il n'est pas la meme Quebec

Pardon my French.

No, seriously. It's rather inexcusable that I can barely speak my country's second official language, let alone think of a French-language title for this blog entry.

Born to a 1980s nuclear family in Montreal, I'm a believer in Trudeau. I'm a believer in a just society, whatever that means. I'm a believer in the right of everyone in this country to go coast to coast speaking both or either official languages comfortably.

Unfortunately I'm a failure in my beliefs.

Thankfully Quebec separatism isn't my fault.

A colleague at work called Mario Dumont's surprising sweep a "backwoods rebellion" against a too-urban Parti candidate. Meanwhile, a friend from Ontario mourned the too-conservative turn of events....

Moi? Well, I wasn't all that surprised. Blame it on my daily obsession with newseum.org, which allows me to watch La Presse everyday, but didn't everyone sort of expect Dumont to come out very, very strong?

Apparently, not this writer from the Montreal Gazette:

ADQ gains balance of power
Upstart party takes seats in most regions of province to push PQ into third spot
Andy Riga, Montreal Gazette; CanWest News Service
Published: Tuesday, March 27, 2007
MONTREAL - Quebec Premier Jean Charest, who went to the provincial polls expecting an easy time, barely eked out a minority government Monday night, as Mario Dumont's surging Action democratique du Quebec won seats across the province to become the official opposition....

Perhaps my equilibrium is to be blamed on a fundamental disbelief and un-support for anything separatist.

Not that the ADQ is federalist.

Perhaps it is the stretch of prairie, Canadian shield, and Great Lake separating me from my Quebec roots. Or even my sense that politics in this country ebb and flow.... and perhaps it would be nice to see massive sweeping dips and peaks in polls and election results.

I will bring this wandering blog entry to a point, yet.

When I was still in high school, I read Fighting for Canada by Diane Francis.

Always a media and history geek, I loved it. I pored over it for days, wondering if I could ever write so well, ever be so important (this was back in the days when I thought reporters could be important -- silly me, that's not the point of journalism).

In so many ways, this book is a name-dropping tour of the last referendum, looking at history in the making by writing about dinner meetings, coffee breaks and folded napkins.

But Francis brought me face to face with a kind of humanity in Jacques Parizeau -- despite his highly offensive post-referendum blaming of ethnics for losing the vote. She offered tales mixed with numbers and quotes and comments.... The book, as it should, made a story of Quebec separatism, not just a lecture or a lesson.

Ugh. Eager to re-read it, I flipped to the last two chapters.

And, paused.

Quebec separatism is not a legitimate struggle for self-determination. It is a racially motivated conspiracy that has run roughshod over human rights, fair play, the Quebec economy, and democracy. The separatists should be treated like the ruthless elite that they are.

The book came out in 1996. Eleven years later, Mario Dumont.
***sources of the screen capture: newseum.org and La Presse


the bad canuck

I am trying to read one of those books you're supposed to read.

You know, the kind of book that makes the Globe and Mail's weekly lists, the kind of book that cracks the Gillers....

The kind of book you just keep wanting to put down?

I feel like if Charlotte Gill's Ladykiller and I were dating, then we would need a break. Which is silly, because our dates have been so short. It's almost as if we weren't really dating at all.

But it's not the book, really. It's me.

The thing is, I joke about my short attention span (bunny!), but really, I'm a little too OCD for short stories. I want to be drawn in by characters. I want to know everything about their hopes, their mistakes, their demise or their happy endings.

I can't deal with lonely snapshots of unhappiness.

(Example: She can't see the light in anything. She finds nothing funny. She never did. He wants to feed her a bloody steak in small bites. He wants to lay her out under a tropical sun. He wants to carry her into the bedroom and peel the clothes away. He feels like covering his wife and injecting her with happiness. If only it were transferable, like cash or body heat, this thing that he has that she doesn't. The average contentment she jealously despises, that makes her hate him along with the rest of the world. -- p. 42, from the short story Hush)

Sure, I recognize the innate poetry.

And I can always appreciate the poetry of melancholy.

