Friday, December 22, 2006

Passport to Nowhereville, or I am Not Worthy

For a number of reasons, I think I should acquire a new passport. Therefore, I read about the requirements on the Passport Canada website. According to them, I don't know anyone living in Kitchener or maybe anywhere else, who is worthy enough to be my guarantor.

Before this, I had no idea that I lived on the fringes of upright society. I thought I was quite a civilized and worthy person but apparently, I'm not. There are a number of professions listed as appropriate for guarantors but I don't know anyone who is a "professional" in this city (they need to have known me for two years), and I may not be able to find one in Toronto either. The list includes doctors, (don't have one), dentists, (don't have one) judges, magistrates and police officers (I haven't made the acquantance of any) lawyers, (don't have one) ministers of religion, ( I've know several, but none are around now - was it something I said?) and so on. If only social workers were still eligible to be guarantors my problem would be solved. Or what about writers - why can't writers be guarantors. Never mind - we know why. It's because we lie in the service of the truth.

The guy at the passport office was very kind and polite, especially considering that the office was filled to capacity. People were lined up just to get in the real line-up, probably the crowd was bigger because the U.S. is going to require Canadian visitors to have passports before the end of January 2007. The man give me an In Lieu of Guarantor form at my request, but he also warned me that since I'm a Canadian, it would seem odd if I didn't have a guarantor and would really slow the process down.

Oh well, at least I don't need a passport to travel inside Canada.

I'm staying close to home for now and I plan to enjoy my green Christmas.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Seven Days Until Christmas

And Ho Ho Ho to all of you!

There are no stockings hung by the chimney with care - because there isn't a chimney. And anyway, stockings wouldn't be hung until Christmas eve. I don't know if my grandsons will put Christmas stockings on their bedroom doors. But since it's their tradition, likely they will. I enjoy certain traditions too, and I plan to institute some new ones.

The first new one was a family party I hosted last Saturday in the condo party room. There's more space and a billiard room too. All went well, if one doesn't count blowing on one's fingers to keep warm while playing pool, the party was a time of warmth and frivolity.

It's been a challenge shopping for teenage boys, my son-in-law, and the man in my life. My shopping is finished, or at least I think it must be, since I've overspent my budget (another tradition). I'll worry about that in January.

I've found some time to practice my Christmas music and to play some of my old Christmas records. Every year I think I should buy a new and bigger print version of the Messiah sheet music, and every year I squint at my 40 year old tiny note copy instead. That's become a tradion too, I guess.

I tend to get senitmental at this time of year so here's my mushy stuff.

Whether your Christmas is green or white - may it be a time of joy for you.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Three Long Cheers for My Friend!

My friend and fellow writer, Lori Hahnel, has had three of her short stories accepted for publication in the last month or so. Her fiction is wonderful. It's original, sometimes quirky, and highly readable; and I recommend everyone run right out and buy any journal her work appears in.

The best news is that her short story "Leading Men" will be published in Prairie Fire. PF is one of the best literary journals in Canada. Her fiction is also going to be published in Rags, Southern Alberta's Creative Writing Journal and one her short stories is now in Menda City Review. Here is the link:

It's great when talent, passion, discipline and persistence are rewarded. Here's to acceptances for all of us in 2007 - Cheers!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Even Cats Can Nag

My daughter has three cats and I've had the opportunity to be educated by them this week since I am staying at her place while she and her husband are on vacation. Two of the crritters are quite vocal when their wishes have not yet been granted.

Dopey expects to have his water dish, which is located away from the other cat dishes, filled as soon as anyone is mobile in the morning, and he complains until his wish is granted. Emma is fairly laid back and quiet, but I've discovered that she expects my daughter's bed to be made, at least by mid-morning, so that she can take her cat nap(s). I had no idea what Emma was going on and on about as I prepared to take my shower, after the boys were off to school, and after I'd done the dishes and read the paper. When I descended the stairs to collect my clothes for the day. There was Emma, standing beside the bed and complaining vociferously. As soon as I made the bed, she hopped up and settled down for what she seemed to think was a well-deserved rest.

I plan to have my well-deserved rest Friday evening, and it will not be interruped by cats, though I'lll miss them.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Men Don't Notice - So Why Must I?

I blame it all on my grandmother. The pre-Christmas, must clean and tidy and fuss compulsion, I mean.

Men never notice if you haven't dusted the top of the book shelves in two months.
Men don't care if your oven sparkles or not, as long as it doesn't make the food smell funny, or send smoke into the room.
Men don't mind if you haven't made the bed in the Martha Stewart fashion.
Men are not bothered by a square candle perched in a round dish, because you can't find the right one.

But the darn Christmas tree, whether it's real or fake, large or small, had better be straight. Where did I put my hammer?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

If People Would Stop Asking, I Might Get Something Done

It's not December, not yet, and already my neigbours are asking me if I'm ready for Christmas. An answer springs to mind, but I don't use it. I could say - Yes, I'm ready, I've even cooked dinner and it will stay on the table until the day. The truth is, I'm not the who will be cooking the dinner on Christmas day, my daughter will have that delightful task. I am planning a family party for December ninth and that seems to lead to things like soaking all my stainless steel flatware in the sink overnight, cleaning out my junk drawers in an effort to find certain kitchen implements I never use and wondering if two different types of salad dressing will be sufficient.

Then there's the tree issue. People are asking me if I've put my tree up yet. No, I haven't. It isn't December yet. If we have a snowfall that stays on the ground sometime before December first, I might become filled with pre-Christmas spirit and put the new tree together.

And, no, I haven't finished my Christmas shopping either. I'll likely go to the mall next Monday when I hope it will be quiet and maybe I'll be able to find what I want. If I knew what I wanted it would certainly be easier. But never mind, ideas will come, they always do.

Speaking of ideas that don't come easily. I went to see "Stranger Than Fiction" with the man in my life on Saturday. I won't reveal all of the plot, but if you are a writer, I think you would enjoy the movie.

Friends who know I write are asking me if I've had anything else published. Only a letter to the editor, I reply. I guess that answer won't change if I don't get some of my stories back on the road and revise the one I should be working on now.

It seems I've run out of excuses and will have to proceed with revisions.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Strange Media Happenings

For the last week or two, CTV has been promoting its telecast of the Giller Prize awards evening. I find it more than passing strange that CTV and not the mother-ship (CBC) is broadcasting this show and in prime time. Justin Trudeau is the host and that alone will likely draw some viewers who don't usually watch literary television. All the promos for the show mention the "big" prize money. They don't mention how long the writers may have slaved before they became luminaries - but then again, why should they? - unless the writer has a personal Dickensian tale to tell.

Four of the five short listed books have been published by two small presses, House of Anansi and Cormarant Press. As more and more publishers get gobbled up by conglomerates, it seems there are few independent presses left, so I hope the publicity will be a helpful for both presses. Running a small press has to be a labour of love because it sure isn't the way to make piles of money.

Speaking of money and the media. Moses Znaimer, the guiding light behind CITY TV and MuchMusic and other successful money making ventures, has purchased a Toronto-based classical music station. There is speculation that either Moses has gone soft, or he sees a market trend that others have not noticed yet.

I'll be quite happy to have another classical station to listen to, if my tuner can pull it in. But I don't know if I can tolerate more than two ads per hour. Maybe I'll just stick with CBC Radio Two.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Two 38C Specials Please and Other Nonsense

I wonder if there are now any unretouched photographs left in this world. There is one that I know of but I'll talk about that later.

CBS Sunday morning showed one of those 'real beauty commercials'. It starts with a good- looking woman who is then made-up to a fare-the-well, but the make-over doesn't stop there. The picture is then photoshopped to elongate the woman's neck, raise her eyebrows and make her eyes bigger. It's all part of the so-called beauty game I guess. It sure ain't real life, but it is on a billboard.

The Blind Date television program claims to be real. I've seen parts of it once or twice, by accident, and found it extremely silly but mostly boring. The producers use captions to indicate how the person's thoughts may not match their words. So, this weekend when we were trying to choose what to watch on pay-per- view, one of the choices was outakes from Blind Date. At least that's what the description said. The short film should have been called Boobs and nothing Butt. Every female blind date had visited the same plastic surgeon and no matter what size their other body parts were, all of them had breasts that were 38C. They all flashed their breasts at their dates and it became obvious that the women were all strippers in real life. The only funny part was the commercial for boobie beer. It was followed by a woman who burped all through her dinner date then later she shook her almost bare ass and farted. True class, or what?

Maybe her burps and the gas that is coming out of Tony Blair's mouth are responsible for the increase in global warming.

After we recovered from watching the Boobs R Us silliness, we watched Inside Man by Spike Lee. In most of the film, everyone is wearing coveralls. It was refreshing not to see many body parts.

I'd like to close with a warning. Do not allow anyone to take a picture of you before 8 a.m. and certainly not before you have imbibed an appropriate amount of caffeine. No amount of photo retouching is of any avail. I shall have to change my name and move to another country if the photo ever escapes custody.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Magic and Tricks

This week, I watched three movies and almost finished one book. Now that the grey and rainy season is here , I'm spending more time in front of the television screen, the computer screen and the movie theatre screen.

