Thursday, March 31, 2011

little acorns falling

This is one of my favourite pictures of him. I keep it in my office, book-ending the little writing desk with the other photo, the one of my mother. Strange too that the writing desk itself came from the Spousal Unit's parents. There's a lot of history tetrised into those few square feet.

In the picture, before the stroke, before the nursing home, he is in his element, on his property with his dog. Rubber boots to traverse the land. Good for stepping over deadfall and striding over prairie grasses. A very purposeful stride.

He was always close to the land, always had a regard for hard work, for making do with what was at hand. Self-sufficient, self-contained. Always armed with a massive vegetable garden, he composted when the practice still raised eyebrows, collected rainwater before the era of the rain barrel, reused discarded bits and pieces long before they coined the word recycle.

He's been gone for ten years now, ten years ago today. It was only after his death that I really looked at what he left behind and began to appreciate, not just the work ethic in him, because he always seemed to be working, but the creativity that he demonstrated in the things he left behind. Things like this woodcut stamp that he made. He always did favour the oak tree.

At his funeral, we all agreed that Papa would be very disappointed that he didn't hold on until April Fool's Day, because he would have considered that to be the ultimate joke. I still believe that, to this day.

Wilhelm Georg Bruederlin

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

bustle in my hedgerow

I guess there's some truth to the adage that you have to mix things up to keep making gains.

I have been doing pretty much the same workout on the same pieces of equipment down in the basement torture chamber for the past half dozen years and I stopped seeing any progression in strength or stamina years ago. I've sort of accepted this as an indication that this is as good as I will get, and I keep working out just to maintain my fitness level, not to win the Olympics.

Yesterday, though, the sun came out. Not normally a notable event around these parts, which is definitely the driest and sunniest place I have ever lived, but after nearly a fortnight of bleak heavy snow clouds, the sight of that glowing orb gleaming brilliantly down upon the snow banks gave everyone a much needed boost of feel-good vitamin. I did not want to descend to the windowless basement for my maintenance sweat.

So instead I traipsed up and down the stairs for 45 minutes, stopping periodically for some rapid on the spot marching, complete with major arm pumping.

Today I can feel some muscle stiffness in a completely different part of my quadriceps than normally gets exercised. I am not going to make a habit of this stair-climbing business but I am going to try to mix things up a bit more often.

What habit do you think you should shake up a bit?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

face to face

Sometimes I just wanna be a dog.
Not necessarily your dog.
But not necessarily not either.

Monday, March 28, 2011

mama always said get away from the windows

Their median age was 115, I figure. We ended up with the senior one at our door.

I noticed the first batch of Jehovah's Witnesses when the little red car pulled up across the street. For the longest time, nobody emerged, but finally the doors swung open and two ancient women - wool coats, blue rinses - slowly pulled themselves out. The way they clutched the stack of pamphlets to their bosoms was a dead giveaway.

Nobody answered at the first house. I knew they wouldn't, they never do. But I had to give those senior Witnesses credit, they were prepared to wait it out. Finally, after a third press of the doorbell they moved on, shuffling down the sidewalk to the next house.

But before they reached it, a single elderly faithful emerged from the other direction and scooped them.

It was a a tag team of Watchtowers, a collision of Witnesses. ! was hoping to see a throw down, an octogenarian gloves-off no-holds-barred battle for souls. But alas, the original team simply shuffled back to their car, where they sat for a while as they re-evaluated their strategy. In the end they simply drove to the end of the block, turned around and parked on the other side of the street.

I imagine the lone Witness got way more notches on her soul belt today.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

worm food in three days

Will to Live: dispatches from
the edge of survival
- Les Stroud

The Spousal Unit and I have always enjoyed watching Les Stroud's Survivorman series, so when I spotted this book last Christmas, I knew it would make the perfect unexpected gift for a man who reads mainly fishing magazines. Perfect because I was to keen to read it too.

In Will to Live, Stroud deconstructs stories of survival and analyses them, grading the survivors on their preparedness in terms of their knowledge, their dumb luck, the completeness of their supply kit, and their sheer determination. In the course of the book, he reconstructs some very famous cases of survival (the 1972 crash in the Andes of a plane carrying a team of Uruguayan rugby players) and lesser known, but equally riveting stories (Antarctic explorer Douglas Mawson's hellish three month trek). Stroud looks at the actions and inactions of the survivors to determine what they did right and what they did wrong, in determining their own survival and that of others in their party.

