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Thursday, January 31, 2008
JanePod. At last, at last, I have almost enough air miles to purchase an iPod nano. Just another $20 out of my own pocket, and yes, our pod is on order. Why, then, do I think about the 14 years I've been collecting air miles (and only once before did I use them to buy a blender), and mourn the points' demise? I am mental.
Jane Bod. Dagnabbit, a trip back to Lumpland. Lumps in one's early middle age are more tiresome than worrisome, but still. That appointment with the cold, cold machine must be made.
Jane Fraud: Off to a church for two hours tomorrow morning and six hours on Sunday to assist in prep & serving of a weekly dinner for the homeless. I know it's something else to blame on my general mentalness, but still: I always feel like a total phoney when I walk into a church. Not that this will keep me from continuing to walk into churches for various functions. But there's always a twinge.
Jane GOD. It's "a team of cheerful volunteers IS going to Montreal," not "ARE going to Montreal." You wouldn't say "a team are going," would you? I don't care if you think it sounds wrong. I don't care if most people would say it the other way. This is written English. Deal with it. Jane has spoken.
Monday, January 28, 2008
More proof that we are mellowing. Saturday morning: I am participating in a rehearsal for a community “service-messaged” play. It was written in the early 1950s, I’d guess, from the creaky, desperately unfunny jokes. Anyway, for this community, putting on the play is an annual event. I’m playing “the money,” and am therefore one of the bad guys. The lead role has been given to a man who is in his late 50s, and who appears to my untrained eye to be a tad brain-damaged. Good acting isn’t expected from anyone, and in fact we get to keep the scripts in our hands for the performance. Lead Actor is not much of a reader, but does get through his lines. Every single one. Including the stage directions in brackets. He is told, gently and politely, not to read the words in the brackets. He laughs heartily and the rehearsal carries on. He loses his place frequently. The fourth time he starts to read stage directions, he is standing directly to my left. “You don’t read the stuff in brackets, J.,” I say patiently. Gently. ME.
The next day I am having coffee with another community member, and discussing the rehearsal. “That sounds like J.,” she says. “When he gets going during meetings, you have to throw something at him to get his attention.” I chuckle, she doesn’t. “No, really. We throw pens at him.” She agrees about the brain damage. We both reflect that it’s kind of cool that the community allows participation by anyone who’s interested.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Two firsts in one: I willingly went to a rap opera last night. A gay rap opera about two star-crossed Edmonton lovers (their rapper names: Feminem and T-Bag, which made me hoot). The writing was often extremely clever, and the two men were loveable, really, and I hope it's not gauche to say that. They're also pretty gifted singers. The only drawback, for me, was that listening to a lot of rap set to exactly the same beat tends to lull me to sleep. Like snoozing on a train. Not good at a late show, on the same day I was extremely sleep deprived from having volunteered from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. at a casino. But still: I'm glad I went to see "Bash'd." I'd recommend it.
Sudden Rant, Jane the Victim Of: I was chatting a few days back with some fellow community volunteers, and mentioned that I was set to be a chip runner at a casino this week. BOOM: The rant, from one of the men nearby: did I not know that I was enabling gambling addiction? How could I live with myself knowing that my lawn bowling club was using the money of desperate addicts? "Oh, I guess I live with it the same way a waiter lives with serving wine to customers, some of whom may be alcoholic," I said breezily. Your sermons? DO NOT WANT.
Where did that comfort zone get to? Last night I joined ReVoice, the Calgary Philharmonic's amateur choir. The director was extremely upbeat and had us singing straightaway. I felt pretty good until she ordered us to put down our scores after only rehearsing a new song once, then had us sing to each other, then had us walking and singing, all voices mixed. Huh boy. My voice tends to stray every now and then, so learning music, for me, is repetition and memorization. I'm not what you'd call a natural. But anyway, I paid the membership fee, so I guess I'm going back.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Utter, utter waste. Heath Ledger dead. I thought he was pretty damn talented, too. I also thought River Phoenix was a talented actor. Too bad they filled the holes in their lives with pills and liquor.
Monday, January 21, 2008
2008's first "I LIKE I LIKE I WANT I WANT": Artist tributes to Stan Lee, Marvel Comics guru. There are some beauts in there. What fun!
