Monday, March 31, 2008

the end of the great California odyssey

After sharing a 5:45 am limo ride with a sweet family from South Carolina (even the little kids had accents) in the tackiest limousine I have ever laid eyes upon, we spent flying home day lamenting the end of California sunshine and spending time by the ocean.

Instead we landed in Calgary to a newly deposited big dump of snow with more on the way. It's cold and grey and I have a massive head cold.

I also have over 800 photos from the trip, most of which were snapped by the Resident Offspring so you know they are decent. I'll be posting a few over the next few days, but promise I will stop at about 5% of the total collection.

Hey did you know it can cost $18.50 to make one local 5 minute phone call in San Francisco? Neither did I. I guess that's how they can offer such low streetcar prices.

R.I.P. Dith Pran

Saturday, March 29, 2008

great California odyssey: museum day

I started coming down with a cold last night - first one in over a year, but I guess if I must get sick on vacation, it might as well be at the end.

We still managed to walk up and down what felt like the equivalent of 17 Empire State Buildings, as we walked to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art via the "crookedest street EVER" section of Lombard Street.

That is one crazy assed street, man! And this picture only shows a small part of the section that is angled almost straight up and down. My legs are killing me.

The MOMA has some great photographic exhibits showing, depicting the freeway system in the Silicon Valley area. We went through all four floors, which almost caused Jerry to die of boredom, and I admit that everything started to look the same to me after a while as well.

So for something completely different on Museum Day, we ended things off by heading back down to the piers and going through the Wax Museum and the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum. Good tacky fun.

After a final ciopppino supper overlooking the water, it was back to the hotel, with the Resident
Offspring making one last stop at Barnes and Noble.

I'm going to have to get up at about 4:00 am tomorrow, so I shouldn't have any trouble getting to bed early tonight. Providing they keep the firepit parties down to a dull roar outside our window tonight. That may be a little much to ask on a Saturday night.

San Francisco is a fabulous city - it's beautiful and varied and bursting with life. I'm going to miss it a lot, but I sure am looking forward to giving my kitty lots of kisses tomorrow and then sleeping in my own bed.

Friday, March 28, 2008

great California odyssey: escape day

Rain showers were forecast for Alacatraz day, but I have a feeling that the Resident Offspring's timely purchase of a lucky cat was what warded off the wet until after we returned. Negotiating those hills (the equivalent of a 13 storey building) would have been rather treacherous in the rain.

The island looks very ominous as the boat approaches, with its burned out buildings high about the cliffs, empty eyes where the windows once were, gazing at you reproachfully. The grounds themselves are surprisingly lovely. Lush vines overgrow the cliff walls lining the stone road that
criss-crosses its way up the steep hill. The western gulls scream accusations at you as you trudge up to the cell block at the top.

The tour of the cell block is self-guided, with directions provided on your headphones by the voices of actual Alacatraz prison guards. The audio tour is exceedingly well done; the directions are authoritative and gruff, treating you as a prisoner as you are ordered around the prison and told some of the stories of life on the rock.

You simply can't go to San Francisco without seeing Alcatraz. Besides, the lookout point at the
top of the hill, just outside the prison control room, has the most spectacular view of the San Francisco skyline, a mere mile and a quarter away. You can see how the city undulates gracefully over a series of hills. Whilst walking through the city the day before, I was struck by how the intersection we were stopped at continued uphill in three directions, and I figured that we must have been standing in a bowl. From Alcatraz, I could see that this was indeed the case. Odd and lovely place!

When we disembarked, we went in search of the sea lions that hang out at Pier 39, many of them year round. We had seen one lounging in the setting sun on our first day, but Hillary told us that they generally hang out by the dozens. Sure enough, there they were, at least 70 sea lions, clustered on the piers, big ones and baby ones, sleeping ones and barking ones, swimming ones and fighting ones. They were charming and we watched for a long time. We didn't even think they were all that smelly.

Then it was a break for a quick early dinner from a table overlooking the harbour, and off to find
Musee Mechanique, which Will had recommended. This free museum is a personal collection of vintage mechanized games and arcade machines. I had expected that we would tour through it in about 20 minutes, but we ended up spending close to 2 hours there. It was so amazing and way too much fun! These were actual working games and we spent many quarters playing pinball and shooting games and boxing matches and pac man. There was even a vintage peep show.
Thanks for the great tip, Will!

By this time it was early evening and we continued our stroll down The Embarcadero, reading posted menus and looking for the perfect place to eat our final San Francisco dinner the next night. The Embarcadero was alive with street performers and music, everything from living statues (no crusty jugglers thank god) to fire-eating clowns to bongo players.

Our favourite, however, was the Bushman. We joined the crowd of giggling spectators who watched in anticipation as hehid behind a fake bush and then startled people as they walked by.

Apparently he has been doing this since 1980. A simple act but it never gets old.

On our final full day in San Francisco, we are going to attempt to see everything else. Okay, maybe just some museums. And eat some more cioppino.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

great California odyssey: beat and meet day

What do you do when you are in San Francisco, home to all manner of seafood and delicacies from many cultures? Why you go to IHOP for breakfast, of course!

