so.... bored....

It's still February. Which means it's not spring yet, and definitely not summer yet.

And I'm sick. I hate being sick. I mean, obviously, everyone hates to be sick. No one walks around, licking sick people in the hopes of catching a cold of their own.

But I hate having a cold, I hate the way the back of my throat gets rough, and my throat hurts, and I just generally ooze.

I also hate the way other people back away from me, as if they will catch the terrible short-term disease I've come across. Excuse me, but I am already coughing into my sleeve the way Capital Health wants me to, and disinfecting the desk at my office constantly with Lysol.

What else do you want from me?

Anyway, this all makes me wonder about Meg Ryan.

Have you ever noticed Meg Ryan getting sick in a film is the turning point in a romantic comedy?

In You've Got Mail, it's a red-nosed, bleary-eyed Ryan that Tom Hanks finally reveals his love to. In Sleepless in Seattle, it's a stuffed-up Ryan who realizes she should cross the continent to find the love of her life after hearing his voice on the radio. When Harry Met Sally's tearful, snuffly Ryan finally gets it on with Billy Crystal (okay, so in that case she's more heart-sick than sick, but still, she's pretty gross).

The Meg Ryan Is Sick Turning Point is not the first time illness has been used to bring on the romance, however.

In her day, Jane Austen was a huge fan of sending her characters to bed for a day or two in order to bring on a plot twist.

Mrs. Bennet's plan to show off the virtues of her eldest daughter, Jane, gets totally twisted around in Pride and Prejudice when Jane falls deathly ill because she walks in the cold rain. She has to spend days at the Bingley home. The only benefit is it sends Elizabeth after her, putting her in direct contact with the snooty Mr. Darcy, who is ultimately her soulmate in pride and prejudice.

(And, I guess it shows the Bingleys that the Bennets are not an altogether embarrassing family to get to know, even if Mrs. Bennet is outrageous.... which ultimately paves the way for Jane's happiness, too.)

That's Austen's first published book. Her last, Persuasion, also sends a character to bed. This time the ridiculous Louisa Musgrove, whose playful day trip turns for the worst when she falls off a low stone ridge and nearly dies. We think. It's all very serious by 19th century standards. Miss Musgrove being bed-ridden, however, ultimately gets her out of the way and enables the ever-patient Anne Elliott to get her man, Capt. Wentworth.

But why?

Why is being gross and bed-ridden and cough-y a plot twist to bring on the love?

When I am these things, the very last thing I want is some guy bugging me with roses or poetry. I look gross at the moment. My hair is not done. I really just want to watch bad television and groan periodically into my pillows.

This is not how I want to remember the start of a romance.

Which is just as well. I think in Austen's day, getting a character sick was the only way the author could think of to ensure her male and female characters properly got to know and spend some time with each other.

Not to mention, a lot of these people have nothing better to do than lie around in bed in a dark room all day, drinking tea and having people speak to them softly.

But the modern-day heroine can not possibly manoeuvre sickness into a starting point for a relationship.

The modern woman takes care of herself. She doesn't call anyone over to bring a box of tissues or prepare her chicken soup.

Honestly, there is nothing less romantic than being sick.

Man, am I bored.

source of photo



An Oscar win tonight for Martin Scorsese!

oscar night

Don't worry, I'm not going to live blog at the Oscars. That's for other people.

But they just did a two-minute roundup of famous writer-characters in movies, in advance of the best adapted screenplay award.

They missed Margot Kidder as Lois Lane.

However, they included the most classic of classics. James Stewart, in The Philadelphia Story -- one of my all-time favourite films. Stewart, who played a journalist in the film, is easily one of the best actors in history, outshining Cary Grant in lopsided smiles and understated tones.

The montage included sparkling-eyed Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge, and frenzied Johnny Depp in Ed Wood.

Excellent night. Maybe Scorsese will win....

Oh, shit. Tom Cruise is on my television screen. What is he doing at the Oscars?

I hope Katie's okay.



Is it spring yet?

I don't know what it is about February.... the taste of still-grey days that stretch past an 8 a.m. dawn and 4 p.m. dusk, the cold that continues to whip brutally against your thighs..... It's as though spring is fighting its way out of winter. But it's a long freaking battle yet.