Stroud is very judgmental in his analysis, and to be fair, some of the people were remarkably ill-prepared and naive. The story that struck particularly close to home was that of the young couple and their infant who set off to drive to a funeral across the Donner Pass (of all places) in a late December blizzard. When storm conditions closed the pass, they chose to take a lesser travelled road, despite not even having winter boots with them, and inevitably became stranded in a wilderness park. Stroud was particularly harsh in his evaluation of their foolhardiness, but it did serve to make me think twice about what supplies I keep in the urban assault vehicle (pitifully few).

These stories are utterly riveting. The resilience and the McGuyverism displayed by some of those depicted in these tales are truly inspiring. I don't think that I am any more capable of being one of those who push through to survival at all costs after reading Will to Live, but I am definitely very grateful that I have never had to test myself this way.

These tales of survival are interspersed with stories from Les Stroud's own experiences as someone who makes his living and has established his reputation as being a survival expert.

I was somewhat disappointed to learn, in the acknowledgements, that Stroud employed a ghostwriter, Mike Vlessides, to research and help write the stories. But at least he was honest about it.

This is a fascinating book, peopled with individuals who have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. Definitely recommended.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

the voices I've deflected

Last year at Earth Hour, I walked the beach at English Bay with friends. As we stopped to shake the sand out of our flip flops, we were somewhat disappointed to notice very little difference in the lights gleaming from the Vancouver skyline. You would think in Vancouver, of all places, the lights would be all but extinguished to observe Earth Hour.

Circumstances are a little different this year. The polar opposite, actually. I am at home in one of the areas of the country that has been absolutely battered by the bitchiness of La Nina. When I was shoveling the walk this afternoon, I stopped, out of curiosity, to measure the height of the snowbanks lining the walkway. Past my waist. And it continues to snow. Eight days straight, I think this has been.

For Earth Hour this evening, the Spousal Unit and I are going to light candles, turn off the lights (and this laptop), and break out the Parcheesi game. I am making a slight concession, in that I have agreed to leave on the television, so that the Spousal Unit can watch the Flames lose.

Above all, we will not look out the windows.

Are you doing anything to observe Earth Hour?

Friday, March 25, 2011

this house does not recognize

Oh thank god it's snowing again!

It hasn't snowed for almost 24 hours and I was starting to get really concerned that those three-foot snow banks would melt before June and I would be forced to do yard work.

I'm thinking a family pack of Snuggies might be what's needed to get us through the next two months. It'll be perfect for huddling on the chesterfield, drinking at noon, and gaining another ten pounds. All the while strategizing how to overthrow the government.

What are your long-term plans for this spring?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

music filled my mug

The new issue of BC Musician Magazine is now online. I have contributed a self-help article (below) on how to make your music irresistible, this being the first all-review issue of the year and all. Click to embiggen, of course.

I have stolen shamelessly from the ever eloquent Beckeye for my opening line, because I will cannibalize every witticism that is not tied down. Consider yourself warned.

You can read the entire issue on the BC Musician Magazine website, if you are so inclined. Lotsa good stuff in there, as always.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

charting a new course

Papermaps - Papermaps

They used to be called EX~PO. But while EX~PO originally began as the solo project of front man Dean Marino, who gradually recruited band members to fill in the gaps in performance, it is in the present incarnation as Papermaps, that this Toronto quartet has cultivated a more fully realized sound. It feels as though the members have become more comfortable within themselves since dropping that slightly clunky moniker.

Papermaps embrace a distinctly pop-driven sound on their debut self-titled album, which is fleshed out by some really nice experimental flourishes and satisfyingly fuzzy shoe-gazey bits. The upbeat power-pop tracks, like Reunion and Can't Make a Living embrace a glee-club feel reminiscent of The New Pornographers, while Complicate Things has a dark and slightly R.E.M.-esque feel to it.

Although there is a definite pop sensibility on Papermaps, there are deeper musical elements at play in tracks like the yearning Wishful Thinker and in the pleasing keyboards breaking through the orchestrally-driven You Glided Down. The gloriously building, distortion-filled, shout-out number (complete with slow hand claps), You Are My Gallows, closes the album on a very satisfying note.

