November 10th, 2016

Rose-coloured Reviews This Lousy Week

So, I usually watch and report on the Giller Prize broadcast and here we are again at that time of year. I didn’t do a live-blog, taking notes in the moment this year, because I had had a brief choking incident about half an hour before and spent the show lying in Mark’s lap. I did pay pretty good attention to it though, and had a bunch of cheerful, gently snarky things to say about it that I was saving for this space, but then Tuesday happened with all of its apocalyptic strangeness, and it no longer seemed worthwhile to comment on weird musical segways or lovely evening gowns.

Nor, however, am I able to comment on the election, except to say that I am unsurprisingly unhappy and that we  terrified our cats by getting up repeatedly in the night to check returns, never a good sign. Kerry wrote a great post about getting to the work of reacting to this change in global politics, and I really hope to do that very soon.

In the meantime, though, I feel like telling you about my evening last night. Even before the choking and the election, I am having by any standards a pretty terrible autumn, and last night was the first time in a while where I just had a peaceful productive evening and didn’t have anything to freak out or waste time being miserable about. It was great. Here’s what I did:

I had a doctor’s appointment downtown so I got to leave work early, and then the buses actually ran on-time for once so I was able to use my buffer time to run an errand and then read John Metcalf’s book in the waiting room. And then the doctor was running late as the doctors in this office ALWAYS do, but instead of meekly accepting it I said I needed a realistic time when they’d see me. I’m disappointed in the universe that what it took to win this argument was “My husband is picking me up and I need to tell him what time” but as I have been kept waiting up to two hours in this office before, any victory is helpful. And they actually did give me a time that was approximately correct and I was able to meet Mark and walk home with him. And it was a cold but bright evening and all the downtown people were heading home and it was nice to be one of them for once (I work in the burbs).

When we got home I fed the cats and caught up on the work emails I missed while Mark put in the laundry and checked his own emails. Then I got started on a batch of cookies and the sun went down and Mark put the clothes in the drier and made dinner. Dinner was fish-sticks because I have decided that we can have convenience foods once a week because life is exhausting. I haven’t had fish-sticks since I was a child and they weren’t truly good, but they were filled with nostalgia and that was nice. I put hoisin sauce on them though.

And I finished the cookies and did the dishes and Mark brought the laundry up and we chatted and folded it while the cats ran around being nuts, as is their wont. And then we were finally done all the chores and ate a few cookies. Then Mark read for a bit in the living room and I got to work on my essay on Russell Smith that I have been trying to finish forever. I finally had an evening of work that didn’t feel like a failure–I actually felt a little proud of what I wrote.

And then I felt tired and went to bed–an incredible luxury, to just go to bed when you’re tired–and I actually slept well, also rare lately.

Such a nice, normal, useful evening. I am grateful

August 30th, 2010

I am an artist and I vote!

There’s never an excellent time not to care about politics, but the current moment, at least in TO, inspires even the politically confused such as myself try to pull together (I am normally the worst sort of political specimen–opinionated but ill-informed). The folks at Arts Vote are trying to remind us to participate in the system at least a little–if we care about how the city is handled, at least we should try to choose the handler with care. They have this neat project where they ask people take photos of themselves with a helpful reminder slogan:

I made this sign, too (the pink is lipstick!)

I made this sign (the pink is lipstick!)

Of course, artist is only one thing that I am. I am a part of many constituencies, such as TTC riders, education workers (I am not a teacher, but I get to be an honourary one sometimes), human being fearfuls of a monocultural and car-riders who would like to find a parking spot someday.

Which means that, before October 25, I have to get organized.

January 20th, 2009

It’s Official: My Hopes are Up

Barack Obama will be President of the United States of America in 1.25 hours.

I am thrilled.

I would like, for a good long while, not to hear another cynical word about getting my hopes up too high, pinning too many hopes on just one guy, or anything along the lines of “bound to be disappointed.”

The people of America voted for a guy who believes in the ideal of change, the ideal of transparency and accountability, the ideal of partnership and bi-partisanship, negotiation and respect and diplomacy and discussion.

They voted for the ideals and for the person they thought embodied them, not for the promise of getting all those things by next weekend. Among other things, the American people voted for a President that respects that they make intelligent decisions, that the American people can be reasoned with and informed as adults, and they voted for a President who would present such a vision of America to the world.

Let’s do American voters the honour of respecting their informed election of their polical leader. I really don’t think anyone is expecting a miracle, but nor do I think those of us who *do* expect rational discourse and thoughtful reform are in any way misled. A little bit, over the long-term, I actually do hope for greatness.

Happy inauguration!

