Monday, December 31, 2007

we'll take a cup of kindness yet

I'm not exactly live blogging New Year's Eve, but very very close to that.

It's sort of an extra special New Year's Eve to me, as I view it as my Christmas and New Year combined into one evening. I really have a very limited memory of Christmas, due to being hopped up on muscle relaxants at the time. I remember throwing a turkey into the oven and that's pretty much it for the next week. I'm told our tv broke down temporarily and we opened presents, but all I remember is continuously wiping drool off my chin, while reminding myself to blink now and then.

So, as I said, tonight I am celebrating the joy of my family. So far tonight we have lounged about on the living room floor whilst watching the Radiohead New Year's Eve podcast on my laptop, which translated into squinting at a 2x2 inch square of cyberspace, whilst nibbling on bacon-wrapped scallops, veggies and cheese. 'Twas truly glorious. And we still have a whack of king crab legs to gorge ourselves upon later this evening.

Plus we took a run down to the best video store in the city earlier this afternoon, where we picked up enough fine viewing to keep us out of the daylight for the next several days. This is what we have on tap, if anybody wants to head up here to snuggle up on the couch with us for the next few days:
The Clash - Westway to the World
Wilby Wonderful
La Mala Educacion
Let's Rock Again (which we have wanted to rewatch for years!)
Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter

Naturally, the Resident Offspring (film auteur) picked 99.8% of the titles, but come on, we won't have to go outside for days! Who's game?

However you end up kicking out the old year and welcoming the new, I want to wish you all the best for the next 365. I love you all. Bless your furry little hearts.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

the Zombie lists: so good they make you clap edition

Sometimes a song comes along that just lifts your spirits, and often when you stop to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes you smile, you realise that it comes down to the handclap.

The poor much-maligned handclap, at once a symbol of celebration and joy, is all too often scorned as being frivolous and a cheap substitute for serious musicianship. But it needn't be that way; if used well, a handclap can lift a song to new heights, it can engage us and draw us into a rousing good song.

This year, two people in particular have helped me to truly appreciate the beauty of a great handclap song. Allison, the handclap queen, never fails to showcase a deserving handclap. In fact, I'm pretty certain she has showcased at least one of these songs in the past. And recently a friend of the Resident Offspring demonstrated how he embodies the spirit of the handclap in his everyday life with the admission that he used to "
cycle around town, looking like I was an extra in a Smith's video, singing along to Belle and Sebastian, and stopping to handclap at the appropriate moments".

Bless their furry little hearts, both of them.

For all you handclap lovers, and for those of you who don't yet know that you are handclap fans, here are my Favourite 07 Handclap Songs of 07. They weren't necessarily released in 07, in fact only one of them actually was, but they made me smile and sing along a little louder or push a little harder on the elliptical whenever I heard them, and that's what counts.

7. Citizens Of Tomorrow - Tokyo Police Club
- it's the gleeclub-inspired clapping at the start of this song that kickstart this high energy piece
6. You're Just a Baby - Belle and Sebastian
- if anybody knows the power of the handclap, it has to be those twee hearts that make up B&S
5. Barbed Wire Love - Stiff Little Fingers
- surf-sound handclaps are not usually what you would expect to hear in a SLF, but this is no ordinary song
4. Hello Kitten - Hefner
- Hefner are criminally unrecognised, but deserved far more recognition for their subversive pop ditties

3. The Magic Position - Patrick Wolf
- I have to admit that I was disappointed that Mr Wolf didn't dance around more vigourously in the video for this song, because I sure think it called for it
2. Wind Driving Dogs- Chad VanGaalen
- although this song only came out last year, it became an immediate favourite of mine, by one of my favourite local musicians

1. The Boy With the Arab Strap - Belle and Sebastian
- trust Belle and Sebastian to win two places of honour on this list. They know how to clap their way into a girl's heart. And they do a group handclap right through the entire song. Pure bliss.

I do hope that you enjoy these finest of handclap songs. And if you have some favourites of your own that I have woefully overlooked, I would love to have you set me straight.
More lists, coming up!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

But I'm okay, how are you? Thanks for asking, thanks for asking

I solemnly swear that this will be the final time you hear me use the phrase "back pain" this year. Personally I don't care if I never hear those words again.

But I am feeling so much better today; I have discovered the best chair in the house and am dragging it everywhere I go, sort of like Linus and his blanket. I have also discovered the amazing power of the heated towel - four minutes in the microwave and you've got yourself a little mini-spa for your back. And I have also been able to cut my meds in half today, so I now have my blink reflex back, have stopped drooling, and have gone from sleeping 20 hours a day to no naps at all. But surprisingly my Scrabble game has subsequently gone down the toilet. I guess that's a game best played stoned out of your gourd.

My family deserves some sort of Nobel prize for putting up with my whining this past week and for cleaning the litter box and feeding the cat without my even asking.

And tomorrow I shall finally be bringing you the first of the long-overdue best of lists for 2007 - my favourite handclap songs. Because I feel like cheering.

