Monthly Archives: January 2016

Finished this book: Sleep, Pale Sister by Joanne Harris (aka My Most Noncommittal and Inconclusive Book Review So Far)

I still can’t decide how much I like this book, although I finished it almost two weeks ago. It is written in an imitation of old-fashioned style, which I normally don’t like, but Harris makes it work really well. There’s a bunch of really stereotypical gender stuff in it, which normally irritates the crap out of me, but it’s not really presented as a war of the sexes; rather, pretty much nobody comes off looking particularly good. There are mystical aspects to the story, presented in a taken-for-granted fashion but still leaving room for doubt. I don’t know what I think of it. Basically, there are a bunch of elements here that would normally lead to a thumbs-down, but Harris manages to weave it all together beautifully.

The protagonist is an artist who marries one of his child models, expecting her to remain as compliant and biddable as she always was throughout her childhood. She grows up, he gets weirder, a ghost gets involved (or maybe not), and almost everyone seems addicted to laudanum or alcohol or chloral. There’s sex and adultery, murder and rape, magic and deception, paedophiles and prostitutes. The traumatic aspects of the story are not written in great detail but I still found some of them hard, so maybe a content warning for child abuse and sexual abuse, depending on what your threshold is. Mine’s pretty low.

I think I liked it, overall. But I didn’t like it enough to be sure that I like it. Weird?

Sleep, Pale Sister by Joanne Harris. 1994. ISBN 978-006-078711-0

Saw this film: Banksy Does New York (2014)

This fast-paced documentary covers Banksy’s month of making a piece of public art every day in New York for the month of October 2013. It was kind of a NaBloPoMo / NaNoWriMo thing with street art; the film called it a residency. I watched it with my brother, and we kept pausing it to talk about who owns art, what is art, whose opinions about art matter, cultural appropriation, graffiti and vandalism and defacement, the concept of property, the concepts of public versus private, whether art has to have a meaning, and so forth. My brother and I occupy quite different places on the ideological map, so there were times when it was a relief to turn back to the TV with our mouths pressed thin, but at other times we both got really animated in our enthusiasm for the topic and managed to navigate our differences well. It’s a process, right?

The documentary interested me for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being that I recently made my first foray into public art-making. As time goes by, viewers have started to add to my art. Although I don’t think they have improved my piece aesthetically (puh-LEEZ), I am delighted that there is some conversation happening. Continue reading

Weekly Pet Peeve: Workplace Phone Manners

The Peeved Pet.

How I look when people don’t know how to talk on the phone at work.

I was so focused on writing about Poe today that I nearly forgot the Weekly Pet Peeve. My heart’s not in it 100% today, so I’ve hauled this one out of my drafts and tweaked it a bit:

You know what I hate? When people are making a work-related phone call and don’t bother to introduce themselves properly. If you are calling in an official capacity, you should at the very least state your first and last names, and preferably also what your organisation is.

I’ve had people call and not say their names at all, or just say “This is *Sarah” and then demand client information. And then I have to go through the whole interrogation to find out the relevant identification of Sarah, during which time Sarah is getting more and more irritated. Would this not be easier if she started out with”Hi, this is **Sarah Palin, I’m a social worker at XYZ Child and Family Services and I’m looking for information on Jane Doe who is a permanent ward of my agency”? Yes, it would indeed be easier. So, Sarah, when I point that out to you in the course of our phone conversation, there’s no need to get all hissy. Because the minute you raise your voice to me, I’m hanging up. Continue reading

F*ck Cancer (or, Another Dog at the Bridge)

Poe's eighth birthday. Taken at Urban Canine by photographer Amanda Borsa.

Poe’s eighth birthday. Taken at Urban Canine by photographer Amanda Borsa.

Remember how my post about Cookie’s death nearly went viral last weekend? That was because Cookie’s mom finally felt ready to read it, and she shared it on Facebook, prompting many of her friends to read and share it.

In a heartbreaking coincidence, another one of her dogs, Poe, died on Friday. Poe was only eight, but he had a haemangiosarcoma on his spleen which ruptured. Haemangiosarcoma is an aggressive cancer more common in dogs than cats or humans. From what I understand, this shitty cancer (aren’t they all) starts in the lining of the blood vessels and leads to large blood-filled tumours which can rupture. That’s what happened to Poe.

Poe comforting his sister Cookie after her diagnosis of osteosarcoma (with my Fluffy Dog in the background comforting Poe). Taken by photographer Amanda Borsa.

Poe comforting his sister Cookie after her diagnosis of osteosarcoma (with my Fluffy Dog in the background comforting Poe). Taken by photographer Amanda Borsa.

