Tuesday, December 08, 2009

in which the spirit of the season

escapes us (but is regained)

flash back to early last week - dinner is made, a stack of 50-odd xmas cards sits on the table, envelopes at the ready, return address labels printed at the UPS store, the annual newsletter obligingly waiting to be folded. i summoned the dotytron to sign and stuff cards. the dotytron: much aggrieved because we had just finished sending out the last of our thank you cards from the performance. as we plodded our way through them, tempers began to run short, glib phrases eluded us, we were forced to retreat to the comforting, bland pablum of stock holiday well wishes. "i don't know what to write!" the dotytron exclaimed, throwing down the pen in frustration. "just write SOMETHING" i hissed (need i tell you dear reader that i was well into what the dotytron calls, "monster mode"?), those are for our B-list friends ANYWAY." at which point the dotytron looked at me and the ironic weight of that statement settled into the vacuum of our ill-humour. lol!

the dotytron also said this past week, "they're not friends, they're just PEOPLE." ha!

the holiday concert dog and pony show is another thing that's turning us into miserable scrooges. poor dotytron's pedagogical philosophies and praxis are being trampled in the wake of turning miscreants into a cherub choir with non stop rehearsals and drills - all in the name of appeasing doting parents.

all i really want to do is be in my flannels and drink hot chocolate and mulled apple cider and eat warm cookies and hearty winter foods with my feet in sheepskin slippers and a ball of yarn by my side. the one thing the "where the wild things are" movie got right was how delightful it is to sleep in a pile.

so...s-dawg has been pestering us for the past few weeks to go see "the blind side." - every time we talked about what movie we were going to see, either over the holidays or at that particular convergence of the siblings, he was always pushing for "the blind side" while we were saying anything else: "up in the air" "the fantastic mr. fox" "sherlock holmes" "avatar" - thus, when i opened my email inbox yesterday morning the first thing i was confronted with was an accusatory email from s-dawg with a link trumpeting "the blind side"'s sleeper overtaking of "twilight: new moon" at the box office this past weekend and how we were all basically the worst people on earth for not trusting his sound advice! ha!

the xmas cards have been mailed...i've got 99.9% of my shopping done - i just have to wrap the last few presents. after this weekend both holiday parties with the dotytron's maternal and paternal extended families will be in the can and i can just REEELAX. my baking is 80% done...i just have to do a batch of salted caramels and a batch of cream cheese brownies and make 2 dips on saturday to bring to the party. i feel like i can relax. i'm going to put our new flannelette sheets on the bed tonight and our new duvet cover and i'm hoping i can coax the dotytron to go out skating after dinner so we can come home and drink hot chocolate and watch tv in the blinking glow of our xmas tree. i'm feeling pretty good! so the spirit of the holidays has been restored, as it always is, by the peaceful restful period that always follows in the wake of "monster mode." a little bit of (shrill) (tense) (snippy) pre-holiday pain for a lot of gain.

the moral of the story is: most of life's problems can be solved with the right bedding (and lists and preparation and sheer, iron-willed resolve and determination.) i'm a bedding junkie. i want as many outfits for my bed as i do for myself.

so i started a book club at work. the first book we read was joseph boyden's "three day road." this was a lovely, moving, deep, rich book - a perfect book club pick because it's the kind of book where as you start talking about the book, you pull a thread that connects to a theme and the whole story starts to tangle and unravel and wind itself in densely woven allegories and motifs that become available and knowable only through the discussion.

it's the story of two aboriginal boys, close enough to be brothers, one of whom returns from world war II, heavily addicted to morphine and is met by his aunt, who takes him on a 3 day canoe ride back to their home. on the trip, recollections of the war and his aunt's history are alternated and gradually laid out, trapping within the net of the narrative a greater examination of the residential school system, racism, the affects of war, humanity. it's a beautifully written literary novel - at once savage and sparse, meaty and elegant. i usually shy away from serious canadian fiction - the "canada reads" kind - not generally my cup of tea. come to think of it, heavy literary novels haven't been my cup of tea since like, undergrad. that's the good thing about a book club - it forces you to read things you might not otherwise.

