random state of mind

Do you ever have a song stuck in your head forever and you can not put your finger on it? And you spend hours -- literally -- Googling soundtracks and searching lyrics and listening to 30-second snippets on iTunes to find it, but you never ever can? And while the song is oh-so-clear in your mind, when you try to hum it to others they look embarrassed for you because you're so bloody tone-deaf, your humming doesn't even sound like a song at all?

No? Right. Me neither.

In other news, it's bizarrely summer here in Edmonton this week. Skirt-wearing summertime. I'm lovin' it.

I'm also counting down the days until I get to Paris! Among other adventures, I can't wait to go here -- S has already been, and I am jealous of her. The bookstore, which looks totally amazing (seriously, take the virtual tour) was also featured in one of my favourite-ever Ethan Hawke movies.

(I know. It's 2008. No one has favourite-ever Ethan Hawke movies in 2008. No one but someone who gets obsessed with songs she can't remember and ends up stumbling upon Barbara Streisand hits on iTunes instead, then actually buys the hits so she can launch into a full-out rendition of The Way We Were while making butter chicken that tastes way more Italian than Indian.)

Now you're thinking that being fully rested might actually be bad for me, aren't you? Like I have too much time on my hands?

Fine. Judge me for being a flake. And a (book-related) blog pimp.


lost in Austen

I've spent much of the week ranting about how Austen men would never pull the kind of stunts modern men might. And, I've spent much of the weekend snuffling over a head cold.

So it's really no surprise I watched the entire Lost in Austen series last night.

It's British, so it's not really in Canada yet. And, considering the viewer turnout was just a few million over four weeks, I'm not sure it will come across the pond. (But I'm holding out hope, dear CBC.)

The show was brilliant! Loosely connected to a novel by the same name, it plops 21st century girl Amanda Price (wearing skinny jeans and low-cut top) into the pages of Pride and Prejudice. She messes the whole thing up royally, of course, somehow bumping in between Jane and Bingley, Charlotte and Collins, and Lydia and Wickham. Because Amanda has swapped spots with Elizabeth, she gets caught up in Darcy, too -- but isn't that what we would all do?

Well, you would think that's what we would all do, since we've all fallen in love with the sharp-tongued-but-shy hero a thousand times (no? just me?). But when faced with the real-life (likely still fictitious) Mr. Darcy, he's kind of an ass. He in fact would probably twist and turn all sorts of things to get his way and somehow justify it (kind of like a couple guys I've known over the years).

He does smoulder, though.... my favourite scene includes a water fountain, Darcy, and Amanda saying, "I am having a bit of a strange post-modern moment here."


Artistic licence is a great thing, too. Was Mrs. Bennett as completely insipid as she comes across on the page? Was Mr. Wickham a complete and utter cad? Were there lesbians in Austen's books?

As Amanda puts it, there are plot twists enough to send Miss Austen "spinning in her grave like a cat in a tumble dryer."

**do not play the video below if a) you hate Vanessa Carlson or b) you don't want the miniseries spoilt for you**


books, movies

You've gotta love Lisa Kudrow.

In other news, Hilary Swank bought the rights to the Emily Giffin books Something Borrowed and Something Blue.... I can't quite picture Swank as either Darcy or Rachel. She might be too old for both, to be honest. (Holy I'm a jerk, I know.) I look forward to seeing who they cast as Ethan, though -- he's best friend to both girls, and the hero of the second novel. He's a bit of a dreamboat, if such a thing exists.

In other romantic endeavours, Mr. Darcy's come to Edmonton. Hurrah.



Secret: I am watching the new 90210. The Fug girls are right. This might be the worst acting I've seen since Mischa Barton was on the OC.

Not secret: Miriam Toews is probably awesome.

Meanwhile, this is brilliant. In my free time, I'll have to get cracking. And I kind of love this idea -- yes, ripping from books is bad (says the girl who framed Nancy Drew sketches on the weekend), but art is good....



Justin Trudeau: "I'll let the historians worry about parallels and legacies."


an unless moment

Look at that -- no blogging for a week, then two entries in an hour. I amaze myself.

Seriously, though, check in on this Jennifer Weiner note.


Apologies off the bat for being out of touch. I've been working a lot lately, and blogging elsewhere, and hanging out with my mom, and making art and still reading Paul Wells.

(This, for example, made me laugh out loud last night: "But the reason the word no-brainer exists is that sometimes people have no brains." p. 126)

But now I have two notes to offer. One, about a new online serial novel.

And one from my friend Tej:

Good afternoon friends,

This book club choice has certainly caused its fair share of stress.

