Wednesday, November 29, 2006

TRH TV - Intelligence

Okay, you all know I'm obsessed with watching television. I'm convinced it's because my mother never let us watch TV when we were small kids and so I grew up blissfully unaware of the truly addictive aspects of the little blue box. And all through university we didn't have cable, and even up until I started living with my RRHB, I didn't have cable. What did I need it for? I didn't watch television.

Oh, what a fool I am.

Anyway, what I did watch was tonnes of the CBC. North of 60, Rita MacNeil, you name it, I watched it. And then, once I discovered the glorious joy of cable, I sort of left the CBC behind. I even (as she says in a hushed tone) stopped watching the news. Gasp!

But now, I'm getting older. I listen to Andy Barrie in the morning. I have the CBC on in the background most days at work and have come back into the fold with the new show that's been on this season called Intelligence. Never a Da Vinci fan, I watched the short tv movie that the series is based on last year by accident (meaning I flipped the channel, answered the phone, and the show was on, and it was interesting enough to keep me watching until the end. I think too, the RRHB was away so we weren't compromising in terms of the evening show tally).

The story of a third generation dope slinger turned millionaire, Intelligence follows Jimmy's involvement with the RCMP's special crime unit, both in terms of giving them information and being a suspect they're looking to take down. Balancing out the crime with the punishment as we also get Mary, the head of said crime section, whose own agenda involves positioning herself for a sweet promotion over to CSIS (who, by the way, would never have their parking spots noted "parking for CSIS," art directors please take note). It's a fascinating little show, a bit Sopranos, a bit The Wire, a bit Can Con, but it kind of works. So much so it's on a permanent tape-to-watch later status on my Faux-Vo.

However, now that I like it and am actually telling y'all to watch it, sure as it will eventually snow here in Toronto, the CBC will cancel the show and start airing something equally dismal like Air Farce in its place.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

#64 - Everything Is Illuminated

Finally, after almost seven weeks, a pathetic showing on my part, I limped to the finish line and finished Everything Is Illuminated last night before going to bed. The good, the bad, and the ugly about the book is as follows:

1. The Good
Jonathan Safran Foer is a brilliant bloody writer. He has a wonderful gift for humour, for the absurd, and for a meta-self-referential-po-mo stylist, an ease with prose that seems so natural that it's as refreshing to read as a swim in the lake on a hot July day.

2. The Bad
The disjointed narrative style, while cute, was very distracting. It took away from the fact that no aspect of the story actually get resolved. The novel bites around the story like a sandwich with the crusts cut off, and never really lets you in to the meat until the very end, and even then, it's hard to figure out exactly what happened. But maybe that's because it took me weeks to finish the novel and picking it up over a longer period of time makes it harder for me to put all the connections together.

3. The Ugly
I know it's wrong of me, but I couldn't help feeling like Sacha was Borat, or at least a version of that stereotypical character that comes across more caricature than anything else. And while I enjoyed his malapropisms, I felt the author used him more for comic relief and to show off than actually contributing to the story in any way.

Overall, I can see what all the spilled ink was about, but I wasn't as blown away by this novel as the rest of the ladies in my bookclub, but I'm sure as hell happy with being able to add a new book to my 1001 Books score. And with Persuasion, that brings my total to 122. Whee!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

TRH Movie - The History Boys

Last night Tara and I went to go see The History Boys. After having brunch with Sam, then going to my Restorative Yoga class and starting the housework, it was the perfect way to end the day.

Having not even heard of the Broadway play (shame on me) nor knowing anything about the film with the exception of having seen the trailer before Little Children, I'm glad to report I was pleasantly surprised. It's a sharp, witty drama about a group of boys in their last year of school in England who are all vying for spots at university. And not just any school, but Cambridge and Oxford.

The boys have a wonderful relationship with a teacher, whom they dub "Hector", played by Richard Griffiths, who teaches them not only about literature, but about the importance of learning in life. Hector's place among the boys is challenged by the arrival of Mr. Irwin, hired by the headmaster to get the boys prepared for their admittance exams. The struggle between Hector's old-fashioned methods of teaching and Irwin's inspirational new way influences the boys in different ways.

A true coming of age tale that romanticizes the entire last year of school for the various different boys, the film celebrates the value of knowledge simply for the joy of learning. Like Wonder Boys, it's a movie that doesn't talk down to the audience, that throws in Thomas Hardy, Anne of Cleves and an odd French lesson taking place in a brothel and simply expects you to get it. Gladly, the crowd out last night was up for the challenge.

