Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cate Blanchett in Vanity Fair

Cate Blanchett has another Vanity Fair cover coming out, and it's spectacular.

My friend told me earlier tonight that I should go see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. She said it was very sad, which made me hesitate, but then she said that the sets and costumes for 1930s and '40s New York were breathtaking, and that Cate Blanchett is in a scene in a red dress that I must see - and that pretty much made up my mind.

I do intend to see Waltz with Bashir too, so maybe if I get any writing done tonight/tomorrow, I'll reward myself with both movies. Positive reinforcements all the way!

In other news, it's a good thing that clementine season coincides with the chocolate holiday season, or my Ferrero Rocher diet would have resulted in scurvy already.

Childhood Fears

When we moved to Canada, I was in short order introduced to many new and strange and often wonderful things that I had not had as a pre-schooler in Israel. While I never felt that I lacked anything as a child, there were things my friends had that differed from what I had at home. New to me were the Easy-Bake Oven, boxes overflowing with Barbie clothes, an entire shelf of only Dr. Seuss books with matching book-ends, and lastly, the item that will continue to haunt me in my declining years, a Mini Pops record.

For those of you blissfully unaware of the words "Mini Pop" till now, Zoe Hart, a former Mini-Popper herself, explains the Mini Pops.

I don't know if we had the actual show here in Canada, but I do remember terrifying commercials for the records. A childhood friend had one of these records and I remember my discomfort listening to songs like this mutilated Abba Medley. Supe-per-Troop-pe-per. I think that's the exact record my friend had too. I wonder if that records explains my deep loathing for medleys.

Medleys are like Jell-O salads, aren't they? A bunch of things that are decent on their own, but really awful when forced together (i.e. lime jello, berries, cream, marshmallows).

Anyhow, if you hate child pageants, lipstick on underage girls, and songs by Alvin and the Chipmunks, Mini Pops will give you nightmares too. (That's why I thought the whole VF-Miley Cyrus brouhaha was so ridic; she'd been wearing heels and lipstick for way too long already and no one got all righteous about that.)

And if you think I'm employing hyperbole for dramatic effect, you obviously haven't checked the links yet. I really did have nightmares: a blonde 8-year-old Mini Popper threatened to "get me" if I spoke to her boyfriend. I was afraid. You'd have been too.

Ah, the eighties. Good times!


I bought a CD for Christmas. I know you are thinking, "but you don't celebrate Christmas". True. I didn't buy it for me. I was so fascinated by the CD (by the cover design, and the theme of the disc) that I bought it with the excuse that it was a Christmas gift for someone else. Undecided as to the recipient, however, meant that no one received it, and so today, after letting my conscience off the hook, I unwrapped the CD and put it on. (The wrapping was made of biodegradable cellophane of some kind, which was a plus.) It's great. Sorry I didn't give it to you... but obviously not that sorry!

The CD is by a German quartet called Quadro Nuevo.

This particular CD is their interpretation of melodies from film soundtracks and is called CinePassion.

The themes they cover range from Lawrence of Arabia to The Sixth Sense. I haven't even finished one full play of this CD and I knew I ought to blog about it - it's that good.

Quadro Nuevo's albums are distributed in Canada by Justin Time Records.

Does buying CDs indicate I am an old geezer? I rather think it might.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

RIP: Eartha Kitt

My sister just informed me that Eartha Kitt pass away. I caught her rendition of "Santa Baby" earlier today on the radio - I don't know if that was just coincidence, or if they had already announced her passing, but I thought at the time, "ah, nice to finally hear a classic sung by a legend". I have been hearing a lot of newer and more pop versions of carols this year.

She really symbolized fabulousness in ways other posers can only dream of.

Monday, December 22, 2008

One More Chanuka Post for the Night

I guess I'm just extra-festive this year. Maybe it was the glass of Folonari Valpolicella, or maybe I just love these litte gateaux so much, I had to share them with you:

Sandra Avital at Le Petrin made adorable star-shaped pear cakes. They sound much better in French, of course: petits gateaux etoiles aux poires. eyelid flutter

(Ok, so it's not exactly a Chanuka post, but she made beignets for Chanuka too, and the little cakes are Magen David-shape!)

Bon Appetit!

Chanuka Muse

Not only did this evening's fry-up inspire a new short story, but I've just come up with a Chanuka Carol. Sung to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas, here is The Eight Days of Chanuka. You'll know how it goes, so just sub in the following.

On the first day of Chanuka, my true love gave to me,
The Essential Paul Simon CD
On the second day of Chanuka, my true love gave to me,
Two sheepskin gloves
and The Essential Paul Simon CD.

Get it? Now sub in:
Eight candles flickering
Seven chocolate coins
Six soufganiot
Fiiiive Goooolden Latkes
Four Coffee Cards
Three French pens

(Two sheepskin gloves - you're singing now aren't you? - and The Essential Paul Simon CD!)

That's it. There are only eight days, you know.

Chanuka - Delicious Any Way You Spell It

First night of Chanuka, and as my parental units did not want to worry about me driving in the GTA's current weather, I stayed home. We said the blessing over the lighting of the candles together over the phone. I also made lazy daisy latkes-from-a-box. (See little photo above?) Delicious!

As for explaining Chanuka, I'll let my copy of Jewish Literacy by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin take it away:

In 167 B.C.E., the Syrian emperor Antiochus set out to destroy Judaism by making its observance a capital offense... A Jew named Mattathias, along with his five sons, initiated a revolt against the Syrian monarch. Three years later, the rebels ousted Antiochus's troops from Palestine.

The Jewish revolutionaries, known as Maccabees or Hasmoneans, regained control of the Temple in Jerusalem, which during the years of Syrian control had been spiritually raped. Antiochus had even arranged for swine to be sacrificed in the Temple. The Jewish troops wept when the saw the Temple's degradation, and immediately resolved to restore it to a state of ritual purity. According to Jewish tradition, they could find only one cruse of uncontaminated olive oil; unfortunately, it contained oil sufficient for only one day. The Jews were very upset because it would take eight days to prepare ritually permitted oil. However, a miracle happened and the small quantity of oil continued to burn the full eight days.

Now we celebrate with fried foods, specifically latkes and soufganiot. Although, if you wanted to add churros and veggie dumplings and rosti to your tradition, I'd be the last to criticize.

Here's my gathering of Chanuka recipes. An unofficial carnival of sorts (since I can't find an actual Chanuka blog carnival to direct you to):

Food Touring from Austin shares Sweet Potato Curry Latkes

Marcy Goldman makes her own version of lazy daisy latkes using a mix & potatoes.

Bureka Boy didn't make latkes, he made Sephardi fritters called Bimuelos. I'm Sephardi and while I'm pretty sure I've eaten those, I've never heard them called bimuelos. Then again, my parents speak Judeo-Arabic, not Ladino. (And as a bonus, his preceding post has a madeleine recipe, which I've been looking for.)

Epicurious taps chef Paul Virant for a simple but good-lookin' latke recipe. The comments on that post are sweet too.

Happy Holidays! Eat! Eat!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stirring Coffee with Your Thumb

A few posts ago I mentioned that I went to one of the 1001 Friday Nights of Storytelling held at the Innis College Cafe every Friday night.

