Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Don't be a stranger

Made it! Thirty-one straight days of blogging --- except that my records at NaBloPoMo claim I've only done thirty. Eden Kennedy, if you're out there, it says 31 here at Post-it Notes from Hades, and I've counted my posts at NaBloPoMo. Not fussing, just want full credit.

Anyway, I'll be bidding NaBloPoMo a fond farewell until November 2010, but in the meantime, I'll still be blogging. Just not every blessed day. At least twice a week. I hope.

I've really got to go and bake some hot cross buns now. However as the new Doctor Who season, complete with a new Doctor is due to be transmitted in Britain this weekend (and will no doubt be viewed illegally in this house before the Canadian transmission on April 17 on Space), I wanted to take one last opportunity to sing the praises of the outgoing Doctor, David Tennant. Well, actually I won't be doing the singing. Oh, don't be so relieved; I'm quite a good singer. Yes, really.

Instead, I'm posting this wonderful fan-vid from the meticulous and thorough BabelColour who, by the way, is not a bad way to learn about Doctor Who. Check out some of his videos. The singer here is the rather marvelous Shingai Shoniwa, even if I don't care for her pronunciation of "mischievous":


Oh, and this morning, the man with a mustache from yesterday approached me at the Hurdman Station.
"We're having a good day today," he remarked with a quick glance at younger daughter.
I cocked my head at him, smiling.
"We usually do, you know."

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Seeing is grieving

We only knew we were in trouble when the bus came into view.

Yesterday, the bus failed to show up on the scheduled first day back at school for younger daughter after a two-week March Break. Now, a missing bus, in the delicate domino set-up that is the four-to-five-bus journey from home to school and back, throws off the morning's schedule and I had a medical appointment set up for ten, so I took the easy route, led younger daughter home through the rain, phoned the school to say we wouldn't be there, and took her along with me to the ophthalmologist. It's worked before. When younger daughter got up this morning, she seemed no worse than any other school morning, preparing quickly and even being ready ahead of time.

She first started wailing as the bus approached: "No! I don't want to go to school!" I guess she hoped that maybe the bus wouldn't show up this morning as well, and I would take her home again. By the time we'd taken our seats, she was crying openly, and I knew from past experience that any attempt to console her or even engage her would only exacerbate the situation. Finally, I asked her if I should sit with Daddy, and after a few more sobs, she told me to move.

She wept the rest of the long bus ride to Hurdman Station. I sat across the aisle from her, next to the Resident Fan Boy and watched our fellow passengers watching us, and particularly her. We got out to wait for our transfer and younger daughter resolutely moved away from us into a recess of the long shelter, facing the wall.

"What's the problem?"
A bearded gentleman whom I recognised from the previous bus was standing in front of me.
"I beg your pardon," I said, a little sharply.
"I only wanted to know if I could help."
"My daughter has pervasive developmental disorder and she doesn't want to go to school," I said, softening the edge to my voice, but keeping the answer short. You learn to sniff out quickly the holier-than-thous and busy-bodies. This guy wasn't one of them. I don't know what help he thought he could offer, but kind hearts shouldn't be booted around.
"It must be very hard," he said.
"It is. Thank-you."

He walked away. Part of me wanted to say: It isn't like this every day. It isn't. That's why people were noticing us today. They only notice us when something goes wrong. Remember what I said yesterday about being invisible? There are perks...

The Resident Fan Boy decided to accompany us all the way to school. He sat next to her on the second leg of the long journey alongside the barren early-spring fields of the Experimental Farm. I sat in silent misery behind.

We made our way up the suburban street toward the school, younger daughter trailing behind like Eurydice. Naturally, it took some minutes for someone to unlock the door.

"It will be okay," I said automatically.
"It's not okay! It's not okay, Mom," she declared. The classroom was locked; her teacher not yet arrived. Younger daughter stationed herself at the far end of the hall. We met her teacher at the door and gave her a quick rundown.

"She'll be fine," she said calmly. "It will take two or three minutes." If you go right now, she didn't say. I called a reassuring goodbye.

"I don't want it to be a long day...."

We left. The Resident Fan Boy took me to a Starbucks and we slid back into blessed invisibility. Oh God. Dear God.

Can you feel the same?
Yeah, ya gotta love the pain.
Ooh, it looks like rain again.
Ooh, feel it comin' in.
The mountains win again.


Monday, 29 March 2010

The sisterhood

Today, I feel a little more invisible than usual. It's time for my annual ophthalmology appointment, so I've left off the makeup and am wearing glasses. I could get depressed about looking less appealing than usual, but, heck, I'm over thirty-five. Nobody looks at me anyway. It's not all bad; I've discovered that I can cry in public -- no one notices.

Invisibility doesn't just come from failing to be young. Having a special needs child can make you vanish into the scenery more effectively than Harry Potter's magic cloak. I've discussed this with other "special needs mums". One of them described chatting with another mum while waiting outside the school for her son on the autism spectrum. A woman walked up to the other mum and arranged a play date between their respective children. It was as if my friend were not standing there. She tells me this is a regular occurrence. No one ever approaches to make a play date with her son.

I believe her. I'd been at that school for eight years: four with neuro-typical (albeit gifted) older daughter and four with PDD-NOS younger daughter. I was visible and included the first four; invisible and excluded the second four, even though I was at the school every day -- exactly like my daughters.

Actually, invisibility has its own blessings, because the only time you become visible with a special needs child is when there's a problem. One of our national papers here in Canada is The Globe and Mail which, for the past fifteen years or so, has had a feature called "Facts and Arguments", a daily essay submitted by a G&M reader. Not long ago, a heart-breaking piece appeared, written by a special needs mum who is on that still-hopeful-not-yet-exhausted opening edge of seeing her child through school. In an effort to help classmates and their parents understand about her son, who is living with Down's Syndrome, she wrote a letter and the teacher distributed it to the class families. She was approached by a parent who said she was "surprised at the letter" then asked (wait for it) why this mother had not had prenatal testing. This gentle mother managed a polite response, stumbled to her car and spent the rest of the morning crying:

What I should have asked the mom in the playground was, “What if your daughter was in a car accident tomorrow and had a brain injury? Would you love her any less?”

Oh, darlin', I've been there too, leaning unseen against a tree in the little park below the school, gasping and weeping. For myself, what I long to ask those other parents with neuro-typical children is this: "Do you really think that your child's strengths and gifts are your doing? Do you really think that my child's disabilities are my doing? Because, dear people, all it takes is an illness or an accident. Then you can be in my little club."

I have a secret name for my little club. I call it The Sisterhood. I realize that dads are in this too, but it's the mums that I encounter. Have you ever heard of "gaydar"? I'm reasonably certain that there's a similar sort of sense between special needs mums because ever since I came to Hades (mere months after younger daughter was first "identified"), the only true connections I seem to have made have been with others in The Sisterhood, and there's usually been an attraction of sorts, even before we learn about each other's children. Like any club, we have our own sort of competitions; a meeting over coffee includes support, sympathy, and the underlying gauging of whose life is more challenging and whose child is more, or less, challenged. I usually seem to lose in the first category and win in the second, and feel that the other Sister leaves thinking her child is making better progress than mine.

It's a service I provide.

We share our frustrations over therapy, teachers, bone-headed comments (see above), bullying....

