Friday, March 27, 2009

TV habit

So I finally jumped on the streaming TV thing and have been watching Nip/Tuck season 5 (or I was, until I ran out of sites streaming to Canada) and The Middleman.
The best moment of Nip/Tuck was in Dawn Budge II. I love Dawn Budge (played by Rosie O'Donnell) but the sight of her hang gliding to the soundtrack of Peter Bjorn & John's Young Folks was too much. I plotzed.
On the other hand, I don't like that it looks like Sean is going to get sucked in by his ex-wife's lesbian lover's teenaged sociopath. Predictable, much, Nip/Tuck?

As for The Middleman, it is awesome, way too awesome for ABC Family. I can understand how they didn't know what to do with this. In one episode, they use the expression drama vampire (for a friend who wants to wallow in your personal drama) and then one of the characters says Lord Love a Duck while another says, "Yippee kay yay BLEEEEEP."
It is madness. Where is season two? For that matter, why aren't they just making this continuously so I can watch it every week?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

If teenage girls were all like Bella Swan, it would be 1708.

Or, Why I won't be letting my daughter read Twilight at 13.

I read the Twilight books. I actually read the first two before books three and four were even out. I was ahead of the curve on this one, since my husband's high school students gave him the heads up. So, as a favour to him, I read the books, which he duly stocked in his classroom. At least, he did the first two.
He may add the third to the collection. He will likely never add the fourth.
It's not just the sex (and if that was a spoiler for you, tough). It's the attitude towards sex.
That Stephanie Meyer treated sex as something that happens after marriage in the first two books was something cute and sweet. That sex (and marriage) becomes entangled in ideas of predestination, fate and inevitability, rather than just love, is a problem for me.
Take, for instance, the werewolves and their imprinting. The werewolf meets the right mate and the two fall in love, no matter what. Meyer, early on, in an unimportant character, introduces the idea that a werewolf, who will age slowly because of the change, will imprint on a baby, if that baby is the right person, and will duly maintain a protective, rather than romantic or sexual, relationship with the child until the child is of age.
There's something so sick wrapped in that harmless idea, that someone will love you your whole life, acting as an uncle or a close family friend might, and then taking that relationship somewhere else. Is it Mormon idea? I don't know. But I do know that I don't like it. I don't like the idea that girls will read this and think it's okay to try to cultivate a romantic relationship with an adult close to their family. Adults attempting inappropriately romantic relationship with family friend's children are abusers.
It's not my only issue, but Jacob imprinting on newborn (though growing fast) Renesmee, the vampire-human hybrid, is a definite problem for me.
Another problem is that Bella gets married and throws herself completely into her relationship with Edward, to the exclusion of our family and friends. Yes, it's because she's a vampire, but is that really an example we want our own teenage girls to have. This heady, romantic, sexual relationship, as typical in intensity as any first love/lust, is treated as something that can be taken as an excuse to escape, to become someone new. Putting all ones eggs in a basket - and the wrong basket at that. High school graduation does not make one an adult, and going to college is not a light experience that one can commit to half-heartedly.
In the end, I hate the be-all-and-end-all Meyer gives married life for Bella. It changes everything for her in irrepairable ways.
At least she hit that nail on the head.

This comic by Lucy Knisley sums up the ridiculousness of the books nicely. They are a black hole that sucks you in and it's nigh impossible to think critically of them while caught in their thrall. After, it's much easier to see that they have all the substance and nutritional value of a bag of chips, with the same quality that lures you to keep eating, without thinking.

Friday, March 20, 2009

If you're such a poet, twist your tongue and show it

I took a class at Dalhousie University in Creative Writing from Andrew Wainwright. Dr. Wainwright was a published poet and novelist, as well as a scholar of literature, particularly Canadian Literature. I'd already taken his CanLit class (and was thankful for the introduction to Tomson Highway's Kiss of the Fur Queen, one of my favourite books). One day, at the beginning of class, he pulled out the Globe and Mail's Review. It was probably a Monday since that's a Saturday edition thing. Anyway, on the cover was Coke Machine Glow, the recently published book of poems by The Tragically Hip's Gord Downie.
"To get on the cover of the Review as a poet, you have to be a rockstar. What does that say about culture in Canada?" Wainwright said.
I have never forgotten, ever, that I will never make the front page of a newspaper as a poet, unless I get to be a rockstar first.

By the way, I read Coke Machine Glow. It's okay. Downie writes better song lyrics. The poems come across as B-roll, stuff not good enough to make a song.

All that to get at this: I have a list of influential people in my life. I don't usually list it off, or make a big deal out of it. At the same time, I know who they are. Some of them know (or knew) who they are.
In the past year, two of them have died. Wainwright, as far as I know, is not one of them, though he did influence me quite a bit.
The first one to die was Malcolm Stone, the copyeditor at the paper where I worked when I was 21. Malcolm was the dirtiest old hipster you ever saw. He lived in a farmhouse, had no running water and made his living teaching bridge and correcting the grammar and spelling of his local community paper.
He was, in a way, my hero. He was a connoisseur of French fries, a lover of canned goods, and a gourmand in all the best ways. His New Yorker was a pleasure to be savoured, as was his weekly Wednesday copy of the New York Times (purchased solely for the food section). He loved to write headlines influenced by song lyrics.
I didn't know what to make of him at first, but once I got past the cigarette aura, I admired him. He was the ultimate freespirit.
I excelled at copyediting and I knew it was, in part, because I had been under the tutelage of a man who carried around a battered copy of the American Heritage dictionnary.

