Thursday, 30 April 2009

Wham, bam, thank you meme

Today, I'm digging myself out of a week of silence by tackling the meme at Jaywalker's fine blog It's not that there's been a shortage of things to blog about, but I've been somehow unable to force myself to write, so this might break the block. I really hate passing these things on to people (even though that's the point), so please, if you feel moved to do this, will you let me know?

1. Are you a male or female? Woman. Earthy variety.

2. Describe yourself. Younger than I'll ever be.

3. How do you feel about yourself?
Protective and bewildered,like a mum wondering how to get her teen-aged daughter to pull out of a potentially self-destructive trajectory.

4. Describe your parents.
My father was a man of many fine qualities. Telling the truth wasn't one of them. I've just received a copy of the order of service from his memorial service. Neither my sister nor I are mentioned and when I read the included two-paged (single-spaced) biography, I finally realized why. If either my sister or I had attempted to see him in San Francisco, it would have blown the convoluted and fantastic epic that he had created out of the detritus of his former life sky high. It will take some time and a lot of carefully-chosen words before I can blog about this. Sagittarian.

My mother is nearly the polar opposite of my father in philosophy, politics, and her attitude toward the truth. Not a saint by any means, and no easier to live with than any of us mortals, but in terms of personal integrity, ahead of the general pack. Ahead of her time, too, in many ways -- she was using Vitamin D and velcro well before they came into popular use. An Aquarian without a doubt.

5. Describe your ex boyfriend/girlfriends.
There's only one, really, unless you count two sexual experiments from my mid-teens and the guy I used to neck with at parties. And I don't. My one former boyfriend was a knight-in-shining-armour type, who stayed until I was out of danger and hopelessly in love, then moved on to a girl who was in even more trouble than I was.

6. Describe your current boy/girl situation. I have a husband of several years. He's a Virgo through and through and hence rather obsessive and very attentive to personal hygiene. (A double-edge sword, but it has its benefits.) It's difficult to describe someone you've lived with every day for so long. This song, Helpless Heart by Paul Brady, comes close:

I'm sitting here inside this stranger's place
And time is racing by
I've been way out here for a month or more
Tonight I'm wonderin' why
You try to understand the things that I feel
Maybe this time I'll find a way to explain it

Cause there is a dream deep inside me head
And it may seem like it's breaking the thread
That holds me to you
Still you have never wanted to change me
But darling I know though we're far apart
The signal is strong
This helpless heart will always belong to you

This power takes me from the place I belong
To where only the strong get through
You've got to keep on believing or you'll lose your way
Cause it slips right out of view
Thought there are days the light can flicker and fade
Here in this place tonight a fire is burning

7. Describe your current location. Our cluttered study, which keeps lightening and darkening as the morning sun moves in and out of the clouds. Younger daughter, sick with a vague virus since Monday, is crooning contentedly in front of the television set.

8. Describe where you want to be. In Victoria, BC in a house or apartment, heck, even a hovel within walking distance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and my mother's. Or a house or apartment, heck, even a hovel somewhere near a Tube Station in London. Or somewhere where both my daughters are getting the educations they need.

9. Your best friend(s) is/are remarkable for even liking me.

10. Your favourite colour is probably blue. Although I feel drawn to magenta.

11. You know that panic feeds panic, so staying calm (or pretending to stay calm) is the best way to cope, no matter how bad things are.

12. If your life were a television show what would it be called? I dunno, Styx and Stones ?

13. What is life to you? Loss.

14. What is the best advice you have to give? When I filled out Norm Geras' Blogger's Profile, I said, "Pick your battles." I'm sticking with that.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

And it's gone too!

Decided to spend my birthday afternoon listening to my new station. Lots of my favourite songs. Lovely. I was rather puzzled by a new sign about a free subscription. Isn't a free service? I thought to myself, but dismissed it, thinking they were referring to the benefits of the paid subscription, which hold no allure for me. About twenty minutes ago, the music died. Puzzled, I clicked around and found this:

. . .listeners to Radio outside of the USA, UK and Germany will be asked to subscribe for €3.00 per month, after a 30 track free trial period. In the USA, UK and Germany, where it’s feasible to run an ad-supported radio service, there won’t be any changes. Everything else on (scrobbling, recommendations, charts, biographies, events, videos etc.) will remain free in all countries, like it is now.

I didn't get enough time to decide if I liked enough to pay nearly $40 a year to listen to it, and frankly, I'm a bit ticked off at being penalized for failing to live in the UK, the US, or Germany.

Happy birthday to me...

Saturday, 18 April 2009

...and it's gone...

