Wednesday, December 16, 2009

This is crazy

I've decided that I absolutely have to do something with myself. I'm restless, i'm agitated, I'm angry at myself and I need to do something about it. I'm not sure if this is the catalyst or not, but I read about Myra getting a two book deal for her YA (that's young adult) novel. i don't know her 'for reals', but I've read her blog, she's a wonderful writer, I bet her novel is great, and she'll be very successful. Reading about her, tho, made me incredibly jealous.

I feel like I need to write something. I love books, I love words. The way they go together, and the way they sound. I love the way you can put them together and they can mean one thing, and then switch the same words around and they mean something else.

The trouble is, I don't feel a story inside me, trying to get out. I keep waiting to be inspired or something like that, and it's just not happening. It just ain't there. There are no characters in my head talking to me, telling me the story that needs to be told.

I write, all the time. I write for a living. I've written silly little poems to commemorate goofy adventures, I've written a eulogy. I've written reviews of concerts and plays. My friends tell me that I have a talent for writing. When people need an angry letter written, or someone needs a letter of reference, they call me. And I write it. There are times when i've done this, and i feel like it's a piece of crap, and people still seem to like it.

From the reading I've done, the quasi research, if you can call it that, writers need to have some discipline when it comes to writing. Author/bloggers that I've read talk about setting aside specific times to write, setting themselves goals of words per day. They say that you need to write, every day, and it doesnt matter that what you write is crap, but it needs to be done. Every. Damn. Day.

So, that's where I am today. I cannot wait for the elusive muse of writing. I cannot wait to be struck by inspiration. I need to go out and hunt down my muse, drag her kicking and screaming back to my lair and tie her to my desk until she spits out an idea for me. Apparently this writing thing is no airy fairy task, it's a freaking job that you need to take seriously.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Adventures in Toronto and other harrowing tales

Well, there are no harrowing tales, I should disclose that right up front. It’s just a trick to lure you into reading. (note to self. Maybe I should tell people it’s a trick later on in the blog, once they’re engrossed in the tale)

My sister, mother and I go on an annual trip to the William Ashley Warehouse sale. Half the fun is waiting outside in the tent gossiping and gabbing before you even get into the deals. It really is a lot of fun, and you can find a lot of your Christmas gifty and decoratey stuff there. As well as life size leather horses, and dishes.

This year’s trip, however, had a few another activity added on to it that made me terribly excited. I was going to a book reading by Robert J. Wiersema .

I read his first novel “Before I Wake”
probably about a year or more ago. I love this book, its one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever read. I borrowed it from the library, but then I was compelled to go out and buy it, because I couldn’t imagine not having it. I thought about writing a review, but I’m not good at them, yet, and I didn’t feel that I could do justice to it. So, this isn’t really a review, it’s just me gushing about the book. Here’s the blurb from the back cover.

Tragedy strikes the Barrett family when three-year-old Sherry falls into a coma after a hit-and-run accident. Her devastated parents, Simon and Karen, wait by her bedside, hoping for a miracle – one that doesn’t come. Told that she will never recover, they agree to remove her from life support. And then the miracle occurs. Sherry doesn’t die. But neither does she wake. Wiersema brilliantly weaves together disparate voices and sheds light on the inner lives of characters struggling against tragedy, finding each other, and themselves, in the darkness. In exploring how hope can be renewed in the face of unimaginable sorrow, Before I wake reveals the power of forgiveness, and the true nature, and cost, of miracles.

That gives an accurate description of the book. At the book reading, Robert (and I feel like I can call him Robert) said that he is a narrative writer. He’s not so concerned about the words that tell the story, more about the story itself. I have to say that I noticed that in this book. Sometimes, when I come across cool ways of expressing an idea in a book, I’ll underline it with pencil, and come back to it again. I didn’t do that in this book, I wasn’t distracted by cool phrasing, or unique sentences or any of that. Which is not a drawback, I was so caught up in the story, in the characters and their lives, that I read the story and believed it, and loved it. And I didn’t (couldn’t) take time out from reading to look for a pencil to underline something.

The way he depicted the parent’s relationship, I thought, was bang on. They came across as flawed, real, and sympathetic. (Even Simon, who I thought was a bit of a dick at first) The way they deal with the things they have to deal with, which could have been handled in a very heavy-handed, religious way, also came across in a very real manner. They were faced with a decision they needed to make, about how to deal with the miracles their daughter created. Robert described the novel as agnostic, and the parents’ decisions were made using that precept.

It was one of those books that you regret coming to the end of, because you’re not in it anymore.

Mr. Wiersema was actually there to promote his new novella, The World More Full of Weeping.

This is the blurb from Amazon, written by Jillayna Adamson.

Victoria local Robert J. Wiersema's soon-in-bookstores new novella The World More Full of Weeping, establishes an immediately-chilling mood before you've even opened it up.

That mood is set by its well-crafted cover - an eerie glow peeking through dark, fogged woods. It makes for a perfect introduction to the story, which wastes no time to reveal what will be a haunting tone throughout.

Eleven-year-old Brian Page is missing after wandering off into the woods behind his home. The story bounces back between the point of view of Brian's worried father and Brian himself. This is not your average story, nor your typical tale of a missing child. Once again (as he did with Before I Wake in 2006, which went on to be a national bestseller), Wiersema takes readers to a new and unnerving place, complete with spine-tingling chills.

Weeping is an immediately engaging, fully supplementing quick read that brings you back to the days of spooky campfire stories that go on to make for a sleepless night wandering around your own imagination. This novella is a refreshing break amongst the monotony of boringly average, everyday reads. It coasts along naturally with Wiersema's vivid writing, keeping you glued to the page.

