Thursday, April 30, 2015

Blissed-Out Love Orgy 2015 (With MANY UPPER CASE LETTERS)

So I read at Blogging Out Loud Ottawa (HI LYNN) on Tuesday night and now it's Thursday and THIS is why I can't be a current-events blogger.

My friend Patti (HI PATTI) said about BOLO three (!!) years ago that reading there was a "small jump into a very soft landing", and that being nervous was silly. And I agree, but I was still nervous. But Pam picked me up so I didn't have to find the church or the parking lot or not down two gin and tonics for courage. We had dinner with Nat and Jennifer and Amanda, with so much laughter and loudness (and an incredibly patient waitress) that much of the nervousness drained away (and not just because of the gin), although a big part of me (and Nat) was saying "OR, we could just sit here and while the evening away in beer and idle chatter...."

Then we walked over to the church and tried to wander through the halls quietly and respectfully, looking for the right room. Then a small child bolted out in front of Jennifer and she said (ejaculated, really) "OH JESUS!", so we chucked the quiet part and a woman at the door remarked that we were really putting the Loud in Blogging Out Loud. She had curly gray hair and was wearing pearls all church-lady-ish, and I thought she might have meant it disapprovingly, but she totally dropped the f-bomb on me and Pam later while we were buying drinks from her, so it's all good.

Five - FIVE - of my non-blogging (NON-BLOGGING) friends (HI COLLETTE) drove DOWNTOWN, from BARRHAVEN, to watch me read. I feel like it really needs to be emphasized that they didn't know the event was licensed UNTIL THEY GOT THERE. Helen, my dance-mom friend who, come to think of it, is really just a friend since our daughters haven't danced together - or at all, in any organized capacity- for about four years - drove DOWNTOWN from KANATA, ALL ALONE, and she has driving anxiety just like me, and her GPS crapped out on her so she panicked and had to park in a garage which she hates. Did I mention she was ALL ALONE? I can't draw, I can't dance, I'm bad at math and my sense of direction is for shit, but I ROCK at picking friends.

I had to scan the room to see if enough people would get the part of the post that's only funny if you know me. I thought enough people probably would, so I left it in. And a bunch of people laughed, THANK GOD.

On the way out, a woman told me she loved my post and my hair. Of course, we all know intelligence and creativity is so much more important than hair, so the compliment on the post meant much more. Of course. (I am a sad, vain, petty creature).

Photo credit: Nat Hanson

I'm pretty sure that last year the podium covered everything from the boobs down, so I really just worked on looking good from the boobs up. I'm trying really hard (and mostly succeeding) not to let the 'oops-I-forgot-I-need-to-stop-being-so-fat' part of the evening overshadow the fizzy ginger-ale bubble joy.

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. BOLO is awesome. And the waitresses at the Black Bear Pub are hot. The end.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Mondays on the Margins Newbery Post: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

You know the great thing about doing a blog post series of your own volition with no pay and no deadlines? No urgency or unpleasant repercussions if you get busy and your husband leaves the country a lot and you lose the will to live for a few months. This is also probably the bad thing about doing a blog post series of your own volition with no pay and no deadlines. Anyway.