I borrowed "L'Age d'Or" from the library. I knew nothing about the film but noticed that Salvadore Dali was one of the writers and it was directed by Luis Bunuel. It's a black and white film made in 1930 and it's very surreal, some of the images are inexplicable, and I'm sure that's intentional. There's no point in mentioning the plot, since it barely exists, but the film is unique in its total strangeness. I understand that later on even Dali refused to be associated it with it, but I'm not sure why, since the film, while it offended many, has a strange magic to it.

And speaking of magic, yesterday we went to see "The Prestige" which opened this weekend. It's a movie about rivalry, tricks and magic and it's set in the early 1900's, more or less. I was fascinated by all the period details, as well as the tricks and the very convoluted way the movie unfolds. I won't reveal much about the plot because that would spoil the movie. I will say I didn't have a clue until the end, and the man in my life didn't either. That's unusual because he takes pride in being able to figure out all the twists and turns and in knowing the ending of a suspenseful film before it's shown. There are two women in the film, but they are merely there as props for the rivalry between the magicians. Too bad. Still, the film is a good solid two hours of entertainment. It was worth the price of two seniors tickets - and it has Michael Caine and David Bowie, in addition to the two main actors who are both excellent.

Friday night, I watched another movie from the library, "Silent Messenger." It's a documentary that "explores the mysteries of the Inuksuit" ... the standing stones found in the Canadian arctic. and also shows the changing ways of the Innuit people. It's outstanding, though not recommended (by me) for young children, since there are graphic hunting scenes. I was mesmerized by the beauty of the landscape and the people. The film was produced by Norman Hallendy who has spent almost 40 years in the far north. I've never been to the far north, yet somehow it is a part of my cultural unconscious. Maybe someday I'll see it for myself, if I'm very lucky.

Right now, I've nearly finished reading "Seek My Face," John Updike's 2002 novel about a 78 year-old painter, her life as an artist, the artists in her life, the transformative power of art, and some other themes as well. The novel is very introspective, but also very visual, and it's chock full of flashbacks and digressions, but it works. At first I found it difficult to stay inside it for long, but after a while, Updike's long paragraphs and the rhythm of them, seduced me. So did all the details about the postwar American art world and the struggles of those who try to produce art, especially female artists.

I was going to look for a book by one of the hot new young authors, but I'm glad I read Updike, instead.

I think I'll go and find some seductive adjectives.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

It's All in the Chair

There's an internet site that features pictures of writers' habitats and I found it rather fascinating. No doubt their offices were spruced up for the photos, but I noticed that while many writers have small desks, some are almost as small as mine, they all seem to have very comfortable writing chairs.

Their chairs bear no resemblance my slipshod office chair. Maybe there's some mystic connection between the chair and the writer. My desk chair is both uncomfortable and uninspiring. It even mocks me by tilting when it sit on it. The adjustment handle has a mind of it's own and the fabric is beginning to come away from the seat. I think I'll demote it and start using one of my wooden kitchen chairs. That'll show it who's boss.

And furthermore, I haven't received any good mail.

It's raining so there's nothing for me to do but to stay in and try the kitchen chair.

Oh, and if you want to see the pictures, here's the link.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

That "F" Word

The local weather forecast for Thursday includes the word "flurries." Maybe the weather reporter was too chicken to say he meant snow flurries. Maybe Flurries or Blizzards from Dairy Queen are going to arrive instead.

I am not ready for even the non-stick kind of snow flurry.

I am however, about ready to spit nails at Mr. Harper, or use the other "F" word when referring to his recent actions. He's cut funding to the national Status of Women and cut funding for court challenges, and and and. It's weird that there are actually people, some of them are female people, who think that Status of Women groups are some secret feminist cabal that intends to rule the world. Not even close. Basic battles are still being fought. Heather Mallick's article on the CBC website has lots of food for thought and some interesting responses.

Here endeth the rant, because I am not feeling well.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Here's Lookin' At You, Kid

If you guessed Casablanca, you win.

It was weekend of movies. We saw Casablanca Sunday, on Rogers pay-per-view, and Saturday we went to see All The King's Men. I mentioned Casablanca first because it stands the test of time. Like an old friend, it has a few minor flaws but I love it and besides - who could resist Bogie? All the King's Men was very good and Sean Penn gives a powerful performance, but there are dramatic moments followed by lulls that maybe could have been fixed. Naturally, it's a great story with lots of plot twists and turns. Sometime, I'm going to watch the original movie version since some critics say it is better than the 2006 version.

Speaking of Bogart, the man in my life said he'd heard that Bogart and Ed Sullivan were brothers. That bothered me and I had to check it out. It isn't true. It's merely one of those legends that someone started. Don't people have better things to do and don't I have better things to do than to disprove said legend? Well, sure, and I mean to get to them. Right after I take a walk through the autumn leaves.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

If it Bleeds, It Leads - Gore Sells

The shootings in Montreal yesterday at Dawson College are featured on the front page of our local paper, The Record. The two lead articles are about the "rampage" and I don't disagree with their placement. But - there's a picture - and a huge one of students leaving the college and at the bottom of the picture, there's the blood and the covered body of the gunman.

Gee thanks - I really needed to see that. My twelve year old grandson really needs to see it too. He reads the paper every day. I don't subscribe to the paper and only saw it by accident while having coffee at Tims. And you can be sure I'm not going to subscribe anytime soon.

Wildlife and A Wild Life

Yesterday, people in the area were told to watch out for escaped bison and a couple of weeks ago, there was a black bear wandering somewhere on the outskirts of the city. But it won't be long before any large animal will have no space to hide in around here. I've had the opportunity to tour the outskirts, or what used to be the outskirts of Kitchener Waterloo. There are so many new subdivisions going in that I began to wonder if I was seeing Calgary.

What the hell are the so-called planners thinking? They're building houses in environmentally fragile areas and, according to the man in my life, one huge subdivision is being built on land that will surely sink. At this rate, we'll soon become just another suburb of Toronto. The Region and the Province keep talking about improving the "transit corridor" between this area and the Big Smoke, but nothing happens.

Since I live in what the city refers to as the Civic Centre area I do have the luxury of visiting any of the three court houses, if I want to be entertained. The court house that is closest to my apartment building is going to be renovated. It's the Family Court and they need a new court room that will be designed for children's needs. That's fine, but the contractor wants to work on the building from 5 in the evening until 6 in the morning so that the court will not be shut down. That's not fine at all, and no one in the neighbourhood was notified of the contractor's intent until the last second. The contractor claims not to have known about the anti-noise bylaw. City council has not approved an exemption yet, and if local residents can protest loudly enough, maybe the council will stand firm. I hope so, because I'd like to have a few quiet months before spring arrives and the city begins tearing up the street on the far side of this building to replace water and sewage lines and repave.

I've been reading "Floor Sample," Julia Cameron's memoir about her life. She wrote The Artist's Way and The Artist's Way at Work and several other books about the creative life. The Artist's Way at Work is on my bookshelf. I read it a few years ago and found that writing morning pages helped me to clarify why I didn't want to work at the community centre any more. So, I was interested in finding out more about Julia Cameron. She's led a "wild" life in many ways and seems to have always followed her creative instincts, sometimes without remembering to care for herself.

I'm going to write my morning pages again for a while and see what they tell me.

Friday, September 08, 2006

It 'Themes' to Me

A friend remarked that she seems to write about the same thing in many of her stories and I started to think about that. Sometimes I'm a slow thinker but once in a while I have a flash. I'd think it was a hot flash, if I wasn't too old to have them. I seem to have an object fetish. When I write, I like to change the role of ordinary things like chocolate, or brushes or slippers and I guess I'm also fascinated by death and being near death and lost chances for love and connection. Just your typical writerly fascinations, I suppose.

I've been participating in an online discussion about what love is and men and women's different approaches to it. It's fascinating to read what some young people think love is. As for me, I'm in the same camp as Scott Peck. I think love is not primarily a feeling (though, believe me I enjoy the feeling) but an activity and an opportunity for spiritual development for both people.

Okay, that's more than enough high-falutin' philosophizing for one blog. It's time for nitty gritty things - like putting one sentence after another. Maybe I can even manage to write a whole paragraph without rereading and changing every sentence as I go along.


Monday, August 28, 2006

Tree-House Days and Talladega Nights

My grandsons have had a tree house in their back yard for about seven years. Their father built it for them and it was supported by two ornamental trees. It has a window box, a rope climb entrance and a slide for an exit. There's a sand box on the ground under the tree house. The tree house has been a magical place for the two boys, but that's about to end. The trees that support the structure are rotting and the boys favourite hide-out isn't safe anymore. Their special place, and the trees that hold it up are about to be removed. Now that the boys are twelve and fourteen, maybe they can live without it. But they talk of building a fort to replace it. I'm glad they're still innocent enough to think a fort isn't a silly idea.

Friday, I took both boys to the movies. We saw Talladega Nights, The Ballad of Billy Bobby, and we all enjoyed it. Some of the satire went un-noticed by the boys, but not all of it. And of course they liked the fast cars and the silly parts of the movie. Both grandsons covered their eyes when Billy Bobby kissed the villain. Kissing is yucky anyway, says the youngest and I don't think that my fourteen year old grandson has kissed anyone, of either sex, except family members, yet.