An unoriginal, yet sincere, review. "Hammy and the Kids," Kevin McDonald's autobiographical show, checked me headfirst into the boards. At times I was honking with laughter. Afterwards I was brimming over with remorse. My memories of my alcoholic parent didn't come close to matching, in horrific degree, what Kevin McDonald went through. And rose above. But some aspects, especially the shame and guilt, are universal. Why guilt? Hey, I was a kid. Of course it was my fault that my parent felt so bad. I sat in the front row and occasionally had eye contact with Kevin. If I ever get the chance to meet him, I'd like to thank him for making me laugh so hard about cowardice and passive aggression, too. Oh, and he does have a pleasant singing voice, no matter what he says to the contrary.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Not at all surprised by the news this week that Hasbro and Mattel have ordered the programmers of "Scrabulous" to cease and desist. They've got millions, but that will never stop corporations from continuing to want a piece of the action--and stop anyone from freely enjoying their whatchamacallit, intellectual property? Yeah. I wonder if they also get kickbacks from the "Literati" game online.
Jane's Sad Scrabble Facts: Three of my most loved and respected friends are Scrabble champs, and always keen for a game. I am their most feeble opponent. I love words. I love anagrams. I love many different languages. But that part of the Scrabble champ brain that can take a one-point "E" tile and score 45 points in a single move--well, I lack that part. My Scrabble trials started when I was a youngster, playing against my Gramma F. and Great Aunties Isabel and Grace. Their joy in brutally squashing me never waned.
For years I would do just about anything to keep from playing Scrabble. Finally a couple of the greatly loved chums coaxed me into a few games. I try so hard, so very hard, to be a worthy opponent, but no one is fooled. These days I will play Scrabble, albeit with a standard disclaimer. I have never scored a 7-letter Bingo unless I'm playing the computer version and cheating by using the "Hint" function. I typically lose by hundreds of points. My aforementioned friends still graciously ask me to play. I'm not sure why.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Well, I'll be go to hell. I have actually won a contest and it is not spam. Every so often I'll fill out online forms for movie contests, and I've just won the contest for "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." Danyon, darlink, this means I can finally return your book (and I probably don't have your most recent address, do I?)--and I also won the soundtrack and a couple of Julian Schnabel DVDs. I am a fan, and now an even happier one.
Karma Rips My Flesh! RZZZ! Here is how magnificent last night's performance of "Tubular Bells" was: it overcame my usual karmic burden, the Loony Magnet. Unusually for the High Performance Rodeo, the seats were assigned for this performance, so through no fault of my own I ended up sitting in front of An Expert in Everything. I couldn't help but remember that scene in Annie Hall when Alvy Singer produces Marshall McLuhan out of nowhere to get the upper hand on a pompous college professor in a movie queue. If only, if only, I could have plucked Mike Oldfield from the ether to shut this man up. "You know nothing of my inspiration," he'd say. "You just want to hear yourself talk." And the next day there would be a "Suddenly, at the age of 53," type of obituary in the Herald.
Now, now: I will be fair. He did shut up during the performance, although he did whap his boot in time to the music. It occurred to me that I must, somehow, be mellowing. Ordinarily this could distract me from the performance, but not last night: the piano virtuosos and the dancers were outstanding, and I saw something I've rarely seen in a Calgary audience: a universal sudden leap to a standing ovation.
So of course I went straight to the box office and bought a ticket for another performance. I was so revved by the performance, I was still awake at 3:00 a.m., mind buzzing away. Wonderful is all.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Isn't it always the way, I chant, looking at my stupid, stupid daily planner. A condo meeting, tra la! Wait: tonight? The same night I have a ticket for "Orchestral Tubular Bells," one of my favourite music compositions? [Actually, it's just "Tubular Bells," there being no orchestra involved this time. Ed.] But of course, double-booking fool! Now check the calendar at work. Good. You're also supposed to meet someone for coffee. Triple booking is your new specialty, you triple-distilled twit.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Instant Connections. A thought-ridden me goes off to the Olympic Oval to do a little Doping Control work. The first day, while in the testing room, I get into a conversation with a multiple gold medallist who trains in Calgary, but skates for the States. He is quite a diffident fellow, usually, but I must have asked the right questions on Saturday, since we are soon chatting like old cronies.
Sunday I’m back at the Oval, trying to find my skater, who’s been randomly picked for testing. I’m used to the eye-rolling, groaning, * tsks * from the athletes who’ve been selected for D.C. I asked one of Canada’s most famous speedskaters if she’s seen my skater. Instead of merely telling me, this exceedingly nice woman escorts me to the dressing room. Soon it is just I and my skater in the room, she cooling down on a stationary bike. For some reason I decide to talk about movies. In under a minute we’re talking like we’ve known each other for years. She, too, is an introvert—and since I’ve just skipped out of attending the company “do” in Banff, we compare notes on how non-party we are. I’m old enough to be her mother, mind you, but some things are eternal. Like non-introverts accusing us of being judgmental when really we’re just quiet. It was the kind of chat that only two introverts can have, and was extremely interesting. “I’m not really a reader,” she says at one point, then proceeds to tell me about her favourite books, both of them classics. She’s a great skater, too, but like most of her teammates, hard on herself. And that’s why I volunteer: I meet such intriguing people.