after delving headlong into Serious Fiction...i ran out and grabbed sarah dessen's latest, "along for the ride" practically on the day it came out. what to say about a new sarah dessen that i haven't already said about her other works? this one was good, not as good as my two favorites, "this lullaby" and "just listen" and not as bad as the ones i don't like, "that summer" "dreamland" - it falls somewhere in the middle of the pack. by now there's a fairly predictable formula - over a summer, teenage girl going through Serious Stuff meets a boy who helps her deal with her ish, open up to her vulnerabilities, expand her horizons - they fall for each other, minor misunderstanding ensues, they resolve issues in the end with a greater understanding of kinship, friendship, family.

i know it sounds trite and predictable and pat. in the hands of a lesser author, it might very well be. but somehow sarah just gets the balance just right. it's moral and ethically sound but not preachy, cool without being totally outrageous and sensationalist like gossip girl, safe but not cliché, real without being too "this is the diary of a teenage drug addict." it's beach reading of the highest order.

the next book club book was andre dubus III's "the garden of last days." he also wrote "the house of sand and fog" which went on to become a film that was lauded in Serious Film Circles. this title was recommended by a woman in the group who abruptly left the group days before the group was supposed to meet - the way it works is the person suggesting takes "ownership" of the work and agrees to come up with some discussion questions, so we were a little loss leadered. this was okay. i found it a bit of a trial to get through. it documents the lives of variously seedy/lost drifter types of characters whose lives are vaguely interconnected because they orbit around a strip club frequented by one of the men who would go on to participate in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

i mean, intellectually, I GET IT. depraved americans, for whom you feel pity and at once respect their earnest, blundering, well-intentioned ways. the humanizing of the terrorist, the way our lives are just babel-crash-amores peros - we're just fragile little beings so distant from each other, separated by race, history, culture, not knowing how alike we are in our futile, scrabbling, frantic, brief existences on this planet. i found it hard to sympathize with any of the characters and thus, to care. as the book club talked it out, we teased out what the author might have been getting at, but overall, it didn't go over very well.

by this point, we were well into my summer reading, and the next few definitely show it.

i couldn't get my hands on the newest installment in e. lockhart's ruby oliver series fast enough. i LOVE e. lockhart. sarah dessen is kind of a "good girl" writer. she writes about pretty typical experiences, the protagonists are nearly always tall, willowy white girls from solid middle class families, and it's the kooky best friend who is ever even remotely alt. e. lockhart writes about a more relatable high school experience from the true underdog's point of view - i can see myself in her high school more than in the ultra whitebread american one of sarah dessen's world. this book is like candy. i love how lockhart writes about ruby's parents, her friends, her reactions. i love ruby's pop-culture obsession and how she's so neurotic and flawed and imperfect and messed up and has really crackpot reactions to situations that make total sense if you've ever been a teenage girl. i love the footnotes - they're funny and not at all pretentious. i'm already salivating for roo number 4, titled "real live boyfriends"

okay that's enough reviewing for me today. the next ones coming up are doozies and then i went into a solid fall comic book phase which i'm only just now getting myself out of.

tonight for dinner we had perogies with onions and bacon and a spinach salad with avocado, shallots, toasted pumpkin seeds, and a maple-balsamic vinaigrette.

roll call of awesome:

the grain edit blog makes me beyond happy. i'm in love with everything on it. the current holiday giveaway they're sponsoring hepped me to all these amazing graphic artists/illustrators/designers.

the everything okay poster by mine. from the site: "This poster is the first in our series of art prints dedicated to exploring the OK-ness of things. It features 67 thoughtfully conceived pie graphs, each depicting a different statistic which may (or may not) be OK." the colours would go perfect in the living room, above my chrome rocker.

this print from wonder thunder. can you tell i'm super into acid yellow right now???

jez burrows work.

the "visible robot" print by brian flynn.

dora drimalas' work makes me yearn for infinite wall space.

lumadessa's whimsical, charming, graphic, blocky bird prints.

christopher lee's collection of beast prints.

this adorable print from christopher bettig/the mountain label - etsy shop here.

the "things i like" print from skinny ships/richard perez printed at valhalla studios, the same people who tad carpenter (designer of my cute hi! whale print) is associated with.

that's enough eye candy for one day! in another world, where i am rich and have miles of walls, i will have all of these.


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