Monday, March 31, 2008

If Tomorrow Comes by Sidney Sheldon

Book Clubbers Be Warned! Read no further or we'll have nothing to talk about when next we meet. Seriously.

Full Disclosure: I'm a huge fan of Sidney Sheldon. I own most of his books (though I recently discovered, I do not own this one - go figure). I also read most of his books in high school (a long long time ago, before I discovered "literature"). Finally, you will notice that, as much as I adore him, none of his books made my Desert Island list. Given all this, let us proceed.

If Tomorrow Comes is all about a good girl forced to go bad in a world that refuses to let her stay innocent for long. Tracy Whitney is a brilliant but unactualised bank worker who messes with the wrong people; when she's thrown in jail for a crime she didn't commit, she's forced to toughen up or be eaten alive. Who would have guessed that meek little Tracy would turn out to be one of the greatest con artists of all time?

Sidney Sheldon does one thing really well: revenge. I've yet to read anyone who can plan a dish served as cold as he does. Intricate plot details, fascinating facts, lush locations - it's all there. He really is pulp fiction at its best. I clearly remember loving him so much in high school, I used to rummage through the library books sales hoping to find one of his books (I collected all but this one by the time I graduated). I don't remember ever "liking" his main characters (who are, with few exceptions, always women), but I didn't hate them either. They lived glamourous lives and were so clever and charming, I aspired to one day be like them.

Upon re-reading: Tracy Whitney? She's grating. I don't know - maybe everyone called everyone "darling" in the 80's, but it seems so fake to read now. With the exception of her incredibly calculating mind, she's fairly wooden and I actually didn't like her at all. Frankly, I didn't like any of the characters, who seemed to be more like caricatures. Some of the language is stilted and the diction leaves much to be desired (I quote: "I'm so lucky to have met such a handsome fellow" ... can you picture an American talking like that?). It's almost like her actions didn't match with her personality (like a bad actor reading an amazing script).

I will admit - I was having a TCM*.

However, having said all that... the plot is still fantastic. You have to keep it in context (dial-up modems and airport security don't seem to stand the test of time) to fully appreciate its intricacies. And, though I had read it before (I was thirteen the first time), I was still engaged enough to actually read the entire thing in one sitting (four and a half hours were not wasted at the mechanic's). So, if you can get past the flaky bits, I recommend Sheldon for soon-to-be-here sunny afternoons at the cottage or on the beach. But, may I suggest you start with Master of the Game?

* TCM = ThunderCats Moment. By far, my favourite cartoon growing up was ThunderCats; indeed, I had my head shaved for drawing spots in black permanent market all over my hair and forehead as I tried to emulate Cheetara. When I saw the episodes had been released on DVD, I couldn't wait to watch them again and bask in their glow. Alas, they tumbled hard from the pedestal of my memory and I couldn't watch more than two episodes. Ever since then, I avoid reliving anything from my childhood (G.I. Joe, Fat Albert, the Omen) just in case history repeats itself (or fails to, as the case may be).

Quinn and the woman who loves him

We all have vices: you know, the irrational love of things that are completely bad/wrong for you. I have more than my fair share, really. Between Survivor, chocolate and aloof boys, I've got enough guilt to drown even my staunch Catholic soul. But nothing is as bad as the love I have for Quinn. What can I say? He means more to me than the sum of his parts (which, let me tell you, are falling apart at an alarming rate).

I'm a late bloomer; I do everything last. This includes learning how to drive. I spent most of my high school dependent on rides (thank you to the many boys and girls who indulged me) from other people. Though no one ever complained, I know I despised that feeling of imposition. And I really hated that people would have to leave a party early (or least leave for a while) in order to get me home in time for my draconian curfews.

It wasn't until after I moved home from Kingston that I bought my first car. And I haven't looked back since. No, my little purple Accent isn't much to write home about: he's thirteen years old, needs at least $500 in maintenance every year and can comfortably fit two people (then, too, if you're over 5'10", the comfort becomes relative). But he's mine. When I need to go somewhere now, I always have my own ride.

DK says I shouldn't complain about my newest mechanic's bill - that I have a choice and can give up Quinn and starting taking transit. I beg to differ. Yes, I would be able to get to work and back (with only a 30 min commute) but what about the life that happens outside those 35 hours a week? What about:
- staying at JC's house until 4am playing Rock band?
- trying to get home from Queen W after a night at Funhaus?
- getting to Bowmanville for dress fittings?
- being able to respond to panicked emergency room phone calls?
...What about not depending on others for rides home? This is what Quinn is - my ticket to ride anywhere, anytime. Can I really put a price on that? I guess I haven't found my limit yet. One day, I will have to put the poor thing out of his misery. Just... not yet.

In the meantime, I'll be doing other things to mitigate his rapid aging. Moving is only the first step.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

before you go cutting your ear off...

I can't help but feel happy when the weather is sunny, bright and clear. We're entering one of my favourite periods of the year - when smog is (almost) non-existent, when heat/humidity isn't a concern, when it's not snowy, windy or bitterly cold. It's a glorious time that makes me want to paint (except I have no talent), write (except my poetry seems insipid), sew (except my needlework resembles a blind woman's) or bake (except I share a kitchen). This leads to much frustration.

So! Here are my solutions for people just like me - people who want to be creative but have no in-born outlets:

1) Organise stuff: organising is the talent-poor substitute for actual skill. Instead of painting and drawing, use colour-coded file folders and different colours of ink. Instead of sewing new curtains, make new labels for spice jars/Christmas boxes/etc. Not only will stuff be easier to find, but you'll get to finish a project with some sense of satisfaction.

2) Copy other people's stuff: yeah, so my poetry blows. You know whose doesn't? Eliot, Rossetti, Shakespeare, Cohen, Plath, etc. When I get the urge to write but have nothing in my own brain, I find a poem I like, rewrite it meticulously and give it to someone who I think may appreciate it. It's like spreading the joy of reading! Last year, I recorded several Seuss poems for the library (complete with sound effects and voices) during one of these phases.