But I need the depth of a novel. I like to think I need it in my own writing, and I'm coming round to the realization I need it in what I'm reading.

In Hush, I want to know what made Patty start to hate Brian. I want to know if Brian hates Patty or if he's just mirroring her emotions. I want to know more, more, more.

Even if I love this line, from the first story, You Drive: He said sexy things and hurtful things, and the trouble was that she lived and died by what fell out of his mouth. (p. 11)

Sing it, sister.

Just, you know, for longer than fifty pages.


where has all the man meat gone?

This just in from the National Post -- and I love it, because I know when I'm thinking of down-home, guy-next-door good looks, I think.... Toronto.

Top models not beefy enough for Harlequin
Wanted: real men for cover shots
Ian Munroe, National Post

Published: Thursday, March 22, 2007

TORONTO - Harlequin Enterprises, tired of relying on modelling agencies that supply them with thin, boyish-looking camera fodder, is preparing to hold open casting for the first time in search of some average-looking men to grace the covers of its romance novels.
"We usually cast through the modelling agencies," said Deborah Peterson, a creative designer with the Toronto-based publisher of women's fiction, "but the reason we decided to do it is because what we're finding is the models we're getting from the casting agencies are getting progressively younger and younger, and skinnier and skinnier."
Harlequin Enterprises is the largest publisher of romance novel series in the world, selling books in 94 countries and producing more than 115 titles a month.
"I think it's actually just been a change in the fashion world," Ms. Peterson said of her company's difficulty finding the right male cover models. "We sort of get the trickle-down effect from that because we go through the same agencies.
"It's actually become a huge problem for us."
The company held its last audition for cover models in January in New York City. But Ms. Peterson said it was open to professional models only. The Toronto audition will mark the first time the company has looked outside of the modelling world to find new talent, she said.
The company has sent out mass e-mail invitations to the audition, which will take place all day Saturday at a casting agency in the Queen and Parliament street area, and is advertising the event on local radio stations....

Get the rest of the story on the Post's website -- hopefully the link stays up long enough to vote on (yes, that's right, vote on) your favourite Harlequin hunk.

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"Get any three reporters together in a bar and within twenty minutes there will be a fist fight over the nature of journalism. Is it a profession? A trade? A calling? Or what? Kipling had it best when he described it as 'the black art.' It is history-in-a-hurry, neither high literature nor low comedy." -- from Fotheringham's Fictionary of Facts and Follies, 2001

For the first time in my life, I find myself employed.
For real. Forever.
Big words. Bigger gulp.
I have a pension plan now. And dental coverage. And a future that doesn't stop and start in fits of six to twelve months.

In high school, on the suggestion of Seventeen magazine -- and because Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary were my most cherished childhood authors -- I read Summer Sisters.

Again. And again. And again.

I bought it as a hardcover, but then bought several more copies in paperback to distribute to friends. As late as second-year university, I was still forcing it on the people I hung out with.

In part, the draw for me was this relationship between two women. The one who was honest, and the one who was not. The one who grew up, and the one who could not.

I was fascinated with their friendship, their sexual exploits, their summer jobs, their lives as they got older.

This opening description, from the book's prologue, always got me. I can barely explain it; it made me long for adulthood. I yearned for life in the big city, for a career, for high heels and grey pencil skirts with really crisp collared white shirts. I wanted a solid, cool, professional telephone voice.

The city is broiling in an early summer heat wave and for the third day in a row Victoria buys a salad from the Korean market around the corner and has lunch at her desk. Her roommate, Maia, tells her she's risking her life eating from a salad bar. If the bacteria don't get you, the preservatives will. Victoria considers this as she chomps on a carrot and scribbles notes to herself on an upcoming meeting with a client who's looking for a PR firm with an edge. Everyone wants edge these days. You tell them it's edgy, they love it.
When the phone rings she grabs it, expecting a call from the segment producer at Regis and Kathie Lee. "This is Victoria Leonard," she says, sounding solid and professional.

Now I'm coming around to the realization these entrapments do not an adult make.