Poe was a well-known and much-loved dog, and people who knew him have been sharing their memories and pictures of him on Facebook. Poe was adopted by my friend when he was about eight months old. He and his brother Jack and four of their siblings were running wild down in Ohio, and were live-trapped. The person who caught them remembers that all six of them were so scared that they were piled onto each other in a corner. It seems that the shelter there found them too feral to adopt out, and wanted to euthanise them because it was felt they would never make good pets. Continue reading

A Hard Weekend Ends with a Crash

Happy Monday, everyone! That’s not my normal salutation (it’s more a sarcastic “Happy” Monday!), but after the weekend I had, I’m glad to get back to the work routine. I got some bad news on Friday (I’ll write about it soon) and that affected the rest of the weekend. On Sunday afternoon, I did go over to a good-acquaintance-maybe-becoming-a-friend’s place for a long- awaited tea-and-cookies visit (and cuddles with her fabulous Golden Retriever).

But on the way home, I got rear-ended. This is the third January in a row that I have been rear-ended by a white pickup truck while I was stopped at a red light. Continue reading

Two Dogs Humping (on me)

Warning: dog sex. With another dog, no worries.


 

This post is dedicated to Blair (The Shameful Sheep) in response to the post It All Makes Sense Now. If you read through the comments you’ll see a few references to dogs humping, which reminded me of this embarrassing story from my past. Continue reading

Finished this book: Incognito Street by Barbara Sjoholm

Cover of Incognito Street by Barbara Sjoholm

Cover of Incognito Street by Barbara Sjoholm

This memoir of the author’s travels through Europe as a young woman is a well-written and pleasant read. The countries in which she describes her travels (primarily France, Spain, and Norway) are mere backgrounds, however, to her inner travels. Sjoholm is struggling to be a writer, to understand what being a writer means, to find the balance between writing and living. She is also coming to terms with her attraction for her friend Laura, and Laura’s attraction to her. Also, at the time she was traveling, there were great political changes happening in her home country (USA) with regard to gender and politics, and the book touches on her growing awareness of and interest in that. Continue reading

Weekly Pet Peeve: Pregnancy Horror Stories

Shocked disbelief.

Shocked disbelief.

People tell their pregnancy and delivery horror stories in great and gory detail. I get that. People like to talk about big events they’ve experienced, and they like to compare their experiences to those of other people, and they like to maybe sometimes perhaps exaggerate just a little bit to make their stories more vivid and to get a better response from their audience. And childbirth is pretty high up on the pain-and-danger scale, so it makes for a good story, with lots of potential permutations and complications to allow for some one-upmomship (ha).

But what is absolutely mindboggling is when people tell these stories to someone who is pregnant!!!

Seriously! Who does that? (Tip: That was rhetorical. Just last Friday, on E’s last day of work before mat leave, one of her colleagues was explaining to her how horrifically painful childbirth was going to be.)

I just don’t understand how you could look at a massive pregnant belly and think it would be a good idea to Continue reading

Behind the Scenes (or, My Brush with Going Viral)

I had an interesting WordPress experience this past weekend. It made me appreciate how this going viral thing works.

Back in May 2015, my friend’s dog Cookie died and I wrote a blog post about it (When Good Dogs Die). The pain of her loss was too fresh for my friend to want to read this post, and as time passed, it slipped both of our minds.

This past Saturday, I was at Cookie’s mom’s place with The Fluffy Dog for our almost-weekly playdate. We were talking about old dogs, and suddenly she exclaimed “Oh, I didn’t read what you wrote about Cookie yet!” And she felt she was ready. So when I got home later that day, I facebook messaged her the link to that post. She read it and shared it on facebook.

Now, Cookie’s mom is heavily involved with dog rescue and dog sport (agility and flyball, mostly). She has just under 200 facebook friends, and it seems that most of them are also committed Dog People. By the time I went to bed on Saturday, there were over a dozen comments and more likes on the post. Not too much. A nice number of people saying nice things about my tribute to Cookie, and remembering Cookie themselves.

What was fascinating, though, was what was happening on WordPress. My stats were jumping! Continue reading

Puppy Socialisation Classes: Trust your instincts

The Fluffy Dog at about nine weeks old.

The Fluffy Dog at about nine weeks old.

Puppies should be socialised. They should be socialised well, early, often, and as much as their growing little brains and bodies and spirits can tolerate. Some trainers and vets say that you should wait until the initial series of vaccinations is complete, but I disagree. I’m not saying take your vulnerable pup to the local dog park where she can roll in the poo of ill or unvaccinated dogs. But I believe that with a bit of thought, you can come up with reasonably safe ways to get your puppy started quite early with socialisation experiences.

