Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Ghosts of September

I've been leafing through my journals for a glimpse of past Septembers as my days on NaBloPoMo draw to a close, particularly appropriate as the NaBloPoMo "theme" for October is "haunted". I've discovered the hard way that I shouldn't do this before bedtime; the past of John Mortimer, even the slaughter of the Romanovs, is a good prelude to sleep while my own past keeps me awake.

The last time I did this exercise (both NaBloPoMo and journal-review) was in February, that frozen little limbo in the dead of winter that seems to go on forever. September is different, a inexorable engine of transition, being in many ways the true beginning of the year. Fluttering back into my own past, I found my daughters plunging into the unknowns of new schools, the struggle of adjusting to new homes, new neighbourhoods, new cities. I relived the starts of my pregnancies (both confirmed in September), and the first hospitalization that led to my father-in-law's final slide into death. I remembered other crises: an abortion in the family, and my own marriage trembling precariously on the brink. It isn't all Sturm und Drang, but September never has been a month for eager anticipation; it's more a gauntlet to be got through, so one can lick one's wounds in October.

Since my mind is on ghosts and September, let me keep a promise I made in August. At that time, I wrote about elder daughter's encounters with her paternal grandmother who died three years before elder daughter was born. I was inclined to believe my daughter's story and here's why: Less than twenty-four hours after my mother-in-law died, the Resident Fan Boy had a vivid dream in the early hours of a September morning. His mother came to his bedside, as she used to do when he was a small boy in the rectory, except this time her breathing was laboured as it had been in the hospital during her final week.
"I'll be dead in three days," she told him, "but I'll be out in the living room if you need me."

The Resident Fan Boy woke with a start, desperately needing to go to the bathroom, but terrified of passing by the living room in our small apartment...

Three hundred and sixty-four days later, on the eve of the anniversary of my mother-in-law's death, I too was awoken in the wee sma' hours -- by a very large moth which "strafed" me, zooming from one ceiling corner of our bedroom, down right past my ear so I could hear the small motor sound of its wings, then up to the other side of the ceiling. It did this about four or five times until I wailed in terror, waking the Resident Fan Boy. I peeped out from my refuge under the covers and noted uneasily that the time on the alarm clock was the exact hour of my mother-in-law's passing. Then I mused over the coincidence of "moth" and "mother" beginning with the same letters. She never liked me much....

Well. So much for September. As I've said before, my comfort level is really about two posts per week, so I'll be leaving NaBloPoMo for now, and see if I actually accomplish those things I've neglected while posting daily. Seeing as I've been working with short months first, I plan to "NaBloPoMo" it again in April 2010.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

My mind is what I miss the most

I think it was spotting the Burger King on Clyde Avenue near Baseline Road. Although it really began with another one of those interminable dreams I get about needing to get somewhere and having something to finish first. Perhaps you get them too? The kind of dream from which you awake in a cold panic, realize that you don't have to do that or be there, only to realize there's someplace else you need to be, and that you do, in fact, have to get up.

This meant I was sitting on the #118 sometime after 8 am, en route to younger daughter's school, carefully counting off landmarks and fighting off the feeling of having been dragged through the broom ass-backwards. Clyde Avenue is my cue to count down bus stops, because we get off at the fourth one. That's when I spotted the Burger King, which started me on a free association of my year spent in Toronto, for some reason. (Probably because that was back in the days when I actually liked fast food and could eat it without gaining four pounds within twenty-four hours.) What with my sleep-deprived brain, the misted-out bus windows, and the dreary rain-washed wasteland of strip malls, I drifted off into a reverie, and suddenly came to, not knowing how much time had passed, and not recognising where we were.

Panicking, I rang the bell, and we clambered off, while I tried to get my bearings: Ferguson Street. Where the *#$%& is Ferguson Street? I glanced wildly around for land-marks, but recognized nothing, Baseline being as about as pretty a thorough-fare as its name suggests. All I could see were rows of unprepossessing houses, with endless traffic relentlessly buzzing along a road with infrequent traffic lights.

There was nothing for it but to head back the way we came, wondering how many bus stops I'd missed. After we'd been walking for about five minutes, I did finally recognise a landmark: the rather surly teen-aged girl at the next bus stop, whom we usually pass when we head up Erindale. Sure enough, the street beyond her was our turning, and I strode ahead of patient (probably oblivious) younger daughter, glancing at my watch and feeling for the first time how very long the trek up Erindale is. Fortunately, we weren't even late, and I managed to catch my bus back, but standing there in the rain, it occurred to me that I am going to make every mistake in the book while mastering this four-and-a-half-hour commute. Oh well. As long as I don't make each mistake twice, I should only have a transit crisis every week or so...
(The painting is "Bus Window" by folk-artist Cheri' Ben-Iesau.)

Monday, 28 September 2009

Thirty-five films to ease the time in Hades

Marie Phillips over at The Woman Who Talked Too Much asked about favourite movies today, and I thought: "Hey! An easy post for Day 28 of September's NaBloPoMo! I'll just copy my trusty list from Facebook..."

Anyway, here's the 35 of my top movies (in no particular order) that I came up with when I established my Facebook profile a couple of years ago. Thirty-five is not a magic number; it's just what it is. It will become thirty-six and so forth as I run into more movies that I love. Not "the best films ever", mind, just films that I love and will watch repeatedly:
#1. Harold and Maude
Bud Cort, Cyril Cusack, Ruth Gordon, Vivian Pickles
My desert island flick. The movie I watch when I'm feeling down and dusty. I first saw this at age 19 and my perception of this story changes markedly as I age.

#2. Sense and Sensibility
Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant
I just never get tired of this one. It features a dream-cast, Emma Thompson's delicately funny screenplay and the indefinably wonderful direction of Ang Lee. The commentary by Emma Thompson is worth the price of the DVD.

#3. The Ice Storm
Allison Janney, Christina Ricci, Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Joan Allen, Tobey Maguire, Elijah Wood
This is the one film about the seventies about which I've been able to say: "Yes, that is what it was like."

#4. Broadcast News
Holly Hunter, William Hurt, Albert Brooks, Robert Prosky
I love the writing and I adore Holly Hunter in this. One of the few films that admits that women actually wear pantyhose instead of topless stockings.

#5.Impromptu
Anton Rodgers, Bernadette Peters, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Mandy Patinkin
A funny movie and fantastic cast. Gorgeous from start to finish.

#6. Jésus de Montréal (Jesus of Montreal)
Lothaire Bluteau, Catherine Wilkening, Johanne-Marie Tremblay, Rémy Girard
A parable featuring clever parallels to the Easter story. Extra pleasures for those who know anything about Quebec culture.

#7. Swing Time
Betty Furness, Eric Blore, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Victor Moore, Helen Broderick
My very favourite Astaire/Rogers outing. I'm like a little kid on Christmas Eve when waiting for them to finally start dancing in "Pick Yourself Up", then I glow...

#8. Monkey Business
Chico Marx, Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Zeppo Marx, Thelma Todd
My favourite Marx Brothers movie. So many wonderful moments: The crew can tell they have four stowaways because they are singing a barbershop quartet. (But wait a minute, isn't Harpo a mute?) All four brothers try to sneak through Customs on Maurice Chevalier's passport. It's heaven...