Oh yes, bullying. Sometimes it seems our kids are invisible and that's when they fall through the cracks of the school system, but our kids are different, not a desirable thing in school culture and that makes them highly visible targets.

Not long ago, this article appeared in our local paper, about a boy from Alma, Québec, which is about 600 kilometres (a bit less than 400 miles) from Hades. He's been missing for over a year and the events leading up to his disappearance were uncomfortably familiar.

It was sadness for him and his mother (one of The Sisterhood) that had me riding in the bus, listening to Kate Rusby:
Winter comes around,
And he knows he is homeward bound,
His heartbeat is the only sound he's known,

He once lost his way,
He knows now that was yesterday,
He fell down on his knees to pray for home.

We'll sing to the morning,
We'll sing till the bells they sound,
We'll sing till the wandering soul is found.

He's found his way at last,
With each turn a new bond was cast,
His friends now hold him steady fast and true.

With peace in his eyes,
The fear now is a pain in the skies,
With friends near he sees only skies of blue

It's clearer every day,
He knows now he is here to stay,
He cares not why he went away so long.

He's found where he belongs,
He know he's been here all along,
He is smiling as he joins his friends in song.

We'll sing to the morning,
We'll sing till the bells they sound,
We'll sing till the wandering soul is found.

And there it is -- all our invisible hopes and dreams for these children who were sent to us. Pipe-dreams, perhaps, but it's what we hold on to.

Oh, my Sisters. This song is for you and them.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Persephone waives the rules

Younger daughter's March Break is drawing to a close. We took advantage of the two-week independent school version (public schools have just one week) to attend shows, movies, museums, go out for lunch, everything younger daughter had mentioned in a poem she wrote for school about March Break. We also availed ourselves of the opportunity for medical appointments.

While younger daughter was having her eye check-up last week, I browsed an old copy of Wired and came upon an article entitled "The New Rules for Highly Evolved Humans", that is, of course, humans with computers, cell phones, Blue Tooths, etc. I'm semi-evolved, having what is no doubt a stone-aged home computer, a recently acquired iPod, a blog, a Facebook profile, a rarely used Twitter account, and no cell-phone, so I read the article with interest. Among the hints was this: Don't Blog or Tweet Anything With More Than Half a Million Hits.

So, of course, I'm gonna. Because Wired isn't the boss of me. (Although the article is quite good...)

One of my Facebook friends who is clearly less evolved than those geeks at Wired posted a link to this gem taken from the Jimmy Kimmel show (which is on way too late for me to watch; thank gawd for YouTube):
Clearly this is ten minutes well wasted. My only quibble are the missing club members. I'll let you fill in the blanks.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Time flies when you're training dragons

Another 3D IMAX extravanganza. Another five minutes sitting through that increasingly annoying laser show introduction: IMAX....It's Canadian....The sub-base is HERE....Small stuff? I don't think so...

Yep. The novelty is definitely wearing off.

Besides, I'd seen the trailer for this one umpteen times at other 3D screenings and it had the usual shtick: British book, so of course voiced by young American actors playing American high school stereotypes; gruff and stubborn adults with the wrong idea; hero with the right idea and an underdog to protect; lots of explosions and smart-assed humour, etc, etc.

As we set off for Silver City to see How to Train Your Dragon this morning, I comforted myself with the thought that at least we were catching the early show and so would still have Saturday afternoon to play with. Also, David Tennant was voicing someone named Spitelout, so I could at least amuse myself by listening for him...

Somehow, as our hero Hiccup (Vikings need horrible names so the gods won't hurt them, or something like that) bonds with an injured young dragon he dubs Toothless (he isn't), I found myself being won over.

This movie has something that Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland didn't have: it has heart, and it has enough of a story that it really doesn't need to be in either IMAX or 3D. It also featured a really nice soundtrack that enhanced the action instead of distracting from it. I floated through this with a general feeling I haven't had at a movie in a while, that of relaxing into delight, silently thinking to myself: Hey...this is rather good!

Just as our own little claim to fame: one of the directors is younger daughter's ex-tutor's brother-in-law. I can tell you're impressed.

Oh, and David Tennant? He's in the cast list, but darned if I know which Viking he is. Elder daughter claimed she could tell from one of the trailers on the internet. She said he says something like "Well, good luck with that." It's his distinctive Scottish accent, she said.

"All the grown-ups had Scottish accents!" I groaned in exasperation.
"No, it was definitely him!" she insisted.
"Which web site?"
"I dunno," she shrugged.

Oh well. I'm ordering one of the audio-books from Amazon.uk. David Tennant narrates all of those...

Friday, 26 March 2010

The Joys of Madeleine L'Engle

When Madeleine L'Engle died nearly three years ago, a little something shriveled up inside me. It was just a little dream, a fantasy of some day meeting this woman whose books stood out like hand-holds on the steep and slippery rock-face of Life: starting with (but of course) A Wrinkle in Time when I was ten or so, to the various "Chronos" and "Kairos" books throughout my adolescence, to the Crosswicks Journals that I returned to time and again during young adulthood, to the more overtly religious essays, dotted here and there with her adult novels.

It probably would have been a disastrous or at least disappointing meeting. Although I responded to the seeking and agnostic nature of her religious views, there was enough in her writings to tell me that she might have found my Unitarian Universalist (and quasi-Quaker) views dismissible. Still, I've been married for several years to a committed liberal Anglican; maybe Madeleine L'Engle and I could have found much common ground. I'll never know.

I've been thinking of Madeleine L'Engle a lot this week. I thought I'd read just about everything that she had published, so I was astonished to see a book entitled The Joys of Love turn up on a search for something else entirely (which is usually how things work for me).

The Joys of Love was published last year by L'Engle's granddaughters. This is a very early novel, based on a short story she wrote in 1942 at about the age of 24. She reworked the story into a novel in the early fifties and re-set it in 1946, which was the year she met her husband the actor Hugh Franklin.

As I'd read pretty nearly everything she wrote, including such nascent novels as The Small Rain and And Both Were Young, I was braced for a rather dated and slightly awkward book. L'Engle really hit her stride as an author in the early sixties, and The Joys of Love, being such an early work, only gives a hint of the skilled story-teller that L'Engle later became. At this stage, she was a very good descriptive writer; her scene-setting is an effective time machine, taking me back to a New England summer sixty years gone. However, although her granddaughter Léna Roy said in the introduction that L'Engle's dramatic training gave her "a keen knack for dialogue", this book is a poor example. Even as a lifetime fan, I found myself groaning inwardly (and sometimes out loud) at the painfully artificial conversations these characters have.

Eventually I caught myself wondering if I'd somehow outgrown her other books to which I haven't turned in some time. This morning, having finished The Joys of Love, I seized half a dozen or so of my favourite L'Engle books, blew the dust off them and flipped through them. (Younger daughter is still on March Break, so there was no matutinal rush for the bus.)

You know what? They were as good as I remembered. I looked at The Young Unicorns, one of my favourites when I was about twelve. The gang-members that figure in the plot are a little "West Side Story", but the characters are whole and believable. I skimmed The Wind in the Door, the sequel to A Wrinkle in Time and still found relevance in the themes of "naming" and the need to slow down to put down roots and grow. Finally, in A Circle of Quiet, I browsed where I had underlined and bookmarked this non-fictional work about L'Engle's own meditations on art, faith and life. This was a book that I used to re-read whenever I was feeling lost and homesick. Today, I found this: We, as adults, often fall into perversity in other areas of discovery: i.e., some modern (and not so modern) art in all forms, where the artist is concentrating more on himself than on his painting or music or story. I would venture a guess that an artist concentrating wholly unself-consciously, wholly thrown into his work, is incapable of producing pornography. All perversion is self-gratification.

