Thursday, May 28, 2009

Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

When I made the FB event for this month's Book Club pick (Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan), I had tagged it as "in honour of Mother's Day" - if ever there was a novel about mothers and daughters and the "lost in translation"-esque relationship they sometime have, JLC is definitely up there.

Joy Luck Club follows the life stories of four Chinese mothers and one of each of their daughters. Written like that, it sounds so ordinary, but it's so far from. Amy Tan has a hard-to-come-by talent of being able to completely sell each character - when I read the story through Waverly's eyes, I feel sorry for this little chess genius who is embarrassed by her mother's boasting; when I read about Waverly through June's eyes, I feel like she's a total brat. While we don't get whole character studies, I did find each character to be believably fleshed out, flawed and talented in equal measures. I thoroughly enjoyed Tan's style and eloquence, which is brilliant in its simplicity. I think it's a must-read.


Book Club is bar-none the consistent highlight of my month. Not only do I read these great books, but the conversation generated is intelligent, provocative and fun. I had commented that I can almost hear my own mother's voice in the thoughts of Lindo, Suyuan and An-Mei (not so much Ying-Ying) - the disappointments, fears and heartaches bred solely for their daughter. I turn the big two-nine this year, and I can't help but reflect on own mother at my age.

In 1986, at 29, my mother gave birth to her second child (LilBro himself). She was young, energetic, in a great job surrounded by family and friends. But looking into the big brown eyes of her children, she must have known that, suddenly, it wasn't about her at all. At 29, my mother decided to leave the country of her birth (of her parents and grandparents) and filled out applications for Canada and America and Australia and said the first ones to reply back would win us all. To make her case better for herself, my mother, at 29, decided she would learn French. She prodded my dad into upgrading his mechanics' skills and completing his GSO training. When she received the acceptance letters, my mother at 29 sold all our worldly possessions (save for her father's cuff link collection, her father-in-law's tools and her gold), packed eight burgeoning suitcases with flannel night clothes, fancy dresses and all the hope she could squeeze in. My mother, at 29, boarded a plane with my brother in one arm, tickets in the other, her husband and daughter close behind and never looked back.

My mother, at 29, was far braver than I could ever imagine being.

Often, I disparage my parents. My mom is the original Iron Maiden, my father the happy-go-lucky guy who just lets her boss him around. I read JLC and thought, yes, my mother was just as cruel and harsh in her treatment of me. One look, one word from my mother and I become eight years old again, asking forgiveness for a crime I didn't even know I committed. My mother is a hard woman - but she's had to be. If she wasn't, my mother (at 29 or any other age), would never have left behind the comforts of all she found familiar to travel to a strange and distant land we now call, with all our hearts, home. What's a harsh word here and there when I know just what she is willing to sacrifice for me, and me alone?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Now Playing: Terminator Salvation

Having just (re)watched all three original Ahh-nold Terminator movies, I thought this latest offering from McG was actually pretty damn good. I mean, reading some of the reviews out there made it sound like it was the worst Terminator movie ever - nay, the worst movie of all time, period - and with T3 still freshly burned into my brain, I cannot disagree more. But hey, what do I know? I don't have a website that gets more traffic than Yonge/Dundas during rush hour.
Not to say I didn't have my problems with it - I do have two glaring issues. Spoiler alert, people. You know I'm not shy about these things.
1) The heart transplant. What. Setting aside the motivational issues of these characters for a moment… what? Marcus just happens to be a perfect match for JC**? Really? Does anyone know the statistical likelihood of this being possible? Unless it's yet another "fate" things, where Marcus was meant to meet JC and save his life, I just don't know. It seems silly that of all the things that would break my suspension of disbelief, it would be this, but there you have it.
2) This is a mythology thing that I'm sure a few fanboys out there will correct, but somewhere in T3, the T800 that comes back says that it was he who killed JC, that it was Kate who reprogrammed him and that this was done because Skynet knew that JC would have a soft spot for the T800. Alright - I swallowed that. Fast forward to Salvation: the iconic "..-.." music hits and Arnie (in his special CGI birthday suit) comes out. Do we see even an inkling of hesitation in JC's trigger finger? No. How does a self-aware, sentient, supercomputer not remember that JC has no problem killing a T800 but sends one after him like 10 years later? I don't know.
…It's the little things.