One woman went up and sang a Pacific Northwestern tall tale/folk song called The Frozen Logger. Wikipedia credits James Stevens and Ivar Haglund with writing it, and it appears that the Grateful Dead and Nick Cave both recorded a version of it.

The version I heard starts:

As I set down one evening in a timber town cafe
A six foot-seven waitress, to me these words did say
"I see you are a logger and not a common bum
For no one but a logger stirs his coffee with his thumb

The rest of the lyrics are on a Canadian ex-pat's blog here.

Go read them, it'll cheer you up.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Books: Waterproof and Travelling in Time

Ambling around the nearest chain bookstore today, I picked up a fabulous story anthology called Poolside for under $5 (that's CAD!). Hemingway, Oates, and Cheever inclus.

It was on the bargain table 'cause the season for poolside reads (in Toronto) is long gone, but what's cool is how much research the publisher put into this niche waterbaby market. The whole book is waterproof . While I do not intend to submerge it, it's great to know that I could read it in the tub with wet thumbs and not warp the pages. The publisher has some tub-specific books out too. Held dry, the pages feel super-smooth, but not laminated or glossy - more like extra-thick prayerbook pages. This is not your toddler's bath book.

The other cool thing I saw - which I could not help but peruse for 20 minutes despite the teeny-tiny print and my burgeoning headache - was the new and huge coffee table book, The New York Times: The Complete Front Pages (1851-2008).

As someone who would spend hours scrolling through (aka procrastinating) on the microfilm of 19th century Toronto newspapers at the Reference Library, the NYT collection (complete with 3 DVD-ROMS) is right up my alley. I say that as a fan of history and ephemera, not necessarily of the NYT (though I will take the Sunday edition if someone buys it and then leaves it at the coffee shop).

The NYT book comes with a moderately useful magnifying thingy too. I read about the shirtwaist factory fire in New York's lower east side, various struggles in the British colonies, the Munich Beer Hall Putsch. The articles on the Stock Market crash of '29 are particularly unnerving in their resonance, as various leaders/experts attempted to reassure the general public that things were not as bad as they seemed.

I find it so difficult to read the news that I often wait a day or three before I can "fill up" on current events. Reading (or watching) the news daily can leave me in a depressive funk or an existential crisis, and neither state is really useful. But reading the news of the past is informative in a different way, and much more "digestible". We already know what happened (and either arrived later or survived it already). We can evaluate ourselves as reporters, readers, skeptics or believers, as we respond to the way the events were reported. In 1941, American Jews were already organizing to call attention (peacefully) to the concentration camps in Germany. A futile effort, but one that stands in contrast to the post-war European mutterings of "we didn't know what was happening".

It would be fun to flip through the book with a better magnifying glass and someone from an older generation and record their memories and impressions.

I didn't look at the NYT's September 11th coverage, but it is included. It would be so fascinating to know how those pages hold up in a hundred years' time.

NPR's audio feature on the NYT Front Pages book here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Faces: Rhinoplasty

My "in-between contracts" times are always much anticipated, as I look forward to writing thousands of words a day. My first week of current unemployment however, I watched six movies and checked 15 books out of the library. Nary a word written. I did, however, have puh-lenty of time to think.

Among my movie rentals was Cabaret, the classic 1972 film. It stars Liza Minelli as the now iconic Sally Bowles, and Joel Grey as the MC. I had heard that this was a star-making turn for Joel Grey (and a coveted role on Broadway) so I was looking forward to it. Grey is extremely talented and carries all his scenes effortlessly. He is so talented that eventually, I could almost stop seeing his nose job.

As I watched, there was a running commentary in my head about the irony. A film about life during the decline of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazism in Germany features an actor (nee Katz) who has cut off his nose and changed his name to succeed in showbiz.

In general, I hate nose jobs. As a Jew, this is enmeshed with my identity, with growing up, and with coming to terms with my nose. While not particularly large, it was still never a "button" or "perky" or "fine" or whatever other terms describe the schnozz en vogue. It has a slight but definite curve. It took time and and maturity for me to accept it as is - and also (not to be too melodramatic) to love it; to see it as not just my nose, but "this much mom's and that much dad's".

I looked up to women who "owned" their big noses: Rossy de Palma, Anjelica Huston, Paloma Picasso. (And people can criticize Sarah Jessica Parker and Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand all they want, but I'm telling you, these women would look dreadful with nose jobs.)

A poor rhinoplasty does more than take away a person's heritage; an obvious rhinoplasty (like any obvious plastic surgery) defeats the purpose of the surgery by drawing attention to the altered feature. It messes up the proportions of the face. The space between the nose and the lip, the ergotrid, often looks too long; the philtrum (the little divit under the nose) looks too deep or oddly angled, and the brow and chin seem too heavy, unbalanced by the smaller or too-small nose.

Not only is Joel Grey's nose too small for his face, it is also dated. It looks like an old fashioned '80s-style nose job, when it seemed that the only nose template available was Michelle Pfeiffer's (which looks great on her, btw).

The new/old style nose was recently a blogosphere topic when NY Magazine's New New Face article came out. Jonathan Van Meter wrote of prominent plastic surgeon du jour, Dr. David Rosenberg:
"Rosenberg is also subtly shifting the shape of the New Nose... The nose on the New New Face is strong and architectural and straight. Neither flared nor pointed. More Greek than Roman.''
As many problems as I have with plastic surgery on principle, I am grateful that nose styles have changed. It's sad that most plastic surgeons seem to have very little artistic or esthetic sense, however, and that it all came too late for Joel Grey's daughter.

Joel Grey's daughter's name is Jennifer. You may remember Jennifer Grey from her star-making turn as "Baby" in 1987's Dirty Dancing. She had a nice career already in swing when she opted for a rhinoplasty. This notorious nose job resulted in a well-known name with a suddenly unrecognizable face. For an actress this was a disastrous turn and she could not get any work for years. I can't help but wonder how much influence was papa's nose? Did he make any "suggestions" for succeeding in the biz? Did she feel self-conscious that her nose didn't look like mom's or dad's?

When a parent alters him- or herself permanently, they are essentially saying to their child, "This part of me - and therefore, of you - is wrong". I always think that if I could afford permanent laser hair removal I would do it. But then I wonder what would happen if I had a daughter? What would I tell her when she hit puberty? "No, no, dear, hair is natural, it's normal, it's a healthy part of growing up. I just paid lots of money to remove mine forever, but you're beautiful"? It's not as if society won't bash her over the head with what's "attractive" and "desired" - is it really fair for mom to be part of the pressure?

Of course, one plastic surgeon came up with a partial solution. He wrote and self-published My Beautiful Mommy, a children's book to help kids deal with their mother's plastic surgery. This made the news and hit the blogosphere last April. Jezebel.com noted "It's unclear why the mother also chooses rhinoplasty, but she does tell her daughter that the nose will appear "different, my dear—prettier!". Sadly, the "pre-op" mom, illustrated Disney-style, is so unique and so much more interesting as a cartoon than the "post-op" mom. There is no value placed on "unique", though.