Maybe that's why I long to be somewhere else, if only through reading. I want a $15 ticket to sunshine and warmth. Even mugginess and perspiration. Anything to get away from the feeling that my toes are actually separate from my body, or that the skin on my right index finger will crack apart enough to reveal bone.

I'm reading David Bergen's The Time in Between.

I probably shouldn't talk too much about it here, on the off-chance members of my book club are reading this.... but suffice to say it's a mystery of culture and understanding and love rather than the mystery of a missing person's case....

Ada and Jon are in Vietnam to find their father, Charles, who has disappeared.

Bergen, a Canadian, eases the reader into an unsteady relationship with Vietnam; the country becomes something of a lover you know you can't trust. This lover certainly cheats on you, is always looking for something better than what you have to offer.

Anyway, I find this graph, about how Charles perceives his oldest daughter, fascinating:

".... He worried about her; she was too aware. She watched him, and by doing this she gauged the tone of her own life. He was afraid she would end up desperate like him."


the new trudeau

Years ago, Justin Trudeau became something of a Canadian star.

We all knew it was happening; the little boy once captured in all those sunny 1970s and 80s black and white photographs spoke at his father's funeral, delivering a heartbreaking eulogy. Later, he appeared on the cover of Maclean's magazine, giving an interview that made very little sense but posing for pretty pictures. He hosted the farewell Chretien party. He appeared on the Canuck equivalents of red carpets.

And always, as much of a fan as I would like to be, I couldn't help but think he wasn't that sharp. He is not his father.

As prime minister in 1968, Pierre Elliott Trudeau said this on the society:
The Just Society will be one in which all of our people will have the
means and the motivation to participate. The Just Society will be one in which
personal and political freedom will be more securely ensured than it has ever
been in the past. The Just Society will be one in which the rights of minorities
will be safe from the whims of intolerant majorities. The Just Society will be
one in which those regions and groups which have not fully shared in the
country's affluence will be given a better opportunity. The Just Society will be
one where such urban problems as housing and pollution will be attacked through
the application of new knowledge and new techniques. The Just Society will be
one in which our Indian and Inuit population will be encouraged to assume the
full rights of citizenship through policies which will give them both greater
responsibility for their own future and more meaningful equality of opportunity.
The Just Society will be a united Canada, united because all of its citizens
will be actively involved in the development of a country where equality of
opportunity is ensured and individuals are permitted to fulfil themselves in the
fashion they judge best.
p. 18, The Essential Trudeau, edited by Ron
Graham in 1998

But now, we will see.

We will see if he can be a politician before he is a star. We will see if he can do the door-knocking and eight-meals-a-day campaign thing. We will see if he has it in him.

Can the son of a nation-builder fight off the separatists in Montreal?

Will anyone west of the Great Lakes care?

Will he be a gloried backbencher?

In the news today:

Nelson Wyatt, Canadian Press
Published: Thursday, February 22, 2007
Source: canada.com
MONTREAL (CP) - With Justin Trudeau's announcement that he wants to run in the next federal election, the question for many now is whether will he cut as much of a swath as his father.
Pierre Elliott Trudeau was an intellectual rebel who redefined the country as prime minister. People loved him or hated him and sometimes tore their hair out trying to figure out which. Justin Trudeau, 35, is an earnest young man. Some would say he has a penchant for theatrics. No one has called him an intellectual rebel yet....
Trudeau now says he's going to seek the Liberal nod in Montreal-area Papineau riding, now held by the Bloc Quebecois.
"I think there is a generational change going on with (Stephane) Dion being chosen to head the Liberal party," Trudeau said (Thursday)....
He wants "to change the way the game is played, to a certain extent, try and bring back a certain amount of nobility and reduce some of the cynicism there is around politics these days."
In another interview, Trudeau acknowledged being the son of the late prime minister will have some kind of impact.
"Obviously, my father's name comes into it on the positive and the negative," he (said).
"Expectations for me will be so amazingly high by some people and so incredibly low for others that I'm sure to disappoint everyone equally."