#9. Snow Cake
Alan Rickman, Callum Keith Rennie, Carrie-Anne Moss, Sigourney Weaver
The writer of this film has an autistic son, and my younger daughter has special needs, so I was deeply touched by this movie. I particularly love the know-it-all lady who thinks she understands autism because she's seen Rainman. It's heartbreaking without being depressing.

#10. Scrooge (A Christmas Carol)
Alastair Sim, Kathleen Harrison, Mervyn Johns, Hermione Baddeley, Michael Hordern
This is the version of A Christmas Carol for me. There are many parts of it that weren't in the novella, but somehow seem as if they should have been. I watch it and weep every year.

#11. 84, Charing Cross Road
Anne Bancroft, Anthony Hopkins, Judi Dench
Loved the books by Helene Hanff, and was delighted that this movie is not a disappointment. Obviously a labour of love.

#12. A Room With A View
Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott, Julian Sands, Simon Callow, Judi Dench, etc., etc.
Gosh, this is just a treat for the senses from start to finish! Wonderful cast and cinematography.

#13. Au Revoir Les Enfants
Gaspard Manesse, Raphael Fejtö, Francine Racette, Stanislas Carre de Malberg
Louis Malle telling tales out of school. Not a breath of melodrama, just a gentle story of inadvertent betrayal.

#14. Bedazzled
Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Eleanor Bron, Raquel Welch
Forget the recent junky version. This is the original, full of pithy comments about the nature of evil. ("Julie Andrews!")

#15. Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould
Colm Feore
Not so much a portrait of the legendary (almost mythical) Canadian pianist, as a series of impressions. What's even stranger is that Colm Feore has portrayed another legendary (almost mythical) Canadian, Pierre Elliot Trudeau. That's pretty much all the two have in common...

#16. The Sweet Hereafter
Ian Holm, Maury Chaykin, Sarah Polley, Bruce Greenwood
Based on a novel by Russell Bank, this story has been re-set in a small town in the BC interior where a catastrophic school bus accident has left a debris field of shattered lives. The film has a dreamlike quality; one could say nightmarish, but there is startling beauty amid the broken shards.

#17. The Seventh Seal
Max von Sydow, Bibi Andersson
I took my husband to see this early in our marriage, waiting for him to enjoy it as much as I did. He fell asleep. Miraculously, our marriage survived this disaster.

#18. The Miracle of Morgan's Creek
Eddie Bracken, Betty Hutton, Diana Lynn, William Demarest
I'm not quite sure how this film got past the censors in 1944. I guess there was a war on. Really, really funny.

#19. Le Déclin de l'Empire Américain (The Decline of the American Empire)
Dominique Michel, Dorothée Berryman, Louise Portal, Pierre Curzi, Rémy Girard, Yves Jacques
This movie has entertained and perplexed me for years. When I first saw it in my late twenties, I was mystified by how supposedly good friends of long standing could treat each other in such a fashion. As I age, I understand it a bit better. Back in my teaching days, I used to have a lot of Québecois students. They told me that this was a pretty accurate depiction of university professors in Montreal. It doesn't hold out a great deal of hope for women and men understanding each other...

#20. Testament
Jane Alexander, William Devane, Rossie Harris, Roxana Zal
I watched this made-for-TV movie twice, once before having children, and once after. Two different kinds of devastation. I have never forgotten it.

#21. Some Like It Hot
Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, George Raft, Joe E. Brown
An excellent argument for never dating musicians! A hoot!

#22. Shakespeare in Love
Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, Judi Dench, etc.
Adored the very wittiness of this, and especially enjoyed the pokes at playwright John Webster (creator of such feel-good bloodfests as The Duchess of Malfi) who is portrayed here as a particularly creepy little boy.

#23. Da hong deng long gao gao gua (Raise the Red Lantern)
Li Gong, Cuifen Cao, Saifei He, Shuyuan Jin
This, to me is a perfect illustration of how oppression leads to the oppressed undermining each other. Suppose the women really had treated each other as sisters; would the power the man had over them been as devastating?

#24. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, John Goodman, Holly Hunter, Charles Durning
Full of haunting music and lovely lines: "We thought you was a toad!" "Do not seek the tray-shure!" "He's a suitor!" The odd ritual run-and-sing of the KKK is one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen on film...

#25. Monty Python's Life of Brian
Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam
One of my two favourite Easter movies. (The other is Jesus of Montreal.)

#26. Looking for Richard
Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Estelle Parsons,Aidan Quinn, Kevin Spacey, Winona Ryder, etc, etc.
I think my favourite aspect of this documentary was the juxtaposition of the earnest "Method" approach with the scholarly musings of members of the Royal Shakespeare Company. On one side, you have a sort of deliberate ignorance (maybe innocence is the better word), aiming for purity of character development and motivation, and on the other, actors who simply know Shakespeare within their bones. Which is the correct approach? Who cares? The play's the thing! (Wrong play, I know!)

#27. Le Roi de coeur (King Of Hearts)
Geneviève Bujold, Alan Bates, Michel Serrault, Madeleine Clervanne
This film stole my heart when I saw it in my university cinema as a young student. What fun to hear Alan Bates actually speaking French throughout the movie. (Dubbed versions of this film are pointless!)
#28. Kissing Jessica Stein
Jennifer Westfeldt, Heather Juergensen
I married early and never really experienced the dating scene. This film reminds me why! Although it is nice to know one has options...

#29. Arsenic and Old Lace
Cary Grant, Edward Everett Horton, Jack Carson, James Gleason, Vincent Massey, Peter Lorre
One of the two perfect Hallowe'en movies of all time! (The other is the 1963 version of The Haunting.) The play itself is a delight, but the movie has such tricks and treats as Cary Grant doing several triple-takes, and Raymond Massey being truly creepy. Very funny, and for a faint-heart like myself, not a little scary...

#30. The Haunting
Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson, Russ Tamblyn
The terror in this film is derived entirely from camera angles and sound effects. And it works, mate! Don't watch it alone at night! As a side-dish, you can enjoy the pseudo-sophisticated psychology of the time. Apparently, Clair Bloom's penchant for dressing in black Mary Quant is a dead giveaway that her character is a lesbian. (Gee! Who knew?)

#31. Tootsie
Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, Bill Murray, Sidney Pollack
My 3 favourite things about this movie (aside from the writing, direction, and Dustin Hoffman): Teri Garr as the bewildered girlfriend-who-never-was: "You schmuck!"; Bill Murray in what I believe was an uncredited role as the laid-back room-mate: "You slut!"; and director Sydney Pollack as Michael Dorsey's long-suffering agent: "I begged you to get therapy..."

#32. Amélie (Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain)
Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus
Charmant! Tout simplement. (Actually, I think of Amelie every time I tap the crusty top of a crème brûlée...)

#33. Singin' in the Rain
Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, Gene Kelly, Jean Hagen
How many musicals have a great screenplay? I'll tell you, next to none! This movie just entertains from all angles: singing, dancing, acting, and laughing! My goose-bump moment: The minute Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor stop singing "Moses Supposes" and let-er-rip with an amazing dance on a desk-top.

#34. Life Classes
Jacinta Cormier, Leon Dubinsky, Leo Jessome, Frances Knickle
Dammit, I just love this film. A Nova Scotia girl whose idea of art is paint-by-numbers gets knocked up and heads to the city. Eventually she stumbles into being a nude model at an art college, and from there moves into the world of art herself. I've always thought this film was a small gem.