Aside from these two things, I thought the movie was bloody good. I mean, the action sequences (especially that continuous shot in the helicopter) was phenom. I was there, man… like, right there. It didn't have the humorous breaks to lighten the heavy feeling of the movie, but it would have probably been out of place. I thought that the casting was done quite well - Bryce is a passable grown-up Kate, Anton was simply excellent as Kyle and, what can I say, Christian (while seriously underutilised) made me a believer. I do have to say that HBC's Dr. Serena character was quite off-putting, but I liked her Skynet interface - if you watch it, look for her facial twitches. And no, I didn't hate Star - I thought I would, but I didn't. Go figure.

Plot elements were done pretty well too. I know that some people think the characters are a bit thin - but you know what? It's meant to be an act in three parts. If they don't get picked up for two more, then it's our loss. It's like HBO cancelling Dead Like Me, or Fox cancelling Firefly. I like the scar-getting. I know many would say it wasn't epic enough - but I thought it was kind of fitting, to have such a visible reminder of just how vulnerable human flesh can be - that mere scratch from a Terminator becomes this legendary scar. I will admit that Skynet is a pretty slow-learning-curve machine - it doesn't adapt very well to new information nor does it think out its plans. I mean: they find JC's daddy and decide to use him as bait for the JC himself? Why not just kill him and let none of this happen in the first place? It was a plot worthy of the cheesiest of comic book villians.

Long review short: great popcorn muncher. 4 out of 5 stars.

**Not the "Big JC" - just John Connor JC. Though, there are similarities, no? The last great hope for mankind and all that?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


It was quite the long weekend (Victoria Day for my American friends). It shouldn't have been, since I get Mondays off every two weeks, but when everyone you know also has a Monday off, it becomes special.

Started it off with a digital showing of Star Trek. It was the 2140 show on its second weekend, so I didn't expect a line-up. Nevertheless, there were five of us watching it and I wanted us to be able to sit together. Jadek and I got there an hour before showtime and, much to my surprise, they let us go upstairs; further, upon getting to the theatre #10, there are people waiting. What? Anyway, we lined up dutifully, making snarky comments about nerdy trekkers and how early must they gotten there to be first in line on the second weekend. Some guy comes up behind us and asks if "this is the line for Angels and Demons" - oh yeah, I'd totally forgotten that opened this weekend. "Nope" I say at the same time as the guy in front of us says "yep." I go back downstairs to investigate and it turns out all those nerds in front of us weren't Trekkers after all; it also turns out they're all standing in the wrong line. Now, we are the first ones in line. Snarky comments can be heard from those who line up behind us. Good movie; great discussion about time travel and infinite loops and parallel universes follow over nachos and long island iced teas.

Saturday brings us to a party hosted by LilBro while the 'rentals are away. Woohoo! I felt old, trying to keep up with the younguns, but they were good kids. Except that one, but there's a douche at every party. Crawled into bed at 0430, but was disturbed and kept awake until 0600. Birds were clearly chirping and the sun fully risen by the time I got to sleep. I woke up fully expecting to cook breakfast only to find guests already left, sneaky devils. More sausage for me! Spent the day napping and watching snippets of TV. Finally woke up at 1845, drank two Red Bulls and started to get the plan together for that night - HYBRID @ neu+ral. Oh, how I love the Hybrid experience (great music + awesome DJ + cheap drink + fab peeps = fantastic night). Crawled into bed at 0500, after LilBro makes yumtastic breakie.

Monday was hard. Forced self out of bed by 1030. Packed, checked in with the 'rentals in NYC, cleaned up a bit and went home, where I had to cook for the week and do laundry and all those boring adult things. My plan to watch the Survivor finale was foiled by a very slow torrent. Instead, I bundled into a blanket, dragged a chair out on to my balcony, poured a glass of wine and got ready to watch some fireworks. I had expected to a couple. I got a spectacular show, from near and far. Facing northwest, I could see the big shows put on by neighbouring cities and villages which make up mine. I would like to send a special thanks to all the houses that line the 403 between Hurontario and Mavis - you people had some great pyrotechnics! And since I could watch hundreds of houses at once, it was like my own private show! At one point, there were literally dozens of flares happening at the same. It was like that ubiquitous "doomsday" image of many missile silos launching at once (which of course, I can't find anywhere right now - I watched T3 on the weekend, and it had one), except they were flares and chrysanthemums, spiders and kamuros - the entire horizon sparkled fro lose to two hours. It was one of those moments that reminded me just why I moved out.

Happy Vicky Day!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Now Playing: Star Trek

Caveat: I don't think I've ever watched a full episode of the original Star Trek series, but I am a big fan of ST:TNG. In fact, I don't really like the James T. Kirk character at all (and no, I'm not projecting my feelings about Will Shatner, whom I love). Long story short: I wasn't expecting much as a fan, but I was looking forward to a lot of things blowing up.