The Lisbon girls became a symbol of what was wrong with the country, the pain it inflicted on even its most innocent citizens, and in order to make things better a parents' group donated a bench in the girls' memory to our school.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing aspects of The Virgin Suicides is that, while the boys -- now 20 years on and men -- narrate the tale of five sisters who take their own lives over the course of one year, they never actually knew the girls.

The boys are obsessed with everything the girls are and are not. They collect used hairbrushes in order to feel closer to the sisters, they use binoculars to peek into their windows. Evidence of symbolism, such as laminated images of the Virgin Mary, are picked up and discarded.

In many ways, the story speaks to a time the modern reader can't know. A time when neighbourhoods meant something, when everyone living along a block had children who were about the same age.

A time when a group of boys could create mysteries in their minds, and sympathize with the creatures of their imaginations, yet not do a thing to help them.

And, yes, I know this is a fictional tale, but where were these children's parents? If this is a neighbourhood, and everyone has communal barbeques and cocktail parties, why didn't anyone step up to help five girls drowning in depression, self-indulgence and ultimately fatal self-mutilation?

Obviously, this is not a tale of the rosy old days. And perhaps this is one question author Jeffrey Eugenides leaves us to answer for ourselves.

Somehow, he writes about five girls' suicides without ever explaining why they killed themselves.

Using the written report of the psychologist tasked with helping them, Eugenides writes, "With most people, suicide is like Russian roulette. Only one chamber has a bullet. With the Lisbon girls, the gun was loaded. A bullet for family abuse. A bullet for genetic predisposition. A bullet for historical malaise. A bullet for inevitable momentum. The other two bullets are impossible to name, but that doesn't mean the chambers were empty."

Eugenides barely leaves it to the reader's imagination; he forces the conclusion that overbearing parents drove the girls to suicide.

What I find more complex, however, is what drives these narrator-boys? They are largely unnamed, and it is unclear what use all their exhibits and hypotheses have come to more than a decade after the girls killed themselves.

More than a decade after the boys' obsessions helped the girls do themselves in.

What did the boys get out of it?


happy new year 2

I think I might be one of the worst people in the world for idealism. Almost two months into the new year, I've not yet settled on a resolution (too much pressure, too many failed promises to myself over the years), but I think cutting idealism is an attractive idea.... and why not now, in time for Chinese New Year's?

But before I zap my idealism and kill my romanticism (the two, unfortunately, go hand-in-hand), I happen to have a very nice image in my mind of one day finding a man who will paint a mural for me. In my kitchen, I think. Of Audrey Hepburn, but all artsy like....

I suppose I could just pay someone to do that.... Maybe new, Non Idealistic Trish will imagine that instead.

Anyway, I caught this line in The Virgin Suicides, which I'm still stealing through, and I couldn't help but think how very true it is. The narrator is talking about one of the Lisbon sisters, post-the first suicide, pre-the rest of them.

"She held herself very straight, like Audrey Hepburn, whom all women idolize and men never think about."
I still have a hang-up about the way men characterize women.... it probably dates back to the character Jack Nicholson plays in As Good as it Gets. I think men can't help but sexualize female characters far more than is actually realistic. Perhaps I'm a prude, but I guess men love the idea of blending naivete and sexuality to make mystery pie.
Having said that, I think Jeffrey Eugenides creates entirely believable female characters. Perhaps because he's writing from the firmly confused state of the post-adolescent male.

on grade eight english

Blame it on Dangerous Minds. (Not to be confused with movies just like it.)
Or our parents' generation, and their need to study Cohen or Dylan in English classes instead of Tennyson or Byron.
But by the time I hit high school, teachers were very intent on tying key literary lessons to popular culture.
This resulted in an entire term spent watching Dinosaurs in Grade 8.
Later, it meant watching Leonardo DiCaprio as Romeo rather than reading the actual text.
Again in Grade 8, it meant watching What's Eating Gilbert Grape.
So, I didn't know the movie that made me realize I loved Johnny Depp was actually based on a book. I started to wonder tonight after I bought the DVD of the film....


the virgin suicides

Does anyone remember the movie? I don't.... I'm terribly uncool because I'm not the greatest fan of Sofia Coppola (I was bored to pieces by Lost in Translation) or Kirsten Dunst (I continue to believe she was best in Interview with the Vampire).Although, Marie Antoinette moved me a little closer to liking both....

