Friday, December 30, 2011

arctic radio

Late Nights on Air - Elizabeth Hay

Having never lived in the far north, nor even visited there, I can't attest to the accuracy of life north of 60, as depicted in Late Nights on Air. Hay's portrayal of 1970's Yellowknife, an isolated northern community to which only oddball or adventure-seeking southerners ever venture, does feel well realized, even though some depictions of native characters feel stereotyped and social issues feel cliched.

Late Nights on Air tells the story of a small northern radio station, peopled by an odd mix of characters who have been thrown together through the vagaries of fate. Harry, the curmudgeonly station boss, is escaping his demons and his fall from grace in southern Canada. Gwen, fascinated by stories of northern exploration she read as a child, longs to retrace the trails of doomed explorers through radio documentary. Dido, an exotic and polarizing possessor of a perfect radio voice, plays people against each other with dark sensuality. Thrown into the mix are the volatile and dangerous Eddy, the lovable romantic Ralph, the spiritually-awakened Eleanor, and the wise and pragmatic Theresa.

Against the backdrop of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline inquiries, issues of racism and violence, and the threat of a newly-planned television station displacing the importance of the small northern radio station, four of the characters - Harry, Gwen, Ralph, and Eleanor - set out on a lengthy canoe trip. This fateful canoe journey is the strongest part of the book, and Hay's depiction of the astonishing landscape of the Barrens makes me realize that I know nothing of the mysterious far north.

I enjoyed this book, but it didn't particularly move me. It unfolds rather slowly, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I did have an issue with Hay's overuse of foreshadowing of a particular tragedy. Hay warns of the upcoming event for so many chapters before it actually happens, that I stopped paying attention.

Late Nights on Air is an enjoyable read, and I learned something about early arctic exploration, and about the geography of the far north. Ultimately, though, I didn't care enough about the characters to revisit them after I closed the covers.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

grand pianos crash together

You would think that a creature who stomps around as much as she does would be more tolerant of a little slipper noise. But apparently the sound of the Spousal Unit walking about in his new Christmas slippers is the most terrifying thing that the Slightly Retarded Kitty has ever encountered.

When he walks across the kitchen floor in his plain brown old man slippers, the SRK skitters out of the way as though she was being pursued by the devil himself, dekes into a safe spot, and then stares at him, horrified, searching his face for signs of the familiar dad within this scary monster.

Cats are weird.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

somebody shot her eye out

This year's Christmas mystery parcel did indeed turn out to be of the Nine Ladies Dancing persuasion. Sort of.

It was actually two half-ladies dancing, inside a vase. Evidently some sort of postal mishap bisected the ballerina. I'm a little concerned, because the glass vase is labelled Nine Ladies Dancing. I just hope this doesn't mean that another sixteen dancing half-ladies will eventually show up on our doorstep.

We are generally rather low-key in the gift department, and this year's bounty of gifts were right in keeping with my pragmatism. In fact, they were exactly what I had wished for.

I am particularly excited for the gift that will this year replace the annual board game. A while ago, I came across a slide projector in the basement, along with three carousels of slides from when the Offspring was a wee one. I'm looking forward to a slide viewing evening, perhaps as a precursor to the annual board game fest. I just need to fi
nd my elbow pads before the Crokinole championship begins.

The turkey has now been in the oven sufficiently long to fill the house
with crazy-making aromas. 7.5 kg should be sufficient for three people and one Slightly Retarded Kitty, shouldn't it?

The SRK was very concerned about being dragged out of bed to open her present and was very skittish of all that ripping paper and of the box that we then expected her to peer inside. Judging from the curious, yet polite, tapping she has given her gift, though,I think it was a success. She still prefers to have someone come outside to give her belly rubs over any store-bought gift, however.

Time for a glass of Prosecco, and to baste that turkey again.

Enjoy your Christmas, my pretties.

Friday, December 23, 2011

the world in shortbread

TV celebrities figured largely in this year's subversive shortbread bake-off.

Billy the Exterminator left the swamps long enough for an impromptu visit. He really should have trimmed that soul patch a bit though. It's important to look nice at Christmas.

Lady Gaga wore her meat dress. Of course.

Liz Lemon's glasses did not stand up to the heat of the oven.

Leslie Knope was full of sunshine and organizational skills.

Jim Reid reminded us that it's just not Christmas without a little Jesus and Mary Chain.

And then there was the guy who was just a nobody until he rear-ended a lumber truck. A log through the forehead is very celebratory way to check out.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

nein, nein, nein, 99

It's arrived.

Postmarked Anaheim, CA, with a return address of The Elves, Disneyland, the annual mysterious parcel was delivered via Canada Post. A truck, in fact. There is a import declaration on one side, signed with an unfamiliar name.

It was eight maids a-milking who arrived last year, but I can't for the life of me remember what comes after eight. Nine, obviously, but nine what?

I'm hoping it's cupcakes.

The mystery continues.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

you'll shoot your eye out, kid

There are Christmas Markets and then there are Christmas Markets with robots. After all, nothing says Christmas quite like an eggbot.

I had a grand time at the Elves in the Village Christmas Market today.
The old Simmons mattress factory is a beautiful location for a market, exposed brick and warm wood. It's the sort of place where you feel instantly at home. With the Cantos house band belting out soul numbers in one corner, and friendly folks taking in food bank donations and offering really scrumptious cookies in another corner, it wasn't the easiest place to drag myself away from. Especially when I had friends and coworkers there who needed chatting to.

Good thing there was no shortage of friendly chatty folks outside along the RiverWalk. Inventor-types, food truck guys, and fellows with big cameras, all more than willing to answer my inane questions. And the calzones that I brought home for supper from Pimento's food truck were top-notch. Thanks, Mario and Giovanni.