Hearing him read his own words was wonderful. I always love hearing people read their own work, they know where they intended the emphasis to be, and they know how to speak their character’s voices. He also read from an essay that is included with the novella, which speaks about his use of a fictional version of a real place (his home town) as a setting for the novella (and other short stories, I don’t know about the availability of them). His reading of the essay prompted Offspring to say, on the way home. “Ok, now I’m confused about what an essay is.” Which, of course, forced me to actually think about that and give a reasonably intelligent answer. God I hate it when kids do that. I explained that an essay was a nonfiction piece of writing, which details and supports the author’s opinion and ideas about a particular subject. (I think that’s right, anyway. Seemed to satisfy her.)

It was terribly cool to have the editor (publisher) from Chiaroscuro Web Zine, sorry, I forgot his name, and the artist who designed the cover of the book, at the event. (I didn't get his name) Tres cool. I wish I had said something to the artist, because it is just so perfect.
I ordered a limited edition of this book, which includes the hard cover book, the essay, and a short story set in the same town. Haven’t yet received it, but when I do… oh my… ohhhhh myyyy…. I wish I had received it before the reading, but that’s ok. I did get Robert to sign my copy of Before I Wake. (Can I just say, I was just a little star struck. I had previously ‘friended’ Robert on Facebook, and when I asked him to sign my copy, he…. Oh yeah... he recognized me. “Monica, right?”, and them proceeded to sign the title page. Yep... that’s just how cool I am. ) (god I hope he doesn’t read this and get creeped out by me. Some people are gaga over rock stars. With me, it’s publishing stars.) This is when I absolutely thank Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee . The internet makes it possible for people like Robert (and Ben Esch, and Corey Redekop, and George Murray) more than esoteric celebrities, and turned them into real people, that you can actually have a conversation with. (when you’re not tongue tied)

Friday, October 30, 2009

I have been lax, it seems, in updating my blog. I apologize to my loyal followers (and to the not-so-loyal ones, who actually won’t know that I’ve been so lax).

It’s not because not much has been happening, gosh no. We’ve had thanksgiving, there have been family issues, it’s nearly hallowe’en, and I had an interesting thing happen at the local Salvation Army Thrift Store.

I went in there, actually, on the morning of Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I had made a triple threat chocolate cheesecake and I needed a proper plate to put it on. It was so yummy. I layered it wrong, but it was gosh darn delicious.

Anyway. All the plates I have are not right for cheesecake. I did stop in at the antique store on the way to the Sally Ann, and they had a plate that was almost right, but not quite. I did promise to go back there and pick it up, once I got some cash, cuz all I had was my debit card, but I did not. Hopefully she won’t remember me the next time I go there. I also wanted a cute purse, that was made of mother of pearl, and had room for your lipstick and cigarettes, and came with a tiny little comb in it and everything… I should have gone back for the purse. Still regret not going. It was kind of like this but without those little jewels… sooooooo pretty… I have a bit of an obsession with purses. I think I’ll go back and see if it’s still there.

I looked in the Sally Ann store, and they did not have what I needed, but I took a look around the rest of the store anyway. At the store I frequent, they have auctions, usually on a monthly basis. Out of the stuff that’s donated, they put some of the really special things up for auction. Jewellery, antiques, art, that sort of thing. You may remember that my father was an artist, .

On the wall, in the area designated for auction I saw a familiar style of picture. Sure enough, when I went up closer to see the artist’s name, it was my father’s. My father was quite a prolific artist. Of the framed pieces my mother had after he died, there was enough to give to each one of my siblings (there are seven of us in total), and enough left over from that for my mother to have a living room that looks like an art gallery. (We all got one as a wedding gift, too, over the years.) I know that there are lots of pieces ‘out there in the world’. It was just such a shock to see this one hanging there.

I asked the salesgirl if she knew where this had come from, and she didn’t, it was just part of the donations that come daily to the store. (I think she got a little panicked, too, thinking that it had been donated by accident. If I’d been more on my feet, I would have said yes, maybe and got it for free.) I ended up bidding on it and winning the auction. Which was surreal. I think my dad would have gotten a good laugh about it. I had a second thought about it, thinking that maybe I should have let someone else win it in the auction, let someone else enjoy his talent, you know, I already have so many of his pieces. But then I worried about them not taking good enough care of it, I pictured it rotting away in someone’s basement. So, I think I feel good about having it. Just weird.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Is nothing sacred anymore??? I hope not.

So, I heard on the news this morning, in response to fears about Swine Flu, the catholic church is making some changes.

Yep. Many churches are removing the holy water from the fronts of churches. This statement from a chancellor in Quebec City, kind of grossed me out a bit.

"In some churches the holy water is changed frequently, but there are churches that leave it there for months, turning [it] into culture fluid”.

Ewwww…. Double ewwwwwwwwwwwww…. Blech.

As a lapsed catholic, I used to dip my fingers in that water, oh at least on a yearly basis. (Yeah, I was that kind of catholic, which makes my ‘lapse’ kind of anticlimactic. I’m sure they don’t miss me too much). I have a fairly casual relationship with dirt. I’m not one of those germaphobes, who uses sanitizer at regular intervals. I firmly believe that letting your kids get dirty on a regular basis makes them stronger in the long run. (My offspring were rarely on antibiotics as children, no ear infections.) But that comment about the holy water turning into a culture fluid really did me in. And then I got past the grossness factor, and thought about how absolutely hilarious it is, that the catholic church is admitting that holy water is not some absolute protector against everything. They’re actually saying that holy water has the potential to spread disease. (Along with sharing communion and shaking hands)

(I hope I’m not going to offend anyone, please, if you’re catholic, don’t read any further. You probably shouldn’t have read up till now…. This is your warning.)

In the bible, Jesus uses spit, holy water and clay to heal a man. It’s used in the ritual of exorcism and to overcome witchcraft. It’s believed to have healing properties. It can be used to ward off vampires. I’m not sure if it has any effect on zombies.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that the catholic church has gotten to the point where they’re not so arrogant that they can’t change.