Anyway, I'm in the midst of reading the book, by Jeffrey Eugenides. (Surely I'm at least five years behind everyone else.)

The premise is fascinating; five sisters will commit suicide by the end, the narrator tells us at the start. He even tells us how they die. So the mystery is why. And what's with the Virgin Mary symbolism?

Don't worry, if you're not familiar with the story, I'm not ruining it for you.

The secondary mystery -- at least, for me -- is the identity of the narrator. It's as if the narration is being done by all the neighbourhood boys using one voice....

Read this, from page 43, after the boys get their hands on the youngest girl's diary:

We felt the imprisonment of being a girl, the way it made your mind active and dreamy, and how you ended up knowing which colors went together. We knew that the girls were our twins, that we all existed in space like animals with identical skins, and that they knew everything about us though we couldn't fathom them at all. We knew, finally, that the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them.

I love this. It's a man's memory on a boy's take on a young woman's mind. The message being that a woman's mind is a mystery that could never possibly be uncovered.


one last kick at the Miss Potter can

I'm sure I made it perfectly clear I detested the film Miss Potter, even if I am a long avid fan of all things related to Peter Rabbit or Mrs. Tiggywinkle.

But read this group of graphs from an article in Vogue, written by Kennedy Fraser. It sort of speaks to how completely disjointed the whole piece is -- although it doesn't begin to shed light on how disjointed the series of photographs accompanying the story is. Photographs, too, should lend to a story arc -- last month, Anne Leibowitz's photo essay on Angelina Jolie matched perfectly with the story written about her fierce independence and life being a mother. This month, pictures of Zellweger in Hollywood glam dresses, modern takes on the turn of the century, and an Oscar de la Renta dress on a bicycle.... no storyline.

Sighs all around.

Here are the series of random thoughts -- that don't actually flow at all -- that bother me:

Renee Zellweger, whom I suspect of being a secret writer herself, is fascinated by Beatrix Potter's journal. The actress is wearing, for our interview, an old black leotard top, with a scoop-neck and long sleeves. (She is going to the gym later.) One sleeve has a hole in its wrist, with threads across it like a ladder.
"It interested me," she says thoughtfully, nervously popping a pink thumb through the hole and working it back and forth like a weaver's shuttle. "Why go to the trouble of writing in code when she's writing self-consciously, almost as if she wanted it to be read by other people? Why be so secretive, and yet writing as though it wasn't just you who would see it?"
I say it was natural that Beatrix should veil things still: She was learning to be a writer.

Ugh. Very flowery. Clever description. No clear line of thought. Grr.

on my mind, time

I am sure there are people with lots of focus and drive in their lives who manage to do all sorts of things on the days that they work nights.

I am not one of them. My days somehow end up filled with sleeping, cooking and watching soap operas. It's as if, for five business days, I transit time entirely and become a particularly lazy 1960s housewife. Sans hair curlers and smoke rings. Then at night, I am busy working before going out for drinks with other people who spent the night working. They always work at night, though, so they're far better adjusted than I.

On the subject of time transit, however (oy, bad bad bad segue, I know), I offer you this essay, written by Audrey Niffenegger about writing.

I love Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife. It may, in fact, be the only book I've ever read that is loved as much by me as it is by every single woman I know. It weaves time and space, love and ego, lust and blood.

On reading it, I couldn't help but wonder whether the woman would have loved her husband had he not trained her to do so; in turn, would the man have loved his wife had she not trained him?

And so, is love just repetition? Conditioning? Environment? Excellent timing?

I know, not a terribly romantic thought the week before Valentine's Day. But I'm not much for the day of chocolate and red roses, anyway.

Niffenegger's novel is scheduled to become a movie next year -- because modern directors and screenwriters don't write original films anymore -- and I wonder how it will go. I wonder if it will be as beautiful as the book? Casting Canadian actress Rachel McAdams as the female lead is hopeful.... perhaps they'll get Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the male lead?

I do know I wouldn't want to see the film unless I had read Niffenegger's prose for myself first. Because the story is not remotely linear; it can't be. I am not sure that will translate well to film.

Hm. The early morning hours are creeping up on me, and I think I stopped making sense several graphs back.



book trailers?