November 19th, 2008

Admirable Words

I have read in the past about a (famous?) writer who seeks inspiration by writing out texts by other people that he/she admires, just to enjoy the sensation of such great work flowing from his/her fingers. Do you know who this author is? If so, let me know and I’ll give credit for this great idea! In the meantime, I’m going to start trying it–typing out material I like, just to see if there’s anything in the rhythm of the text that I can learn from. Also, I think having reproduce a text letter by letter forces me to read with much greater attention. So what follows will not be cut’n’pastes but actually my own little fingers at work, and thus will likely contain some typos. I hope this will be a regular-ish Rose-coloured feature, a little more high-calibre reading material than I generally provide myself.

Thank you. Thank, my friends. Thank you for coming here on this beautiful Arizona eventing. My friends, we have — we have come the end of a long journey. The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly.

A little while ago, I had the honor of calling Senator Barack Obama to congratuate him. To congratulate him on being elected the next president of the country that we both love.

In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perserverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.

This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight.

I’ve always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Senator Obama believes that, too.

But we both recognize that, though we have come a long way from the old injusticies that once stained our nation’s reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound.

A century ago, President Theodore Poosevelt’s invitation of Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters.

American today is a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States.

Let there be no reason now…Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.

Senator Obama has achieved a grea thing for himself and for his country. I applaud him for it, and offer him my sincere sympathy that his beloved grandmother did not live to see this day. Though our faith assuresus she is at rest in the preseence of her creator and so very proud of the good man she helped raise.

Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain.

These are difficult times for our country. And pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.

I urge all Americans…I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.

Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.

It is natural. It’s natural, tonight, to feel some disappointment. But tomorrow, we must move beyond it and work together to get our country moving again. We fought– we fought as hard as we could. And though we fell short, the failure is mine, not yours. I am so…I am so deeply grateful to all of you for the great honor of your support and for all you have done for me. I wish the outcome had been different, my friends.

The road was a difficult one from the outset, but your support and friendship never wavered I cannot adequately express how deeply indebted I am to you.

I’m especially grateful to my wife, Cindy, my children, my dear other…my dear mother and all my family, and to the many old and dear friends who have stood by my side through the many ups and downs of this long campaign.

I have always been a fortunate man, and never more so for the love and encouragement you have given me.

You know, campaigns are often harder on a candidate’s family than on the candidate, and that’s been true in this campaign.

All I can offer in compensation is my love and gratitude and the promise of more peaceful years ahead.

I am also–I am also, of course, very thankful to Governor Sarah Palin, one of the best campaigners I’ve ever seen…one of the best campaigners I have ever seen, and an impressive new voice in our party for reform and the principles that have always been our greatest strength…her husband Todd and their five beautiful children..for their tireless dedidcation to our cause, and the courage and grace they showed in the rough and tumble of a presidential campaign.

We can all look forward with great interest to her future service to Alaska, the Republican Party and our country.

To all my campaign comrades, from Rick Davis and Stever Schmidt and Mark Salter, to every last volunteer who fought so hard and valiantly, month after month, in what at times seemed to be the most challenged campaign in modern times, thank you so much. A lost election will never mean more to me than the privildge of your faith and friendship.

I don’t know–I don’t know what more we could have done to try to win this election. I’ll leave that to others to determine. Every candidate makes mistakes, and I’m sure I made my share of them. But I won’t spend a moment of the future regretting what might have been.

This campaign was and will remain the great honor of my life, and my heart is filled with nothing but gratitude for the experience and to the American people for givign me a fiar hearing before deciding that Senator Obama and my old friend Senator Joe Biden should have the honor of leading us for the nest four years.

I would not–I would not be an American worth of the name should I regret a fate that has allowed me the extraordinary privilege of serving this country for half a century.

Tonight–tonight, mroe than any night, I hold in my heart nothing but love for this country and for all its citizens, whether they supported me or Senator Obama–whether they supported me or Senator Obama.

I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president. And I call on all Americans, as I have often in the campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to beleive, always, in the promise and greatness of American, becuase nothign is ineveitable here.

Americans never quit. We never surrender.

We never hide from history. We make history.

Thank you, and God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you all very much.

(Text of John McCain’s concession speech, Tuesday November 4, 2008, as reported by the Associated Press)

“…no association has ever meant more to me…” Wow.