#35. Romeo and Juliet
Leonard Whiting, Olivia Hussey, John McEnery, Milo O'Shea, Michael York, John McEnery, etc.
The PTA actually put a ban on this film in 1968 -- which really got the viewing numbers up. (You get to see Romeo's bare bum for all of thirty seconds --- shocking!) But the magic of this film is seeing the lead roles acted (very well) by very young actors, close to the ages Romeo and Juliet were supposed to have been. The rest of the cast is amazing: a very young Michael York as Tybalt, the acerbic John McEnery as Mercutio, and the lovely voice of Laurence Olivier as the Prologue. Then there were the music and costumes. Sigh...

It's taken me hours to edit and link this list. That'll teach me to try for an easy post...

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Tasty, with a chance of social satire

It's raining in New York City. We know this because we have been cyberstalking elder daughter again, looking longingly at the drenched steps leading to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where she spent this morning. After lunch and last-minute shopping, she'll be bussed back here by late evening. She's seeing Central Park and Little Italy, Billy Elliot and West Side Story. We saw....Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs....

And you know what? It wasn't so bad. In fact, it was rather good.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a rarity in that it's one of the few children's picture books that I haven't read. I've shelved it often enough while volunteering in school libraries over the past nine years, but have never actually opened it. The movie takes a germ of an idea for a jumping-off point into a wild and wacky tale about an inventor whose inventions are marvelous, miraculous, but all seem to have a fatal flaw. Or several.

Our hero is a large-eyed, tousled-haired fellow in a long coat who can fix problems through mad improvisations with every-day items and is a wee bit out-of-it in recognizing romantic cues from women. Remind you of anyone? Okay, make the big blue eyes big brown ones and a imagine a slightly dodgy London accent. So that's part of the charm right there, but the film is full of sly blink-and-you'll-miss-it jokes that made the adults in the audience roar. (And quite a few adults showed up at this matinee without kids.)

My favourite bit was when the hero finds the heroine attractive when she puts her glasses on. There's a tiny bit of scatological humour, but younger daughter loved the idea of a town being blanketed with food (particularly ice cream) and the Resident Fan Boy and I enjoyed the digs at American news-reporting.

Younger daughter's verdict after the film? "It was tasty!"

Yeah, it is. Have a light snack before you go see it.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

All the old dudes

I nearly missed this item buried in the "More from Entertainment" section of the BBC news web site. I was amused by two things: first the wry comment that the two sold-out Mott the Hoople reunion gigs (of a total of seven) are at "the rather less well known Blake Theatre in Monmouth", and secondly, that none of the pictures of the band members are current. I remember seeing a documentary of the Rolling Stones done to support one of their more recent world tours and thinking how they all looked like aging shop-keepers. As Mott themselves declared in two of their songs ("All the Way from Memphis" and "The Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll"): Ya gotta stay young, man; you can never get old...

Still, would I were there. I went scrolling through YouTube for some of my favourites, thinking of mornings when I would put on the headphones and blast Mott into my ears, searching for the courage to leave the house. First, here's a 1973 (or 1974?) Top of the Pop lip-sync of "Roll Away the Stone", although Ian Hunter is singing over his recorded vocal: Next, in a video that screams "Eighties" is a non-Mott song from Ian Hunter, "All of the Good Ones Are Taken." The sync is a bit out here, but the other versions of the video are not as clear. This is back when many music videos actually had some sort of story-line. I like the humour in it; although the posing sex-bombs kinda date it (or do they?):Finally, one of my very favourite Mott the Hoople ditties, "I Wish I Was Your Mother". This is a gorgeous recent version Hunter recorded in Oslo for a DVD/CD entitled Strings Attached which is going right on my Christmas wish list: Sigh. Would I were there...

Friday, 25 September 2009

The cheese stands alone

We've finally got younger daughter a lift to school --- but only for Fridays. Nevertheless, that meant I could hang around the television set and look frantically through the crowds that congregate outside NBC in New York during the weather portions of the Today Show. Elder daughter's school tour was scheduled to stand out there this morning. I'm not sure if they did; it was listed in the itinerary as optional. At any rate, I didn't see them.

I used to watch the Today Show quite regularly when I was much younger. Was it always this bad? We had the show on for two hours, and I learned four things:

1) President Obama is in a sweat over the discovery of an "underground nuclear facility" in Iran.

2) A pretty woman has disappeared after being in police custody. The fact that she was young and pretty seemed to weigh heavily.

3) Apparently children who have been spanked have lower IQs than those who haven't.

4) Michael Jackson is still dead.

They spent quite a bit of time on the Obama item, a little bit less time on the disappearance, less than three minutes on the spanking; and tons of time on Michael Jackson. The rest of the programme, totaling about ninety minutes I'd say, was spent on weather reports, local news (we get the Detroit feed), and commercials. Interminable, loud commercials, the longest of which focused on some guy who sits on his deck reading and petting an animal while the voice-over details a very long list of side-effects to the drug being advertised.

I turned off the set at 9 am, having failed to glimpse elder daughter and with the feeling that my brain had been turned to cheese. There are people who routinely begin their mornings this way. How can they bear it?

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Geese gotta fly

As the year rolls past the equinox in this part of the world, you may hear a peculiar sound like someone cleaning a window. That's your clue to look up and see the lop-sided "V" of Canada geese heading south.

Each morning the long bus-ride to younger daughter's school takes us past the southern edge of the enormous Experimental Farm that sits near the centre of the Ottawa-Carlton area. These days, the fields are filled with breakfasting geese. As we passed a huge flock this morning, two geese flew in graceful figure eights above, and, as if there had been a signal, several dozen suddenly took off to join them. They seemed to circle wildly; one geese nosed up like a jet plane, realized he was alone and swung back. The bus proceeded down Baseline before we could see if the "V" emerged.

Another sign of the equinox is that the sun rises directly in line with our kitchen window and sets opposite our living room window, revealing how long it's been since I washed the windows. Probably since the last equinox. But having the sun lined up perfectly east-west also guides me in which direction to gaze today. Eldest daughter left at the crack of dawn for a school trip to New York City. I spent the afternoon tracking the progress of her bus on the Google maps, and this evening, I searched out web-cams of Broadway and pictures of Ellen's Stardust Diner where her group had dinner tonight before trotting off to the Gershwin Theatre to see Wicked, the perfect musical for adolescent and just-post-adolescent girls. She gets to see two more Broadway shows, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a host of other things before returning late Sunday. I try to content myself with gazing out from interminable bus-rides at the unusually lush Green Belt this early autumn coming after a wet summer. Oh, if I had wings...

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Past pumpkin pies

The Resident Fan Boy sent me an email from work last week regarding a co-worker at his office who is fighting a long, almost certainly losing battle against cancer. As you will see, they are organizing a potluck lunch for September 24 (a Thursday) in her honour. Would it be possible for me to offer to bring one of your famous pumpkin pies?

So last night, I pulled two packages of mashed pumpkin (from the jack o' lanterns I chop into bits on All Saints' Day) from the freezer and this afternoon, baked two, as my daughters also hanker after my pumpkin pie, and elder daughter sets off at the crack of dawn tomorrow for a four-day school trip to New York City, and I need to show her that there are no hard feelings. (Mothers need to prevaricate quite a bit.)