I think there's a key here to the problem with The Joys of Love, not that I'm suggesting for a moment that it was pornographic. It was, however, self-conscious, in the way something by a very young artist is. And for a blogger, this message about self-involvement and self-gratification may be very timely indeed...

I'm grateful for stumbling across The Joys of Love. It's not a fabulous novel; it's a green and naïve novel. It is however, a novel of promise, and it has led me back to the later, greater works of Madeleine L'Engle.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

To the thirty-something blond on the bus


If you had glanced over your left shoulder while riding into town in the bus this morning, you might have seen me. I was mouthing lyrics and you would have known right away what I was lip-syncing because they were blasting into your ears at the time:

They call me "girl"
They call me Stacy
They call me "her"
They call me Jane

That's not my name
That's not my name
That's not my name....


And if you had caught my eye, I might have said: "So.... you like the Ting Tings?"
Except you wouldn't have heard me. Because the song was systematically destroying the hair cells in your inner ear.

Listen, sweetie (except you can't, of course), what does it tell you if I'm able to not only make out the song to which you're listening on your orange iPod, but also the lyrics?

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Dabbling, Doodling, Fiddling, Wordle-ing...

Okay, I admit it. I cyber-stalk my elder daughter. She didn't give me much choice. She "unfriended" her grandmother, her father and me a few years ago when she came to the conclusion that "none" of her high school pals had their parents as Facebook friends. (She kept my sister and her husband on, presumably because they're way cooler...) When confronted, she pleaded: "Mo-o-o-o-om! Facebook is private!"
"No-o-o-o-o!" I responded in the exact same timbre (irritating her royally), "Facebook is the polar opposite of private!"
No dice. We were out.

Do I respect her wishes? Damned right I don't. I can still get in and see her photographs and while on one of these online field trips, I came across some Wordle pictures she'd put together, mostly for school.
For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, Wordle is a web site which can make any text you choose into a kind of abstract text picture. The first two I've included here are the results of entering: a) a whack of text copied-and-pasted from one computer page of my blog which is about ten posts along with some other stuff; and b) one very long post about Christmas.However, I think it works best with shorter bits of writing on one subject, such as the one just above which is a recent post about a little girl talking to a clown on a bus.

My favourite so far is one I made from my post about pilling my cat:


Try it, with a post, a term paper, a newspaper article....

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Your call is important to us, please stay on the line...

Elder daughter is home, full of stories: of attending a performance of La Traviata in Liepzig without actually knowing the plot; of attending a performance of The Magic Flute in Prague where several lines of singing were translated in the English surtitles as "Yes."; of cute Italian and British guys (how worried should we be?); of the prettiest girl in the group, all of sixteen-years-old, being hit on by the sixty-year-old tour director (seriously, how worried should we be?); of British Airways pilots fumbling their way through the safety demo because of the shortage of crew due to the strike...

So to buy myself time, I'm posting a YouTube video. Except I can't embed this particular one, so here's a picture of Olivia Ruiz:
The song I wanted to post is here. I first heard the song on CBC Radio a few weeks ago, googled it and this delightfully dippy video came up. Only the French could get away with this. Please watch it. See you tomorrow...

Monday, 22 March 2010

Write of Passage Number Eleven

This happened in a bygone March of my student days:

This morning, two young girls got on the bus accompanied by a very short little boy with glasses. He was in a boisterous mood and the girls had their hands full trying to keep him in line:
"Be quiet!"
"Yeah, be quiet, or we'll make you kiss Tanya!"
A very tall girl with dark eyes and a strange hair-do boarded the bus, and the pipsqueak couldn't contain his excitement.
"Woo-hoo!" he sang out.
"Shhhhhh!" said the girls.
"I can't help it! She's sexy!"
"Hush! She's older than you are!"
The trio got out at Hampton School and the little boy lingered near the doe-eyed beauty.
"Bye," he said. "Boy, do you look good!"
One of his sisters (?) cousins (?) yanked him down the exit stairs. The pretty girl shook her well-coiffed head, extracted a textbook from her back-pack and set to reading, ignoring the smothered grins around her.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

March to a different bummer

Some time during the final months of her life, my grandmother turned to my mother in a rare moment of lucidity and said: "The nice me is all gone; all that's left is a nasty old bitch." Those words come back and haunt me regularly.

Each time I do NaBloPoMo, I haul out my journals and diaries and check entries for the month being covered. In February 2009, I looked back at past Februaries and got rather depressed at the glimpses of my former happier and clueless self. Last September, I reviewed my past Septembers and concluded that February is a limbo month and September is a transition month.

March, at least for my family, is a fertile time for crises. As the temperatures slowly rise, events seem to unfreeze and hurtle into motion, often with alarming consequences. I've spent a good chunk of the day reliving stuff from left field and stuff from right field that still landed with a good hard thunk: my sudden diagnosis with gestational diabetes during my second pregnancy; the news that we were moving to Ottawa, my father-in-law's last inexorable slide into death, my elder daughter's fall from a school stage resulting in a broken clavicle; learning that my younger daughter was being transferred from the school programme in which she had been thriving. Yep. Good times.

Not all events that happened in March were incoming missiles. The Resident Fan Boy and I became a couple in March, and turning the pages, I stumbled across faces, exchanges and scenes I'd long forgotten. Maybe I'll get a couple of posts out of them.

I've used a number of approaches in my journalling, many adapted from Ira Progoff's books on journals. Sometimes, I track a day from minute to minute, usually when I have a deadline. Each January, I do a rundown of the past year, to see what shape it's taken, and I've even done quick write-ups of personal decades, looking for patterns. However, while I think I agree with Socrates about the unexamined life not being worth living, sometimes I find myself wondering: Have I improved at all? Wasn't I a nicer person before?

Looking back at my entries for March over the past decade or so has been a wee bit distressing. I seemed naïve, of course, but certainly more sociable, in a guileless and shallow sort of way. The depth that comes with maturity has things to recommend it, and given a few hours to ponder, I might even be able to think of some of those things. Oh dear, couldn't I go back to being the unenlightened slob I was? Callow she may have been, but she may have been better company. Is my niceness doomed to drain away into bitchiness?

Poor Gran. I bet it was March...

Saturday, 20 March 2010

It's an ill wind that blows no good

You know how I was saying that elder daughter has been touring Leipzig? I didn't get around to mentioning that the rest of band trip included Dresden and a three-day stay in Prague, including an evening at The Magic Flute, but I'm not bitter. No, no, I'm happy for her, really, really happy....

The phone rang at about 9:30 this morning. I was in the bathroom and missed it, but the Resident Fan Boy picked it up. Due to the British Airways cabin crew strike, elder daughter and her fellow high school band-mates, en route to Hades from a tour of Leipzig, Dresden and Prague, all fifty-six of them, are stranded. In London. For two-and-a-half days.

They seem remarkably unfazed by this. I wonder if the same could be said of their chaperones?