With this in mind, when the Fluffy Dog was just a wee pup, his papa and I took him to a puppy socialisation class. It was a series of four sessions for pups under five or six months of age who had already had their first two sets of vaccinations. Mr. Fluff wasn’t that fluffy back then. He was a wee little round-headed fuzzy pup who showed no signs yet of the long-haired, long-legged, loudmouthed beast he’d eventually grow into. I already loved him with all my heart.

The puppy group started out as a lot of fun. We introduced the pups to various toys, and to each other. But I felt like the people running it were maybe new to this, since they put an awful lot of emphasis on self-control and calmness for such young pups (not really developmentally possible for the really young ones), and then they had us play a dangerous game. Continue reading

Become a positive body image ally…

Reblogging this because 1) it is so relevant to this week’s Pet Peeve about appearances, and 2) I wish I could have been this articulate about it, and 3) this person’s blog is frikkin awesome. Enjoy! ~Nissetje~

cropped-tumblr_miy5ojvnxi1qh3fu5o1_500

Sometimes, whether through ignorance or sheer habit, we are unknowingly supporting negative body image ideals. Through no fault of our own, some things become second nature and we are led down the rocky path of body shaming without even knowing it – but you can change this. Through actively minding how you speak and behave with relation to body image, you can make a difference to the standards that have, so far, been set out for us. So take a look at my tips on how you can become an ally to positive body image ideals.

Avoid comments putting someone down.

We have so many messages in society that judge us and tell us that we’re not good enough, and everyone is somewhat vulnerable to these. I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t have body image issues on one level or another – if you endorse these messages…

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Weekly Pet Peeve: Comments about Appearances

Shocked cat: How I feel when people comment on someone else's appearance.

How I feel when people comment on someone else’s appearance.

If you’re going to comment on someone’s appearance, don’t.

But if you’re one of those people who can’t resist, here’s a tip: say something actively positive. The whole “Ooooooh, I see you got your hair cut…” or the dubious “Are those new glasses?” aren’t actually pleasant things to say to someone. If you must, then try something like “Hey, great glasses!” (complimentary, and does not require a response.)

The whole “neutral” thing is kind of passive-aggressive and  an infringement on people’s personal territory. What gives you the right to make a random unasked-for comment about someone’s appearance, or on a choice they’ve made? A choice that was possibly difficult and is certainly personal? On a haircut they maybe aren’t happy with, for example? Continue reading

Saw this film: Heart of a Dog by Laurie Anderson

Okay, so I saw this amazing film last night: Heart of a Dog by Laurie Anderson. I really don’t know much about film so I don’t even really know how to write a review of this but I was just stunned and moved and choked up and inspired and awed by this film.

I kind of thought it would be more about dogs, but while I was wrong, I was not disappointed. Anderson’s rat terrier Lolabelle does feature prominently, but this isn’t a narrative film in which a linear story is told (not even in a mixed-time-sequence way). It’s more like… well, like a long poem, or a series of vignettes, or a song cycle. Anderson weaves in Lolabelle’s life and death, her relationship with her mother, her mother’s death, 9/11, the NSA data centre in Utah, dog training, a traumatic childhood accident, film clips from her childhood, her own fascinating poetry-narration, and really incredible imagery.
Continue reading

Finished this book: Lottery by Patricia Wood

Cover of "Lottery" by Patricia Wood

Cover of “Lottery” by Patricia Wood

Perry L. Crandall is slow, but he’s not retarded. This is very important to him as he struggles against the teasing and impatience of the world around him. Patricia Wood does a fabulous job of telling this story from Perry’s perspective as he wins the lottery and has to navigate a family which is suddenly interested in him again after years of indifference, a world full of scammers and con artists, and his own circle of friends and work colleagues.

Perry was raised by his grandmother, and her wise advice is both touchstone and roadmap for him as he adjusts to life without her and to his new fortune. His best friend is Keith, a Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD and alcoholism. Perry’s voice is consistent and enjoyable. He is a very compassionate and careful person who thinks deeply—if concretely—about the important people and decisions in his life, like friendship, love, work, money management, family ties, and living with integrity. Continue reading

Death Visits my Workplace

Someone at work died last night of a heart attack. I barely knew him, even though I’ve worked here for a decade and he’s been here longer (it’s a large institution). But the whole place is walking around in shock. People are talking about him, about his death, and about their past interactions with him.