In the meanwhile, why not enjoy the Radiohead song from which I swiped the title of today's post. It's from the Airbag/How am I Driving? EP which I surreptitiously bought for myself (along with the Radiohead rockumentary Meeting People is Easy) whilst Christmas shopping. I handed them over to the spousal unit when I got home, along with the suggestion that these would be a great present for me. But come Christmas morning, even in my glassy-eyed state I noticed that they were not in my pile o' presents and had to ask about them. Which resulted in a scurry to the bedroom closet and a sheepish handing over of said Radiohead paraphernalia, with the 2 for $25 stickers still affixed.

Palo Alto - Radiohead

Friday, December 28, 2007

wake from your sleep, the drying of your tears, today we escape, we escape

Thanks so much to everyone who left sympathetic and encouraging notes about my stupid back issues. You have no idea how much those meant to me, reminding me that there is a world beyond this ball of pain.

Yesterday Jerry dragged my drugged up self to the doctor who told me that the super-duper drugs I was taking were crap and would only make me feel brain dead. This was true, and I had great hopes for the ones he gave me in their stead. We even watched Meeting People is Easy last night, which I was thrilled to get for Christmas. And I even remember watching it, unlike the night before when I am told we watched The Filth and the Fury, which I only vaguely remember. I was thinking that today we might even get out of the house to see Walk Hard.

But it seems my optimism was premature, as this morning I woke feeling worse than ever. I am so bummed out by this crap, but it has taught me to appreciate the relatively painfree moments (like right now). And I have learned that this does not necessarily mean that I will be going out salsa dancing tomorrow, but I am glad to have been able to sit and play a game of Scrabble this afternoon and to have sufficient attention span to hit the computer for a while.
Because who knows what tomorrow will bring.
I hope you are all enjoying your Christmas break, and are gearing up for a great weekend. I hope to return to regularly scheduled programming shortly.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

I'm an old slut on junk, lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed

At least I chose lyrics from Fairytale of New York for the title of this big whiny baby post, because that's as Christmassy as I am feeling right now.

Determined not to gain any weight this Christmas, whilst still gorging on everything in sight, I did extra duty on my workout a couple of days ago, and I seem to have pulled a muscle in my back. The ironing is delicious.

So am I spending my time hopped up on muscle relaxants and pain killers, and I am only crawling out of bed long enough to cook suppers and, I guess later on this morning, smile vacantly at my presents.

We did open one gift each last night, and my darling resident offspring got me the goat that I have been hinting at for a couple of years. What a great kid. No pun intended.

Sorry about the self-pity post, I'm just waiting for this last bout of spasms to settle down before I go back to bed and wait for the family to arise.

And I had all these lovely music-filled posts planned for you, but they will have to wait for a few days. There was even a hand-clap edition!

I hope you are all enjoying a lovely Christmas, whatever your circumstances. I shall return, bearing gifts.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

being secretly simian

Always a sucker for a little Christmas hobnobbing, I signed up recently for the Simian Secret Santa being hosted by the lovely Dr Monkey von Monkerstein and his cohort, the equally lovely Zaius. I drew the name of Samurai Frog, and as I was woefully unfamiliar with his work, did a bit of lurking about his site to see if I could suss out the perfect virtual gift for him.

It turns out that this particular amphibian is somewhat of a celebrity. I couldn't even begin to count all the thinking blogger awards and various other accolades that have been heaped upon this prolific blogger. So I thought that one thing that Samurai Frog could surely use would be a virtual bookshelf, upon which he can proudly display all his awards. His sidebar is looking a little cluttered, so I am sure that he will thank me once all those awards are nicely organized. And I do believe that it expands so there will be plenty of room for future additions.

But Samurai Frog appears to be quite a busy man by all appearances, with a big interest in pop culture and films and animation and he seems to have a vast collection of YouTube videos as well. This got me thinking that perhaps a bookshelf alone may not suffice, so I have expanded upon that gift to include an entire virtual office. Money is no object here!

But it still may get a little claustrophobic in that office after a while, so I thought that Samurai Frog should probably also have something
like a tardis handy. He could no doubt park it in the virtual garage. And the added bonus of this particular tardis is that it doubles as a tardis cookie jar. So even if he doesn't feel particularly like going out anywhere this holiday season, he can still get good use out of it by storing some tasty Christmas baking in it.

Since Christmas is not complete without a little baking, regardless of how virtuous we are trying to be, I thought that Samurai Frog might enjoy a tardis cookie jar filled with these deranged shortbread cookies that we bake
every year. I apologize that we have already eaten all the poopy pants Santa cookies, but I understand that Samurai Frog is rather fond of boobs, so I've added several big boobed hula dancer shortbread cookies into the mix in their place.

Enjoy, my new amphibian friend! And happy holidays!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

goodbye inspiration, voice of a generation

Five years ago today, and it still seems so wrong.

RIP Joe Strummer

I've been listening to the Clash a lot today, in memory. Here are a couple of samples, and a tribute.

Washington Bullets - the Clash
Coma Girl - Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros
Strummerville - Stiff Little Fingers

On a somewhat related note, I have finished reading my first book of the Winter Reading Challenge. If you would care to hear my opinion of Please Kill Me: the Uncensored Oral History of Punk, please head over here to read the review. I'll say this, the book was not what I expected.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Has anybody seen my cat?

Funny, I could have sworn she was right here on this blanket ...

She's likely just trying to get away from all the strutting and the high-fiving and the little impromptu happy dances that keep breaking out ever since I
started two weeks of holiday today!

