon every inch of the upper floors where we've been living. We hauled six tonnes (and I can't even think about all of that in the bloody garbage; it makes me sick) of plaster, lathe (bundled up to burn at the cottage), drywall, lumber, wire mesh, old insulation, newish insulation, and all kinds of other material out and dumped it into a bin.

I've never been so sore in my entire life. And we're still not done. Today we have to clean up all the mess we made after the past two days of demolition. I am not looking forward to it; but it's a really, really good kind of tired. It's a kind of tired I haven't felt in ages, one that comes from hard work and real energy, no disease exhaustion in sight. How's that for good news?

#42 - Elements of Style

Similar in tone and story to Jay McInerney's The Good Life, playwright Wendy Wasserstein's Elements of Style follows the intertwining lives of some upper crust New Yorkers after 9/11. But unlike McInerney's novel, I quite enjoyed Elements of Style; it's an easy reading kind of novel, perfect for a Sunday morning, sort of like a fictionalized version of Friends With Money. In fact, I think even though the storylines are so similar, Wasserstein's novel comes out ahead because it's got hat heart that was sorely lacking in McInerney's book.

Each chapter is from the point of a view of a different characters, each representing a different sector of life in the Upper East Side of New York. From old money socialites like Samantha, to newly minted ones like Judy Tremont, the lifestyles of the rich and famous are represented with Wasserstein's keen ear for satire, comedy and reality. The book opens and closes with Dr. Frankie Weissman, a pediatrician to the stars, whose own father is succumbing to Pick's disease, and slowly evaporating before her eyes.

Frankie is the heart of the story, the character who ties everyone together, and the reason why the novel works. She's an earnest, good person whose success comes from hard work, something rare to be seen in typical chicklit (damn you Plum Sykes, damn you! [and I'm not talking about Gemma and her ilk either]}. Yet, writing these totally relatable, completely compassionate (as the book jacket tells me, thanks John Guare) characters seems to be Wasserstein's forte. Even the cruelest, most callous woman in the book has a human edge to her, and that takes talent.

I remember, years ago, being in New York and seeing The Heidi Chronicles with Christine Lahti. I was young, in high school, and all I remember about the play was coming away with how strong the main character was, how she just dealt with life as it was, life (if that makes any sense). That's the kind of plain truth that Wasserstein brings to the novel, to a world full of people who take the idea of "Turkusion" seriously (a dinner party theme meant to be a mix of Turkish, English and Asian influences, so ridiculous, so funny, so perfect), there's that sense that reality will eventually catch up to them and of course, much to my delight, it does.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Little Bit Of Love In The Mail

I got home today from teetering around the Home Despot after my RRHB in my fabulous shoes to find a $15.00 cheque in the mail from Taddle Creek. Payment for my poem in their last issue. I am now officially a paid poet. How fun is that?

And I've got something to look forward to as well—the next $15.00 cheque coming from my poem in their *new* issue out next Friday. So, money for poetry, free beer (at the June 2 launch party), and great weather—a girl doesn't need much more.

The Needle - Week Three

This morning before I went off to work, I gave myself the needle. Perhaps not the smartest thing to do on an empty stomach, but because I'm sticking it right into my skin, what does it matter?

Here are the side effects I'm noticing, note this is two weeks before any of the "real" side effects are scheduled to happen (because the meds take that long to work in your system):

1. The needle makes me super hot, like I'm running a fever; I'm all flushed and roasting. All day at work I kept saying, "Feel my forehead! Feel how hot I am!" People were shocked. They were amazed. Or not. When I told my RRHB that the needle makes me hot, he said, and I quote, "Like horny?" Heh.

2. My belly burns. It burns! I say it burns! And then gets all itchy, which I'm assuming isn't so strange because I'm jabbing it with a pin prick-sharp needle full of methotrexate.

3. Even though the nurse at my family doctor's office showed me what "subcutaneously" is—I'm still not sure I'm getting it right. I do pinch the chubb and then insert the needle, but how will I know I'm not missing an organ (thanks .H for putting that into my mind).

But, on the whole, I like the needle far better than taking a pile of pills that make me throw up. BUT, again, I might be too happy, too soon, because I might end up being dead sick again when the actual side effects kick in. Fingers crossed it doesn't turn out that way.

Your Body, Yourself

As a woman who has gone through her share of health problems, the idea of manipulating my body for the sake of convenience out frightens me. Why on earth would anyone want to do this to themselves?

God knows a visit from your 'lady friend' or whatever euphemism you'd like to use, isn't always a welcome part of the month, but it's integral to a healthy, happy system. I mean, I know there's a reason why it's called "the curse" but that shouldn't equal treating it and then eliminating it from our lives by drugs.

Yes, the pill changed the lives of women forever. Yes, there are great medical benefits to it and great leaps forward in terms of women controlling their bodies instead of the other way around, but goodness, when is too far gone too far?

What makes women women in the first place? Biology? Psychology? I can't answer that, all I know is that I'm repulsed by the idea of one pill ensuring that a women never has her "visitor"—goodness, it would be a shame if nature interrupts her busy life to remind her every now and again that she is, indeed, a woman.

Top 11 Worst Songs

They couldn't just have The Top 10 Worst Songs, oh, no, they had to add that last, ingratiating one and make it 11—anything to stand out from the crowd AOL. Yawn.

And is it a coincidence that 3 out of the 11 had something (at least one appearance, I'm looking at you Meat Loaf) to do with American Idol?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Best. Quote. Ever.

Joan Didion on reading:

What book do you recommend?
“I actually can't answer this question. One person's "must read" is another's "already been there" and a third person's "don't care”. Sometimes I think reading is our last entirely personal activity.”
From a great interview on Flare.com.

However, I do think reading has become less personal with the idea of the lit blog, book blog and personal journal-type blogs. I mean, everyone here knows exactly what I think about every single book I read. The only part I don't share are all the books I don't read to the end, because I don't think it's quite right to list them until I've finished them entirely.