But I can’t be the listener. I just can’t. I know I have trouble understanding and dealing with attachment. I know I have bad reactions to loss. I know that I have spent so much of my life both ruthlessly suppressing my feelings while simultaneously trying to learn how to understand and express them. All of this is part of it. Also, I’ve been carefully and cruelly trained to always make other people’s feelings more important than my own, as well as to meet other people’s needs at the expense of my own, and I have worked so very hard to try to unlearn this. So to suddenly find myself in the middle of this sea of shock and grief, with people wanting to talk, or even when they don’t, when every instance of eye contact is accompanied by sad faces and head tilts and resigned shrugs and meaningful sighs… I just can’t. Continue reading

A Gig with a Glitch

About a month ago, I co-played a gig with three other DJs in which I was the mentor. Even though I have been doing this for less than a year, it just worked out that I was the most experienced of the group for that night. In fact, two of the other DJs were performing for the very first time after their graduation recital.

I was playing the first set (10pm) and the fifth (midnight). For the first set, I’d planned a kind of loungy house vibe reminiscent of the first hour at my first solo gig. For my second set, I’d planned some early nineties dance music (think Black Box and CeCe Peniston and Crystal Waters and Technotronic).

Because I was playing such an early set, my mom came down to see me (although it’s not really her kind of music!). She was still using a cane following her knee surgery; after my first set, some of my friends drove her home so she wouldn’t have to navigate the icy sidewalks and drive herself.

The evening went well, with one exception. Continue reading

Pet Peeve: “You look tired!”

Aaaaaand what? You thought pointing that out would be useful or helpful in some way? You thought it would be a good conversation starter? Why not just tell me I look like shit and be done with it?

There’s one person in particular at my workplace who often starts conversations this way. She’s really quite lovely, but I find it frustrating. Today, on her way back to her office from the bathroom, she stopped at my desk to ask concernedly “Do you have a headache today?” My tongue is bleeding a bit from the effort it took not to say “I do now!”

Actually, I don’t have a headache today. But I do have a classic BRF and I’m still trying to keep my head down as the holiday spirit continues. Sure, the trees are coming down and the wrapping paper is all in the recycling bin and the New Year’s hangovers have diminished. But it’s the first day back at work for office drones, and they’re all buzzing around the hive asking each other “Did you have a good holiday?” And when I reply “I survived it,” they laugh merrily and say “Oh, I know what you mean!” and then go on to relate long tales of family dinners, gifts given and received, Polaroid-worthy moments with kids, cute quotes by grandkids, long walks in the snow with bounding Golden Retrievers and so forth. (Although maybe some of these were ads?)

My point is: maybe I am a bit tired. It’s good of you to remark upon it. I’m so glad to know it shows so clearly. And I’m so grateful to have it pointed out.

Finished this book: The Hidden Lives of Dogs by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

Cover of The Hidden Lives of Dogs by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

Cover of The Hidden Lives of Dogs by E. M. Thomas

This book is a reflection about the author’s many years of living with dogs, during which time she eschewed formal training, preferring to let the dogs develop naturally, make their own decisions, and learn from each other. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas wanted to figure out what dogs want, and to see how dogs would behave when left primarily to their own devices. Her observations, and her synthesis of all those observations over the years, are quite interesting, but they are so grounded in very particular views not only of dogs and kyno-human relationships, but also very specific ideas about human culture (that is, the one Thomas knows), that some of her conclusions and ruminations seems odd to me. Continue reading

Dancing the New Year In

 

I spent New Year’s Eve dancing to house and techno music. Well, that’s not entirely true, because the music right up until almost midnight was “Classics from the 60s to the Present!” which is fine for listening, but not exactly exciting for dancing. Fortunately, I got there close to 2330hrs, so I only had to spend half an hour texting my friends (“Happy Almost New Year!”) and looking up dog pictures on Instagram.

A few minutes after midnight—once Auld Lang Syne was over—the good music started. Dave Rad was DJing, and when his set was done, Alexander Krygsveld was up; his set was amazing. Lots of bass, no cutesy bullshit, a steady beat with just enough beatless “build-up” segments to let me catch my breath once in a while (but not so long that I got bored and wanted to wander off the dance floor).

I was by myself. I love being by myself. I can drive there on my own, get there when I like, am not dependent on anyone else for a ride home, don’t have to consider whether others in my group want to dance or not, and don’t have to pay attention to anyone on the dance floor. Sure, it’s fun to go out with friends, but that’s a different sort of evening; that’s social. This is dancing. Continue reading