Oh sure, I still had to get up at the usual time today, to get the poor little resident offspring to school for the final day, but now the whole family is home for a long break, where we shall spend far too much time in our pyjamas, reading books, playing on the internetz, watching movies, and eating Christmas baking.

Now that's how you welcome the Winter Solstice, in my humble opinion.

And also with a Friday Random Ten:

1. In the Morning (Alex Smoke Mix) - Junior Boys
2. Autosuggestion - Joy Division
3. Single Girl - Lush
4. This is How it Feels - Inspiral Carpets
5. Les Os - Unicorns
6. Something Against You - Pixies
7. Down on Me - the Jesus and Mary Chain
8. Rhythm of Cruelty - Magazine
9. Help Save the Youth of America - Billy Bragg
10. Permanent Daylight - Radiohead

I wish you a cozy start to the first weekend of the winter.
Mulled wine, owl sweaters, cats who hide in plain view - they are all great means of fighting off the cold.
Just keep your ears open.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

answer: because they actually give a shit

question: why is Radiohead the most important band in the world?

Let's set musical genius completely aside for now. Let's talk about personal awareness and responsibility. The members of Radiohead have long been concerned about the direct impact that their actions have upon the planet. But unlike some grandiose rock stars who moan on about how we must save the world and then jet home in their private planes, Radiohead are actually walking the talk.

The recent mailout of their new In Rainbows discbox, for example, was done by road and sea whenever possible (although that may have resulted in some delayed deliveries, if you believe the recent keyword searches that have been showing on my stat counter the last few days). Radiohead are well known for being very concerned about the ecological impact that touring, specifically overseas touring, has upon the environment.

Take a glance at what Colin Greenwood posted on Dead Air Space yesterday. The members of Radiohead take so seriously the impact that touring has upon the environment that they commissioned Best Foot Forward to do a comparative analysis of the resultant carbon footprints of their two recent tours of North America. Not only does the report take into account the actions of the band and its crew, but also the expected activity of the fans.

Not to worry, Radiohead fans, this does not in fact mean that we North Americans will only be seeing a Radiohead concert via hologram in the future (although that's certainly better than what I have managed to achieve thus far). Instead, it looks as though the 2008 tour will focus upon theatre-type venues in city centres, as opposed to amphitheatre-type festival venues. Naturally, I am hoping that this will translate into more concerts in smaller cities to lessen the carbon impact per individual.

The band is hopeful that focussing concerts in city centres will encourage the use of public transport, and that factors like lack of downtown parking will help to encourage increased car-pooling capacity of concert-goers. The Best Foot Forward report, which is really quite a fascinating read, looks at many aspects of fan behaviour and the impact on the environment. For example, one suggestion is that free water is available at venues, with fans being encouraged to bring their own reusable water bottles.

While the report shows that international travel increases carbon impact by 34-40%, the option of shipping band equipment via sea rather than air will significantly reduce the carbon impact, as will the use of commercial as opposed to charter flights within North America. Better still would be travel by rail. Colin states that the band intends to take these findings into consideration when planning the 2008 North American tour, in order to use the most efficient mode of transportation in terms of reducing CO2 emissions, as well as using the most ecologically sound venue possible.

Personally, I find this degree of responsibility most heartening. It's one thing to give lip service to environmental concerns, it's quite another to take action and personal responsibility. If I didn't already love Radiohead with all my soul, I would fall in love with them right now. They make me strive to be a better earthling.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

gazing deeply into the navel

I just wasn't feeling it this year.
Although I am someone who eschews both religion and new year's resolutions, I still think of this as a time of year for some quiet reflection. To give some meaning to all this shopping and wrapping and baking and lineups madness.

Often this reflection will manifest itself in the making of best-of lists, a highly indulgent pursuit admittedly, but nonetheless one that does make me stop to reflect upon the past and somehow, with my thoughts turned to the past, makes me feel less of a task-doing machine and more of a human being. It makes me appreciate this life, instead of just racing to complete another task.

But even though I am more prepared for Christmas this year than I have been in ages, and therefore should have more time for reflection, somehow I was just feeling a void. Maybe it's because I haven't yet made any best-of lists. But fear not, because lists are on their way, likely this weekend. Oh yes, there will be lists.

But then, I received a sign. This morning I found a pair of snowflake panties in my underwear drawer. I didn't even know I owned any snowflake panties! You will of course be pleased to know that they are currently gracing my nether regions and by god I do believe I feel the spirit of the season coming upon me at last. Or maybe that's something else.

Regardless, in the true spirit of the snowflake undies, I would like to reach out to you, my fellow humans, and share with you the musical chronology of a year in the life of a bad tempered zombie. It's just my little undead way of saying how privileged I feel to have had you in my life this year, and to show you how much I appreciate you letting me into yours. If you would like a personalized New Year's cd (possibly a double cd), highlighting the major musical events in the Zombie household, just drop me a comment. And if I don't have a mailing address for you, please shoot me an email. Can you honestly tell me you can resist the temptation of a parcel with a handwritten address label appearing in your mailbox?

Because the power of the snowflake panties is meant to serve all humanity and should never be taken lightly.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

she needs a little Christmas right this very minute

Right about now I am starting to wonder if my mother in law has received her Christmas parcel from us yet. Because the second she does, she will have it ripped open. She will be thrilled for about half an hour, then she will forget that we even sent anything, and come Christmas she will be all depressed that she doesn't have anything to open. And this is not a sign of senility, she has always been like this.