But they’ve got a long way to go, yet.

My dad used to say that the church made rules for people in order to protect them, because the general populace wasn’t educated enough to understand some things. Hence the ban against pork in the jewish faith. Because people didn’t understand that they could get sick if it wasn’t properly prepared, the church told people just to avoid it. The ban against meat on Fridays was to stretch the supply of meat, when there wasn’t enough of it to go around. (During WWII, my dad said that his priest told them that if they could get meat, they should eat it; don’t worry about what day it is) But that’s his opinion. I’m sure there are other reasons for the rules they made up.

So, I’m glad that the church figures that we’re intelligent enough to know the real reason for the removal of holy water. And I’m glad that I’m lapsed enough not to worry about catching anything from the holy water.

Full disclosure: I do have a bottle of holy water at home. I got it from a priest in this church in a small town in the Netherlands, called Beverwijk. My grandfather was on the crew that built the church. Apparently the water is from Lourdes (the place, not Madonna’s daughter), so I keep it in case of vampires. You never know when there will be an infestation. They seem to be more mainstream these days. But now, at least I know it won’t protect me from Swine Flu.

So, suck on that.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Higher education and the function of parents.

Imagine my surprise when my daughters had the audacity to turn 18 this past August, without asking for permission or anything. Not that it was that much of a shock, I guess. They’d been threatening to do it all year, and had lobbed reminders at me, nearly daily. They each programmed their cell phone to count down the days.

With the whole ‘turning 18’ thing, came the incredible task of getting Offspring #2 ready for university. (Offspring #1 decided to put off the advanced education thing until next September, thereby staving off the onset of my empty nest syndrome. Very kind of her.)

So, Offspring #2 is now suitably ensconced in residence at Brock University. (Which, I discovered during the campus tour last spring, has a Oenology Degree available. Had I known that, 20 years ago, I’d have followed a vastly different career path. Who knew such a thing even existed? However, I’d probably need a liver transplant about now, so maybe things happened for the best.)

It’s a strange thing, as a mother, sending one of your offspring out into the world. If you look at it, intellectually, it’s a sign that you’ve done your job right. The function of a parent is to grow these little darlings up into people that become valuable members of society. So, when a child goes off to university, you should greet it with the proper aplomb and ceremony. Yeah…

As the days (and now weeks) passed by, I became more sure of my ability to survive this next step in parenting. I’m becoming more sure of her abilities to survive and grow outside of my direct line of vision. She’s doing laundry; she’s eating the right things, getting to bed at a fairly reasonable hour. She’s making friends, and going to classes on time. All the things I’d make sure she was doing. I’m proud of her.

Offspring #1 remains at home, for now. She’s learning from her sister, how difficult it is to go out on your own. I’m glad that she’s decided not to go away yet, and I hope I’ll be ready when it comes time for her to go. #1 consents to give me hugs when I need them (she’s not the huggiest person in the world, not sure how that happened), and we’re helping each other through this. (She’d like people to think she’s the strong one, but... I think she’s pretty mushy inside, actually)

So far, this milestone in parenting has gone ok.

So... suck on that.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

David Foster Wallace, sadness, and life.

David Foster Wallace is a writer that was previously unknown to me, until I heard of him on last year. He killed himself last September.

At times like this, I feel like I'm incredibly unaware of what is going on in the world of literature. Time magazine included his book, Infinite Jest, in the list of 100 most influential books. (1923 - 2006) How could i not know who this man is? Was.

It’s not a surprise to me that he committed suicide. During the past 20 years of working in the business of psychiatry, I’ve come to know an incredible number of creative and talented people, who are plagued by depression. I’ve got a few theories on the subject, and I’m sure there has been research done about this subject. I don’t think it can be boiled down to statistics and numbers.

(Side note: I’ve just finished reading his review of A Dictionary of Modern American Usage by Bryan A. Garner. (ADMAU) It’s causing me to be overly aware of all the mistakes I make. I’m trying to correct the ones I know about, and trying not to be paranoid about all the ones I know I’ve missed. )

Mr. Wallace was a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine, and shortly after his death, they released all of their content that was written by him. I, being the nerd (or SNOOT) that I am, of course printed it all up. Then, being the procrastinator that I am, I put it away to ‘read later’. I just found it back last week, and I’ve spent the intervening time reading his works.

Of course, reading his work posthumously puts a whole different spin on things, doesn’t it? Reading “The Depressed Person”, a short story about a woman’s experience with depression, the loss of a therapist to apparent suicide, and being a burden to her “Support System”, you have to wonder how much of this was autobiographical. The review of ADMAU gives glimpses into his life, how his parents were highly educated, and their attention to proper language usage made things difficult for him when he was growing up. (you know, nerdifying him as well) His name for people who pay way too much attention to proper language usage is SNOOT, and he calls the children of those people “SNOOTlets” So, when I read about how the “SNOOTlets tend to have a very hard social time of it in school… When his peers are giving the SNOOTlet monstrous quadruple Wedgies or holding him down and taking turns spitting on him…” I had to wonder if this was his experience.

During the writing of this post, a friend made the choice to take her life... This is no longer an intellectual discussion with myself...

Although i have respect for personal decisions, including the one to take one's own life, it is something I will never understand. It reinforces my belief that there are some people who think too much, who feel too much, and that sometimes that burden is too much to take. I know that people will make decisions like this, and I don't believe that there's anything we can really do to change their minds, no matter how hard we try. When people are truly suicidal, when they've made that decision, they don't give any outward indication of how they feel. They're past the point of talking about, of being talked out of it. They've made their decision.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Nudity and Nickelback

So, a few months back, my daughter said that she'd take me to see Nickelback, for my birthday. (Well, 'take' me is a bit of a misnomer. If i were a little more cynical, I'd say that she wanted me to go so that i could drive her and her friend. But I'll go with her interpretation) So, finally, the day comes, and off we go.