Papermaps' self-titled album will be released on April 19/11.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

first, put the lime in the coconut

The OFKAR has asked me to help her brush up on her cooking skills when she returns home for the summer. But I don't know if she needs my help, judging by this recipe of hers that I found recently. I think she's well ahead of the game.

Sounds delicious, n'est-ce pas?
~*~
Do you like my svelte new url? You didn't even notice, did you?

To be honest, there is nothing to notice really, but I did recently follow Karen's lead, and I registered my domain name. In the process, I got rid of the clunky blogspot url and now boast what I think is a trimmer and more professional looking url. For those of you who pay attention to that sort of thing.

However, there now seems to be a considerable delay in new post notifications showing up in RSS feeds, which is really no big deal because my posts will get there eventually. But if you simply cannot wait one more second to read my latest, then please update your RSS feed to:

http://www.badtemperedzombie.com/

Monday, March 21, 2011

in the right light you look like Shackleton

I have no idea how you would make it down our back alley if you weren't piloting an all-wheel drive off-road vehicle.

Spring time in Alberta is always challenging and March is a particularly cruel month in these parts. It is traditionally the month with the most snowfall. The unprecedented amount of snow that we received this winter, coupled by the lack of meaningful chinooks, means that our snowbanks are at an all-time high mark. The back alleys take the brunt of it. Everybody drives down them, nobody clears them.

Currently there are two parallel tire ruts running down the length of the back alley. The wet snow we've been getting all day, combined with the slush that already fills the nine inch deep gullies, makes these ruts look like lap pools for penguins. It's an Antarctic spa back there.

Send your penguins. Two pools, no waiting.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

the community kick it around

I'm planning something.

It's going to be awesome.

I can't tell you about it just yet, but soon ... soon.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

glimpse into the fishbowl

The Girl in the Goldfish Bowl
- Sage Theatre

From behind a glass porthole in the turquoise wall of a 60's living room, Iris swims onto the set, where she is unnoticed by her depressed father and ignored by her distant mother, and announces with a degree of merriment that these are the last few days of her childhood.

The death of her goldfish, Amal, ("named after the place where we bought him"), coincides with the air-raid sirens that punctuate these days of the Cuban missile crisis, convincing Iris that Amal was solely responsible for holding the world together. So when she finds a mysterious stranger on the beach, bearing oddly similar markings on his neck to that of the deceased goldfish, Iris' rationalization that he is the reincarnation of her omnipotent goldfish gives her hope that order can somehow be restored to the world and to her troubled family, and she brings him home.

Esther Purves-Smith plays Iris with the entirely convincing bravado of a precocious 10-year-old. She is the embodiment of a brash pre-adolescent whose vast vocabulary and impetuous pronouncements alienate her from her peers. Her assured proclamations on everything from Buddhism to existentialism to linguistics to Catholicism to their boarder's drinking habits are part school-girl gossip, part desperate cry for attention.

Iris' parents, Sylvia (Adrienne Smook) and Owen (Kevin Rothery) are so pre-occupied with their own disenchantment, that their interactions with Iris are generally limited to half-hearted brushoffs that they pass off as parenting. Their fragile dance of regret and longing is poignant and subtly portrayed by both actors. On a side note, the 60's shift dress worn by Sylvia during the first act is stunning. I'm sure every woman in the audience was coveting that dress.

Laura Parken channels her inner inebriated Lucille Ball in a riveting performance as the sassy but increasingly desperate boarder, Miss Rose. Her relationship with Iris is a viscous sparring match. Miss Rose makes cutting observations about the disinterest that Iris' mother has for her family, while hissing thinly veiled threats to seduce Iris' father; Iris capably counters with blunt remarks about Miss Rose's work in the fish cannery and her nightly excursions to the local Legion, looking for love.

Mr Lawrence, the mysterious and perpetually befuddled stranger, is played as an innocent yet inscrutable catalyst by the very capable Geoffrey Ewert. When he enters this dysfunctional household, his presence is both a pivot about which the others circle and a land-mine which threatens to blow the already fragile relationships completely apart.

Though the entire play takes place within the turquoise walls that could be ripped straight from a Michel Gondry film, the sense of place in this production is very clear. Through the language alone, one gets a distinct feel of the rain-soaked and arbutus-lined Vancouver streets. The elements of absurdism and magic realism are at once elevated and are kept in check by side glimpses through the portholes in this suburban drama.