Friday, November 24, 2006

What To Do?

So I'm a band widow this weekend and can't make up my mind about what to do. Reading would be a good place to start, I'm halfway through Before I Wake and really, really must finally finish Everything is Illuminated, and I need to do some grocery shopping and house cleaning, oh, and some laundry too. But what to do for fun? I'm up for suggestions...

Team Karen or Team Pam?

Looking for the perfect holiday "secret Santa" present? Yeah, I'd go for Team Karen just to piss off all of the obvious Team Pam supporters.

I'm all for Pam and Jim, OF COURSE, but a little love triangle never hurt anyone. Except maybe Lorelai because that sh*t's been going on for eight seasons.

Oh, and other TV news? I had an episode of 30 Rock on the Faux-Vo to catch the last few minutes of The Office while I was in Vancouver last week and I ended up watching it. I was doing the absolutely crazy go through the taped shows and watch them in alphabetical order on Wednesday night after pilates. I started with 30 Rock, ended up on Coronation Street, then Grey's Anatomy, but I skipped a couple in between. Okay, back on topic. 30 Rock, you know, it's totally funny. Tracy Morgan is good, and Alec Baldwin truly kills. There was this whole meta-thing about him being a broadcast head playing himself in a sketch but he couldn't act. And the ham-bone Baldwin pretending not to act all while acting bit? Hilarious.

But the best part of both Studio 60 and 30 Rock? Other than their numerically challenged titles, they're both kind of about writers, and I really like writers.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

TRH Movie - Fast Food Nation

While in Vancouver last week, we ended up going to see a preview screening for Richard Linklater's new film Fast Food Nation. Based on Eric Schlosser's nonfiction book of the same name, Fast Food Nation weaves three very different stories together to examine the food industry in America. The first thread finds fast food chain Mickey's marketing executive Don Anderson (Greg Kinnear) who is charged with finding out why there's fecal matter in the meat they're serving in their Big One burgers. While he's investigating, he meets the young Amber (Ashley Johnson) who is working at a Mickey's in small-town Colorado. Her story, that of innocence to social action, forms the second storyline in the film. The last thread, that of immigrant Mexican workers working at an abattoir in the same Colorado town where Amber lives, is perhaps the most poignant. Wilmer Valderrama (That 70s Show) and Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace) play young lovers who escape the poverty of their homeland to work awful jobs in the meat processing plant / slaughterhouse.

It's a full-on indie movie, complete with pretty poor art direction (please, please could someone attach the laptop in the Mickey's exec's office to some power outlet or at least an internet cord to make it somewhat realistic?) and that slow, sprawling narrative style that fits both the storylines and the subject matter. The film is well written and well acted, with standout performances by just about all in the cast, but I'd have to say that Bobby Canavale, who I think is one of the most underrated gems out there as the stupendously arrogant plant supervisor, and Catalina Sandino Moreno as an immigrant working for a better life, give particularly poignant performances.

Linklater saves the most gruesome bits for the end, which I don't want to spoil by going into too much detail about, but to say that I think anyone who eats meat should see this movie. Not to be preachy and/or all high and mighty, but knowing where your food comes from and how it comes to your table should be mandatory for anyone who eats a burger at a fast food joint. All in all, I don't think this film will do gangbusters at the box office, but it's an important film, not only because of its message but also to show the studios that you don't have to spend millions to capture the essence of a good picture, that all it takes is a good cast, a solid script and a bit of heart. It's not the best movie I've seen all year but it's certainly a memorable one.

#63 - Persuasion

Thank goodness the reader's block is over. I didn't know what to do with myself not being able to blog about the books that I've read because I hadn't actually finished a book in about five weeks. The dry spell is over! Over my two plane rides (to Vancouver and back again) I managed to finish Jane Austen's Persuasion, the inaugural choice of our newly formed 1001 Books To Read Before You Die club at work.