Friday, 19 March 2010

Double Duty Book Review

In Spite of Myself: A Memoir In Spite of Myself: A Memoir by Christopher Plummer


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Christopher Plummer has got away with a lot in his long life. Part of this must be due to sheer luck. Given his appetite for alcohol, food, and women, all of which appears to be meticulously detailed in this autobiography, it's a miracle he's in the good shape he's in, or indeed, alive at all, given more than one close call (also carefully related). Another thing that gets him off is his extreme good looks. People are always more willing to forgive handsome and charming people. The third thing that excuses this over-the-top catalogue of questionable doings is Plummer's own self-deprecation. Sure, he tells tales, but mostly on himself.

Plummer is a smart man. He knows, more than most people, that it takes a dollop of healthy self-regard to survive in the theatre, movies and television, and there's absolutely no doubt that he has that in spades. However, he also knows that no one succeeds in acting purely through one's own doing. In fact, sometimes one succeeds in spite of oneself. (Apt title, Christopher!) Thus, Plummer is careful to give credit to those who gave him breaks, who performed brilliantly alongside him, who loved him and put up with him. The story of his Tony nomination for Iago in Othello is buried in his account of daughter Amanda's Plummer's Tony-win for Agnes of God in the very same year. (And he cheerfully admits that he was "a lousy father" to his only child.)

There's a lot to forgive in this book: the rather precious sprinkling of French throughout (yes, he grew up in Montreal, but really), the number of times he describes friendships in terms of being "inseparable", the often purple prose, the vague and often downright inaccurate references to actual historical events. Did he even have an editor? However, the anecdotes are amusing, his life story is fascinating, and if you check the list of his accomplishments, he's left out a great deal. All delivered with devilish charm.

Finally, given his long life and the huge range of his acting, we can certainly forgive the name-dropping. That's no doubt why we picked up the book in the first place.

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, 18 March 2010

My cat is a Pill

Fourteen more posts for NaBloPoMo. Piece of cake. I have to get ten more anti-biotic pills down the gullet of my cat.

A couple of days ago before sunrise, I bundled her into her soft carrier and trotted the kilometre to the vet's while saying soothing things to her such as: "Yeeees, I know...We'll be there soon...It's only for a day....I'll be right back for you this afternoon..." All of which she probably heard as: Raaar-raaar-raaaaar....Raar-raar-raar-raar.... Not soothing at all; pretty sinister, actually.

Anyway, it was a dental procedure and ended up costing several hundred dollars. When I came to pick her up, the vet was ready to give me instructions on giving her pain medication and anti-biotics. This involves smearing her "inner ear" (they meant the inner surface of her outer ear --- thank gawd) and..."just grasp the back of her head, tilt it up and her mouth will open, so you can push the pill as far as you can." I don't mean to sound churlish --- okay, maybe I do --- but given the amount of money we'd just spent, I think the vet should come over and administer the medications herself. Push the pill as far back as I can? She's met this cat, right? This is the cat we've been bringing in for nail-trimming, because she won't let us do it anymore.

I toddled the kilometre back in the setting sun, cradling the soft carrier and noticing the absence of distressed miaows that had accompanied the morning's expedition at regular intervals. When I let the cat out of the bag, it became clear why. This was one stoned kitty. She'd stagger a few paces, then lie down. When I picked her up, she was like a furry noodle. She'd stare past my shoulder at unseen phantoms, her pupils dilated, cloudy, and bewildered.

We managed the first pill with relative ease, and congratulated ourselves --- until we located it on the kitchen mat the next morning. The second pill was a bit more of a challenge; she spat it out a couple of times and it was practically dissolved by the time we got it to stay. By the third session, she had recovered considerably.

This is a Taurus cat. Of course, I'm a Taurean too which means immovable object meets immovable object. I get the Resident Fan Boy (a Virgo) to help me. I restrain the cat and pry her mouth open so she can emit sounds like: "MmmmRRRRRRRRRRmmmmm! Haaaaaaaah!" Cat cuss-words. Every now and then she slashes out with her paws. Thank goodness we thought to include a nail-clipping in the dental session. We've learned through hard experience that, after the pill has come out two or three times, I need to keep her jaws clamped shut for several minutes, then watch her for several minutes more in case she works it out again.

This morning we tried it in a tiny spoonful of soft cat food (a special treat for her). She sucked the food away and spat the pill out and after we finally got it down, we got to sponge "Chicken and Lamb Formula for Senior Cats" off her head. And all the time, we're pleading: "PLEASE, darling, it's for your own good..." which probably sounds like: RAAAAAWR-rrrr-rrrr-rawrrr...

I haven't applied the pain medication because I haven't actually seen evidence that she's in discomfort, but as I gaze at the impossibly long tin foil sleeve containing the remaining (gawd help us) ten antibiotic pills, I'm seriously considering it if it can get her stoned enough...

Did I mention the vet wants us to brush her teeth too?

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Risking the ire of the Irish

Why am I not wearing green today? Were you wearing a daffodil or a leek on March 1st for St David's Day?
I didn't think so.
What's that? You're not Welsh? I'm a family historian. I have my family lines, both paternal and maternal worked back at least six generations across the board (fifteen generations in a couple of lines). Not a drop of Irish blood.

No beef with Ireland; I enjoy Irish music, art and literature. However, I feel less kindly toward people using St Patrick's Day as an excuse to act more boorish than usual.

Today, the Resident Fan Boy, younger daughter and I were returning from Westboro where we had purchased new "indoor shoes" for school. This is a necessity for Hades where janitorial costs have been so cut back that schools can't afford to have the floors cleaned more than once or twice a year. As a reward to ourselves, we had a lovely lunch at Fratelli where I had thoroughly enjoyed a large bowl of tomato and garlic soup and now was feeling guilty about inflicting myself upon our fellow passengers on the ride home. That is, until two characters in green shirts, leprechaun hats, and over-sized glasses (not sure about the significance of that last item) boarded the bus. One girl spread herself out in front the back door, listening to tinny music on her earphones, and looking vaguely put out every time someone needed to exit.

The other was a fellow who entered the bus ahead of an elderly lady and plunked himself into the one remaining free seat which happened to be a courtesy seat near the front, immediately producing a magazine from his jacket and immersing himself in it. The elderly lady glanced at him wearily and made her way toward the middle of the bus where I was, so I stood up, tugged her sleeve and directed her into my vacated seat. St Patrick saw us and muttered: "Sorry..." but apparently had no trouble with my standing and trying to keep my distance from the leprechaun with earphones who had evidently poured half a bottle of scent over herself before venturing out.

I like to think that this was because I looked young enough to be standing. I also like to think neither of them was actually Irish. Or Welsh.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Lord of the Slithy Toves, er, The Chronicles of Wonderland, no, wait...

Given the presence of younger daughter in our home, there was no way we could avoid going to see Tim Burton's version of Alice in Wonderland. I had been noting the reviews in the newspapers and blogs; no one seemed to like it much. Still, I clung on to hope. More than one reviewer hadn't liked Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory either, and I had thought that was rather charming and far closer to the spirit of the original book than the 1971 version.

Oh dear. The film looks great, no mistake. The casting is nothing to complain about except for Alice herself; Mia Wasikowska comes across as a paler version of Gwyneth Paltrow --- with less personality. It is rather fun to see Tim Pigott-Smith and Geraldine James (Captain Merrick and Sarah Layton from Jewel in the Crown) as a married titled couple; in this movie, he's a goodie and she's a baddie.