It may come as some surprise that this is actually an enormously funny play. The dialogue is effervescent and playful and Esther Purves-Smith's Iris is particularly engaging. Of particular note is the completeness with which she shifts, toward the end of The Girl in the Goldfish Bowl, from 10-year-old girl to grown woman with a simple drop in her tone. The transformation is astounding and cements the realization of the power of the performance that has come before.

The Girl in the Goldfish Bowl, by Morris Panych, is playing at Sage Theatre until March 26.

Friday, March 18, 2011

buried in the tracklist

I believe in albums.

Much as I like to compile mixtapes for workouts or road trips or for giving friends a taste of what I have been listening to, I firmly believe that albums should be listened to in their entirety. Judging from the amount of thought that I put into getting the tracking of a simple mixtape just right, I can only imagine the sweat and anguish that goes into ensuring that a musician's album is perfectly mixed. The least I can do is listen, to the whole thing, and in the order in which it was meant to be played.

But every now and then, when I have my music on random, I will be stopped dead in my tracks by a song. Inevitably it is one that is buried deep in an album, so that my previous listens have been rather cursory. Sometimes being surrounded by too much sameness can diminish the impact of a particular track. Sometimes it needs to be lifted out of its comfort zone, surrounded by aliens, for it to really shine.

That's how I came to (re)discover this Rae Spoon song today. Tucked in between Brian Borcherdt and Pixies, it was. Definitely misfiled, but not really, if you know what I mean.


What was the last song to surprise you?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

filled my heart with red again

I have never claimed to understand potatoes, but I always thought I had colour figured out. Until the purple potatoes caught my eye at the farmer's market the other day.

It wasn't their regal hues that threw me off so much. I'm now quite used to seeing yellow radishes, green cauliflower, and a variety of other trendy tinted produce. What I was not expecting was what would happen when the potatoes hit the water.

As was perhaps only befitting to a St Patrick's Day dinner, as the purple potatoes began to boil, the water turned an increasingly brilliant green. I'm trying hard to remember my basic biochemistry and how it relates to the colour wheel as I know it, but an explanation for this phenomenon continues to elude me.

I welcome any and all explanations.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

on the rainbow bridge tonight

I foresee a trip to the library in my near future, and I could use a few recommendations. I've been reading an inordinate number of non-fiction books lately, enjoying them immensely, don't get me wrong, but I think it's time to change back to some fiction.

I used to read fiction almost exclusively, but slowly the scales have been tipping in the other direction. I still have a stack of non-fiction on my bedside table at the moment, but I think I'll leave those for the time being, in favour of a little make believe.

I promise to choose a work of fiction that someone recommends. Suggestions?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

you and the candles

After you make that donation, what do you do then?

For a minute or two I felt like I was doing something to help, that I was making a difference, and hopefully I was, but all too quickly it returned, that feeling that I should be doing something more, anything, to help. I guess if you were a praying person, this is when you would do so.

I am sure this feeling is being replicated a billionfold around the world.

It's best to keep busy.

As luck would have it, we have a waterlogged ice-jam, bordered by a five foot high snow bank that has nowhere to melt but into the basement. Meanwhile, the spruce trees on the other side of the yard have bare ground beneath them. I think I just had my shoulder and arm workouts for the week.

How do you cope with the helplessness that comes with not being able to fix the world?

Monday, March 14, 2011

in the future when all's well

I've been immersed in volunteer work this past week.

One of the agencies that I help out is ramping up for their annual book sale. I write promotional/human interest articles and send them out to the hundred or so community associations in the city that publish newsletters.

It has been a delightfully quaint experience, sending out those emails. Plunged straight back into 1995, I was. I have yet to run across foxylady69@hotmail.com, but I have come extraordinarily close. It's oddly comforting to see that we still have a few elvislovers and dogmamas in the crowd.

It makes me wonder, though, whatever happened to all those imaginatively corny and/or suggestive email addresses that use to populate the internet? Have they all donned two-button, single-breasted worsted wool and changed their name to president@communications.com or webmaster@countryclub.org? I sort of hope not. I like to think that somewhere in cyber space, there is a bar that opens at 9:00AM, where doubleD52@hotmail.com and mustacheride4u@telusplanet.net share a sticky table laden with tequila shooters with spankgrl21@msn.com and headbanger81@yahoo.com. And they all live happily ever after.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

always throwing hack weight

The last time they did it was in 1999, but tonight Jeff Stoughton's rink delighted all of us expat Manitobans (and doubtless those still in residence) by winning the Brier.