Despite the rather painful nostalgia (yes, I know that's redundant) resulting from reviewing the Februarys of past years when I last participated in NaBloPoMo, I've been leafing through my journals in search of kinds of September. This morning, I came across this September memory from when elder daughter was nearly one and a half:

This evening as I waited almost in vain for the pies to cook ([RFB's]turn to bring goodies to the office tomorrow), I could see [eldest daughter] dancing beyond the closed apron door that joins the kitchen and living room. I had my "baby tape" on, the one I recorded to play during labour, and there was the baby in question, peering through the slats on the door and jiggling up and down, lifting her infant feet.

I'm not sure which songs eldest daughter was grooving to, the tape had two hours of my favourite slower pop songs. (Another had two hours of my favourite classical music -- the doctors in delivery liked it; one said, "I wanna hang out here this evening!") Here's a sample: my very favourite U2 ditty and, in my very humble opinion, one of the four sexiest songs ever:

Oh, and the oven was really old. That's why the pies were taking so long.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

I try to be a good neighbour

First off, this isn't the blond terrier that turned up on our back deck while I was grabbing another cup of tea. But this looks very like her. We see all sorts of things on our back deck: sparrows, cardinals, squirrels, pigeons, morning doves, blue jays, finches, cats, chipmunks, raccoons... I'd never seen a stray dog out there before. I noticed she had no collar and my heart sank. I went out to talk to her and she bolted, heading into our new neighbours' recently renovated back porch, whimpering as she ran. I spoke in as gentle and friendly voice as I could manage, trying to get her to come to me. She gazed at me through the slats and snuffled and sneezed a few times before starting up a steady bark. As I approached her, she backed herself into the kitchen door, glancing over her shoulder and barking all the more.

Our new neighbours arrived last summer, shortly before I fled for my annual Victoria visit. The Resident Fan Boy gave a rundown on their renovation progress with each of our evening calls. (Rather tedious, really; I guess he couldn't think of anything else to talk about.) They had left postcards for their surrounding neighbours, apologizing for the noise and mess, so I knew their first names, but had never actually met them. I certainly didn't know they had a dog.

However, the dog's behaviour was signalling me that this was her home and I'd better not corner her. I went to check the front door and this time I felt a dropping in my stomach. The door was ajar. I rang the door bell. No response. Gingerly, I pushed the door a little farther open, and called. No reply. I rang and called again. I could see a bottle of cleaning fluid standing in the hall, with piles of stacked up wooden chairs in the kitchen, beyond which was the anxious face of the canine sentinel, watching me guardedly.

I headed back to my own kitchen, pondering the possibilities. I didn't want to enter the house. I certainly didn't want the little dog to stray into the street. Was this an emergency? Somewhere, I'd made a note of the non-emergency number for the police but I couldn't find it and I felt the time ticking by. Finally, I picked up the receiver and made my very first 911 call ever.

I went out to wait, then decided to find the postcards with the neighbour's first names. When I came out again, the little dog was gone. As I scanned the street, two police cars roared up, and parked in a V-shape across our driveway. The officers asked me cursorily if this was the house before heading in and I could hear the little terrier inside as they closed the door. I went back to my house to wait and less than five minutes later, the police cars drove off.

I guess I never will know if I did the right thing.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Bearding the lion in his Lehrer

Once again, while looking for something else, I stumbled across a whole bunch of rare videos of Tom Lehrer performing for a live audience in the sixties. While I probably own everything that Tom Lehrer recorded, eagerly attended Tom Foolery, and got the Resident Fan Boy a Tom Lehrer sheet music collection for his birthday some years ago, I have never actually seen Tom Lehrer perform. He's a mathematician and disappears for decades at a time. While it's difficult to choose (and there don't seem to videos of my very favourites), here are two near the top of my list. The first one nearly got us thrown out of my late father-in-law's living room when the Resident Fan Boy and I insisted on warbling it at the family piano after Sunday lunch. (Sunday lunches at my in-laws had that effect on me, Tom Lehrer or no.):

And while we're on the subject of Sunday:
He's rather cute, isn't he?

Sunday, 20 September 2009

More Family Historical Hysteria

Today, I headed off to the second day of the Anglo-Celtic Connection Conference with an ambrotype in my pocket, the one I wrote about in this blog in January 2008. After two lectures on the use of DNA testing in genealogy (fascinating but an expensive proposition for someone with loads of female relatives; it's easier tracking down relatives through male markers), I hurried to the market they'd set up in the huge foyer of Library Archives Canada. I bought a couple of Colleen Fitzpatrick's books where the lady herself was waiting to sign them. Rather deviously, I asked her about ambrotypes and while she pointed out the section in Forensic Genealogy which explains them, I drew the ambrotype from my bag.
"Oh yes," she said, reaching out to examine the little case with the ornate cover. She opened it and pointed out the hallmarks of an ambrotype: the black background, the low contrast. I mentioned the book I'd studied before and she nodded, saying she knew the author. She told me the photo would be about 1855 and while I was formulating my next question, she suddenly asked: "Have you looked in the back?"
"No," I replied, startled. The case is already broken and battered, and I'd always handled it gingerly.With a quick gesture, she removed the back. Stunned, I grappled for my glasses.
"C.W.E!" I stammered. "This is my husband's great-great-grandfather! He was born in 1814 in Lincolnshire; he was a solicitor...." I suddenly found myself bursting into tears. I'm not sure if any of you who aren't researching your own family trees will understand why, but Colleen Fitzpatrick certainly did.

"This is one of those rare moments," she said, coming around the table to give me a hug. "I can't promise the rest of you such dramatic results," she said to the rather astonished people lining up for their books. All of them seemed to be clutching photographs too! She lent me her cell phone to call the Resident Fan Boy, but he wasn't home from church yet, and elder daughter had to feign enthusiasm instead...

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Hint: check out what the women are wearing...

Quick! Can you tell when this picture was taken? We had an amazing presentation from forensic genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick today, and she led us through two or three old photos as exercises in pinning down details. One tends to zero in on the clothes, but she warned us against this,although clothes are a vital clue in identifying the date in this example, and it's not so much the style as the colour. Instead, she directed us to the American flag as a starting point, then step by step led us to an exact date. Click here to see if you're right.

Among other things, she was on the team who identified the "Unknown Child" in the Titanic section of the Halifax graveyard, although I'm not sure whether she was on the team that mistakenly identified him as Eino Panula or the team that corrected that to Sidney Goodwin. I have a sneaking suspicion I'll be buying several of her books tomorrow!

We also enjoyed presentations by Duncan Macniven who, besides being the Registrar General for Scotland, looked rather like David Tennant might look in twenty years' time, only a wee bit less manic, and with an Edinburgh accent. He had the knack for making dry material rather entertaining with his self-deprecating wit. Charming fella.

Friday, 18 September 2009

The family plot thickens

Oh geez. Today was the beginning of a treat I'd been long anticipating for myself; I was at the National Library and Archives for a "Next Step" series of lectures that lead into this weekend's Anglo-Celtic Connection Conference, the annual orgy of genealogy lectures put on by the family history society to which I belong. (Now, don't look at me like that. I suppose you like stuff like sports or shopping or computer games. I like family history. So there.)

