Thursday, February 26, 2009

how to deal with a really bad day at work

First of all, go ahead: yell. Sometimes, after months (nay, years!) of incompetence, you're allowed to put a colleague in their place. Then open the mysterious bag on your desk, out of which flows two very pretty scarves, knitted by another colleague (now friend). Remind yourself that 99% of the people you work with are good and decent human beings and that 50% of those are also really clever lovely people. Take a deep breath. Boot your computer and prove (in a ridiculously short amount of time) just how incompetent the first colleague is. Bar no holds. Spend the afternoon in your office working to give you that soothing feeling of crossing items off your always-long to do list. Confirm with yourself that your list is as such because people trust you to do certain things. Eat a pear. Spend twenty minutes in the story closet picking books and rhymes and puppets for storytime that evening. Drink a tall glass of water. Play the Pied Piper by saying "storytime starts in TWO minutes!" really loudly in the Children's Department and watch your personal conga line form behind you. Spend thirty-two minutes reading and giggling and singing and dancing and pretending to be a tree and getting hugs from kids as they leave. Realise even fake smiling induces the same chemicals in your brain as real smiling and all of a sudden you feel better. Clean up. Put away the toys. Tuck in the chairs. Put on your coat. Remember that you're still a twenty-something and that old British bitch is going to retire long before you get your first wrinkle.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

oscar 81 predictions

A short post with my predictions; more later!

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Richard Jenkins in "The Visitor" (Overture Films)
Frank Langella in "Frost/Nixon" (Universal)
Sean Penn in "Milk" (Focus Features)
Brad Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler" (Fox Searchlight)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Josh Brolin in "Milk" (Focus Features)
Robert Downey Jr. in "Tropic Thunder" (DreamWorks, Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight" (Warner Bros.)
Michael Shannon in "Revolutionary Road" (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage)

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Anne Hathaway in "Rachel Getting Married" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Angelina Jolie in "Changeling" (Universal)
Melissa Leo in "Frozen River" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Meryl Streep in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Kate Winslet in "The Reader" (The Weinstein Company)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Amy Adams in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Penélope Cruz in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" (The Weinstein Company)
Viola Davis in "Doubt" (Miramax)
Taraji P. Henson in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Marisa Tomei in "The Wrestler" (Fox Searchlight)

Achievement in directing
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" David Fincher
"Frost/Nixon" (Universal) Ron Howard
"Milk" (Focus Features) Gus Van Sant
"The Reader" (The Weinstein Company) Stephen Daldry
"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight) Danny Boyle

Best motion picture of the year
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
"Frost/Nixon" (Universal)
"Milk" (Focus Features)
"The Reader" (The Weinstein Company)
"Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

single in the city

What's a single girl to do on Valentine's weekend? I don't really put a lot of stock into this demarcated day of love - even when I'm in a relationship - but it's so hard to ignore when you're slapped in the face with it for weeks and then inundated all day. All I wanted to do was hang out with my single ladies, drink a few martinis, eat a little poutine and trash talk all the couples we happened to people-watch. Two out of four isn't bad, I suppose.

It got better the next day, when we had a singles-Timmy's date (though we were foiled by our poutine-for-breakfast plan) and wandered home slowly, stopping in for a little book shopping before settling for home-made perogis, bead-destroying and chat-chat-chatting... holy chatting. At some point, I looked around and said, "why's it so dark" and Nish replied, simply, "the sun went down." Nothing like hangin' with your bestie... you don't have to be "on", you don't have to be more or less of what you are, you don't have to censor your words... because this girl knows you and loves you (not instead, but because). After dinner (mmm, spaghetti and meatballs), and some Disaronno, we and LilBro+one went out out to Neu+ral for a long-anticipated DJ Dwight reunion. God. Was it ever good. We were so sore the next day, but all we did was find out when the next long weekend was and booked that Sunday for another go.