Not a clue how I missed this one on my first pass through childhood. Lynn (HI LYNN) lent it to me a few months ago, but I've been watching too much Supernatural and reading too much after Lucy goes to bed (which means ipad only) to attack the pile of actual books lately. Yesterday I got home from dropping Angus at basketball, went upstairs and declared that I would read the book at the top of the first pile my eyes fell on. And it was this book.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH won the Newbery Medal in 1972. It's a great story, with strong characters and a fantastic plot that has suspenseful intrigue and strong motherly love and duty, as well as some quite dense moral questions. What I think I loved most is that, although it's clearly targeted at juvenile readers, the writing doesn't talk down to children AT ALL. In the description of young Timothy Frisby's illness, Robert O'Brien uses terms like 'hypochondriac' and 'delirious' without overexplaining them, and this continues throughout the novel with descriptions of farm work, forest geography,  laboratory procedures, power tools and and basic physics. This reminded me of how there was outrage expressed on social media at one point about words related to the natural world such as 'almond', 'blackberry', 'minnow' and 'budgerigar' had been dropped from the Oxford Junior Dictionary in favour of terms such as 'broadband' and 'mp3 player'. Was there just an assumption back then that children would know about this stuff, or would ask their parents? I feel like a book written right now wouldn't make those assumptions. Of course, I could be totally tripping. There is also death and lack of closure on one thread (Justin? Justin, come back!). I just really felt like Robert C. O'Brien told the story he wanted to tell without trying to dumb it down or make it more marketable, and I love that the Newbery committee rewarded that.

I haven't seen the movie either, although I'm ninety-five-percent sure it was sitting on a shelf in my best friend's living room when I used to go over there all the time. I have it on good authority that Justin, the rat described in the book as "alert, dark gray in color, and extraordinarily handsome", is extremely crushable in the movie (and I completely had a thing for Goliath from Gargoyles, so I'm not judging). I have also been told that NIMH stands for National Institute of Mental Health, although this is NOT revealed in the book, which nearly made me blow a gasket (I LIKE TO KNOW STUFF, OKAY?)

On Goodreads, the book's title is modified with The Rats of Nimh #1, but apparently the only #2 book was actually written by the original author's daughter, and the reviews are somewhat uneven. There's also a second movie, but the consensus seems to be that it was an abomination, and the description I found keeps changing the name Frisby to Brisby, so my hopes are not high. Unless.... wait..... the original movie seems to call Mrs. Frisby Mrs. Brisby too, WTF, all is ashes, why? Was Mrs. Frisby too reminiscent of a .... frisbee? And how do we all feel, just by the by, about the fact that she doesn't get to have a first name? Mrs. Frisby or Mrs. Jonathan Frisby, or Mrs. Jonathan, that's it. I mean, yes, she's all about the family, but.. Alice Frisby? Jane Frisby? Catherine Emily Frisby? I guess maybe good old Robert C. wasn't catering to women's libbers either.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and for the next few weeks I'm going to have a really hard time doing anything permanently harmful to the mice that keep getting into our garage. "Here, Mrs. Frisby, have a tiny blanket for poor little Timothy". I'm sure that will wear off in time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I Have Drunk Deep From the Well of Culture. And Rum. With a Bourbon Chaser.

Saturdays around here don't tend to be a beehive of activity. There's usually some kind of sporting event, for one kid if not both, early in the day, and then some down time and we catch up on Modern Family (Matt and Eve and me), Person of Interest (Matt and Angus and me) and/or House of Cards (Matt and me - Angus hung around for part of one hoping for some kind of salaciousness and almost died of boredom; not a future politician, I guess). Saturdays after Matt has just returned home from a week overseas are usually reserved for stumbling through the required activity and then adjourning to the couch (him) and the reading chair (me) for some recovery time.

As things shook out, he was scheduled to get home from France Friday night, after a week in California and a week in Asia not long ago, but Eve's spring Glee recital was on Saturday morning and I had NAC tickets for Saturday night, AND then we found out that Collette's birthday dinner was reserved for Saturday night also. So I took Collette out for dinner last week, and figured that Saturday I would go to the Glee recital, the NAC event, then stop by Collette's for a civilized drink before heading home to sleep the sleep of the virtuous and well-rounded.

I bet you can guess how well THAT worked out for me.

First, Matt's flight got cancelled. He was rebooked on one that was scheduled to land in Ottawa at 11:30. The recital was at 12:30. We figured it was going to be a Disney-movie-type-thing, except he would probably arrive seconds AFTER Eve performed, not before. Eve was fine - she felt bad that he felt bad, and I said I would try to record it. My mom was coming with us, and Eve's teacher, because she is just that awesome.