Their comparative innocence won't last, I know. Frankie's is bound to be challenged when he starts grade 9 in a September and Sam has to cope with a new school too. At least they can just be boys for a few more days.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Not in the 'Write' Mood

I wasn't in the mood to write anything last week. Of course, some folks say mood should have nothing to do with it. They may be correct. In any case, I had to write something about children and obesity for a client and so, I did. Sometimes the have-to factor rules. Then, I thought I'd work on getting into fiction-writing mode by editing an old short story that's been around the block a couple of times. I'm always surprised by how much I can find to change when I reread a story I haven't looked at for a few months. I don't suppose I should be surprised, but if I don't start out with some belief in what I'm doing, I'd never reach the third or fourth or tenth edit stage. Every time I finish an extensive edit, I think - boy! That's got to be it. I'd like to be right more often about that.

Speaking of writing, my dear friend and fellow writer, Lori Hahnel was on the short list for the PRISM International short story contest. If you search her name on the Internet, you'll see that link and links to many of her other fabulous fiction credits. Here's the kicker - PRISM didn't tell her she'd made the short list. She only found out when she checked Google to see which of her writing credits were still showing up on the World Wide Web (Bill Walsh insists those words should have capitals). Here's the link:

Early this morning, I noticed some pedestrians were wearing light jackets, the Canadian National Exhibition has opened and school starts in less than two weeks. I don't know about you, but for me those things are signs that summer will soon be over. I didn't do a lot of the things I had planned to do this summer. I was going to repaint my bathroom. I was going to visit friends in Toronto at least twice. I was going to stick to a writing schedule, but I never figured out what the schedule should be. Oh, and most important, I was going to be at least half way through a decent draft of my novel. Life is filled with unfinished business, but now I have a little list, a little list. Actually, it's a long list, but never mind, at least I've made the list. And, I'm going to tack it up somewhere very visible, then I can cross things off when they're done.

I've had an extraordinary summer in many respects. Much of this summer's joy came from time spent family and friends and with the man in my life. There's been some sorrow , but maybe that, and the joy too, will find its way into my fiction.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Canadian Motor City Gets My Vote. Take Note, Toronto.

My trip to Windsor was almost everything I hoped it would be and I'm very glad I went back to my old home town.

Once upon a time, long, long, ago, local radio stations referred to Windsor and Detroit as the Motor Cities. I can't vouch for the condition of Detroit, but Windsor still retains the Canadian title. It's tied to the auto industry, much as it was in the past. Everyone should have a car, or a truck or a van, and preferably a Canadian-made one. In the less wealthy neighbourhoods, nearly everyone does. But in parts of Walkerville, one of the upscale neighbourhoods, I saw some expensive foreign cars. Oh, the shame of it!

I was most impressed by what Windsor has done with its waterfront. The city has gorgeous waterfront parks that stretch for kilometres. Riverside Drive hugs the shoreline of the Detroit river and absolutely no development is allowed on the side of the road closest to the river. The city also reclaimed the railway lands (the tracks used to run along beside the river). It's truly amazing that a city of 200,000 has the ability to resist the type of hideous but extremely profitable condominium development that ruined the central waterfront in Toronto. My old and still very politically active friend, Patsy, is one the people responsible for fending off the developers. Every five years or so, the no-development policy is challenged at City Council, and Patsy rallies the troops.

On the downside, Windsor is still a city that isn't much into the idea of public transit. There were about 7 bus routes 10 years ago and now, I think there are 10. The bus terminal is exactly the same as it was in my youth. If I'd ever taken psychedelic drugs, I'd have assumed I was having a flash-back when I saw it. At least the city has some newer buses, and yes I was on one.

Most of my exploration of the city took place on foot and, as my grandmother might say, my feet is plumb wore off at the knees. It was the best way to get a feel for the neighbourhoods I wanted to see. I walked all around the downtown area, the Wyandotte street strip, the Erie street area, Willistead and the street I grew up on and other areas. I spoke with several business owners, they were all friendly and took the time to give me their impressions of the city. The Casino is undergoing renovation but it was well-patronized. I couldn't get over the number of different slot machines. Did you know there are some that take $500 for a single chance? Egad! No one was trying their luck at one while I was there. No bloomin' wonder. I wasn't tempted to try anything, not even the nickel slot machines. And anyway, most of them were being used by seniors. I visited the poker rooms. One is not allowed to make casual conversation with the dealers, I discovered. The man who sold chips was not inclined to answer my questions. Maybe I started with the wrong question though. When I asked if seven card stud poker was available, he marked me down as a complete innocent, or an idiot.

On the "our girl makes good" side, that's how Patsy refers to it, another friend of mine from way back when I worked at the Windsor Women's Centre is now the head of the United Way. Patsy, who seems to know every other person in town decided we would drop in on Sheila and we did. A wave at the receptionist and off we went to the head honcho's office. She was glad to see us and we didn't over-stay our welcome.

The funniest thing that happened to me was an encounter with a memorable woman. There's a famous, or maybe infamous, jewellery store in downtown Windsor. It's one of those institutions you have to see to believe. It's been on the same corner for thirty years, or more. Not a thing has changed. The store sells a lot of figurines, plates and miscellaneous chochka's as well as jewellery and fine china. It has display cases so close together that even a thin person must be wary and the carpets are almost see-through. On one counter-top near the door, there is a picture of Mr and Mrs. S., the founders of the store. I naturally assumed that both of them had retired. They were 'old' when I was a young sprat. But I was wrong. The inimitable voice of Mrs. S. accosted me. Mrs. S. knows nothing about subtle sales tactics.

I said, "it's nice to see the store still looks the same after twenty years."
She said, "Where have you been? "
"Toronto," I replied.
"So," she said, "why haven't you come here? Lots of people come here from Toronto."

Oy vey! The conversation went on in this vein for a while. I agreed to look around and asked about Mr. S. He was away on a buying trip. Fortunately for me, Mrs. S. was distracted by the arrival of some Americans. I managed to get out without buying anything and without laughing until I was around the corner. Those Americans would not escape without buying something, or her name isn't Mrs. S. She was once famous for going into the street, stopping tourists and dragging them into her store. After seeing her in action, I suspect that when she is having a good day, she probably still does.

I have pages of notes from my trip and they may be useful, but the most important thing was renewing my acquaintance with the city.

It's still got a great heart and I'll miss it

Monday, August 07, 2006

Checking out The Ambassador Bridge and Other Adventures

On Thursday, I'm going to Windsor. I'ts been years since I visited my home town and I need to soak up its ambience, its flavours. I plan to take lots of notes and maybe some pictures, though a lot of places won't look the same as they did ten years ago. Maybe I'll met an old friend for coffee, if she isn't out protesting something. Patsy must be at least seventy, but she still has a radical heart that leads her in some interesting directions.

What's the first thing a travelling writer packs? Lined note pads, of the right size and shape to fit into a small purse. I found some and I've already stashed them in my suitcase. The other packing won't happen until the last minute.

I plan to visit some of my old haunts - the park under the Ambassador bridge (the best place to watch the submarine races) and a couple of other parks too, the Casino (for research purposes only), the Tunnel Barbeque, if it still exists, and the street where I lived as a child.

I really don't know if I can capture what I need, but I'm going to try.

Sometimes I have lucky days. Saturday was one. The man in my life had suggested earlier in the week that if the weather cooperated we would go to the Mill Race Folk Festival in Galt, if I was interested. I was delighted by the idea and I had the chance to mention I was going to the festival to a friend who lives in the big smoke. It turned out that she was going to be at the festival too. The day was clear with wispy clouds, little humidity or pollution and not too hot. We found a shady spot close to the main Mill Race stage and the river and enjoyed the singers. We weren't easy to see in the crowd, since we were tucked way in a corner, but my friend Dorothy, who can actually see people from more than 500 feet away, spotted us. So, Dorothy and I had a chance to talk between performances. I also enjoyed the music and singing along on the choruses. It was a perfect afternoon.

Maybe my trip will contain some unexpected delights too.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

An Encouraging Rejection

As all three or four, or maybe, sometimes five, reasonably regular readers of my blog know, I wrote a story about a man named Jesse. The story, Jesse's Gift, had been revised to a fare-thee-well. I sent it to PRISM International in April and hoped it would fare well.

Today, my SASE to PRISM came back to me. I could see that the piece of paper in the envelope wasn't even a letter size reply. Oh great, I thought, just one of those notes that says sorry and they've conserved paper by giving me toilet-tissue size response. Well, the editor does say no. But, below the - We receive many excellent submissions but due to space constraints we're unable to publish them all, etc. Please try us again in the future - he added a hand-written note.

"This story of full of detail. It is visceral and sensual and beautifully depicted. I like how this depiction relates to the characters and the worlds that they live in. Thanks so much for the strong submission."

According to other writers, getting a personal note from an editor of a first rank magazine like PRISM is a very good sign. So, I'll have to put on my market research hat and find another place to send it.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Wal-Mart and the movie, The Producers

The last full week of July is upon us. Summer is half-over. Okay, maybe not officially, but in other ways, it is. So many things start again in September. For now though, I'm in lazy summer mode and maybe the weather can be my excuse.