O gawd. Stop all the presses. I went home to apply what I learned. Regular readers of the blog (yes, there are a handful) might recall my post last February about the Resident Fan Boy's mysterious and long-dead paternal grandmother of the three maiden names. Quick recap: Grandmama was married (in 1904) when she took up with Grandpapa (in 1907, or thereabouts). They had four kids, two of whom died. The last one was born the same year Grandmama's legal husband perished in France during the Great War. Grandmama and Grandpapa finally tied the knot in 1923, both describing themselves as "widowed".

Well, guess what? Grandpapa wasn't lying either! He had married in 1901, to a lady with the same maiden name that appears in youngest child's birth registration. She died in 1922, which explains why Grandmama's and Grandpapa's marriage took place in 1923. (We thought that she had taken that long to learn of the death of first husband who had lit out to Canada, then volunteered for the war there.) Our heads (mine and that of the Resident Fan Boy) are spinning. Were his father and uncle brothers or half-brothers? Did Wife Number One know about Quasi-wife Number Two? We need to send away for some more certificates.

Well, it seems exciting to me....

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Buzz Stop

This post is not about Verna Aardema's excellent picture book which won the Caldecott Prize.

This post is about the bloody buses again. As we coast to the end of our second week of mega-commutes, we're settling into a sort of routine. OC Transpo is still letting me down roughly every other day: late buses, early buses, non-existent buses. I'm finding alternative routes and ways to cope, but there is no way of predicting whether a bus will be crammed from one day to the next. Yesterday was a crowded bus day, a day in which I became keenly aware of different standards of hygiene. You know what I mean: the scent of "adolescent boy" (some of whom are well into their twenties), "dandruffy middle-aged lady", "garlic-lover", and my absolute favourite, "unwashed old man".

To accompany the olfactory assault, mosquito mood music. All of our routes are packed with students ranging from middle school through to grad school. Eighty percent of them are equipped with earphones of varying quality, so the rest of us are treated to the high-pitched scratchings of today's music: Nickle-gnat, Tickney Spears, Kanye Pest...

Here's Write of Passage Number Five, from a Victoria bus back in the days when Sony Walkmans were still pretty cool:

Somewhere in the back, a fella is playing his Walkman so loud that you can almost make out the lyrics, which is my personal gauge in personal-player-loudness. Another youngish man tells him to take the earphones off and let everyone hear instead of making us listen to the tinny crunch of the percussion. (These aren't his exact words because he is imitating the sound and I'm not sure how to put that in print. "Sksh-sksh" is the closest I can get.) The younger fellow switches off his player to hear, says something faintly obscene, and goes back to crunching away. Since, in the long, honoured tradition of bus etiquette, I don't turn around, it gets to sound pretty funny after a while:
(Tinny crunch)
Other fellow: Hey, why don't...
(Tinny crunch abruptly stops)
Young lout: Hunh?
Other fellow: Never mind.
(Tinny crunch resumes.)

This went on for some time.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Fudging with Felines

I actually was writing quite a creative post in my mind as I accompanied younger daughter on the hour-long trek to school this morning. However, when I got home two hours later, there were several messages from the family history sites I frequent, which led to my checking my data, which resulted in discovering more christening records, which showed me where a pair of my great-great-great-grandparents were living in London between 1830 and 1838.

So I'm cheating. I'm fobbing you off with this recent picture of my cat. We were forced to kennel her this summer when the lady who usually takes her in was taken ill. I was convinced she would take the usual cat sort of revenges for this: hairballs just where I will step on them for one unpleasant example, but actually, she's just lovely, purring steadily for the past three weeks.

Let's see how I do tomorrow. (I have another cat photo, just in case...)

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

A couple of lovelies from Louis

Younger daughter's singing of "What a Wonderful World" has me with Louis Armstrong on the brain. It could be a heckuva lot worse...

Here's two of my favourite Satchmo recordings:



Monday, 14 September 2009

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean...

Well, as joyous as the shenanigans of yesterday morning were, reality plopped down like a sandbag in the evening. I think it all started when I was trying to explain to younger daughter what will be happening this Thursday as her father and I attempt to attend this semester's "mini-time-table" at elder daughter's high school, an opportunity to meet elder daughter's teachers and get a feel for her day. Since the MTT starts at 4, this means I will need to rendezvous with elder daughter downtown, so I can pass younger daughter over for the home lap as we bus in from distant Nepean.

Apparently, this shook younger daughter's already shaky sense of security and she stomped upstairs and shut her bedroom door firmly. The Resident Fan Boy went up to check on her and was informed that she doesn't want to go to school, the work is too hard, the teacher won't help her, and everybody is mean to her.

Well. It's not as if we couldn't see this coming. Younger daughter's challenges will not vanish, no matter how small and willing the school is. All the same, I felt as if I'd been punched in the solar plexus. All I could do was promise her I'd tell her teacher what she'd said (with some minor editing), before another night of gremlin-wrestling. On the bus ride this morning, I gingerly checked with her:
"You told Daddy everyone is mean to you; is that how it is?"
"I don't think so..."
Sigh.

Just in front of me, a teen-aged boy plopped into a sideways seat. As he turned his head, I saw his eyes were full of tears. I just had time to give him a small, sympathetic smile before he turned away again.

Writes of Passage Number Four:

It was a summer night in Victoria, and the dark bus was crammed with university students returning to their digs near or at UVic. Being pushed into the space surrounding the rear door was a young couple, though something told me this might be a first date, if it was a date at all. She was on the short side, blond, not dazzling pretty, but attractive in a low-maintenance kind of way. He was very tall with a mop of dark curls, and certainly what I would have thought of as dishy in my own university days. The girl was being pushed into him by the press of the surrounding standers, but I rather thought she was not as crowded as she was trying to make it appear. He stood his ground, not exactly holding back, not really encouraging her either. His stop came first. I think he may have leaned down to kiss her before he vanished. It was too dark to be sure.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

They're really saying "I love you"

Today is the day for which younger daughter has been longing these past two weeks. The choir director invited her to sing a solo at a children-based service at the Resident Fan Boy's church. This was the result of a triumphant performance at a church banquet last June, where younger daughter performed a passionate, heart-breaking version of "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid. Heart-breaking especially if you note the lyrics and imagine a little girl on the autism spectrum singing it beautifully, note perfect. And yes, I know I'm her mother. Trust me, I looked out over the audience (not daring to look at her and distract her) and saw many people wiping their eyes. I should have blogged about it at the time, especially since it was one of the few things about June that didn't suck.

Anyway, word got around to the choir director and it was decided that younger daughter would sing "What a Wonderful World". Actually, my heart sank a little at that, because younger daughter has been singing that song since she was six years old, and she knows so, so many songs. (Perhaps "Cell Block Tango" wouldn't be the best choice for a Sunday morning, but I'm sure we could have come up with something equally arresting.)

However, the choir director was enthused: "There won't be a dry eye in the house!" He was right, of course. After one of those earnest Sunday School semi-skits that took the place of the gospel reading, younger daughter took her place next to the harp. And even though I've heard her sing it so, so many times, I felt my eyes well up. As she came to the line I hear babies cry; I watch them grow, a little ankle-biter of about eighteen months came clomping down the handicap ramp right next to her and clutching a doll, gazed mischievously into the wings, where I suspect a beleaguered parent was trying to coax her back. Younger daughter noted the unexpected entrance but didn't miss a beat.