I try to utilize just-in-time delivery on all her gifts but that's a little risky at this time of year. So I've had to realize that she is a big girl and has to
take responsibility for her own actions.

She has a big heart, though. She takes it upon herself to ensure that all the strays have new underwear for Christmas even if she cannot remember their names; she does some creative regifting and then makes sure that everyone knows that it is a spite gift, and she'll even help you out if she thinks that you are opening your Christmas gifts too slowly. Because it's meant to be a race, don't you know?

I'm sure glad we didn't get her something like a George Foreman grill, like Jerry's brother got her for her birthday last month. That still has her puzzled. Everybody was explaining to her how it worked, how the little ridges allowed the grease to drain off the food and empty into a receptacle, and telling her how what kinds of food she could cook on it.

"What about eggs?" she wanted to know, and when we explained that eggs really wouldn't work all that well with the ridges, she tried another approach: "how about peas?" Um, no. "Then what about beans?"

I sort of wish I could be there to watch her cook something.

But I guess I'll just wait to hear about how she's got nothing to open at Christmas.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

there's nothing plötzlich about it

"Christmas always comes so suddenly"

This is the card I received from my German cousin last week. I was surprised to find that plötzlich means sudden. I didn't know the word and I assumed, based on the sound of it, that it would have something to do with plodding. That's the problem when you worship at the church of onomatopoeia. Things quite often to turn out to mean the opposite of what you had always assumed.

Need evidence of my moronic proclivities?

I always associated irascible with mischievous (perhaps because it sounds like rascal); turns out it means cantankerous.

I have on occasion used restive in place of calm. Naturally it means impatient.

I have used supercilious as a synonym for superficial, while the whole time actually means haughtily disdainful.

Don't even get me started on sonorous.

Sure hope Santa brings me a dictionary for Christmas. Obviously I could use one.

Do you have any words that you have been using incorrectly for years?

Do you have any favourite onomatopoeia? onomatopeias? onomatopoeum?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I'm not stuck in the tardis anymore

This is Thom coming back from the post office after mailing my discbox.
Which arrived today!
Two discs, two records, a lyrics book, and an art book, all in a big solid package that looks as though it will withstand a nuclear attack.
It's Christmas come early around here.

(How can you not love that furry little face?)

You know you are dealing with a pretty decent band when a song like Four Minute Warning gets relegated to the b-sides disc. I've been listening to a bootleg concert recording of this song for a year. It was worth the wait.

four minute warning - Radiohead

Friday, December 14, 2007

So we'll link our arms and we'll bloody our hands, because it's Friday night and we came to rock

Jesus Christ on a cracker, you don't want to be driving around right now. Apparently the entire city took the day off work and they spent the day driving around and around, looking for a parking spot. I don't even want to imagine what it's like inside the mall. I'd rather gouge my eyes out with a spoon than set foot in a store today.

Well except for Safeway, as I am there every bloody day, but at 9:00 am, it's still fairly civilized.

I was late picking up the resident offspring after school on account of gridlock.

But I am finally home, safely ensconced in my ugly but oh so comfy chair, big-assed glass of red wine in hand, and here I shall stay. Until the family needs to fill its belly.

Because it's Friday night and we came to rock, here is my Random Playlist. Not a single John-Rae and the River song on the list, but something tells me they may be featured in one of the many lists that are composting in my head right now. After all, the end of the year is fast approaching, the most sacred season for all us list junkies, so expect scads and scads of best-of lists coming forthwith.

1. My Baby is Gone - the Pogues
2. God Give Me Strength - Elvis Costello
3. Here Comes Your Man - Pixies
4. You Can Call Me Al - Paul Simon
5, A Space Boy Dream - Belle and Sebastian
6. Scar Tissue - Red Hot Chili Peppers
7. Science Fiction Double Feature - Rocky Horror Picture Show
8. Blood of a Young Wolf - Buck 65
9. Leslie Anne Levine - the Decemberists
10. Under Pressure - Queen and David Bowie

So join me in another glass of wine, blow off that company Christmas party, and let's get our hands bloodied. It is Friday night, and not a day too soon.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I am a machine

There is something about the 16 hours of darkness per day that we are currently experiencing that awakens in me The Christmas Juggernaut. Without provocation, the buttons pop on my shirt, the sleeves split under the pressure of my bulging biceps, and suddenly I am wearing big ass-kicking boots in place of my modest loafers.

And then, shit happens. Cards get mailed, photos get printed, fireplace mantles and front porches get decorated, gifts get bought, wrapped and packaged for mailing. I am omnipotent.

Tonight I will pick up the prints that are going to be mailed to family, turf them into the parcels which are ready to be mailed, and drop those parcels at the post office in the morning. Then I will brew a big pot of coffee, sit in front of the tree with my lifeline laptop, and catch up with you, my pretties. I mean really catch up. I need to know all the dirt, please.

Are you doing any me-gifting this year? I have to admit that I am. And I went one step further; I bought some presents that I thought would be perfect for me from the family. Honestly, it was a golden opportunity! Plus they were on sale. I got caught up in the machine.