I spent a bittersweet last evening with Launchcast April 15th. Some Launchcast sessions are mediocre; some send wonderful song after wonderful song. This last listening was a good example of what I'll be missing from Launchcast: a mixture of favourites, bearables, and at least two songs that were new to me and may go on to being favourites. The first of the latter is Umfazi Omdata which I think means "old married woman", so it's obviously my song: and the second is Maura O'Connell's rendition of The Blue Train. I can't embed this one, but the version of YouTube is a particularly fine one with Maura O'Connell singing with James Grant and Nanci Griffith, so do use the link if you have time.

Among these final seventeen songs on my Launchcast station, I was sent a number of songs I'd rated over 90 such as: Skating Away (on the Thin Ice of a New Day) (a nice live version from 1977 here), and:Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered by the unsurpassed Ella Fitzgerald (here, sadly with the saucy Cole Porter lyrics cleaned up), and: my absolute favourite Simon and Garfunkel song The Only Living Boy in New York. This song also appeared, as you may guess from the embedded video, in the movie Garden State which is a film I sat through, thinking all the while: "I bet I would have loved this when I was twenty..."

I even got to hear Never Let You Go by Three Eye Blind. I understand that as a discerning music lover, I'm not supposed to like Three Eye Blind, but I do. And I love this song (but can't find a decent video of it). The last song I heard on my Launchcast station was What I Like About You by the Romantics. Perfect.

The next day, my worst fears were realized. Not only has Yahoo dismantled the player, but they've taken down the lists for each personalized station. I had anticipated this and had transferred all songs I'd rated above 78 to Still, my ratings of over 15,000 songs, over 900 artists and over 600 albums are gone. Yahoo claims that the video station at my account has my Launchcast ratings in mind, but a video station is simply not the same thing, and I don't see them sending me much that is new, except a hell of lot of commercials and promotions.

Nope. You're blowing it, Yahoo. I'm off to which, from earliest indications, will have more of a British bent to it, along with some other differences which I might discuss later. After the ballet, of course.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Lying low for Easter

Last Thursday, I had finished my weekly shift at the school library and was walking down to the supermarket. That is, I was forcing my feet, one in front of the other. I suddenly realized that I was exhausted. It had been a stressful week, what with the field trip, younger daughter's day-long visit to the other prospective school for next year, and my insistence on baking hot-cross buns for her class which I've done every year for the past nine Easters. So my own bloody fault, I guess. As I willed myself downhill, I was approached by two young Chinese women, who showed me some directions they'd taken down over the phone: "Manner Street, two blocks from Springfield, Maybell". I knew they were probably looking for Manor Street, but couldn't think of where that might be. Maybell? Desperately, I tried to think of the two cross streets nearest youngest daughter's school, but all I could remember was that they both began with "M". These are streets I cross four times each day. One of the girls patted me sympathetically on the arm, and we went our ways. I fished in my pocket for a raisin cookie that the librarian had given me, and by the time I reached the busy intersection at Beechwood, I hit the traffic signal button and exclaimed: "Maple! They're looking for Maple!" (The other street is Mariposa.) The two women were entering the store when I left, and I asked if they had found the address. They hadn't.

Anyway, that's why I've been lying low for the Easter weekend. The madness isn't likely to let up for months, and I'm desperately trying to dredge up some reserves. I've been gorging myself on David Tennant and Doctor Who, listening to radio interviews on the computer, and thanks to the resourcefulness of elder daughter, watching downloaded and highly illegal copies of Planet of the Dead and the accompanying Confidential. (Yes, Auntie Beeb, we'll be buying the DVD in due course, but we'll be keeping the full, unexpurgated Confidential thank you very much.)

It took several hours for elder daughter to download Planet of the Dead Saturday evening, so while we waited, we watched our copy of one of my very favourite Easter movies Jesus de Montréal (1989, written and directed by the marvelous Denys Arcand who appears briefly as a wry court judge), a parable of the story of Jesus told through a few days in the lives of some struggling actors in Montreal. The story is very clever and a sly commentary on the Québecois arts scene, although anyone involved in the arts in any city would probably recognize the stereotypes.

YouTube has one of my favourite scenes. I should warn you that the English swear words are there to give an approximation of the joual (Québecois street slang) used in one of the parodies the actors perform. In joual, like many languages of predominantly Catholic countries, to be really offensive, you don't go after bodily functions as we do in English, you go after religious allusions and family members. Here we see Robert LePage (now a high profile theatrical director whose works have appeared in London) doing his best Marlon Brando, and Rémy Girard (Québec's equivalent of Jim Broadbent, he's ubiquitous) spewing religious profanities. Most of the actors in this film are very familiar to audiences in Québec, but alas, next to unknown in the rest of Canada.