But the act of reading is intensely personal, any more so than watching a movie or television? Maybe not, but if only because so much of it takes place in the mind, in the imagination, I can kind of totally agree with what Didion is saying.

And It Continues...

The parade of people from my past continues as I got an email from an ex-boyfriend from university today via this very blog. Will wonders never cease?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Life As I Know It Is Over

Here are 5 reasons why I'm so sucked into May sweeps:

1. Jack, love of all that is manly and awesome about life, has been beaten half to death by the baddie Chinese he escaped from last year (Lesson #1: Always run away from your past (and your daughter too if she's on the phone because mean-ass guys are waiting to pounce)). Not even Jack's awesome canvas sack of awesomeness could help him then.

2. Lorelai slept with Christopher. Okay yes, decidedly sexier than Luke, and yes, obviously rich and super hot and totally he worked the fact that they've been into each other forever that night, but man—she's in love with Luke. She said so to Jan (from The Office, see below) for goodness sake.

3. Pam. Jim. Kissed. Okay, and it was a totally honest, totally heartbreaking scene where he told her everything and she "didn't know what to say." He cried one tiny tear (they get you every damn time!). Don't f*ck this up. Please.

4. Blah McDreamy stares at stupid Meredith, blah there's a dance, blah Denny kicks it, blah, to be really supportive, Meredith sleeps with DrBlahMcDreamy thus officially making her the "other woman." Blah she stands at the apex of a triangle of loooooveeee people—between Ronald Miller and Robin. One used to mow your grass; the other is Batman's right hand man. Yeah, yeah, I know no contest, McDreamy will win. But dammit: WHO CARES. Enough with the love triangle already. It's so over and it's not even finished yet. I miss Denny. I know it's not logical but I do—why make him go through all that and then just kill him anyway. I was scared of sharks nipping at the heels...they can sniff the blood. They can.

5. Various episodes of Law and Order with cast changes. The exits were dramatic (ohhh, dead bodies in cars, ohhhhs scandals with the IAB, ohhhh). But for the most part these shows are stable and I'll keep watching them before bed. They're better than sleeping pills.

Oh, and I would have watched the season finale of Medium but my cable crapped out so the Faux-Vo recording sucked. That makes me sad.

Is that it? Is it all over? What's a girl to do now that all of her shows are finished, she's reading books that she can't write about because they're advance reading copies, and there are crap movies out there to watch?

Well, this girl waits for two weeks for the finales to The Sopranos and Big Love then sits back and patiently waits for Deadwood to return. What do you think the chances are that I'll get a pile of writing done this summer? Good, I think. I will not, I say, will not be tempted by So You Think You Can Dance.

I live in constant fear that I will now to begin to bore you dear reader. How wil you all survive now that all your favourite shows are over and not even So You Think You Can Dance can fill the void?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Down In The Valley Redux

My "official" review of Down in the Valley is live if anyone's interested.

What's Worse?

Than being sick on your birthday? Few things. My poor RRHB has a migraine, which means he spent six hours sleeping this afternoon on his birthday. Now, I'm going to have to try to figure out a way to make it up to him. Anyone have any suggestions?

I Want My DNA

Damn, how badly do I want to do this? But $107.00 USD? That's way too much for me to spend on finding out my ancestors—but man, it's totally fascinating. The Genographic Project is one awesome way you can truly, truly know where you're from, and all the places your genes stopped in between.

The Danger Of Pandora

I've been on a kick lately to listen to more music outside of my usual influences (which count as my RRHB, really, and maybe a bit of Scarbie and KPL, when I used to work at the Evil Empire). I had some great suggestions from a friend in Ireland (holla!) and now, of course, my RRHB discovered Pandora a few months back, which means I've been forced to listen and am now converted to the damn site as well.

It's totally dangerous. Why? A) because it's freaky in how it delivers stuff that you actually like and without commercials or really annoying radio hosts and b) it clicks you right over to iTunes, which results in a hyper-expensive bill for all the new songs I'm downloading. Today, it's A Tribe Called Quest radio. I've only downloaded one song so far ("Good Music" by The Roots), but I've also only had Pandora on for about ten minutes. Check in later and I'll be broke, I'm sure of it.

Oh, and 'fess up if you use 90210 as your zip code because it's for US residents only? I'll bet it's not just me...

University Ephmera

And speaking of baseball, when I was going through some of my boxes the other week, I found this Bo Jackson rookie card that Blair Macdonald had given me at Queen's. He was a friend of a friend, a very nice fellow, who gave me the card when he found out about my hip. Apparently, Bo Jackson has also had his hip replaced. I've got it on my desk now, an ever-decreasing amount of space left for real notebooks as I pile the stuff on to help keep me inspired. According to the card, Jackson won the 1984 Heisman Trophy. And I think, if I remember correctly, I spent a drunken night making out with him, but that part's a bit fuzzy.

And I wonder what ever happened to Blair Macdonald (and even if that's how he spelled his name). But chances are I'll probably run into him over the next few months as the university session of the "remember whens" will inevitably start up...

Antiques Anti-Roadshow

For my RRHB's birthday last year, we went up to Aberfoyle for the day. It ended up being a lovely day, and the first time we seriously sort of started discussing the whole, "can we really get married one day" thing.

Annnwaay, it's one of his favourite things to do (at least I think so) and despite the rain, despite the near freezing temperatures, we muddled through the many booths and he found something quite fascinating to purchase.

For the most part, we don't buy many things, but this time, he couldn't resist. The purchase? An electric accordion. You heard me. It has its own amp and some funny looking power box thingy. According to the seller, you'd have paid thousands for it if you bought it brand new (said the huckster to the huckee), but it was so strange and interesting that he had to have it.

But it was crazy-expensive and when he got it home (after we stopped in Freelton at the other fun antique/flea market where I bought a $20.00 Robert Davidson print that's now sitting on my desk), he couldn't get it work for the longest time. However, I'm pleased to announce that my RRHB, who has never played accordion in his life, did get it to work and it's loud, synthesizer-like tones graced the hallowed halls of our half-wrecked house. Happy birthday to him! He was even kind of giddy it made him so happy. Who cares if we're now broke and have to eat the mouldy cheese in the fridge until I get paid on Thursday.

