Thursday, January 31, 2008

retail therapy

Nothing like a little shopping to lift a girl's spirits. So, yesterday I decided to buy one new outfit. Skirt, pant and purple silk top: $110; 5 pieces of ridiculous jewellery: $5.70; 2 new piercings: $50... lifted sprits? one warm VISA card (certainly not priceless). Wearing my new clothes has only kept the high going. For anyone who doesn't believe in retail therapy: I feel sad for you; also: lunch is on you, because you're obviously saving your money.

Was very much looking forward to OLA Superconference tomorrow as well (that's right, I said Superconference - because when librarians get together, it's always super. Please try to reign in your jealousy.). Now, there's 25 cms of snow between me and the conference and I'm very much contemplating taking the day off. Little Quinn is just too beat up to be on a highway during a snow storm. I need a new car. Good thing I wasn't really depressed.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

hey, look out into left field

I'm so done being heartsick.
Here's the first page of the story that precipitated the week-long hiatus.
Enjoy :)

Lucy stirred her now-cold coffee. The heavily beating rain muffled the sounds of the lunch rush. She was the last of the breakfast crowd, her plates whisked away efficiently hours ago, her cup filled for the fourth time. She felt like a fool. The woman who had filled her cup had even looked at her with pity. This was the last time she would sit on this stool, she vowed, the absolute last time. Staring out at the sidewalk, watching people rush hither and yon, she knew she was being ridiculous. There were just so many more important things to be done than to keep vigil on three metres of crowded pavement. She wanted to be in the crowd, not an observer to them. Swigging the bitter dregs in her cup, she pushed off the stool and strode purposefully out door. Heedless of the rain pounding on her – streaming down her neck under her long black leather – she turned the corner and disappeared down the subway tunnel.


Precisely 17 days earlier, Lucy had been sitting in Flo’s Fifities CafĂ© enjoying the largest, strongest cup of coffee she had had in a long time. It was perfect: burnt and bitter from being in the percolator too long. Her waitress, whose nametag announced her as “Karen”, had offered to make a fresh pot, but Lucy had insisted that she get what’s left and made a big show of enjoying it. Karen seemed to appreciate the gesture: Lucy was nothing if she wasn’t charming. In the city for less than 24 hours and she already thought she would have to stop by more often. It was still early downtown; her stool facing the window allowed her to watch the streets fill in fast with briefcases and blackberries, double-breasted suits and trench coats. Spring was arriving, and the confusion could be found in the varying degrees of warmth with which these denizens dressed. Flo’s did steady business from 6am onward – but at 8:30, the lineup for a coffee-to-go was almost out the door. She couldn’t blame them: the coffee here was better than any triple grande, half soy, half breve, 1 pump cinnamon dulce latte offered elsewhere. She had tried them all – but this was almost as good as Bogota or Marakesh. Having absolutely nowhere to be at 9am afforded her the luxury of indulging in her favourite past-time: people-watching. Most people viewed people-watching as a hobby; Lucy, however, attacked the task with intent and fervour.

People fascinated her, always had. She remembered (ages ago when she still felt young) spying on a couple while they went about their garden. Their intimate touches, easy conversation, exchanged smiles – how the young Lucy had longed to have that same camaraderie with someone. For the first time, she had felt jealous and cheated. When Izzy and Ish teased her later, she had lashed back at them in way that one could only regret. Not that she would change anything – not that she had been wrong – just that she should have chosen her words more carefully. Asking why wasn’t always going to give you the answers you wanted.

These coffee-to-go people were boring – there was a sense of sameness to them. Same gadgets, same black pumps, same pinstripe, same knots in same ties. Dull. She had just resolved to find more varying pursuits when something flashed in the corner of her eye. Ice blond hair – so light it appeared almost blue in the still-weak sunshine. Broad shoulders on top of a tall frame. Long strides. And then, just like that, gone. But not before a distinct frisson of static familiarly jolted up her spine. Almost upending her cup, she rushed out and around the corner, but there was no sign of him. Frustration and relief collided violently. Too long. Mikhail.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

sometimes, someone else says it best

"Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid." ~ Dostoevsky

Oh Fyodor, you are a genius.

Monday, January 28, 2008

on abandoning loved ones

So, this was a weekend of losses. First, Timmy will be gone for 10 business days. This makes me sad. I miss his snoring sounds in the night (they're very soothing, not at all like human snoring). I read somewhere that anthropomorphism is a way of coping with loneliness. This makes me even sadder. But alas, he is with the FutureShop people now, getting the dust sucked out of his fans so that he can breathe better and stop wheezing while we're crafting at war. As a result, I am cut off from all my favourite past-times: FaceStalking, online comics, messenger and, of course, blogging about all the inanities that fill my day. Only my books keep me going, but there's only so much Vic Lit I can handle at one time.