The question now arises: do I feign surprise on Christmas morning?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

gravity always wins

HA! You thought those Nalgene bottles were dangerous, with their petrochemical-derived bisphenol-A and what-not. It now appears that my regular plastic water bottle is out to kill me as well, or at least to do me serious injury. I wrenched my elbow this morning whilst attempting to pop open that sports cap and it still hurts. And this is not the first time this has happened either.

Pffft. Sports caps indeed. I strongly suspect the physiotherapist lobby has a hand in this.


Meanwhile it was one week ago yesterday that my Radiohead In Rainbows discbox was mailed out.
I can picture Thom wrapping it carefully in recycled newsprint and scrawling my address upon the box, using his creative spelling, then hopping onto his bicycle with the banana seat and peddling down to the post office, where he waits in line behind a lady who is mailing a large parcel of spotted dick and canned custard to her nephew in Toronto. He would then hand my discbox to the mail clerk and warn her to be careful with it, it was for a very dear friend.
Still waiting.

Still waiting.

They did warn that it would be sent by road and sea whenever possible. I'm assuming this was done for environmental concerns. I hope to god they didn't send it by walrus express because those bastards are notoriously untrustworthy.

All the strain of the waiting did get me to wondering:

Which Radiohead song are you?

Karma Police

You talk in maths and buzz like a fridge. You're like a detuned radio. And also, her Hitler hairdo makes you feel ill.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.

I cannot really argue with that, especially since I have always covetted the line "he buzzes like a fridge".

What about you? Got time to answer a few simple questions? It could change your life. Or simply justify your paranoia.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Live ... from my living room ... it's Sunday afternoon!

So that you can share in the overwhelming excitement that goes into decorating our tree, I am live blogging all the action in the Zombie household this afternoon.

2:30 pm - tree has been erected in its stand and the cat is sitting guard in much the same position as she is in this photo from last year. I think this year's tree is slightly less Charlie Brownish as it doesn't appear to have any large gouges taken out of it, and it is rather straight, but we shall see as it finishes unfurling.

Nuts and bolts have been in the oven for an hour and I have just poured the first glass of Harvey's Bristol Cream. Eva has just come downstairs, homework in hand, and Jerry is has been trying to unravel the new strand of lights I picked up on Friday. Please god let them work.

Oh shit, the oven timer just beeped again - must go stir the nuts and bolts.

Photos will be forthcoming.

3:00 pm - lights are attached and do indeed work, but they were a son of a bitch to put up. I think I gave myself an aneurysm. But at least we did not put up an old set that doesn't work, as we did a couple of years ago. I almost hurled the tree through the window that year. Is tree decorating supposed to be so confrontational?

Sputnik is eating the tree. Must put a stop to this, and get a second glass of sherry. Supper could be a little drunk tonight, if this keeps up.

3:50 pm - tree is nearing optimum decorativeness. I am considering a third glass of sherry, and the nuts and bolts will be done shortly.

I remembered a funny passage that I recently read in Please Kill Me, and hauled the book downstairs to read to everybody about Jayne/Wayne County telling the story of her mother turning fundamentalist and fighting with his father about decorating the Christmas tree. The poor kids were caught in the middle and were left pleading "please don't make us decorate the symbol of babylonian evil!"

Eva then figured we needed to hear a few passages from Good Omens by Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett. NOT Christmassy, but entertaining nonetheless and besides she had a captive audience. Sort of reminds me of a Tom Robbins book, so I may have to read it.

Then a big discussion ensued about Tony Dekker's (Great Lake Swimmers) new state of beardedness and whether it made him look like a Hutterite, which he may very well be, as Dekker is certainly a Hutterite surname. See, we do discuss the big important subjects like religion and such here. It's not all South Park and Thom Yorke as an old man, you know.

Nuts and bolts have obtained crispy goodness.

5:00 pm - done! The tree's gaps are now fully evident as it has finished unfolding, and its Charlie Browness is no longer in dispute. Here's a pic of the end result. Please note the presence of the Gwyneth Paltrow head-containing mystery parcel, which is the only present currently residing in the Zombie household.
Sputnik hates the new Christmas lights, as she got her head stuck in the box in which they arrived, and she got all embarassed when we laughed at her. She will inflict her revenge by knocking down the ornaments which are on the lower branches, which is why we put the non-breakable ones down there.

I am getting a headache from the sherry, so this third glass will be my last. The mantle and the front porch will need to wait for another day.

This concludes the live blogging of the decorating of the Zombie Christmas tree. I have a whole new respect for journalists now. It's hard work.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Twelve days of the living dead

Here are a few Christmas facts you may not know about zombies:

1. Zombies favour Christmas trees with personality, and purchase the Charlie Brownest tree they can find every year. This is always done on the second Saturday of December, and it is then decorated the next day, while Bad Tempered bakes a big batch of nuts and bolts and drinks sherry.

2. Zombies are very focussed shoppers and can purchase the
above tree, along with several arms full of cedar, fir, and spruce boughs, and an entire winter's supply of cranapple cider mix in 10 minutes flat.

3. Although neither Bad Tempered nor her lovely husband were raised with the idea of Santa Claus (both families observing the European custom of opening presents on Christmas Eve), the Christmas stocking has somehow insinuated itself into the Zombie household and now insists upon being filled each Christmas.