Weighing all considerations, contemplating the embarrassment of choices, wading through personal tastes, being mindful of people's times and stress levels has made times testy in the Z-S household. I grumbled about our difficulties to Erin, who suggested we arm wrestle over the choice. It wasn't a bad idea as, in the interests of feminism, I let Alex win 50 per cent of the time. But the process seemed barbaric, and required too much effort. Much rather hash it out the hard way. Arguments, frowns and many declarations of "you-don't-know-what-you-are-talking-about-,-Tej" have laid the foundation for, what will hopefully be, your reading project for the next couple of weeks. We hope you enjoy it, and come around our way for discussions and snacks.

The Choice:

David Mitchell is a better writer than you or I.

I know I say this in an email that has a recipient list top-heavy with journalists, and excellent journalists at that. But David Mitchell is a better writer than you or I. You will see that when you read Cloud Atlas, Mitchell's third book, and sublime masterpiece.

The plot of the book is hard to explain, and you wouldn't want me to go into details. The delight of the book is within its unfolding, as it rushes from one section to the next, revealing itself in parts, becoming larger, a giant, before folding itself up again, delivering its message, and leaving you with its questions and implications. In my humble estimation, it is a crime that Cloud Atlas did not win the Booker Prize (for which it was short-listed, and for which it created controversy when it did not win), as it is among the best books written in the last 10 years. Hell, the last 25 years.

I've read the book three times. The first time, I read it twice in a row. But when I first cracked it, I almost put it away and didn't read it all. The first section takes some work to get used to, it requires some effort. Trust me, your mind will warm to the style, and your curiosity will be tickled. The first section is not that long and, if you make it to the second section, you'll be hooked, and in for the ride of your life. I hope you will find it as satisfying as I have found it over the years.

Don't let my warning scare you off. This is a book, if you give it time, you will want to finish. That said, it's not a small book, so the sooner you start the better.We have suggested October 26 as the date of the next book club. If the date doesn't work for you, please let us know. To entice you, we will have some brunch goodies prepared for you to enjoy. What exactly we'll have prepared is something Alex and I have left for further negotiations. Maybe we should just arm wrestle over it.


pith factor

Feel like you can't find enough totally random (erm, highly-contextualized) political chatter?

Take a spin over to this blog, where Archie McLean offers bits and bites on the Canadian federal election. I'm helping him, so you won't miss a moment of my keen political insight, either. (Ha, ha.)

Now, before you accuse me of blatant self-promotion, I urge you to watch this:

You've forgotten all that nasty self-promotion now, haven't you? And you kind of feel like dancing?


party time

It’s election time again -- a time when Canadians will have watched their potential leaders squabble, debate and go to the polls before the Americans have even gotten to the voting stage of their long, long decision-making.

I know the Oct. 14 date will come as a great shock to Canadians, what with the prime minister being so secretive about an election call and all….

(Does sarcasm translate in blogs?)

But in the spirit of getting-to-know-the-man, I am reading* Right Side Up, by Paul Wells, all about how Harper managed to win the 2006 election.

I’m not generally a fan of Wells -- there’s something about his writing that smacks of a smirk. An all-knowing, kind of constant smirk.

But I’m digging the tale so far.
How’s this for getting to know the man?
“Before us all stood Stephen Harper, forty-two years old. Taciturn, self-assured, and, if you must know, a bit woozy. An inner-ear infection was keeping him out of airplanes. An Alliance staffer had driven him through the Rockies from Calgary, like Hannibal minus the elephants.

“Most of the reporters in the room had had occasion to chat with Harper, but not lately. ‘We had an active strategy from about February until he declared he was in the race: He didn’t do a single media interview,’ a close friend of Harper’s said later. ‘Complete radio silence…. Which is a pattern in Harper’s life: You don’t need to be in the media to be politically successful.’” (p. 3-4)

These graphs are from the very start of Wells’s book, leading off at the end of 2001 when Stockwell Day was hilariously sinking in his wetsuit.**

Casting a bigger, smirkier look at the political landscape as a whole in those days, Wells also describes what was going on with the Liberals:
Chretien once said it was ‘fine for people to organize for the leadership,’ Martin told us. ‘In fact, he even encouraged some candidates… to present their candidature.’ Now Chretien had pulled that rug from under everyone’s feet. ‘That’s his prerogative. I just really don’t know how this is going to work. I don’t know what it means.’