I'm kidding.

Well, I'm half kidding.

And what can I say anyway considering when I was off on sick leave a few weeks ago I almost shopped myself into oblivion. Sometimes you just have to spend the money. It's a reality and a fact of life.

TRH Movie - The Natural

There are those movies in everyone's life that they'll watch over and over again, and you repeat every word, know every gesture the actor's make, and never grow tired of them. One of these movies, The Shawshank Redemption the RRHB and I watch every year, even though we don't own it, usually at Christmas time. It's like a good wine; it grows better with age.

Another of these films for my RRHB is The Natural. Coming late in life to my obsessive-compulsive movie watching, I'd never seen it (like many 'classic' movies). And since it's his birthday weekend, we went searching on Friday night for it (we were supposed to go to a party but he ate an apple and then had some strange allergic reaction that's still bothering him, poor soul), but couldn't find the film at our local video store. So, on Saturday, when I was out anyway, I bought it and a CD as special, one-and two-days before his birthday presents.

Annnywaaay, it's a delightful movie, as you well imagine. The story of a great natural baseball talent, Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) who has a tragic accident just as he's about to embark on his pro career. Injured and unable to play, the film picks up sixteen years later as he gets back in the game. At first, the game, in the form of head coach Pop Fisher (Wilford Brimley) kicks him right back again, until he starts showing his mettle, and the NY Knights start winning games. When Roy starts winning, things start happening for him. He gets the girl, Memo (Kim Basinger), but that doesn't end up all it's cracked up to be, as she's bad luck, which comes in the form of a losing streak. Oh, and she's in cahoots with the team's co-owner, The Judge (Robert Prosky), who's trying to oust Pop and run the team into the ground. But when Roy's first love, Iris (Glenn Close) comes back into his life, everything changes for him.

But for a fairly typical sports film, it shows incredible heart, and even though you know Roy's going to a) knock it out of the park and b) going to be forced to retire from his injury, you're still happy (and not at all jaded) to see both happen. Some of the shots age the film (oh, the slow motion, it's so painfully sloooow), and the ending has been parodied so much that when I saw it, I felt like I'd seen it a million times on The Simpsons, which I probably have. But on the whole, it might just be one of those movies that makes the ever-after rotation.

**Ahem, interesting, non-related Blogger note: when Shawshank comes through the spellcheck, it wants to be corrected to "shagging". Oh, you, dirty spell check.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Oh No, Da Vinci Code

Well, it's not good. Not that I expected the hype to lead to anything substantial, but The Da Vinci Code is quite the stinker. Of course, 85 bajillion people are going to see it anyway, so it doesn't really matter what I think. But because this is my space, I'm going to tell you anyway.

The book doesn't make a good movie. All of the intrigue and what little suspense Brown builds up in the text is completely lost in the film as it loads itself down with pedagogic flashbacks and cuts away any action that might keep the picture moving. It's kind of shocking actually, because when I read the book, I thought to myself: "It's just a movie on the page." But after watching the botched adaptation, it's not that at all; it's a potboiler (the book), that manages to keep you (relatively) interested in (somewhat) complex material. None of this translates onto the screen.

Oh sure, the performances are good, but the script is so hacked together that you have to wonder if anyone making this movie actually watches movies. Because if they did, they'd realize that the flashback is a tool best left to bad MOVs on the CBC. The gauzy substance covering the majority of them in "history" didn't help much either. It's the cheapest way to tell a story. It doesn't give you any confidence in your audience, but that's not surprising, look at the source material.

Annnywaay, I had it in my mind all the ways the film could have been better: load all the historical stuff up front, fast forward to today, actually show all of the four guys at the beginning getting knocked off, I could go on for days. In the end, I guess the biggest criticism is that the film is far, far to faithful to the novel, when a little artistic license and interpretation would have made it a much better film.

On to the next summer blockbuster. X-Men anyone?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Needle And The Belly

So, I gave myself my very first needle today. And do you know what? It doesn't hurt, really at all. Way, way easier than taking a pile of pills each and every day. Things are looking up. They really, really are.

TRH Movie - Down In The Valley

Last night I went to go see Down in the Valley for Chart magazine. It's not a great freelance gig (means I get a byline and not much else) but I like writing the reviews because it means I get to see movies I want to watch but don't necessarily want to pay the full price of admission for.

Down in the Valley is a perfect example. From the trailer, it looks like an interesting little indie film about a love affair with a modern-day cowboy (Ed Norton) and a teenage girl (Evan Rachel Wood). These are my favourite kinds of movies, little indies with brooding characters, good dialogue and that push the boundaries of genres. I had high expectations. Once again, I should learn that whenever I expect anything, it usually turns out all wrong.

Oh, so, very, very wrong. First of all, all the marketing blah-blah calls the film a modern day Western. But it's not really. Well, if, by Western you mean that Ed Norton dresses up in cowboy gear, plays with guns and drawls, well, yes, then it would qualify. But for something to be a Western in my books it needs to a) take place somewhere other than suburban Los Angeles, preferably somewhere with rolling fields and bleak landscapes and b) have a solid sense of right and wrong, with one party being "wronged" and going about with very heavy hands to "right" the situation. Anyone seen Deadwood lately? Now that's a modern interpretation of the Western.

The giant "wrong" that takes place in this film? Ed Norton's love interest, the very young and very attractive Evan Rachel Wood (and don't even get me started on the rumours the two of them are actually a couple in real life), has a father who doesn't think it's a good idea for them to see each other. Which, you know, isn't all that shocking considering Ed's just about twice her age. No one says anything about that though—not her friends, not her father, in fact, the only mention of the glaring age gap comes from Tobe's (Evan Rachel Wood, short for "October", wha?) brother who asks upon meeting Harlan (Ed Norton): "Are you a friend of my father's?"