This Montreal Jesus succumbs to a concussion resulting from his cross being knocked over during a fracas between security guards and the audience, so the final scenes were extra harrowing for us this year.

If I rouse myself sufficiently, I'll watch my other favourite Easter film The Life of Brian, another movie that has outraged audiences, not because it goes after Jesus (because neither LOB nor JOM does), but because it takes a poke at organized religion.

Oh yes, and Easter Parade was on last night, while I listened to a pirated recording of the Planet of the Dead commentary (what gives, Auntie Beeb?). Younger daughter loved it.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

♪There's a hole....there's a hole♫

For the past couple of weeks, the ice has retreated slowly, revealing khaki-coloured grass. Hesitantly, the grass has greened, and timid shoots, first of crocuses, then the leading edges of prospective daffodils and tulips, have poked through the muddy edges of the yard. So guess what happened yesterday? And continues today? Yes, my friends, I live in Ottawa where April really is the cruelest month, only to be followed by the unmitigated malice of May.

Outside, a cardinal is pipping hungrily, perching on the snow on the railing which is dripping with baby icicles. But the weather is not really the problem. The weather is not the true reason that I've been waking up each morning hearing a voice screaming as if down a deep well, a voice that I recognise as my own internal shrieking echoing from a hole in my soul that gapes indefinitely.

This morning is a field trip morning. (Oh gawd, not another one...) I lie in my bed, forcing my muscles to relax and mentally repeating affirmations: I am brave and courageous. I am wise and patient. Younger daughter is brave, intelligent and articulate.... I remind myself that I have laid both my and my daughter's clothes out for the day, that I have made her lunch and stashed it in the fridge, that I have written the time and place of the field trip in her calendar, and carefully explained to her that it is for the morning only and that she will be spending the afternoon at school.

And all goes well. Younger daughter is up early and delightedly clothing herself in a new skirt, complete with tights and pretty Mary-Janes, as this is a concert field trip at the National Arts Centre. We arrive at school and things go a little awry. First I realize I have failed to explain that there will be an hour of school before the field trip. Younger daughter wails: "There's no field trip???" While I'm attempting once again to explain the intricacies of time and space, and how an hour is not forever, I notice that on the kilometre walk up the hill, the lower "modesty" layer of younger daughter's skirt has bunched up under her snow jacket. I quickly draw her into the teacher's washroom to smooth the skirt down, but she protests: "But I like my skirt!" "Yes, darling, but you'll need to check it every now and then..." "But it's a beautiful skirt..." A brief wave of frustration and panic overtake me, and I hear myself say: "Please don't be like this!" and unconsciously turn away from her. "Fine!" she spits. "Go away and leave me!"

I manage to accompany her to her classroom, then retreat to the darkened office of the school library while the national anthem blares over the loudspeakers. There in the dark, for once, I don't have to stand at attention and sing. Feelings of failure and recrimination wash over me like tepid goo. I help the librarian sort books for three quarters of an hour, then surrender myself for field trip duty.

And it's fine, considering the bus is delayed, and there's the usual gang of kids who think singing several choruses of "This is the Song that Everybody Hates" is hilariously witty, and a Grade Five mum sits herself between Guardian Angel's mum and me and doesn't address a word to either of us. It's a supply teacher today who doesn't know that the time to tell the Grade Sixes to let the Grade Fives off the bus first is just before the bus comes to a halt, not after a third of the class has escaped. She's also trying to assign parents to smaller groups while the National Arts ushers are frantically trying to herd us to our seats in the amphitheatre while the orchestra strikes up Beethoven's Fifth.

However, we're seated in a row of Grade Sixes who chatter a little bit during the concert, but about the concert. The girls in front of us think it's very funny to conduct during one of the pieces, but I figure that means they're listening to the music, and I only have to give one meaningful glance at the boys to my left, who immediately pipe down. Elsewhere, I'm told afterward, the ushers had to hush the Grade Fives four times. Their teachers and accompanying parent volunteers are all sitting companionably together in the centre, oblivious to this. Later, the entire Grade Five class fails to show up at the bus. One of our parents and the supply teacher go off in search of them while we wait on the bus, watching the agitated body language of the driver. When they finally appear, the parents saunter up last.

On the way back to school, younger daughter tells me that two girls in the NAC washrooms told her how pretty her skirt was.

Tomorrow, she spends the entire day at one of the schools we're looking at for her next year. Then there's a so-called "Marsville" project which involves spending a whole day at the Museum of Science and Technology. Then a history fair which means another full day at the Museum of Civilization. All through cruel April and into the maliciousness of May....