The loss of computer companionship is not all: humans are giving me a hard time too. I've rehashed this story so many times, I'm tired of talking about it. But, needless to say, "friends" can sometimes be just as sucky as anyone else... especially when they're male. Every camel has its straw. Long story short: someone I thought to be a very good friend (certainly a very old friend) acted like an even bigger jerk than normal. As Jadek points out regularly, I wouldn't let anyone get away with the amount of crap Krys throws my way, but yet I let it slide. Frankly, Krys doesn't really push me too far (possibly because he knows better than to poke the sleeping dragon), but the last few months have been unbelievable: cancelled plans, last-minute confirmations, almost never responding to social invitations without prodding... just a general disrespect for other people's time and a carelessness for their feelings. Anyone else would have long ago surmised that he isn't interested in hanging out with us, no? So. I'm taking it at face value. I have so little time to spread about, I can't imagine why I'm spending any of it with someone who seems to appreciate it so little. A curt text message and an equally curt one-word-response phone call is the last we've spoken. JC says it's not the end of it but I don't think Krys will even notice that something's wrong. Awaiting the fallout; I will probably be disappointed by just how anticlimactic it will be.

long story even shorter: humans suck.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Canada Reads: Timothy Findley's Not Wanted on the Voyage

If you know me at all, you know I love the religious themes in literature. It all stems from first-year English Lit with the yummilicious Professor Santesso (oh, I wish we hadn't parted on such bad terms, Aaron). There, with the daunting Paradise Lost before me, I discovered the rich mythos behind the dull Gospel stuff and rediscovered all those books we like to call the Old Testament. Some of my favourites stories are from there: Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, Moses and Red Sea, Esther and the Judges... so compelling was Milton's work, I actually read the Bible (cover to cover) for the first time (and many times since). Can't say it strengthened my faith or anything, but it gave me a whole new appreciation for it. Since then, I've read and loved Diamant's Red Tent, Spenser's Faerie Queene, Julian Barnes' History of the World in 10-1/2 Chapters, etc.

Enter Not Wanted on the Voyage. While reading Barnes, someone had complained it was a Findley ripoff. I must confess I avoided Findley like the plague after an unfortunate run-in with The Wars. Even though I knew it was a re-telling of the Noah story, I couldn't get over my emotional trauma. But this year's Canada Reads list has it on there and I really wanted to read all five books this year, so... I thought I'd start with my least loking-forward-to.

Wow. I may give up the Findley-ban.

Of course, everyone knows the basic Noah-story: God disappointed with humans (again), tells Noah to build ark and board his entire family and every animal two-by-two, God floods Earth, much dying ensues; many months later, Noah sends a dove, it comes back with olive branch, God loves humans again and promises to never lose his temper. Pinky swears, with a rainbow and everything.

NWOTV was a GREAT read: sarcastic, sad, full of deep characters and insightful dialogue. And the characters stay with you a long time. Japeth, Hannah, Mrs. Noyes and Lucy were fabulous to read. But my runaway favourite is Mottyl (that beautiful cat on the cover, and after whom, if I could abide by cats, would name mine), whose anger and sorrow are so eloquently expressed that I actually cried several times when reading her lines. But there's also humour and joy to balance out all the sadness, which is really how life is no? Findley tells you about the Ark in detail, about the sons and their wives, about cruelty and senility, camaraderie and overcoming adversity. Mostly, though, he tells you about the animals (One-Tusk, Hippo, Crowe, Unicorn and his Lady, the Cormorant, Demons - both one and two-headed - Gryphons and the singing sheep) who are truly the heroes of this story. A fabulous read and a great start to Canada Reads.

Friday, January 25, 2008


Well! One week gone and I feel like I've been away a lifetime... hello? anyone still receiving?

In my quest to be a more fulfilled person (and to stop whining about boys) I've done two things to soothe my creative soul. I shall expound upon them at length below. But first: I missed you. Let's never fight again.

1) Bellydancing Classes: oh yes, you read right. With Nish in tow, there are enough shoulder punches, hip-sits and Egyptian walks to keep any girl happy (and said girl's gluts unhappy). So, we're working on isolation techniques (insert all the clever witticisms about art imitating life here) and coordination (ha!). I'm not the worst person in the class: I remember to "hold an egg" "have an attitude" and "bounce my hip, not my leg" well enough. But I still can't get the "step, switch, turn" thing. I hate switching...why can't things just stay the same? Anyway, there's a "routine" of some sort at the end. I intend to be sick if any kind of audience is involved. Big bonus: buying a ching-ching belt!

2) Writing: have started and finished my first short story in over 7 years. I don't know what happened, but I went to Queen's and my creative writing went to hell (same diff, eh H2?). Anyway, "Lucy" appeared a few weeks ago and she wouldn't leave. She's the pushy sort, always telling people what to do, always thinking she's right (stop saying I'm describing me! geez.) . She demanded I tell her story; I was compelled to oblige. In the meantime, she introduced me to Izzy, Ish, Mikhail and Elle (yes, Elle-in-real-life, you read right). I had a tonne of fun writing her story - it took me 35 pages, but hey, I've always been verbose.

While in the midst of all this, my computer got sick (very sick) and I had to do most of the typing at work while on desk. Not the best place, but at least I wasn't bored (for the first time in months).

Anyway, thanks for coming back and staying a while. I'll be here more when Timmy comes back to me. Right now, he's living at Jadek's house where he is being fed hot microchip soup and being treated to soothing formats and driver updates. It's a nice vacation for him, but I do miss him. Lots. But not nearly as much as you, dear reader, not nearly as much as you.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Now Playing: Monster Movies

In the last two days, I watched two monster movies: Cloverfield and I Am Legend. Not only is this a serious detour from normal movie-going behaviour (I tend to save scary movies for Halloween marathons) but to watch TWO in as many days. Well. It does lead to inevitable comparisons, so why even try to avoid it? Here's what I had to say about the movies on Flixter:

okay acting (Hud was hilarious) and nice special effects (when you can actually focus on it, which isn't often) but overall too short and a little too reminiscent of Blair Witch. Still: fun :) 2.5 stars out of 5.