Although, a well-timed, celebratory shopping trip could change my mind....


mmm, kiss the paddy's day revellers

The dried-up splatter
of green-tinted vomit
reached across the sidewalk
in front of the Westin:
an early morning reminder
of last night's celebrations.


the sexes 2

I like to think men and women aren't really that different.

At the end of the day, I think we all say what we mean. Except when we don't. Men have just as many games as women do. I have a buddy who debates "openers" and "closers" -- the shirts he wears on his first date versus the shirts he wears when he thinks he's finally got the girl. (I've actually never seen his closer. I think it's maroon, though.)

In a time of constant Seinfeld and Sex and the City reruns, when the difference between Maxim and Cosmo is negligible, how many differences could there be?

But reading Alison Pick's The Sweet Edge, I was struck by how similar the main male character is to so many boys I've known.

Page by page, I fell a little in love with this Adam, with his need to go out to the middle of nowhere to find himself. His self-importance, his fear of being alone as he casts off all the things that make him part of something else.

Adam doesn't care what people think of him. He assumes most people are unintelligent. Whereas Ellen gives others the benefit of the doubt. She allows their judgments. She makes a space in her chest for their opinions and she accepts them. But under this she is hardened. There is something frozen at her centre.... (p. 38)

I was moved by this Ellen, left to fend for herself in the stink of a summer in Toronto. Ellen, who had to swim through the muggy heat to find herself, too.

Adam can afford to brood because his life has been easy. He is a nice boy with a nice family and nothing bad ever happens to him. To live close to him is to brush up against contentment. It is like a flashlight: she can see by it briefly, but it shows how her darkness compares. (p. 15)

Some of the remembered dialogue in Pick's poetic novel made me laugh so hard; a conversation between the couple that starts with Ellen asking Adam to take out the garbage. He begins discussing reincarnation. Finally, sick of hearing him talk, she asks when he plans to take out the garbage.

At other moments, I was physically uncomfortable. Pick's writing made me remember every time I felt as though my life were being twisted and torn apart. But slowly, through quiet, calculated attrition. Through soft words weighted by their cruelty.

This moment: These are the things you say when your lover of three years cheats on you. But deep down she isn't surprised. She thinks it's par for the course. Deep down, she thinks she deserves it. (p. 90)

Perhaps it's generational, perhaps it's my poor taste in men. But the book made me wonder whether men and women are entirely too different.

It made me wonder what a man would think of the same stories.

He has come to the wilderness with a belief in osmosis, with a belief that getting close to something makes you part of it, or makes it part of you. But getting close doesn't help. It only highlights the distance that will always be there. Learning to bear this distance is his task. (p. 227)


the sexes

I am fascinated by the idea of happy endings. I'm not sure I believe in them; long before Gregory Maguire came along, I had my doubts everything in Cinderella's or Snow White's worlds were perfect and settled post-The End.

Alison Pick's The Sweet Edge, at first, explores a young couple's relationship over a summer split up. He is in the Northwest Territories, she is in Toronto. The geography of their division is more than a titch symbolic; it plays on her insecurities. It makes you wonder if two people so different can ever find a place in their heads to meet in the middle.

I love this play between the main characters, Ellen and Adam:

In January, Ellen says she wants to go to the ballet.
What's playing?
She can't remember.
You just like the idea of the ballet, he says.
I like the ballet and I like the idea of it.
You mean you like the idea of yourself liking it.
Everyone likes the idea of themselves, she says. We all invest in our own self-image.
Adam doesn't say anything but they both know what he is thinking. He believes fiercely in something more organic than self-image, in something more cloaked and interior. (p.27-28)

*source of picture

mmmm.... glorious newsy mistakes....

A few years ago, I tried to write a story about the Bloggies for a major Canadian newspaper. Basically, I racked up lots of long distance charges, discovered the kind of people who win Bloggies might not always be the best interview subjects, and never managed to see anything in print. I think I did end up writing something, I think it was supposed to run as a sidebar to something else, and I know I never got paid for any of it.

Thank God I have a real job now.

Anyway, took a quick perusal of this year's nominees for best Canadian blog. And am happy to announce I've discovered a new blog I plan to return to....