We left a little early, did a little shopping, and whatnot along the way. The concert was at the Molson Ampitheatre, in Toronto. We had seats, so we weren't worried about getting there early in order to get a good spot on the grass. On the way down, I remember thinking "I doubt if we're going to have an adventure like Paul Michael Murphy did, when he went to see Elton John and Billy Joel." Sigh.

So, we got there in lots of time, although, you know, there was the requisite having to turn around because I thought that surely can't be the line to get into the parking. Turns out, yes it was.

The concert opened with Saving Abel, who were very loud, and they swore a lot. I worried about the pigeons flying around under the roof. Are they bothered by the loud music? I wonder if they're deaf... hmmmm I don't really like birds in enclosed spaces, but, you know, they were pretty far away.

The second band was Papa Roach. They were also loud, and swore more than the first, if that's at all possible.

I felt old at this point.

The next band was really good, although they swore a lot, too. Hinder They were good, and i knew enough of their music that i could sing along with some of the songs. I didn't embarrass anyone, though, not like the woman two rows in front of me, who was 'whooing' along with girls half her age.... ok, less than half her age. Her daughter spent most of the concert looking like she hoped no one she knew saw her.

So, yeah. The weather report earlier in the day was calling for thunderstorms, but for most of the afternoon, it was nice and sunny. Real hot, though... then we saw the clouds coming. The bolts of lightning. then the rain... then the guy comes on the stage and says that they'll postpone the concert, until the rain passes... so we hang out for a while. and get wetter. and more wet. and then, you reach a point where you can't get any more wet. At that point, they cancel the rest of the concert. I guess Chad Kroeger is too cute to play in the rain. (well, i guess there were safety issues... )

So, off we go back to the car... the offspring is splashing in puddles like she was 3 instead of almost 18. And we're talking about how uncomfortable it'll be to drive all the way home (almost 2 hrs) in wet jeans, because, of course, we don't have dry clothes to put on, and even if we did, they'd be wet before we could get dressed, the rain was coming down that hard. Here's where the nudity comes in. It's night time, its dark... Yeah. we drove home nearly nude. (I did have a t shirt on, the girls had a bit less) Shockingly, the guy at McD's drive thru didn't notice.


suck on that.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Sounds in the Sound

I've been lax when it comes to blogging, and I apologize for that. No excuses. Except that I am the biggest procrastinator in the world. So, with that out of the way, on to the blog.

This Tuesday just past, I took my mom up to a concert in Parry Sound. They have this Festival of the Sound every year, it's a two week long festival of all sorts of music. (well, not all sorts, really. There's no rock, or metal, or pop. Classical, jazz, choral, that kind of thing.)(no rap either)

Anyway, I learned that the Elora Festival Singers were going to be performing at the Festival of the Sound, and I've really been wanting to hear them, since my choir, Serenata Choir sang with them a couple of years ago. They are truly amazing, and a joy to sing with. As a member of a choir, I love that kind of music, but i seldom take the opportunity to listen to it. I love the performance, but it's just so nice to be on the other side of the stage for once.

The concert we heard was in the Charles Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts, which, because this is Canada, after all, also houses the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame. The Stockey Centre is absolutely gorgeous, a really intimate setting, we were four rows from the front, and less than 20 feet from the stage. They even had seats on either side of the stage, but i liked where we were, in the centre, you get a more balanced sound.

Noel Edison is the Conductor of the Elora Festival Singers, and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. He's a wonderful director, able to coax beautiful melodies and wonderful phrasing from any choir.

The performance started off with four pieces by Eric Whitacre. (BTW, he does not fit my stereotypical image of a choral composer.)Two of them i don't remember the names of, and they weren't in the program. "i thank You God for most this amazing day" is an ee cummings poem set to music. "Sleep" was the other piece. So beautifully done, they were halfway through the first piece before i realized that they were doing it a capella (without musical accompaniment)The balance of this choir was amazing. Their phrasing is exquisite, the tone is beautiful. Singing a capella is challenging, an inadequately trained choir can easily fall off pitch. Um..yeah.. not a problem for this group.

They also sang a piece by Paul Tiefenbach, "Nunc Dimittis", which was lovely and lyrical and beautiful.

One of my favourite pieces, "Remember", is a poem by Christina Rossetti, which is sung to the music composed by Steven Chatman. It's a gorgeous piece, which is meant to be sung a capella, which they did. They gave me goosebumps.. truly a beautiful, wonderful, lyrical piece, which they did absolute justice to.

The next part of the concert was their performance of a work by Tim Corlis, who was a Juno nominee (you have to scroll down a bit on that page). "Missa Pax" was commissioned for the occasion of the Elora Festival's, and the Festival of the Sound's 30th season. This work was absolutely amazing. I can't remember how many movements there were, I was lost in the music. There were beautiful, long sustained notes from the women, gorgeous low tones from the men, and such wonderful mixtures of everything. The entries were clean, the ends of phrases were exact. It was beautiful. James Campbell, the artistic director of the Festival, accompanied the choir in that work, on the clarinet. I have to say, i was a little nervous about that. The clarinet has never been my favourite instrument. Well, apparently i've just never heard it played right. It was a beautiful addition to the work, absolutely lovely. He blended so well with the choir, that at times, i could almost not pick the sound of the clarinet out of the mixture.

I have only one negative thing to say about the whole concert. After the "Missa Pax", the audience stood up in appreciation. The program was perfect. It needed nothing else. I had the last note of the Missa Pax in my mind, and i could have died happy, right there. Then Mr. Edison led the choir in "So you want to write a fugue", by Glenn Gould. Now, this is a wonderful piece of music, its funny, its lovely to listen to, but i just so wanted that last note in my mind.

so... there it is.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What were they thinking?????