...And blow up they did. We start Star Trek in media res, with star ships exploding and lightning storms in space and there's really very little downtime from there. In terms of action, I have no complaints whatsoever. The effects didn't seem overly processed and, despite some complaints of excessive lens flares, I thought it worked. I particularly liked the manual throttle for warping - it was a nice combo of future and contemporary.

The casting was equally exceptional. I don't think there is a single choice with which I disagree. I think Spock and Kirk were real standouts, but favourites were Chekov, Bones and Scotty. Even Eric-Fucking-Bana didn't prove to be too much of a distraction; however, when the script called for "emotion" he did disintegrate into a squawk instead of doing justice to a Khan homage. I won't let him ruin the movie for me - casting was stellar.

Scripting - given their choice of time travel (always with the time travel) - was pretty tight. They've essentially rebooted the series without having to answer to the legions of trekkers that would have, I don't know, flailed their arms at conventions until someone got a scratch. I won't really dwell on it other than to say that I think, if done right, time travel can work (as Abrams is proving elsewhere). I really liked some of the other choices he's made: the Uhura-Spock dynamic, the death of Kirk senior and even the addition of Keenser, who undoes all the damage that other one ever did. I enjoyed that it was as funny as it was serious - I laughed more times than I thought I would and it didn't feel inappropriate.

All in all, a great movie, for fans and non-fans alike. 4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


2008 beginning to fill in nicely when it comes to going places. This year, I add to my Canadian repertoire by going to NFLD for 10 days. I am honestly so excited to be going for one thing and one thing only: L'Anse aux Meadows with its UNESCO heritage sites. Adding sweet sweet icing to this trip is having a night to pop into my favourite B&B - I'm looking at you Acadian Librarian! Nish will be my trusty travelling companion, as usual. I honestly think we may have a close-to-perfect symbiotic travelling relationship where, when we divvy up the things that need to be done, we each think the other had gotten the raw end of the deal. So, yeah, she has it all figured out and I have my list of phone calls/emails to make.

But that's not all. This summer we will also we doing our annual Stratford trip (with a couple of SociaLits) AND a quick VIA-sponsored weekend in Montreal.

Finally, in October, we go to NYC for six days. NYC the way I've always really wanted to do it: Broadway, the Met (twice), Carnegie Hall, Museum of Natural History, Guggenheim, Russian Tea Room, NYPL, … and more stuff I can't even remember right now. AnCe and Kaylee join Nish and myself for this one as well :) I'm sure there'll be lots to type about when I'm there. Hopefully someone is bring a laptop (and hopefully, it's not me - Timmy is not a light little guy).

… All this is to shore myself up for 14 months of going nowhere while I save vacation time and money to go on one of my once-in-lifetime trips next year: Australia/New Zealand. I hope to be gone for two months, stopping over in at least one of the following: Fiji, Hawaii, Los Angeles. I'm planning on 7-10 days in NZ and then visiting all my family in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. Sydney, especially, where my cousins live and where my aunt who used to visit once a year now resides (I haven't seen her in over 3 years and I miss her greatly). I'll be there close-ish to Christmas, hopefully having finished with NZ, so I'll have all of January and a week or so in Feb to see all the non-family destinations. The list is ambitious (Great Barrier Reef, Ayer's Rock, Uluru National Park, Darwin, Gold Coast…). I'm so excited about this trip, I need to stop typing about it. …right. now!

I may be dollar-poor, but I sure am travel-rich.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

observations during a 2am fire alarm

1) The body tingles when it's awakened from a deep sleep by a shrill insistent sound. It literally tingles. I felt just like the time I got my wisdom teeth removed and they knocked me out - except this time, I was awake. It wasn't until I stepped out on the very cold balcony without any shoes that the tingle stopped.

2) I have never been so grateful to have a silence button.

3) Firemen are just attractive people. Maybe it's some sort of genetic coding? I mean, if you have a compulsion to rush into burning buildings to save things, this suicidal (heroic, but still suicidal) tendency must be tempered with extreme good looks that will allow you propagate faster than your contemporaries. Let's face it - if you're running into infernos, you probably don't have as much time to spawn as, say, an accountant.

4) From my balcony, I watch two pumper trucks empty their occupants, who then disperse into various stairwells. Then, a white/silver SUV pulls up, right next to the fire trucks and out comes a young woman (silver puffy jacket; fur collar; great knee high black boots). Whatever. Bars closed thirty minutes ago. Ten minutes later, black/blue sedan pulls up; young woman (silver puffy jacket; fur collar; great knee high black boots) exits building, gets in car and drives off.