“When you and I don’t know what something means at work, do we call the boss and ask? Do we send an email? Do we have our secretary call the boss’s secretary and ask? By God, we don’t! When you and I are confused by something the boss says at work and we really don’t know how it’s going to work and we are
earnest about wanting to find out, we hold a news conference, live on all-news TV, from the basement of a union hall. Just as Paul Martin was doing now.” (p. 28-29)
That part is from the spring of 2002. I actually laughed out loud while reading it, and clearly the emphasized bits are courtesy of the columnist, not me.
Cross your fingers, folks -- I’m sure there will be lots more to giggle at in the weeks to come.

* I am also still reading Mark MacKinnon’s The New Cold War, because it’s an excellent, inspiring piece of journalism. Also, Trudeau and Our Times, because I’m on a bit of a historical/political bent at the moment. And, Alice Hoffman’s Turtle Moon, because sometimes my head hurts and all I want to read is candy.

** Image from here

women-children and men-protectors

I don’t get men.

This, I think, is a key reason I read so many books written by women -- being a woman, I understand women’s neuroses, interests, general attractions….

Men are a different story.

(Understatement of the year.)

Take, for example, Annie Hall. Some laud Diane Keaton’s character as this fantastic depiction of unique, difficult, unabashedly real women.

I grimace at her flighty, self-centred, crazed nature.

Now, there’s little about Woody Allen’s screenplays that compares to Haruki Murakami’s prose.

Except, of course, that I don’t get the main character’s attraction to both Naoko and Midori in Norwegian Wood.

Midori is all quirky mystery and unanswered questions; Naoko is a total basket case. In movie terms, Midori would be Kirstin Dunst’s super irritating heroine in Elizabethtown, while Naoko would be like…. Probably like any of Winona Ryder’s characters in any given movie. One specifically in particular, but if I tell you that I will ruin part of the book for you.

These two girls, both cast in the confusing light only 19-year-olds can create for themselves, could not come across as less attractive. And Toru’s infatuation and connection with both…. I just don’t know if I totally buy it as a love story.

Don’t get me wrong: I actually really liked this novel (thanks T&A!). I toted it all around with me over the last couple weeks, drinking in its total hotness -- Murakami has quite the imagination -- but still wondering, really, what drew Toru to the women in his life. Does he want to save them all? Fix them all?

Clearly, he is tied to Naoko because he wants to drag her back from the edge. He has a similar nurturing tendency with Midori, and ultimately -- to himself -- Toru comes up short in his inability to protect these women from the world.

In fairness to Murakami, he allows the reader to come to the conclusion on her own that Toru’s sense of powerlessness in connection to Naoko, particularly, is misplaced. Naoko has her own shit to deal with, and there is little Toru can do to sway her in any way.

But perhaps this is what bugs me about the way some men cast love stories: In Norwegian Wood, particularly, the hero gets the benefit of adulthood even in narration, while the quasi-heroines are women-children doomed from the start.


bye-bye, booktown....

I've been a little all over the place lately. Sort of don't remember what my bed feels like -- but not in a slutty way.

(Hey Mom and Dad and Granny.... How're you?)

This weekend two very dear friends got married on Vancouver Island. It was gorgeous to say the least, got me thinking all about how much I love love.

(That's right. I love love. What of it?)

Being on the Island, I got to spend a few hours in Sidney-by-the-Sea today before flying back to Edmonton.

True booklovers among you may know Sidney, just north of Victoria, as one of Canada's book capitals. It's a gorgeous little town -- I didn't get to wander around the shelves of all the stores, though. I have to admit I bought a latte and a croissant and headed to the shore and just soaked up the fresh sea air.

I can never decide exactly what ocean air smells like, but I know that when I'm on Vancouver Island it smells like freedom.

(Holy overdramatic, Batman.)

My first real, career-oriented summer job was in Victoria when I was 21 and, well, vaguely ridiculous. I feel like I did a lot of growing up on the island, a lot of learning about myself and my boundaries. I learned to row that summer, learned to get up in the morning to go running along the shore (like, twice), learned to write about people, learned how to be by myself (and be okay with it).... And I learned to surf in Tofino.

I love that island. It was kind of hard to get on the plane today.

Segue, segue.... On the bright side, I had good reading material.

(Insert groans here. Yes, all of you groan at home while sitting in front of your computers. Nice job. Yes, I'm proud of you. No, I won't stop using these brackets.)

If you're as obsessed with Russia at the moment as I am, you need to read Mark MacKinnon's The New Cold War. It explains so much and is so relevant to today's news, and his stories completely pave the way for what we're seeing happen right now.

(Admittedly, I only read this book for part of the day, so I'm not even close to done. I got tired and side-tracked by the availability of Made of Honour on the plane. Terrible movie. Can't wait to see how it ends once it's available on video.)