I'm just saying. As if clowns and nutcrackers aren't scary enough, what the hell would you do if you woke up on christmas morning with this freaking thing under the tree? HIDE!!! that's what. Wonder why you haven't already been taken by the children's aid, if your parents think that this is an appropriate gift. I found this on (where, incidentally, i found my new living room furniture)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My father

I’ve been thinking about my father a lot lately. Last night, I was kept awake by thoughts of him. These thoughts have been stimulated by a couple of things. I recently finished a book, Fugitive Pieces, by Anne Michaels. It tells the story of a young boy who watches his family get massacred during WWII. My father spent a year in a concentration camp during that war, and stories, movies etc that are set in that era are always difficult for me. I generally avoid them, but didn’t this time.

Another thing that set me down this path is this picture that i saw in Found Magazine. The man in that picture reminds me of my father, not just the way he looks, but the way he sits, the directness of his gaze, he seems to be left handed. It just struck me.

Found magazine has had a number of finds, these days, that seem to be things that people would be sad to have lost. Those photographs, notes from children. It’s sad, the way things get lost, people get forgotten.

I think that is what’s bothering me. I don’t want my father to be forgotten. My own children were young when he died. They have no memory of him being the incredibly vibrant man that he was when I was growing up. I think it’s sad that most of my nieces and nephews didn’t have a close relationship with him, mostly due to distance, I think. My children had the most potential to be close to him, and they were robbed of that by his sickness.

I see parts of my father that have been passed on. Two of my nieces are talented artists, as was my father. Several of them are talented in other ways, musically, creatively. My brothers can all build things without being taught how to do it, they have this instinctive knowledge of the way things go together. My oldest sister has an eye for beauty, and the sister closest to me is a talented artist, as well as having his trust of people. All of us have a love of nature, a love of water, and an appreciation for freedom.

So. I think it's up to me, to find a way to ensure that he's not forgotten. I don't quite know how I'm going to do that. But I will.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

follow this other blog

This blogger, Amy is donating $1 per follower (up to 100) to 826 Valencia -- A group that teaches workshops and one-on-one lessons to children 6-18 in several cities across the US. The depend a lot on donations and volunteer time. So just give her blog a little look and follow if you feel so inclined.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sophomore Undercover. A review

Sophomore Undercover

Ben Esch

I decided to take time out of my Yukon fur trapping endeavours and snow shovelling to sit down with a doughnut and write a review of Mr. Esch’s book.

Sophomore Undercover is an absolute riot. When a book is this full of funny, an author runs the risk of substituting humour for plot. Not so in this case. Giving us such free access to the inner thoughts of Dixie Nguyen (pronounced Win), lets us get to know him in ways that saves us from pages of narrative explanation. The plot is all at once suspense filled, hormone driven and full of investigatory challenges. It’s geared toward a teenage audience, but honestly, I loved reading it. I felt like I knew Dixie for all of his hormone infested geekiness. I rooted for him all through the book, whether his head was stuck in the toilet, or he was sleeping under a bridge.

Dixie is a Korean teenager living in Stilton, California, who has been adopted by a police sergeant and his family. The police sergeant is actually his second adoptive father. “His first adoptive father had been a figurative “bleeding heart” Berkeley professor, who became a literal bleeding heart Berkeley professor after a car crash”.

Dixie is the lead reporter of the school newspaper. “As the most intelligent, dedicated, and only enrolled student in the class, he quickly became the lead reporter.” The plot of the book surrounds Dixie’s investigation of a drug scandal that he feels has infested the school football team. This leads him into conflict with Ms. Trasker, the menopausal journalism teacher, into legal charges for assault and drug possession, and drug rehab with Huggy Bear (aka Mr. Steinberg), the former math teacher turned school counsellor.

It also leads him into a pseudo romantic relationship with the girl of his dreams, whom he meets during his meditation sessions with Huggy Bear. She’s a former cheerleader, who’s turned goth. “Brynn laughed and tossed back the hair out of her face. She really did have beautiful eyes. It was a shame they didn’t get out more often.”

I literally laughed out loud at one thing or another on every single page. Seriously. And yet, like I said, that did not get in the way of moving the plot forward. This book is raunchy, skilfully written, bouncing with humour, and a blast to read. And it's nothing like Twilight.

oh, and check out his blog, it's as hilarious as he is. He wears lovely sweaters and cultivates an awesome beard.

so, Suck on That.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

I am a superhero...

One of my followers, Benjamin James Watson turned himself into a superhero. Kewl, thought I. Now, being the copycat that I am, I went to The Hero Site to get my own darn superhero powers. So, here I am, in all my superhero glory. The Sharpened Barbarian...

Suck on that...

(i do like that tagline, PMM. Pity you didn't keep it for yourself.)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

In Tongues of the Dead - a review

First of all, I'd like to welcome my two newest followers. One is my brother, the Sail doctor. He's not a real doctor, but I'm sure he's played at being one at one time or another. The other is Lori, who is an extremely cool person that I'm getting to know better. I'm a firm believer that people come into your lives for a reason, and tho i don't know why exactly i know her yet, I'm sure the reason will make itself known sooner or later.

Secondly, I just love the way that the internets seem to read my mind, or know what I'm doing at any point in time. Take this XKCD comic for example. Here i was, merrily going along, reading this book, and i came across that comic. Talk about synchronicity. The connection to the two will become clear as you read along.

Faithful readers (if i may be so bold as to use that familiarity) will remember that, a few posts back, i told you about the Shelf Monkey thing going on, which I came to know because of my fascination with Canadian author Corey Redekop. So, I, being the lover of free stuff that I am, decided to contact ECW Press and become a Shelf Monkey.

I chose my favourite genres from a list that ECW supplied me, and then I received an email from Jennifer, telling me that my first book was on the way. (Can i just say how much i love getting things in the mail that aren't bills?)