3) Give yourself an art project for dummies: there are sure-fire projects that you can do without aid of "talent" - such puzzle-making, photo collages and filling in colouring books. When I was but a poor student in Kingston, I filled dozens of dollar-store colouring books with various media (paint, crayons, markers, pastels). This had me pretending to be all bohemian (sitting on the marina surrounded by art supplies) without any actual talent at all! Brilliant I think.

4) Finally, who cares if you suck? I do stuff that ends in disasters all the time. I once tried refinishing my dresser - I ruined it and it had to be pitched, but hey it was old and was going to dumped anyway. Today, I'm going to go home and paint a certain butterfly (thanks H2), sketch a design on my cheap IKEA vases and maybe even redesign the cover of "the novella". If it all sucks, well at least I will have had the pleasure of indulging my non-existent arty side.

Do you have any suggestions for the talent-starved? Let me know!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Earth Hour: Mississauga

Colour me disappointed.

During Earth Hour (8pm-9pm), we went for a walk near my old neighbourhood (north up Tomken, then east along Bloor); I was so deflated to see a tonne of cars on the road and lights blazing in all the apartment complexes. In my home, there were candles burning in the bathroom and kitchen, my computer and alarm clock were unplugged... and people couldn't even stop watching TV for an hour? Oh, what's the point! In the face of such apathy, I feel like there's no point in even caring about this doomed marble we call home.

I was struck by how much more we could do using existing technologies (replacing sodium-vapour lamps with LEDs, recyclable Tim Hortons cups, compost bins for apartments, etc) that we just don't bother with. I feel like such a naive freak with my reusable coffee cup and grocery bags, my insistence on Tupperware over ziploc bags, my searching out of garbage cans over spitting my gum out on the street. Does any of it really make a difference when half a million people undo all your work? It's so easy to become cynical and jaded. Waiting for the lights at Tomken and Bloor, I was fuming.

Then I saw it: a hand-made sign on the northeast corner taped to the pole with the crosswalk button. In obvious grade-school writing, red marker on white paper, it said: "Save some of the planet for me. Celebrate Earth Hour at 8pm on Saturday." Such a simple little sign. I wish I'd had my camera. It made me feel less like a loser about actually giving a shit.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Composition Challenge: One (Thousandth) Word

composition challenge
1) Finish this sentence with precisely one word:
"I am __________." [The word cannot be a name.]

2) Illustrate that single word with a photo you took before you ever read this entry.
If the word accurately describes your life, you shouldn't have a problem finding a photo of it laying around.

I am reflective.
inspired by: Little White Liar

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


- I was at a meeting from 9-12 this morning, previewing our new OPAC possibilities. About halfway through I remembered one of the biggest reasons I was so happy to be done school: I hate morning lectures. It took everything I had not to fall asleep (which, I'm sure I did a couple of times). And while it was really interesting, it was also pretty defeating to watch the demonstration of a product I know our IT people will refuse to allow us.

- Did you know that Asperger's Syndrome can go virtually undetected for years? Reading up on it (after an illuminating lunch time convo), I was shocked to see how many of the symptoms may be linked to other issues (depression, angst, lisps, etc.). Equally shocking: this syndrome is in the same family as Autism, with almost none of the physical symptoms; in fact, people with Asperger's are usually highly intelligent, highly capable and very high-functioning. They're just not very good with people. Sheds a whole new light on what I like to term "social dysfunction"

- Reading someone's status about baby socks in bulk on Facebook made someone else jump to a conclusion involving preggers. What floors me? Why anyone would even think that a Facebook status would be a good place to announce the birth of your first child before telling people about it in real life. Facebook is only as evil as you make it, people.

-It's amazing to me how people view someone at the Reference Desk as a confidant. Today I had two questions followed by life stories: patron one had been wrongfully diagnosed for 5 years, given schizophrenia medication for what turned out to be a food allergy (!!) - she needed books on malpractice and medical errors; patron two told me all about her problems with her husband's infidelity and his newest mistress while asking for passages on love and faithfulness in the bible. It's days like these that I think to myself: honey, no matter how weird or awful life may get, it can always always get worse.

- Just because you shouldn't be in a relationship with someone doesn't mean you don't want to be. JC once told me (a long long time ago) that feelings are not a tap: you can't just turn them on and off at your leisure. Watching this woman scour through the Bible online for words of wisdom to help her husband come back to her, I was struck by just how sad the whole situation was; there she is, trying to save the soul of a man who doesn't really care about her when she should be finding a way to help herself get over the bastard and walk away. If she had any good friends, they would tell her she deserves better. Then, one day, she'd realise that while she never did turn off the tap, it had since run dry. Who knows who long that will take? In the meantime, I slipped a couple of self-help books in with her marriage counseling stuff... hey, I'm a librarian, not a robot.

- I love Book Club.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

the shortest long weekend

The weekend gave me a teasing taste of what life could be like. After dropping my mother off at the airport on (early) Saturday morning, I had the house all to myself for 3 full days. It was glorious. Simply glorious. I played the music as loud as I liked, Rock Band happened well past anyone's bedtime, the TV was all mine and I could channel flip to my heart's content (I watched Dancing with the Stars, How to Look Good Naked and Monday Night Raw all at once). Dishes were done at my convenience and not according to some fascist regime; newspaper got recycled after I was done reading them and not a minute before. The best part? It was quiet when I wanted it to be: music off, TV off, lights off and no need for a box fan to drown out the sounds of people. Bliss, I tell you. I enjoyed it so much, I extended it.