4. The Zombie family has adopted the Polish tradition of dining on brains fried fish and perogies on Christmas Eve.

5. It was Zombie tradition to play road hockey and drink beer on Boxing Day, but this
custom seems to have fallen by the wayside in recent years. This has been largely replaced by endless and often violent games of crokinole. One rule which must be strictly adhered to in the Zombie household is that at least one bum cheek must remain on the chair seat at all times.

6. Christmas films which must be watched in the Zombie household are: A Christmas
Story, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the Boris Karloff one).

7. Each year for the last four years, the Zombie household has received a mysterious parcel in the mail, around the end of November. The postmarks have been varied, and the only message the parcel ever contains is a kidnapper-style note. The first year it read "On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree", and it contained a lovely partridge in a pear tree ornament, quite large. We now also have two turtle doves, three french hens, and four calling birds. This year Bad Tempered is really hoping it will be Gwyneth Paltrow's head, but suspects that they may get five golden rings instead.

8. A lighted reindeer named Norman usually graces the front lawn of the Zombie house during December, but Bad Tempered fears that the ground may be too frozen this year to fasten his little hooves down. The spousal unit, however, insists that it can be done.

9. Although Bad Tempered has many Christmas cds, including The Academy of St Martin in the Fields performing The Messiah quite brilliantly, the rest of the family will only permit her to play them during tree decorating and present opening. And even then they complain. Especially when she sings along.

10. Over Christmas, the Zombie front porch is decorated with an old toboggan leaning against the wall, surrounded by big pots of tree boughs with old hockey sticks stuck into them. Bad Tempered likes to pretend she is in the Eastern Townships, although she has never been there.

11. Shortbread cookie baking always deteriorates into childish shenanigans in the Zombie household. During the decorating process, the Santa-shaped cookies
inevitably end up with poopy pants, or with big boobs, or decapitated and spewing blood. The Zombie household watches too much South Park.

12. Last year, the Zombies started a new tradition of Pyjama Day, whereby they watched South Park dvds all day long, in their pyjamas of course, and then ordered pizza. This year it looks like The Office (UK) dvds will be heavily featured.

Pyjama Day is a tradition which is going to be observed FOREVER.

What seasonal traditions do you normal people maintain?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

and if you have 5 seconds to spare, then I'll tell you the story of my life

I didn't have much to do at work today, so in my spare time I wrote a letter to the editor, in response to one I read in the newspaper last night. Here's what I have so far:

It was very disturbing to read Mr Blank’s suggestions for decreasing Calgary’s traffic woes.

I don’t argue with his statement that many of the city’s drivers appear to be daydreaming behind the wheel. Personally I have witnessed many drivers who seem oblivious to school and playground zones, stop signs, traffic lanes and the fact that their car is equipped with a turn signal.

Mr Blank, however, suggests that traffic would flow more efficiently if all drivers were to proceed through the intersection immediately upon the light turning green, and if drivers were to leave no space between themselves and the car ahead whilst turning. I would suggest to Mr Blank that perhaps the reason that drivers wait for a second or two at lights is because they are all too aware that in all likelihood some impatient driver with an inflated sense of entitlement will come flying through that light after it has turned red for them. After all, some drivers’ time is so much more valuable than others.

And I’m not certain if Mr Blank has ever driven in the winter before, but I would remind him that it’s never a good idea to tailgate even under ideal driving conditions, and with the notoriously icy intersections we get in the winter, it is nothing short of foolhardy.

I would suspect that Mr Blank subscribes to the school of thought that weaving in and out of traffic at high speeds is the preferred method of dealing with those annoying cars that are all being driven at the same speed (could that be the speed limit perhaps?). After making all those tricky high speed manoeuvres, it must be frustrating to find yourself stopped at the next red light with those very same cars that were blocking your fast lane. Mr Blank certainly has my sympathies.

Aren't I a self-righteous asshole, though? It's one of my best features.

What did you do for fun today?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

anybody say Thom doesn't have a sense of humour, I'll fight em

See? He's not always a miserable sod ...

Still not convinced? How about this, cause bike helmets are funny, right?

Well it's a good song anyway.

Monday, December 03, 2007

am I the only one who didn't realize that Christmas is coming?

< Picture me standing behind this.

I still have a pumpkin (which never did get carved) frozen onto the top step of the front porch.

I have yet to write my European Christmas cards, six of them in German, which I need to relearn every year.
Postal deadline for cards to Europe: November 26

I baked my brandy fruitcake yesterday.
Number of weeks that it needs to be injected with brandy: 6

I hauled the Advent calendar out of the basement this morning.
Date on which the month of December begins: 1st
Decorating? Christmas letter? Cookie baking? Presents?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Who's minding the gap now?

I turned on the radio yesterday morning and heard choral music. Because it was December 1, I found it charming and soothing. A day sooner and I would have been annoyed. What a difference a day makes.

For some reason, yesterday was skewed toward all things British. Here are some examples:

The Mind the Gap lady has been fired by British Transport. You know who I mean, that disembodied voice who comes on in the tube telling you to mind the gap and to step away from the doors, that sort of thing. Her firing is an outrage of course, but it could actually bode very well for her career as a voiceover artist and budding comedian.