Annywaay. The film progresses. They fall in love. They speak stupid dialogue to one another ("Is this your true heart talking"? I'm shocked the computer didn't barf up a couple of vowels after he typed that one) and they have a lot of smarmy sex in a dirty, gross bathtub. Nothing says romance like that my friends, nothing.

Soon, the true nature of Harlan's character starts to emerge. Now, there are spoilers here, so if you have any interest in the movie, don't read any further. Seriously. Stop right now. Okay, I'll give it to you straight: Harlan's nuts. He's not a ranch hand, he didn't grow up in North Dakota and his accent's totally fake (well, we never find that out for sure but he's from Chino people). He invents this cowboy persona because he wants to live in time when men were men and they slept outside under the stars.

By the time Tobe figures out he's a few logs short of a cabin, it's too late and a tragic accident happens. Toss in the fact that he essentially kidnaps Tobe's brother Lonnie and therein lies the "Western" part of this film. They take off into the canyons on horseback, chow down on rabbit, and camp out in a film set (appropriately an old West film set, ahem, the irony, it kills). The whole thing ends tragically in a new suburb somewhere just outside of the city, guns are popped, people are shot, tears are shed, the works.

And you know, the film had potential. It really did. It just doesn't get there. It's too much of a hodgepodge of obvious influences (Harlan's cowboy Taxi Driver routine gets tired the first of the twenty times we see it). There are a couple of interesting shots, one set on a tree swing in particular, but for the most part it's all imbued with so much metaphor and meaning (how many shots of the highway does one movie need—not this many, I tell you, not this many!) that it's heavy handed and painful to watch. The dialogue is soap-operatic where it means to be philosophical and it's a huge waste of meteoric talent. The real shame? There are few things on a hot summer afternoon better than a shot of Ed Norton's stomach, sweat glistening off his tanned torso, blue eyes twinkling in the sunlight. It's just too bad they're all stuck in this ridiculous little movie because that's something that I'd watch all day any day.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

#41 - Suite Française

It's a truism that people are complicated, multifaceted, contradictory, surprising, but it takes the advent of war or other momentous events to be able to see it. It is the most fascinating and the most dreadful of spectacles, [Louise] continued thinking, the most dreadful because it's so real; you can never pride yourself on truly knowing the sea unless you've seen it both calm and in a storm.
Minutes ago, I just finished Irène Némirovsky's masterpiece Suite Française. It's a hauntingly beautiful book about France during the Second World War. Broken into two distinct sections, the first deals with the flight from France of a large cast of characters, and the second deals with a smaller group of people living in a small, rural community once it's occupied by the Germans.

The stark contrast of both situations, those fleeing from occupation just before the Germans declare victory in France, and those living with the consequences of defeat, is balanced by the even, solid storytelling. In the hands of a lesser writer, the large cast of characters would sprawl unevenly across the pages, but Némirovsky's deft hand never lets it get out of control. Everyone has a purpose in this novel, if it's only to truly and completely reveal the horror and beauty of war from a clear, honest point of view.

The novel, lost for years until Némirovsky's daughter found it in an old suitcase, is like a time capsule. Written before the author died at Auschwitz in 1942, Suite Française hums along like an orchestral movement, each sentence an instrument finely tuned and perfectly in time with the one sitting before and after it.

The novel has a Russian feel to it (it's tone reminds Dostoevsky) and the narrator remains omniscient with an extraordinary control over the story. There's a sense of existentialism in the novel, a crucial feeling that regardless of how many mothers mourn their sons, nothing will change the fact that Germans now occupy their beds. Life is life and war is war.

What's most surprising is Némirovsky's ability to be sympathetic on both sides. The German characters are drawn with the same keen attention to detail as the French. The enemy is described as beautiful in places; he's human, just doing his job. And the French take everything in stride for the most part (with a few exceptions). They deal with the situation with an equanimity for the most part, as if a calm acceptance is the only way.

The first half of the novel, as rich and poor flee the city of Paris, the true nature of humanity reveals itself. Class systems, clung to by those who occupy the upper regions are destroyed, maybe for a few hours, maybe for a few days, but the sense that nothing will ever be the same again stays present, despite a civilty that returns once the Armistice is signed. By the second half, having to swallow their hatred for the enemy that now boards in their homes, the citizens rebel in their own little ways: selling their wine for far more than it's worth, not speaking to them even if they live in the same house, and so on.

You fall into the world of this novel and it's a world that so perfectly reflects its time and its place that it's a miracle it was found. It's a miracle it was published and it's an important piece of work. But most of all it makes you feel absolutely sad at the ridiculous nature of war, about how unfair it is that Némirovsky died so young and in such a terrifying manner, especially when you think she was going to complete two more novels in the series. What I wouldn't give to read them now.

And don't just take my word for it, read Brian Bethune's blog post and see for yourself.

#40 - The Man Of My Dreams

Curtis Sittenfeld, unlike any author I've ever read with any ferocity before, has an uncanny ability to write characters that, despite the fact that you might not like them, you almost always empathize with them. That was the case with Prep (one of my favourites from last year) and it's certainly true of her latest, The Man of My Dreams.

Hannah Gavener is fourteen years old when the novel opens, completely awkward, obsessed with celebrity, and unbearably adolescent. By the time the novel ends, Hannah's childhood is far behind her, but the pain of growing up, her parents' divorce and the unrequited love for Henry, her cousin's boyfriend, seem to define her for all eternity. Hannah doesn't want it this way; it's just what happens, despite Sittenfeld trying to tell us differently.

I found the novel extremely satisfying—and was quite interested in how Sittenfeld structured certain parts of it, juxtaposing past and present in intriguing ways, foretelling the story in certain parts, backtelling in others. It all molds together very well, and I'm even more impressed that she's managed to write two solid books within such a short time of one another.

And just like I did with Prep, I read this book in one sitting—like a girl with ice cream in the house whose supposed to be on a diet, I crammed it in, sweet burning my brain, because I love her use of language, her painfully real situations (just wait until you get to the camping scene and you'll know exactly what you mean), and remembered how awful it was being a teenager, always being left behind, always being the "friend", never being the one the boys danced with, argh, it's so real, but that's a good thing. I think.