I Am Legend:
Who knew? I had originally passed on this movie because I didn't want to watch another "zombie" movie. I was wrong. First of all, Will Smith is a phenom in it: it's basically just him and his dog for most of the movie (flashbacks and CGI zombies can't really count) and he did so well. The directing was tight: I haven't watched a movie that both scared the holy hell out of me AND moved me to tears. Fabulous - you gotta check it out. 4 stars out of 5. direct comparison, though, I Am Legend makes Cloverfield look bad. Yeah, Cloverfield was fun and stuff, but for pure suspense and emotional investment, Legend is untouchable. Both Nish and I were dropped down as far as we could go in our IMAX seats, cursing each other for agreeing to see this movie and whimpering along with Sam. It was stellar. Cloverfield would have been a perfect marathon movie (short, shallow and easily dismissed); Legend would have killed a party mood totally. Where Legend leaves lots to talk about when it ends (the Fred incident is a good example), Cloverfield goes for a cheap end-of-credits trick. If you have a craving for a scary movie: check out I Am Legend and leave Cloverfield for another time.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

where did you go, my lovely

short post: in my attempt to get more creative this year, I have gone back to writing. Not just rants and raves on this here blog - thank you for reading gentle reader - but back to my fiction roots. I'm sure I'll be back to post here; just don't give up on me!

PS: also today I attended my first bellydancing class in 20 years. Good to know I still remembered shoulder punches :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

She Said Yeah

This is one of those times where most things I say will be a sentiment stolen from the Rolling Stones (don't deny it - this happens to you too!). This entry is brought to by the letter Elle, or rather by way of Elle's letters. As she often does, Elle wrote an eloquent piece that mirrors my inner turmoil.

"You can't always get what you want"
For a number of months, I have been afraid of answering one question honestly: are you happy being single. I want to answer yes! oh I surely do - but let's face it, I'm not. I have spent a good part of my adult life rejecting all those things I consider anachronistic and outdated (white picket fences, gingham aprons, stay-at-home moms, you know the drill); I've built a very independent lifestyle that's full of good friends, good books, good food and good wine; I've established a career and built a home. Now, all I need is someone to share all this with... enter problem. Unlike everything else, I have no control over this part - I can't get a degree in man-getting and ta-da I get a man; I can't work overtime, et voilĂ , just buy one either (although, mail-order husbands would do booming business in the West, I think). I have to wait around for one to notice me and like me and then fall in love with me. In order to attract said man, I may have to give up things that I've worked so hard to make time for in the first place: go out to a bar on Friday night instead of taking a pottery class, attend singles events instead of playing Wii with the boys, put down my fiction and read up on "sports" and "computers"; I'd have relearn things I've deliberately forgotten (wearing 4-inch heels comes to mind). But what's the point? So what if I attract a man with all these efforts - wouldn't that be duplicitous? ought not I be myself? All I want is someone who likes me for me.

"Stuck between a rock and a hard place"
... as Elle defines it: "The rock is now being single, and the hard place is being married." I like all the things that come with singlehood: the no-accounting to someone else, the ability to pick up and leave whenever I want to, buying things I like and putting them in places I want. I can come and go as I please. I can choose not to shave my legs. It seems very liberating - and it is! - but it also seems very lonely. Sure, I don't have to answer to anyone, but that's only because no one is really questioning anything I'm doing; no one is really going to miss me warming the bed if I decide to move to Vanuatu; no one's waiting up for me, worried, when I come home late; certainly no one is caressing my legs while watching The Wire. It seems all this independence comes at a price - and I have no idea if I'm willing to pay it anymore.

"Let it bleed"
I want to be someone's Brown Sugar, someone's Indian Girl. Can I get a witness? But I don't want to have to play these you-can't-catch-me games to get there. Time used to be on my side, but these days I'm feeling a sense of urgency - like my best years are behind me and now all that's left in the world are men who are gay, married or leftover. And the ones who aren't seem to be in hiding. I feel like a stupid girl who worked so hard at not needing a man, I forgot all about what happens if I want one. Most times, I'm calm, cool and collected, but there are days... oh, there are days. And even though I tamped down all those romantic urges years and years ago (so I could avoid disappointment at yet another valentine's day without yellow roses), I wish I could make a connection with someone and finally get some satisfaction. I'd even be willing to wear a gingham apron.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Golden Globes Wrapup

I gotta say, I didn't even bother to be home while the GG's aired. I was watching There Will Be Blood one city over. But, I couldn't let the results slide by without comment, could I? So, below is the list of winners, with my pick and the actual winner indicated. Of course, you'll see that I don't have an exhaustive list of nominees (I only commented on things I had a clue about) and I totally skipped TV (because, well, I don't watch much of it).

Best Motion Picture - Drama
American Gangster
Eastern Promises
The Great Debaters
Michael Clayton
No Country For Old Men
There Will Be Blood
...The greatest disappointment of the night. Unlike all these other categories, I actually watched all 7 of these movies and I cannot believe Atonement won out. I had thought NC4OM had it locked up, with DDL's tour-de-force performance giving it a run for its money in Blood. Atonement had some amazing moments: Ronan, Redgrave and McAvoy; that Dunkirk tracking shot; the "twist" ending. But really? it didn't hold a candle to the stark brutality of the Coens' masterpiece.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama
Cate Blanchett – Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie – Away From Her
Jodie Foster – The Brave One
Angelina Jolie – A Mighty Heart
Keira Knightley – Atonement
...I didn't catch Jolie's performance, but having watched the other four, Christie deservedly won this award. I watched Away From Her at the 2006 TIFF and her performance still stays with me. It is poignant and prickly. I recommend watching it over all others.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama
George Clooney – Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis – There Will Be Blood
James McAvoy – Atonement
Viggo Mortensen – Eastern Promises
Denzel Washington – American Gangster
...This is a strong category, but DDL's performance was simply unmatched. He brought so much malevolence and determination to the role, I would be afraid for the voters if they didn't give it to him. As Plainview says: "there's a competition in [him]" - and the others must have heard.