Sometimes, I worry about living o solo mio. I so easily get lonely and I hate doing things by myself (i.e. grocery shopping). I'm really dreading taking out the garbage on a regular basis. But then, I have these brief respites and it only whets my appetite for more. I also worry about my growing obsession with scheduling every minute of my life so that I never have to spend a second more than necessary at home. Having 72 hours with no one around, I realised that it's not that I don't want to be at home ... I just don't want to be home with family. Key difference, that. I don't think a room of my own - my very own - can come soon enough. This way, it won't even matter that plans get cancelled (or forgotten about). Seeking solace in my own company is just not such a scary proposition anymore.

Mercy Among the Children by David Adams Richards

Mercy Among the Children (MAtC) won the 2000 Giller Award and yes, it's taken me this long to get to it. Boy, was it worth the wait. Clocking in at 417 pages, this is not a light read with respect to either length or gravity. It spans three generations of Hendersons, an impoverished rural family in Nova Scotia where life is hard and unfair and where people, both with malicious and benign intent, seem bent to destroy that which they cannot understand. Written from Lyle's point-of-view (the grandson), we learn about how an innocent promise made at a young age will go on to affect the lives of not just the Hendersons, but the entire town.

This was a difficult book to read, I'll admit it. The writing is fantastic, the pacing is done very well. By the time I hit the third part ("love"), I was compelled forward by these characters. I rarely stay up late to finish books; even rarer still will I wake up early. Today, I was up at 7am to finish up. No, it wasn't the prosaic brilliance - it was the deep sense of unfairness that permeated the novel. What's so impressive is that, instead of hating these characters that are mean, vicious and utterly selfish - Richards is actually able to elicit pity.

While I do read fiction to escape real life, I don't like it when it's so far removed from it that it loses all credibility (this, above any other reason, is probably why I don't read SciFi or Fantasy).
No one would ever accuse MAtC of being unreal - it's so real, it hurts. I want these people to rise above it all, I want the "bad guys" to get theirs, I want the snobs to be put in their places... but that isn't how it works is it? There are bright spots of redemption, but for the most part MAtC is what life is: bittersweet. I recommend it highly.

Monday, March 24, 2008

what every independent woman needs: a subjective list

There are some things that I consider staples in an independent woman’s life, things that will help her out of scrapes, keep her self-reliant, and (most importantly) make her feel good about herself.

little black dress: indispensable! Perfect for parties of all occasions, the LBD should be one that makes you feel sophisticated and comfortable. It should inspire in you a confidence and charm that will help you sparkle. The perfect LBD will fit well and stay black.

toolbox: every woman should have a well-stocked toolbox, with a hammer, a set of screwdrivers, cordless drill, tape measure and all the accoutrements to go with it. There should be no reason to call your dad/brother/boyfriend/neighbour whenever you need to hang a picture, put up a light fixture or install hardwood floors. Unless these people are professionals, you are just as capable of doing these tasks ... and probably with a better sense of how you want the end product to look than they could bring to the table.

driver’s license: I cannot emphasise the amount of freedom this little piece of plastic provides. Sure, it’s great when your date picks you up or when a friend offers a ride; however, simply knowing that, if all else fails you can get yourself there is such de-stressor. Not having to rely on other people's schedules or favours is liberating. Once you have one of these, you don’t have to get a car (although, extremely helpful); if you do get a car though, you should probably learn to pump your gas, change a flat tire and, for everything else, get a CAA membership.

great bra: every woman has that one fabulous bra that’s sexy, supportive and fits like a dream. Like men, once you’ve found one that does these things, hang on ladies. These bras are irreplaceable. I have a friend who, after finding one, actually went out and bought five extras for when it falls apart. If you ever find one: spend the money and buy it. You won’t regret it.

a room one's own
: there are few things I will credit Woolf with; this is one of them. She understood the importance of a space to call one’s own. It may be a room, it may be a mansion – but it has to be your own. It should be somewhere that allows you to dream, to use your imagination, to self-actualise. A place where your spirit feels free and safe.

...I’m working on these things myself. More than halfway there. What I need to stop doing is seeking approval for things from people who may or may not have my best interests or emotional well-being at heart. Once acquired, I’ll let you know how independent I really feel.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Bunny Day

The History of Easter Bunnies
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal

I found Joshua sitting in a far corner of the courtyard playing with some children. One little girl had brought her pet rabbit to the wedding and Joshua was holding it in his lap, petting its ears.
"Biff, come feel how soft this bunny is."
"Joshua, John has been arrested."
Josh slowly handed the bunny back to the little girl and stood.

[...water turned into wine...]

Just then Joshua stumbled through the gate and crashed into us. We were able to catch ourselves and him before anyone fell. The Messiah was holding the little girl's pet bunny, hugging it to his cheek with the big back feet swinging free. He was gloriously drunk. "Know what?" Josh said. "I love bunnies. They toil not, neither do they bark. Henceforth and from now on, I decree that whenever something bad happens to me, there shall be bunnies around. So it shall be written. Go ahead Biff, write it down." He waved to me under the bunny, then turned and started back through the gate. "Where's the friggin' wine? I got a dry bunny over here!"
"See," I said to Maggie, "you don't want to miss out on that. Bunnies!"

Saturday, March 22, 2008

random things I learned while cleaning out the pamphlet drawers at work:

"YES...You have more rights" (Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services)
You have the right to have clothes that are warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Clothes that are right for your age. You have the right to recreation. Games and sports are great for your mind and your body.

"What is Smog?" (City of Mississauga)
Smog is visible as a brownish-yellow haze in the air on hot, sunny days. Smog forms when ground level ozone and fine airborne particles mix with heat and sunlight. Fine particles come from factories, dust from construction sites and roads as well as gasoline and diesel vehicle exhaust. Ground level ozone forms when Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emissions from industries, vehicles and oil-based paints and solvents, mix together with heat and sunlight. Ground level ozone is harmful to plants, animals and humans.