So, the Valentine's weekend came and went. The candy's on half-price at your local store, Easter bunnies have replaced plush hearts and the industry has moved on to their next money-maker. Me? I'm happy to have spent Valentine's weekend with my beloved brethren, reminding myself that family is not just with whom you share your genes but also those with whom you share your life. Next singles event is in April - can't wait!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Now Playing: Taken

Taken in an action-movie so implausible, even I could not suspend my disbelief. I can only give it 2 out of 5 five stars: one for Liam Neeson's acting (what little we get of it); another for the beautiful location (ahhh, Paris...). There were just so many things wrong with this movie:
- Shannon (I mean Kim, I mean Maggie Grace) is her usual irritating self - it seems like this actress only has two modes, dazed and shrill. Ugh. Like in Lost, I kept hoping she would die; unlike in Lost, I was bitterly disappointed.
- One guy? One old, ex-CTU-esque, who's retired takes on a couple dozen hardened Albanian mobsters and a Sheik? and he wins? Without so much as a horrible wound? And how does he leave the country - he's just killed people, caused millions of dollars in damage, contravened French intelligence .. and he gets to fly home?
- Kim is a seventeen-year-old virgin? in California?
...don't even rent it. There are just so many better action movies to waste your time on.


Instead let's talk about the other drama happening in the theatre... bad parenting.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

It's been a while since I've read a non-Book-Club book. But, in deference to my new year's resolutions, I picked up The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. It helps that there is no book for Feb's meeting - only poems, which are easy enough to swallow in one sitting, while waiting for time-shifted shows to catch up to me. I was very much looking forward to this book as it has had such critical acclaim and the movie looked very promising (but I hadn't watched it). Also, it features a Bengali family (from Calcutta, not Bangladesh) living in the west, so I was intrigued. The movie trailer features a quick cut scene had left a vague impression on me, and whatever it was, it was completely different from what the book turned out to be.

First of all, there are no life-altering trips to India - there are trips (many, in fact), but they're all talked about in hindsight and brushed off quickly. I guess the movie does this great job of juxtaposing father and son while the book doesn't seem to do that at all. What the book does do is capture the vague embarrassment that immigrant kids feel around their parents (not just the embarrassment that we all feel when we're hitting puberty, but the nails-on-chalkboard kind when you realise that the funny smell emanating from the coat hooks at school belongs to you). It really is cringe-worthy. And there's really only two ways of dealing with it: you either find others like you or you shun your heritage and try to blend in as much as possible. Had we the maturity to walk the fine line in between - to embrace our native and adopted culture - it would be different... but asking school-aged kids to do that? Impossible.

That's why - when I read the passage about Gogol keeping his pet name and refusing his good one, I couldn't help but think: "you're going to regret that..." ... and he does. In that delicious irony that is hindsight, he then spends the rest of his life fighting against that decision.

What really gets me - what always gets me - is the earnestness with which immigrant parents try so hard for their kids: Ashima and Ashoke even celebrate Christmas, though they're Hindu. It's like they feel that embarrassment on behalf of their children and try to work around it as best they can. My parents were such the same - they never forced me to take Bengali heritage class or read Tagore. Though we were Catholics and therefore could easily celebrate in a predominantly Christian society, they did things that they've never done before moving here: buying us Halloween costumes and valentine cards and cutting up carrot sticks for our lunches. It's amazing how little we appreciate this as children and how we take it for granted as adults.

With the Family Day long weekend here, I suppose I'm feeling a bit maudlin, just a little nostalgic, for all the efforts of my parents. For my dad who bussed to four different "Consumers' Distributing"s all over the city in search of that kitchen set, for his taking me to Marineland and Wonderland and the Ex (where I promptly abandoned him for my friend), for his playing Monopoly and Clue, for his swimming lessons. For my mom, who faithfully packed my lunches every morning while I, faithfully, I threw them out every afternoon (I only started eating them in high school), who sewed me costumes for plays and dances and trick-or-treating, who swabbed my chicken-pocked body in camomile lotion, who took the day off for my first day of school and whom I abandoned at the gate, without tears or even a glance back. For my parents, who were thanked so infrequently for the things they did.

If Lahiri's book does nothing else, it certainly makes me appreciate family.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

found in translation

So, here I am, reading The Namesake (at the leisurely pace I prefer) while sipping on a flute of mango juice as the Galaxy channel tinkles unobtrusively in the background. I'm enjoying this book, shorter than the tome previous, about a subject close to my heart, written in a style I enjoy most. But I'm not done, so I won't begin my review.

Reading books where the culture of the characters overlap (even slightly) with my own seems always to be an illuminating experience. Inevitably, I will make a connection to a long-misconstrued idea or rediscover a piece of geography that I had thought to be relegated to my imagination. Mostly, however, I dig up long-lost words: little gems that have been buried in my memories or cast aside as worthless Anglo-Indian costumery. Mistry certified my mother's favourite phrase (baap-re-baap) as the genuine deal; Ondaatje gave me back the hills of Asaam.