In our defense I will say that it is perfectly legitimate to celebrate this American institution, especially when you can get those American hash browns that I haven't eaten in 20 years. Plus you can walk up and down hills all day after that with no need for more fuel.

Highlights of the day:

- mind boggling architecture, not only cheerfully random flats stacked upon each other, but also doorways that open onto angled sidewalks which you need to crouch over to enter

- the market in Chinatown

- watching a funeral procession in Chinatown, led by the Green Street Mortuary Band

- the Resident Offspring finding her very own lucky cat in Chinatown

- experiencing the Beat insurgency at City Lights bookstore and the Beat museum in North Beach. City Lights was famous for continuing to sell Howl after it was banned. While the RO found a Ginsberg book and I found John Lydon's autobiography/manifesto, we all saw many nude photos of Allen Ginsberg, during many stages of his life, at the museum. Apparently he was infamous for going to parties, leaving his clothes in a neat pile in the bathroom and coming back to the party announcing "the poet stands naked before you!"

- the cable car museum, which is the actual working facility that runs all the cable cars in San Francisco

- meeting Will and Hillary for dinner at Nirvana. Great company, wonderfully flavourful Asian fusion food, and another notch on my blogger meet-up belt

- the best deal in the city - $1.50 to ride the F Line streetcar from Fisherman's Wharf to the Castro to meet Will and Hillary (about a 45 minute ride). And the ticket was still good for the ride home! And the Resident Offspring's ride was $0.50 both directions

- the streetcar driver on the way home. She stepped out of the car at our stop, stuck a cigar in her mouth and announced "you can't get on, I gotta go to the bathroom" and strode off across the street, against the red light, bleached blond dreadlocks swinging in the night wind.

Friday - Escape to Alcatraz day!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

great California odyssey: change of venue

Although we were excited for the next phase in our adventure, we did find ourselves bidding a reluctant farewell to San Diego. But no time for dwelling in the past - San Francisco awaits!

The funny thing about the San Diego airport is that it has only ONE runway. I don't know how many thousands of passengers it services each day, but it is in the tens of thousands. All with one runway. And the airport itself is right in the heart of the city, so that planes arriving and leaving have to narrowly bypass tall buildings. It's a disconcerting sight to see a large jet just skim the top of the buildings coming in for a landing. I have a feeling they don't assign the San Diego flights to the rookie pilots.

The first thing you notice upon arriving in San Francisco from San Diego is the different colours. San Diego is blue and white and terracotta; San Francisco is taupe and grey and sage green. Except our hotel.

I'll post photos when we get home, but the Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf has been redone in slightly psychedelic, slightly Cat in the Hat decor. Broad turquoise bands of colour line the hallways, the blinds are canary yellow, the carpet is a paintbox of stripes, while the beds are covered in aquamarine and fuchsia pillows and a huge rectangular bolster. And it's all cubist and sleek and cheerfully modern. And it's only slightly flash-back inducing.

We checked in and almost immediately wandered the streets. In San Diego, we needed to cab everywhere, in San Francisco, there is so much within walking distance, it's like being in the heart of downtown. Except that two blocks away is the waterfront.

We had dinner at the wharf where I had a fabulous fish stew that I have been dreaming about my whole life. Outside the restaurant window, a precocious sea lion sunned itself on the dock, occasionally rolling over onto its back as though inviting us to rub its belly.

Tomorrow, we plan to arise fairly early and wander down to Chinatown for starters and then see where the day takes us. In the evening we will take the F line cable car down to the Castro area, where we are meeting Will and Hillary for dinner. Are you jealous yet?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

great California odyssey: Zoo day

The San Diego zoo is not as large as I expected it to be.

It's a beautiful zoo, very well laid out with winding pathways through a jungle-like setting, but it's not as big as everybody says it is. In fact I'm pretty confident in saying that the Calgary zoo is larger in terms of being more spread out. You cannot see the entire Calgary zoo in one day, you can certainly see the San Diego zoo in one day. (Naturally I do not include the Wild Animal Park in this for, although it is part of the San Diego zoo, it's not even in San Diego).

But there is a lot to see - pandas, hippos (and hippos pooing which you can view from a premium underwater vantage!), koalas, gorillas, meerkats, polar bears, zebras. And especially the llama-like creature which we were warned would spit right in your eye. It stood right at the edge of the enclosure, you could almost reach out and touch it, except that it was salivating like mad, working up a fine gob to hit you right in the face. I kept waiting for it to nail somebody, but the damn thing was too sly.

The 35 minute sightseeing tour on the double decker bus was well worth it. The guide was clever and entertaining and informative, and we knew after the tour how we wanted to plan the rest of our day.

We had enough time and energy left at the end of our zoo outing to walk over to the Natural History Museum to see the A Day in Pompeii exhibition. It was a fairly short exhibition, but very striking. The plaster body casts on display of people and animals who were asphyxiated and preserved in the rapidly accumulating layer of hot ash were particularly moving. The dog especially, twisted like a pretzel as it tried to scramble to stay on top of the layers of debris until it strangled on its leash was heartbreaking.