Well, I thought it was funny. I did go to a party on the weekend, the annual Ukrainian Christmas/Gag Gift Exchange. I had brought “Racing Grannies,” a slot racetrack with old ladies in wheelchairs instead of race cars. None of the adults, I felt, found it as deeply silly as I did, and a four-year-old boy ended up with it. He appeared to have fun, so all’s well, etc. I ended up with a remote control Humvee, which I almost accidentally forgot to take away with me. Meaning I did forget to take it, but deliberately. That’s the way gag gift exchanges go, and it was great fun to watch the stealing and swapping throughout the evening. Coincidence? You be the judge. Once again, I thought and thought and thought about a special finger food to bring to the party, and once again I arrived to find that the hostess had made exactly the same thing. The first time it was layered dip. Two years ago it was baked artichoke dip. This time it was stuffed jalapeno peppers. The hostess and I live a couple of hundred miles from each other, and while we’re friends, we don’t see each other all that often. It’s just one of those weird party things. Of course, the subset of snacks is smaller than the normal, since the partygoers are almost all vegetarian. This means there aren’t going to be 9 different kinds of meatballs, another of my party tricks. Okay, next time I’ll bring…(hemming, hawing, muttering)….green olive tapenade! (Meanwhile I plot to bring something entirely different. Thus continues the canapé cabal….)
Friday, January 11, 2008
Friday begins: While about a block away from the office, I realized I was wearing the dog-walking pants, not the work-acceptable pants. Heh.
Treating myself to a latte, I did the usual "empty the froth-pipey-thing of its squirt of hot water before bringing on the steam." Except I forgot to aim the froth-pipe onto a sponge. Dog-walking pants now have a wet patch on the left thigh, covering an impressive steam burn. Worse than a dry burn, of course, because of steam's potential energy that means you get double the burning power--Jane attempts to shut down Cliff Clavvin synapse, fails--and anyway, owie owie ow. [Update: Swelling, blistering...ayup, that thar's a burn, awreet.]
Uncle Val, the update: It was a hoot. I was pretty tired, but still honked out loud when Andy Jones talked about windy days in St. John's, and whether there was a brigade formed to gaff old ladies out of the bay once they'd been swept into it by strong gusts. The best Newfoundland humour, for me, is not the joke/punchline humour, but the observational humour--which is also why I'm such a fan of Jewish humour.
No grand hotelling for Janey: Tomorrow night's the annual Karo holiday party in the baronial mountain hotel in Banff, but I'm not going. Mainly I'm just not much of a formal party person and will no longer pretend that I am. Also I'm tired of going to parties on my own and being surrounded by couples--all of them wonderful people, but as an introvert there is only so far I can take the social Janey face. This year I don't really have one. I am, however, going to a social gathering--the annual Ukrainian Christmas party held by Tyke's brother, up yonder in central Alberty. All I have to bring is a joke present and an hors d'oeuvre: no problem.
But first! Pee! I've been asked to do some speedskating Doping Control this Saturday and Sunday morning. I've been promised I won't have to stay beyond 1:00 p.m., so we'll see if that works out. This isn't a World Cup event, but who cares?
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Ran into the ex t'other night. The recently ex-friend, that is. We walked past each other in a Safeway aisle, then as I stood at the express checkout, I became aware of the ex-chum standing directly behind me. We quietly chose not to see each other. That's my interpretation, anyway. I still wish this former friend all the best in life, even though I'm no longer a part of it.
High Performance Rodeo 2008 kicked off for me last night with a performance about two suicidally depressed American poets: Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath. Called "Sylvia Plath Must Not Die," the performance was about Anne, Sylvia, and their husbands, Kayo Sexton and Ted Hughes. The thought occurred to me that seeing a tribute to phenomenally depressed female poets may not have been in my best interests, but only briefly. Denise Clarke was magnificent as Anne Sexton, brilliantly embodying the woman's troubled exuberance. Brava.
Tonight I'm seeing Andy Jones, of former Codco fame, in a one-man show called "Uncle Val." I'll let yez know.
Monday, January 07, 2008
Happy 50th, Andy. My old colleague and one-time boss Andy K. turns 50 tomorrow, so a collection of his older, mostly disrespectful friends gathered at Karyn's tea house in Trois Bimps this past Saturday for some Andy-bashing, the world's best butter chicken, and a cake decorated with a killer cartoon of Andy as an aging rock star. Karyn, one of the world's hardest workers, surpassed her own high standards (chiefly by going without sleep and sustenance for about a week, I'd guess). We were all langorous with delight after "tiffin." Also, the Canadian team won the World Junior Hockey championship, just for Andy.