Burton apparently decided to side-step the whole "series of odd happenings" of the books and make a movie about a nearly-grown-up Alice that might just have well been entitled: Alice: Return to Wonderland. It ends up being yet another "innocents against the forces of evil" epic which is what the Alice stories never were. The only references to Lewis Carroll's Alice are flashback scenes with a rather ill-looking six-year-old Alice who inexplicably goes to bed wearing pink lip gloss. Naturally, nineteen-year-old Alice dons armour and fights the Jabberwock herself in a stirring battle scene finale, before returning to the real world, turning down the offer of marriage from the stuck-up prig and embarking upon a life of adventure and commerce. Oh yes, and the Mad Hatter expresses his triumph and Alice her defiance with a techno-dance move....

As I cottoned on that we were in for another mélange of Lord of the Rings/Narnia/The Golden Compass, I soon drifted off. I was awoken by a mother who was one of hostesses of a birthday party of pre-teen girls in our row. She'd been on a popcorn run and needed to softly call to us twice to pass back in to her seat. The Resident Fan Boy and I thought it might not have been obvious that we were snoozing, due to the large 3D glasses, but decided later that our lolling heads and open mouths might have given us away.

Youngest daughter, however, was entranced, so I guess it was worth it.

I'll tell you what I did enjoy, though. There was a very funny column in yesterday's Ottawa Citizen about refusing to get a cell-phone. (Mobiles for you Brits.) I had a wonderful giggle; I don't think I even laughed once during Alice in Wonderland.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Write of Passage Number Ten

I'm sitting rather closer to the front of the bus than usual when a child in a stroller is parked in front of me. (I don't know what the practice is for strollers and wheelchairs on buses in your part of the world, but in Hades, those sitting in the very front sideways seats hastily move back and the seat is flipped up so the stroller or wheelchair can be parked, usually facing the back.)

The child in this stroller is unusual, somehow unbabylike, a large head with a longing, searching face, rather like that woman in the Holman Hunt painting The Awakening Conscience. She earnestly scans the passengers in the bus as if on a religious mission. Suddenly, she breaks into a luminescent smile; someone has acknowledged her. Just as quickly, she's back in questing mode, but someone else gives her a tiny wave, and her face is radiant again. I'm a little farther back, so it takes a while for her to notice me. I'm ready with my grin, so I can claim my dazzling prize too.

She's busy distributing her graces when I get up for my stop. As I reach the back door, I happen to glance back at her. Our eyes meet, and the smile I get this time is a little more hesitant. She slowly lifts her hand and points to the side of her head. After a brief pause, I think I understand, putting my finger on the white iPod bud in my ear. I nod. A brief answering flash of light, and she returns her focus to those continuing the ride. I step down to the sidewalk, and the bus departs.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

What to do if you can't get to Leipzig

Leipzig, Germany is still on Standard Time. We're not. I'm sitting gazing blearily at the computer, adding five hours instead of six to the time, gauging what elder daughter is up to on her band trip. She's just come back from touring Mendelssohn's House and is now preparing to head out to the Leipsig Opera House to see La Traviata. Yeah. My seventeen-year-old daughter. The Sum 41 fan. Do you know where I got to go on my band trips? Williams Lake, that's where.
But you mustn't think that those of us left behind in Hades don't strive after music and culture. Last night, we took younger daughter to the Fifth Annual Show Tune Showdown. We've never been before, but this year they held it at Ottawa Little Theatre which is not far from where we live.

The event is a very successful fundraiser organized by "Tone Cluster" ("Quite a Queer Choir" -- their words, not mine). I entertained some interesting ideas during the evening about how one would join a gay/lesbian/transgendered choir. Would you need to furnish proof? Home videos? Then I read the programme and noticed that straight singers are included in the chorus. Maybe on a "Don't Ask Don't Tell" basis. I jest, of course...

Anyway the place was packed, largely, it seemed, with members of the Resident Fan Boy's church which, as I think I've mentioned, is the only Anglican church I've ever encountered with a Rainbow Section. We arrived in plenty of time and only managed to secure seats in the penultimate row.

The set-up is something like American/Canadian Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria, or any of those other quasi-reality/audition/competition shows that I never watch. There were three teams of two men and two women, each representing a theatre group: Orpheus Musical Theatre Society (founded in 1906), representatives of Sheridan College's Music Theatre - Performance Programme (come all the way from Oakville, Ontario, just outside of Toronto), and the Zucchini Grotto Theatre Company, the one company we'd seen before. Each group had prepared four musical numbers, and had the opportunity to win the chance to perform songs on the spot for extra points.

The on-the-spot performances were, in a way, the most telling. One girl from the Sheridan group flubbed the end of "Tonight" from West Side Story and lost points, a pity because WSS songs are fiendishly difficult to sing and I think she accounted herself darn well. Another guy from the same company managed to diva his way through "Sweet Transvestite" from The Rocky Horror Show and achieved full points by ending in a split, made all the more remarkable by the fact he was a rather large man.

However, I was stunned by the on-the-spot performance of "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" from Pal Joey by Shaun Toohey of the Zucchini Grotto Theatre Company. He got full marks and deserved every one of them.

The judging from the celebrity panel (Pierre Brault, a local actor who is especially well-known for the one-man theatrical pieces he writes and performs; Kathleen Petty, a CBC radio host, and Erica Peck, an impossibly young and quite successful singer and musical actress) was very kind. No one got lower than eight out of ten. And judging these performances would be no cake-walk. Orpheus's team had quite clever stage business and good, but not powerful, voices. Sheridan's group had the voices, but were a very young group still learning how to use their bodies. Zucchini Grotto were the most interesting. They never sang without mikes, and chose to minimize moving about and used no props, instead concentrating on numbers that are challenging and complex: "Rhythm of Life" from Sweet Charity and "What You Don't Know About Women" from City of Angels, for examples. They would have had my vote, but Sheridan, who manage to nab two of the on-the-spot showdowns, got enough bonus points to win.

Younger daughter loved it. The risqué humour sailed over her head, thank goodness ("The Internet is for Porn"? Crikey!), although I'm sure she was amused by the four-letter words flying about. She later called me on it when I swore upon missing the bus. ("Stop using that word, Mom!" Busted.) I think she was particularly enchanted by the audience sing-alongs, especially to "Oom-pah-pah" from Oliver. At home, while waiting for her late-night tub to be drawn, I found her grasping the programme in the living room, swaying and singing softly to herself.

I've found a YouTube video advertising this year's Showdown, but featuring a performance of Zucchini Grotto Theatre at a previous Showdown. This might give you an idea of the atmosphere of the evening and of the quality of singing from Zucchini Grotto. The performers are nearly the same, except this year they were joined by Kris Joseph whom we've seen twice before this season in The Pillowman, and in NAC English Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol. (Gee, that guy is so talented, it's scary.)

The Resident Fan Boy is enthusiastically determined that we should go next year and snapped up a Tone Cluster teeshirt at intermission to add to his collection.
"Now, they'll really think you're gay at church," I teased him. Since I rarely attend, many members assume he's another single gay dad.
"You'll just have to come with me," he said.
"And be your beard?" Luckily, he thought that was very funny. Are they having this much fun in Leipzig? Don't answer that question.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

The mice man cometh

Our neighbour might have mice. No surprises there; eight years ago our neighbours had an infestation which spread over to our side of the semi-detached. The only hints we had at the time were the mouse droppings in the bathroom cabinets and the sole mouse the cat caught --- after the bait had been laid, so no big points for mousing there.