On the weekend, our plans changed due to rain and we saw another movie, The Producers. It's very funny, thanks mostly to Mr. Lane who is consistently hilarious. Before watching the movie, I had the opportunity to visit the local Cambridge Chapters/Indigo bookstore. Of course they didn't have the book I was thinking of purchasing, but I did buy the July issue of Harper's magazine because the cover listed this article: Breaking the Chain, The Antitrust Case Against Wal-Mart. The article is long and informative. It discusses the deleterious effects of the unchecked power of W**^***t including monopsony, my new word of the week. "Monopsony arises when a firm captures the ability to dictate price to its suppliers because the suppliers have no real choice other than to deal with that buyer." Many firms have been affected adversely after chaining themselves to the Wal-Mart star in the hope of soaring. But that is only part of the problem. And you probably wonder why I'm linking The Producers and W-place in my subject line.

Even if you don't wonder, here's why. "Every day Wal-Mart expands its share of the ... markets for magazines, recorded music, films on DVD and books (YIKES, even books). This means that every day its tastes ... weigh that much more on decisions made in Hollywood studios, in Manhattan publishing houses ... (and soon, maybe other publishers).

So, if the retail super-behemoth should decide that a film like The Producers, which features a musical number called Springtime for Hitler, and other possibly unacceptable shenanigans, shouldn't be distributed in DVD format, then it wouldn't be available to the 30 percent of American consumers who shop there. Would that be tragic? Well, no. But is this the thin edge of the Whale-Mart tells us what to view or to read wedge?

I wonder.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hot and Cold

It's been miserably hot, but a storm blew in last night and cooled things off, temporarily. Good thing, because I was tired of being confined to my living room.

It was hot on Thursday when we celebrated Sam's birthday. He loves hot food, so he had pizza with hot peppers, and hot wings too. Friday I got a rejection letter for one of my short stories from NQ. I rather expected it, since NQ is a notoriously difficult magazine to conquer, but I have to try once a year. By Saturday, it was downright horrid outside. I went to the market early and bought a bouquet of flowers for myself. Why not?

Better things happened on the weekend. The man in my life took me to the movies. We saw Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean Part II. I didn't like all the dead critters, but at least there was Johnny to look at, and Orlando Bloom.

Yesterday, I got more birthday mail. It was more than somewhat late, but I don't mind having my birthday goodies spread out. My friend Sharon sent me a silly card, a generous gift certificate for the LCBO, and a copy of her brochure (one I did some work on). So, I can celebrate all over again, perhaps with a lovely single malt scotch, when I'm able to walk as far the LCBO. It may be a while before I can do that, though.

My knee is not speaking to me - it is yelling instead. So, I'm giving it the old cold treatment. I recall one of my many physiotherapists saying "Ice is Nice." That's a damned lie. But I have to use it anyway. And I guess kneeling is off my list of can-do things for now. Floor washing is boring and can be postponed.

I'm going to Windsor August 10 to 13th. Research, research and lots of note taking. Maybe a visit with an old friend, if she is in town, and a visit to the Casino. After all, I have to make the gambling scenes realistic. I won't spend as much as my character does though, she has a bigger budget.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Canada Post, or Pony Express

After my weekend in Port Ryerse, and after receiving excellent advice from my writer friend in Calgary and a friend here, I added the final grace notes to the story I'd been revising, and revising. Then, I prepared to send it out. I decided to be brave and choose two markets this time. I was feeling happy about this decision as I walked to the postal outlet in the card store in the old market building on King. When I handed the envelopes to the person behind the counter and paid the postage, he stamped them and put them in the outgoing first class bin. As I was turning away, the woman who had been waiting beside me "went postal" and began berating the clerk.

She claimed that this postal outlet had lost a package worth $4,000. And furthermore, nothing that she had mailed through this outlet since June 15 had been received. Someone has threatened to sue her, she claimed. Then she said she might sue Canada Post.

I was transfixed by this tale, not to mention worried. It was too late to get my envelopes back, so I'll just have to hope they get to their destinations. I considered that outlet my lucky place, but now I'm not so sure. Maybe I'll have to choose another.

There are plenty of horses in this area, perhaps someone could start a new version of the pony express.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Some Mild Patriotic Words

Tomorrow is Canada Day and while I'm not going to wave the flag about, I do want to say - Happy Birthday - eh!

A couple of nights ago, I answered a telephone opinion survey. It was a political survey and after the first three questions, there was no doubt in my mind. The survey was designed to find out whether Canadians agree with Harper's policies and his agenda. There were about 15 questions connected with the likelihood of a terrorist attack on Canada and how the government is handling this supposedly urgent matter. There were also a lot of questions about how much information the government should be able to access (in order to prevent terror attacks, naturally) and how further access to information, conversations, you name it, could be made legal. Finally, there were questions about Canada's role in Afghanistan and our role as peacekeepers.

Many of the questions started with "Are you afraid? - of terrorist attacks, of youth gangs, of criminals not being locked-up forever, of refugees who may be terrorists, of our inability to defend our arctic waters, of ill-equipped customs officers, or conversely, of not being able to enter the United States of... Well ... Everything.

How can anyone reasonably answer a question like - will there be a terror attack on Canada in the next year? Yes, no, maybe - all are equally correct. If terrorists are going to target us, they are not going to warn us about it.

The questions concerning Canada's peacekeeping role were equally unsuitable. Should we stick to our "traditional observe and help role;" or should we take a more "Military" role. In the first place, our traditional peacekeeping role has always included military "action" when necessary in a protective manner. In the second place, actively assisting the Americans in Afghanistan to attack and kill is not peacekeeping. And it will not stabilize anything.

The whole questionaire seemed designed to prod paranoia buttons. Well my button didn't function. Let's not try to become Americans. We are Canadians, and that is more than good enough.

Harper, smarten up. Don't make me smite ya.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Signs, signs, everywhere Signs - Open the Door!

My birthday weekend was replete with the kinds of people and events, I'd wish everyone I care about could have on their birthday. And yes, there were signs.

The front of my daughter's house was decorated with a Happy Birthday sign. Primarily, it was there for my grandson, who celebrated his fourteenth birthday on Saturday, but I choose to believe it was there for me as well.

This evening, Wayson Choy spoke about signs and symbols in a writer's life and I realized there have been quite a few signs pointing the way for me. However, it takes me quite a while to understand the portents.

New ones given to me on Sunday, when I visited my daughter. My youngest grandson made a card for me. The front of the card has a "door" that opens, and the card says
"Do you choose to open the door to life?" I am not impartial. I'm blown away by my soon-to-be twelve grandson's ability to cut to the heart of things. My daughter gave me a beautiful brick candle to light my way. And the man in my life gave me a book. And not just any book, but: Writing Life: Celebrated Canadian and International Authors on Writing and Life.

Over the years, there have been lots of other signs. Some of them seemed negative at the time. My eighth grade teacher insisted I couldn't possibly have written the story I submitted and tried to fail me. My tenth grade teacher said I should continue to write poems. Eventually, I did, but they came back from editors with notes that said - not these, but do you have more. I didn't send more. This could be an endless list. My mother kept every letter I ever sent to her until I insisted she get rid of them. One of my ex-lovers has a stash of my letters and will not give them back to me, nor will he destroy them. I've only written eight short stories that I feel are "finished" but two have been published. That should be considered a good average, but of course I don't consider that - I wonder what's wrong with the rest of them.

I've managed to ignore the fact that I wrote a two page letter that enabled the Veterans program to get half-a million dollars in expansion money, and every other grant proposal I wrote brought in money too. Then there was the condolence letter I wrote to a former client's son. It was a simple and direct letter about having known his father. I did it because I wanted to acknowledge a man's life, but the son was so moved by it that he made a very large donation to the agency, and a friend tells me that he continued to do that for two more years.

So, there have been lots of signs, I'm just a slow reader.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Older than them thar Hills But, Not Smarter, Yet.

It's that time of year again. The time when I officially get older. It isn't a decade birthday, but today my grandson officially graduates from elementary school and on the weekend he will be fourteen. In two years, Frankie will be driving. I guess that makes me older than them thar hills. It's a good thing I became a mother at such an early age, because I'll have more than one generation to depend on as I enter my dotage.

I'm still too young to have any of the advantages of being older, like crankiness and forgetfulness, the flaws people ascribe to our elders. But I've decided some early practice wouldn't hurt. Maybe I can "forget" to pay some bills and use the extra money for a treat, and maybe I'll ask the mail carrier what he's done with all the acceptance letters that should be in my mailbox. I might even tell the superintendent of my building that I don't want to hear about every complaint she receives. Well, I might, if I have a personality change, but it's more likely that I'll continue to listen to her.

I'm not any smarter than I was last year. Probably that's just as well, though, because if I was too smart I'd give up the mug's game of writing fiction, since logic would say my chances of success are so low.

Fortunately, I'm not smart enough to accept that. Instead, I plan to celebrate being young enough to pursue my dreams.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Capri Pants Must Die.