For more reading, EW has a good, short interview with the author.

The Untragic Left Hip


The super-fancy disease doctor's office has just called, the results of my MRI? My left hip isn't showing any signs of avascular necrosis; it's perfectly normal. How's that for a good news day!

What that means is all the pain in my joints is coming from the disease (which will be cleared up by the new meds) and not from any other complications. Now that is something I can live with. I just celebrated by doing high kicks all around our gPod (as we have named our workspace in honour of Douglas Coupland's new, hilarious novel).

(And I know I'm not supposed to blog at work but this was just too good not to share).

Sunday, May 14, 2006

TRH Movie - Heights And Melinda & Melinda

Yesterday was pretty much a write off for me, my RRHB was working so I spent much of the day in my pajamas watching the movies I had taped on the Faux-Vo. The first film I watched, Heights, was a quasi-Crash-like movie about how the lives of six or seven New Yorkers intertwined. At the centre of the story is Diana Lee, an overly dramatic, highly paid stage actress played by Glenn Close, um, very little stretch there. Her daughter, Isabel (Elizabeth Banks, the poor man's Rachel McAdams), an aspiring photographer, is about to get married to Jonathan (James Marsden). There's some non-interesting backstory with the fiance and a really predictable emotional "twist" toward the end. All in all, fairly typical fare for TMN.

And like Crash it sort of suffers from the 'way too much coincidences going on' syndrome. You know, movies about actors and actresses also tend to suffer from navel gazing self-indulgence, so much so that I tend not to care after a while. Oh, poor you Glenn Close/Diana Lee, with your fabulous apartment in NYC and your fabulous life on stage, your husband's cheating on you and you have low self-esteem. Yawn.

Then I watched Melinda and Melinda. I wanted to see it for three reasons: a) it's Woody Allen, b) the premise of two separate stories starting the same character sounded interesting and c) it costars Chiwetel Ejiofor, who is one of my favs after seeing Inside Man, and forever-in-my-heart Jonny Lee Miller, whose portrayal of Byron remains burned in my mind as one of the great, but little seen biopic performances of the last few years. Both actors played in separate episodes of BBC's retelling of The Canterbury Tales too, which I quite enjoyed.

Annnywaaay. Melinda and Melinda. Suffice to say I found the dialogue stilted and aged, kind of like old cheddar, but it didn't fit the environment or the characters. The premise of the film, four friends sitting around enjoying dinner and then telling Melinda's story, each from a different perspective, one tragic, the other comic, was okay, but it didn't sell the movie to me. A lot of the same problems I found with Match Point, exist in this film as well.

And considering that I fell asleep during the crucial emotional conflict during Dramatic Melinda's storyline, it doesn't bode well for the rest of the film. My advice is that if you're going to see a Woody Allen film from the past couple years, skip this one and go straight to Match Point. Even though it's not perfect, it's a damn sight better than Melinda and Melinda.

And now we're here on Sunday. Back after a day of visiting various different mothers. My RRHB is watching boxing. I'm blogging. And I'm about to start the laundry. Thank goodness I found some energy today. Real life is kind of nice when you think about it.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

#39 - Devil In The White City

Erik Larson's magnificent Devil in the White City represents nonfiction at its best. Larson's story of how Chicago's infamous World Fair came to life is told alongside the chilling tale of serial killer H.H. Holmes (aka Herman Webster Mudgett). At first glance, the two stories have little in common but for geography (Holmes's sick imagination profited from the arrival of many young woman to the fair) and opportunity. Yet, Larson's deft hand weaves the two together like a sort of magical tapestry, intertwining all kinds of other relevant material into a book that's inevitably impossible to put down.

The Gilded Age, so eloquently captured here, remains the backdrop for the story. As the Fair's leader, Daniel Burnham, struggles against all odds (financial, egotistical, architectural, geographical, seasonal, meteorological and personal) to complete the project, the world sits back and expects failure. Of course, as history records, the Fair succeeds and its lasting impression upon American culture, architecture and general culture felt for decades. And then, as equally magnificent, celebratory of the great heights to which human nature can sore, the feats of the murderer Holmes are recorded to show how dizzyingly, terrifyingly evil human nature can crawl. A perfect read for a rainy night with a cold, all snuggled up in my duvet with the cat at my feet. Just perfect.

And just think, only six months to wait until Larson's Thunderstruck hits the book shelves. And dammit, can he think of great titles or what?

TRH Movie - The Rainmaker

The joy of the Faux-Vo coupled with easy access to TMN means that I tape a lot of movies that a) I never watch and then erase or b) that I try to watch and never make it all the way through. But with this damn cold that I've contracted, after work yesterday, I lay on the couch and watched Francis Ford Coppola's The Rainmaker. It's a fairly average film, and it feels very dated even though it was only made 10 years ago.

Made during that spate of time where every John Grisham novel seemed to be adapted for the big screen, The Rainmaker lacks heart. The performances are okay, the cast quite good, but there's no driving plot that keeps the movie on track. There's plenty of story: young lawyer (Matt Damon) takes on big insurance company, meets abused girl he falls in love with, goes to court for the first time, etc. But it all feels kind of forced, as if the script just needed another good re-write to get it where it needed to be.

But then it got me thinking that even making a mediocre movie that 10 years later feels dated and looks like it belongs on the Superstation, means that Hollywood hasn't changed all that much. All this moaning and groaning about the box office slump that's continued into this year hasn't made the movies any better; it's just made people more conscious of the fact that the formula doesn't always work. The Rainmaker has all the right ingredients for a blockbuster but it just doesn't come out of the oven fully baked.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Good Neighbours?

So, a funny story.

My RRHB called me at work on Monday and said, "Did you notice that the stuff next to the garage has been cleared away?"

I thought about it for a minute. In fact, I had sort of noticed, but more that it smelled like sh*t than it had been all cleared up.