Our neighbour had a man in, who also came over to our side to check the attic. That's the story, really. Except that when he showed up in the driveway, the Resident Fan Boy intoned: "The mice man cometh." I thought that would make a great title. Sorry the post isn't so interesting. How about if I embed a couple of mice-related Monty Python sketches? Better that than going on about Eugene O'Neill, who is way too depressing for March:

Friday, 12 March 2010

Slave to the rhythm

When I first embarked upon NaBloPoMo in February of 2009, I spent a number of posts lamenting the impending loss of the Launchcast service which was, at that time, my main way of exploring and expanding upon my musical tastes. When I next Na-Blo-Po-Moed last September, I was still trying to find an alternative to Launchcast, experimenting with Blip.fm and the digital radio stations available on our television. Shortly after that, the four-and-a-half-hour commute involved in accompanying younger daughter to school soon had me tuning into CBC Radio Two for the home-leg of the morning trip.

It's been this last option that has been the most successful for me so far. Here are two songs that I heard for the first time on Radio Two:Never had a Horchata, but dammit, I want to try one now!

Late last autumn, I found myself grooving to this one while my bus zoomed down the Transitway. No wonder I was getting odd looks:
Just this past week, this strange little song took me by surprise as the #150 pulled up to the bus stop near younger daughter's school:When I got home, I checked the playlists at Radio Two. Blitzen Trapper, I mused. Where have I heard that before? Then I remembered that "Gods and Suicide" was a song I favourited to Blip.fm last September. There's symmetry for ya. The library has the CD, so I've put a hold on it. I'll never be up-to-date, but at least I'm not standing still. Even when every seat is taken...

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Write of Passage Number Nine

Quite early one morning, I'm making a whistle stop at the Rideau Centre on the return leg of the morning's commute between home and younger daughter's school. The women's washroom is ringing with the excited squeals and giggles of a quartet of high school girls who are probably en route to elder daughter's high school which is a fifteen minute walk away. Two girls are fixing their makeup as I slip in between them to wash my hands. An imposing young lady, who is obviously the leader of the pack, is leaning against the wall by the hand-dryers, giving a lengthy and lively narration of the latest scandal. She may be raising her voice for the benefit of the last of her cohorts, who is still in the cubicle, but I rather think this is her accustomed way of talking. She's using high school vernacular of course, lots of "Oh my god"'s and swear words. Every now and then, she pauses in the story: "Teneesha! Are you coming?" Teneesha replies in the affirmative, somewhat muffled but in a healthy volume.

An older woman stalks from the cubicles; she is large and formidable. I have turned from the sink to the hand dryers and so catch her eye. We exchange in what I take to be a sympathetic eye roll, but Formidable Older Lady wants to expound: "It's a shame we have to listen to such filth from these little sluts."

This bombshell has the desired effect. Imposing Young Lady loses no time: "SLUTS??? Are you calling us sluts???
She's even louder than before. She closes in on Formidable Older Lady: "Who are you, callin' us sluts??? You're old and ugly...."

I'm waiting by the hand-dryers, wondering how to escape. The only way out is through No Woman's Land. My problem is solved when Formidable Older Lady lumbers out, hurling a couple more insults over her shoulder. They are unheard in the cacophony of enraged, indignant, thrilled imprecations.

I make for the mall's main thoroughfare, keeping well back of Formidable Older Lady. Behind I hear Teneesha's high and excited voice: "Where is she?" She's evidently finally finished in the cubicle. She comes hurtling out of the washroom into the passageway, then stops a few feet behind me as I turn into the stream of morning commuters.

"Where is she? Where did she go? What did she look like?" She eagerly peers up and down, flushed with excitement.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Oh heck, I can't resist this...

Anyone who spends any amount of time on the internet, but not long enough to keep up with the trends, needs a web site such as Know Your Meme. Not only does the site provide patient explanations of viral videos such as "Keyboard Cat", it also provides definitions of seemingly random expressions that turn up on other people's blogs. For example, I now know what Godwin's Law is.

The following gem is something among KYM's collection of illustrations for the internet concept of "Grammar Nazi". I take particular care not to wade into online batrachomyomachias, and have only been flamed twice: in 2001 and last week. (I don't know if I'll ever summon up the courage to go into detail on the latter, but it did result in Craig Murray's suggesting he might be well-endowed. No, seriously. Although he wasn't. Serious, I mean. I don't think. Oh, never mind. I'm trying to forget the whole embarrassing episode.) However, I have been witness many times to a comment thread spiraling into a fracas of personal insults (always between strangers, ironically enough) and four-letter words. For this reason alone, pressing the "comments" button at CBC.ca is not advisable. It only makes one despair for humanity.

So I should warn you that the following dust-up is full of oaths and cuss-words, if that sort of thing bothers you. It's an actual "discussion" in the comment field of a YouTube video, involving some guy from Switzerland and a gamer from the States, with odd eggings-on from someone of indeterminate nationality. What makes this priceless is that the thread has been dramatized by the team at DrShaym who freely admit that they have stolen this fabulous idea and also apologize for their rendition of a Swiss accent:


I can't say my life has been enriched by these discoveries, but it's a heckuvalotta fun, so I'm passing it on. May your internet interactions be free of trolls.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Love it or loathe it? (Not the Oscar telecast)

As expected, the Oscars were rather predictable with the possible exception of what's being described as a "Kanye moment" between two acceptors of the Oscar for best documentary short film. Other than that, the foreign film I wanted to win (The White Ribbon) didn't. The animated short I least wanted to win did. Pretty well no one won whom I wanted to win, but I was expecting that because there are few surprises at the Academy Awards. I had to be content with enjoying the fact that there were at least three awful evening gowns. (Thank-you, Charlize Theron.)

Of the ten nominated films, one, I would say, falls into the category of "films you either love or hate". I was actually rooting for Up in the Air which of course didn't win a single thing, but A Serious Man is the kind of film that neatly splits commenters at movie sites such as IMDb or Yahoo Movies into "love" or "loathe" camps. I am so glad I saw this film on DVD, because the DVD extras really helped. The film begins with a beautifully filmed, baffling folk tale set somewhere in Eastern Europe where an old man may be (but probably isn't) a dybbuk. (The DVD also contains a useful Yiddish glossary for those of us who are goyim.) An interview with the Coen brothers assures us that this story has nothing to do with the ensuing film. Imagine my relief.

Things only get odder as we enter into a nightmarish week in 1967 for a Jewish professor, where everything goes wrong and he blunders in a haze of bewilderment toward his son's bar mitzvah. Said son, a rather obnoxious boy of thirteen (is there any other kind?) attends the ceremony good and stoned and stumbles his way to the ritual appointment with the mysterious elderly rabbi who now refuses to see anyone but kids who have just been bar-mitzvah'ed. I can't embed the clip, but here 'tis.