I was at the mall today looking for a skirt, or a decent pair of dressy straight-legged slacks. Every other woman who passed me in the mall was wearing capri pants. Ick! They make women's legs look shorter and fatter. Unless you're a stick figure, they simply don't work. What really aggravates me is that next year, that fashion will be as dead as dead can be, and hundreds of thousands of women will put the Capri pants or cropped pants, or whatever you want to call them, (I just call them ugly) at the back of their closets.

And while I'm still in fashion rage mode. Why are there only ballerina, flouncy skirts on the racks, or skirts with weird zig zag hem-lines? And why is the only suitable cotton A-line skirt in the entire mall priced at $80 (including the taxes) and made in China? Maybe the pretty beaded filigree trim accounts for it, but I have my doubts.

I also doubt that I'll be able to add anything else to my wardrobe in the near future.

I am only a channel for "The Fashion Maven," side of my personality and take no responsibility at all for her crankiness.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The New Yorker, The Walrus, and Snidely Whiplash

The good folks who live in Toronto are recovering from the media frenzy that blared forth when suspected terrorists were arrested on Friday. I think it was Friday, time seems to waiver when news reports leave out details. Before this incident I'd been thinking about the media and humour in the media. Now, I wonder what The New Yorker magazine and The Walrus magazine would have to say about the incident. I know what Snidely Whiplash would say, he'd say "Curses! Foiled Again."

So why am I mentioning Snidely in the same sentence as those two magazines? It all began when I bought an April issue of the New Yorker and then the June issue of The Walrus. I like to buy Canadian magazines, and I wish that at least one could compare to The New Yorker. The Walrus tries hard, and the June issue has a very good article by Roy Romano on Canada, as well as an article by Mark Kingwell about the empire of the United States but it also has a pitiful attempt at humour by Marni Jackson. The New Yorker is still a weekly magazine, and it's the only weekly magazine that will print long detailed articles, fine fiction, and humour and there is always at least one cartoon in every issue that makes me laugh. Maybe someday there will be an equivalent Canadian magazine, maybe, but that's about as likely as the return of Snidely Whiplash. Snidely, the inept cartoon villain from The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, might say - tie Ms. Jackson's computer to the tracks. Then, I'd have to stop him in order to preserve his reputation. But I'll give him another task, he can make a brief appearance or two in my novel, if he misbehaves in the appropriate manner.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Squabbleland and Brokeback Mountain

If there was a country called Squabbleland, then I have some people who should be sent there. In that land, they could carry on endless arguements about small issues and drive one another to the brink of insanity.

The United Nations has not agreed to the formation of Squabbleland, and even if it did, there would be an ongoing and of course fruitless struggle to define the borders of the new country. In the meantime, I guess I'm stuck with the folks who seem to enjoy constantly disagreeing with one another.

So, I'll talk about a movie instead. I saw Brokeback Mountain on the weekend and am not sure what kept me from going to sleep while I was watching it. Maybe it was the Alberta scenery. If the cowboy is laconic as well as iconic, then I suppose the two stars of the film did what fit the bill. They couldn't say what the screenwriter didn't provide, and he or she didn't provide much dialogue. If the film hadn't been about a same sex relationship between two men-of-the-range would it have caused a ripple? I'd say no.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Out of the Pop Culture Loop - Like - Way out.

Every so often, my status as a one of the people who is perennially "out of the loop" about pop culture is re-confirmed. Last night was one of those occasions. I couldn't sleep and so, instead of reading I turned on the television and watched a little of the David Letterman show. He was interviewing a young woman I didn't recognize. She is one of the stars of the television show Will and Grace. I've seen the show a couple of times but that's all, and when Rogers cable gets around to disconnecting me, I won't be catching any reruns.

When my grandson talks about the bands he listens to I'm perplexed. I only recognize the name of one band and I haven't heard their music. Apparently they are "like ... really cool." I'm amazed that the word "cool" is a staple in the vocabulary of a fourteen year old, and I certainly won't tell him that I used it way back in the dark ages when boys would be kicked out of school for having below-the-shoulder length multi-coloured hair and wearing jeans. and girls could be sent home for wearing skirts that didn't cover their knees, or for not wearing a brassiere. Dinosaur days.

When it comes to pop culture books, I'm also not up-to-date. Stephen King has a new book out, "Cell." My daughter read the first part of it and gave up. She won't allow my grandson to read it until he's older; although she has let him read other Stephen King novels. She's decided that if it's too graphic for her, then it's certainly not appropriate for her fourteen-year-old son.

Speaking of books, a couple of days ago, one of my neighbours gave me "Three Day Road" by Joseph Boyden. It's the One Book One Community selection for Kitchener Waterloo this year and I was excited to acquire it, even though I must return it to the library by February 28th. It is a much better choice than last year's book "Hominids." I'm only on page 60 because I'm savouring the writing, but already I'm extremely impressed. The book isn't a pop-culture novel - it's way too good to be given that label.

I can't say I'm completely un-exposed to pop culture though. Sunday I went to see the movie "RV" with the man in my life. It wouldn't have been my first choice, but since he's taken me to many of my first choice movies, I agreed. He found it hilarious, and I thought it was mildly funny although I could have done without the exploding trailer toilet episode. On the positive side, Robin Williams is very good at physical comedy and has a very expressive face. We went to the matinee and there were lots of children in the audience. They loved the movie.

I miss seeing free cartoons before a movie starts, but that just means I'm old.

Tha tha tha that's all folks!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Beware of the "Should" People. They're Multiplying.

I don't know how you feel when someone tells you should do something, or act in a certain manner, but I know how I feel. It annoys me.

Maybe it all started when I was at George Brown College and so many of the people in the Human Services Counsellor course were members of Alcoholics Anonymous. "Don't should on yourself" was one of their favourite expressions. And I still think it's good advice, but I'd like to amend it slightly to include don't 'should on other people either."

The word, or its intent has been popping up frequently. Harper implies that we should all be happy with the budget, since everyone gets a tax cut. Well, if everyone gets a tax cut (and that's not quite accurate) then revenues will fall. And he's got lots of spending plans. Next thing you know, he'll be telling us how necessary it is to raise more money, by cutting frills (read services here, if you are not a Conservative) and increasing private health care.

A few days ago, the latest issue of This Magazine arrived. There's an article in it by the writer, John Degen, titled "Suffering for One's Art is Romantic, But it's Still Suffering." I agree with much of what he says about arts funding, but here's what got my attention and got my goat, too. (Note the word too at the end of that sentence). He says, and I quote:

"A good novel should take five years from conception to launch."

He goes on to talk about "writing, rewriting, self-editing, finding an agent, (if you are extremely lucky), finding a publisher (see finding an agent), editing again, copy editing, launching and touring."

Maybe he's right, and there are writers who have had to endure an even longer time line; but, that should sticks in my craw. It could be that I don't like his idea of how long it ought to take. because in five years and one month, I'll be sixty eight. That's awfully close to seventy, and I sure hope I finish my novel before I hit the next decade.

There are other people who are saying you should to me. A member of the e-editing circle I joined is quite fond of that little word. You should never end a sentence with 'too,' says he. And, you should never use strange descriptive words. He also listed quite a few, you should not's, but I'm not going to mention them.

I'll think I'll go and break a few writing rules. My errors, if indeed they are errors, can be corrected when I rewrite, and rewrite. But right now, I want to make some, and I need to, too.

Monday, May 01, 2006

When in Doubt, Move Furniture or Nudge Golf Balls

Last week I managed to completely avoid working on my fiction. It was WAW Writing Avoidance Week for me. Maybe it could become a national holiday.

I found a lot of other things to do, and in case you want to follow my shining example, I'll give you the short list.

First, I acquired a new internet service provider and then I filed my taxes online, before the deadline. That gives me bonus points because last year, I was a late filer.

Then I rearranged my living room (again) because the shelves I'd moved made me feel hemmed in and besides I needed to vacuum under some furniture, and its spring. That may be the last time I move the shelves for a while, since I'm not sure what's holding them together and I don't want to create ill will in them. I need their support since they hold my writing books and miscellaneous things like the stapler, the stack of evnvelopes and file folders, the paper clip supply,the phone books and my bus map Now they are backed with cork board so I can stick things on them.

My best avoidance activity of the week was mini-golf. I'm not good at it since my ability to judge distances, angles, and elevations is so poor. But blind luck and the ability to distract my worthy opponent led to victory. After 36 holes, I had taken one stroke less than my partner. The mini-golf course has a field behind it and it was receiving an application of manure. Mostly the wind was blowing away from us, but when it blew in the wrong direction my allergic opponent began to sneeze. Maybe I won because I sneezed less. A rematch is very likely, but the number of courses we can choose from is limited.

I also watched a bit of the hockey play-off games. It's time to say farewell to cable television and I've cancelled my Rogers account, but since they haven't yet disconnected me, I'm indulging in an advance bout of nostalgia; after all, why should I wait until the service stops.