"Depression: What Can Friends and Family Do?" (Canadian Mental Health Association)
It can be difficult to be with and to help someone who is seriously depressed. Some people who are depressed keep to themselves, while others may not want to be alone. They may react strongly to the things you say or do. It is important that you let them know that it is okay to talk about their feelings and thoughts. Listen and support rather than trying to contradict them or talk them out of it. Let them know you care. Ask them how you can help, and offer to contact their family doctor or a mental health professional. Find out about local self-help groups and attend a meeting with them. Try to be patient and non-judgmental. Most of all, don't do it alone - get other people to provide help and support too.

"What are the signs and symptoms of cystic fibrosis?" (Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation)
Since it is a disorder which affect several bodily systems, cystic fibrosis is associated with a variety of symptom, which can include:
- constant cough which expel thick mucus
- excessive appetite, combined with weight loss
- bowel disturbances
- skin which tastes usually salty
- repeated or prolonged bouts of pneumonia
CF was first described as a disease in the late 1930s. At that time, it was usually recognised only after a child had died, often as a result if malnutrition or pneumonia. Medical awareness of CF has increased tremendously over the years. Although CF can still be confused with other children's diseases (asthma, chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, and celiac disease), family physicians today routinely consider the possibility of CF in an individual with two or more of the symptoms noted above.

"Kinderprint: Child Identification Program" (Canada Life)
[includes inked plastic strips for fingerprint taking, ten little squares for tiny fingerprints, a space for a recent photo ("updated annually") and other pertinent info (i.e. name, race, weight, blood type] Canada Life has been providing financial stability and sound advice to policyholders since 1847. It is a commitment rooted in tradition and backed by the highest possible rating from Standard & Poor's, Duff & Phelps and The A.M. Best Company.
...anyone else find it creepy that a Life Insurance provider is in charge of this? As in, they only want you to find your kid so they don't have to pay out the insurance you'll (presumably) bought from them.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

the playlist

Sometimes, the beauty of a varied and random playlist makes itself known.

"It makes sense that it should happen this way /that the sky should break and the earth should shake / as if to say: sure it all matters, but in such an unimportant way / as if to say: fly away"

"All I'm asking, is for a little respect."

"Just turn around now; you're not welcome anymore. ...did you think I'd crumble?"

"I am colourblind: coffee black and egg white. Pull me out from inside. / I am ready, I am ready, I am ready I am...taffy-stuck and tongue-tied. / Stutter, shook and uptight. Pull me out from inside. / I am ready, I am ready, I am ready I am...fine."

"Words, frozen, will thaw when I am wasted, I am better shut up"

"All I know: I won't go without her" [no link, band too obscure (Market) singing its one semi-famous song (Shield)]

"Too many voices: which one's right, which one's wrong. / ...I am contemplating matters /All this cling and clatter / In my head, and what you said /Is ringing, ringing faster /And it's all good if you would / Stop the world from making sense / And if I could just realize / It doesn't really matter."

and now... for an entire album:
"When the pawn hits the conflicts he thinks like a king / What he knows throws the blows when he goes to the fight / And he'll win the whole thing 'fore he enters the ring / There's no body to batter when your mind is your might / So when you go solo, you hold your own hand / And remember that depth is the greatest of heights / And if you know where you stand, then you know where to land / And if you fall it won't matter, cuz you'll know that you're right."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

viva purple*

Today, I drove into the wilds of Vaughan. It took me a surprisingly short amount of time to get up there (only 25 mins!) and it was a thoroughly easy drive. Why go there, you ask? Well! I know, gentle reader, that you live for the mundane activities that is my life as related in this space, so I will leave you in suspense no longer: ... appliances. That's right. The General Electric warehouse or whatever is up there and that's where I went to meet my shiny new charges. And they are ever so pretty. I won't lie, darlings, I hugged the refrigerator. (Far away from the sales chick, of course, or I would have lost all my consumer powers). They even gave me colour printouts of my six babies, so I can show them to people who insist on showing me their kids' ugly mugs.

"This is my eldest, Natalie..."
"This is my biggest, Fridge. These are the twins, Washer and Dryer. Dishie is pretty quiet - doesn't get out much. Stovie just got his coils removed. And this... this is my smallest, Micro. Isn't she a sweetheart?"

This was the most fun I've had with anything condo-related ever. It was even better than picking my colours, because it didn't have a $5000 price tag. It was just... bliss. *siiiiiigh*

* = the title to this post means nothing. As I was turning onto Keele, I saw a Vaughan Transit bus that alternately flashed "York University" and "viva purple" ... i have no idea to what that second part alludes, but I thought you may enjoy it as much as I did.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What's Science Ever Done For Us? by Paul Halpern

or What the Simpsons Can Teach Us about Physics, Robots, Life, and the Universe.

Full Disclosure: I do not read non-fiction books on a regular basis. So, when I was randomly assigned to do a book talk at the next Sciences staff meeting, I was a little… put out. Luckily, I had just gotten in a shipment of books and this one was right on top. Elle, this one's for you.

Paul Halpern’s What’s Science Ever Done for Us: what the Simpsons can teach us about physics, robots, life and the universe was great. No, really! For you library geeks out there, this is fabulous book for a teen book talk or a summer reading club suggestion. It’s also a neat title to take with you to a cottage or something where TV may be scarce. I fully intend to add this to my list of book talk favourites.

Halpern makes science so very accessible. Whether discussing the space-time continuum or the coriolis effect, every chapter is set up using a famous Simpsons moment. Why just talk about radiation, when you can also talk about Mulder and Scully and the Alien Burns? Can we really produce three-eyed fish? Better yet: what happened to the real three-eyed fish? Is Lisa destined to a life of mediocrity or will genetics save the day? I had so much fun reading this book, I actually forgot I as learning things.