Persuasion is yet another classic that reminds me that I can't believe I haven't enjoyed the talents of Jane Austen in my life before now. It's the story of Anne Elliot, the middle daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, a vain, pompous, yet totally harmless man, who finds herself marginalized by her family, left out in the cold by love, and saddled with the fact that she's morally superior to many of her relations. Anne overcomes her trials (of course) and eventually finds happiness. The persuasion part of the novel comes in many forms: Anne's betrayal of her heart when she refuses the proposal of Captain Wentworth on the bidding of her great friend and mother stand-in, Lady Russell; Wentworth's upwardly mobile abilities regarding his own social standing throughout the novel; and Anne's in-between position in terms of her meddling, hypochondriac sister and her many other frustrating relations.

The most shocking aspect to reading Jane Austen at this point in my life is how she crafted completely and utterly addictive books, and Persuasion is no exception. It's an early 19th-century page turner, and I'm not really why that surprises me, but it really does.

Plus, the more of Austen I read, the more I find that she's so responsible for many of the tropes and/or plot devices that we find in modern-day chicklit novels, the charming cad, the mistaken affection and/or personality assumptions, the awkward parental units, the unsatisfying love lives, and then I feel dumb that it's taken me this long to get with the, ahem, program.

Friday, November 17, 2006

TRH Does Vancouver

Damn time change on the west coast!

I am really enjoying my vacation. Despite the truly crappy weather (Hannah told me yesterday that I flew in during a tsunami warning), Vancouver has been great. Went to see the Emily Carr exhibit, shopped a bit on Robson Street, had a great breakfast in Kitsilano, went to see a screening of "Fast Food Nation," and am enjoying the blissful Pan Pacific Hotel at this very moment.

More details to follow when I'm back and not blogging from my crackberry.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

TRH Version 2.0

Well, to some extent. I upgraded my template here at blogspot and can't figure out how to change the metadata so that it doesn't show up "notify blogger of objectionable content" when I search for the blog on Firefox or IE.

But I do love the labels. Aren't they fun?

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Slow Movement

Over the past few Saturdays, I've been taking Restorative Yoga class at the Liberty Movement Studio in Liberty Village. The space is gorgeous and the teacher awesome but I wasn't expecting it to be so utterly relaxing. I've always been a smash-up and down kind of exercise-doer, from the early days of dance classes to crazy-ass aerobics to biking like a maniac, so the idea of slow movements for the benefit of my health never really occurred to me, like ever. To me, exercise has always meant lots of sweating, moving and high kicks.

But that's not always the case. The benefits of restorative yoga include the highly important act of resting the brain. True rest, something where my mind isn't going a mile a minute and I'm not bouncing from topic to topic, isn't something I've ever done before. And considering my disease is completely stress related the idea of quieting my mind is an important one.

And it's strange that restorative yoga, where you hold supported poses for long periods of time, makes me far more tired than my pilates class does; it makes me so relaxed that I actually rest, something I most certainly do not do enough of in my real, hectic life.

Weekend Update

What a crazy busy weekend! It's always fun when that happens. It was Remembrance Day. The holiday always makes me think of my grandmother, a war bride, my grandfather, a World War II vet, and my great-grandfather, who fought in the First World War.

I guess it was kind of fitting that I went to see the psychic/clairvoyant on Remembrance Day, considering the person that came through the most was my maternal grandmother, my Nanny, who came from London when she was a young married woman to make her life in Canada. The whole reading was totally surreal: apparently, I'm a 'diamond' soul, have got angels around me, and, um, the grandmother of God, one St. Anne, sits with my dead relatives watching over them and me.

Yeah, that kind of totally freaked me out, especially considering that the psychic knew nothing about me or even my name before I walked in the room. Oh, and on top of all that, I was born on St. Anne's Day, as my father-in-law is always telling me. But the cutest part of the reading? The psychic telling me that my grandmother thinks my RRHB has a cute butt. I mean, he does, but really?

It's hard to know what to believe and what not to believe but when you've been without your mom and your grandmother for so long, maybe even just the little reassurance that they're there, somewhere, is a good thing. Then, I went to restorative yoga, which I'll explain in the next post.

After all of that spiritual stuff, I collapsed on the couch and watched TV before falling asleep at 9:42 PM. Why was I so tired? Oh, because I stayed out too late after going to see a reading on Friday night. Kevin Patterson (Consumption), Robert J. Wiersema (Before I Wake) and Giles Blunt (By the Time You Read This): all three men gave excellent readings in the Hart House Library at U of T. All three books are now on my 'to read' pile (after ordering them), and I have to say that Patterson totally gets the ├╝ber-hot author award. Wow! Smoking! AND, he eats caribou eyeballs. Fascinating.