I am inordinately proud that they curl out of the Charleswood Curling Rink, right next door to my old high school, the place where I learned to curl (very badly) and where I used to sometimes go for coffee instead of math class.

Hurray hard, Manitoba!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

whispers of an infinite yes

It was ten years ago today that my father in law passed. It still seems strange that I will never again hear his cornball jokes or his off-key singing, or clutch my heart in terror as he backs the big sedan down the driveway without looking in the mirror.

Then two and half weeks later, we lost my dad. This time we drove to the funeral, twelve hours across the wind-swept prairie, Saskatchewan a never-ending wall of white.

March 2001 was a really shitty month.

There is a lot of death in the air today. How can there not be, with thousands of people missing in Japan?

But there are older deaths too, passages that I just recently learned of. Three of our old gang from junior high and high school, two from the same street that I lived on, who all succumbed to cancer in their forties. I lost three friends at the end of university as well, but they were all taken by accidents - cars, drownings. It's how you die in your twenties.

Like the man said, our existence has serious side effects.

Friday, March 11, 2011

before we was cool

I've been getting reacquainted with an old friend lately. We were both part of a practically inseparable group when we were young, a group that slowly drifted in disparate directions after high school, as these sorts of groups will do. We have so much to catch up on.

Today she sent me some photos, including these two from our grade 4 and 6 class. Can you spot the wee zombie? A prize to the first person who correctly identifies me in both class pictures.



My grade 6 teacher read Homer to us, The Iliad and The Odyssey, as well as all the Edgar Allan Poe stories. She was pretty cool for a hot teacher.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

when you can't decide, say yes to both

Recently I had the option of trading in my beloved record tent volunteer gig at the Calgary Folk Festival for a year round festival office volunteer position. Although the thought of not working at the record tent this summer caused me great distress, the idea of working in the inner sanctum, the heart of the festival, was too tempting to turn down the offer.

As luck would have it, immediately upon accepting the crew change, I was offered a coordinator position in the record tent.

I simply couldn't decide, I wanted to do both. And then a very wise man, who just happens to be the general manager of the folk festival, pointed out that while volunteers are required to work a minimum number of hours, there are in fact no limitations on maximum hours allowed. Problem solved.

I've been easing into my volunteer gig(s), which will ramp up in June, by volunteering at some concerts - Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans last week, Christine Fellows tonight. It's a great way to spend an evening, imparting a touch of that folk festival island feel on an otherwise bleak winter night.

If you're not busy, you should come down to Local 522 tonight, listen to the amazing Christine Fellows and get lost in her legendary lantern shows. I'll even sell you something.

Update: We'll have to do this another time. The band is snowed in at Revelstoke, so tonight's Calgary show is cancelled. Stupid mountains.

~*~
In other news, of the I Knew Them When variety, I was delighted to learn that Olenka and the Autumn Lovers will be guests on Q tomorrow morning (on CBC radio, for those among us who do not live and breathe everything CBC).

Do you remember when they played a concert at my house last spring? Anyone who was there is certainly not going to be surprised that Olenka and the Autumn Lovers are starting to take the world by storm. Of course you can always live vicariously through these videos from the evening, pick up their new album And Now We Sing, which is truly fine, and catch the band on Q tomorrow.

Tell em I sent ya.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

elevator pitching life

I joined the Twitter today.

I had sort of been sniffing around the peripheries of the idea for some time now, but after being goaded mercilessly by a friend today, I finally admitted to being Twitter-curious, held my nose, and jumped from the nest (to mix my metaphors horribly).

So now I have joined both Facebook and Twitter, after publicly swearing that I would never do either. I had no choice. I wasn't wasting nearly enough time on the internet.

It was not a promising start, I have to admit. For starters, I had to shorten my long-time user name, making me suspect that Twitter is racist against long-winded people. But I do have five followers at this point and I follow seven Twitter entities. What's the proper term for a Twitter entity? Twit? Twat?

I'll get the hang of this eventually.

Are you on the Twitter?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

stealing dreams

Love, Heartache & Oblivion
- Folk Thief

For a musician who got his start "screaming his head off and stomping on distortion pedals" in a geek/punk band, Dave Hadgkiss has done a musical one-eighty on his debut album as Folk Thief. There is not a punk sneer in sight on this intensely personal collection of ten tracks of strumming guitar and heartfelt words.