I enjoyed Cabaret - the direction, the songs, the performances. Michael York's acting even allowed me to forgive him Logan's Run. Best of all, though, is Liza Minelli's yet unaltered Sally Bowle's face; her giant eyes surround by quirky make-up and a unique coiff - a last hurrah before fascist brutality - and homogeniety - take over.

Extra notes:
Diversity on the human genome here at Scientific American
Truly heinous Nazi children's story (note the Jewish nose details) here from the Univeristy of the West of England Genocide Documentation Centre.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Quentin Blake Speaks!

As you may or may not have noticed, I've changed up the side links a bit. I've also added "Look/See" - which is a splapdash compilation of art and illustration links.

I don't know why I never looked for Quentin Blake's official site before, but it's terrific. There is a part of his site called Fossicking. (I guess it's an original Quentin Blake word for fossils/relics?) He picks something lesser-known from his 60-year-long portfolio and shares it.

What's even better, though, is that he includes an audio track(!!!) and speaks his notes (or in today's case, reads from the book he's illustrated). I would even understand if Blake had no website - he is successful enough not to need one. However, to go ahead and create one, and then go above and beyond the call by adding audio? Audio on an illustrator's site? This is truly a surprising and delightful way to create a presence on the internet.

(Thanks to the Graphic Bandit for 1/2 the sites on the Look/See list.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I have so many blog posts to finish and research and post. I have stories to write and revise and polish and send. I have magazines to research and courses to consider. I'm not doing any of it at the moment, but since I won't write and do want to post something, here is a photo. It more or less describes where I'm at anyhow. Neither up nor down.

It's an escalator at a subway station in Manhattan.

And yes, that does make it superior to the escalators here. So there.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

1001 Nights of Storytelling

1001 Friday Nights of Storytelling this Friday will be hosted by Dan Yashinsky and the stories will be thematically linked to music in honour of St.Cecilia's day.

Can you think of any stories about music off the top of your head? I can't.

Back When Toronto Inspired Illustrations

So the other day I went to my depilatrix and as always, while she yanks out my hair, we chat. She has terrific stories and this time she told me all about her husband's dream, which was truly fantastic. I won't re-tell it here. There was nothing naughty about it, but it's not my story to tell. Anyhow, the dream-story reminded me of Robert Munsch's story, Jonathan Cleaned Up - Then He Heard a Sound or Blackberry Subway Jam.

I re-read my little Annikins version today. (Annikins are and were mini-books "small enough to fit into tiny hands and pockets".)

The story remains terrific and the illustrations by Michael Martchenko are as light and charming as ever.

What surprised me, though, is the amount of nostalgia packed into the book that has nothing to do with the story. It is a fourth edition, printed in 1982. Annick Press, the publisher, was based in Toronto. They were distributed by Firefly Press (still are) - but it was a different time when the distributor's phone number was printed on the back inside cover.

The subway on the front of the book is the old red TTC train that was just being phased out when my family moved to Canada. The streetcar outside City Hall is also an old red car and City Hall itself (in the book) is the one at Bay and Queen - now known as Old City Hall. I would link to photos of old streetcars, but I can't find any. If you're not from Toronto and don't recognize the transit system or the City Hall, it won't matter. The only thing that may date the book for you is the "big shining computer machine" that Jonathan discovers at City Hall. Martchenko's illustration of it with rows and rows of reel-to-reel tape decks is a little quaint.

None of this, however, affects the story. It's still a funny story where moms want living rooms to stay neat, and bureaucrats spend $10 million on things that don't work. The story, 27 years old, remains delightful.

I have also discovered that you can download audio files of Robert Munsch telling stories for free from his website. So you can hear the whole story right now! But you may as well order the Annikin book too. It's only $1.50, and the illustrations are well worth it. Buy a whole bunch and distribute them to children - all those Christmas toy drives are coming up soon!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

RIP: Michael Crichton

I did not read Michael Crichton's books, but I'm still shocked and saddened that he's gone.

I'm surprised it took me two days to hear about it.

The one thing I remember about him is what my grade 11 biology teacher told me, which is that Michael Crichton (like my bio teacher) dropped out of med school to pursue writing (and one of his books is about his med-school experience).

According to his official biography on his webpage, this is totally false. He did graduate med school. In fact, his biography is full of over-accomplishment.

But his well-roundedness - in both the sciences and the art/craft of writing is inspiring.

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

Cows of all colours? Fowls of all feathers? Giant pumpkins and sheaves of wheat? Yes, yes, and yes! And don't forget the Horse Show and the Super Dogs!

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair starts tomorrow and I'm excited!

I may go tomorrow if I feel like braving the weekend crowds, or I may go on a weekday evening.

What's the allure? Besides my delusion that I would have made a good pioneer or frontierswoman (blame Laura and Black Creek Pioneer Village), it's a good way to remember how much work goes into feeding you. (And who doesn't need to look at those furry Clydesdale hooves at least once a year?)

I keep one pair of "mucky boots" for just this occasion, as after a visit to the Fair, my boots smell like manure forever.

If you're in the area, you should go!

This post will be much much more convincing once I fill it with cow photos.

More Childhood Books: Encyclopedia Brown

I loved Encyclopedia Brown growing up.

He was a good kid. Smarter than the grown-ups, unafraid of bullies, and his best friend was a girl. Actually, I forgot that his best friend was a girl till I re-read one of the books last night. The mysteries hold up well (and I even remembered some of the solutions - not solved, but remembered from when I was nine or twelveor whatever). The dialogue is a little dated, but that's a positive rather than a negative. The metaphors are funny; the sarcasm child-like and not obnoxious.

This part shocked me however:
On Tuesday, business was slow all morning till Elmo Thomas came in.
"Mothers," he grumbled. "They don't understand kids."
"That's no way to talk," protested Encyclopedia.
Sure, as children, we often feel our parents' decisions are unfair, but Encyclopedia's defence of parents and grown-ups in general is so rare, that it made me pause and re-read the dialogue - and notice how mild Elmo's complaint is. (Compare it to the way child 'sass' has been depicted in books, tv shows, and film since the 80s).

Philip Pullman has said that it's easiest to write a kid's story with an orphan as the protagonist, because parents just get in the way. I think he's right, and it's something that most writers intuit quite quickly (unless the parents are part of the story, or must be there to provide a safe haven for the end). When a child is the hero of the story, parents are usually absent (negligent/deceased/ill/in a parallel world):

  • Sarah in "A Little Princess" - orphan
  • Mary in "The Secret Garden" - orphan
  • Lyra in "The Golden Compass" - orphan in the sense that her parents are not her guardians nor are they known to her
  • Will in "The Subtle Knife" - only child to an ill single mother and long-lost father - in modern child psychology, Will would be considered "parentified"
  • Huckleberry Finn - under guardianship of Widow Douglas and then later escaping a neglectful alcoholic father
  • Harry Potter - perhaps the most famous children's lit orphan of our time
  • Pippi Longstockings - living alone with her horse and her monkey; father lost at sea
There are many more that escape me now.

I guess I'm so familiar with a children's lit character having no parents, that I found Encyclopedia's respect for grown-ups incredibly sweet and startling.