Take a moment to note that our backyard is a mess. It's two concrete tubs full of dirt that generally holds all of the garbage and debris from whatever the RRHB has demolished in the house until he gets a bin. Right now, it's holding an old van door of my brother's and an awning, along with broken bits of wall, floor and other stuff. It's a white trash dream yard. Britney would be right at home.

He continues, "The neighbour has planted lettuce." Pause. "At least it looks like lettuce. I can't tell."

Yes, our next door neighbour has taken it upon himself to greenify our backyard. This is in addition to pruning our grape vine that grows and planting bulbs in the front of our house. There are now tiny sprouts of lettuce growing where the cats have crapped and the mice have lived all winter long (he cleared away all of the crap we had piled there).

Do you think he's trying to tell us something? And more importantly, does he think I'll actually eat the lettuce? Getting over the fact that it grew outside where my cat, ahem, plays might be a bit too hard for old obsessive-compulsive Ragdoll.

Building Green

Building Green (link via Grist), a new show on environmentally friendly renovation, is coming to PBS this summer. I hope we get it on our Buffalo station. It looks fascinating. But seeing the amount of garbage we've already created from renovating (three separate visits from the bin guy; more than one bin per drop), I doubt whether there's a possibility of being anything other than environmental terrorists when it comes to gutting and renovating a house.

I guess, the idea is to get it back in 'green dollars.' To use your money towards better products on the renovation proper, conserve energy and do your best to make up for all the crap you've sent to the landfill.

Adventures In The Health System

So, I went to see the super-fancy disease doctor yesterday morning. He was behind which meant that it took a lot longer than usual to see him and when I did see him he was quite abrupt:

SFDD: "Are you better yet?"

Ragdoll: "Not really. I'm not taking any medicine to make me better."

SFDD: "Well, if you're seeing me that means you're going to get better."

Ragdoll sits there with a stupified look on her face. He then sort of stumbled through my file. Oh, and the 24-hour urine test? Yeah, he didn't even look at the results. Oh, and the bone scan? Says it's useless without the MRI (which I did last night too), but more on that later.

The end result? I'm going to start taking methotrexate by injection once a week. And because the drug leaches Folic Acid out of your system, I've got to take it too. The side effects of this new drug are sores in the mouth, upset tummy (been there, done that) and, in rare cases, pneumonia-like symptoms.

I called my RRHB after I saw the doctor and said, "What do you want to bet that's what I end up with?" He laughed, and then told me I was being kind of negative, which is true, but every drug I've tried to take over the last few months has had me end up in side effect hell, if such a place exists.

And speaking of side effects, my left hip has really been bothering me; it's a very similar pain to the one that ended up with my right hip being replaced, so I'm a bit freaked out. As I've been taking prednisone, which is the cause of avascular necrosis (the technical name for the problem in my hip), I told them right away (the last visit, not the most recent one) about the pain. The intern scheduled a bone density test and an MRI, which I had last night at 10:30 PM.

At about 9:38, I was trying to decide what to watch next on TV when my RRHB said, "Come on, let's go." In the span of about three hours, I had totally forgotten that I had to go back to the hospital, had my PJs on, and would have been in bed in about 20 minutes. It's a good thing he remembered.

It's a strange thing, having an MRI. You have to wear ear plugs because the machine is so loud and they wrap you up like a mummy, tape your feet together (so your legs don't move) and then inject you into this tube up past your head. I was stuck in there for over half an hour with the damn thing whirring and whizzing and sounding like a strange techno show. At first I totally panicked and then I calmed down and focused on this pen mark above me. I kept wondering, if all you wear is a hospital gown, how on earth does a pen mark get onto the machine? Is it even a pen mark? What else could it be? On and on my brain went as the machine did its thing.

Lesson learnt? When they offer to give you a sedative, um, take it.

Up next in terms of the Health Quest 2006? I'm going to call the super-fancy disease doctor next week and hound them for the results of the MRI. If my other hip is dying from avascular necrosis, I want to know sooner rather than later. Wouldn't you?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

#38 - JPod

Douglas Coupland's latest book, JPod, quite a long one by his standards at 528 pages, might possibly just be one of the funniest novels I've ever read. The "JPod" of the title refers to the workspace of Ethan Harrison Jarlewski where he toils away until all hours of the night for a gaming company in Vancouver. He fills each day with absurd challenges, which means doing as little work as humanly possible, getting caught up in the crazy world of online, and programming a game that management seems dead set on ruining with the latest marketing buzz and chasing the "hip" dragon.

Throw in Ethan's crazy family, his pot growing mother and almost-working actor father, couple this with a cast of supporting characters that include his fellow podmates, mix in a strange group of non-friends from the criminal element of the Vancouver underground and come across an "evil" Douglas Coupland, and you've got a racing, urgently satirical, and immensely enjoyable novel.

Filled with pop culture references and staggeringly real in terms of how it portrays life in an interactive chop shop, JPod barrels along from one insane situation to the next, and as crazy as it gets, Ethan seems to take it all in stride. I don't want to give away too much of the plot of the novel. It's both perfectly absurd and ridiculously intelligent at the same time. And to give even a hint of the whirlwind insanity between the covers isn't worth it—it's a book you've got to experience not knowing what's coming. It's that good.

I've never read anything that so thoroughly captures the idea of working in an online environment (even though Ethan's a gamer—I'm calling him a kindred spirit) under ridiculous bosses on crazy projects that take up massive amounts of your time, and then someone makes a daft decision that derails everything and you've got to start all over again. Put all of this together and once you pick up the book, I'd challenge you to be able to put it down.

There's a cute site for the book, as well as an amazing interview with his publisher, if you're looking for more info.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Enter the Sandman

My history with sleep inducing medication is long and well documented. At another time, I'll dive into the really bad story, but I'd like to give you a few parting shots of wisdom:

Let's call this my Things Not To Do In The Hour Before The Medication Kicks In List...

1. Attempt to paint your toenails. Not only will you glob the polish on like your nails have the surface of the moon, but you will paint every single toe—notice how I said 'toe' and not 'toenail.' A-hem. In fact, you might even paint some foot, ankle and skin.