But while Love, Heartache & Oblivion is earnest and forthright, unafraid to wear its heart on its sleeve, there is a complexity to the human emotions that are stripped bare in these songs. Often dark, always haunting, this album digs deeply into what drives the human psyche. Sometimes joyous but often tortured, Love, Heartache & Oblivion is a folk-pop exploration of love and loss, dreams and fears, hope and regret.

Instrumentally, these songs are a lesson in restraint, lyrically they are visually evocative dream-poems. Particularly strong are the tracks Broken Record and Breathe, which feature some truly lovely background harmony by Kelly Haigh. Her voice works well with Dave Hadgkiss' yearning vocals, and the two meld into a nicely layered sonic counterpart to the stripped-down acoustics.

Love, Heartache & Oblivion is a strong debut album from Folk Thief. It will be interesting to see what he does next.

Monday, March 07, 2011

I wish we could stay here forever... and ever... and ever

Sometimes being driven slowly but inexorably mad really pays off. There's gold in those snowbanks, money in that unrelenting deep-freeze, reward in those walls that squeeze imperceptibly closer with each passing day.

At least there is if you happened to participate in the inaugural Cabin Fever Writing Contest over at Quilts Seam Just Right, like I did. Not to brag or anything, but I did take home second prize with my Shining-inspired poem. Okay, I guess I am bragging.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go see what's happening in room 237.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

here they come, the young thousands

When the air cleared, the ground was a silent battlefield, the snow so stained with red that it seemed a massacre had most certainly desecrated the earth. Not a single berry remained.

The Slightly Retarded Kitty had watched the horde of marauding birds from behind the safety of glass as they returned again and again in a massive circling cloud to descend upon the mountain ash. She cackled in excitement as eighty or more birds shook the branches time and again, and tore at the berries. Then they would lift up into the sky in a single entity, swooping en masse to the next yard and the next street, only to return moments later for another round. A round for the house, Charlie, on me. It was a massive pub crawl of wintering birds, freshmen on a Friday night, as sick as the rest of us of the endless snow and cold.

When the SRK could stand it no longer, being separated from all this prey, these playthings, I opened the front door. As she slunk under the Muskoka chair on the front porch, the winged horde lifted from the tree for the final time, the air filling with a rush of flapping drunken wings. It was near deafening, the roar of feathers. You could all but feel the tsunami of displaced air as they flapped in unison and ascended.

Did we learn nothing from Hitchcock?

Saturday, March 05, 2011

she needs a name

She Has a Name
I wasn't quite prepared for what I was getting myself into, seeing this play. Of course I knew that a play about human trafficking was not going to be light fare, but I didn't realize quite how hard-hitting those two hours were going to be.

I began watching She Has a Name in my usual way, by scrutinizing the set while waiting for the actors to take the stage. It was a simple set, one befitting the black box space of the Epcor Centre's Motel. A backdrop curtain depicted a family, somewhere in South East Asia, smiling and looking out the open door of their simple thatched hut. The curtain was crudely ripped in half, providing an entrance-way to the backstage, and effectively separating the teenaged daughter from the rest of her family, her outstretched arms which once held her little brother, now empty. The foreshadowing was undeniable.

There is nothing subtle about burnt thicket theatre's production of She Has a Name, but of course there is nothing subtle about the horrors of human trafficking and sexual slavery. The story centres around Jason, a Canadian lawyer working undercover amongst the brothels of Bangkok, painstakingly gathering evidence to build a legal case against human trafficking. When he gains the trust of a young prostitute known only as Number 18, hoping for her testimony against those who hold her against her will, he puts her already shockingly brutal existence into jeopardy.

This is a tough play to watch. It is heartbreaking and haunting, it fills you with rage and helplessness, you want to cling to the belief that this is just a play. But it's not.

The performance that we attended was followed by a panel discussion on human trafficking. The playwright, a representative from the International Justice Mission (a human rights organization working to end slavery), and a representative from Action Coalition on Human Trafficking (which addresses issues of human trafficking within Alberta) shared their experiences and answered our questions about an issue that most of us have never even thought about.

But with 27 million people enslaved in the world today, nearly a million of whom are trafficked into the sex trade every year, how can we not think about it? How can we not act?