So, here i am, holding up my end of the bargain. Here goes the review.
These are excerpts from the ECW Press website:

"In the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University there lies a 400-year-old document that no one has been able to decipher. Twenty years ago the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) secretly placed a guard to watch over the document.

The guard, Father Ronald McCallum, is overwhelmed when an autistic child visiting the library appears to read from the manuscript’s pages... Father Benicio Valori, priest and clinical psychologist, is sent halfway around the world to verify the boy’s ability to read the manuscript.

...It becomes apparent the Vatican has sent others to investigate with orders to stop at nothing from keeping the document’s secrets from being exposed. Fearing for the child’s life, Benicio flees the country to Canada and trusted friend and psychologist, Dr. Jake Tunnel.

Despite being distraught by the diagnosis of a brain tumor in his five-year-old son, Jake reluctantly agrees to help his old friend... Soon he and Benicio begin to unveil the biblical origins of the Voynich manuscript and why this autistic child can read it.

They realize that the Voynich Manuscript is the bible of the Nephilim – soulless beings created by the crossbreeding of angels and humans, and despised by God. The angels responsible for their creation were banished from heaven and the monstrous offspring were thought to be destroyed by the flood of Noah’s time..."

Ok, so my first impression was that I really liked the premise of the book. The Voynich Manuscript actually exists, and the Nephilim are in the bible. I did feel that it falls into that whole Dan Brown 'the catholic church is inherently evil and corrupt' kind of deal. Frankly, that has been a little overdone lately.

The book is described as fast-paced and filled with action, which it is. There are many scenes when I was caught up, reading quickly along with the action, and it did hold my interest during those parts.

I feel that the characters could have been a bit more real. Benicio Valori, who is the protagonist of the book, emigrated to Canada from Italy with his parents, when he was a teenager. Throughout the book, he would toss in phrases in Italian, which i felt was a bit affected. It just didn't ring true, to me. Jake is well described, he's a psychologist, and the descriptions of his interactions with, and his feelings about his patients are well done. He and his family are dealing with the illness of his son, and the scenes involving that conflict are well written.

There was a scene in which Benicio is taking the autistic boy, Matthew, across the border. Benicio knew this would be a problem, the boy was not related to him, Matthew did not speak, it was just an all around problem. He thinks through the problem, as they sit at the side of the road near the border. "Then Benicio noticed a lane dedicated to truckers, extra-wide and almost hidden by a parade of semitrailers. It gave him an idea." He gets Matthew out of the car, they have an interaction with one of the other drivers, and then Benicio decides to call his friend Jake Tunnel for help. The next scene that we read about it is with Jake's family, and then all of a sudden "Benicio turned and looked down the road to New Brunswick." What?? How'd they get across the border? It almost feels like the author stepped away from that scene for a bit to figure it out, then never went back to solve that problem. Maybe its just one scene in an otherwise well written book, but it bothered me. It felt unfinished.

It is well written. The author, Brad Kelln is a forensic psychologist in Halifax, he's a special consultant on hostage negotiation to the Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP. He's an intelligent man, that comes across in his writing. If you are a fan of Dan Brown, and that genre, you'll enjoy this book.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sunglasses Cat, strange neighbours.

So. In the category of 'strange things in my neighbourhood', of which there are many, is this cat. He somehow appeared sometime last year, I think it was during the summer. At first, he just sat there, rain or shine. You can only really see him well if you drive down the road from one direction, because he kind of hides behind the foliage from the other direction. Weird how that works.

You're probably thinking "Does he/she always wear those cool aviators?". (query to more writerly types. Do i put a period there? how the hell do i punctuate that?) The answer is that no, he/she does not always wear those cool glasses. At Easter time, the cat had on bunny ears, and was somehow holding a basket. Or perhaps the basket was at the cat's feet. I don't really remember that well. At Christmas time, the cat was wearing a Santa hat. The type of people who actually have the initiative and the time to do things like that amaze me. How much time/money do they actually spend on that sort of thing? How much would a cement cat like that cost, in the first place?

I do appreciate the novelty of having a cat like this in my neighbourhood. It kind of says to the outside world that this is a cat friendly place. It also tells the world that we're kind of a weird place. That premise is borne out if you just travel a bit farther down the road, where Mr. and Mrs. Costanza live. Well, it's not really them, but it sure sounds like it. I wish i knew how to put a sound in this blog thing, so i could share with you the specialness that is that woman's bellow.

When my kids were younger, they thought that was their actual name. Of course, they also thought that picture of Marilyn Monroe was either myself, when I was younger, or the wife of Mr. Monroe, from a few houses down. I did not dissuade them from those thoughts. I loved that gullible stage. I used to tell them that the world was black and white, and during the making of the Wizard of Oz, the entire world turned colour. Then my brother in law ruined things by telling them the science of black and white and colour photography, totally destroying my credibility. Now, they hardly believe anything I say. I don't know why.

well. that's it, the sunglasses cat. Wish i had more, but, you know, what can i say?

Suck on that...

I done been tagged...

I interrupt the post about the cat wearing aviators to tell you this.

Mr. Paul Michael Murphy 'tagged me' on his website, with this really cool meme, one that really appealed to my inner liar. (You can read his response at that link) It's based on the seven deadly sins. He was tagged by Sarah Dooley, who's blog is really great. She's a wonderful writer, and a keen observer of the human condition.

The description of the delicious contest is this:

"Sometimes you can learn more about a person by what they don’t tell you. Sometimes you can learn a lot from the things they just make up. If you are tagged with this Meme, lie to me. Then tag 7 other folks (one for each deadly sin) and hope they can lie."

Pride: What is your biggest contribution to the world?