This week, my former boss died. A heart attack felled him in his office Monday morning. It would have been sunny, I think, and he may have just watered his plants. He would have already had his coffee. He always had his coffee ready first.
That's the one thing he and Malcolm had in common - they both liked coffee and drank more than I could ever manage.
Bernie hired me, with no real "finance" experience to be his assistant. I think it was because I claimed to know databases. I did know databases - it had just been a long time since I'd played around with one.
Bernie would give me a task and let me do it. I would come back and ask questions, but I normally figured it out. If I got frustrated (as I did when it came time to making the blank budget files work), he'd just ask me a couple of questions and send me back to work on it. I did get it eventually, and I felt good about what I had managed to do.
I felt like I could have been an accountant if I'd wanted, which is something for a girl who wanted nothing more than to be a journalist. See, I already had the word thing down pat.
Bernie's best quality, his most influential quality, was making you feel like you could do something if you put your mind to it. He treated everyone as capable. Some people said you had to go with a fully formulated plan of action, and it was true. If something needed to be done, you needed to know what. But once you knew what it was, Bernie was willing to let you figure out how to get there.
He was my boss at a time when I didn't know what I wanted to do, and I wish I could have kept working for him.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Review: American Widow

American Widow American Widow by Alissa Torres

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This opened my eyes a little about the American Red Cross's role in providing relief to the families of those killed by 9/11. I thought Katrina's rigamorole was bad enough, but I heard little about this.

I often wonder, as a Canadian Red Cross volunteer, how effective we can be. The little bit we get from Alissa Torres's story doesn't lend me much hope.

View all my reviews.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Reasons I want to visit Japan

1. A day in Yoyogi Park (video is Peter, Bjorn & John's "Nothing to Worry About")
2. Ghibli Museum
3. Enlightenment Guaranteed (I so don't want to get lost, as these tourists do, but I am interested in learning about Zen and visiting a monastery)
And that's pretty much it. There are other things that don't appeal to me about going to Japan (the expense, how crowded the major centres are, the language barrier), but it's a pipe dream. It used to be New Zealand. Now I want to experience something really wild. I already went to Vegas. Now I want Japan.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Vaccines are better not stronger

I am still a little miffed I didn't correct that mother at Babies in the Library. She claimed vaccines are "so much stronger" these days.
The signs at Public Health, where I have to go for vaccines, beg to differ. They give the example of more efficient vaccines, improved by technology and a better understanding of how vaccines work. For instance, the diptheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine today has 34 "germs" in it. The one I received in 1980 had 3017.
Obviously, I turned out okay.
The little dude just woke up from his post-shots nap. We'll see how he's doing. At worst, I expect a little bit of the cranky, with a touch of a fever. Oh, and a skin reaction on his leg, but that's his eczema at work. Will I be running to the doctor to complain about how my child's protection from diseases that could maim or kill him gave him a fever?
What kind of mother do you think I am?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Review: Pierre Jean Jase, Sherbrooke, QC

On our trip to our former city of residence, and Bill's hometown, we headed out for burgers at Pierre Jean Jase (rue Montreal, Sherbrooke, QC). The restaurant was a semi-regular haunt while we lived in Sherbrooke. The menu is simple in the evening, with pizzas and some homey dishes regularly on the menu, and Tuesday to Friday nights, burgers and European hotdogs (sausages, really). We always get burgers. I always get the Montreal (the burgers and hotdogs are named for the streets surrounding the restaurant): veal burger with goat cheese and tomato. The Moore (beef with onions and mushrooms) is also popular among our friends. They also have a tofu option and a lamb option, with variations of toppings from brie to sundried tomatoes. All the burgers are served, en assiette with either salad, fries or a bit of both. The handcut shoestring fries come with mayonnaise. There are four options, but get the tarragon (estragon) for it is garlicky and delicious.
The reason I keep coming back to the Montreal is the way the creamy goat cheese, which has that almost musty flavour, blends with fresh tomatoes and the homemade mayo, which features lemon (or some other citrus - I never stop eating long enough to thoroughly investigate) peel.
Bill had the special on this visit - beef burger with apple and brie. Yummy. The special often comes with a draft beer (they have Boreale Rousse on tap) for a set price. This time, the tap was down so we had bottles of Boreale. Bill picked for the Blanche (peppery and refreshing) and I had the Cuivree. The Cuivree is a strong malt-based beer and, what I didn't down before my burger arrived was perfect with the citrus flavours of the mayo on my burger.
Pierre Jean Jase is a perfect cozy neighbourhood resto, great for a quiet dinner out or a weekend brunch. The brunch menu includes frittata, omelettes and French toast.

A review (in French) of Pierre Jean Jase.