We all moved very quietly and reverently through this exhibit. I wish we had more time to see all the museums in Balboa Park, but I guess we shall just have to come back again sometime.

Tomorrow we fly to San Francisco. I have been looking forward to this part of the trip for a long time. I have always wanted to visit San Francisco, I just never realized that I would love San Diego so much. I miss it already.

Monday, March 24, 2008

great California odyssey: trolley tour day

There's something weird about the wallpaper in our hotel bathroom. It's patterned with small leaves and if you look at it for any length of time, the leaves start to swim and swirl. I feel like I am in the Overlook Hotel from The Shining when I am in that bathroom.

But San Diego is an incredible city. There is a surprising depth of cultural diversity and a deep history in this place, of which I was previously unaware. But it is, after all, the birthplace of California.

Today we took a trolley tour throughout the city. We left the hotel just before 10 and got home at 6. It was a long but very full and satisfying day.

With this tour, you are able to get off at 10 different places throughout the city and board again whenever you are ready. And as you are bombing along in the trolley, windows wide open, careening around corners, not a seatbelt in sight, the drivers/tour guides (all retired dudes as far as I could tell) regale you with snippets of history alongside cornball jokes and musical moments. It's an oddly surreal mixture of fascinating history, tacky tourism, and NASCAR racing.

Highlights of the day:
- Coronado Island - I kept having visions today of myself at age 75, living in Coronado, puttering around in my motorized scooter and bitching about the tourists. I have no idea where this comes from.
- dipping my feet in the Pacific
- Balboa Park - home to the San Diego Zoo and something like 13 different museums and galleries all in a beautiful park setting. The architecture is fantastic, reminiscent of the grandeur of buildings I have seen only in Europe.
- the restored hacienda at the historical park in Old Town. It was a stinking hot day today and inside the hacienda, it was deliciously cool. The walls are a good two feet thick, they knew how to build back then.
- the yachts and tall ships at the harbour, especially set against the backdrop of the San Diego "toolbox" skyline.
- the US aircraft carrier, Midway. The flight deck alone is 4 acres in size. This thing is insanely huge, I can't even begin to tell you what an awe-inspiring sight it is.
- fish and shrimp and fries and beer at the pier

San Diego is all tall sharp points of sail masts and palm trees, low flat roofs of adobe buildings, new luxury highrises and lovingly preserved historical mansions. You need to see it to believe it.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

the great California odyssey: day one

take home points of the day:

- sign at US customs stating that we must declare all liquor, fragrances and maple syrup

- Calgary airport bathrooms are waaaaay better than Vancouver airport bathrooms

- it was nearly 29 frickin degrees in San Diego when we landed! That's 84 in American! Had to buy flipflops at the bottle store

- our first new best friend was the shuttle driver from another hotel who offered us a ride after we had been waiting in the sun in front of the airport for half an hour for the lazy bastard from our hotel

- swam outside and drank a beer by the pool

- Old Town is really touristy but we had a tasty Mexican supper there, outside, whilst being serenaded by a Mariachi dude

- the ghost tour of San Diego was sold out tonight, but we stumbled upon Whaley house, supposedly one of the most haunted places in America, so we toured it at dusk

- it's dark here by 7:30pm

on the cards for tomorrow - a trolley tour of San Diego with stops including the Midway aircraft carrier, more Old Town, the zoo and a whole bunch of other destinations which currently escape me. Also a walk along the harbour in the evening to see the yachts and sailboats

I'm posting partly for myself so I don't forget what we did, so I apologize for not visiting over at your blogs. I'll be back soon!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

a few quick zeds and we are out of here!

I can't believe that they actually have flights departing at 6:00am. Who the hell thought that would be a good idea? I'm a fairly early riser, but 2:30am is a trifle on the ridonculous side. I guess I'll be napping on those uber-comfy airport chairs during our 3 hour layover in Vancouver.

But who am I to be bitching? I'm going to California! Three nights in San Diego, four in San Francisco, and no rain forecast.

I'm chuffed about having dinner with the lovely and talented team of Will and Hillary. Pictures shall be taken and you will all be jealous of my bloggy meetup.

Oh, and I am bringing the laptop with me after all. At the last minute I went out and bought a case so I could schlepp it along. It cost half a jillion dollars, but at least now I won't be totally out of touch. The things I do for you!

I won't be around the blogs a lot, but I will pop in and out. So be nice to each other, share your chocolate bunnies and I will be back to harassing you before you know it.

Happy Zombie Jesus Day!

Haunted by guilt

In a rather spur of the moment decision, the Resident Offspring and I took in the Liffey Players' production of Shining City this week.

The Liffey Players are a community theatre group whose mandate it is to produce Irish plays. Last March we took in their heroic production of the courtroom drama Bloody Sunday: Tales from the Saville Inquiry, and we were quite curious to see how they would tackle this much more contemporary play.

Shining City, by Conor McPherson, is a ghost story of sorts, in which the recently bereaved John begins therapy sessions with Ian, a former priest and newly minted therapist, to help him deal with the terror and guilt he feels at having seen his wife's ghost in their house. Ian has phantoms of his own which haunt him, not the spectral sort, but the fact that he has called off his relationship with Neasa, the mother of his young daughter, for whom he left the church and whom he has now abandoned to the charity of his resentful and judgmental brother and sister-in-law.