Well, let me say, that this was difficult. I thought for hours about the incredible contributions I have made, in virtually every area of life and the workings of the world. Firstly, just in my character, there is my incredible sense of humour, my style, my ‘joie de vie’. Then, in my deeds, I have solved the problem of world hunger (though I am thwarted by the powers that be, in putting this solution to use), I invented electricity and the telephone (even before my birth), and I have put together a solution for world peace that will have the entire world holding hands and singing ‘kum by ya’. So… I came to the conclusion that my biggest contribution to the world was simply my ‘being’. Thank you.

Envy: What do your coworkers have that you wish was yours?

I sometimes wish that I could travel through life, without people constantly falling on their knees and thanking me for my mere presence. So, if I must put it into words, I envy my co-workers their ordinariness, their plainness of thinking, their simple lives.

Gluttony: What did you eat last night?

Last night, I had my minions collect a million hummingbirds and prepare them ‘buffalo wing’ style. (with blue cheese dressing for dipping). I drank the dew that was collected from their feathers, which was purified through gauze made of the thread of silk worms.

Lust: What really lights your fire?

There are times when I see myself in the eyes of others. That puts me aflame.

Anger: What is the last thing that really pissed you off?

There were two feathers and a beak in last night’s dinner. I had the minion responsible prepared for my dessert. Flambe.

Greed: Name something you hoard and keep from others.

What people will never know about me is that all of my undergarments are made of threads that result from gold that is fed to spiders and spun as their webs. Of course, i keep this process a secret, i cannot have Paris Hilton knowing of this.

Sloth: What's the laziest thing you ever did?

Used my Persian cat to sweep the floor by tossing a ball slowly and allowing her belly fur to catch the lint.

I hereby tag the following people to extol their lack of virtue with this meme.

Lori (just cuz i think this contest will really tweak the actor in her

Mary Ellen (cuz she's my sis, and i want to prove that she's a bigger liar than i am)

Benjamin Esch (cuz he's a huge liar)

Robert Wiersema (because he should try to be not so serious)

Corey Redekop (oh just cuz)

Benjamin James Watson (as a present for my newest follower)

Barack Obama (cuz.. oh why the hell not)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Critical Monkey Contest

I'm doing my best not to make every blog about books and stuff. I'd like my blog to 'appeal to the masses', as it were, and, frankly, not every one out there is bookish. Even people who write books don't always like to read them. So, I promise, that the next few blogs will not be about books. Just give me this last one for a while.

I just read about a challenge on Corey Redekop's blog. Good reader, I know that there are some snobby readers out there. I sometimes try to pretend that I'm a literary snob, but I have to admit that there are times when nothing but a trashy romance will do. There was also that summer when I worked straight nights at the nursing home. I would read 4 Harlequin's a night. And do the work.

So, anyway. Mr. Redekop has a year long contest, to write seven reviews over the next year. Starting July 2, 2009, you can put links to your reviews in the comment section of his blog, and he'll collect the entries and announce a winner by July 2, 2010. Prizes to be announced.

Take a look, see what you think, and enter the freaking contest. (My next blog will be about the Cat Wearing Mirrored Aviators. Stay tuned)

And now, trying out my new tagline.

So, suck on that.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Trying to keep up to date. And shelf monkeys

Please excuse me for not updating sooner. I got a new laptop, and I can't get the hang of editing on it. I think i need to change my settings or something, and, frankly, i need some more nerdiness before i can do that.

So, on to the blogginess of it all.Well, holy cow. I have eight Followers. That's just crazy. I think that i can thank my friend Paul Michael Murphy (no relation) for most of them. He posted about my blog on his blog, and, well, you know what happens when blogs get together. It`s bloggariffic. It`s PMM`s goal to take over the webosphere. Frankly, he can have that goal. Mine is more simple, i just need an outlet for all of this thinking that I do.

So, thank you, Followers of mine. Including my sister, Mary Ellen. Special kudos to Big Plain V, who was not only my fifth follower, but made the fifth comment. For that, he gets a fifth of gin. Or Beethoven`s fifth. Or something like that. Check your mail, Big V. Shawn, thanks for following. I know you're probably thinking "when will she blog about the chick using the laptop in the middle of the main street?". I can only talk about the things i see, dude. Thank you to all of my followers. Again. I really appreciate your support. You'll get a list of your initiation tasks later. Don't worry, only a couple of them involve tattoos and piercings.

The title of this post includes the phrase "shelf monkeys", which probably requires a little explanation. There`s this Canadian author (cuz i`m all about canadians)Corey Redekop . He wrote a book called `Shelf Monkey`, which is also the name of his blog. Shelf Monkey is really, really good, you should definitely read it. I`m wondering if i should do a review of that book, but my reading of the book predates my blog... I think i will, anyway, but i need to look over it again to refresh my memory with the details.

Anyway. On Corey`s blog, he talked about his publisher ECW Press, giving away free books. (followers, please note, i`m always up for a free book)(just as an aside, i`m sitting with my back to a window, and there`s a bird in my eavestrough, tossing out debris. It`s kind of freaking me out. I don`t really like birds)

ok... back on track. ECW Press giving away free books. Yeah, they said they would, and they did. You just have to register as a shelf monkey, and promise to do some sort of review, either on Amazon, or other places, or on your own blog... So, this week, in the mail i received a copy of `Ìn Tongues of the Dead`, by Brad Kelln. I`m finishing up a book now (Fugitive Pieces, Anne Michaels), but i`ll get to this one after that. So many books, so little time.

Just some notes for people who aren't regular blog readers. In order to comment on my blog (please comment, i thrive on feedback), take note of the words at the bottom of my writing. It will say "0 comments" (or another number, depending on how many people have commented). Just click on that, and it will open up a thingy where you can make your comments. If you post as anonymous, just leave your first name after your post, that way i can answer you if you have any questions.