The Encyclopedia Brown books are written by Donald J. Sobol and have been in print since the late '60s.

Addendum: How did I forget Oliver Twist?!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de la Porciúncula

One of the more interesting opinions I've read about Los Angeles is here at BLDGBLOG, an architectural blog by Geoff Manaugh.

I don't disagree with him either. The irony is that you have a city that "doesn't care" what you do, populated by people in entertainment, who are all desperate to have you care.

325 days of sunshine a year can only stave off certain kinds of depression.

Library Thing?

I don't know what Library Thing is, but I'll find out and report back.

Fake Digital Camera, Real Life

The camera I have is old and crappy, so I do not carry it around. Also, I do not exactly know where it is at the moment.

Here are the photos I would've taken today to show you, however:

A co-worker dressed in a suit with a drawn-on moustache, with a semi-filled dress hanging off her and a balloon attached to the dress (for a head); life-sized colour photocopies of Cloris Leachman stuck on the balloon. She was Dancing with the Stars! Awesome.

Two Asian guys in the elevator tonight dressed as giant Mah-Jong tiles (using boxes they decorated themselves).

Two seeing-eye golden retrievers curled up together like a big challa bread under the table at Tim Hortons.

Girl running out of cab into condo dressed as "sexy" (aka skanky) police officer in short shorts and thigh-high stockings; running, because in that space between the cab and the condo, she's not so much "costumed" as just "outside in lingerie"! (All those who are reading this with a guilty raise of the eyebrows can refrain from the comments section, thanks!)

I, like Benny Cooperman, usually go to my parents' house for Shabbat dinner, but today I stayed home.

While I have pushed (procrastinated) revisions on the first novel, I have been writing short stories and reading too many mysteries (pulp, really). (More on that in a future post.)

I've deconstructed a Spenser novel in the past few days, and tonight I ended up at Tim Horton's and broke my story. I thought I had already broken my story, but my last two ideas did not hold water. (Perhaps story-breaking is more a screen-writing term; I mean hammered out an outline. More or less.) I think this one's good, but I'll have to wait and see how it looks in the morning light. It's so sad when you go to bed a genius and wake up a hack.

I hope you had a tremendous Hallowe'en. I stupidly scheduled a dentist appointment for Monday. Who goes to have their teeth checked after a weekend of (day-after, on sale) candy?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Partying with Survivors

New York Magazine's culture blog interviews Andrew Jacobs on his documentary, Four Seasons Lodge.

From the film's site:
Four Seasons Lodge captures the final season for a community of Holocaust survivors who come together each summer to celebrate their lives.

It's the 'final season' because the colony they've been going to every year has been sold.

It looks like a wonderful documentary that focuses on people who have built lives like phoenixes from the ashes, and who now spend the summers of their old age making the most of every minute.


The film's website also has an educational component, which notes that the film is an important part of an oral history - a tool favoured by educators since "the work of the Foxfire Team in the Appalachians".

I guess I never blogged it, but about a month ago I found the first volume of the Foxfire books for a $1 at my local used bookstore, and was fascinated by the oral histories. The full title is: The Foxfire Book: Hog Dressing, Log Cabin Building, Mountain Crafts and Foods, Planting by the Signs, Snake Lore, Hunting Tales, Faith Healing, Moonshining.

And Foxfire has nothing to do with Firefox, which I am now using exclusively, as I am fed up with Safari (1.3.2). Safari crashes every single time I use it and I can't upgrade without spending $130 on Leopard. Bah humbug!

Annual Pottery and Glass Sale - 2008

The Pottery and Glass Sale used to take place at the CBC building on Front Street. This year it's being held at the CNIB on Bayview.

I bought my parents a really great wall-hanging by Bruce Jones one year. It is made of tiny earthenware cups and saucers all bunched together, somewhat like the pieces that are on his website (but which look much much better in real life).

Even if you don't think you like ceramics or glass, you will undoubtedly find something beautiful and unique. The sale is also perfectly timed for the early Christmas shopper. I'm looking forward to seeing Miguel Deras Zapata's works, because I really like his textured/glazed acorn-like bowls. (Not this acorn, this kind.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

GOOP = Gwyneth's One and Only Peapod?

So remember the hullaballoo about Gwyneth Paltrow's "lifestyle" blog, "Goop"?

I just went to www.goop.com and it was the site for Chrysler's "neighborhoor electric vehicle", the Peapod. (A very cute smiley car perfect for those of us afraid of biking in the city.)

It took me while to figure out what was going on, but at least I did before I published this post.

The difference is in the www.

http://goop.com sans "w", as befits her politics, is Gwyneth's show-and-tell lifestyle site.

For a moment there, I thought Paltrow had created an elaborate ruse to bring people over to the electric car, but no, her site and her ambitions for it are real.

Addendum: GEM is now "Global Eco Mobility" which was Global Electric Motorcars. Seems like Chrysler has rebranded to launch the Peapod.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ceramic Art

Julie Moon is a ceramic artist who make beautiful sculptures, tiles, and wearable pieces. Look!

Toronto in the Eyes of Others

Papermag writes up Toronto. A flattering article with some of the old standbys listed (Kensington, Riverdale Farm) and some I've never heard of - Magic Pony. (Check out Magic Pony's moustache necklace!)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Powerbook Power Adapter

From The Consumerist:

A class action Suit for faulty Powerbook power adaptors has been launched.

You mean, like the faulty one that I had replaced under Applecare? And the other two I've had to buy 'cause the other side constantly warps in the jack? It didn't even occur to me that this would be a class action suit. Interesting.

Stairway to the Moon post - Part Deux

From the Plastics Historical Society, here is a little more on Melaware :

The Gaydon and the Melaware two-colour sets probably represent the pinnacle of British melamine tableware. The technical skills required particularly for the twocolour cups were exceptional. The different approaches towards creating a comfortable and stylish cup or jug handle are especially impressive. Gaydon cups were made in a split mould giving a comfortable contoured handle whereas Melaware cups and jugs were made in a solid mould with angled moving cores to achieve the distinctive but less comfortable handle. In both cases the two-colour effect was produced in two stages and the items required individual hand finishing. The Gaydon set was the most comprehensive with over fifty different items. Perhaps the white lining of MF cups was eventually the cause of their downfall. A white inside looked more like china and it made the tea look `right'. But the white liner also showed up all the staining and scratches for which melamine ware became infamous.

Stairway to the Moon

I would like a Thrilling Adventure in Drinks.

Also, I just discovered a Prefab-ulous blog while googling Melaware. She blogs mostly about vintage design - with great finds from the UK and (currently, it seems) Canada.

I was googling Melaware, because last time I was at the Bayview Village Antique Fair I bought these exact Melaware melamine cups and saucers for 5 bucks. But now I learn that tea and coffee stain white melamine (which is part of the reason for its decline in popularity), so I am reluctant to actually use them. Hmph.

While looking for photos of Melaware, I found another awesome vintage design blog, What's Blogging My View.

And a question for bloggers - how do you go about showing photos without stealing bandwidth or infringing upon copyright? I mean, when you're using photos that aren't yours, like an eBay find - do you just use them and not worry about it or is there a way to do it that abides by bloggerly etiquette?