Or in some cases unlearning them. Like a lot of gullible viewers, I totally believed that that the water flushes in the opposite direction in Australia. But, as explained in chapter entitled The Plunge Down Under, that’s simply not true. Why would the writers do that to us? Read and find out.

I hope reading for work will be this much fun all the time.

how to shuck a crab

For those of you who don't know, there is an art - a delicate art - in shucking a crab. By nature, crabs are not known for their easygoing tendencies. They're hard-shelled and have pincers that can be a real bitch sometimes. Yet, they're highly sought after, because underneath that ridiculous exterior, they're soft and tender and (with a little buttering up) downright easy to swallow.

For the most part, they're pretty docile. It's true. Presented with an obstacle, these crustaceans will spend a lot of time finding a way to avoid it. Don't believe me? On a beach, try placing something in the path of a meandering crab. You'll see exactly what I'm getting at. The crab will first stop and stare at the new development. You'll almost hear its little crab-brain thinking: what the hell is this? Unlike a goat or a bull or an elephant, it will not try to muscle its way through - it knows its limitations. No doubt, within moments, it will try to sidestep and resume its original path. If you've chosen to place a large floating ring around it, it will realise (after much backing up and sidestepping) that there's nothing to be done and will bury itself underneath the sand to avoid detection. If it can't remove itself from a situation, it will try very hard to make you believe that it's not even there. It's fascinating really, to watch it go to such lengths.

A cornered crab, however, is a dangerous crab: its pincers can easily slice through skin, leaving you bleeding and raw; its shell has pointy bits that can make it hard to get a grasp on them without doing yourself some damage. But once you have a crab in your grip, don't waste time! The longer you try to get a handle on the situation, the more opportunity you give the crab to do irreparable damage to both you and itself.

The thing about crabs is that they know they have these soft mushy centres that most people find appealing. All their defences are useless once people figure out that a shell is easily cracked with well-placed jab. That's why they spend so much of their lives avoiding conflict - while they defend themselves admirably, they're always worried about that one lucky shot that will pierce them fatally. If you'd like to enjoy a real crab (not those fake stick things), may I suggest you have a plan as to what to do with your angry crustacean once you have it trapped. Blood and bruises only tend to spoil one's appetite. Then again, nothing like a little work to make the fruits of your labour that much sweeter. You've just got to ask yourself: is it worth it?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

consolation prize

I know I've been lax, I know. I know I promised to post everyday, even if I had nothing to post about. But it's hard to be witty about nothing, yeah? As a consolation prize for checking out the site every once in a while, let me take you on a tour of this virtual space.

Above the posts is a video. I've (re)discovered Vimeo and, though I have no directing skills myself, am going to utilise this service to bring you some of the stuff I find interesting up there. I have a couple lined up. I hope to make this a regular feature.

To the right, you'll see "Tap This!" (formerly digressions) - this is my blog roll from, and its basically news and articles that have piqued my curiosity recently. Also on the left, you'll find my latest flixster reviews, my flickr pics and my current reads. I will be the first to admit that these don't get updated nearly as often as I'd like, but movie season is almost upon us and I promise to be better. I truly do. There's also the archives, though it's not nearly old enough to be that extensive.

Thanks again for popping by - leave a note to say hi. Better yet, start one of these of your own and we can write rants to each other. Elle and I have made a habit of it. Come on over, join the dark side. You'll like it here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

friday night highlights

Ahh, Friday Night. Time to get crazy! Throw off the shackles of the work week! How did I celebrate the end of five days working for the man? IKEA! What is it about this place that makes me so happy? I wish I'd had more money to spend, because I just love it there. Getting the news that my condo has been postponed another two weeks didn't help my splurging ways. You know what else is good about IKEA? $2.99 meatball dinner special! Yum!

Then it was off to JC's for some video game fun. First on the docket: Super Smash Brothers! You know, I usually suck at console games, with a few exceptions, so I didn't expect to be great at this right away. But I thought: hey, it's a fighting game. I like fighting games. How bad could it be? Oh. Dear. God. When I thought I was winning, I lost. When I thought I was losing, I won. I was so confused half the time... It feels like a fun game, but I need someone to explain the mechanics of it to me. Didn't help that neither of my companions really had a clue either. Anyway, my favourite character thus far is Bowser, but I haven't really played through a lot of them (I wanted to try Link, but I guess I wasn't alone). We resorted to Tekken and Roc
k Band pretty quickly.

Later, we just flipped through the TV. After watching some ubiquitous soft porn on CityTV and ShowCase, we settled on Omen III: The Final Conflict. That's right:
the power of evil is no longer in the hands of a child. Starring the future-venerable Sam Neill of Jurassic Park fame, this movie was.. just... bad. Oh well, great lines like "birth is pain, death is pain, beauty is pain" and "where's your God now, priest!" kept me amused.

We also caught about thirty seconds of this movie about giant killer bunnies (god, I wish I knew the name!). I kid you not. They even had slow-mo shots of a bunch of bunnies hopping menacingly in a cave. Stellar! It was reminiscent of a nightmare I used to have frequently in university, which had been appropriately dubbed "Pink Fluffy Bunnies with Cannibalistic Tendencies." I had a great flash cartoon of this phenomenon, but it has since been lost in one of the many formats of George. I totally would have posted it, as I still remember it with great fondness. If you know this movie, tell me! It's been bugging me all morning.
Edit: found it! gold. simply gold.

Great start to the weekend!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

the end of an era

Oh, HBO, when will we meet again? You have given me so much - so much - that I feel at a loss without you. And now, as all our love children fade away, I realise that we will always have good memories, but I wish I could be certain we will have more.