5) Sleep smells like warm cotton, made that way by the heat of a slumbering body. Sleep feels like soft flannel and fluffy pillows. Sleep tastes like hot mint tea. Sleep easily eludes those awakened suddenly, but teases the senses nonetheless.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

so close to something better left unknown

"...I can feel it in my bones."

So, another crack at the Senior Librarian can and yet another failure. This time, I hadn't really expected to get it, I thought I knew who had it in the bag. But when I saw who did get it... well, it's not I don't like the guy or think I'm better than him. I don't know what I thought. At least, I don't remember any coherent thoughts. To top it off, it came on the heels of my one of my worst appraisals - one in which I was told to stop trying to be an A+ worker and instead try to spend more time chatting with colleagues. No really - exact words.

I didn't have an emotional breakdown or a cry-fest or even a conciliatory bowl of ice cream. I just realised that, all things being equal, I am not Senior material in public library, that my personality is not suited to supervising a bunch of emotionally-inclined touchy-feely people. That all the things at which I excel - task-completion, report-making, high-efficiency, low-tolerance-of-bullshit - that all these things are not appreciated in an environment where we're constantly pussyfooting around people so we don't hurt their precious fragile feelings. I also realised that the very people I can't supervise have the same personality as the people who supervise me: they don't understand that I thrive in an environment of gold stars and responsibility; that the way to my heart is a pay-raise, not cookies; that I need to feel rewarded; that if I don't respect your work ethic, I cannot respect you.

I'm a pretty good Librarian. I should just stop trying to be more than that. I cannot change my inherent personality - which is to get the job done in a timely, logical and courteous manner. Even though I work with children, my philosophy stays the same: deliver a high level of service, in a manner that is informed and friendly; create a welcoming environment; anticipate the needs of my customers. And you know what? They love me. I get gifts and hugs and gap-toothed smiles and I feel rewarded. Why do I want to give this up? For a bigger paycheque? Well, yes and I like the feeling of being responsible.

But alas, in the public library world - run by a bunch of blues - my little ole green self is a square peg trying to shove herself into a round hole. Here, words like "logical" and "efficient" get redefined as "cold". Here, they would rather hear you double-talk and not give an answer very politely than actually hear the truth. *sigh* I should just stick to being a very good Librarian: I should start shooting the shit at the desk more, stop writing to-do lists and continue to simply be loved by my customers and colleagues, if not my bosses. Because all the things that engage me are all the things don't align with the machine in which I work. There's nothing sad about it - it's just the way it is.

So. Instead of trying to be an A+ student, I'm going to be a B. It's going to be hard, but I'm sure that I'll be happier for it.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Now Playing: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Ahh, the first Movie of the Summer. It's like a fresh, wonderful breeze after being locked up in a house for a month or the first kiss you get - full of anticipation, joy and excitement. And it certainly doesn't hurt that it has a perfect man in the leading role - a certain Mr. Hugh Jackman.

I don't know much about Marvel comics to begin with and my entire exposure to the X-Men franchise came in the form of the 90's cartoon and the previous movies. I do know that if I have to pick a favourite Marvel character, I'd be hard-pressed to choose between Punisher, Gambit and Wolverine. So, when I see there's going to be an origins movie for Mr. Adamantium himself, I'll admit - I'm pretty excited. And as April grew crueler and crueler, I looked more and more forward to it.

This brings us to the moment of truth, finally... and? Not bad. Now, I will admit that I'm tempering my original enthusiasm. I have to be cognisant of the fact that even rotten fruit would taste like ambrosia to a starving woman. In deference to some readers, I have to say: Spoilers Abound.

Originally, I freaked out when I heard about Professor X, even though he's in the thing for all of 30 seconds. And I really got excited when I saw that Patrick Stewart had actually stopped in for the 3 lines of dialogue! Originally, I was super-excited about Gambit having a trailer-worthy role. Originally, I thought Liev Schreiber just tore it up as Sabretooth, pardon the punnage. Upon reflection, however, there are some glaring problems. I won't even get into the storyline issues - I'm sure there are plenty of better-versed people than myself that can rip it apart. Things that I'm talking about are small: Gambit's should-be-sexy-as-hell Creole accent flits in and out, sometimes missing altogether; Deadpool's far too powerful and, yet, too-easily defeated; too little of some very cool characters.

All in all, was it entertaining? Of course! Things blow up when they're supposed to and get quiet when they're supposed to... I mean, there's even a very naked Jackman in not one but TWO scenes. But there was something missing, some little thing that I can't quite place my finger on. As a result, I just didn't feel like it was everything it could have been. 3 out of 5 stars.