November 17th, 2008

The Day I Went to America

…was yesterday. Whilst there, I

–an inflatable and operational Ferris wheel, each car of which was filled with a lovable Christmas-related cartoon character. It was going backwards (cost: $US179)
–big hair
–7 massage chairs (cost: $400-600)
–infinite gum
–a brand of candy called “Palatable Pleasures” (cost: too much, considering)
–more than 4 purple houses (we lost track); one each that was teal, lime-green and salmon
–children making a scene

–nonstop Christmas carols, excepting one song by Genesis and one by Steve Winwood
–“honey,” “sweetie” and “darling” from people serving us in stores and restaurants
–children making a scene
–a refreshing lack of honking no matter how poorly anyone was driving

–FOUR different kinds of pop, all unknown and unattainable north of the border($1.89 to $2.25, so worth it)
–one bite each of three truffles (these were being shared; it was complicated and messy, but very good)(Cost: won from a scratch’n’win)
–all-you-eat salad and breadsticks at Olive Garden (cost: ~$15)
–fistfuls of Trix on car-ride home (cost: approximately 1/8 of $3.59)

–two pairs houndstooth tights (cost: $4 and $6)
–box of Trix ($3.59)
–2L (or Imperial measurement equivalent) bottle of Cherry Coke Zero ($1.59)
–2 3-packs of Orbit Bubblemint gum (cost: $3.59 each)
–*Midnight’s Children* by Salman Rushdie (cost: $15)

–that things are very very slightly, almost imperceptibly, different since November 4 (cost: priceless)

(c’mon, you knew I was building towards that)

I found music/and he found me

November 6th, 2008

Everyone is awesome today

1) Today Fred reminds us all that she predicted Tuesday’s historic victory for Obama in July 2004. Today *I* would like to remind you all that I have been saying since the 90s that Fred is a genius, so really, reflected glory ought be mine. I predict further that somehow (from behind the scenes, most like) Fred also will do great things for government. Check back in 4.

2) Evie Christie‘s Desk Space is always awesome for literary voyeurism, but Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer‘s entry is bonus good because it not only talks about what she’s working on, it features a clip!

3) The new issue of The New Quarterly arrived last night, packed with goodness, including the much anticipated “On a Picnic” by the amazing Kerry Clare.

I am well pleased with our universe at the moment, what with all of the above, plus a democratic president-elect, plus 15-degree weather in November, plus…oh, maybe I’ll have some pudding now!

You’re in then you’re out

November 5th, 2008

The Enormity of the Task Ahead

Four years ago I went down to Florida to volunteer for John Kerry during the final days before the election. I had never been anywhere near a campaign office before, but the one I worked in contained exactly what I had hoped and expected it would: an immense swirl of positive energy and optimism. Surrounded by dozens of people who thought I as I think, who were willing to volunteer endless hours with endless goodwill for what they believed was the common good, I was filled with hope. I loved doing my little lists of get-out-the-vote calls, eating leftover Hallowe’en candy, chatting with impassioned strangers and believing wholeheartedly that change was good, possible and imminent.

Such was my blinkered (and coddled) worldview going into Election Night 2004, and profound dismay and distress was the result. I hadn’t ever spoken to anyone who didn’t think George Bush was a disastrous liability to America and the world, and therefore I thought such people did not exist. I couldn’t believe that anyone would vote against (in my perception) their own ecomonic security, the solidarity of nations, diplomacy and advocacy for peace.

I left the campaign office in the afternoon and spend election night with my family, who are considerably more informed about politics (and everything) than I am. Around 2am, I had to be pried from my chair (a chair I still dislike for it’s association with that evening) and sent to bed with the firm message that the situation was not going to change. If you’ve ever tried to explain anything to me at 2am, including where the bathroom is, you’ll know I have a hard time absorbing information past midnight and I *did not buy it*.

I was so terribly disillusioned to be wrong.

Four years later, I spent election night at the home of lovely friends and a puppy with whom I have a dubious relationship. Last night, when the puppy hurled himself at my chest, I gave him a hug and whispered in his floppy ear, “Remember me, Mookie? Remember when I came to visit last time and you bit me? Let’s not do that again, ok?”

And we didn’t. The evening was so fun and easy, because we were *justifiably* confident long before we had any right to expect that. Unlike my long miserable night in 2004, things were fairly obvious at 9 and over at 11. I could not, however, go home, because we had balloons and blue cookies and noisemakers, the puppy and the speeches and joy to share. I have never made it to the speechifying before–I found McCain’s “the fault is mine” concession speech deeply moving and personal. Obama’s speech was glossier and while he said many things that impressed me, it wasn’t amazing. But here’s the crazy thing–he’s got at least 4 more years of speeches. I’m willing to wait.

I’m still pretty ill-informed, cheerful and excitable about politics, but I’ll never again be in such a happy bubble as I was in 2004. I know now that what I feel I know to be right is not universal, and that there is more to any issue than an everyday goofball person can ever imagine. I am sure I do not well understand any of the positions of Obama’s that I so firmly endorse. But I am happy that I didn’t give up on American democracy, and happy that, if I don’t understand, there is someone in the most powerful office in the world whom I trust to get it.