I'm working hard on saving all my spare cash....

But, in order to travel, one must research well, no?

So. Excited.

straight to the heart

Every couple years, groups of my friends get married, which is far more of an adventure for them than me.

My adventure is limited to the little things -- driving to Sudbury from Niagara in really shitty weather, then climbing to see the Big Nickel and crying when my friend started down the aisle in her gorgeous strapless white dress. Or wearing a sari for the first time in celebration of a friend's Hindu-Catholic nuptials. Encountering one friend's mother, who has hated me since I was a pre-teen, at his wedding reception.

I've never been a bridesmaid -- which is probably best for everyone, because I think I'm the most likely person in the world to whine about being "always a bridesmaid, never a bride." Not that I want to be a bride, but I'm prone to extreme bouts of melodrama.

Anyway, one of my dearest couple-friends just got engaged. The future groom was incredibly imaginative, and the future bride was pretty eager to say yes. They'll go out and get her ring this week. I'm not writing this to infringe on their privacy; a line in the book I'm reading got me thinking about the story behind engagement rings.

Set in the 800s, Europe's darkest age, I learned that the wedding ring, at least, traditionally sits on the fourth finger of one's left hand because it was believed that is where the vein leading directly to the heart is.

Clearly, the idea of marriage during the Dark Ages sucked -- for example, a wedding ceremony in the book includes these vows:

"May this woman be amiable as Rachel, faithful as Sarah, fertile as Leah. May she bring forth many sons and bring honor to her husband's house.... Let her copy the behavior of a dog who always has his heart and his eye upon his master; even if his master whip him and throw stones at him, the dog follows, wagging his tail.... A woman should have a perfect and indestructible love for her husband." (p. 129)

But I would have to argue the romanticism of that engagement ring is pretty sweet, and so fascinating.

(By the way, the groom's equivalent vow was: "May this man be brave as David, wise as Solomon, strong as Samson. May his lands increase even as his fortune. May he be a just lord to this lady, never administering to her more than reasonable punishments. May he live to see his sons do honour to his name.")


smarter than me

There are books that are smarter than you, because they are simply classic, gorgeous works of art. Even if you didn't really enjoy them.

And there are books that are smarter than you because the author is brilliant.

Then there are the research books. The ones that are maybe two steps above popcorn romances, but the author did so much research that you can't help but learn even as you read, wide-eyed, about the many romances of King Henry VIII.

I think I'm reading one of this last category of smart books at the moment. Granted, I'm only about 50 pages in. And I have learned how to say the five W's in Latin: Quis (who), quid (what), quomodo (how), ubi (where), quando (when) and cur (why).

But with this exuberant review from the L.A. Times -- "Pope Joan has all the elements one wants in a historical drama--love, sex, violence, duplicity and long-buried secrets" -- I'm thinking I'm well on my way to a great big tome of brain candy....

source of picture


fathers and daughters

I have finished Bergen's The Time in Between, and pledge not to ruin it for fellow book club members.

However, I am struck by how the writer manages to centre the story around a conflict between a father and daughter who narrate from different points in time. Whether they meet in the book is irrelevant; what binds and tears them is their understanding of each other. Or lack of understanding.

Early on, Bergen writes of the way Charles Boatman's eldest daughter, Ada, follows and listens carefully to him, whether as a child, teenager, or adult, long after her siblings have lost interest. She is always trying to collect the threads of who he might be in the hopes of tracking the strands to the truth.

Her younger brother calls this a heavy weight only she bears.

I wonder if this is the curious way of daughters everywhere.

source of picture


amsterdam.... bordeaux.... andalucia

There is nothing like Edmonton's (neverending, why isn't it over, are you sure global warming is happening, and why isn't it faster?) winter to make you want to plan a trip far, far away.

Europe in the spring?

I'm newly obsessed with all things related to taking trains across the continent, mountain biking in ancient lands, drinking excellent wine, and exploring historic canals. Not to mention revisiting one of my favourite cities and finally getting into the nooks and crannies of a museum I barely skimmed the surface of.....