There are only four characters in this play, and only two ever appear onstage at one time. They all have issues of guilt stemming primarily from infidelity and the barriers they have erected between themselves and their partners, and none of them are living in a place they can call home. John stays at a bed and breakfast to escape the spectre of his dead wife, Ian sleeps in his office, leaving Neasa alone at his brother's place, while Lawrence, the hustler whom Ian picks up one evening, is indeed homeless in the standard sense.

The Liffey Players do an admirable job with this play, giving performances that are above the usual community theatre level. I found bits of the therapy sessions went on a trifle long with the weepy parts , but generally George Smith, who played the part of John, was quite credible as the guilt-ridden widower.

One scene, in which Neasa confronts Ian about his responsibiity to her and their daughter, did ring rather false, but the RO and I both agreed that the problem lay more in the dialogue itself than in how it was played.

I'm glad we made the impromptu decision to see this play, and I will look for future productions by this community theatre group.

Friday, March 21, 2008

it's a girl thing

I owe Beth a meme-doing. And I meant to get to it days ago, but Jesus Christ on a cracker, I've been scrambling lately. So I thought I would ponder the meme and listen to my laptop generate this Friday's Random Ten whilst cooking supper, and then a rather odd and lovely thing happened.

I'd say roughly 80% of the music I listen to is male-fronted. I'm not entirely sure how this happened, other than the fact that I just generally prefer male voices.

But take a look at today's Friday Random Ten. I think it's trying to tell me something.

1. Wandering star - Portishead
2. How deep is the valley - Sarah Harmer

3. Shed your skin - Indigo Girls
4. Dance this mess around - the B-52's

5. Veronica - Elvis Costello
6. Lotus - R.E.M.
7. Blister in the sun - the Violent Femmes

8. Fake empire - the National

9. Anti-social - Cuff the Duke

10. Let's roll - the Stills

Portishead, Sarah Harmer, Indigo Girls, B-52's - all female-fronted. Okay, I guess the B-52's had Fred Schneider but ... you know. Even Elvis Costello is singing about Veronica. Okay, so things switch over to the testosterone department with the bottom half of the list, but even there, we start off the boy portion with none other than Beth's favourite boys, R.E.M.

Quite clearly I was meant to get to that meme and pronto.

Without further ado, here's the Middle Name Meme (
list one fact about yourself beginning with each letter of your middle name):

I have
Bradycardia, an abnormally low heart rate. Apparently despite all appearances, I am some kind of super athlete.

I pride myself on being Rational at all times. I can't quite teach classes to Vulcan young 'uns, but pretty near.

I'm generally pretty Upbeat. Except when I have a righteous rage happening, and even then I enjoy it immensely.

I'm starting to develop a pretty annoying case of Nyctalopia, night blindness. So naturally I'm always the one who has to drive if we go anywhere at night. Look out, blind girl driving!

I am finally exorcising the spectre of the evil Guidance counselor and embracing my Artsy side. To hell with Science; I've done that to death. And if it means that I end up living under a bridge like that Guidance counselor warned, so be it.

I won't tag anyone, but please feel free to jump in if this appeals to you and you are not embarrassed to reveal your middle name.

I will leave you with one rather disturbing boy-girl disparity. Maybe it's just my over-fired imagination, but whilst following the American primaries, I have been noticing that while Barack Obama is always referred to as Obama, Hillary Clinton is far too often referred to as Hillary. I dunno, that just strikes me as a little patronizing.

But no matter how matter X and/or Y chromosomes you are carting around, I hope you are having a grand, nay a Good, Friday. It won't be long until we are scarfing back chocolate rabbit eggs for Zombie Jesus Day.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

care for a romp, govner?

I received my first proposition the other day and I'm not quite sure how to handle it.

Up until now, I have always been virtuous, and any pimping that I have done has been pro bono and because I have a genuine interest and belief in the event/product.

But recently I received an email, asking me to sell advertising (via a button or a banner) for a newly established online forum. I checked out the site and it seems like a decent forum and is innocuous enough, but I am not sure:
a) if I want to go down this path
b) how to determine asking rates

I'm sure a lot of you get bombarded with these offers all the time, but I'm just a poor innocent girl, newly arrived in the big scary city, and admit my head is already swimming with all this talk of Click Through Rates and Costs Per Click and Page Impressions and effective CPMs.

Sure, I would love to earn some money from my blog, especially now that I am semi-retired, as the Spousal Unit never fails to remind me, but is it worth taking that step? You can never get your cherry back, you know.

And what would be the impact it would have upon the nature of my blog? Would it still feel like my place, where I go when there is something I feel compelled to write about or if I have something I want to share, or would it become some sort of mutant? Somehow I keep picturing the creation of something really scary, sort of like the love-child between Eugene Hutz' mustache and Javier Bardem's hair.

I would love some advice, especially from you seasoned streetwalkers bloggers who sell advertising. What's your experience been with placing ads on your blogs? Best thing ever or dropping your pants?