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Nuit Blanche

I don't think I'll see much of Nuit Blanche, if I go out at all. I am behind on a lot of writing and other things.

You go and tell me all about it, ok?

Too Late - RIP Julia Cunningham

Is there anything worse than tracking down an author or artist you love, and finding (via google) that wow, they are still alive, they are living in the place you will soon be visiting, perhaps you can arrange a meeting... only to find out that no, in fact, they have died - and so recently?

I am very sad to discover that author Julia Cunningham died this past February. I am glad she lived to the age of ninety-two.
I wish I could've met her.

Over the years, I have searched for info on her, but never found much till now. Her books, which I devoured around the age of twelve, seemed to go out of print. I was never able to track any down in used bookstores in my neighbourhood.

Now, of course, Alibris is fully-fledged, and copies of her books abound. "Dorp Dead" was re-issued by Harper Collins in 2001, but I never saw it here.

I don't remember much about "Dorp Dead". It is now referred to as a turning point in children's literature; the beginning of "gritty realism" in writing for children and adolescents. I'm sure I read it, but it did not make as much of an impact on me as "Burnish Me Bright" and "Flight of the Sparrow".

The obit and remembrances on the link above (from the Santa Barbara Independent) are very moving. There is a very nice fund set up for donations to be made in her honour to:
(The) Storyteller Children’s Center in Santa Barbara(which)provides NAEYC-approved, tuition-free early childhood education and care for homeless and at-risk children... Funds will establish Miss Cunningham’s Corner – a reading area where parents and children can enjoy books together, complete with a rocking chair, soft pillows and special books arranged on Patrick's Bookshelf.

Her love of France (which one of the eulogies mentions) shines through in "Flight of the Sparrow" and is probably responsible for provoking my ongoing Francophilia. (It also contained one of my earliest nerd-girl lit-character crushes for the urchin "leader" - a cigarette-smoking Parisian delinquent named "Mago", if I remember correctly.)

If you pass by her books - used or reissued - have a read. You will not regret it.

I owe a belated thank you to Mrs. Ranieri, wherever you are, for introducing me to the writing of Julia Cunningham.

Friday, October 03, 2008

While Others Blog Political...

I blog Barbie!

How much you wanna bet that Christina Aguilera has had this Barbie on her shelf since 2004? Maybe Donatella gave it to her when she did the Versace campaign. (In that photo she wears the dress that the other Versace Barbie wears.)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Hairy, Puttering, and the Ordering of the Pizza

Certain members of my family have been eyeing my career (or lack thereof) with fear and pity since I embarked on this whole "Gee Whiz, I'm a Writerer!" thing.

The only thing that has changed is the question I get at family gatherings:

"You know that writers don't make any money, right?" became "So, are you going to be J.K. Rowling*?"

From the poorhouse to the penthouse with nary a word published!

In tribute to them, here is New York Mag's summary of Forbes' list of wealthiest authors. See that? Authors. It's plural!

*check out her official site, it's insane.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Esthetic Sensitivity Daisy Chain

The Graphic Bandit introduced me to the The Workroom, a "sew and craft by the hour space".

The Workroom's owner also keeps a blog called Make Something.

Make Something mentioned sassy printed fabrics designed by Heather Ross. At Heather Ross' site I also found her stationary designs and learned she sells a line of sleepwear under the label Munki Munki. Feel free to buy me the "Bird" silk pajamas and silk/cashmere wrap. Thanks.

Now I am slightly obsessed with thinking up projects (that I will never sew), for Heather Ross' delightful prints of horses and camper vans and "goldfish I have loved".

Also, I am lusting after these Nantaka Joy notebooks, but I must follow the instructions on this Trees with Knees wallet.

The wallet I discovered from the Nantaka Joy's blog.

Thank you, Graphic Bandit! You are the portal to all pretty, wonderful, and pretty wonderful things!

Honey Honey Cake Cake

It is 1:40am as I write, so I'll make this short and SWEET. I'll let you google all other Rosh Hashana info yourself. This blog post is hereby devoted to honey cake recipes:

Marcy Goldman's Moist and Majestic Honey Cake - the one I will probably get around to making with buckwheat honey - Smitten Kitchen bakes it here

Cookthink's recipe from 2007. She misses her grandma, I miss my aunt. Sigh.

Eat the Blog - adapted from a Ruth Sirkis recipe

Baroness Tapuzina's honey cake as adapted from The New Israeli Food cookbook

Bureka Boy posts two versions of honey cake and both look delicious

Adorable Honey Cake - made with honey wine! and Chocolate Fig Honey Cake (drool) both from the Food Network

One Honey of a Cake - from the Parve Baker

Bella's Honey Cake - with raisins and walnuts from Homemakers magazine (remember them?)

Lastly, a Honey Bundt cake from Recipezaar and here's a Magen David-shaped bundt pan to bake it in.

Shana Tova v'Metukah!

(If you're wondering about my free clip-art trend, it's 'cause my camera display is broken... but you can print up the clip-art and color it in! Free activities!)

Alice's Face: Part II

Tim Burton's Alice is a newcomer named Mia Wasikowska. She has an almost medieval or renaissance face - something about the placid eyes and nearly invisible eyebrows that reminds me of Boticelli's Primavera. She has, I think, a face people can project onto. It is somehow not self-defining.

I saw the photo of her from the back first and noticed that Burton had gone, again, with the curled blonde locks that he used for both Christina Ricci in Sleepy Hollow and Jayne Wisener in Sweeney Todd. When I saw the photo of her front, I got a non-impression. I can imagine that the casting department really didn't know "what they were looking for till they saw it". She's not cute, not beautiful, not ugly, not striking, not exactly pretty, but certainly not hard on the eyes - not this, not that - so what does her face say? What does it say to you?

I got the same impression, by the way, upon seeing the casting of Lyra from the film of The Golden Compass.

Maybe casting directors are afraid to "pin down" a face for a fictional character that might disappoint the book's fans, so they play it safe with faces that are somewhat on the mild side?

This is what drew my mind back to Istvan Szabo's comments on faces.

Perhaps Wasikowska, when projected on the screen, captivates in a way I can not yet anticipate. I admit I've never seen her act, so perhaps she fully becomes Alice. (Although, Alice, I will also admit, does not have much "depth"- she is essentialy a self-involved, curious, and precocious child.)

I don't know what Tim Burton's vision for Alice is: Wasikowska is 18, while Alice Liddell, the real Alice the book was written for, was 10 at the time it was written.

It will also be interesting to see who Burton casts as the Duchess and as the Red Queen.

Alice in Wonderland is scheduled for release in 2010 so you have time to read the book if you haven't yet. Here's a little bit more of it for you:

'I couldn't afford to learn it.' said the Mock Turtle with a sigh. 'I only took the regular course.'

'What was that?' inquired Alice.

'Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with,' the Mock Turtle replied; 'and then the different branches of Arithmetic—Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.'

'I never heard of "Uglification,"' Alice ventured to say. 'What is it?'

The Gryphon lifted up both its paws in surprise. 'What! Never heard of uglifying!' it exclaimed. 'You know what to beautify is, I suppose?'