Deadwood was a shy foray. It took a long time to digest this offering, a dish that I rarely enjoyed, with its cowboys and expectoration. At first, I fought the urge to detest the show on principle; however, presented as it was with such a lovely side dish, I couldn't help myself. I will be the first to admit that I had put off finishing this for too long - but now that it's done, I will also admit to a certain... emptiness. It does not seem that the residents of Deadwood are any different from when we started this journey. This last bit was tough to swallow. But I'm happy to have sampled of it, if for no other reason than to say "I tried."

Then there was the glamour of Rome. When you take a girl out, you sure do show her a good time. All that flash and flesh! You turned my head, yes sir. With production values to match any blockbuster, acting to rival Stratford and a plot that kept me enthralled, you bewitched me... Italian-style. It was brief affair, I know, but every moment was dripping in a sensuousness that has yet to be rivalled. I pity those who haven't pleasured in this particular partaking.

But, the pièce de résistance was in the final act: you wooed me completely with The Wire. Your gifts of realism and drama, of Omar and Snoop, of tight scripts and rewarding foreshadowing... they overwhelmed me. We had our moments of weakness (Season 2 wasn't pretty), but you never failed to surprise me, hook me and keep me begging for me. You never tried to sugar coat it - you said here's the real city, take it or leave it. But you knew - you always knew - that once I had gotten a taste, I would never be able to leave. Saying goodbye on Sunday was one of the most painful things I've done in TV-land. Even as I sat there, hunched over, devouring every moment, I hoped in futility that it would never end. What a bittersweet taste it left.

But end, it has. With the last box set boxed, the final CD placed in its case... it's time that you retreat. I don't know where you go, but I await with bated breath and pensive heart for your next visit. Do not say you will abandon me thus, forever! I shall take comfort in rewatching Omar and Mouzone smoke Stringer, in Vorenus and Titus Pullo braving many a great odd stacked against them, in Bullock's jaw-grinding passion and Swidgen's moral ambiguity.

Until we meet again, my love.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

on having a perfect life

Isn't it amazing how easily people can dismiss you? Just today, someone actually told me "oh, how would you know, you have the perfect life." *insert maniacal laughter here* Though I tend to disagree with this assessment, it did make me ponder for a bit. hmm... did I, after all, have the perfect life? Had I woken up a fairy princess and not noticed? I began to take stock of my situation.

On the surface, it did rather seem that I have been enchanted. I wouldn't necessarily call it perfect, but I suppose some would label it as such. I guess I never looked at it that way. I'm clothed, fed, sheltered and gainfully employed. I don't have a free night to call my own. And, relative to a Darfur refugee or a Colombian street child, I'm in Heaven. But I wouldn't say my life is "perfect" - not even close.

It's what I would rather call a "moderate success." And, as is the bane of any successful woman, this gets chalked up to "luck" and "circumstance" as opposed to "skill" and "hard work." I'm not going to apologise for making it look easy - I bloody well earned it. I shopped at the Salvation Army and did groceries at a food bank; I wore gloves to save on the heating bill. I worked three jobs while going to school full-time so I could pay off the enormous school debt that came with having no one to rely on but myself. My car has a laundry list of things wrong with it, but until the chassis rusts off or the engine falls out, I'm going to keep driving it. Blood, sweat and tears? Been there, done that.

And it's not just about money - I haven't lived a charmed life. I've lost my fair share of sleep, taken more than my quota of prescription meds, had my trust shattered by those who should care for me most and held too many friends' hands in too many waiting rooms. I've been to court both professionally and personally and I never want to go back. Ever.

The perfect life? Maybe, if we're measuring it in terms of shit withstood. I suppose, the real mark of a successful woman is how well you can hide all the crying, the shame, the insecurities, the vulnerabilities. Because no independent woman worth her salt should be seen as weak or wanting. That would defeat the purpose.

A long time ago (almost nine years now) I was given the advice that if I didn't feel happy, I should fake it until I did. Every day I was supposed to have new goal: today, I will stay out of bed all day; today, I will smile; today, I will not jump into the frozen lake. I used to brush my teeth and repeat these mantras over and over again. I became very good at faking it. Therein lies my perfect life: it's the one people think I lead because I won't give them grounds to think otherwise.

I still have the daily mantras (though, now, they tend to revolve around laundry and packing). I still obsess about money and want to avoid ever going back to glove-wearing indoors. I suppose, these days, I'm much more put-together than I have been in the past. That's not because I lead a perfect life; rather, it's the result of such an imperfect one.

What would I know about it? Try me.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

top five

Because I've been fiendishly neglectful for the past little while, I'm taking the easy way out. Here are the top five blog posts (according to how much time time people actually spent reading them, barring my homepage, of course).
1) my review of Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
2) retail therapy
3) fear and dating in Las Library
4) LilBro 22nd bday blog
5) the letter that would

And, here are the top five reasons why I don't blog more often.
1) pictures of sad children
2) ill will press
3) stuff white people like
4) unshelved
5) penny arcade may blame these guys next time you think: "hey, why hasn't she updated yet?"

Finally, here are the top five personal blogs that make me smile, cry or just, plain, jealous.
1) Elle, how I miss you. Blog more.
2) Oh, Madox, despite us not having anything literary in common, I do enjoy you.
3) I don't know anything about LWL except that she's a brilliant blogger whose life is fascinating.
4) Lipstick Librarian
5) Nish, though new, I'm hooked; also: vested interest

/end copout

Sunday, March 09, 2008

damn those sunday thinkers

On this very sunny, very cold Sunday I have decided to do nothing. Of course, you know this means I will do too much of the one thing I shouldn’t: LeFou, I’m afraid I’ve been thinking (a dangerous pastime, I know). Here are some of the random thought I had today:

1) In Canada, houses without garages are dumbest things ever. Buying a house in Canada that doesn’t have a garage? Well, that makes you one of the dumbest people. Ever. I think this as I clean my car for the third time this morning. No, I’m not actually going anywhere, but if I don’t clean it periodically, it will take me an hour to find it tomorrow. I cannot wait to move. And I will never – I repeat, never – live in Canada in a place without a garage. Not as long as I own car. Screw the bragging rights.