Monday, March 17, 2008

books and beer and music, oh my

Top five reasons you should head over to the Spring Reading Challenge blog:

1. I finally posted my first book review for the currently running challenge.
2. There are over 50 book reviews already posted (by people who are much faster readers than I) for a challenge that started March 1.
3. You've probably seen the film. Surely you want to know how the novel compares.
4. It's the debut novel by an author who has gone on to become an acclaimed chronicler of contemporary life.
5. It's Monday, you don't feel like working anyway.

Top five reasons to observe St. Patrick's Day even when you are a German-Canadian:

1. Stiff Little Fingers
2. the Pogues
3. Guinness
4. green looks good on me
5. stew and biscuits

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Next question!

I have been spared the shame of having to admit that I have been one lazy-assed blogger this weekend . The fierce and adventurous Captain Karen has armed herself with a cricket bat and a loaded shotgun and has braved a face to face meeting in order to bring the world the truth behind what makes this zombie tick.

Please head over to her excellent blog to read her interview with a zombie, just one of a series of interviews she is planning in her Interviews of the Not So Rich and Famous.

She even agreed to include a picture of the sexiest man alive.

Tomorrow I will send you somewhere else. And you complain that I never take you anywhere!

We finally watched No Country for Old Men last night. I was expecting
something really dark and bleak, but it really had a lot of signature Coen Brothers' dark humour. A highly entertaining film.

And Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is simultaneously the baddest and the funniest bad guy I have seen in a long time. Even his hair is terrifying.

And now I totally want my own air gun. Friendo.

Friday, March 14, 2008

all this talk of blood and iron (and decapitation)

Last night at supper the Resident Offspring was regaling us with a story of how her math teacher had warned them not to play with the window blinds, as the day prior a kid had been decapitated by them and another one had his jugular vein cut and was rushed to the hospital where he was spared within 30 seconds of dying. We laughed and laughed and agreed that Mr C was quite the jokester and bad-ass.

Except this morning on the radio, I heard that IT REALLY HAPPENED! Well, except for the decapitation part and the being within 30 seconds of death bit, but a kid was messing with the blinds and did have his throat cut when the safety mechanism was over-ridden and the massive blinds came crashing down on him. His mom was called and she took him to the hospital
for stitches, so he obviously wasn't in that much imminent danger of perishing.

The Resident Offspring, thrilled by this turn of events, googled her school name + decapitation and kept getting hits for Anne of Green Gables.

Yesterday I was thrilled to receive a postcard from that tropical hot-spot destination, Johnson City, Tennessee. I would show you how lovely it is and all, and what a pithy message that master of pithiness, Dr Monkey, wrote upon it, but I still haven't figured out how to use the scanner. I'm still working on figuring out the myriad of remote controls for the tv.


But this being Friday and all, and the sky is still relatively clear even though they predicted 5-10 cm snow to start this morning, I am pleased to offer you two Friday lists for the price of one.

The Post-Punk Lives Friday Random Ten
1. I never wanna be young again - Gogol Bordello
2. If I live or if I die - Cuff the Duke
3. Movin' on up - Primal Scream
4. No fucking, just kissing - Hefner
5. Ambergris march - Bjork
6. Exiles among you - the Weakerthans
7. Same old drag - the Apples in Stereo
8. She's losing it - Belle and Sebastian
9. Jingle jangle - Hot Hot Heat
10. Rhythm of cruelty - Magazine

And to help you perfect your introverted tortured artist persona, I am pleased to bring you this Friday's Favourite Five -

Top Five Post-Punk Bands
1. Joy Division
2. Gang of Four
3. Wire
4. Magazine
5. Echo and the Bunnymen

Think I am way off the mark? Who would be on your list, and would you base the criteria on their influence upon the evolution of music or on the fact that you love those bands, or those haircuts? Let's have a smack-down!

Or we could just sit in the corner together and talk about how the world sucks.
Have a great Friday, my preciouses.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

If you didn't get enough Hedwig the first time ...

Good news for all the Hed-heads in Calgary, especially if you missed out on tickets for Sage Theatre's production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Hedwig Has Been Held Over!!!

Due to popular demand, Sage Theatre's runaway hit Hedwig And The Angry Inch has been held over until Saturday, March 22.

Four special performances have been added (all shows at 8pm):

Wednesday, March 19
Thursday, March 20
Friday, March 21
Saturday, March 22

You can buy tickets online at the Sage Theatre site or call 263-0079, ext. 2.

And if you know at least 9 other Hed-heads who want to join you, you qualify for a special $20 rate.

Still not convinced? I sure loved it, and so did the Marthas plus the Martha-in-training.


I'm starting to get really excited about our upcoming California trip.

After a few panic-stricken moments, I did manage to retrieve our passports from the super-secure spot I filed them in a few months ago and then promptly forgot the location of.

AND I booked our tickets for Alcatraz today too. Our hotel looks to be about a 5 minute walk from the pier where we board the ferry to the island. Of course map 5 minutes often translate to real life 45 minutes, but we shall see.

I can't wait to meet my longtime blog buddy Will in real life.