'Yes,' said Alice doubtfully: 'it means—to—make—anything—prettier.'

'Well, then,' the Gryphon went on, 'if you don't know what to uglify is, you ARE a simpleton.'

Alice did not feel encouraged to ask any more questions about it, so she turned to the Mock Turtle, and said 'What else had you to learn?'

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Alice's Face: Part I

Around 2004 I went to see a film by Istvan Szabo at Cinematheque and he spoke at the screening. He said something about how certain faces - not necessarily beautiful faces - captivate viewers when they are shown on screen. I'm paraphrasing from memory, but I think he wondered whether certain faces contained a universal appeal or if they had something that allowed a great number of people to project an emotion (or an ideal or a familiarity, or one's self) onto them.

I was surfing around IMDb and I discovered that Tim Burton is directing a live-action /CG 3D Alice in Wonderland.

I had mixed reactions. While I like Tim Burton's work a lot, I'm not convinced that Alice in Wonderland has ever succeeded in its transposition to the screen. Perhaps I'm a purist and can't let go of the original Tenniel illustrations. (I do not even think that any of the contemporary illustrators for Alice have done a memorable job.) Possibly, because I read The Annotated Alice, in which Martin Gardner delves into the mathematics and Victorian references behind the text. Mostly, I believe, because the joy of the book is not in the story, but in the telling of it - in the wordplay. How do you get this in a film:

"However, this bottle was NOT marked 'poison,' so Alice ventured to taste it, and finding it very nice, (it had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast,) she very soon finished it off."

I'm sure that Burton's Mad Tea Party will be sublime - especially as Johnny Depp will play the Mad Hatter - but there's something a bit predictable about it all. Tenniel's illustrations will come to life... with STRIPES! While Alice's Adventures in Wonderland can be quite dark, I wonder if Burton's "darkness" is the right...tone?

I started out talking about faces, didn't I?

So here's...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Spartans and Russets and Spys, Oh My!

It's been a weird summer in Toronto. Not much heat. But now that Autumn's here, we can get to the fun stuff: apple picking!

Chudleigh's has realized that to turn a profit, they must expand. They have a petting zoo and hay rides, and a shop for knick-knacks and apple-related food stuffs. They've had these things for a while. Unfortunately, they are now calling themselves an "Entertainment Farm". A terrible term, it impinges on my urbanite fantasy of escaping to the farm for a day. If you call it an Entertainment Farm, I expect you are growing tap dancers, or have violinists in trees waiting to serenade us as we pick. Or possibly, Guitar Hero in the barn - I don't know. (And I'm not even considering the lewd options there - I leave that to you.)

I supposed I should just be happy they didn't call it "Farmetainment".

My favourite apples-from-the-tree are Spartans. They are crisp and tart-sweet and divine and NOTHING like the mushy Macintoshy "Spartans" you get in the stores.

A note for those to whom I've promised apples: neither Fuji nor Russett are in season yet - sorry!

Take Back the (Girly Movie) Night

Last week I rented DVDs. They were all girly and lots of fun:

Eve and the Fire Horse - very cute memoir-ish film that looks at the intersection of two religions from a child's perspective
Being Julia - Annette Bening is wonderful, but the story itself doesn't quite stand the test of time
Marie Antoinette - eye candy
Miss Potter - lots of fun and very sweet, but I can't help but wonder if Emily Watson (who plays a supporting role) should've been cast as Beatrix Potter

So. I was going to return the DVDs tonight before midnight, as they are due. However, because there is a rapist on the loose in this city, my mother offered to pay my overdue fines if I promised not to return the movies tonight.
That is sad.

The quotes that are coming out of this news story are also sad.

On the radio I heard a police officer saying "she did everything right" about the victim. I guess he means that she was walking in a well-lit area in a non-sketchy part of town, but it's a bit like saying "we can't blame the victim in this case!". Maybe I'm being overly sensitive. And if she did fight back, that would be kind of good to hear too. Recovery from trauma differs when the victim is able to fight back (even if s/he is unsuccessful). The news story above has the police quoted as saying "He's the kind of person we need to catch" about the rapist. What the heck does that mean? In this case, I could use a little movie-speak: "We're gonna get this bastard" or "Forensics are working on it, and we'll get him, alive or dead".

Really, it's bad enough with both American and Canadian elections coming up. I don't want my police force to be mealy-mouthed too. Find him and put him away. And if you accidentally hit him with a cruiser... oops.

Is it technology or are you just a jerk?

Seeing as I now carry earplugs in my purse because hearing other people's music on the subway give me commuter rage, this Canadian documentary is right up my alley:

To Hell with Manners: The Decline of Civility

That link is to a CTV interview. There's the predictable bla-bla about technology disengaging people, but nothing particularly insightful. I assume the film itself is better.

Don't get me wrong in my snotty righteousness, I'm getting ruder too. It does take effort to be polite - especially when someone around you is not - still, I ought to behave the way I wish others would, I guess.

Thank you
for reading.

Feel free to rant (cleanly) in the comments about rude people and their litter and their lung-collapsing bass car audio systems, and their spitting and urinating INSIDE elevators...

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Princess Bride Game

No really - I clicked on a banner ad (oh yes, I did) and found a Princess Bride Game.

The characters (except for Buttercup) are pretty true to the movie. I'm surprised that such a classic movie would get such low-key marketing approach.

I watched the little video about it and it looks okay. It's just that if you're going to take my favourite movie (female, 25-34), why not make a video game that would appeal to me - an atypical video game playing demographic? Why make it look like every other video game? The style (from what I hear, since I don't play), looks almost Super-Mario-ish.

Perhaps I'll try it and tell you what I think...

In the meantime, if you are someone who actually plays video games, please weigh in!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sex and Marriage

"She says an unexpected benefit of daily sex was the kindness it required of the couple."

The quote above is from an interesting book review of two books by two (different) couples who have tried instituting a "daily sex" policy . Read it here. Various PhDs and sex therapists weigh in on the pros and cons.

And a slightly older book about a not-quite-daily-sex policy, "Kosher Sex" by Shmuely Boteach, here.

(Orchid photo from last year's Orchid Show at the Toronto Botanical Gardens, 'cause I'm subtle like that.)

Monday, September 08, 2008

Canadian Literary Magazines

In honour of the upcoming Word on the Street at Queen's Park and the International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront, here is a list of Canadian Literary Magazines and a link to a "writer's toolbox" (writing advice) from Geist magazine.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Voice Fades

Don LaFontaine died on Monday, September 1st. He was much parodied, but a master of his craft. Rest in peace.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Things I Don't Understand (Part I)

1) Because you want to SMELL like a High School Musical

2) I'm not opposed to spaces or design or guys or books. I'm just opposed to the advocacy of egregiously poor taste defined as "for men".

3) Why is the poster for TIFF 08 so boring this year? Am I the only one who finds it boring? Maybe having crummy eyesight and occasional attentional difficulties does not make me the biggest fan of "blurry" as a design choice.


Sometime around the year 2000, I worked on a children's show. The show was an adaptation of a popular series of children's books. Its main flaw (in my opinion, which no one asked for) was the casting of the Asian-Canadian character with a white red-headed kid. But my little story is not about poor casting choices on low budget Canadian TV. My story is about donuts.