I guess I'd better go and put one word after another.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Dark Screen, Dark kitchen, Bright Literary Light

Yesterday, I finally changed my internet service provider. Well, to be technically correct, I didn't accomplish this great leap forward by myself, the man in my life did most of the work. And, wonder of wonders, he actually followed the available step-by-step instructions. So, last night, I tried to send out notices to everyone in my email address book. But I couldn't. My Norton Antivirus kept saying it wouldn't send "encrypted" messages. Then the Norton site refused to open and give me more information, so I gave up temporarily. This morning I turned on my computer and the screen was dark. Yikes! Before cardiac arrest set in I thought I should check the easy things. It turned out that t.m.i.m.l. had turned off my monitor screen before he left.

One problem solved, but another darkness problem has occurred and I hope it will be just as easy to remedy. It's a rainy Sunday morning and when I turned on the kitchen lights, the last two fluorescent tubes flickered and went out. I think I'll live with a dark kitchen today since I'm feeling lazy and don't want to tackle taking out the ceiling panels and then walking to the hardware store in the rain.

In between my movie watching adventures, I have been doing some reading. I finished Zadie Smith's White Teeth but I wouldn't give it four stars since I think the last third of the book is very weak. I also think she's the queen of digressions, but maybe that is just sour grapes on my part. What I would recommend is "The Wreckage" by Michael Crummey. If I were a reviewer, I'd give it the maximum number of stars available because it's a very fine novel. I hadn't read anything by this writer before, but I'm certainly going to look for his "River Thieves" which was a finalist for the Giller Prize in 2001.

Maybe a quiet wet and somewhat dark Sunday will be just what I need.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

More Movie Madness and Rama Lama Ding Dong Too

I've seen two more movies in the last couple of weeks and I'm happy to report that both Capote and Narnia are excellent.

The actor who played Capote gave an amazing performance and it's no wonder he captured the Oscar. He must have watched hundreds of clips of Capote, the strange man who pretty much invented a new genre when he wrote In Cold Blood. It's a chilling book. The movie also shows Capote's somewhat parasitic reliance on and attachment to the killers. I suppose though that many writers mine other peoples lives, or their own lives for the sake of their art.

I don't know a lot about C.S. Lewis's life or where his inspiration came from. But, while I haven't read the Narnia books, I do remember reading C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters when I was in my teens and being quite impressed with the wiliness of the older devil. I did see the movie about his wife Joy and their relationship some time ago and it seems that C.S. Lewis was fated to meet his love very late in life, and then she died before he did.

If you are wondering about 'Rama Lama Ding Dong' - its appearance is the result of my pecan pie intake. Monday night I was at a C.A.A. executive meeting, wearing my secretary hat, and I had the pie for dessert. When I came home, I went on-line and began chatting with my friend Dorothy. By then, all the sugar was giving me such a high that I entered the extreme silliness state. Dorothy and I began exchanging typed riffs of nonsensical and sometimes bawdy song lyrics. It's something we used to do when we worked together and stress and tension was high. I remember we started it after I'd dealt with a violent incident.

Who put the Ram in the Rama Lama Ding Dong
Who put the Bop in the Bop She Bop She Bop

Shoop Shoop Shoop

Duke Duke Duke, Duke of Earl, Duke Duke Duke of Earl

Mama's Got a Squeeze Box

Loui Loui

A Tisket A Tasket A Green and Yellow Basket

It kept us from becoming basket cases, or maybe it didn't, but now it's a 'tradition - tradition'.

I've decided to refer to my almost-daily walks that nearly always include a stop at Tim Hortons as my tradition. It sounds so much better than saying I have a habit.

Make it a double double, please.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Circular Life

Many, many, many years ago, when circulars were sometimes printed using a Gestetner machine, I was an envelope stuffer. It was my first paying summer job. The company was trying to sell hearing aids and the owner was mailing an advertisement to everyone in the city. He obviously didn't know anything about marketing.. He also didn't pay much and I can't remember the hourly amount I received. I do remember coming home with navy blue fingers every afternoon.

Circulars have changed and so has the marketing approach. Last night I spent a little time stuffing envelopes at my daughter's office. It was a volunteer effort. I was there and had to wait for a ride so I offered to help. The advertising is targeted, as they say in marketing, and the gorgeous info flyer will be sent out with a newsletter and a fridge magnet. I hope it will be very successful.

I think my glasses are still at the office so this wee blog is in large print. Maybe marketers should consider printing most things in larger print since Canada has an aging population. Last week, I received a flyer from the real estate agent who sold me my apartment. It was printed in 8 point font, I just know it was because I've set up brochures and you just can't get so much print into the available space unless you are using 8 or less. I had to peer closely at it and after trying to struggle through the first paragraph, I put the flyer in the circular file.

Happy Easter and find an egg for me will you. I can't see a darn thing.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Little Song, a Little Dance and No Seltzer

My life is rolling merrily along at the moment. It wouldn't be safe for me to do anything more than a slow dance, or some of the belly dance movements I remember that don't require too much bending of the knees, but I did sing in the shower.

Even receiving a rejection letter didn't really dent me for too long because on the very same day I got a gorgeous mug from Kelley Armstrong. It was a perk for participating in NaNoWriMo. Kelley gave presents to her board members who completed the challenge.

As for the dance part of the headline, my daughter and her family went to see Tap Dogs Monday evening. Both Nancy and Sam are tap dancers and they reported that the performance was amazing, so maybe I'll help fund the same type of outing again next year, if the troupe returns to Kitchener.

Alice Munro will be interviewed on TVO this evening and I won't be home to see it. I only found out when the interview would be on after I agreed to attend a C.A.A. executive meeting tonight. Right about now, I wish I was a good liar in real life because I'd love to find an excuse to stay home, but ethics are prickly things and they get in the way of that kind of lie. Maybe it will be rebroadcast sometime when I'm home.

In between seeing movies with the new man in my life and reading books about writing and doing the necessary and tedious things, I've managed to get a little writing done. At the last possible moment, I submitted a story to the Ten Stories High contest and I've revised a bit more of my novel.

I've also been reading Elizabeth George's book about the novel writing process, "Write Away, One Novelist's Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life." My writer friend Arlene recommended the book and I found it was available at the library. Of course I don't agree with everything she suggests about the way to approach novel writing. I may be a bit too left-brained, or is it right-brained or maybe muddle-brained? to follow such thorough step-by-step processes for every aspect of the novel. I do, however, agree with some of her final words and here they are verbatim:

"You will be published if you possess three qualities - talent, passion and discipline.
You will probably be published if you possess two of the three qualities in either combination - either talent and discipline, or passion and discipline.
You will likely be published if you possess neither talent nor passion but still have discipline. Just go to the bookstore and pick up a few "notable" titles and you'll see what I mean.
But, if all you possess is talent or passion, if all you posses is talent and passion, you will not be published. The likelihood is you will never be published. And if by some miracle you are published, it will probably never happen again."

Tough words - where is that discipline switch again? Oh yeah, it's all in my head. Back to work.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Confessions of a Simple Prole

In the last few days, I've chosen entertainment over enlightenment about ninety percent of the time and I suppose that might re-confirm my membership in what Marx referred to as the proletariat. I've always been a member of the working classes, not what the Globe & Mail so archly refers to as the chattering classes. I confess, I'm just a simple prole

Last weekend I saw Ron James' two hour live stand-up comedy show and loved it. I was as impressed by his ability to remember all his jokes and stories as I was by the material itself. And on Saturday, I had my choice of two movies "Capote" or "The Legend of Zorro" and I chose the second one. I wasn't in the mood for enlightenment. I wanted to see great-looking men ride horses and brandish swords. --I wonder why must swords always be brandished, why can't they be flourished or waved? and why must hussies always be brazen? Maybe someone should brandish a brazen hussy sometime. --The movie was filled with impossible stunts (a horse on top of a train - oh sure), impossibly pushed up buxom bosoms (Zeta Jones must still have bruises), one impossibly good child actor and the requisite impossible plot. What more could an honest prole want?

The answer is ice cream, and I had some maple walnut.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

All Johnny Depp - All The Time

Well, not quite all the time, but it makes an interesting headline.

I saw Depp's latest movie, The Libertine, on the weekend. It's a dark, and muddy movie, both literally and figuratively speaking. I don't think I'd see it again, but that's because I don't want to come out of a movie feeling depressed. Depp's character (a poet and a rake) is never redeemed and sinks slowly into the mire after acquiring syphilis. Meanwhile his co-star and lover, the main female character, goes on to greater things and never gets sick. I guess poets must always suffer in some way and rakes must definitely suffer. Depp's character is addicted to excess in every form and as my date said - the movie depicted the final result of those addictions quite vividly. I'd go one past that and say "too vividly" for me.

I also saw "Chocolat" again this weekend , more Depp on-screen and lots of lovely chocolate to admire.

Maybe I can see another Depp movie sometime this week and that will make three in a row. Something to strive for, I'm sure.

Meanwhile, all that chocolate has me thinking I may have to get a chocolate fix soon because I am an un-reformed, though mostly abstinent chocoholic and I'm jonesing for some really good stuff. Yesterday's healthy salad made me feel virtuous, but I've had enough of virtue for the moment.

Here's to temporary decadence!