The recital was fantastic. Not in the way that Glee the television show is fantastic, because they're all professional singers and actors who are just playing regular kids. These were regular kids who had the balls to sing in public. They weren't all great, but they were mostly quite good (my kid was the best, duh). And their two songs (Break Away and Price Tag) were bookended by ballet and tap performances by five-year-olds, and how better to be bookended than by a dozen little pink-gowned blissed-out darling children reveling in the sheer joy of being small and pink and dancing on a stage? And then at the end we found out that Matt had (by breaking a land-speed record and three traffic laws) actually made it seconds before Eve's class went on. So that was awesome.

Then I went to see Shane Koyczan with a couple of book club friends. Honestly, I bought the ticket in the spirit of trying something a little new, and I wasn't sure how into it I would be, especially given that I was exhausted. I wasn't sure if it would be too earnest, or if I would find it like the symphony where my mind drifts and I can't stay focused on the performance, or if, as my friend Carolyn said, we might get trampled in a mob of besotted hipsters.

It was phenomenal. It was spectacular. It was fantastic, and I say this from the bottom of my cynical, middle-aged, shriveled little heart. It was earnest in the very best way, but the emotional intensity was liberally sprinkled with profane hilarity, and my ears couldn't look away. I can't find most of the poems online either because I can't remember what they were called, or because they're new, but he did this one (without music, which I actually prefer), and don't feel bad if you don't feel like watching it because I almost never watch videos embedded in blogs either, but it's very good. And I have to say, everything he said rang so true, except that he still doesn't go to beaches or public places and hasn't had many relationships, because I have to think that this dude gets so much ass flung at him he must not be able to catch it with both hands and a net.

Then I went to Collette's. Matt had gone to the birthday dinner, which was heroic in the extreme since he had probably been awake for over twenty-four hours now, so he kissed me and went home. And I had a beer. And then the whole night turns into a hazy haze of WTF punctuated by flashes of OH DEAR GOD, and there was a bottle of rum with a kraken on it and some kind of weird hop-flavoured bourbon, and a lengthy, serious discussion about elbows. Then I was towed home like a salvaged galleon through the streets of Barrhaven by three friends who wouldn't let me lie down on someone's lawn for a rest no matter how much I begged. And I slept the sleep of the debauched and repentant.

How was your week-end?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Late-Night Thoughts on Watching Supernatural

I have a habit of not really 'watching' tv when I'm watching tv. I tend to be cooking or cleaning, or sorting and scanning old newspapers to get rid of, or doing something else that doesn't require all of my (ever-diminishing) brain power. I used to think this was actually a fairly virtuous habit - my dad used to call the television the 'idiot box', after all, and if I wasn't actually just sitting on the couch watching then I wasn't a couch potato.

A few years ago, I read a book about how to better use your time. I don't remember all that much about it (yes, that's right, I ignored all of its sound advice and I'm having a blast just flinging my time around profligately, thank-you very much), but I do remember the suggestion that if you were going to watch a television program, maybe you should actually just sit down and watch it with all of your attention, and if it wasn't worth that, then maybe you shouldn't watch it at all.

I still have trouble doing this with the actual television, especially if I'm alone. On one of Zarah's visits, she asked if I'd watched Sherlock, and I said yes, but then realized that I'd been doing my usual flitting around while it was on and I really had very little idea of what had been happening. So I sat down and watched it with her and then smacked myself in the head for almost missing a freaking brilliant example of acting, writing and directing.

I can, however, focus exclusively on what I'm watching if I curl up in a chair with my ipad. It's like six feet of intervening space between my face and the show just leaves too much room for distraction (and if I sit too close to the tv I hear my mom yelling "don't sit there, you'll go blind!")