When I was growing up, I quickly learned to be less confident about my English skills. It was obvious that there was no such thing as having "soe" ... that those annoying little white dots were actually called canker sores. That "daal" was considered some sort of lentil soup and not just gravy for the rice. That calling complete strangers "Aunty" and "Uncle" in deference to their age may not always be seen as the respectful thing to do. To this day, I still feel most comfortable reading out loud in a British accent. Over the years, I have learned to use some words/phrases only at home (e.g., "acha", "thikasay", "toilet table") because, really, who would understand those outside my parents' slightly curried walls?

One such word that has fallen by the wayside from disuse is what I've always understood as "almirer" - it's a proper dressing table, that holds jewelry and makeup and hairbrushes, the central piece of furniture in a woman's toilette (associated with a toilet table at home; a vanity everywhere else). But it's more than just a vanity - it's a showcase of all the trinkets and rewards of achieving the milestones in life (graduation, marriage, children, etc). I haven't used that word in over twenty years, forever linking it with the dark wood, high-mirrored, lacquered table at which my mother prepared herself for an evening out, upon which I stood while she applied powder and lipstick, from which I would launch myself in flying leaps onto the four-poster bed beside it. I have since thought that I made up that word, that somehow I had mixed up the words "all" and "admirer " and "mirror" in my juvenile mind to explain that almost magical piece of furniture.

Today, Lahiri gave me back a piece of my own tongue: "her grandmother would unlock her almari, showing her which jewels would be hers when the day came" (p. 213). Almari! Not an almirer, but an almari! Oh, that's a real word, with real connotations and real history! I almost choked on my mango juice. Thank you, Ms. Lahiri.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

vitamin D

It's silly, really. Despite having spent the better part of the last ten days being ill with the flu (a flu I had thought to try to and inoculate myself against, but with no success) and still having the sniffles and dry throat/lips to go with it, today, I felt... happy. And for no good reason at all! I wanted to walk outside, order a frappuccino and stroll home. I wanted to hang out with people. i wanted to read a book outside. And why? well...

The last week has seen me at home and I've noticed the late afternoon sun creeping deeper and deeper inside my condo, lingering a little longer every day. And today, being at work after so long, surrounded by windows, the shift flew by. I called around, desperate to have someone share this day with me - but everyone was "busy" ... *sigh*

I know I don't suffer from depression, but I certainly think I lack sunshine in my life and that makes me grumpy and contemplative. A little vitamin D and it's like I've been given a new lease on life. Long after the sun went down, I was still standing on my balcony, basking in the twilight. I can't wait for summer (and patio furniture and pina coladas). I'm getting happy just thinking about it.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Now Playing: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

Went to see Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. It was, as usual, better than I anticipated. The cast is almost all familiar faces with only one notable absence, but she's not really supposed to be around, so she wasn't missed. Bill Nighy is his always-fabulous self - he's been one of my favourite bad guys of late. Love him. Steven Mackintosh's Tannis is also back as is Raze. Finally, newcomer Rhona Mitra is the well-cast Sonja and she really holds her own in the action scenes. Having just rewatched the previous two movies, I was worried that continuity (or the lack thereof) would be very distracting. In actuality, it was a well-crafted prequel, with my only complaint being that the pivotal "death" scene (no spoiler there!) wasn't as carefully recreated as I would have liked. But I'm picky. If you're the average movie-goer, 3.5 out of 5 stars. If you're me, and you liked this franchise at all, 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Now, let's get to the gushing. I think I have a new movie-crush: a certain Mr. Michael Sheen. Actually, no wait, that's not entirely true. Mr. Michael Sheen as Lucian equals hawtness.

I've always found vampires a tad effeminate for my tastes, so while they're cool for female characters, I find male vampires a little... milksoppy (that's not a real word. sue me.). But, what other immortals are there? Before Underworld, werewolves have been portrayed as mindless killing beasts at worst, men with uncontrollable appetites and slaves to moon cycles, at best.