The 10:15 Sunday service at the Resident Fan Boy's church regularly ends with a "Polychronia" where members of the congregation are invited to share joys and celebrations. A man stood and said: "Many times my partner and I (this church has a sizable gay and lesbian contingent, rather rare in an Anglican church) have had the opportunity to see the face of God here in this congregation. This morning, we saw the face of God and the voice of an angel in (younger daughter's) performance".

So I think she did okay. The choir director, whose skillful harp-playing supported younger daughter's performance so well, is now talking about her singing Ave Maria. Oh my. Schubert or Gounod?

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Exit --- by the bears

In the midst of this week's stress, the real world won't smarten up. I'd heard about the diminished salmon runs while I was house-sitting in Victoria this summer, then I read this earlier this week, and am now trying not to think about it. The politicians, needless to say, are already trying to play it down.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Knees up, Mother Brown

Maybe today I'll get it right. Maybe today I'll get back to younger daughter's school, pick her up and get her home in an hour. It hasn't happened yet, but I live on hope and no, that's not a typo.

I'm becoming obsessed with bus schedules. I lay awake at 4-bloody-thirty this morning going over bus combinations. I seem to have the morning route down (although I nearly boarded the #116 instead of the #118 this morning and was only prevented by the Resident Fan Boy), but the ideal or at least workable afternoon itinerary is eluding me. Yesterday, due to construction and overcrowded buses, I found myself frantically searching for cabs up and down Carlton in order to pick up younger daughter on time. Then we waited forty minutes in the hot sun for the #151 to show up. The bus driver seemed oblivious when I finally boarded, looking daggers at him.

We get to do this for five days instead of four next week...

Write of Passage Number Three:

One summer's afternoon in Victoria, the Resident Fan Boy and I board the bus with our daughters. Most seats by the windows are taken except for two near the back, but the outer seats are occupied by two young women who are sitting so they can converse across the aisle. As we look for somewhere so we can sit together, the younger of the four-seat-occupiers glances back and says helpfully: "Oh there are enough seats at the back." She's so cute and so young and soooo oblivious. I don't slap her.

The two carry on their conversation which is evidently about law studies. When we get off, the Resident Fan Boy grins and tells me the older of the two was in a brief co-op placement at his office -- more than ten years ago. This had been set up by a co-worker who was also the girl's mother. So, the woman in question is well into her thirties. The RFB notes that the minute the younger girl left, former co-op student quickly dropped her knees, which she had drawn up to her chest in a bid to look as youthful as her companion.


No more bus babbling until next week, I promise!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

A spot of bother

I saw my hair on the bus yesterday. I was seated behind a young woman with long, thick wavy hair with stray strands of grey weaving in and out. I recognised my hair immediately. I mean, mine had a few more red highlights in it, but it was essentially the same. The girl, clad all in black with soft edges and small breasts, could have been me, too, right down to the tall, slightly chubby boyfriend next to her. It was nice to see me again.

Actually, what I really liked about her hair was that it was hers, colour and all. Sometimes I'll sit near the back of the bus, and not a single head in front of me has the hair colour it started with. A little sad, really. There's something about the sheen of hair without dye, it reflects the light in scores of different shades.

Yep, working on my people-watching. I spent about seven hours in transit yesterday, but that was because we had to head back to younger daughter's school for a barbecue. With luck, I'll keep it down to 4½ hours today.

Writes of Passage Number Two:

This happens more often in Ottawa than in Victoria, but every so often, a girl will board the bus who is bandbox perfect in every way. Her hair is groomed, her clothes are impeccably coordinated, and her make-up meticulously applied. I can only sit in rapt contemplation of such girls. They are always girls; women don't have the time for such perfection.

Take a girl I saw on a Victoria bus. She was sitting with her boyfriend on a sunny morning and her get-up was subtle, yet carefully planned around a theme. The polka dots on her dress were echoed in the polka dots on her Alice-band. She was all in bronze and black, even her eye shadow and lipstick fit in with the colour scheme. I wondered, as I always do with such females, how many hours it took to shave, shampoo, moisturize, gel, and paint to show herself for a few brief hours before it was all to do again. Then I saw her nails. Bronze polish with, get this, polka-dots. I glanced at her boyfriend. Well, I was reasonably sure he had showered, and maybe he had spent a few minutes artfully tousling his hair. Other than that, tee-shirt and baggy shorts, and, dare I say, oblivious to the effort that had gone into producing the vision seated next him?

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Stuck on the bus, Gus

I spent five hours in transit yesterday, waiting for buses, leaving late buses, missing buses, running for buses. By the time I finally made it home, three hours after departing to pick up younger daughter from her new school, I was exhausted and depressed, and bellowed like an aggrieved Wookie at elder daughter for failing to bring in the recycling bins. Clearly, if I'm going to make it through the school year, I'm going to have to take the one-day-at-a-time approach, and not let my mind slip to the horrifying prospect of spending 4 to 5 hours each day on OC Transpo. That way madness lies.

We did manage to get to younger daughter's school by bus this morning, on a bus that was fairly crowded at some points (though not as bad as the picture), that was reasonably direct, and ended with a picturesque stroll up a quiet street. (Here's where I don't allow myself to think about what that will be like in the winter, or on a rainy day, or during spring thaw, etc.) Left younger daughter telling me that she was feeling "overwhelmed", but she seemed fairly happy at the end of her first day, so I'm trying to keep my chin up.

On the morning trip back from the school, I struggled to my feet as the first of the three-bus transfers pulled into the Transitway station at Westboro. A handsome young fellow glanced around wildly at his surroundings, then looked up at me from his seat and asked with a sheepish smile: "Is this the 85?" I laughed and tried to remember which bus we were on (it wasn't the 85). I'm not the only one trying to find a rhythm in my daily travel.

I've been attempting to ease my loss of time and freedom with newspapers, puzzles, and people-watching, but I don't find the last as beguiling as I do in Victoria, where all sorts of cameos and mini-dramas take place during the course of a bus-ride. Here's Write of Passage Number One (I may need to do a few of these to keep up with September's NaBloPoMo):

It's a summer's afternoon in Victoria and I'm facing backwards watching where we've been flow out through the rear window of the bus. In the very back seat, two Japanese ESL students, evidently taking the long trek back to their quarters in Gordon Head, have set up camp. They are surrounded by bags of groceries which seem to mostly consist of potato chips and pop, and they look like a double X: each girl has her knees tightly clutched together with the ankles splayed out to each side for balance as she folds scores of paper cranes. They've stuffed the completed cranes in their pockets; one breast pocket has blossomed into a multi-coloured corsage of pastel beaks and wings. I want to know what will happen when they run out of pockets, to say nothing of trying to juggle their purses and grocery bags with their origami when they have to get up, but it's my stop first.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Mercury's in retrograde

I emerged from a dream of running through airports and having no carry-on luggage and wondering what I was going to do on the long, long flight to India and had I actually checked any luggage at all and, and, and... And it was 6 am and I had to get up because it's younger daughter's first day at the independent school that's way the hell out in Nepean. Oh, crap.