2) I don’t know how accelerated mortgage payments really work. All I know is that it can’t be cheaper for you to hoard your money in your bank account waiting to pay something bi-weekly when you could stick it in there right away and save interest immediately.

3) If I claim bankruptcy in my first year as a homeowner, how long until I can try to buy another house? No life doesn’t stop just because you bought a place – get over it – but it sure does take a nice, deep, long pause. It has to. And I, as the responsible person that I am, need to learn to take nice, deep, long pause along with it.

4) While packing my books today, I discovered that if I stuff my stuffed animals in there, it stops the books from shifting about. How did i discover this? I was too lazy to go downstairs and get yesterday’s newspaper; instead, I looked around my bedroom, thinking, what can I use instead...

5) I can’t type and play WoW at the same time.

6) If you are going to silently stalk someone on Messenger (or a Messenger-type service), try not to be so obvious as to go “away” less than a minute after they do; or, worse, come back online less than a minute after they do. It’s weird. Stalk with some sense of stealth.

7) The only thing worse than packing for a big move is packing for a big move that you’ve been anticipating for over two years. I want to feel happy and excited; instead, I am deliberately tamping down all these joyous feelings with thoughts of yet another push-back, maintenance fees, the $18,000 I’ve wasted in rent over the last three years, painting 627 square feet of walls, unpacking (ugh), dusting and taking out garbage. And why? Why am I doing this? Because the worst feeling in the world is the anticipation of something and then that something being put out of your reach yet again.

8) Elle’s hopelessness is something I’m so familiar with, I want to take up the habit.

9) I hate living at home more and more with each waking moment; it’s still hours before bedtime.

10) What was life like before Air? I've looped Talkie, Walkie and Moon Safari all afternoon.

Friday, March 07, 2008

how I hate thee, let me count the ways

So, I tried to read Jane Austen's Persuasion. I really did. I carried it around with me, lovingly protected in my personal book-bag. I dedicated several lunch hours to it. I even tried to read it at home (where usually, it's a book-free zone, unless it's a trashy romance under my duvet). Nothing worked. I don't know what it is about Victorian Literature that sets my teeth on edge. The Brontes, Hardy, Austen, Dickens... I can't stand any of them. So here, once and for all, is my rant against VicLit. After this, I shall let it rest and refer people to this blog instead of raving like a mad Bertha.


The people in these stories seem to be utterly unlikeable - they're either snobbish or puling, arrogant or simpering. Never can I find a character to whom I may relate - and when I do, they're either spinsters or dead. I wish to be neither. Also, the sheer amount of characters is almost Russian-esque in nature. But, where Dostoevsky and Tolstoy sometimes have seventeen names for one character (I've counted!), these people seem to always use the same name for seventeen characters. For example, Persuasion has like five Elliots (some first name, some last name), a few Walters, a couple of Marys... I wanted to cry. Surely there were other names? And if not, there should be a cast of characters. Even WillyShakes has those, and he is a genius.

Then, of course, there's the writing style itself. Overly wrought, uppity grammar and diction, taking thirty-six words to say something that could be said in five. It all seems so pretentious. I understand it is a sign of the times - hence why I hate VicLit in general and do not hold anything against these authors in specific. I just find it odd that Victorians tended to be more formal than, say, their Renaissance or even Medieval predecessors. And those modern authors who try to emulate them (Woolf, comes to mind) become just as mired in the muck.

Finally, the overall plots leave a bad taste in my mouth. Jane Eyre is an ambitious tart who falls for the semi-abusive Rochester (who, in turn, has locked his mentally-ill wife in the attic); Heathcliff is a psychotic bastard whose obsession with Catherine turns him into a monster of spite and vindictiveness; Emma Woodhouse is someone only a mother could love, which Austen herself set out to do - in fact, most of Austen's work is merely about how to make a good marriage and how without a proper marriage, one couldn't possibly have happiness or social status... gag me; Bathsheba chooses to marry the arrogant Sergeant Troy while spurning the earnest Gabriel Oak, using him until he can't stand her pettiness any longer and finally consents to put the man out of his misery. And don't even get me started on Dickens and his paid-by-the-word style that leaves much to be desired.

...why would I care about any of these people? they all seem so trivial and shallow, thus making the stories themselves trivial and shallow. I get that this must have been ground-breaking stuff when it all came out - but it hasn't really stood the test of time very well. I still laugh at Chaucer's Tales (esp the Miller's Tale), am in awe of Milton's Paradise Lost, get caught up in Beowulf's adventures and, of course, the genius that is Shakespeare keeps me going back to Stratford every year. This stuff? I fall asleep.

I'm done with VicLit. I know this makes me some sort of bad English major or, at least, not a "literary" person - but if being literary means having the stomach to digest some of the driest literature in English history, I hereby announce myself as illiterate. I am a canonical pagan. I revel in my heathen ways. Take that, high society.

/end rant

Thursday, March 06, 2008

hair flips and smiles

Today was the last day of bellydancing. Colour me sad. I couldn't believe we actually had a 3.5-minute routine that we learned in just over 8 hours. That's pretty awesome; I'm psyched for Level II. Yeah, I said psyched. But no Level II until we get back from BC, as we'll be missing 3 classes if we sign up for that right away. I'm also on the hunt for a downloadable copy of Bellydance Superstars Volume One - it has our song (Zeina) on it. Track 12. Need.
In the meantime, for practice: Egyptian walk, right camels, switch, left camels, double hip sits, shoulder punches, butterflies, figures 8's, shimmies, crossovers, hip hits in a circle, circle back, right leg shimmies, left leg shimmies, right pharonic, left pharonic, right hip hits, left hip hits, right camels, switch, left camels, double hip sits, shoulder punches, butterflies, figures 8's aaaaand, pose. Remember: hair flips and smiles, people!