I worked in the production office. Like any production that shoots on locations, we had location guys (or gals, but these were guys). The cars they used to scout and prep locations were rented. The rental guy came every Friday and dropped off an invoice. With the invoice, he brought a large box of donuts.

They were the best donuts I had ever tasted. I tried to memorize the address on the box, because one day, I said to myself, I would go out there and buy a dozen myself.

Eight years later (that is, today), my friend invites me to a movie at The Queensway - a theatre in Etobicoke. Suddenly, I remember that the Best Donuts EverTM were from Etobicoke! What was the address? Royal Oak? Royal York. But what was the name of the place?

I google. I find a list of bakeries and one stands out:

SanRemo Bakery

I know this is it. This must be THE donut place. I phone to make sure.

"Yup, that's us," the saleswoman says. "But we make our donuts once a day, and they sell out pretty fast. Do you want me to put some aside for you?"

So I go. I have a divine "mixed-berry" jelly donut. I had waited eight years for it, and it lived up to the memory. That's serious quality.

They opened the bakery in the '60s and it's still family-owned and operated. The donuts are only 80 cents each. You should go.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Reading & Writing

I'm taking a Fiction course through Gotham Writer's Workshop online classes. It's been a good kick in the pants and the homework has forced me to examine my writing in a healthy back-to-basics kind of way.

Maybe I'll post some bits of my homework later.

I'm also taking a Sketch Comedy course through Bad Dog Theatre. I took it more because the teacher (Rochelle Wilson) is an excellent teacher who observes well and critiques helpfully and fairly, rather than a burning desire to write sketch com, but despite my initial reservations ("why did i sign up for this? i have no time! etc."), I'm going to go ahead and see if I learn to write funny. Hm.

As for reading, the recent pile has been:

My Miserable Lonely Lesbian Pregnancy by Andrea Askowitz
Eggs by Jerry Spinelli
The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark
What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller
and stories by ZZ Packer and Tobias Wolff

On the Amazon wishlist, I keep looking at this funny book, Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog. It's about "diagramming sentences" - an old grammar-teaching tool I had never heard of.
It sounds like the kind of thing I would have loved learning at school.

I'm glad I've been writing more. I just wish I knew how to write and work and sleep at night.


This is turning out to be a three-wedding summer. Weddings are interesting social rituals, and generally of the more joyous and festive occasions, so I'm ok with that.

I know one couple who, last summer, had a NINE-wedding summer so I consider myself lucky. I get to enjoy myself at some lovey-dovey festivities and then I have the majority of weekends to myself.

In honour of all that, I am reading Marriage: A History (except with this cover). Author Stephanie Coontz examines marriages from earliest recorded history to now, and pulls from anthropology and sociology (and history) to examine the state of marriage now (around the world) and how we got here.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Scent Dinner

File under "I wish":
Scent Dinner with Chandler Burr and Context.

I must tip my hat to 1000 Fragrances, a blog by a perfume historian with a great name.

Monday, June 09, 2008

In Pursuit of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street

I watched Sweeney Todd (w/ Depp). I luuuurved it. I want to hear MORE! I google the Angela Lansbury version. I google the Patti Lupone version (there are two). I read about George Hearne and Michael Cerveris and Neil Patrick Harris and Len Cariou. I can't find a clear description of the various versions of the soundtrack cds or the production dvds.

Frustrated with Google, Amazon, iTunes, etc., I go to a real, live store!

I tell the cute guy at Grigorian how difficult it was to find the music online. (I can't keep my mouth shut sometimes.) He says, "Oh, one day, there will be no cd stores, and THEN--", he says ominously, "the online retailers will jack up their prices and you'll have no choice!"

Of course, Grigorian has an online store as well and yet... he frightened me.

Just 'cause the word "Gotham" is like, cool.

Links, 'cause I have nothing witty to say:

(1) Online writing courses with good reputations at the Gotham Writers' Workshop. I've signed up for Fiction I, i.e. "paying someone else to get oneself to write".

(2) The Weather Station played today at the street festival on Bloor. They managed to catch one's attention in the intense muggy heat and keep people standing there to listen - impressive.

(3) Really, listen to your Once soundtrack again. Hansard and Irglova (and The Frames) are amazing.

(4) New Emmylou Harris album coming out.

(5) A completely different Harris: Chris Van Allsburg's The Mysteries of Harris Burdick continues to be worked on as an off-off Broadway musical! Creator Joe Calaraco has a blog and here's Playbill's announcement.

Oh, and tonight was the start of Shavuot. The one holiday when I'm encouraged to stay up all night! You're supposed to stay up and study Torah and it's usually a lot of fun, but I forgot to take tomorrow off work. Well, I'm staying up unnecessarily anyhow - I should've just gone to synagogue!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

So You Wanna Write a Musical?

As the Tragically Hip song says, "I can get behind anything".
Anything I read about or hear about or see, I want to try.

Delusional? Yes. A noted feature on the ADD spectrum? Yes.

A short list of things I've considered:

Choreograph a modern dance company
Entertain sick children as a clown
Go back to school for Neuroscience/Forest conservation/Zoology/Gemology
Design shoes/jewelry/acrylic furniture/wooden laptops
Be a hip rabbi
Lead walking tours of Rome

So, when I'm temporarily fixated on a musical, thoughts of "gee, wouldn't it be swell to write some little musical for the Fringe festival?" pop into my head. I googled "so you wanna write a musical" and I discovered:

How to Write a Musical by John Kenrick.

His writing is clear and the site is well-organized. I highly recommend it - all his advice relates to any creative endeavour. And the mind-boggling Broadway trivia entertains too!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Violins and Orchids

I have just been introduced to Samuel Barber's Op.14 Concerto for Violin. I want to own it. I go to iTunes. I browse around and decide on an album I like. It is this one. ITunes sells it for $9.99 CAD.

Then I pause and wonder if I shouldn't support my local classical music store. It's been there forever and I rarely buy anything there. I would be sad if it closed down. There it costs $15.98 CAD.

Then I think, is it fair to ask me to pay six more dollars because it's an actual CD that comes in a case? Or am I just paying for their rent in Yorkville? (But then, I'd be sad if they moved.)

Then I look a little further - just to find a good link to the album for this blog and find an even cheaper option. Sony-BMG sells the album for $7.95 USD (which at this time is still $7.95 CAD). Sony is the distributor of the RCA Victor Red Seal line. So, pass the middle men?

What to do? Which option benefits the artist? Which option benefits the environment? Which benefits my local economy?

I'm still undecided. Maybe I'll just request it from the local classical station and save myself the headache of trying to be conscientious.


Today was my parents' 48th wedding anniversary. That means my sister and I have two years to plan their 50th! (G-d willing, right?) Anyhow, I took them to the Southern Ontario Orchid Society Show at the Toronto Botanical Gardens. It was a judged show with hundreds of stunning orchid specimens on display. Eventually I'll post some photos. Then we went to LCBO 'cause my parents like to browse the wines, the beers, the everythings. They're not big drinkers, but they appreciate an occasional whistle-whetting. (Me too...) Finally we headed to the parental units house for bruschetta and champagne and then I left them alone.