Best Motion Picture - Musical Or Comedy
Across The Universe
Charlie Wilson's War
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
... I wouldn't have commented on this as I only watched two of these movies, but one I did watch won and I thought it was subpar to the other one I watched. Sweeney Todd was a passable film, but Juno was more clever, more relevant and just more entertaining. This was unfortunate.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
Amy Adams – Enchanted
Nikki Blonsky – Hairspray
Helena Bonham Carter – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Marion Cotillard – La Vie En Rose
Ellen Page – Juno
...Having watched 3/5 of these movies, i had thought Page would beat out Adams and Bonham Carter; I haven't watched Cotillard's performance, so I shall reserve judgement.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical Or Comedy
Johnny Depp – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Ryan Gosling – Lars and the Real Girl
Tom Hanks – Charlie Wilson's War
Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Savages
John C. Reilly – Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
... I knew he would win, because Depp was very good in th film (he can't sing himself out of a paper bag, but he can act).

Best Performance by an Actress In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Cate Blanchett – I'm Not There
Julia Roberts – Charlie Wilson's War
Saoirse Ronan – Atonement
Amy Ryan – Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton – Michael Clayton
...Again, watched 3/5k, but not the winner. I think Swinton gave a fabulous performance and i had thought she was a lock for it; however, I know Blanchett can be phenomenal. Reserving judgement again.

Best Performance by an Actor In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Casey Affleck – The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem – No Country For Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman – Charlie Wilson's War
John Travolta – Hairspray
Tom Wilkinson – Michael Clayton no no. No way. Casey Affleck not only made Brad Pitt look like a rank amateur in Jesse James, I think he acted circles around these guys. Don't get me wrong, Bardem was pretty damn stellar (and menacing in way that makes me scared to stand in front of doorknobs); but Affleck's performance was simply better. He was a bad guy and good guy, a coward and an opportunist, someone you found yourself hating to love but doing so anyway. A pity.

Best Foreign Language Film
4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days (Romania)
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly (France, United States)
The Kite Runner (United States)
Lust, Caution (Taiwan)
Persepolis (France)
... I watched none of these. Rentals ahoy!

Best Director - Motion Picture
Tim Burton – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen – No Country For Old Men
Julian Schnabel – The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Ridley Scott – American Gangster
Joe Wright – Atonement
...No. Way. The Coens just rocked the joint with NC4OM. I watched 4/5 (and again not the winner) and they were my runaway favourite. I feel cheated on their behalf. Schnabel will have to blow me away when I finally watch his film.

Best Screenplay - Motion Picture
Charlie Wilson's War
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
No Country For Old Men
... Okay, so after all my praise for NC4OM, why pick Juno? It's simple really - NC4OM's strengths lie in its actors, cinematography and directing; its script is sparse and brittle, reflecting wonderfully the tone of the film. Juno's script, however, was genius: full of pithy one-liners, unique voices and goddamned good dialogue. It was heartwrenching and very very real (Bleaker's speech Juno being the meanest wife ever is classic - la la la). It could've been worse (going to Atonement, maybe), but still disappointing.

All in all I've re-learned one very important thing: awards shows hardly ever get it right. But i seem compelled to know what they think anyway. Now, for the Oscars.

Now Playing: There Will Be Blood

Holy Krikey.

Daniel Day-Lewis is just too amazing in There Will Be Blood - he gives my runaway favourite performance of the year. While many people think his character is absolutely irredeemable, I didn't find that so. For me, his humanity is wrapped up in his son and whenever he pushed H.W. away, he tended to veer from hard-nosed businessman to borderline sociopath. He's a self-made man in a cutthroat business - any weakness that is perceived of him can easily be translated into a weakness in his business acumen. There is one scene where he's with baby H.W. on the train: H.W. pulls at Daniel's moustache and Daniel just lets him with a slight tender smile. That's the Daniel Plainview he couldn't afford to let the world see. It was such a subtle scene. His brand of evil was so different from Javier Bardem's in NC4OM - the kind of volatile evil that surprised you every time, if only for the oceans of calm it seemed to disturb. Given the choice to wrangle between Chigurh and Plainview, I'd take Chigurh: with him, you know where you stand (and you always stand away from doorknobs); with Plainview, he can be your best friend or your worst nightmare and you never quite know what its going to be.
...Special mentions to Paul Dano whose bible-thumping was more than a little disturbing and to young Dillon Freasier who was a lovely counterpart to his "father".

The one thing I found quite distracting about the movie had to be the score. Let me make this clear: I LIKED the score (thank you Jonny Greenwood), I just didn't like how it was edited into the actual movie. It often seemed too loud and overwhelmed what was actually happening on screen. It also seemed to be unnecessary at other points - the actors were strong enough to build tension without having a buzzing oboe remind us that this is a tense moment: pay attention! Character development also seemed lacking, especially when it came to the motivations of certain actions. Twice a character did something I found completely shocking and no explanation followed.

Other than these two minor issues, this was an excellent, excellent movie. Like NC4OM and Gone Baby Gone, it's one that benefits from multiple viewings and a good meaty discussion afterwards. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Golden Globes? none for me, thanks.