2. Don't watch Grey's Anatomy. That show's a suckerpunch anyway. And when you're slightly drowsy and relaxed, it'll turn you into a blubbering idiot who is crying so hard she can barely hold down the sobs.

3. Don't make any lists about things to do because they will inevitably involve tasks like: must hunt down old BF Chris P. Rice or Robin Linley, if only to add to the absolutely inevitable fact that they'll be the two people I run into next in the long line of people I've been running into lately.

4. Lastly, you probably shouldn't blog. First rule of blogging: don't talk about work. Second rule of blogging: don't talk about work. Third rule of blogging: especially don't talk about work after you've taken your meds and probably won't even remember this post in the morning.

5. Now, I'm off to sleep. It will be peaceful. It will be restful. It will be non-stressful and give me the much needed energy to get up and go after my incredibly busy weekend.

Can you believe I had time to read only 1 book? The horror!

#37 - Everyone Worth Knowing

Okay, just one book ago, I called myself out for reading too much crap. But man, Plum Sykes was scraping the bottom of the barrel, and when I was at conference all week, which is essentially day after day of university lectures, Everyone Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger (she of the The Devil Wears Prada fame, soon to be even richer once the film comes out), was all my over-worked brain could handle.

And, just to let you know, I'm halfway through Howard's End, so there's no need to be embarrassed by the quality of my reading these days.

The book is not good. Although I'd venture to say it's not as bad as The Devil Wears Prada, but a lot of the same problems exist. The main character, Bette Robinson, quits her boring job at a banking firm, uses her family connections to score a kick-ass job with a fabulous PR firm in Manhattan and promptly ends up dating the hottest guy on the party circuit. Only wait, they're not really dating, because [and this is mildly spoilerish so don't read it if you care about the "plot" of this book] he's, wait for it, gay. The real love interest comes in the form of a bouncer (with a heart of gold and a bucketful of dreams) named Sammy.

But, of course, the rocky path to their romance is well fraught with obstacles, work obligations, the prying eyes of online gossip columnists, "class" distinctions between the PR people and those who toil on the velvet rope. But honestly, yawn.

The biggest problem is Weisberger's own voice getting tied up in her characters. More often then not I was wondering why she'd make a point of having her character not know about Birkin bags, to the extent that a new co-worker spends pages upon pages explaining their importance to her, only to have her extol the virtues of their social importance in a way that didn't feel natural to Bette four chapters later. BTW, the Birkin chapter is what Weisberger read at the IFOA when I saw her; it was cute then, but it's not enough cute to sustain an entire novel.

And I hate continuity problems. She has a dog she never walks. She goes away on vacation and doesn't tell us what she did with her pet; it was probably locked up in her tiny Manhattan apartment for the entire week. The character is supposedly Jewish, but that felt totally artificial when it came out, like the author was trying to paint the character by numbers in awkward places within the text. It's as if the author really and truly wants to create a "character" but can't get her own voice out of the way long enough for Bette to truly become what she should be.

See, there's a point to reading bad books: they're chalk full of things not to do.

Law & Order

When I was out for brunch a few weekends ago with a friend, we were talking about how, inevitably if you're out in your sweatpants running errands, haven't washed your hair and are wearing no makeup, the order of the universe will ensure that you'll run into every single person you know.

It's the law of 'letting yourself go.' At least, that's how I've been thinking about it. Now that I'm puffy from the meds (a little still, but not so bad) and have chubbed out, of course, my life decides that now is the perfect time for a high school reunion. Over the course of the two nights, I saw no less than five people I had known in high school, all of whom I'd been just recently back in touch with.

And you know, as overwhelming as it kind of is, it's certainly really wonderful too. I've kind of figured out that plenty of life happens: people get older, they have families, jobs, lives, but they never fundamentally change. All of the reasons why I loved and adored these people in high school are still there; it's as if the spirit inside you, to use a totally cheesy metaphor, like a moth to flame, hovers towards people who you know will love and respect you right back.

I once had a totally ridiculous psychic who lived near my stepmother's sister in a housing complex in Mississauga read my cards. Yeah, not even tarot cards, but regular old playing cards, which is fine. Not a single thing she predicted was even remotely close to being correct (that I can remember), with the exception of one thing: "Oh my gosh, look at all those friends you have, there are so many of them and, wow, they really love you." Heh. I knew that it was total hogwash, but it was nice to hear. And I kind of wanted to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy—as any good psychic reading should encourage you to do. Ha!

Annnyway, I've sort of gotten over my own insecurities of how awful I look these days because there's absolutely nothing I can do about it. Well perhaps "getting over" might be pushing it, "sucking it up and still going out" might be more accurate. Because if I didn't go, I wouldn't have seen everyone on Friday night, wouldn't have laughed, wouldn't have danced around (with my pants on, no need to scare anyone), wouldn't have remembered why it's so fun to go to a rock and roll show in the first place, and would have been at home eating popcorn and watching all of the Batman movies on TMN.

And all in all, my RRHB's shows at the Rivoli were great. It's the first time in a long time that I left the disease at the door when I got my handstamp and felt like a regular person, well, a regular Band Wife. I dressed up because I knew I'd be seeing people I hadn't seen in forever, I had my nightly 3 beer limit, which for someone who doesn't really drink all that much, it was the perfect amount. Both FemBots shows were lots of fun, on Friday night there was a great crowd with hot dancing girls, which always makes a rock show great. Last night there weren't as many people there, but the show was still good.

It reminded me that not only am I lucky to be alive but I'm kind of lucky to be me in a strange sort of why-did-the-universe-put-me-on-this-earth sort of way. Because it was a great to know that life pulls you and pushes you in certain directions, it gives you ridiculous diseases and all kinds of other tragedies, turns your head inside out so you feel awful, but it also gives you back some of what you thought might have been foever lost.

Annnd that's enough of the feel-good, hippie, Ragdoll's in touch with her feelings, bugger-ass post.

Friday, May 05, 2006

On With The Show

After a whirlwind week of work conferences, my head is spinning and I'm totally exhausted. I know, stop me when you've heard something new.