The Resident Fan Boy decided to accompany us as far as the bus stop, then agreed (after I gave him one of my looks) to accompany us to the Hurdman transitway station. The #9 arrived early, but we had left early, so I reasoned, rustling through my bag for the series of bus plans I'd printed up from the computer, that we might just make the transfer to the #118 which only has a three-minute margin for error. That's when the man in the motorized wheelchair got ready to board the bus. I knew something was out-of-whack when the bus driver had to lift the ramp out by hand, then push it back into the floor. The wheelchair guy seemed to take forever to parallel park in his assigned place by the fold-away seats, then signaled the driver that he was secure. Only then did I notice that the bus driver was unable to shut the door. The bus won't move if the door's open. So I watched the driver push his orange button. Over and over. (Oh please...please...not this morning...) Then he called on his little phone. And went back to pushing the button. The RFB, younger daughter and I abandoned bus and went to a nearby hotel to call a taxi.

So that's why younger daughter and I were sitting on the school steps waiting for the school to open and eating day-old birthday cupcakes. When we finally went inside, she told a member of the staff who greeted her by name that she was nervous, so she was introduced to her teacher (who looks about eighteen; gawd, I'm getting old...) and two of her half a dozen classmates. And I had to leave her there, making my way home through the Shinerama freshman volunteers (a sure shine of early September).

To sit here. And worry. Oh please, God, let it work this time...

Monday, 7 September 2009

Burying Birthdays

The Resident Fan Boy's birthday is tomorrow. This is most inconvenient. It always is. Having a birthday in early September is almost as bad as having a birthday near Christmas. In most parts of Canada, school begins the Tuesday after Labour Day, so nearly every year the RFB's celebrations get eclipsed, and in some cases, damn near forgotten in the insanity of the beginning of the school year.

Take the year that elder daughter seemed to disappear one evening. She had arranged to meet the RFB at the Rideau Centre to purchase those delightful last-minute school supplies that teachers decide are necessary after the June purchase lists have been circulated. ("Oh yes, and this year you'll also be needing...") The Resident Fan Boy thought they were meeting at the stationer's; elder daughter had set up camp in a book store. In the panic that ensued when the RFB came home asking where elder daughter was and I didn't know, all else got blotted out. It wasn't until the next morning, when the RFB paused at the door before heading out to work, looking expectant, bewildered and slightly hurt, that I remembered. That had been a landmark birthday too, one of the ones ending in a zero. Elder daughter, of course, uses this incident in her continuing campaign to get a cell phone. We say, fine, if she can figure out where she's going to get the money to pay the fees...

This year shouldn't have been a problem because the Ottawa-Carlton school board, in its wisdom, decided to open the schools September 1st, the Tuesday before Labour Day. However, younger daughter is starting at an independent school this year which is opening tomorrow. We decided to side-step the issue and celebrate the Resident Fan Boy's birthday today, but all this means is that in addition to doing extra cooking, I'm labeling gym clothes, looking up bus schedules, and wondering what to pack for younger daughter's lunch. Oh well. We gave him a deluxe lawn chair, complete with canopy and cup-holder, and he's been happily reading the paper on the deck this beautiful temperate morning. We're taking him out to dinner, and once I've posted this to NaBloPoMo, I'm banishing myself to the kitchen to prepare a steak-and-kidney pie from scratch, something I've been attempting to do since Friday.

The Resident Fan Boy got his best present of all yesterday morning when younger daughter managed to thrust her PDD-NOS taciturnity aside and announce during church service that it was her daddy's birthday on Tuesday. This was a first for her and entirely without prompting. Whoever was carrying the microphone mischievously asked her how old RFB was. Younger daughter turned to her father and said in a stage whisper: "How old are you?" When they told me about it upon arriving home, I congratulated her. With a huge smile, she said: "Initiative, initiative, initiative!"

Gee, kid, keep this up and this may actually be a very good school year! Oh yeah, and many happy returns, birthday boy. (Not that you'll ever read this.)

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Pondering Porn

I've spent this weekend thinking about porn. Not enjoyable at all. Porn makes me groggy. It's tedious and repetitive.

Why, you might ask, have I been ruminating on the subject? Three things, really:

1) I've been beset by online offers (nay, pleas) to view naked people, mostly through Twitter, but the latest was a comment on my Flckr account which took me directly through to some rather arresting images. Boy, are they barking up the wrong tree...

2) There was a recent newspaper article about a Statistics Canada survey which cheerfully claims that today's teen-aged girls are having sex later. It turns out that that they are, in fact, having (probably giving, she says, jadedly) oral sex, but delaying actual coitus. Furthermore, it seems that teen-aged girls still long for relationship and connection, while teen-aged boys long for....erotic satisfaction. Apparently the lads' expectations come from hours of viewing porn online. As an aside, I'm assuming this is also why today's young women are expected to be shaved up like porn stars with "landing strips" and "Brazilians", something of which I was blissfully unaware until I started reading blogs. I had to google the terms to find out what was being discussed. (Yikes.) When did this trend turn up, sometime while I was out of the loop having babies?

3) I'm reading John Mortimer's biography (which, for an authorized biography, is remarkably warts and all) and much of his court work in the seventies and eighties involved obscenity trials. He took the quite popular position that freedom of expression is sacrosanct.

Well, okay. Noble sentiment. But sometimes I wonder if unrestricted access to porn really improves us as a society. I mean, it seems to me that Playboy, that august promoter of women's rights (coff, coff), had the side effect of making boobs the be-all and end-all of female attractiveness. Even so, the Playmates of a few decades ago, although unusually pretty and busty, were at least largely un-manufactured. From what I can see today, and admittedly, my experience is limited, centrefolds and porn stars are flat-tummied, pencil-waisted ladies with enormous breasts courtesy of implants. Also shaved to within a inch of their lives. If this is what young men feel entitled to, no wonder so many girls seem to have given up and hit the Haagen-Daaz.

As porn is so grim, grinding and humourless, I think we need some witty relief. I leave you with the immortal Tom Lehrer whose songs have become a bit scary because, as the decades roll on, they cease to be exaggerations:

Saturday, 5 September 2009

In which I reveal my true not-so-inner dorkdom

I have the sneaking suspicion that this has been the case for at least two years, but no one ever accused me of being observant: I discovered quite by accident this summer that the airlines have switched from two-prong to one prong headphones. Which means I can use my own headphones to watch and listen to stuff on the plane. Which is an enormous improvement; no more holding the cheap spongy ones to my ears while straining to hear dialogue. This being the case, I decided to buy an extra pair of headphones so everyone could enjoy the flight back home. I got some nice cobalt blue ones (to match my eyes) that fold flat and when we returned to our house, parked them by the television set. So lately, I've been listening to the TV on the headphones and I've made two more discoveries: this really improves my concentration; and it's much easier listening to the scores of digital radio stations that come with our TV package.

So I was flipping around the stations the other day, and tuned in to something called "Adult Alternative". I doubt this will always be the case, but I liked nearly every song that came up, even though I recognised less than ten percent of them.

Here's a couple of tunes I really liked:

And how about this? (There's a video, but I find it distracting and kinda clichéd. She keeps on running down halls. I'll watch David Tennant do it, but you have to draw the line somewhere.):
Maybe I've finally found a way to finally be au courante and a wee bit cool. (But don't hold your breath).