Then, on Sunday I went for brunch with a friend who is spending her first year teaching. She's got a grade 3/4 split class and has been reading my abridged version of Frankenstein. Apparently, the kids are quite upset about the ending that I wrote (they found it unsatisfactory) and are going to be writing me some letters about what they think happens to the monster. Oh, and I've also been asked to reply to them, which I am more than willing to do. How fun is that?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Aphra Behn

Is it strange to say that a 17th century woman is one of my heroes? That my goal has always been, just like Behn, to be a woman who makes a living by her pen. And these past few weeks something has actually been happening on that front. A royalty cheque arrived for the first three of my Classic Starts (Little Women, Frankenstein and Robinson Crusoe), and yesterday a cheque arrived from Taddle Creek for my poem "April" that appeared in their last issue.

Getting paid for poetry is awesome. Getting paid for writing I did five years ago is also kind of thrilling. But being able to pay for my Humber course without going into debt? Awesome.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Seen Reading

Love this new blog by Julie Wilson (links via Bookninja & Quill and Quire).

Makes me wish that I took the TTC more often so I could take a peak at what page people were on...

Now That It's On Your Mind

Do something about it. Ipsos-Reid tells us that Canadians are now more concerned about the environment than any other social issue. It tops the list, with health care (natch) and international war/conflict coming up next. Do you think Harper will listen?

Oh, and while we're on the subject, here's a top 10 list from George Monbiot, the author of Heat:

1. Cut your flights. Nothing else you do causes so much climate change in so short a time.

2. Think hard before you pick up your car keys. On average, 40% of the journeys made by car could be made by other means - on foot, by bicycle or on public transport.

3. Organise a "walking bus" to take the children to school.

4. Ask your boss to devise a "workplace travel plan" which rewards people for leaving their cars at home.

5. Switch over to a supplier of renewable electricity. You don't have to erect your own wind turbine, but you can buy your power from someone who has.

6. Ask a builder to give you an estimate for bringing your home up to R2000 standards.

7. Ditch your air conditioner.

8. Turn down your thermostat: 18 degrees is as warm as your house ever needs to be. You just have to get used to it.

9. Make sure every bulb in your house is a compact fluorescent or LED.

10. Do NOT buy a plasma TV: they use 5 times as much energy as other models.

How am I faring? Not too well I'm afraid. We're trying to keep the heat down, we've switched a lot of our lightbulbs, we don't own a plasma tv, we rarely (read three times last summer) turn on the air conditioning, and we're going to do as much environmentally friendly renovating as we can possibly afford when my RRHB starts fixing the house up full-time in January, but I'm going to Vancouver next week (flying) and drive to work most days. We've also been thinking about switching to Bullfrog, but it's so expensive. I know, I shouldn't complain.

Hence the goal to buy most of our Christmas presents in the form of hand-made gifts, donations to charities and stuff from the Red campaign.

Monday, November 06, 2006

1001 Books Redux

Baby got Books has posted a spreadsheet that calculates how many of the 1001 books you've read; it's pretty sweet.

My score: 113.

I'm a bit ahead of where I was last summer simply because a couple of the classics I've now abridged for Sterling.

Reader's Block

So the cold mutated into a bad sinus infection, which laid me up for another, truly non-eventful, weekend. But the worst part of it? I'm totally and utterly unable to read. I can't concentrate and even looking at a page (or a computer screen) hurts my eyes (it does not, however, stop me from lying on the couch, collecting dust, and watching hour after hour of television).

I've been reading Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer for the past four weeks. I'm on page 154. Other books I can't seem to crack are Marie Antoinette: The Journey, The Communist's Daughter by Dennis Bock, and about 17 others sitting on my night table. I should be starting a November challenge, I like Sassy Monkey's idea of doing one 'from the stacks,' but I am also attracted to the idea (c/o Kailana) of reading war-inspired or themed books because of Remembrance Day, but considering I haven't finished a single challenge yet (I came close with the RIP one for October), I might simply have my goal for this month to "get over my reader's block" and actually finish a damn book.

Tomorrow is another day: tomorrow I will decide upon a challenge. Tomorrow, I hope, I will be feeling better.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Cold Is Killing Me

I have been on the couch all day. Not even Oprah can cheer me up. My voice? Gone. My energy? Gone.

I did, however, get caught up one every single show on my Faux-Vo.

Man, being sick is boring.

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 ...