Have you been to any Christmas Markets this year?
What about food trucks? What's your favourite food truck fare?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

judgmental cat knows where you hid the presents

Yeah maybe, but she doesn't know everything. She doesn't know what's in that big box that's already under the tree, does she?

So don't tell her.

Monday, December 12, 2011

don't fear the reindeer

We are a winter nation.

Nights like these, when the neighbours' lights shine through the spruce bows, pinpoints of warmth in the snow, home means shelter. Nights like these, when the Slightly Retarded Kitty finds a new favourite hangout, fragrant and soft, under the lighted tree, home means comfort.

The old oven that has been faithfully roasting the noble bird Christmas after Christmas just been given new life, a new element ensuring that the feasting tradition carries on. A pleasant chat with the repair man, newly arrived from New Brunswick, reminds us that we don't really have all that much snow to deal with after all.

Still, with a batch of subversive shortbread to bake when the OKFAR arrives home and a plentiful supply of mamma's little helper on ice, why venture anywhere?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Happy Birthday, young feller

As you take that next step toward the Early Bird Seniors' Special at the Country Kitchen restaurant, be comforted by the fact that I will already have had have lots of practice demanding my discount. You'll always be a youngster to me.

There's nothing wrong with dinner at 4:30 anyway.

Happy Birthday, Spousal Unit! Bring on the iceberg lettuce and the Wonder Bread!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

basterd anatomy

Well that was pathetic. There I was, on the elliptical for the first time in six weeks, trying to channel my inner Bridget von Hammersmark, and I lasted for five minutes. But it's a start.

Ever since I injured my knee shortly before Hallowe'en, I've been hobbling about, grunting and groaning going up and down stairs, and spending half the night tossing around in bed trying to find comfortable position for my knee. I had already attempted the bike, but there was just too much knee action involved, so I had been concentrating my (admittedly infrequent) workouts on upper body strength training. I could feel my tentative grasp on fitness slipping through my pudgy fingers. It's anybody's guess how flabby my heart is getting.

I was actually quite thrilled to discover that, if I turned the resistance to the lowest level and moved slowly and carefully, hanging onto the hand rails, I could manage an elliptical workout. Okay, five minutes isn't a workout, but you know what I mean. The knee bone is connected to the heart bone.

Today, the day after my Olympic performance, I can feel the muscles surrounding my knee instead of the knee itself. This is progress. I am going to keep at this, adding three minutes every time and giving myself a day to heal in between. At that rate, I will be back to my normal workout by 2014, according to my calculations. Bathing suit shopping may have to wait another few years.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

if I'm not here, I'm there

I'm having a bit of a breather this week, using the time away from deadlines to finally finish those Christmas cards that have been staring at me reproachfully. The Slightly Retarded Kitty enjoys knocking over the card boxes that are piled on the dining room table, but it's time to reclaim the space. I'll buy her some new catnip instead.

I worked my first unsupervised shift at Cantos on Sunday evening. All the locks and lights and alarm system procedures are not nearly as daunting when you actually start to use them. I didn't even burn the building down or anything.

I've got a few more shifts to work before Christmas, as well as a slew of appointments next week, before I start to power down for the holidays. The OFKAR comes home in less than two weeks and I am already anticipating days spent lounging on the chesterfield or gathered around the battlefield that the Christmas board game ritual always devolves into. That and a new pair of slippers will make the holidays perfect. And reading all the best of lists, of course!

Here's some stuff I've written lately, for your reading pleasure:

BC Musician Magazine - Early Starters, Late Bloomers - CORE concerts strike the right note

EV Experience - various blog posts

What's been keeping you busy?

Saturday, December 03, 2011

What they're playing in Whoville

Prime - LeeSun

I don't think there is anything contradictory about the fact that LeeSun's bright and summery debut album reminds me of Christmas. This is, after all, the cocktail party season, and cocktail parties call for touch of cool and breezy music with prominent jazz overtones. Prime makes me want to throw a really hip holiday soiree just so I have an excuse to spin it on my turntable.

Prime makes a strong beginning with Mickey Mouse, a vibrant number that has the kind of jazz beat that makes your head bop in one direction, while your shoulders sway in another, and your hips do something different altogether. When the jaunty horns kick in on Love Me or Leave Me, I defy you to resist finding yourself transported directly to Whoville. Mountain Song, meanwhile, has a playful time signature that belies the gravity of the lyrics.

LeeSun has a wonderfully clear and playful voice. There's a sprightliness to her vocals that make her poppy songs bright and crisp and her more wistful songs a study in muted clarity. The beautiful weeping instrumentals of Humming Tune, for instance, speak to a wistful longing, while Ahavi's Song is deeply dreamy with lovely touches of glockenspiel.

If the name LeeSun sounds familiar, perhaps you recall the delightful video interview she did for us
recently. In the video she explains the album's connection to Calgary, in particular the Cantos Music Foundation. And she does a pretty mean Blue Steel.

Do watch the video to get a feel for the slightly kooky personality behind the classically-trained musician with the maths degree. At the very least, take a listen to the sonic explosion of Prime. The eclectic album is being released in the UK this month, and hopefully will be gracing turntables at hip cocktail parties on this side of the pond very soon afterward.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

I eated ALL the food

It's a blessing that the escalators chose last night to channel their inner stairs, because I am pretty certain I left no sample untasted at the CORE after-hours shopping event last night.

Sure I got the vapours a couple of times after getting caught in a crush of slow moving fashionistas. And I might have been one of the only people there sporting hiking boots instead of sparkly stilettos. But the event was for a good cause (half of the money raised went to the National Music Centre). And oh, the food!