Despite the two wars, the economic disaster, the health-care system and everything I don’t even know about, I am filled with hope. And I’m so glad those little girls are getting a puppy of their own.

True patriot love

October 15th, 2008

At least it’s not a majority

Almost more depressing than the election returns is the fact that they are the result of the lowest voter turn-out ever in Canada. How can there be democratic representation if the majority does not register an opinion to represent?

Other things that are stressing me out include ongoing Sturm und Drang over the Salon des Refuses/Penguin Anthology debate. Very interesting reading, all of it, but surely not designed to unknot one’s shoulders.

Also, my brief flirtation with blow-drying my hair must end, because over the past few weeks I have burnt the tops of both ears and, this morning, the back of neck. I think I would honestly rather go out with wet hair and risk catching my death. It’s worked every other year!

Though the post must have been stressful for the writer, more joyful reading is Emily Schultz’s great post on rewriting her novel at the Joyland blog. How wonderfully inspiring to know that books that seem so fully whole and complete when we read them as published fictions were once scrambled stacks of notes and nerves. It increases my awe, really, while at the same time, sparking a tiny voice in the back of my head that says, someday.

Not to mention fishing poles

October 5th, 2008

No Politics

I try not to ever talk about politics with people I don’t know well, not because I don’t have opinions but because I am so pathetically ill-informed that I can’t defend them properly. But sometimes I get blindsided by politics, and I manage to learn a little something, about something or other.


D: To even do ok in the debate, Joseph Biden had to be so smart and so erudite and so careful, and all Sarah Palin had to do was not be a monkey. Really, people are thrilled that she formed complete sentences and didn’t fling her own feces.


J: So, everybody knows that light has amplitude, right?

Me: Ok, now I know, but only because you just told me this second. I don’t think normal people know that.

J: Normal people?

Me: Well, most people.

J: The people who are going to be allowed to vote in two weeks don’t know this? Oh no!

My mother says what you gonna do with your life

December 15th, 2007

Good and Bad News

Well, it is good news to me, as well as surprising, to discover that 28% of Canadians are currently boycotting Walmart (in a marketing text I read for work; sorry I can’t offer a link). I was feeling really pleased to be a part of a group so much larger than I’d have thought. I haven’t been able to shop there, despite my delight in inexpenisve consumer durables, since I read Barbara Ehrenreich’s gently terrifying bookNickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, about minimum-wage jobs and the lives lived by their workers.

Anyway, I felt good and solidarity-like for about 12 minutes, before I realized Walmart is doing just fine. More than a quarter of the country is pointedly not shopping there, and the store is thriving.

It’s maybe that “pointedly” above that was the problem–is the 28% really comprised of people who would’ve shopped there anyway? As I tell this news to my friends, friends who are mainly young people who rent their homes, have a lot of education, low-level professional jobs and no children, I have found that almost all of us fall within the 28%, but what would we have been buying if we did shop there? Walmarts aren’t easily available to the downtown-dwelling, non-car-driving population; the year before my boycott, I remember what I bought there distinctly, because I went only once. A friend’s father drove us as there as a special favour, and I bought a coffeemaker and yoga pants, for a grand total of about $50. For the year. Pre-boycott.

My brother points out that people will take on the strong stand when the costs to their personal happiness and inconveniences are minimal, and this is sadly true. I still don’t buy much organic food because it is so expensive, even though I do believe it is better for the environement. The sad truth is, I haven’t much buying power.

Then yesterday, I was at a party, whinging about this to a group of the converted, one of whom pointed out that it’s only by talking about these issues that a relatively powerless demographic can gain some power. My nickels and dimes don’t add up to much, but I can tell people who have more to spend, or just so many little people that our collective power adds up to something. So I’m telling you this–not that you should boycott Walmart, but that you might want to if you read about their treatment of their employees and think about these issues the way I do. So…that’s it, I’ve told you. And I think that’s for the good.

Other good news is that Polident, the denture-cleaning people, now make one of those effervescing pellets for retainers. The bad news is that I wear a retainer, but you knew that. Now it is a sparkling clean retainer.

But, ok, ok, the *really* good news is that The Journey Anthology was reviewed in The Globe and Mail‘s Books section this morning, and they said amazing things about my short story, “Chilly Girl.” Also the other stories in the collection, all of which blow me away, and the whole thing was quite joyous to read (my protagonist gets called someone else’s name, but that’s pretty minor. Quibbles!!)

And the other good news is that, despite living under a rock, I have numerous lovely friends who call and email when something nice happens. Otherwise I might never have known.

Let’s get wrecked on Rolling Rock

So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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