Now someone on my floor is cooking something with fried onions and I'm ready to eat again...

Monday, February 04, 2008

Superbowl Sunday

I know.
You are wondering, what in heck do YOU know about football?
I was invited to a Superbowl Sunday dinner/ shindig tonight. My lovely friends (one half of whom is the chef behind Culinary Seductions) prepared ribs (which I don't eat but everyone else vacuumed up in apparent ecstacy), while everyone else attempted to teach me about football.

(I mean, I read some gossipy websites, so I knew who Tom Brady was, but let's face it, an over-pretty jock with a hot baby-mama AND a supermodel girlfriend? Not my cup of tea. Yeah, yeah, beggars and choosers, I know.)

I didn't manage to understand a lot of what I watched, but I was thrilled the Giants won AND I discovered Manning.

No, not Eli (wonderful though he was), Peyton.
So sedate and serious, well-heeled, sitting alone half in shadow, focusing all his good energy on his little brother (or so I imagined). What's not to love? So, of course I get home and look him up. (Is he heterosexual? Married? Lonely tonight?) And the article I find is one in Slate where his well-known status as a geeky dork is examined. Get it? From miles away, through television, in 4-second increments, I manage to hone in on the one NERD in football!!!

Dear lord, it is a GIFT I have. A veritable TALENT.


As for books... finished reading Three by Tey, a 3-book volume of Josephine Tey's work. Miss Pym Disposes, The Franchise Affair, and Brat Farrar all being masterful examples of characterization and setting.


Food discovery: Astro has new pack of yogurt flavours out including lemon meringue, caramel, vanilla and banana cream in the same box. The lemon meringue is awesome.

Ok. 1500 words before my head hits the pillow, so that's all for now...

Friday, February 01, 2008

Books I Have Not Read (or Books of Wives and Daughters)

The Time Traveler's Wife
The Pilot's Wife
The Kitchen God's Wife
The Zookeeper's Wife
The Mapmaker's Wife
The Senator's Wife
The Memory Keeper's Daughter
The Piano Man's Daughter
The Optimist's Daughter
The Bonesetter's Daughter
The Gravedigger's Daughter
The Florist's Daughter

If you have read them, could you please reveal some of the title characters' names in the comments?

I never made a decision not to read the above books. I was discussing books with a friend and noticed that I always confused the first two in my head. Then I had to assuage my curiosity and see how many other "wife" and "daughter" titles I recognized but never read.

I have however, read:
The Firework-Maker's Daughter (Philip Pullman picture book)
The Meaning of Wife (Anne Kingston essays on the "Wedding Industrial Complex")
The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat (Oliver Sacks, non-fiction)

If you do a search on Amazon, though, you find a lot of "The [adjective] Son", as opposed to "The [noun's] son. Do you think the current titling of [so and so]'s daughters is just a trend, a way to market a story as taking place in the past? Or is there an element of (misguided) nostalgia in the titles? Or am I reading too much into it?

Biscuits, Books, and Bookings

I got a job posting from the Temp Agency I'm with. It is a very well written job posting for a administrative sort of job with a non-profit organization.

Of course, they want someone who can self-motivate, prioritize, see things to completion. They want someone organized who can also organize others and plan events.

I'm sure such people exist. I am not one of them. I am lazy. I have often wished for telekinesis so that my coffee or tea could float to me when I forget the mug on the kitchen counter. I am disorganized (see drawer, socks; see papers, basket of). I do not prioritize well. I work on things I enjoy. Then I force myself to work on things I don't enjoy. And sometimes I wait too long and have to hustle to meet the deadline.

I would love to see a job posting like this:
"Creative, compassionate, intelligent person with good humour needed. Character, spine, and good morals required. Ability to delegate and motivate a plus. Ability to brew good coffee an asset. Organization will be done by others who are better at it than you. Ability to prioritize not necessary as your assistant will hand you numbered lists. Lying, scrupulousness, gossip and politics prohibited."


Went to visit my friend and her wee baby. By "wee" I mean "very big and round and adorable". I had bought the wee (giant) baby an ensemble from Janie and Jack in the States. They sell very cute things. She provided tea and delicious biscuits that she had whipped up from scratch before I arrived. (And took care of baby AND had the kitchen spotless by the time I arrived.) I'd been eyeing the uber-flakey biscuit recipe at Cooks's Illustrated, but Friend introduced me to Chef Michael Smith's clever frozen butter biscuits instead. Genius! Guess what I'll be baking from now till June?

Have been reading one Martha Grimes after another. Now I'm reading the books she mentions in her stories. To whit, "The Turn of the Screw and Daisy Miller" by Henry James. (I'm reading this version. I picked it up at a used bookstore in Kansas and my friend rightly noted that the font reads like 'Pink Panther' rather than 'Henry James'.) I'm also reading "Miss Pym Disposes" by Josephine Tey (in this edition. The book is three novels called "Three by Tey" and there's apparently another set called "Four, Five, and Six by Tey". So far, highly recommended, but I haven't finished it yet.
Got an idea for a story. One of those nice moments, when a story falls into your head, nearly fully formed. Until I write it down, I have the illusion of it being brilliant and publishable. Once I write it then I get to see the plot holes and general weaknesses. It's like an unchecked lottery ticket. As long as you don't check, you could be walking around with MILLIONS in your wallet!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Links I Receive

I just got back from Kansas yesterday. Kansas has many things. My sister, lots and lots of space, and the best onion rings in the Western hemisphere. I will post a pic of the rings tomorrow.

Today I got two links by email from two people who care about me.

I thought they made a funny juxtaposition. One can be taken as a reminder not to take oneself (one's self?) too seriously, the other is a good motivator.

Here's the "novel" bit from Family Guy.


Here's a new Nike ad.
You might have to search around a bit if it doesn't start right away. You can go to English, then USA. You'll find it.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Super Saver Shipping

My sister asked me to get her a book from Amazon.ca since it isn't available in the States yet. I ordered it, but I couldn't pass up on the "Super Saver Shipping". Just get your total up to $40 and shipping is free. Otherwise, you pay $6 or $10 for shipping, and thinking sadly of the book you could've bought. I decided to purchase the recent Robert Plant & Allison Krauss CD, Raising Sand. I don't buy music all that often, and I'm certainly not on the vanguard of musical taste, but this CD is incredible. It is atmospheric and coherent, and Plant and Krauss' voices blend beautifully. I really need to own more Allison Krauss albums - she has a truly angelic voice.

I also bought a Martha Grime's Book, I Am the Only Running Footman, but more about Grimes' series another time.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Here I am

Whether there's anyone reading or not is another matter!

If you are reading, then Happy New Year!

Not a ton of writing done since my last post. But I'm back on the wagon (the writing wagon, that is).

As for why I've been away... well, let's just skip right over that. Some people blog through thick and thin, whereas I do not.

Lately, I've been researching agents and editors again. Also working on a synopsis and query letters. Is my novel ready to send out? Not yet. But writing the synopsis is helping me fix the weak points.

Next deadline: Unknown.
How long should a revision take?