So if I really want to watch something I try to sit myself down with my ipad and devote my whole attention to it. This means I often don't watch an hour-long show or even a half-hour long show all at once - if I find my attention wandering I stop and go do something else. It also means that when I rewatch series on Netflix that I originally watched week to week on television, I discover multitudes of details that I missed the first time around, as well as rediscovering things lost to my child-trampled, age-shredded memory.
Photo by JMiu

I started watching Supernatural right at the beginning, ten years ago - TEN YEARS AGO. I had a four-year-old and a one-year-old. I wasn't paying close attention to anything except whether nipple cream was on sale and if what I was about to eat was relatively poop-free. But it was a fun diversion and I love anything that's both scary and funny and has interesting characters.

I watched more-or-less faithfully, although the channel it was on complicated matters - I PVR almost everything to watch later, and I can't remember why, but it was sometimes hard to catch, and if I missed it, it was one of the few shows I couldn't catch up on with On Demand.

Recently, I realized that I didn't even know whether it was still on, and that I had recorded the season 9 finale on the PVR and hadn't even bothered to watch it. I'd sort of lost the plot and wasn't sure whether I felt like trying to pick it up again. Then I decided to rewatch it on Netflix from the beginning. It seemed like a good idea. The weather was still crappy, I was on some enforced rest for a sore foot, and I was taking two annoying courses with assignments that needed a suitable reward.

It wasn't the greatest idea. I'm a little OCD, and when I get into something I really get into it, and did I mention there are NINE SEASONS on Netflix? And not Walking-Dead-ten-episode-seasons. We're talking something in the neighbourhood of TWO HUNDRED FREAKING HOURS. My reading has fallen way off. I've thrown clean clothes in the wash just to have laundry to fold because I can do that watching the ipad. You know that expression "when you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras?" I think of hellhounds. With, um, hooves, instead of just evil, um, paws - you get the picture. Yesterday Eve was going to the park with her friend and realized she only has winter boots, no sneakers, because her last ones were so gross we threw them out when the snow came and forgot to buy new ones. Her friend was wearing Doc Martens, so I went down and grabbed an old pair of mine for Eve to try on. She put one on, and said "fits okay, but it's soulless". I was about to dash to the kitchen for salt and matches, and she said "they just need some in-soles." (Sorry).

In my next post: thoughts that are actually ABOUT Supernatural. Right now I have a date with my chair and my ipad.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


I used to be more selective and discerning when adding books to my to-read list. Sometimes I was self-conscious about the fact that other people could see which books I was adding, or realized that I already had many, many books in the same vein on there, or just that there wasn't enough time left in my life to get through them all.

Then I thought, screw it. My tastes are wide-ranging, from the elevated and erudite to the tawdry and profane, and anyone who knows me already knows that. And if I leave one off, I inevitably end up spending long minutes searching frantically for it a few days later. I've started to think of it less as composing a prescriptive list than gathering butterflies in a net - "you get in, and you get in, ooh, you're pretty, squish over everyone, this one's going in too". I won't get to all of them, and if I did only a few would maintain their lustre after the first few pages, but every once in a while it's a pleasure to fan them all out and admire their jeweled wings.

So I have this: Adam Gopnik's Winter: Five Windows on the Season, which is "an intimate tour of the artists, poets, composers, writers, explorers, scientists, and thinkers, who helped shape a new and modern idea of winter". The words "existential", "meditation" and "homage" are at home here. 

And then there's this: The Stars Never Rise (Unnamed Series #1) by Rachel Vincent. Soul-consuming demons, a girl with a dependent younger sister, and a hoodie-wearing fugitive with deep green eyes! Okay, yeah, it's blatantly whoring in on the whole trilogy thing and the series isn't even named yet, for crying out pete's sake, and it's most likely a Hunger Games rip-off, but WHAT IF IT'S NOT? Can we take the chance? I think we owe it to ourselves not to. 

Oh, I just noticed I had Etta and Otto and Russell and James on there twice (gorgeous literary debut, plucky old woman, pilgrimage, Canada, talking coyote, 'nuff said). Whew. That means I'm down to one thousand and NINE.