PLUS I have my books all picked out for the flight. Oh it's going to be grand!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

spinning around three times and spitting over my left shoulder

At the risk of being bludgeoned to death in my sleep by some of you malcontents poor bastards in the east who have endured record snow falls and some truly nasty-assed weather this winter, I have to pose the question: is it safe to put my winter boots away in the basement yet?

I ask because people are golfing here. Some of the courses opened on the weekend.

Those of us who have been here for a couple of winters know better than to be fooled by a few weeks of shirt-sleeve weather and we are not doing anything hasty. I, for one, remember sitting in the stands at the Calgary Stampede during the first July that we lived here and huddling under a plastic sheet because it was snowing.

I agree with the discussion on the CBC this morning that those nutty premature golfers are putting us all at risk of having the full wrath of mother nature descend upon our heads when we least expect it. They're gonna jinx us.

Around here, the rules are:
1. you don't plant before the first of June (although almost to a person we all foolhardily put those delicate plants in on the May long weekend)
2. you leave your windshield scraper in the urban assault vehicle until May at least
3. you park your snow shovels by the back door and then you just leave them there throughout the summer

I don't bother switching my winter and summer wardrobes around any longer, because I have learned the hard way that one August day, I am going to need that turtleneck, just as I know that one January afternoon I will feel like wearing capris.

Is there one surefire action that will jinx the arrival of spring where you live?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

the corpses have been cursed and the futurists called in

They're laughing at us in Saskatchewan right now.

They last thing I need right now is one less hour. I either need to get more sleep or get rid of that damned comfy couch. Inevitably within 10 minutes of reclining into it, I am struggling to prop my eyelids open.

Last night we watched the German film, The Lives of Others, and let me tell you, it is really hard to read subtitles through closed eyelids. My German is not that good, so I missed a lot of the developments. I did get the distinct impression, though, that the Stasi were a pretty nasty bunch.

Thanks to everyone who played along with the movie quote meme earlier this week. Many of you were pretty impressive with your quotation-ciphering abilities, and for those quotes that escaped detection, here is the completed list:

1. It’s their place, Mac. They have a right to make of it what they can. Besides, you can’t eat scenery! - Local Hero
2. I’m being postmodern, before it’s fashionable. - 24 Hour Party People (Allison)

3. As Mr. Sloan always says, there is no "I" in team, but there is an "I" in pie. And there's an "I" in meat pie. Anagram of meat is team... I don't know what he was talking about. - Shaun of the Dead (Karen)
4. It's not who invented the gun, man. It's who pulls the trigger. - The Edukators (John Mutford)

5. There's two ways to look at it: Billy wants the models and limousines, while I'm happy with hookers and taxicabs. - Hard Core Logo

6. What do you mean there's no government? There's always a government, they're in a bunker or a plane somewhere! - 28 Days Later (John Mutford)

7. See, to me, England was nothing more then a big fucking American state like North Dakota or Canada. - SLC Punk

8. Many girls want to be carnal with me... because I'm such a premium dancer! - Everything is Illuminated (John Mutford)

9. Oh, I just think I'm gonna barf... Well, that passed. Now I'm hungry again. - Fargo (Jim Dandy)

10. And the tiny hairs on your arm, you know when they stand up? That's them. When they get mad... it gets cold. - The Sixth Sense (Steffi)

11. He is not Judge Judy and Executioner! - Hot Fuzz (John Mutford)

12. Some hate the English. I don't. They're just wankers. We, on the other hand, are COLONIZED by wankers. Can't even find a decent culture to be colonized BY. - Trainspotting (Dr M)

13. Every time Catherine would turn on the microwave, I'd piss my pants and forget who I was for about half an hour. - National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (Allison)

14. The backwards way can’t be better, because the backwards way is wrong. - Wilby Wonderful

15. Some kind of instinct. Memory, of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives. - Dawn of the Dead (Jim Dandy)

Special prize is going out to John Mutford for the most correct answers. Well played, John, start checking your mailbox in a couple of weeks.

Not only do I need that stolen hour back, I need a Tardis or something to go back here and adjust my best-of list. If I had been on the ball and had bought The National's new album, Boxer, back in the year when it was actually new, it would definitely have ranked in my top seven. Once I start listening to it, I just can't stop. It's that good. Here's a taste of something that you can't hear on their myspace:

Brainy - The National
Have a fabulous Sunday everyone, except for you lucky bastards in Saskatchewan, you can choke on all your exra time.

Friday, March 07, 2008

he who walks behind the corn

I sprang the Resident Offspring out of school early this afternoon, so that we could head up to the airport to meet up with my niece who had a bit of a stopover on her way to an exotic hot spot destination. When she gets to Edmonton, she is spending some time with someone whom her wacky mother insists upon calling a "faaaah-rennnnd" (meaning a possible future grandchild genetic material donor).

It was great to spend some (albeit too brief) time with her, much as we did with her zany little sister a couple of weeks ago. If we keep this up, we'll never need to travel anywhere anymore. The entire world will come to us.

But it did make the schedule too tight to partake in a proper Friday Random Ten, and besides I spent much of the day
in the urban assault vehicle groovin to my man Thom doing some bad-ass beat-boxing. No doubt he would approve of my method of transportation.