I imagine people who hate this film (and there are a fair few) are bothered by the lack of a clear storyline. This is probably the same reason that so many people hate 2003's Elephant, a movie that follows about half a dozen students through the same ten minutes leading up to a Columbine-type school massacre:

It takes a while to realize that with the introduction of each new character (announced by their names appearing on the screen), we move back to about the same point in time. The camera falls in behind, and follows each student as he or she move through the endless halls of an American high school. (I remember the shock of traveling in the States when I was a teenager and seeing how enormous the high schools are there. They call them "campuses", like universities.) It's only when we meet the young shooters that we drop further back in time to see their strange detached manner while they plan to murder their peers. What's even more disturbing is that their detachment matches that of their future victims who move through the few minutes they have remaining of their lives with little genuine interaction with each other. I understand much of the dialogue was improvised, which may add to the isolation.

I watched this for the first time in the company of elder daughter who was still in elementary school at the time. This didn't do much to ease her jitters about high school, although I assured her that although this may reflect the atmosphere of a typical high school in the United States (and anyone with an experience of this may correct me if I'm wrong), it bears little resemblance to the Canadian high school experience, at least as I remember it. Now that she's about to graduate, I should ask her if I was right...

Other love-it-or-hate-it films? I see a great divergence of opinion about Happy-Go-Lucky, a film about which I blogged a little over a year ago. This was a charming (I thought) albeit rather plotless film following a few weeks in the life of an optimist. What makes this character interesting is that her cheerfulness can veer from charming to grating. Maybe this clip will give you an idea. (Warning - if you're expecting a sexy scene here, you'll be disappointed):
As I recall, Poppy's back problem is a very small episode in the movie, and we never see her physiotherapist again. The whole movie's kinda like that. I loved it.

A movie I didn't love was Moulin Rouge which I think may be the perfect example of a film you either love or hate. It irritated the blazes out of me, yet I know plenty of pleasant and perfectly intelligent people who adore this flick.

What do you think? Is there a movie you love that others can't stand? Or vice versa?

Monday, 8 March 2010

The last day of winter

A very wise old woman was fond of saying to me: "March has the first day of spring...but it doesn't have the last day of winter." And I do know better, as we move into the dying days (possibly weeks or months) of our tenth winter in Hades, strange El Nino season which saw rather a lot of our usual snow being sidetracked south and dumped on unsuspecting American cities. You can talk all you like about spring in Ottawa, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it affair in the best of times, but only deluded fools put out their bedding plants before the Victoria Day weekend in late May. You never know when a hibernal whim will dump snow in June. It's happened.Still, the Resident Fan Boy came home from church waxing lyrically about the beauty of the day, and as I was planning to gorge myself on tortilla chips while watching the Oscars, I decided to head out myself.

And by Ottawa standards, it was quite a lovely day. For March. I saw the hallmarks of pre-spring in this part of the world. The neighbourhood is lopsided. Yards on the north and east sides of the street are nearly snow-free, or sporting large, slug-shaped lumps of snow. The lawns on the south and west street-sides are still in winter's grip, as yet out of reach of the sun's lengthening rays. The filthy, grey mounds retreat to reveal lawn ornaments at odd angles, litter, and piles of doggy-do.But down by the Rideau River, streams of greenish water seem to flow against the current, as long gashes appear in the treacherous ice. (We seem to have had more than our usual falling-through-the-ice-and drownings out on the Ottawa River. Usually it's someone on a skidoo, but late month, two people had fatal accidents while driving trucks over the frozen river. Both were long-time residents who have been driving over the ice for years, but this year's ice was thinner and melted much sooner.)So I picked my way gingerly along the pathway on the bank, defiantly wearing street-shoes on the agar-like slush. A jogger, similarly-shod, loped past me with nary a slip.As I searched for somewhere less sloppy to stroll, I saw a young girl ahead, at the crest of the hill that leads down from the playground. She had a saucer slider and was taking advantage of what has to be the last weekend that any sort of tobogganing is possible. In fact, the Resident Fan Boy and I noticed less of a crowding in the buses and museums this weekend, possibly because many families are seizing the final opportunity to head for the ski-slopes.

Is it really the last winter weekend? Do I dare put the snow-boots and parkas in storage?Naaaah. Victoria Day is only, what, eleven weeks away?

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Write of Passage Number Eight

She's about four or five, fly-away fine blond hair, dressed in a pink snowsuit and black boots. Maybe that's why she's restless; it's a relatively warm day for early March here in Hades and there's no snow on the sidewalks. She keeps climbing on to the bus seat and trying to stand up. Her mother, in increasing exasperation, hauls her down and threatens to take her to the front seats, "where the babies go". The little girl is undaunted, talking non-stop as her mother holds firmly on to her with one hand and checks her cell phone with the other. Big brother is in the very back, keeping his distance and dignity at age six or so, pretending not to be with them. (I remember doing the same while traveling with my mother and sister, staring fixedly out the window and cringing in embarrassment.)

A young man moves from his seat further front and sits across from us. He's wearing a red clown nose and a GG mustache grows from the corners of his mouth. There are juggling balls almost spilling from the pocket of his old fashioned patterned coat and a half-eaten banana in his hand. I'd seen him juggling at our bus stop, but we were busy talking with our neighbour and I'd barely noticed him. The little girl stops fidgeting and leans forward in interest:

"Are you a clown?"
GG Mustache puts his hand to his ear and says gently with just a touch of a Québecois accent, "I can only hear you if you talk in a soft voice."
The little girl leans further forward and asks quietly: "Are you a clown?"
"I don't know. Do I look like one?"
"You've got a red nose. Is your real nose behind it?"
"Do you know anyone with two noses? How would I blow them both? Would you like to borrow one of my juggling balls?"

She takes it and fingers it absent-mindedly, still intent on his nose. She's careful to keep her voice low. The mischievous, self-absorbed smile is replaced with a genuine engaged expression and she is relaxed. She's grown up two years, right in front of our eyes: "I think your real nose is behind the red nose."
"Do you think so?"
"Can I see your real nose?"
"Well, I don't know about that..."
The girl's mother is preparing to get up, and the little girl passes the juggling ball back before he can ask for it.
"What do you say?" prompts the mum.
The little girl looks a little confused, then breathes "Thank-you," as big brother, still holding himself aloof, follows his family off the bus.
Monsieur GG Mustache has quickly slid his hand across his face. When she looks back to see him smiling goodbye under his real nose, she glows and waves.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Yet another blogger nattering on about the Oscars...

This will have to be quick, as elder daughter will soon rouse herself from her Saturday slumber and turf me off the computer, supposedly for scholarly reasons...

I should mention, in case it has passed unnoticed, that I am participating in my third NaBloPoMo. After accepting its challenge to blog every day of the months of February and September 2009, I am tackling my longest month to date. Wish me luck.

We are already plotting the purchase of fatty snack foods to accompany our viewing of the 82nd Academy Awards. Okay, let's face it; the Oscars get less surprising each year -- we don't even get the delicious fashion disasters of old because all the stars consult with experts beforehand.

Yet, each year, I feel somehow compelled to view a least some of the nominees. I think it helps me to judge the appropriate moment to hurl said fatty snacks at the screen when a less worthy candidate gets handed the gold naked guy.

In brief, Sandra Bullock will win for best actress. This is because, for all the hyperbole, these awards are like a high school popularity contest and everybody likes her. For the record, I think Meryl Streep should win, based unscientifically and unfairly on the three Best Actress performances I've actually seen (also saw Carey Milligan in An Education and Helen Mirren in The Last Station). I managed to see Streep in Julie and Julia, and she was bloody amazing. Yes, I know she gets nominated nearly every year, but I think she's only actually won once.

