Archive for May, 2006|Monthly archive page

What a girl can do in a skirt

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

I went to visit my sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew (and dogs) today. For some reason, when getting dressed this morning, I was in a skirt mood, so I put on my new kicky denim skirt and my 3″ wedge shoes.

Did I mention I was going to see my niece and nephew, 6 and 4 AND A HALF (very important)?

Things I can do in a skirt, and heels:

  1. Build a sand cake.
  2. Build a sand castle and destroy it.
  3. Tunnel through an underbrush jungle while chasing a faerie and looking for Larry, the fire-breathing dragon.
  4. Jump a swamp, create a bridge over the moat using magic words, dive under tree and sneak into Larry’s Lair.
  5. Negotiate croc-infested waters.
  6. Climb a jungle-gym.
  7. Hide two magic sticks behind a rock in Larry’s Lair when he wasn’t looking.
  8. Carry someone on my shoulders for a short distance.
  9. Pick out the best loaf of bread in the store.

I should dress up all of the time!

In the beginning was the Word

Friday, May 26th, 2006

Books are humanity in print. – Barbara W. Tuchman
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. – Francis Bacon
The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world’s own shame. – Oscar Wilde

I understood. I need to write. Live here, in my words, and in my head. I need to go inside, that’s all. No big, complicated, difficult thing. I just need to go in reverse. – Augusten Burroughs

It is a truth that books are humanity and make us different humans. I can’t remember when I couldn’t read, though I suppose there must have been a time when the runes on the page seems mysterious to me. But more than any person, they have been the primary influence on my life.

Growing up in a smallish city and with not much, I knew two things: I loved to read, and I was going to university. These were absolute facts and it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be able to go to university. Of course, I look back now (and 4 or 5 degrees later) and wonder at the sheer will of that statement. We didn’t have the money. Most of my friends and family hadn’t gone further than high school and never would. I had no access to that “greater world”, though I remember thinking that some of my teachers were absolutely larger than life – smarter, richer, more cosmopolitan, and I so wanted to be like that.

And it was those very teachers who gave me my ticket: a libary card. Full kudos to my parents who understood grace and class without ever having the pedigree to back them up. We grew up with a sense of register, and of conduct, and a healthy curiosity. But the books! The books gave me people of all kinds, and geographies, and beautiful houses, and sad houses, and happy ones. Images, metephors, wit, tragedy, ways of dealing with the world. That’s why when I meet people in the world, regardless of their station or nature, I have a place where I can understand them (or at least get a good conversation going).

Books gave me the walk and the talk and the brain. Scholarships gave me the means.

Where the Wild Things Are, Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew – not much one thinks, but early on I knew that one could use logic to deal with any situation, and that adults aren’t smarter, just older. And that woman would always be cast as the victim, but that they don’t have to accept it.

Jane Eyre. I can still see myself sitting on the floor in our living room against the chimney wall where I could feel the heat on my back. Oh, how I identified with the young Jane, and the terror she felt at the hands of her family, and the passions that she hid because she wanted to be good. She was 10. I was 9. Bertha? I *so* got her. I envisioned her sexuality and knew that this character was an expression of suppression, of a contained woman. Yeah. In grade 4. My teacher at the time, Mr Piccarillo, asked me intelligent questions and then quietly phoned home to make sure my parents knew what I was reading.

Like a note struck strong, my own understanding of my sexuality would resonate with these themes from time to time. Contained passion. Good girls and bad. Caretakers and lovers. Wives and mistresses. I have found my own path, but my inner voice sometimes has the ring of a 19th Century girl about it. I still read Jane Eyre every few years.

The Little Drummer Girl. Spy novel – yes. But really the narrative of a woman who chooses (or is manipulated) to enter the grey areas of the world. To see love and beauty in terrorism. To see hatred and prejudice in the “good guys”, and to love another person who cannot leave the grey in the end. This book and many others like it gave me the worldliness I so wanted to have. Gave me voice and understanding in politics. And made geopolitical a word about humanity.

And I’m still a sucker for conviction.

The Idea of Order at Key West. A poem.
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion
Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry…

Wallace Stevens. TS Eliot. Bronwen Wallace. Leonard Cohen. Al Purdy. STC. These people rocked my world. Changed my ears and my eyes. Sent me to metaphor and made me see things I’d otherwise not see. Made me want to be a different, better, less solipsistic person.

Fall On Your Knees Embodied love. Wrong love. Love as hurt and transgression and fear. Shame and humanity and poetry and much more. A book you can see.

And, oh! The first time I read Don DeLillo. Or my beloved Tom Robbins. Or Oscar Wilde. Or George Eliot. The rest of the Brontes. Timothy Findley. Shyam Selvaderai. Michael Ondaatje. Joy. Wit. Piercing judgement. Sex. Gender. Passion. Sublimation. Countries. Cities. Trangression. Understanding. Patience. Nobility. Grace. And all in the nook of my choosing.

Words that are in the fabric of me.

Pass ME the ammunition

Friday, May 26th, 2006

Recent Salon Cary column.

I am a cranky bastard, yearning for peace and enlightenment.

Later, I will meditate.

My car is in my driveway!

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

For the first time in over a month. With rain on the way, I could wake up to a sinkhole where the back tires should be, but…

Went to the grocery store and purchased as many heavy things as one woman might need, for the sheer joy of *not* hauling it from a block or so away.

Email IS intentional communication

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

which is why I’m flabberghasted by the inappropriate, incomplete and sometimes incoherent nature of the email I receive. And if I catch one of my team sending one out like that, there’s usually holy hell to pay.

I’m not talking about the hundreds of missives I send and receive every day that are a single topic or a response to a question, or a link to the latest Dilbert. I’m talking about the email where you want someone to do something, or to start a project, or to think differently about something.