Prior to that, however, on the way to school, we listened to the highly underrated Hefner, and one track in particular got us to thinking about songs that feature children's singing. Now I know a lot of people are really creeped out by songs that feature kids singing, but I think they will be pleasantly surprised by the quality of some of those little buggers' choirs.

Since I am currently reading High Fidelity, which is essentially a list junkie's playground, chock-full of top fives, I can't think of a more ideal time to usher in a brand new semi-regular feature inspired by the book, entitled Favourite Five Friday.

Friends, I bring you:


Top Five Favourite Songs Featuring Kids:

5. 15 Step - Radiohead
- okay, these kids don't actually sing - they cheer, but c'mon, you knew I was going to sneak in some Radiohead if at all humanly possible. Besides the whole school gets credit on the album, which is pretty cool.

4. If You're Feeling Sinister - Belle and Sebastian
- again, not exactly singing, but they are yelling and playing in the background and the theme fits.

3. Another Brick in the Wall Pt 2 - Pink Floyd
- the original creepy-little-English-kids-singing song; man they make those little accents sound sinister!

2. The Day That Thatcher Dies - Hefner
- more little English kids, but more joyous than creepy; you can totally see them dancing on Margaret Thatcher's grave.

1. Mango Pickle Down River - M.I.A.
- these little kids even have a handle - the Wilcannia Mob. How cool is that? And if that little dude with the smoker's rasp isn't the bad-assest thing ever, I don't know what is.

Have a fabulous weekend, you gorgeous creatures. But watch out for those hollow-eyed children standing by the side of the highway.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Taking the Wig Out Of the Box

Now this is how you finish off your highly successful 10th anniversary season, you book a wildly popular cabaret performer and her “internationally ignored” band and you put on a rousing show.

And that’s exactly what Sage Theatre have done in their final offering of the season. Hedwig and the Angry Inch, that darling of Off-Broadway, is currently tearing up the floorboards over at the Pumphouse Theatre, with a one woman show that is part cabaret rock performance, part confessional.

Once again, the tiny Joyce Doolittle theatre has been utterly transformed. This time, we find ourselves ushered into a seedy nightclub, with tiny cabaret tables crowded together and flanking a run-down but still decidedly garish stage. After a few minutes, during which the audience sips cocktails and chats, the lights go down and the band takes the stage in precisely the same slightly weary manner in which every band who has been touring too long takes the stage. But then they launch into their set, the spotlights spring to life, and Hedwig struts out to greet us in all her magnificence. Suddenly the place comes alive with the energy of a bona fide rock concert. She struts, she stomps, she flirts and does a little lapdance for an audience member. She is gloriously outrageous.

The role of Hedwig is a demanding one for any actor. It demands the versatility to convincingly belt out close to a dozen songs in a German accent, to capture the spotlight with the right blend of charisma and heartbreak, and to wear an ultra mini with fuzzy red Docs and fishnets. Geoffrey Ewert not only captures this role beautifully with just the right combination of bravado and pathos, but channels every tormented transgendered cabaret performer who ever drowned her pain in her act. Between songs, Hedwig regales us with an impudent recounting of her life, her journey from an East German “slip of a girlyboy” who endured a botched gender change operation in order to marry an American soldier who promises a new life in the west, her abandonment in a Midwest trailer park, her rise to fame with her soul mate, Tommy Gnosis, whom she nurtured and groomed for life as a rock star, and ultimately how she came to be playing this seedy Calgary club.

While Hedwig and her band, the Angry Inch, are reduced to performing in dives like the one we see her in (“just across the river from the Saddledome”), her former song-writing partner and ex-lover, Tommy Gnosis is playing to sold out arena crowds. In fact, he is performing at the Saddledome that very night, and his performance is periodically played on the four television screens that dot the stage, a fact that is used as a cruel weapon by Hedwig’s current romantic partner and band-mate, Yitzhak.

Yitzhak, who is played by Jamie Konchak sporting one of the most perplexing beards ever to grace a stage (but whose powerful and masterful voice more than makes up for it), is perpetually under Hedwig’s indomitable control. Lashing out against her with images of Tommy’s superstar status is his reaction to being forbidden to embrace the woman he sees himself as being.

The Origin of Love, one of the showcase songs of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, recounts the mythology of humans as originally being comprised of two beings which were split apart by angry and jealous gods, and our subsequent search for our other half. Hedwig has spent her whole life searching for the soul-mate who will make her whole again, and in the play’s finale, she is ultimately stripped of all disguises. As she hands her coveted wig to Yitzhak, she trades in the glam persona which has nurtured her through the years for the possibility of finding real love.

In producing Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the cast and crew of Sage Theatre have taken a highly acclaimed cult classic and, while remaining true to the bittersweet and surprisingly complex story, they bring a local flavour and immediacy to it by setting it in the Pumphouse Theatre. It’s a clever little bit of art imitating life imitating art and it’s just a small part of what makes Sage Theatre’s production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch so successful and so memorable.

You can catch Hedwig through March 15, with special midnight performances added on March 7 and 14.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

curse the corpses, call in the futurists

41 stinking percent.