If you have not yet heard Emma Clarke's wonderfully subversive yet oh so civilized spoof tube announcements, I strongly urge you to go listen to such gems as "would passengers filling in answers on their Sudokus please accept that they are just crosswords for the unimaginative and are not in any way more impressive just because they contain numbers".

Morrissey is now on my shit list. He has been quoted as making some highly racist and elitist statements to the NME, and while I am generally happy to give people the benefit of the doubt over the NME, in this case Morrissey admits that his xenophobic remarks were quoted correctly, just that they were taken out of context. Excuse me, in what context would eliciting hatred toward immigrants be okay?

It was one thing for Morrissey to blacklist all Canadians for our sealing industry, I can respect that, but I cannot continue to support anyone who talks dreck like that.

In happier Rule Brittania news, I finally saw the film Control yesterday. I won't go into a proper review here, as I have already talked ad nauseum about this film before I even saw it.

But it is beautifully shot in rich black and white, and the actors did a splendid job of sounding like Joy Division (they performed their own music in the live scenes), even though Sam Reilly's voice is considerably higher than Ian Curtis' was and he has a slightly different accent.

Curtis comes across as a thoroughly sad bastard, which I suppose he must have been, but bandmate Bernard Sumner is portrayed as unexpectedly sweet and naive, while Peter Hook continues to be shown as a surly bastard. Considering that the film was based on the book by Curtis' widow, his mistress, Annik Honore, is portrayed in a surprisingly sympathetic light.

And in a delightful example of life imitating art imitating life, the actor who portrays Tony Wilson, founder of Factory Records, looks astonishingly like Steve Coogan, who played him in 24 Hour Party People. Neither man looks particularly like the real Tony Wilson.

When we left the theatre, it was dark and all the shop windows in Kensington were glowing behind the twinkling of the tiny white lights festooning the trees along the streets. Across the river, the illuminated downtown towers shimmered in the bitter cold.

I felt like I was in a Christmas card.

PS - I have now posted my list for the Winter Reading Challenge, if you would care to admire or deride it.

Friday, November 30, 2007

here be lists

The Fall Reading Challenge is drawing to a close and even though I am one and a half books shy of my goal, I am pretty pleased with my accomplishments.

Here are the books I read this fall:

How to be an Accordion Player - Geoff Berner
the Speaker of Mandarin - Ruth Rendell
Summer of My Amazing Luck - Miriam Toews
Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk
and half of Please Kill Me: the Uncensored Oral History of Punk - Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain

And look at the lovely award (look up ^ way up) that Captain Karen gave all the participants.
And with the fall challenge ending at midnight tonight, that can only mean the start of a fresh new reading challenge.
So I would like to invite you to head over to the fresh as new-fallen snow Winter Reading Challenge blog, where I will be posting my winter list, plus a little background as to why I chose those particular books. I'm sure many of the other participants will be sharing their lists as well, so it will be List Junkie Nirvana over there. Please come visit.. Who knows, you may feel tempted to stay and read a few books of your own.

And this being Friday and all, it's Friday Random Playlist time. That Minnesotan Cool Cat, he of the arty parties and the giant pumpkins is collecting your Friday Random 10, so lay it on him.

Here's the hand of ten that my shuffle threw down:
1. When you come knockin' - John-Rae and the River
2. A rush and a push and the land is ours - the Smiths
3. This town - Hot Hot Heat
4. Burn 2 ash - Chad VanGaalen
5. Belgium or Peru - Cuff the Duke
6. A change is gonna come - Billy Bragg
7. White light / white heat - the Velvet Underground
8. I hate rock n roll - the Jesus and Mary Chain
9. Editions of you - Mudhoney
10. Blue angel - Squirrel Nut Zippers

It's going to be bloody damn cold here this weekend, so other than braving the elements to go see Control while it is still screening at the great old theatre in Kensington, I am going to curl up with a book, my fuzzy blanket and the fireplace. I hope I have enough tea in the house.

What are you doing to ring in December? Remember to pace yourself; it's a long month.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Am I lazy or just insane, it's hard to tell 'cause nothing every feels the same

Today I learned that in order to stop the windows from fogging over and freezing up in your car, you turn on the air conditioning. Yeah, I would never have guessed that one either.

But the last couple of days I have not been able to see out my side windows, even with the heat blasting. You should have seen me trying to back into the garage. And it's not like it was -40 or anything, maybe -11.

But, according to my trouble shooting manual (which I took into work with me today) if you turn on the A/C, it automatically shuts off the air recirculation in the car, which can cause fogging. Brilliant! Sure the exhaust fumes made me rather nauseous during the drive home, but at least I could see. And I would rather be nauseous than dead.

Today I told the powers that be at work that starting in February (possibly January) they would only require my services two days a week. My colleague, bless his heart, started desperately trying to find ways to get more funding so that I wouldn't need to cut my hours, until I pointed out that saving salary money was only a fortuitous byproduct of cutting my hours.

I couldn't understand a single word he said today. I have been away from the office for a week, but I don't see how his English could have deteriorated that quickly. More likely my ears are out of practice.

Still, a one day work week was pretty sweet and worth the trying to guess what was being said.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

things I learned from my brother

Bruno went home today.

He sure is a lot of fun to have underfoot, and the week went by far far too quickly.