Have a goal for the email, please.

Know your audience.

Craft the damn thing. EDIT it.

Read it out loud.

Be careful of pronouns and make damn sure it’s very clear what the referent is for each one.

Use subtitles and bullets – you know how to do this in a report, so what’s with the rambling paragraphs, or ee cummings prose you end up writing?

Save it. Read it after a bit of time. Edit it again. Then, send it.

Believe in email karma. What you send out into the world? Make sure you want it back in kind…

Knights, chocolate, art, rings, sea monkeys, books and tea

Sunday, May 21st, 2006

May 2-4 Weekend in Canada is the start of summer. Things you should know:

  • it is actually the weekend closest before the 24th, but we call it “May 2-4″ anyway
  • the “2-4″ moniker goes nicely with another Canadian fav: a 2-4 of beer (a standard for the number of beer one might purchase in a case)
  • if you are worried about these things, you are now officially free to wear white shoes/white pants. Please wear appropriate undergarments.
  • the real holiday name is “Victoria Day”, because Canada celebrates the dead prude’s birthday, even though Britain does not – there’s a whole thing about Canadians liking their long weekends
  • this one, or at least today, was COLD, WINDY AND WET, and entirely un-summer-like.

What better day to take a drive to Stratford and walk around downtown. On a good day, it’s a lovely little town and the world-famous Stratford Festival ensures that the shops and restaurants are varied and quirky. [Statford Festival. Colm Feore. All kinds of yummy. Look him up.]

Today was *not* a good day, in that I was wearing gloves and a scarf and carrying an umbrella and all of it was necessary. Plus, since no plays run on Sunday, many of the stores were closed.

Nevertheless, Melle and I managed to find more than enough to peruse, digest and otherwise appreciate. We even purchased matching rings! [Though, to the best of my knowledge, we are not engaged.]

A soldier dies in battle

Sunday, May 21st, 2006

Troops from Canada get SOS calls from a town in Afghanistan that as many as several hundred Taliban are in their area.

A multinational force moves into the area with artillery and air back-up. Fighting begins and it’s fierce. Near the front line, a Captain is standing up to view the field outside the hatch of an armoured personnel carrier, barking orders and coordinates into the headset.

It’s hot, and everything is moving fast, and the Captain feels the adrenaline of the fight, the fear of making the wrong decision, the power of knowing that calling the right coordinates, based on experience in the field, can win the day.

But then a rocket comes. Perhaps the Captain hears it. Perhaps not. And then there is noise and smoke and blood and perhaps a proverbial minute to account for one’s life and miss one’s spouse and dogs. Maybe the Captain never had that minute. A life gone in battle, and therefore a hero (as we define it). Regardless of what one thinks about war, for sure a tragedy.

Captain ‘loved her job,’ grieving husband says
She wanted to be known for doing task well not as female officer or ‘a first of anything’
.

Particularly not the first Canadian woman to die in combat duty since WWII.

Get a (soundproof) room

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

I’ll admit to the guilty pleasure of a less-than-respectful hip-hop song on the way to work. Hell, I *may* have sung along to Just a Lil Bit from 50 once or twice.

It’s evil amazing that one can sing just about anything (degrading a woman, crying on the streets, pining for a stripper…) and the snappy tune lulls the logic braincells into submission and you keep boppin’ anyway.

But have you HEARD this thing from LL Cool J featuring media ho J Lo?? By the time they get to the “zezezezeze” part (wtf?), I’m about ready to drive off the road and rip out my radio.

Read (don’t sing) it for yourself: Control Myself.

Chicken Samba

Thursday, May 18th, 2006

fills my tummy. makes me happy. is very hot. clears my head. goes well with saffron rice.

yeah. Chicken Samba.

What I said…

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

I was thinking about how strange and complicated English is. I pity people trying to learn it.

Case in Point: hot v cool

a) That’s a hot outfit.

b) That’s a cool outfit.

What’s the difference? Sure, a hot outfit is probably more sexy than a cool outfit, but not always so. And a cool outfit is probably more situation/event-appropriate than a hot outfit, but not always so. Either way, they’re both roughly “good”.

I can even say “hotsexycool” and you’ll know what I mean – but imagine the poor ESL person.

Case in Point: no v yes

a) My baby loves me and that ain’t no lie. No, no, no…

b) My baby loves me and that ain’t no lie. Yeah, yeah, yeah…

So, whatever, my baby loves me. But how is it that I can emphasize using no or yes (or yeah – so more complicated, cuz then one has to figure out when “yes” and when “yeah”)? Nitty-gritty, the former emphasizes the second coordinate clause, and the latter emphasizes the first. Either way, my baby loves me.

Case in Point: all those crazy nouns and verbs
You know the ones. Rather than take advantage of the absolute bevy of precise and colourful verbs, we’ve seen fit to take a few easy ones and make them mean multiple actions.

a) goes: He goes to school. He goes, “My baby loves me.” He’s not sure where the fork goes. 20% of that goes to charity. Their hatred goes back to kindergarten. [There's a sense of movement or placement in all of these, but still. Aren't we better than this?]

b) drives: She drives a car every day. That song drives me crazy. She drives home her point. She drives the freeway every day. [Seriously, I can drive a car AND a freeway? Am I using the car to drive home the point?]

c) gets: He gets three meals a day. He gets me, you know? He gets drunk every Friday. He gets groceries at the local supermarket. He gets home at 6pm most nights. [Bad verb that implies passive agency sometimes, and active agency at others.]

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Don’t get me started on our love of making nouns of verbs and verbs of nouns. Or words that are both a verb and a noun. Or biztalk [egad].