Quest Failed. *insert disappointed oboe sounds*

Having watched 6/7 GG Best Picture nominees, I patiently waited for the 7th (and my most anticipated) to arrive in Mississauga. There Will Be Blood, with Daniel Day-Lewis seeming to do his menacing best in trailers, was first advertised as coming out on Boxing Day; boy, was I let down when it failed to materialise. Followed closely by missing out on the sneak preview (thanks to the call that never came) and then yet another heartbreak when it didn't show up a week later on Jan 4, I was so ready to finally watch it when it broke into theatres for wide release on Jan 11. Well, Jan 11 came and went and still there was no Blood. The GG's are "airing" tonight, but where will I be? I'll be in Etobicoke, watching Blood in the closest theatre playing it, the next city over.

Watch this space for post-GG commentary (and bickering) and Oscar predictions when they announce their lists on Jan 22. In the meantime, I shall try to not be bitter that theatres in the 5th-largest city in Canada can't be bothered to pick up award-calibre movies but instead glut their screens with offerings that leave much to be desired.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (and other comments)

I won't type much about Infidel except to say that it is fascinating. Hirsi Ali's style is direct and uncluttered; she hardly ever uses adjectives to describe how something is said (as if to say that it is enough that it was said at all). Her life amazes me - that she has accomplished so much in only 35 years. This is not an easy read. There is violence, sadness and horror; but, there is also kindness, generosity and love.

Being a Catholic who grew up in an Islamic state, I cannot help but feel torn about my reaction to the book. On one hand, I want to cheer for her courage and join her in denouncing any political system that fuses religion with government (Sh'aria law is such a scary oxymoron to me that the very mention of haram gives me shivers). Listening to her personal accounts of women who have excised, raped, and/or murdered makes me angry and frustrated. I am almost tempted to just say "keep it there; don't bring your destructive traditions here."
And then... and then I think who the hell am I to judge? I'm not Muslim. In Canada (like in Hirsi Ali's Holland), we embrace the multicultural mosiac and encourage people to share their traditions in an attempt to promote understanding, tolerance and peace. Like all other religions, Islam is based on peace and brotherhood. Ought we not allow all people - regardless of their faith - to practice their beliefs? Isn't even questioning this right the beginning of bigotry?

I'm not overly religious myself. I have a very contentious relationship with my Catholic roots - I believe that there are probably beings out there so beyond our comprehension and abilities that, if we were to encounter them, they would be as Gods to us. I do not believe in the Church or any of its man-made rules. I believe there is evil in the world that tempts us into doing evil things (I need look no further than Karla Homolka and Mohammed Parvez), but I do not believe in Satan. I enjoy singing hyms in church; I can appreciate how the Notredame can inspire one to believe in God. But all these pretty things are merely that - pretty things. I've long ago given up on finding any substance.

There are many powerful things to be found within the pages of Infidel, things that I'm sure would make many people angry. Elle had already cautioned me to put it down, but I could not (and would not). The one thing that strikes me is this: when one places all of one's morality outside one's self and upon religion, one loses her sense of right and wrong in favour of a sense of crime and punishment. Yes, all religions preach peace; but none seem to preach tolerance. I think it's ridiculous when any religious leader - regardless of faith - says that their religion does not condone violence. The IRA, Darfur and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict all use religion as an excuse for violence, citing scripture after scripture that permits it. (Let's not even get into the Crusades and the Inquisition). Most holy books contradict themselves and allow for anyone - from extremist to liberal - to interpret them to his/her benefit.

...and I say all this knowing that there exist many more eloquent arguments that would shred my comments to pieces. But this is neither debate club nor philosophy class, so I shall leave my thoughts in their original raw form.

What's left to be said? The book is still fascinating: not only is it an on-the-ground account of civil war, African politics and refugee processes, it is a gripping story that both bolsters and rends my faith in humanity.

Friday, January 11, 2008

keep on rockin' in the free world

oh, what a glorious return to home it was.

As I'm hanging up my jacket, LilBro turns to me and starts laughing. Maniacally. Like he'd just thrown the switch on his very own monster-making-machine. As there was a serious lack of Frankenstein's Creature in the house, I just merely looked at him quizzically. This only prompted him to laugh louder. So I had to ask: "what?" More laughter - insanely happy, gleefully jubilant laughter. At this point, I too am smiling (the same smile strangers give crazy people on subways who start singing Frere Jacques) and I ask more forcefully "what?!" His gaze drifts meaningfully to the family room... I follow it... and there it is. I, too, begin laughing. There we are, standing in the front foyer, cackling like Kang and Kodos about to incinerate Earth. And what, pray tell, has us loosening our grip on our lucidity?

Rock Band.

Oh, yes, a glorious return indeed. I hadn't changed out of my work clothes so quickly in my life. I knew I'd be sucked in, but not like this... not like this. After creating characters (featuring malecasta on vocals and Bullfrog on lead) we were off. It was great: our band hails from Seattle (of course) and we were doing well. I started on Easy, because I didn't really know what to expect - LilBro was unimpressed by this and made me go up to Medium after about 5 songs. I didn't really notice a change in the difficulty level, but we were getting double the XP. The singing is pretty intuitive - and because I did not read the instructions (what? I was excited!) I had no idea how to activate the overdrive (aka star power for Guitar Hero fans) or how to coordinate this with my band mates. Still, 4 hours later, we had earned a manager, a jet and roadies. We had visited LA, New York, Chicago and become legends in Seattle. And we bought clothes: malecasta is decidedly goth in her look (right down to a tiny spider tattoo under her right eye), so shopping is a lot of fun - buying a $3500 top is just a part of the rock-n-roll lifestyle, right? The game is very easy to pick up, even for console non-gamers like myself. it's a lot of fun - I don't think I've hung out with just my sibling for these many hours without fighting before. And we were cooperating. Scary.