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Runaway Slipper and Other Tales of Confusion

It simply won't do. It's not fair and I don't quite know how to punish the culprit. One of my favourite knitted slippers ran away. I didn't do anything to upset it. I even washed both slippers the other day and let them dry out peacefully on top of the electric baseboard heater. And then there was only one to be found. I was reduced to wearing two pairs of socks to keep my feet warm and I begin to wonder if, like Earl, I've failed to fulfill my karmic list. That's a possibility, because I don't keep a list.

There are lots of other things I keep though; including various versions of the short stories I've written. Maybe I keep too many versions, because now I can't find the version I want and it's possible I may have partially revised it and accidentally deleted it. Thank God I have a hard copy of a couple of versions and now I can try to "fix" an earlier stored version. And of course, all the versions I have are too long for the contest I have in mind. Are you confused by this? - if not - then you are more with-it than I am.

A few of days ago, in an attempt to be with-it on the technological front, I installed a new anti-virus system for extra protection. Well, I got more protection than I wanted. The new system was blocking all my e-mails and it took me ages to figure that out. At first I just thought everyone in the internet universe was ignoring me - but spam never ignores me. So, I had to tell the anti-virus thingie to ignore checking my e-mails and I was able to do that. But, every time I log off and then return, it has forgotten my previous instructions. I guess the K I S S (keep it simple stupid) principle still applies to my relations with the computer, and with my slippers too.

I found the missing slipper. It had migrated to a top shelf in my bedroom. Maybe it needed more rest than its partner. I don't know because I didn't put it there.

My computer has not run off yet so I guess I'd better put my confused mind back to work.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Are Those Eyelashes Real? Oscar night thoughts

I stayed up last night to watch the Oscar awards show. Usually, I just catch the results on the news the next morning, but since I'd seen a couple of the movies and was still awake I decided to watch the glitz and glam in all its live glory.

George Clooney is "the man" and when he's wearing a tuxedo, he looks as if he was born in one. Did you ever notice his eyelashes? They are so amazing I wonder if he augments them, but surely Mr. Cool would not do that. Lots of the female stars do, and a lot of them are so thin that I worry - if they add another layer of eyelashes the weight just might cause them to topple over. I know the camera is merciless, but please, eat something ladies, at least once a day.

As for the films that won - March of the Penguins won best documentary and if there's anyone who hasn't seen it yet - then do. It's a terrific film and I was glad to hear the French filmmakers mention the renewal of the Antarctica treaty too. Memoirs of a Geisha got some well-deserved technical awards and The Constant Gardener did not win anything much. It got a lot of attention, but I didn't think the movie was as marvellous as some declared, guess maybe a lot of Academy folk agreed with me. Now that Crash has the best picture award I hope I can find a way to see it, and maybe I'll see Brokeback Mountain, but that's just a maybe. I'd rather see Crash.

It was a year for weird movie theme songs and none of the ones that were nominated turned my crank, but I'm just an old crank when it comes to movie theme songs. For instance; "It's Hard Bein' a Pimp" - I could only understand the lyrics the female performer sang, so I'm not sure if the song is filled with irony, or not, though I hope it is. I like Dolly Parton, because she knows she is projecting a cartoonish personna and she enjoys herself, plus she has written some very good songs, but the one she performed last night wasn't one of her best.

Sometime, I'd like to see Capote because the clips from it are amazing.

Well, this tired Oscar reporter better get some sleep, or she'll resemble Jack Nicholson. Eeek!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Harper Gives This Introvert Indigestion

The CBC national television news ran a feature on Stephen Harper last night. The experts have declared that his is an introvert-type personality. The piece also revealed that he is now on his third Communications Director, and that he doesn't like giving spontaneous interviews or quotes to the press. He's giving introverts a bad name, I mean, what if everyone who is an introvert, like me for instance, ends up being thought of as a Stephen Harper clone. The very thought of it makes me queasy. Of course Harper unsettled my stomach before I heard of his official personality type, but now it's worse.

I was curious about the exact definition of introvert, so I looked it up in my brand new dictionary and was mildly surprised to find this:
1. Psychology a person predominantly concerned with his or her own thoughts and feelings.
2. A shy quiet person. - Why is that the secondary definition? Is it because introverts haven't lobbied for a more prominent dictionary position?

I believe I fit the second definition, in spite of the fact that occasionally I make loud statements in public. I tend to be loud because its the only way I can make myself speak at all under those conditions. I think that Harper fits the first definition and if he is predominantly concerned with his own thoughts and feelings, how much care will he have for the people of this country, I wonder?

I still have my original Communications Director because I am unable to fire her. I guess I'm just too soft altogether.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Gold Medals and Bras

I watched the Canadian women's hockey team defeat Sweden and win Olympic Gold and cheered for them and shed a few tears too. If it was that time of the month, it would explain my tears, but I no longer have that excuse. Maybe now that I'm an 'old gal' I can be overtly emotional any time of the month. Why not?

Maybe I can rant away about the not-so-joyful process of finding a new bra too. Not that I was planning to buy one, but when I took my favourite comfortable bra out of the washer and hung it over the shower rod to dry, I happened to look at it closely. It was clear that the poor thing wouldn't survive more than one or two more washings. The last time I was in Toronto, a friend told me about a great bra store and I went there but I couldn't face paying about $70 for a bra so I decided I'd wait. Well the waiting time was up and since it was snowing madly this morning, I decided to make the trip to the Zellers store at Bridgeport. A big part of the strip mall is being renovated so I had the fun of navigating around the construction and avoiding drivers in the parking lot who didn't have a clue what they were doing. It was quiet in Zellers, it usually is, except on seniors days and I mosied through the lingerie department. I was intrigued by the very colourful selection of bras but did not think I wanted hot pink or lime green with blue stripes. And a lot of the very colourful bras are only available in smaller sizes. Talk about prejudice. Of course Jockey doesn't make the bra I used to like anymore and a couple of other models I might have chosen don't seem to exist either.

The whole process of choosing a bra is a crap shoot if you ask me. I measured myself, all three ways before leaving for the store, in case my breasts had grown overnight. They hadn't, but I'm sure my back has.

In the end, I found one that does not look like it was designed to hold up a whole bridge. It seems to fit - though who knows if it will fit tomorrow, and it turned out to be on sale. Lucky, lucky me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Matinee Giggles

Most of the people I know don't celebrate Valentine's Day, and I didn't either, at least not on the day itself. However, on Sunday I had a movie-and-dinner date. We went to the Sunday matinee of The Pink Panther. I was sure there would be some children there, and I was right. One boy in particular made the movie-going experience more fun. He had the most infectious giggle I've ever heard. In fact, if the laugh-track people knew about him, he'd be signed up in no time. There's a lot of physical comedy in the current version of The Pink Panther, and the giggler helped the adults in the audience to let go and laugh at the extreme silliness we were seeing. So, I'm glad we went to the afternoon show, because the evening audience surely would have been more restrained.

These lines from the movie still make me chuckle.

"It was fatal."
"How fatal?"
"He's dead."

My daughter and son-in-law came over on Saturday and now the door to my utility room is installed, more shelves have been put up, and - most important of all - the doors to my fridge/freezer have finally been reversed. I no longer have to back up against the wall to open the fridge door. I don't understand why the previous owner of this place didn't have the doors put on the right way, but maybe she had the same problem I did. It's a two-person job, so I had to wait for help.

The opening ceremonies for the winter Olympics were so visually entrancing that I watched some parts twice. Later I found out that my daughter and family, who have Express-view watched parts of the ceremonies three times. I'm watching parts of the games, mostly figure skating and women's hockey, when I remember to check the schedule. I'm a big fan of the Canadian women's hockey team and I wish they'd get the kind of attention they deserve. Maybe when they win the gold medal, they will. The Canadian men's hockey team has a lot of old guys on it, so who knows, they might not win. I do feel somewhat sorry for Wayne Gretzky, because lately, he looks like he's getting an ulcer from the stress of the gambling accusations. Yeah, I know, he's rich and all, but he's never been pretentious and I'm willing to "bet" he had no involvement in the so-called scandal. Maybe I'm biased because I spent some years in the great one's home town. Brantford's the kind of place you'd choose to leave, if you could.

I wonder if our postal carrier is on a one-man strike or something. My mail box has been almost empty for over a week, only one piece of junk mail has arrived, and that's it. I'm waiting for T4P's and hoping for replies to my fiction submissions. Maybe this afternoon, or tomorrow, or the next day, there will be real mail for me. Meanwhile, I suppose I should get to work.

Friday, February 10, 2006

No Law Against Love

Two members of the Grand River Three, our small independent writing group, submitted short stories for No Law Against Love, a romance anthology published by Highland Press. Both stories were accepted for publication, so congratulations to Jennifer Ross and Susan Barclay. Well done, guys!

Proceeds from the anthology support breast cancer research and I hope that sales will be brisk.
Every story in the anthology features a silly law which might interrupt a romance. Since I've had the opportunity to read and make editing suggestions for both stories, I can tell you that if every story in the anthology reaches the quality of Susan and Jenn's stories, then the book should become a big hit.

The book will be available from Barnes & Noble. Their first order has sold out!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Quilts in the Bathtub and Savoury Food, Elsewhere

Maybe we're close to the tail-end of winter. I seem to think we are because I've started to do some of the things I planned to do in the spring.