Annnywaay. If you're out and about in the city tonight, come and see my RRHB play at the Rivoli.

I'll be surprised if I'm still alive after this weekend: last night, work cocktail party (details TK), tonight, RRHB show, tomorrow night, birthday dinner then RRHB's show, Sunday afternoon, my cousin's baby shower (whee!).

Yes, I've had a nap. Yes, I'm resting until I have to go out (around 10 PM), but goodness, I was so antisocial and kind of lonely when he was away on tour, now that he's home, it's a feast or famine situation. I've got social situations coming out the wazoo.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Sick Of Being Sick (Repeat After Me)

Today marks the second day where I've been feeling like I've been run over by a truck. My throat is sore, I haven't been sleeping, my mind's been racing, I've been fighting with my RRHB (just wait until we're in person and I can tell you what his definition of our relationship is. Oh. Yes.), and feeling desperately tired.

It's strange, after they found my blood, I felt a lot, A LOT, better. But the past couple days have been so stressful with our big work conference and having to be certain places by certain times (with no breathing space), that I'm falling back into bad diseasy-grossness (how's that for made up words).

And then, I was sitting having lunch during said conference when a woman I work with was telling me about her brother who also suffered from Wegener's Granulomatosis. Notice I say "suffered"? Well, he got so sick and no one noticed that the disease killed him. He was only 36.

So as bad as I feel, as gross and tired and frustrated and angry and sad and mad and fat and pimply and crazy and upset and exhausted and achy and depressed and psychotic and overwhelmed and sick of being sick I am, I am lucky enough to be alive. That's so easy to forget when I'm tunneling down the Sorry-For-Myself Street after a long day working in publishing and having all kinds of great people around me that I love and that love me.

I am lucky to be alive.

I am lucky to be alive.

And now that I've fulfilled my J.D.-inspired "sensitive" post. I'm going to go back to the couch and watch any and all episodes of Law & Order (any variation; I'm not picky) I've got on the Faux-Vo.

The Day After The Day After Tomorrow

You know, when everyone has flocked down to Mexico because the big giant wave that first sank New York City, then froze, and then got really, really cold? And then Dennis Quaid had to come rescue me and then we got all busy in the back of the dog sled...oh wait, that's not what happened.

Annnnywaaay, I'm guessing that a lot of people are going to be a lot happier now that it's legal to hang on to some, ahem, substances, for personal use.

Now, dope I can sort of get, but heroin and coke? I can see that it would make William S. Burroughs happy (if he were still alive), but aren't they dangerous drugs to be legalizing? But hell, what do I know? I've never done either and ever since I smoked so much dope that I barfed for two days, I haven't had any of that either.

I am interested in what happens though: will crime rates go down, will tourism take a hit, will it actually encourages people with problems to be safe and maybe get the help they need? But I'd also be curious to see what kind of lobbying took place for it to happen at all. And more interestingly, what George W. has to say about it, because you know once Bushy has spoken, ole Harpy won't be far behind.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Why be hatin'?

But really, this is kind of funny:

URL (as pronounced "ERL"): Few things invoke more contempt for humanity than someone who pronounces URL as "erl." It's an acronym, not a word you douche! Between people who say "erl" and programmers who pronounce char (an abbreviation for character) as "chär" (with the "ch" pronounced like in "chart"), I get so pissed that I just want to saw my arms off.

And notice I'm not using quotes.

Monday, May 01, 2006

When Self-Delusion Goes Horribly Wrong

Ever since I've been a child, I've sort of half-lived in my own imagination. I make up my own dreams when I can sleep, going over sky-high situations that would never happen: what if I was Wonder Woman, what if I met Ethan Hawke, what if... Well, you get the point.

More often than not, the silly little dreams would involve boys, but as I've gotten older, married my RRHB, they've morphed into illusions of financial freedom. For the past few months, I've been fantasizing about my next royalty cheque, imagining it being a one-way ticket to quitting my job and moving to Paris, writing full-time like Henry Miller, buying bread, cheese and pain au chocolat. And because the last one was such a surprise, like winning the lottery, I sort of half-expected the same thing this time around.

Alas, it's not to be. While still a wonderful and joyous thing to receive a cheque in the mail for work that I did over four years ago now, the reality is the cheque won't fulfill all the silly little fantasies I've made up in my head over the past six months (Okay, granted, I did go overboard, like moving to Paris, taking a year-long road trip through the States, finishing our house completely, quitting my job and writing full-time).

And I know it's kind of silly, because I made up all the stories in my head myself, and have only my over-active imagination to blame, but I'm trying hard not to be too disappointed. It's funny, all of the things in my life that I've always wished for outright (damn you Barbie Dream House, damn you!) have never come true. Everything good and real in my life has come from hard work, and I don't resent that one bit; it's made me the person that I am. That's where the danger of dreaming comes in, it's an impossible irony of being a girl with too great an imagination; real life is always letting me down. However, I now have less than six months until the next royalty cheque. And we'll see if I can keep my daydreams in check or if I get carried away and am already packing my bags to Europe. I'll keep you posted.

In terms of financial freedom, I guess I'll have to go back to the tried and tested method of actually saving my money instead of spending it, which means I'll have to stop shopping. No more new shoes for Ragdoll. So, as of today, the strict financial budget that allowed me to splurge on those shoes in the first place comes back into play. I suppose it's my own version of the Debt Diet.

And just to reiterate, once again, I'm incredibly blessed and delighted to be lucky enough to be receiving royalty cheques at all. I'm thankful for the work, I'm thankful for the opportunity, and I'm especially thankful for the cheque that came today—I'm merely pointing out a flaw in my own character, something I already know about myself that I need to take some steps to change. Sort of like my ongoing New Years Revolutions and obsession with To Do Lists, the ever-evolving commitment to becoming a better rounded person. If that makes any sense at all.

My Boy is Ten

My friend Heather took this photo a couple of weekends ago. We went for a walk in the woods. It was a bit cold at first, neither my boy nor ...