A couple of drawbacks: Bullfrog is the band leader, which means, our band cannot play without him (and I don't know why); I can be short in-game, but I cannot be..*ahem* .. "chubby"; the face customisation leaves a LOT to be desired.
All in all, though, an extremely fun game that has lured me back to the console.

Can't wait to go home and play again. Tonight 3289 conquers Tokyo.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

proof the world is going to hell:

...when your Union rep starts to cry for the guy who's making an entire department miserable, you included. Life is so unfair. That is all.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Tidbits from the staff meeting, featuring Misery and Ben Stein!

We had our biweekly staff meeting today and usually I find these things exceptionally tedious. Especially since moving to my new department where we seem to discuss everything in the most boring detail possible. Imagine my suprise when I found not one but TWO things to blog about:

Ben Stein's How to Ruin your Love Life
...yes, that's right, THE Ben Stein. I love this man. From Bueller to giving away his money, he makes me happy. How thrilled am I that his wit and sarcasm can now also tell me how to stay perpetually single? love it.

The book is divided into 44 chapters, each devoted to one rule. Some of my favourites include:
#13: Act moody and sulky when your lover gets home - but don't tell him why you're sulking!
#16: Play phone games - that is, don't return her calls so she can see how cool and aloof you are.
#19: If you're dating someone who has a lot of problems, is generally a mess and all your friends dislike him, get married anyway - marriage will cure all of your problems!
#33: Act out of jealousy any old time you feel like it; in fact, let jealousy rule your life.
...and my favourite...
#44: When things are going really well, start a fight.

There are, however, two super-rules, which, if followed, are guaranteed to keep you single forever:
1) You are better than anyone else.
2) Never forgive and never forget.

Good times.

The Three Signs of a Miserable Job
1) Anonymity: people cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known. People who see themselves as invisible, generic or anonymous cannot love their jobs, no matter what they are doing.
2) Irrelevance: everyone needs to know their job matters to someone. Anyone. Without seeing a connection between the work and the satisfaction of another person or group of people, an employee simply will not find lasting fulfillment.
3) Immeasurement: employees must be able to gauge their progress and level of contribution for themselves. Without tangible means of assessing success or failure, motivation eventually deteriorates as people see themselves as unable to control their own fate.

...given all this, I see why I tend to be so unenthusiastic about my job (especially now that I'm not working with kids who have a very direct way of saying "thanks for helping me"). I often feel anonymous and replaceable; that my job of answering questions like "I need to know about healing crystals" doesn't change in the world; that budgets and a demanding mayor often take precedence to providing information to the public. Still - those days when I get a thank you candy-cane from the kid who got an A+ on his science project because I helped him... those are good days.

Monday, January 07, 2008

96.3: New Classical

Had an out-of-life moment last night.

Driving home on a well-travelled, well-lit, well-known highway watching the city fade into suburbia. Except, tonight, there’s a fog that blankets everything around me, making all those familiar landmarks disappear and turning the yellow halogen overhead lights into non-specific glowing haloes. The red rear lights of the one car that’s close enough to see is the only thing that keeps me in my lane. There’s a light drizzle – too light to turn the wipers on – that creates soft patterns on the windshield. It’s Sunday night and there’s nothing good on commercial radio, so 96.3 fills the car: Borodin’s “In the Steppes of Central Asia”… a lonely piece full of longing and sad drifts. Suddenly, I enter a patch of highway that runs under another major highway and all the lights disappear and for about 6 seconds there is just me, the patterns on the windshield and Borodin. Two simultaneous thoughts run through my mind:
1) new classical isn’t a total oxymoron: just like one can rediscover a country once thought lost or look at an old friend and see something that wasn’t there before, anything old can transform under new eyes (or new ears).
2) twelve inches of unoccupied black microfibre can be the same as the yawning chasm of the Grand Canyon, given the right circumstances. I could easier contemplate crossing the Canyon on a rope bridge than closing that one foot of space.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Now Playing: The Great Debaters

"Who is the judge? The judge is God.
Why is he God? Because he decides who wins or loses not my opponent.
Who is your opponent?
He does not exist.
Why doesn’t he exist?
Because he is a mere dissenting voice of the truth I speak."

When I saw the preview for The Great Debaters in September, I was so excited. As a former Debate Captain and coach, I really looked forward to a DEBATING movie! And it had Denzel Washington in it to boot! Debating made sexy and relevant… totally pumped. To top it all off, its main theme is one that I enjoy: the Civil Rights movement. Not usually a topic that makes one happy, but one that I usually feel compelled to watch. Perhaps I’m just weird. Anyway: much anticipated.

Unfortunately, the movie fell quite flat.

First of all: why give away the ending of the film in its byline? I would have been completely oblivious to this, because once I decide to watch a film, I don’t feel the need to watch advertisements or read reviews about it until afterwards. Of course, attending the movie with Mishu means knowing lots of useless facts; the description of the movie on IMDB: “[a] drama based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College Texas. In 1935, he inspired students to form the school's first debate team, which went on to challenge Harvard in the national championship.” What the hell… this isn’t like the Titanic, not everyone knows what happened… kriminy. At least they didn't say who won.

Second: the characters weren't nearly fleshed out enough to actually make you care about them. I don’t know what it was: lacklustre directing, a boring script, bad editing decisions… but something was definitely missing. So, their heartache didn't become your heartache. Being a sap, I expected (and came prepared for) tears... but none were forthcoming. The only time I felt a leaping of the heart was when one of the characters gets slapped so hard, it turn his head with a snap (and no, given the subject material, it’s not what you think). Even the “bad guys” didn’t seem nearly as menacing as they ought to have (from the bigoted sheriff to the Texas Rangers to pig farmers)… perhaps this was on purpose? An attempt not to demonise the other parties in a bid for even-handed portrayals? Can lynching be anything but demonic?