Yesterday, I took the top quilt from my bed and put it to soak in the bathtub. I'd be happy to put it in the washer, but it won't fit. So, I reverted to my traditional way of cleaning quilts. My knees didn't appreciate the exercise and they're growling at me, so I'm pacifying them by sitting.

It could be that my knees are also complaining about the furniture moving they had to participate in on Friday. No matter. The results are worth it. My writing area is more defined and I'm putting cork board on the back of a bookcase so I'll have somewhere to post all the little notes I keep making about my novel-in progress.

As for savoury food, I really enjoyed my son-in-law's cooking last weekend. His prime rib roast was delicious and so were all the other dishes that went with it. Food is on my mind more often these days - other people's food - not mine. I've been writing about food, for money, and when I write about food it makes me hungry, for other people's food. When someone else cooks it's just so much more fun. I've never been a great cook, because I've never focussed on being one. As I wrack my brain for new adjectives, or use old adjectives in a new way to describe ready-to-eat foods, I'm gaining a new appreciation for the people who write marketing copy.

I think someone ought to write marketing copy for my friend Dorothy, the ace social worker.
After painting her office (as I mentioned in a previous blog), she's had to deal with both fire and flood at her place of employment. I'm beginning to think she should be nominated as "social worker of the year" and she should find a new job. The whole adventure might make a good short story, if it wasn't a little too implausible for fiction.

Now that I have my latest business writing venture temporarily out of the way, I think I'll get back to my kitchen, or to my fiction.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Liberals Spanked and Conservatives Tolerated, For Now.

This morning I have a political hang-over. I didn't know that imbibing too much political coverage would give me a headache, but it did. And I didn't even have the pleasure of enjoying a drink before the hang-over arrived. I'll know better next time. Next time there's an election, I won't stay up so late, I'll have a glass of wine and go to bed instead.

The Liberals have been spanked, but not with a 2" by 4" and they haven't been locked in the shed, just banished to the back yard to sort things out. Paul Martin made the right decision when he chose to give up leadership now, and he did so with some humour, and a lot of grace. He's saving his party from a lot more grief and his father would have applauded his decision. Martin always says that his father was the major influence in his life and I believe that. I remember his father, Paul senior, who was the M.P. for Windsor Walkerville. He was often referred to as Oom Paul because he was like an uncle to his constituents. He knew how to work the locals and how to keep them happy, but he never achieved his desire, which was to become Prime Minister. His son has had his happy moments on the national stage and his far less than glorious ones too. Now he can anticipate going back to C.S.L. after the next election and can probably look forward to numerous offers to be on boards. Not a bad life

As for Mr. Harper, I'm quite sure he will find life on the government side to be more challenging than he expects. He hasn't got a majority (thank God for small mercies and for the ultimate wisdom of the Canadian voters) and he will have to keep to a middle course in order to keep power. Will he put Stockwell Day in the cabinet. Probably he'll be obliged to give him something, maybe it'll be something minor. Can he keep the hard right-wingers in his party from upsetting his apple-cart? If he can't he'll find out just how hard it really is to be Prime Minister.

So, we can all look forward to a GST cut. Wow! That'll save me about fifty cents every month. Gee, thanks eh! Meanwhile, once the Cons are in, they'll more than likely revoke the one percent cut in the income tax rate that the Liberals gave to people in the lowest taxable income bracket. It'll be easy to do that - they don't need to bring it to a vote, just make an Order in Council and poof - the tax rate cut is gone. Guess those of us who haven't quite made it to the middle class, or have fallen out of it for various reasons are not all that worthy of the Conservatives attention.

The New Democrats picked up some seats, not as many as I'd hoped they would but at least they will be a significant influence in Parliament. And, one third of their elected members are women so that could be a help. Smilin' Jack will be pleased and he'll have Olivia with him in Ottawa to keep him sorted out.

I suspect all the newly elected members are going to have to behave themselves and the members who have been re-elected will have to take some cooperation lessons.

Let there be peace in the valley, at least for a while.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Is That in Your Job description?

Last night, I chatted on-line with my friend Dorothy. I wanted to know if she had finished plastering the holes in the walls and then completed painting them. That might not appear to be an unusual question until I give you the context. Dorothy is a social worker for a small community service agency and I was referring to the work she did to make her office space at least marginally habitable.

Dorothy and I used to work together and one of our enduring, ironic catch phrases was, "Is that in your job description?" We laughed about all the things we had to do that had little or no connection to our 'real' jobs.

It reminded me of all the times I've done ridiculous and sometimes dangerous things, all for the sake of keeping my employment.

Once upon a time, I was the office manager for one of the Federal Law Reform Commissions. Remember those? A lot of lawyers spent a lot of time proposing changes to the law and they required reams and reams of typing, they also required numerous meetings to argue the changes. My boss, who was in charge of the project, was brilliant and very absent-minded. He was also almost entirely unaware of how he looked. However, he did notice when the sole of his shoe came adrift just before one of those endless meetings. He came to my desk, presented me with the shoe and demanded I fix it. Thank goodness for Elmer's glue and a heavy duty stapler!

I've carried long and heavy pieces of lumber down steep stairs into a hospital basement workshop. Why? Because the delivery was dropped off at the wrong place and the Veterans who used the workshop wanted to work. Or maybe the answer to why is - because I've always been more than a little crazy. I still have a scar from that episode because the person at the other end of the lumber let go too soon.

When I worked at the Community Centre, I often became the maintenance guy because the building Seniors' Services occupied did not have its own maintenance staff. I've bailed out grease traps, cleaned up messy toilets (frequently) mopped up floods, often moved furniture and so forth. And of course, there were risks attached to my 'real' job at the time - like the distinct possibility of bringing home bugs from the homes of the seniors I visited, or the possibility of being attacked in one of the most dangerous apartment buildings in Scarborough. But I loved what I was doing.

I guess that's why I did so many things that weren't in my job description.

My job description these days is simpler - write, revise, revise, revise, research as necessary, and send my work out. It's good thing I'm my own boss most of the time, because there are lots of days when I don't do any of those things.

I should start revising a short story now, but first I'll check the mail. Maybe there will be something in the mail that will help me procrastinate a bit longer. Perhaps I should add creative procrastination to my job description.

Is it in yours?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

There are Strange things Done in the Midnight Sun

It's still not January 23rd, and now the men who moil for the gold of our votes are at it again. We are being subjected to very nasty attack ads from the LIberals and from the Conservatives. I'm beginning to think the NDP needs a giant sized boot. I was watching CBC Newsworld when they showed part of the Liberal attack ad that has now been pulled from the airwaves. I didn't see all of the ad because the cable signal died in the middle of it. I wonder if there is some way they (those cable guys) could make that happen whenever a noxious political ad starts. They should come with a warning - Caution! Negative ad pothole ahead, switch lane/channel now.

Maybe publisher's information should come with a warning too. My friend Lori, whose ms has been under consideration at a small non-profit Alberta publishing house for quite some time, wondered when the publisher would make a decision. When she got in touch with the publisher, she was told they were going to close up shop. That's a rum do if ever there was one, and if I'd been the one receiving the news I'd probably be out buying some rum.

I am sitting on, or rather in a lot of money according the people who decide on property tax ratess. The request for reconsideration of my tax rate failed. But hey, if I sold my apartment, I'd have tons of lovely lolly and could buy a really nice tent.

There is some good nows though, my GST tax credit finally made it to my bank account and I promptly went out and indulged in a haircut and a perm. The cost of my very slow dial-up internet service actually went down and I'm so grateful I may not change my service provider for a while. And, Nancy, my dear best and only daughter, has been asked by the Regional government to give a presentation on -How to Choose a Lawn Care Company - at the local library. She'll get an excellent honorarium for being a speaker.

I suppose I might as well get to work and stop being cranky.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Could We Skip January This Year?

Why couldn't we just skip January altogether and go straight into February? Then we would be a whole month closer to spring and certain obligations and political terrors would have passed.

I always find January to be a bit stressful because it's the beginning of a new year and somehow its arrival implies that I should change something, or even many things. But, it's a rainy miserable day and there will be more rain and probably ice tomorrow and instead of making my usual list of things to do in 2006, I've been thinking about things I've done in past Januarys.

One January, I was working in the basement of G-Wing at Sunnybrook hospital because that's where my desk was located, in one corner of the cement blocked Arts & Crafts room. The weather was much like today's weather and it had been that way for several days. The Veterans seemed to all want to stay upstairs, preferably in bed, and so the room was much quieter than usual.

I'm not good at drawing. In fact, I failed art in elementary school, back in the evil old days when one was given a pass or fail, even in a subject like art. But I had a small inspiration that day and since there were plenty of art supplies, I could put my idea on paper. I took a large piece of craft paper and drew a huge and rather misproportioned running shoe with a very thick sole and then I printed a saying under the sole of the shoe in squished letters - Help Stamp Out January. (There is no font available here to illustrate this, but perhaps my description is sufficient.)

The drawing received howls of laughter, and that pleased me. It was my first and last attempt at visual art to date.

But who knows what the rain of this January will bring.