Being his little sister, I have always looked to him for direction in life, okay well that's a blatant lie, but perhaps I should have because he taught me a wealth of skills this past week. Such as:

1. how to choose appropriately manly birthday presents for my husband.

2. that we have a karaoke channel on our tv. Who knew? And Bruno and Eva could have been YouTube stars if only I had been thinking enough to capture them droning their way through Desperados. (Bruno, we told you ABBA, not Eagles!)

3. check to make sure that your sibling who has the same initials as you has not already used those initials on the Grey Cup football pool board before entering your own. Somehow it never ocurred to either of us that the other would use their own initials. And since BB cleaned up in 2 of the 4 categories, we had to split the winnings (although I maintain that it sure looked like my handwriting on those winning spots).

4. that the mighty Bow river begins near Lake Louise and ends at the Old Man river.

5. how to shop. Frightening, I know, but mon frere appears to be a shopper (although he claims to be a purchaser, rather than a shopper). I would ask though, what you would call someone who can spend 6.5 hours in IKEA? I did come home with a lovely set of comfortable and sassy kitchen chairs to replace those backbreaking and squeaky old church basement chairs we had been using lately. And no more sticking my fingers through that hole in the tip of the oven mitts. The bank account will just have to suffer for a while.

6. that there are all kinds of really cool birds around our place, including bald eagles, and he knows how to identify them.

7. that a week is not nearly long enough to talk about everything.

8. that the house became unbearably empty after I took him to the airport. I'm actually really glad to be going to work tomorrow.

We spent a mere 4 hours in IKEA yesterday. The 6.5 hour mega-trip was made during a previous visit and without the presence of any zombies.

Bruno wishes to tell the world that he does not drink a lot of coffee. So there must be some other explanation for the four-fold increase in household coffee consumption during his stay.

And when Bruno drinks coffee, he finds that people don't listen fast enough.


But enough about me, how have you been? I am now coming to visit you all because I have so missed your pithy and pertinent observations during my blog hiatus.

Friday, November 23, 2007

leg lamp day

While my American friends were gorging on turkey, I spent many quality minutes at the airport waiting for them to let my big brother off the plane.

Now don't get me wrong, I actually think the Calgary airport is a pretty great facility. You could live there for a month without any ill effects. Hey, they should make a movie about somebody who is forced to live at the airport for an extended time... What do you think? Any financiers?

The washrooms alone at the Calgary airport are second to none. They are located every 10 metres or so, they each have about 50 stalls, they are impecably clean, and they are designed so that the only thing you ever have to touch is your own ass. Really, I could live there.

There is even an oxygen bar at the airport, except that I'm happy with the free stuff, thank you very much. And you can get just about any kind of food you would ever want at Calgary airport. By contrast, the London, Ontario airport, which I always thought was pretty decent, has gone through some renovations since I was last there, and not all of them are good.

For instance, as we poured off the plane in London, 90% of the female passengers immediately headed to the nearby washroom, which we found was equipped with two stalls. And one of them didn't have a hook to hang your coat and purse. Plus they have done away with the little restaurant which used to look over the runways. Now your only choice is a roped off area in front of the Tim Hortons stand, or a vending machine. No more pinball area either. Sad really.

So I was pacing the arrivals area yesterday, waiting for Bruno, and watching them let those Saskatoon bastards deplane first, when I got to watching the facial expressions of the arrivers. They all walked through the doors, rather blank-faced, slightly confused looking, and then of course you would see one of the waiting detach themselves from the herd and make their way toward them. I was really tempted to intercede, to walk up to one of the arrivers, smile on my face, arms outstretched, and give them a big hug, exclaiming, "you made it!" I figure the trick would be to walk up to them, not rush at them, because you would want to have time to savour the changing expression on their face as they realized you were targetting them.

Fortunately for us all, Bruno arrived before I followed through.

As he sipped his Timmy's, we lingered in front of the luggage carousel which had his flight number marked on it. Although the bags from the Saskatoon flights had started spinning around before the passengers even deplaned, curiously enough no bags were showing up from Bruno's flight. Then the carousel stopped and the flight number disappeared from the sign altogether. Fortunately my ever-vigilant brother spotted the WestJet crew near the exit surreptitiously loading his and a few other suitcases onto a trolley, presumably to sell downtown for beer money.

But we had the Leg Lamp Award ceremony to attend at the high school that evening, so we had to boot it out of there.

Actually, it turns out that the leg lamp that we were hoping that Eva was going to receive for her Film Studies academic award was just a measly certificate. It was nice and an honour and all that yadda yadda, but it sure as hell wasn't a leg lamp.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

things that inspire me: part 1

- one of my favourite artists at work -

- when I look at Stanley Donwood's work, it makes me think that it really might be possible for me to transfer those images from my head to paper. But it never is.

- so I look at his art instead -

- I've always loved this one. You may recognise it. It's actually a Donwood/Yorke piece

In other news, I wore a scarf today. And it didn't even feel like an affectation. I think it helped that there was snow on the ground this morning.
It was a very lovely grey, black and white wool tartan that I swiped from the resident offspring and it went very well with my black wool coat, but my actions do cause me some concern. Is this what happens when I buy a new pair of shoes? What if I turn into a fashionista?
What's next? Jewelry? A fake orange tan?