Finally: the shocking and scary moments just weren't shocking or scary enough. They seemed glossed over and used as fodder. Which is terrible given the subject matter. In the end, what I appreciate most about movies such as these is the history and I love learning things (i.e. the Willy Lynch speech)… however, it puts the whole movie into a suspicious light when you find out that the history has been tweaked for movie sensationalism: Willy Lynch may have invented lynching, but he never delivered those precise instructions. Perhaps Mr. Washington needs to cut his directing teeth on more palpable movies before biting off more than he can chew because, sadly, the fake lynching speech was more moving than the actual thing as portrayed in the movie.

Good bits: the younger actors were wonderful. They really did a lot for the movie. The acting in general brought this movie up 3 stars. But there is only so much they can do. The actual debating was not as passionate as it could have been (with the exception of the trailer-bit “the time for justice is always right now”), but it was full of wonderful quotes and history (although, ironic for debating a movie, I feel a little cheated and more than a little dubious of their sourcing).

Rent it; don’t expect too much. 3 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Now Playing: Juno

I wanted to see Juno before the Golden Globes were announced, but couldn't find anyone else who was with me. That situation was rectified today.

What can I say about this movie? I loved it.

I loved the casting: Ellen Page and Michael Cera are just so perfect. Her witty snappishness is a great foil to his sincere geekery. Lots of criticism about Cera's performance - that it was bland and underused... I thought it was just right. We all know he's capable of playing the affable nerd (see Superbad)... but playing the quiet and completely awkward Bleeker who IS actually much cooler than he thinks he is was much better. He made me fall a little in love with him (even though i'm fairly certain that illegal). It's a very sweet relationship they have - tender and barbed at the same time, full of all those bravado-masked insecurities that we all seemed to live and breathe in high school. Sweet without becoming saccharine. Jason Bateman was his usual fabulous self. The supporting cast in general were very well played. (Nice to see J. Jonah Jameson play sensitive!)

I loved the script: it was tight, funny and relevant. It made fun of itself (the store clerks one-liners were enough to make anyone laugh); yet, it was serious. Lots of pop culture references, which I enjoy.

I loved the directing. It all seemed very unintrusive and yet piercingly accurate. Jason Reitman seems to have a way of bringing out the best in his actors. Also loved the little things (i.e. hamburger phones? Watch for them; yes, there are multiples. Loved the soundtrack and the use of the songs themselves (watching Juno and Mark jam to Hole was priceless).

Great movie - makes me happy just thinking about it. 4.5 stars out of 5.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

An autobiography from yet another unreliable narrator. Kaysen doesn't even try to hide that it's her medical records being reproduced in the book and that it's her experiences that she is expunging (and it is catalogued under 616.89 Kayse). Not much to say about this novel except that it does have some great passages:

Take two valium and don't call me in the morning because there's nothing to talk about.

I started to laugh, standing outside his office, because I'd understood something about him, and it was funny. I couldn't wait to tell him.
When I got into his office I said, " You have three cars, right?"
He nodded.
"The station wagon, the sedan, and the sports car."
He nodded again.
"It's the psyche!" I said. I was excited. "See, the station wagon is the ego, sturdy and reliable, and the sedan is the superego, because it's how you want to present yourself, powerful and impressive, and the sports car is the id - it's the id because it's irrepressible and fast and dangerous and maybe a little forbidden." I smiled at him, "It's new, isn't it? The sports car?"
This time he didn't nod.

Nice, short read. A good break after Atonement. An excellent way to start the year.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


We all have them. They’re the things we keep hidden under our pillows: free to turn our dreams into nightmares, but afraid of the light of day. And we like it that that way. We’re okay with having our doubts niggle at us, scratch at us with their malicious little sharps, mock us with their threats of exposure and embarrassment. Foolishly, we feel we have control over them that way. We give them this tiny freedom, we think, as a trade-off for not letting anyone else realise we have them. We walk around with fake smiles, fake confidence, fake self-awareness – all in an effort to seem composed and fearless. Like wearing a fabulous pair of Manolos that give you a bleeding blister, you never confess to that discomfort, lest you ruin the illusion.

Which is ridiculous: would you believe anyone who said they were afraid of nothing? You would think them mad! But naming those fears? That’s madder still!

Why is it that the older I get, the less important I feel? I seem to have lost the courageous audacity of youth, become whitewashed and dull in this quest to become respectable. I seem to have lost some spunk and drive. I know I have lost the riskier side of my personality. 10 years ago, I had so much more planned for me. My 17-year-old self is sadly disappointed. I’ve become boring, monotonous, predictable. And I have no one to blame but myself: no kids to drag me down, no partner to hold me back. I’m young, gainfully employed, marketable… and yet… yet.

What is it? What’s missing? I don’t even know. Elle says I’m “beautiful, intelligent, witty and charming”… why can’t I see it anymore? Why can’t I embody it? Why can’t I believe it?

In my mad rush to fill this void, I’ve cluttered every nook and cranny of my life with things to finish, people to visit, experiences to have. I’ve glutted on a buffet of theatre, books, movies, games, friends; my biggest nightmare is time alone, to think. Thinking leads to dwelling and dwelling can only lead to sadness. So, what is it?

I am blessed – please don’t get me wrong. I have wonderful companions who indulge me like the pampered princess I wish I were. I don’t lack for lunch dates, movie buddies, gaming rivals. I don’t want for things – I have books on my shelf waiting to be read, DVDs still in shrink-wrap, clothes that I re-discover on a regular basis. I have my own castle (albeit, still in the air) and an easily rewarding job. On paper, I am whole. Complete. Self-actualised. Maslow would be proud.