So on Sunday I went back to Trois Bimps to give Karyn a hand with the afternoon business. I was fooling no one, of course, since everybody knew I just wanted more butter chicken. Which I got, and then proceeded most languidly to peel carrots and potatoes for the 5:00 tea hordes. Seriously. The phone rings off the hook on the weekend, with most of Trois Bimps wanting to know what Karyn's making for dins. Reservations are made up to two weeks in advance. And this was the place that the magnanimous Karyn closed on Saturday for Andy's birthday. I heard that Andy stayed behind to vacuum floors and rearrange furniture for Karyn. Of course: he wanted more butter chicken, too.
Friday, January 04, 2008
Four Years On: What the Bad Dog Has Taught Me:
  • The happier she is to see me, the greater the disaster that awaits in El Condo Non Grande.
  • When she wanders off on a walk, calling her doesn't get her to come; it simply lets her know where I am. Not calling her, that's what gets her worried enough to come back.
  • The word "coyote" causes an instant switch to fierce shepherd mode. I hope never to run into a hippie child with that name, while out with the dogs.
  • The early morning 'huf,' while cute, is also an early warning system. The nose to the feet and the paw dab to the face will follow. Oh yes.
Piper turns four this month, in case that wasn't clear. She's still your high-drive, loudmouth Australian Shepherd, whereas the gentle giant, Riven, is low-drive and loudmouthed. Riv has two speeds: dead asleep and overjoyed. He is also an extremely well behaved dog, despite the bad example set by Pipes. They are polar opposite Australian Shepherds.
I was at first extremely annoyed by their loudmouthiness early this morning, then extremely glad, as they convinced two suspicious men that maybe checking out the condo complex wasn't so very smart.
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Back at it, or not. Not a lot going on at the office today, which is not a shock. I have gone through the few thousand spam messages from the last week and change, gleaning one or two messages to keep, and while remembering this I beg of you all: Never send me chain letters. Or chainmails, if you like that term better. You may think I haven't seen them--but I've seen every variation I care to, so not forward them my way.
O Karma Ye Faithful... On the day of the Sing-along Messiah (Dec. 23) I said I'd phone someone, and didn't, keeping myself conveniently otherwise engaged until it was time to drive to the Knox United Church. Turns out I was nearly an hour early, and had nearly 20 minutes all to myself in the vast church, gazing at stained glass and war memorials. I had intended to come early (though not quite so) because I wanted to sit next to a choir member. Slowly the public arrived, and with ten minutes to go, an oversized alto sat beside me. Because I'd helped keep two spaces clear, I asked the alto where the other singer was. "Well, she's supposed to be here now, so I don't know." I didn't really care, since I'd managed to get my prized location, right beside a trained singer. With two minutes to go, I saw a younger couple run into the church. They came to my row, and squeezed in beside the ample alto. Ah! The missing singer and her boyfriend. I still didn't care, and whew, here's the conductor--wait a minute! What the? The just-arrived singer has asked her boyfriend to change places with the first alto. Putting himself between the avoirdupoidal alto and me, so that the two choir members could stand together. Not only is he not an alto, he is not a singer of any sort, and is clearly bored brainless by Handel. Final insult: he is a tic-ridden fidgeter, continually cracking his neck, picking at hangnails, scratching his skull, noisily turning pages in the missal, clearing his throat. Camera pan to Jane: She is in Hell.
What made it bearable: I'd made friends with the singer on my other side, a kind woman from Red Deer, who soon had me helplessly giggling about the last-minute seat switch.
Christmas, etc. Socks! Socks, socks, socks! Joy of joys! Friends and more friends! Books, too--and purple nail polish. I am in heaven. I spend the days skating, dog-walking, knitting, drinking far too much coffee (sorry, Doc), reading, watching movies, and doing a bit of volunteering at the Sally Ann. All those chores that would put a clean finish to 2007 and an efficient start to 2008? Fuck 'em, I'm on holiday. I do a bit of babysitting for Vinnie, and an evening's exposure to two young boys leaves me with the raspiest of head colds, which I'm still enjoying today.
2007: What it Wasn't: Normal or easy. I could have done without the depression, frankly. A long-dying friendship finally breathed its last, leaving me equally relieved and regretful. I wish the other well, only the best. So long, too, to SoccerMom, and howdy to Mazdad.
2008: What I Know. I am gutless about making changes. But they're all that's really up to me. Today I wonder which ones I'll make.