See you soon. (i should probably come up with some sort of witty catch phrase. I'll get on that)

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Order of Odd Fish, a review

First of all, I have to welcome my first follower, Kate. She found me here through facebook, and I actually know her in real life. Hopefully, she'll stick around, comment a bit, and actually enjoy what she reads here. I have to also welcome my first commenter, Clover, who is a friend of mine, we go way back, through Found Magazine. (note to readers. I've learned how to insert links. yay!!!)

I have to explain how it is I came to have this book. I am a follower of Murphblog, which is authored by Paul Michael Murphy (no relation, although we do share a love of parentheses). He ran a contest in April, which I entered. Imagine my surprise when i actually won the contest.Yay Me!! I wasn't announced as the winner for a while, though, as Mr. James Kennedy had a baby in the midst of the voting.Here's Lucy Momo Kennedy!! So, yeah, the prize for the contest was the book, personally signed by Mr. James Kennedy (take a gander at the title page, up there), a soundtrack for the book, and... the piece de resistance, Mr. Kennedy will read part of my Work In Progress. That's the best part, and I'm waiting on that, with bated breath.

"The Order of Odd Fish" is a wonderful book. If I had to compare it to something that's already out there, I'd have to say that there isn't anything quite like it. Although the Lemony Snicket series comes close. It's only vaguely Harry Potter-esque, in that the protagonist, Jo Larouche, is a young adolescent who didn't know she truly was for most of her life. (and i only mention Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling to send errant searchers my way. Also, TWILIGHT!! [that's apropos of nothing, by the way])

Mr. Paul Michael Murphy interviewed James Kennedy on his blog You can read the interview, and actually, read about the contest here as well. In that interview, James talks about the various things that influenced him as a writer. (basically, his entire, crazy life). He credits Madeline L'engle(amazon link here!), Isaac Asimov, Douglas Adams, and so on. He writes with a crazy abandon that is incredibly energetic. It almost bubbles with frenetic energy, but at the same time, you get to know the characters and what drives them. Yeah, and I think it has a bit of a Monty Python feel to it, as well. (however, if you're not a Python fan, don't let that drive you away from it)

Ok.. so far, this hasn't been much of an review. Frankly, I've never done a review before, so what do you expect? I just really, really liked this book. It's so well written, funny, moving, and exciting. There are cockroaches for butlers, bizarre weapons, a quest, a duel, a battle against good and evil, and an unlikely (and unwilling)hero. I think that it's meant for pre-teen to early teen, (I hate pigeonholing books into agegroups, but people seem to like that) However, in the same way that Harry Potter's taken off in every age group, I think that this book will take off in the same way.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

oysters, baseball and way too much beer.

Well, I am lucky enough to have an amazing boss, who happens to be a Jays fan. He took the whole crew of us out to the Jays-Royals game last night. (Jays won, 6-3)

I do like baseball. It's one of the only games that I can mostly understand, for one thing. I do get distracted easily, however, and I often have to ask the person beside me what the heck just happened. The trouble with watching a live game, is that stuff happens so quietly, and then all of a sudden people are going crazy.

There are lots of things that distract me. I'm addicted to people watching, for one thing. Also, by the time we got to the game, i had already had way too many beer. My best friend Bonnie took us to Rodney's Oyster Bar on King Street in Toronto. Now... for those of you who haven't yet had the chance to have oysters, let me tell you that they are not as slimy and gooey as you think they'd be. Most people i've heard tell you to just swallow them down, which is not the right technique at all. You've got to bite them, hold them in your mouth for a bit. It's not as gross as you'd think. We tried some east coast, Atlantic Ocean, and some west coast, Pacific Ocean ones. The clear winners were the East Coast ones. The West Coast had a more 'oceany' taste to them, they were smaller, and... well, just not as nice. I had a "dead guy" beer with them, which, apparently, is stored in the same casks that they age scotch in. Not together, separately, just FYI. It definitely gives the beer a 'scotchy' taste, which is really nice.

There was also an adventure, in which my friends Bonnie and Tim tried to get a jersey signed by one of the Jays, and where they ended up in places no fan should ever get to. But that's a story for another day. When i get details, you'll find out what happened.

We also had a rickshaw ride from a Irish guy, looked for Tim's camera which he had lost months before, at the Toronto Westin Harbourfront (Kodak Easyshare, have you seen it?) and shared a beer with a guy named Jay in the parking lot. He took a short cut, and made it back to his truck before they did. It was a strange night.

Best news of all, Scotty got us all home safe. After a couple of baby burgers and fries with salt and vinegar.

Anyway. Didn't get home till almost 3 am, which is not really what I do. I'm an 'in bed by 10' kind of girl, But hey, what's life for, if it's not living.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Decision made

Ok. I've decided that I need to have a blog. I've got way too many opinions about things, and not enough people know about them...
I know. What a travesty, you say.

Of course, now that I've made that decision, any opinion I've had about anything has completely left my head. And other things are coming into my head, like:
1. what if i offend people?
2. what if no one reads this?
3. what if people read, but, frankly, don't give a rats ass about my opinion.

all these things, and more, are what travel through the space between my ears.

So, maybe I'll just free associate......what to do, what to do.. oh yes, ok.. here goes.

Read in the news today that a decision has been made in the disposition of that Vincent Li case, out west. (he's the schizophrenic guy who murdered another passenger on the bus). He was found Not Criminally Responsible, and I guess that some people are up in arms about that. On the way to school this morning, #2 offspring and I were talking about this. While she understands that some people, especially the victim's family, are upset about this, she said to me "If it were me, I think that I'd be comforted that they've figured out why he did that, and he's going to a place where they'll try to fix that." It makes me wonder how a 17 yr old girl gets that, and so many other people don't. This guy is not getting a free ride. Secure mental hospitals are no joke. He's going to a secure hospital, where he'll receive treatment, which will address his issues of risk. Isn't that much better than punishing an obviously mentally ill man and not paying attention to the issues that caused the murder in the first place?

That's my opinion, anyway.

awaiting comments...........