That was the voter turnout in yesterday's Alberta provincial election. And of those who bothered to vote, obviously most were complacent enough to be happy with keeping the same old shit. So we've got another four years of a majority Conservative government. Ralph Klein may not be darkening our doors any longer, but it would appear it's turning into a case of meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

And for you 59% who didn't bother to get off your asses, I had better not hear one peep out of you for the next four years. You have lost your right to complain. I, on the other hand, will be bitching vociferously the entire time.

To take our minds to happier times, sunnier places, I am stealing a meme idea that the spectacular Allison posted the other day, because it's just too much fun not to continue.

It's the Movie Quote Meme!

Here are quotations from 15 of my favourite movies. See if you can name the films from whence they were lifted. (no googling or imdbing, I'm trusting you on this). I'll post the film names as they are correctly identified.

It’s their place, Mac. They have a right to make of it what they can. Besides, you can’t eat scenery!

2. I’m being postmodern, before it’s fashionable. - 24 Hour Party People (Allison)

3. As Mr. Sloan always says, there is no "I" in team, but there is an "I" in pie. And there's an "I" in meat pie. Anagram of meat is team... I don't know what he was talking about. - Shaun of the Dead (Karen)

4. It's not who invented the gun, man. It's who pulls the trigger.
- The Edukators (John Mutford)

5. There's two ways to look at it: Billy wants the models and limousines, while I'm happy with hookers and taxicabs.

6. What do you mean there's no government? There's always a government, they're in a bunker or a plane somewhere! - 28 Days Later (John Mutford)

7. See, to me, England was nothing more then a big fucking American state like North Dakota or Canada.

8. Many girls want to be carnal with me... because I'm such a premium dancer! - Everything is Illuminated (John Mutford)

9. Oh, I just think I'm gonna barf... Well, that passed. Now I'm hungry again. - Fargo (Jim Dandy)

10. And the tiny hairs on your arm, you know when they stand up? That's them. When they get mad... it gets cold. - The Sixth Sense (Steffi)

11. He is not Judge Judy and Executioner! - Hot Fuzz (John Mutford)

12. Some hate the English. I don't. They're just wankers. We, on the other hand, are COLONIZED by wankers. Can't even find a decent culture to be colonized BY. - Trainspotting (Dr M)

13. Every time Catherine would turn on the microwave, I'd piss my pants and forget who I was for about half an hour. - National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (Allison)

14. The backwards way can’t be better, because the backwards way is wrong.

Some kind of instinct. Memory, of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives. - Dawn of the Dead (Jim Dandy)

And I'm going to tag some folks too, because I haven't pestered anyone that way for a while.

I am reaching into my popcorn bag now and withdrawing some slightly greased-stained bits of paper bearing the names: Toccata, Mel, Karen, Jim Dandy, and Beth.

My apologies if any of you aforementioned folks are of the meme-hating school, I can never remember who belongs to what. And if you didn't get your name pulled and you'd like to play, I would be chuffed senseless to read your lists. More senselesser than usual.

Monday, March 03, 2008

no one sings alone

Although I am still currently scrambling to get myself caught up after a weekend of debauchery and laughing so hard that I would get all phlegmmy, it was completely worth blowing off my responsibilities to hang with the lovely and fabulous Marthas. Above you see us in all our Hedwig and the Angry Inch viewing finery. Nothing too flashy or tranny, but damn we thought we looked fine.

Oh look, it's the cute rub-on tattoos that the ever-effervescent Mel sent me! Mel, we were channeling you when as we sported these babies all weekend. I'm still wearing my bad-ass snake.

Here you see Bev painting her clay thingy. It took our group about 564 times longer to complete these pieces than we originally figured, but with all the snorting and cackling and rofling that went on, who was counting?

The planned karaoke outing was usurped by a Thai dinner, complete with an Asian beer sampling session. Here you see Sandra and Eliz demonstrating the results of mixing Amkrit and Tiger lagers. tsk tsk

Prior to the beer-tasting, but still displaying that same jolly attitude, Sandra demonstrates the mood-enhancing effects of buying the entire stock of No Pudge Brownie mix in the entire Calgary Stupidstore chain.

Sunday lunch - I drag the gang off to my favourite local Japanese restaurant where Bev and I battle for supremacy of the tatami room. There is no clear winner.

I'm not used to people to talk in their sleep, especially ones who calmly and eloquently declare "could someone please turn on the news? Quay quay quay, please?", but Eliz pulled it off. Not everyone can manage to look that elegant as they blow their wine cooler either.

some highlights and lowlights:

- Bev scoring a way better room than we originally booked and then paying way less for it

- the lovely lads from the room next to us, who were friendly, polite and quiet. I think they must have been aliens

- the hotel being overrun by some hockey tournament families on Saturday, complete with the parents drinking in the hallway until late into the night, and then sending the kids out into the hall to play hockey at 7:00 the next morning. Trailer trash, all of them.

- me scoring a Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins cd at the used record store, AND a Radiohead single of There There featuring a couple of bonus tracks which I didn't already own PLUS a print of one of the Stanley Downwood city series. A completionist's wet dream.

- achieving consensus for booking the next womanly weekend for June