Today, I went for a long walk. It was negative fourteen and little icy. I haven’t gone for a walk in months. I usually don’t allow myself to have the time to do those things. Today, I was foiled. An hour to kill, far away from my computer and my books and my life, I was forced to walk or brood. I walked. I thought: isn’t this nice? Cardinals playing in snow, black squirrels running about, crisp bright winter day. I thought: why don’t I do this more? I thought: my hands are cold. I thought: wouldn’t it be nice if someone warmed them up? Then I stopped thinking.


Things I learned at the doctor’s office:

- Did you know that women who do not have children or who have them late in life have a higher rate of breast cancer? The same study showed that these women tend to have higher educations and/or rewarding careers. It’s because our bodies haven’t created all the hormones they’re biologically meant to and these hormones are one of the best fighters against cancer.
- Botox is considered a viable medical option.
- A father taking care of his child is sexiest thing on the face of the planet.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Perhaps, for the first time in a long time, I was spoiled by the movie. As you may know, gentle reader, I rather liked Atonement in theatre. I had begun the novel before I had watched its cinematic companion, but decided to stop reading: usually, what happens is that the movie is disappointingly shallow. I had thought to give the movie a better chance. Little did I know that the movie would be so well produced.

So, instead of comparing the two, I shall only talk about the things that compelled me to keep reading, even when I hit the soul-sucking section called Part II. The two major themes I picked up on in Atonement by Ian McEwan were as follows:

1) Fiction v. Reality: it is absolutely masterful the way McEwan deals with this idea. He readjusts one scene several times, until every facet of it shines like a well-crafted gem. The idea of truth, like beauty, being subjective to the eye of the beholder is cliche; but it doesn't feel old or tired when McEwan portrays. In fact, it comes across as fresh and surprising. Not only is this is a classic case of an unreliable narrator, but it is a shocking revelation. Given the events unfolding and the characters involved, it's easy to get sucked in by the plot and escape into a wartime tragedy. How truth is dealt with - the very nature and essence of it - is what is at the core of the novel. The quest for it what drives the reader on to the bitter end. As such, I cannot divulge more without robbing you of the pleasure in its attainment

2) Forgiveness: goes without saying, no? Before we get to atonement, a word about Love, with a capital L. It isn't the insipid hearts-a-flutter that propels Romeo and Juliet. It's a deep and shattering love that binds the characters together and us to them. We want for them to achieve their desires, especially after all that has happened. We expect it and nurture the dream. This book isn't about Love, though. It is about forgiveness and our inability to sometimes reconcile Love with Forgiveness ; to love a character so much, we are willing to pillory any who stand in their way - author included.

These two themes work so well together in the novel, that its within this seamlessness that we find McEwan's brilliance. Much like Milton pulled his reader down Lucifer-Lane, McEwan gives us every reason to question Truth only to show us how innately human it is to ignore Truth for Fiction.

A Must Read.

in with the new

Happy New Year!
And although it's just an arbitrary date on the calendar, Jan 1st seems to inspire a lot of things: hope, renewal of commitment, promise. Personally, this year I'm making no resolutions - I never seem to stick with them anyway.

There are, however, a number of things to which I am looking forward:

1) My Condo: I really hope to be moving in this year. After 15 months of delays, innumerable purchases (i.e. bed, dishes, curtains) and so many chants of "moving out soon, moving out soon" in the face of illogical 'rental craziness, I am so ready to move. It's times like these that I envy my friends who moved out long ago, opting to rent rather sell their sanity to live at home. I know it wasn't an option for me when I moved back home after undergrad ($60,000 in debt and nowhere to go). I would even be okay with putting up with all this if I was a big mooch and allowed to live rent-free. Alas, no. It's like salt in the wound.
...Anyway - June 25! Despite the anxiety I have over pre-inspections and post-inspections and living alone and figuring out who's going to take out my garbage, I look forward to waking up in my own place before my next birthday comes around.

2) Fulfilling Chosen One duties: H2 gets married this year and I am one of her bridesmaids. Aside from the usual mushy-gushy wedding stuff, I'm looking forward to the DRESS! Yeah, that's right - the dress. My bridesmaid dress is not ugly - in fact, it's awesome. and DARK purple. AND I have permission to wear sneakers underneath it (don't worry, they're dressy sneakers - I'm not totally devoid of class). In true Buffy fashion, I suggested that Chosen Ones get to bring a weapon of choice - I like a crossbow personally, maybe with a little stiletto knife in my garter-belt. No word on this yet; although, have been asked about flowers. Do these flowers have deadly poison in them or something? Will keep you posted.

3) A vacation, of some sort. Nish and I had a plan to go to Australia this summer. It was a good plan. However, that was when I was still moving into the condo this past December. Now with all the uncertainty of move-in dates and inspection dates, I have a terrible feeling that Australia may have to be postponed for a while (even as late as 2010, because NEXT year is a planned reunion in England - which is the perfect stopover for another trip I'd like to do... in Africa). In consolation, we may take a cheaper but no less cooler trip around North America. This would have us train it to Vancouver, stopping in any cities we'd like to see on the way. Either renting a car from Vancouver or Portland, and driving down to LA (picking up Leanne in SLO), getting on Route 66 and driving all the way to the beginning in Chicago. Again, depending on the rental situation, we make our way somehow back to TO from there. Whole trip? 4 weeks. And, sadly, still cheaper than Australia.

4) Relearning how to belly dance. Does this really need elaboration?

Here's to 2008!