Who knew there was such a thing?

Here I was, innocently perusing Leah McLaren's website for any mentions of a follow-up to her The Continuity Girl, released last year -- perhaps mocking myself but also patting myself on the back for being such a supporter of CanChickLit -- when I happened upon the discovery of book trailers.

They're kind of lame, and I'm not sure how many people would actually find the marketing tool, let alone whether it would work. But, somehow, the idea is kind of cool. Because if magazines and newspapers have to move online, I guess books would have to somehow too. Not all the way, I hope -- I don't see how reading print online could really compare to holding a book in your hand. But then, I don't see why people wouldn't want to blacken their fingers on newspaper pages, either.

also, back in Edmonton

On a quick sidenote, just wanted to show off the hotel I stayed at while in Vancouver's Gastown.

Granted, a century on, it doesn't look quite the same -- this pic came in the folder for my key card. And yes, perhaps I sacrificed some element of personal safety and comfort for the sake of staying in a historic building.

But cool, no? And, two blocks from the nearest Skytrain station. About a block and a half from a Starbucks (or three). And perhaps four blocks from East Hastings.


Bangkok is sinking?

Did you know Bangkok was sinking? I really didn't. It's one of many things I learned from Karen Connelly's Touch the Dragon. When I did a quick Google News search, all I could find was this, in the Times of London.

As if Thailand doesn't have enough problems. It's as if nature insists on kicking it when it's down.

Of course, Connelly's Thai journal was collected two decades ago. And, while written by an extremely socially conscious girl (of 17, not 16, contrary to my previous mistaken post), her story is not really one of the Asian country's problems.

It's a love story dedicated to a nation.

Frankly, the Calgary teen's observations, made while she visited Thailand on Rotary exchange, are enough to make even the most uninterested non-traveller want to pack a bag and head overseas. Immediately. Despite the cockroaches. And an unnerving tale of a trip to the gynecologist.

In fact, I must go to Bangkok before it sinks, putting it near the top of my list of places to go before nature or man or both destroy them.

Connelly's tale unfolds in diary format, starting Aug. 21, 1986, when she writes, "Leaving Canada. A view of the body of mountains: deep sockets of aquamarine, blue veins slipping over cliff-sides, stone edges splintering from the earth like cracked bones."

I admit, when I opened the paperback, I was worried the language might be too flowery. A little too Grade 10 creative writing, if you will. Yes, I saw it won the 1993 Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction. And that Canadian great Timothy Findley endorsed her work. Perhaps more importantly, a friend gave it to me as a gift with the promise I would enjoy.

Still, I was once a 17-year-old girl. And my diary was full of daily irrelevancies -- to sum up: crush on boy, need to leave small town, crush on boy, worries about not understanding Chemistry 12, crush on boy.

I wasn't sure I could stomach the diary of another 17-year-old girl.

But clearly, Connelly is far more talented, and far more able at such a young age to view her world clearly. Plus her adventures were much more fantastic than my trips to the library or students' council meetings.

Yes, she talks of the inevitable break-up experienced by any girl who leaves her boyfriend thousands of kilometres behind. She describes a painfully beautiful first date with a Thai man; a date that speaks more to jolting cultural differences than the blushes and dreams of a teenage Canadian girl.

But more importantly, she talks of life as a sweaty falang, or foreigner, who can not possibly fit in, even if she wants to. Which, after a short time, she really does -- although she would completely scratch the beauty pageants.

Towards the end of the book, on page 172, she writes, again beautifully, "This is the way my life will be, then: a blown mural of moments, people, places, none of them solid." I can't decide if the line is hopeful or overdramatic.

There is a disconcerting element to Connelly's work, however.

Only 20 years have passed, but already there is something about the world she describes that seems wholly untouchable. Is it her description of being unable to reach home by phoning repeatedly? Today e-mail would likely ease that strain. Is it the moment her Thai English teacher says McDonald's food "tastes of plastic and wet napkins" (page. 56), when we know the fast food chain has all but taken over the world?

If you're interested, Connelly journals now on her website. It appears the site is an engine to market her newest book, a novel. But as someone looking forward to reading her new work, I don't mind.