Jeff Bridges will win for best actor. Again, I've managed to see two of the performances in this category, that of Colin Firth in A Single Man, and George Clooney in Up in the Air . Clooney was very good (as basically himself, as far as I can tell) and Firth, damn it, should get it. He won't.

The Academy, in its desire to reel in more television viewers and commercial revenue, has nominated 10 films this year, including some more popular ones. I have seen four of them, and have no desire whatsoever to see the rest: An Education is well-made, but not particularly memorable; A Serious Man is memorable and as weird as all blazes (in a good way); Up is an instant classic and should win the Animated Film category (a category in which, of course, given younger daughter, we have seen four out the five nominations). The film I keep thinking about and which I'd really like to win is Up in the Air: strong performances, strong writing. It won't. It's a head-to-head between The Hurt Locker and (gawd help us) Avatar.

I've managed to see one blessed Foreign Film nomination this year (which is one better than last year). If The White Ribbon wins, however, I'll be mightily pleased. It was remarkable, and another film that haunted me for a long time after viewing.

For me, the most exciting category this year will be Best Animated Short Film. This is because (sound the trumpets) I have actually seen all five nominations! Younger and I saw A Matter of Loaf and Death (the latest Wallace and Gromit outing) last autumn at the Ottawa Animation Festival, and The Flick Filosopher (gawd love 'er) has posted links to the other four nominees at her always controversial and entertaining blog. Hurry on over there and have a look. We adore and worship Wallace and Gromit at this house, but I'm rooting for Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty, a twisted offering from Ireland which combines beautifully detailed computer animation with more traditional animation. The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte) (from Spain) will probably win; it's produced by Antonio Banderas, for gawd's sake, and as I've said, Oscar Night is nothing if not a popularity contest. (Actually, I'm fine with La Dame winning, too; it's very well done.)

Gotta go; our Norton Update is acting up -- it may be time for our weekly computer virus attack...

Friday, 5 March 2010

You know, this doesn't help my invisibility issues at all....

The Resident Fan Boy asked me to meet him for lunch today. He says it's somewhat of a feather in one's cap to meet one's spouse for lunch. I assume this is because this is a rare occurrence in Ottawa, where one's spouse is, no doubt, busy drafting motions, or making presentations. Not his spouse, of course, which is why I'd be free.

He suggested a new eatery in the Byward Market where we could feast on entrées served on tiny plates, and drink free-trade coffees with our "creamsicle crèmes brulées". So, at the appointed time, I arrived at his building which, being a government institution, has heavy security. I phoned up to his office, was greeted joyfully, and took my seat in the recess by the door, waiting for him to come down from his office.

In record time, he appeared and approached the security guards, waving a bank card which he'd found on the floor of the cafeteria that morning. An attractive blond lady came through the door, and he smiled at her in a startled way and handed her the card. As I rose to put on my coat, she turned and walked out the door, and my husband fell into step with her chatting genially. I stood and watched as the blond headed left toward Rideau Street and my husband strode off down Sussex Drive.

It'll come to him, I thought. I wonder how long it will take?

Thursday, 4 March 2010

It's Don Knotts!

Some time ago, I posted some of my favourite literal videos. Of course, there are many more delights available at YouTube. Today I would like to draw your attention to some "misheard lyrics" videos. I trust we've all heard of mondegreens? My personal favourite comes from the Deep Purple classic "Smoke on the Water": Slow talkin' Walter, the fire engine guy... About fifteen years ago, a group in Victoria did an entire song based on this mondegreen. It was an enormous improvement over the original lyrics, but I suspect Deep Purple didn't think so (or, more likely, their record company or music publishers). I've searched the internet high and low, to no avail.

However, I can offer you some of my favourite YouTube "misheard lyrics". These, like literal videos, are very, very difficult to do well. The granddaddy of them all (or so I surmise, as she's been heavily and inadequately copied) is Kewen's take on Wish Master by Nightwish. I'd never heard of this song, which isn't to my tastes, but this video is so good-naturedly funny that knowledge of the song or group isn't necessary. I haul this one out on my worse days. It invariably makes me feel better:

Next, a song I know very well, so maybe you won't find this as funny. Here's Wreznor's take on Mott the Hoople's version of David Bowie's All the Dudes:

The last two I first viewed at Rob Saunder's Eine Kleine Nichtmusik. When Rob isn't battling injustice, he's posting loopy videos. This one is a mishearing of O Fortuna from Carmina Burana. I'm rather sorry that my late father-in-law couldn't have seen this. He belonged to the Victoria Choral Society and complained at length about having to sing Carmina Burana every other year. Although, as a rather Edwardian Anglican clergyman, he might have taken issue with some of the references:
And he definitely wouldn't have appreciated this little number, which reeled me in as a regular reader of Rob's blog:However,the Resident Fan Boy, being a Preacher's Kid of the "Gladly the Cross-eyed Bear" variety, enjoyed this immensely.

Hope you enjoy these. If you're having trouble, you could, uh, Google You-Tube...

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Bullying = Humour?

A few months ago, an item appeared on the BBC News web site that gave me a start. It contained a quote from comedy writer Armando Iannucci, a response, in part, to the crackdown at BBC after Russell Brand's and Jonathan Ross's ill-advised prank phone call to Andrew Sachs: Jokes aren't true - they're lies, they're exaggerations, they're distortion, they're imbalance, they're having a go, they're bullying, they're insulting.

My startled reaction was to the notion that in order for something to be funny, there needs to be an element of bullying in it. Is this a British thing? I like British humour and I know it isn't all unkind, but it seems to me that British talk-shows, for example, take guest-baiting to surreal heights.

Or is this because I'm Canadian? Being an iPod neophyte, I am only just getting used to the wonderful world of podcasts. Naturally, one of my first subscriptions was to Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe. The very first podcast featured McLean waxing lyrically (as he does) on the subject of Stephen Leacock. McLean tells us: "In his prime, more people had heard of Stephen Leacock than had heard of Canada." He adds: "Affection and kindness were the cornerstones of Leacock's house of humour." At least I think that's what he added; I'm quoting from memory. The gist of the argument anyway, was that Leacock's humour was never biting, and that the humour of Mark Twain and EB White share similar qualities. (Actually, I'm not sure I agree with him about Twain.) I would add Bill Cosby, Ellen DeGeneres, and perhaps even Nichols and May to the list of comedians and comic writers who can poke fun without drawing blood.

Interestingly enough, none of these humourists seem to need four-letter words to be funny. I was almost as perplexed as I was about the BBC item when a comedian (I think it may have been Chris Rock) declared not long ago that you need swearing to be funny. Now, granted, there's nothing as unfunny as trying to figure out what is funny, but humour is based on an element of surprise, and a lot of stand-up comics today depend on the rapidly diminishing shock of profanity for a laugh. I would hesitantly suggest that if you need the swear words to make people laugh, uh, maybe you aren't that funny?

That said, I do laugh at potty-mouthed comedians, and I have giggled at the more bullying aspects of British humour. However, I don't laugh as hard as I do at say, the Marx Brothers or Steve Wright. I'm just saying that cruelty and swearing are not a vital part of humour, and it is possible to be witty and even hilarious, without a lingering aftertaste of sheepishness. Or is that just me?