Friday, 4 September 2009

Saving Sunday

Our first Sunday back from British Columbia and I was asleep, dreaming fitfully about John Cusack (a surprise because, even though I admire his work, he's not one of my crushes -- must've been the jet lag). I was rudely awakened by the Resident Fan Boy who was struggling to get younger daughter ready for church. Staggering into the washroom, I noted that it was nearly 9:20, and since the RFB usually leaves for church at 9:30, it was unlikely that younger daughter would be ready. (Elder daughter was dead to the world and flatly refuses to attend church unless she's teaching Sunday School.) I crawled back into bed and shortly thereafter heard the front door open and shut as RFB headed off to make his peace with God. This was followed by light footsteps descending the stairs and younger daughter's anguished "Daddy! wait!" Slight pause and a sad little lonely voice: "Sorry, Daddy..."

This was why, later on in the day, the Resident Fan Boy, younger daughter, and I found ourselves riding a bus into the Glebe under darkening skies. We decided, since younger daughter had had no outing that morning nor the day before when it had been pelting rain and her parents elected to watch hours of Kennedy funeral coverage, that we would take in the last day of the Super Ex at Lansdowne Park. Unfortunately, as we paid the $10x3 entrance fee, the heavens opened. We entered the midway as scores of people streamed out, like rats. With sinking hearts, we decided to eschew three $32 ride-all-day bracelets and instead purchased 22 tickets at $30, because a) each ride is 3 coupons; b) I only really like about five rides on the midway; c) Resident Fan Boy has vertigo; and d) younger daughter.....didn't want to go on any rides, she wanted to go home! This from a girl who has adored rides in the past, and to whom Disneyland was a mothership calling her home.

Gloom. As younger daughter strode off to stand by herself, resolutely turned away and arms folded, and the Resident Fan Boy's shoulders slumped in characteristic defeat, I looked wildly around for a way of salvaging the afternoon. I don't like many rides, but I adore the Tilt-a-Whirl, and standing there under grey skies and slackening rain, it occurred to me that this might very well be my last Tilt-a-Whirl ride. I got a cart all to myself (good thing as the outer edges were soaked due to the recent downpour),caught the eye of younger daughter who waved shyly, and failed to catch the eye of Resident Fan Boy who was pacing, well into a blue funk. The ride started up and slowly picked up speed, the cart rolled to one side, then the other; I waved to younger daughter and the RFB who by now was smiling bravely. Then the cart began to spi-i-in and spi-i-i-in and spi-i-i-i-i-i-i-in.... Bliss. With the crowds driven away by the rain, the ride seemed to go on forever. I radiated enjoyment, willing younger daughter to see. Aw, c'mon honey. You'd love this.

But she was adamant when I staggered off. Nineteen coupons left, so I boarded the Zero Gravity Wheel.
"You mean that one that broke off completely and killed everyone?" said the man who brightens my every moment.
"Yep," said I, defiantly, dreaming of an evening long ago. I was coming back from a dance when I was sixteen or seventeen, so my spirits probably needed lifting. The tiny midway in the parking lot behind the supermarket, was briefly open for Buccaneer Days, a local community do that included some guy who used to drive up and down the streets with a bull-horn one Saturday morning a year bellowing "Wakey-wakey" for the pancake breakfast, until someone killed him. Or so I like to imagine. However, it was a summer's weekday evening and no one was about but the operators, so I asked them if I could ride the Anti-Gravity wheel. And I rolled up into the night sky and down to the lights, all by myself, with the sweet summer evening air in my face. And as the sun broke through the Ottawa sky, I wondered if this was my last Zero Gravity ride.

We talked younger daughter into the merry-go-round which she rode with her father, and started to smile. Then all three of us got on the ferris wheel, using up our coupons and congratulating ourselves.

Heading for the exit, my attention was caught by a spiel inside the exhibition hall, and we saw two tiny and noisy kestrels being shown by a wildlife expert, who proceeded to produce a Great Horned owl, then a young Red-Tailed hawk (which don't have red tails when they're young, we learned).
Then I noticed that there was a petting zoo right next door, so we bought feed and younger daughter happily fed goats and sheeps and llamas, which is when I spied a booth selling local honey, including honey with Bailey's Irish Cream in it.

"Is it a sign of our age that we're enjoying the exhibition better than the midway?" I remarked to the Resident Fan Boy as we located the washrooms and promptly ran into younger daughter's music therapist and her daughters. Then we walked outside and found pens with camels, a zebra, and two wolves. Outside the entrance, a living statue artist named Kate Moir, dressed as a ghostly white Victorian angel, blew a kiss to a young man in the crowd, and he strode forward, took her hand and bent over it. I glanced at younger daughter, who couldn't bring herself to look directly at the spectacle, but smiled to herself in secret and shivered, just a little.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps

Yesterday, after a couple of false starts (no such things as "spontaneous" in this household), I took younger daughter to see "Under the Sea" (not the 3D version) at the IMAX theatre in the Museum of Civilization.

I wasn't sure how much she liked it, although the lack of fidgeting was a good sign. On the bus home, I mentioned that the movie was just like being under the sea, except, of course, we could breathe, and then I reminded her of the kids practising scuba diving at the community pool in Victoria where she took swimming lessons this summer. (And where, by the way, she moved up four levels in the Red Cross swimming programme. She completed Level Three last summer and Level Seven this summer. Just sayin'...)

Where was I? Anyway, her eyes lit up and she said: "Yes, that's what I was imagining!" And I realized it was one of those magic days when we get to hear what she thinks and when the words don't fail her. These days pretty well never happen at school, or when anyone outside of the family is watching.

That evening, when her dad asked about her day, she was ready: "I was imagining that I was scuba-diving and I saw all of the fish under the water and a sea lion swam up and gave me a kiss. I liked everything except when the turtle ate the jelly fish. That was disgusting. That wasn't in Finding Nemo...."

She even remembered the two songs in the film: "Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps" (sung by Doris Day; it's the theme music for Coupling, too) and "Octupus' Garden" (though not sung by The Beatles).

The words flowed and flowed...and then they stopped. And she struggled to get them back: "And I... and then I....oh dear!"

We get the tantalizing glimpse of this very different brain at work and the sliding doors shut. And I lie in bed in the morning, when the gremlins swoop mercilessly in on me and wonder if her new school will understand this and not give up on her as her last school did. Perhaps...perhaps...perhaps...

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Cheating, but we need some joy, don't we?

I'm considering signing up for NaBloPoMo this month, but I'm running into trouble already, so I'm taking the cheater's way out --- posting a YouTube video. No doubt everyone has seen this by now, but gosh, wouldn't you want your wedding (to say nothing of your marriage) to start this way?

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Answering by the book

Can't resist this meme from Norman Geras (via others, of course, that's how memes work). With this one you answer with the titles of books you've read within the past year. Luckily, I keep track at Goodreads.com, so I've linked each title with that site:

Describe yourself: The Heretic's Daughter

How do you feel? Disquiet

Describe where you currently live: 44 Scotland Street

If you could go anywhere, where would you go? A Voyage Around John Mortimer

Your favourite form of transportation? Love in the Present Tense

Your best friend is: The Senator's Wife

You and your friends are: The Beasts of Clawstone Castle or The Wordy Shipmates

What's the weather like? A Month in the Country

You fear: The Ghost Map

What is the best advice you have to give? Look Me in the Eye

Thought for the day: The Careful Use of Compliments

How would you like to die? Underfoot in Show Business

Your soul's present condition? In the Devil's Snare

I'm not irritating anyone by tagging them, but if you decide to do this one, let me know!