Enter Lycans. Sentient, intelligent, strong creatures capable of thought, passion and love. Not only that, Michael Sheen's Lucian is sensitive, good with his hands (now, now... I am alluding to his being a blacksmith!) and is in love. In star-crossed, futile, doomed, damned, love. He's the kind of character that the thirteen-year-old girl inside me swoons over. But, to top it off, he's got long hair, beautiful eyes, a cut body, wears leather like he owns it, and is as removed from "effeminate" as you can get. In other words: he's perfect for this reviewer. I think I'm in movie-love. There, I said it. I'm in love with Mr. Michael Sheen's Lucian. He may... just may ... give my beloved Keanu a run for his money. This was one of the best valentine's gifts I've ever gotten. Thank you, Underworld, thank you.

Monday, February 02, 2009

conference superlights

I love conference; it's like being back in school without any of the drawbacks (e.g. homework, exams, etcetera). This year, like all the years I've attended, is marked by snow and bad weather. I hate that we have our biggest conference in the middle of winter; I also hate that we don't get reimbursed for hotel expenses. The whole experience really is a dichotomous undertaking: I love being there, I hate getting there. Anyway, moving on...

This year's plenary speakers were fantastic: from the Richard Florida's invigorating creative revolution to Mayor David Miller's vision of a city, from CBC's Michael Enright to Justin Trudeau's remarkably stirring call to be the facilitators of knowledge that we always have been and will continue to be, not despite the overwhelming amount of information available, but precisely because of it.

There were many (many, many) memorable moments, but in an ADHD world of soundbites, I shall only list my favourites.

1) Realising that Toronto is the home of choice for those who wish to live in a culturally significant city that's on the bleeding edge of creativity ... and I'm only a 20 minute drive away.

2) Having my suspicions confirmed (reading on a computer screen actually works against the human brain's mapping system and leads to markedly less memory retention than when reading the same information on paper) made me love my notebook even more.

3) Hearing that Justin Trudeau and I had the same thought upon walking into a library for the first time: "I'm never going to finish of all these!"

4) Watching a bunch of normally staid, professional librarians learn to salsa and wind.

5) Remembering to thank the Minister of Culture for the open bar; that bar provided me much amusement.

6) Connecting with friends I haven't seen since last year's conference and discussing library things without being thought of as a complete geek.

7) Meeting Janette from Cobourg, with whom I had this exchange:
Janette: Excuse me. Could you tell me what kind of music this is?
Me: Um, salsa... Latin-American.
J: Where is it from?
M: Oh, well this band is from Cuba. But I guess the music is from Central and South America.
J: *Showing me her badge* I'm from Cobourg; we don't get this kind of music there.
...what later blew blew my mind is when she asked me if I was South-American.
M: uhh, no. I'm from... umm, India.
J: oh? Whereabouts? I have friends visiting there.
M: The south-east region... well, actually, I'm from a little country called Bangladesh that's right next to India.
J: You should have said so! Are you from Dhaka?
M: *flabbergasted* well, yes, actually.
J: why did you say India? If you're Bangladeshi, be proud of that! Have you read the Brick Lane? That was a wonderful book.
M: No, I haven't. I guess you recommend it?
J: Surely!
... I know, right? The woman doesn't recognise salsa music when she hears it, but knows all about Bengali culture and geography. That's the power of books, right there.

Here's looking forward to more mind-bending conferences.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Now Playing: The Reader

Almost done the award-calibre movies (Underworld, here I come!), but before a little drama of my own. Set out to watch Milk last night at one of my local movie houses; yet, despite checking the website diligently, when we get there, we find out the show has been cancelled due to a leaky roof. Apparently, updating the website is something only the head office in Nova Scotia can do - marvel, ye morals at the convenience of the internet! - so we were screwed. Two comp passes later, we went on to our second choice: The Reader.

This is the movie that garnered Kate Winslet one of two Golden Globes, this one for Best Supporting Actress as Hannah Schmitz. I don't understand how she's a "supporting" actress when she's in most of the movie, playing the pivotal female role opposite David Kross and Ralph Fiennes, who share the role of Michael Berg. Regardless of all that, all three actors shine - I was especially impressed by young Mr. Kross, who really held his own against the Winslet powerhouse. And a powerhouse she was - from loneliness to pride to fear to desolation, Winslet played the extremes like a finely tuned violin. I can see how she deserved that statuette ... and perhaps why the "judges" felt the need to award her twice. 4 out of 5 stars.