*sigh* Thursday nights just won't be the same.

In other news: Jane Austen sucks. Fallen asleep twice trying to read Persuasion. I think i'm throwing in the towel.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Helping: a comic essay

(With thanks to the genius that is This particular comic really resonates with me.)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


Well, hello March. Fancy meeting you here. Weren't you supposed to be arrive much later? No? Goodness, where did the time go...

Today, I turned my agenda to March, cut off the corners for easy flipping and had a mini-heart attack. I have so much to accomplish in the next 27 days, I want to cry. I won't, of course. Instead I will freeze into a statue of inertia. My Flight v. Fight tendencies are very simple: first I will hold very still and hope they don't see me. Camouflage. Deer in headlights. You know the drill. When spotted, I will immediately kick into overdrive, kicking and clawing at the massive to-do list in a frenzy, like a cornered animal. Finally, exhausted, I will simply give up on the things I didn't get to, chalking them up as unimportant, even if that's simply not true.

Currently, I am in freeze mode, though slowly thawing out and starting to make lists. Anyone who knows me will immediately recognise the list-making stage as the beginning of the frenzy. And you, gentle reader, will see the list in its infancy stages.

1) Money Stuff. yuck! okay, so I won't actually be doing them. More like, getting everything organised so that Jadek can do them. And find a nice way to tell my mother that she won't be doing them. Also, taxes related: I need to find out about the GST rebate for people who paid 7% GST when they purchased their houses in 2006, but won't be occupying it until after Jan 1st 2008. Everything is always so much more ocomplicated whenever I seem to embark on an adventure.

2) House stuff: I need to book a truck. I need to pack all my belongings, after going through all my clothes and donating the stuff I don't want to haul to the new place; I need to do laundry before I tackle this project. I need to pack my books and make sure to update my library spreadsheet so I don't lose track of them. I need to re-organise my filing. I need to reorganise my jewellery. I need to make sure I have enough money saved to pay the lawyer, the van rental people and the closing costs. I need to remember that Rome wasn't built in a day so Chez Mandy's can take a few months to look fabulous. I also need to look into Tarion rules and figure out what happens if my phantom mortgage takes months to get settled.

3) Vacation stuff: in possibly my most short-sighted decision ever, I decide to go on a big vacation this year despite having limited time and money to devote to it. I don't know why I just didn't say no - probably because I knew that a) Nish really wanted to go and b) I thought I would be able to handle it,. I'm stupid. Now I have to look into hotels and buy a backpack and go away for 3.5 weeks when I should be saving every penny so I can afford a mattress and spending my time doing all the stuff in the paragraphs above.

4) Somewhere in here I have to make sure to read a book and keep my friends and work as many Sundays as I can. First casualty? Sleep. Second? Sanity.

That's it. I am in lockdown. No going out to spend money. No frivolous expenses (like food and clothes). I am officially pushing the panic button.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Now Playing: The Other Boleyn Girl


Good parts: costumes and scenery were fabulous. Nothing too over-the-top, but with enough opulence and luxury to appreciate the splendour. The supporting cast was stellar: Jim Sturgess as the doomed George Boleyn (Anne and Mary's brother) wrought the most sympathy as a character. You felt genuinely sorry for him. Kristin Scott Thomas in a strong turn as Elizabeth Boleyn (Anne and Mary's mother). David Morrissey drips sinister. And Ana Torrent is a poignant Catherine or Aragon.

Bad parts: the three main actors. I do not enjoy Eric Bana on most days: I find him wooden and shallow. In this case, playing a horny king who balances a country and faith against his lust, he does a fairly good job. You feel no sympathy at all for him, but I guess, who could? Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman were well-matched - neither were excellent, but they weren't too horrible either. They should have hired a better accent coach - their nasally American twang peeked through a number of times. Portman did get much juicier lines and actions but Johansson held her own in equally quiet measure. Also: the heavy-handed fawning of Elizabeth? I could have done without it.

3.5 stars out of 5. Wait for the DVD.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

The Memory Keeper's Daughter (henceforth referred to as TMKD) surprised me. To be honest, I had no idea what this book was about before I picked it up - it was on sale at Chapter's, I needed something to read after giving up on Possession by A.S. Byatt and I began reading it without benefit of so much as a blurb.

First, a few words about Possession: I hated it. I really wanted to like it, but I just couldn't get past the slooooooow buildup. I find myself a patient reader (usually) and this tested even me. So, a hundred pages in and I put it down and went new-book-hunting. The straw that broke this particular book? All the bad poetry was written by a fake author! It's not even like I'm reading Wordsworth and thinking "God, this is bad; at least it contextualises other works." No! This was just... bad for artistic purposes only! Forget this.

TMKD: lovingly written. I actually cared about the characters and how they would end up. No saccharine sweet endings but no pessimistic wrist-slashing either. Just... life. Heartbreakingly normal; upliftingly mundane. Many books ask "what would you do?" - I like that this asks "what could you have done instead?" and "Now that you've done it, can you mitigate it?" It only took me 7-10 hours to read and it was worth every minute. I'll leave you with the quote that hooked me:

"'She's lovely,' Caroline said. Her hands were trembling. Because she was moved by his love and his sorrow, and because no one had ever loved her with that same passion. Because she was almost thirty years old, and yet if she died the next day there would be no one to mourn her like Rupert Dean still mourned his wife after more than twenty years. Surely she, Caroline Lorraine Gill, must be as unique and deserving of love as the woman in the old man's photo, and yet she had not found any way to reveal this, not through art or love or even through the fine high calling of her work."

I recommend it!

PS: have only recently stumbled upon a French band called "Air" - am in love. I haven't felt this way since first being exposed to Massive Attack. I heard a track on Veronica Mars and have youtubed them to death in the 24 hours since.