To learn more, visit here:

Friday, March 04, 2011

recipes from the man cave

French onion soup seems to be the choice of people who don't really like soup. And in my experience, women tend to prefer soup more than men do, so men gravitate toward french onion soup more than women do. That's why it's a popular pub food.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

I love soup. I love everything about soup. What's not to love? For starters, making a pot of soup means you can clear all the leftovers from your fridge and freezer. You only need to use one pot. The more spinach, barley, noodles, pulses and carrots you add, the better it is. Throw whatever the hell you want into your soup! It's your soup, make of it what you want.

And a pot of soup simmering on the stove provides you with an iron-clad excuse to not leave the house all day long. "Come to Costco with you? Oh dear, I would love to, but I have a pot of soup on the stove. I can't possibly go anywhere until at least Tuesday."

I could easily eat soup every day, and when I eventually become a crazy cat lady, that's exactly what I will do.

What's your favourite soup?

Thursday, March 03, 2011

face like plaster

The penis mobile is now just a regular old urban assault vehicle once again. After driving around for a week with an exceptionally well rendered depiction of male genitalia on the side, I finally broke down and took it for a wash.

The promised one-day chinook never really did materialize today, but the mercury did climb all the way up to -14C, which is plenty warm enough for a car wash when you have a penis drawn on the passenger side. But perhaps I will change my mind when I attempt to open the doors later tonight.

What do you call a chinook that never materializes, anyway? A chi-not, a no-nook, perhaps?

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

circling the edge of the neverending


Adventures in Solitude: what not to wear to a 
nude potluck and other stories from Desolation Sound
- Grant Lawrence

I was in my kitchen when I first heard Grant Lawrence read a snippet from Adventures in Solitude. His recounting of the scenario in which he - bearded, shirtless, bleeding, and carrying a large machete - tried to convince a pair of terrified kayakers that he was a CBC Radio host made me snort so hard that the Slightly Retarded Kitty skittered away from her food bowl and hid in the basement.

I knew I had to read this book.

As luck would have it, Grant Lawrence did a reading recently at Page's Books in Kensington. The memories of that winter evening, a cozy gathering of words and music and laughter punctuated by twinkle lights in the trees outside the second story window, may have coloured my reception of Adventures in Solitude somewhat, but you needn't have been there to absolutely love the book.

One of the first things that endeared me to the book (aside from the stories I had already heard) was flipping it open to find that the chapter titles were taken from song or album names. The book title itself, of course, is the name of one of my favourite New Pornographers songs. It's comforting to know that other people rip off song titles as well, although I am sure that Mr. Lawrence would agree with me that this habit is more a tribute to the music we love than it is thievery.

Adventures in Solitude is a highly engaging, often hilarious, surprisingly informative tribute to an area of the wild BC coast to which the Lawrence family retreated (at least one of them under extreme protest) each summer. Written in a charmingly self-deprecating manner, it chronicles Grant Lawrence's ties to this hippie enclave, his rejection of it during his extended teenagehood, and his rediscovery as an adult. Blended with tales of the bespectacled, knee-braced youngster are stories of the colourful characters who escaped to the wilderness of Desolation Sound, and historical tales of some of the adventurers who tried to scrabble a living out of the challenging coastline.

Whether you are looking for humour, tales of adventure, or stories of refugees from polite society, you will find it all in Adventures in Solitude. There are even pictures.

Definitely recommended.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

guess which word

March is going to be a very long month. We've already been warned to expect below seasonal temperatures for the entire duration. In the battle of lions and lambs, the lambs are already butchered, wrapped up in brown paper, and their carcasses placed in the freezer.

What better time to break with tradition and commit myself to NaBloPoMo for a second time in the past year? I generally only participate during November, the month traditionally given over extreme writing, but since it appears that we are in for another three months of winter anyway, I submit to you that March is the new November.

The theme for NaBloPoMo this month is "In a Word", which, if you know me, know that is next to impossible. I don't generally get started until about 800 words, or I say nothing at all. However, since In a Word is not meant to be taken literally, I believe I can pull this off.

Over the next month, I plan to clear that pile of CDs that are sitting on my desk awaiting review, so expect to hear about a lot of new music. I'm also behind on my book reviews, and with several concerts and plays happening this month, there were be a few words about those as well.

I may even throw in the odd one word post, just for relief.

Care to join me in NaBloPoMoing?