Tuesday, November 29, 2005

cats, cats, cats

I've been neglecting the blog being too busy with cats. I'm looking after my sister's four cats. One is new to the family (a rescue of course) and his name is Ruggles (once I figure out how to get his picture up here I will post it!). Her other three cats (in order of their arrival in the house) are Chengo, Penny and Rupert. Poor Rupert is having BIG issues with Ruggles. He's trying to sort it out, but can't seem to figure out anything unless he's attacking Ruggles. Ruggles is the most passive cat I've ever met. He's a Persian so the unfortunate method of over breeding has made this cat into a display model. He lounges and doesn't really seem interested in doing much else. Enter Rupert. I now call Rupert "Mesmerino" because he can't stop staring at Ruggles and the stare alone sends Ruggles under the bed.

Perhaps this is too much detail, but I've been living cats for the last few days while my sister is rehearsing a play in Montreal.

I have my own two cats PrimaVera and Svetlana who live downstairs and can only hear the shenanigans going on up here.

Did I mention that Rupert is also obsessed with food? He waits behind each cat until they finish their bowl and then moves in for the lick. He's the lickmaster 2000. There may be nothing in the bowl, but Rupert will finish off whatever he senses might have been there. Poor Rupert with all his issues.

Up until now, Ruggles has been eating separately from the other cats in his own room with his own separate litter box and his own bed. We call it the Ruggles Reading Room because there is a massive book shelf overflowing with reading material. When Ruggles first moved in and my sister was keeping him behind a closed door from the other cats, we'd visit Ruggles to keep him company and inevitably pick up a book and start reading, thus the name. Anyway...this morning I fed Ruggles in the kitchen with the other cats because I could see him living his life separated from the rest and never really integrating. Hope sis doesn't mind. I'm sure she won't because I know she wants them all integrated as well. The feeding went okay. Penny took a swipe at Ruggles, which was unexpected, but he held his ground and his wet food. Rupert did wait a good foot behind Ruggles, looking from me to Ruggles, me to Ruggles. He knows that he's not supposed to be aggressive with Ruggles, but he just can't help himself. He's the baby after all and doesn't appreciate the new pecking order.

So my life has been nothing but cats for the last few days. Sis returns today to give me a break for a few days and then it's back to cats, cats, cats on the weekend.

You've got to love them all and be patient!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Flu the Coop

Have you been following the avian flu stories? The word pandemic is now included in almost every story I've encountered on the subject. The CBC site has the current stories and tips on what you can do. Watch out for those migratory birds! Time to drug those chickens to prevent avian flu from occurring. One tip even suggested that you thoroughly cook your eggs just to be safe. All of this (mis)information and yes I'll point my finger at the media, as it is often done in our society, because they stir up trouble, aim for the drama and cause panic.

Now you know where I'm coming from and you know that I have one thing for you to consider...factory farming. Has anyone (outside of PETA of course) questioned the methods of chicken farming that occurs these days. Is no one concerned about the root of the problem, factory farming? If media questions factory farming then you're taking on big business and raise the question of ethics etc. Journalists really shouldn't stir the pot like that should they?

A little background on my own discovery about how a chicken "farm" really functioned. When I was 15 I was in a greasy spoon with a friend and ordered chicken (looking back I can't even imagine me ever eating another animal). He was veg and handed me a pamphlet that described the life that a chicken, such as the one I had just ordered, might have lived. That moment changed my life. The more I read the more reasons I had for myself to be veg.

So what does this have to do with avian flu? As I suggest above, what we need to question is how animals are raised. Chickens (after a brutal debeaking process) are sent to farms where they are housed by the thousands in tiny cages so that they can't go at each other (more than 50 chickens in an open environment upsets the natural pecking order of the birds). Usually a few chickens are housed in each cage. Eventually they lose their feathers from rubbing up against the metal caging and many can't walk or they hobble because their feet are messed up from being trapped in a cage. Deaths are high and it is not uncommon for a dead bird to remain in a cage for days before being removed. They often have open sores and live their entire lives out in this environment. Does such an environment not seem problematic to you? Does this not seem like a breeding ground for disease?

Next time you see a news item on avian flu, keep track and notice if the method of factory farming is ever brought into question. Let me know when you find something because I really want to cheer and congratulate that reporter.

By the way if you need a good book reference check out Erik Marcus' "Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating" (McBooks Press 1998). Click on my PETA link as well if you want to see their on going campaigns on this issue.


Friday, November 25, 2005

about the links

Just a word about my links that are trying to include many of my interests.
Animal rights issues are at the top of my list since it is probably the one thing in my life that I am most passionate about (outside of my signif. other). The treatment of animals in this world is unspeakably cruel and I made a conscious decision to stop being silent about it.

Knitting is part of my roots and I love the knitty site. I've made the transition to synthetic fibers and cottons. I'm using up the rest of my wool now for gifts and then it's solely hemp, soy, recycled sari, cotton and poly fibres.

Film can't be left out since it's what I want to do with the rest of my time or actually all of my time if I can. LIFT is a great local co-op where I made a film based on the text of a local poet, Rachel Zolf. Volatile Works is a Montreal co-op that is doing some great films that are being screened around the world. Check out their site. I'm a secret fan of Alan Brown's work (not so secret anymore I guess), but I don't want to exclude the other films coming out of this collective since they are all quite remarkable and unique.

Welcome Winter.

Winter arrived while I was in the living room knitting. The window rattle kept taking me out of the knit 5 purl 2 pattern. I pulled the curtain open and looked over my shoulder to see winter in full force, snow whipping across the street already accumulated to at least two centimeters. I let the curtain drop and went back to my partially knitted sock.

Never a fan of winter, I've now become resigned to the fact that I made a choice to leave the B.C. coast and live here in winter. My only consolation is that it's never as cold as Montreal where my memories are almost all bitter.

The cold air seeps through the knitted weave of my hat. Head down, hands in pockets, I run along the snowpacked sidewalk just because I can. At least I have running now so that when walking bores me I can go into a run and continue as long as I like. My hands slide free, my head is up, and my arms swing at an easy rhythm. Thank god for the sun.

On the streetcar, the heater is pumped and I've unfortunately positioned myself standing over it, overheating. One place after the other, the Knit Cafe, It's Not a Deli, the Organic Boutique. Two voices behind me.
One: "downward dog, I'm going to do some yoga".
Two: "it's a conceptual piece, three pieces in one. Aliens. Where are ya' goin'?"
One: "going to do some yoga? Downward dog."
Two: "Listen to this."

Self conscious of my yoga bag slung over my shoulder, I glance at the two figures. Their backs face me and now one is bobbing his head up and down. In a voice too loud he says, "It's prolific!" Is that taking a familiar word and giving it new meaning? I don't understand his reaction to the music that only he can hear, but he continues to say "prolific" and the daughter of the grammar teacher in me wants to say "that's not what prolific means."

Fresh and then the park. The park has been transformed by the brilliantly clean snow. Two structural domes rest on the ground fenced in for protection while the entranceway pillars are reconstructed. Two more stops.

One: "...it's the next stop."
Two: "Yoga, eh?"
One: "Yeah."

The streetcar slows and I'm anxious to get past these two because I know they'll slow down my pace to get to class on time. I manage past them in the foyer. It's messy and slippery, but I toss off my shoes and step into the wet in my socked feet.

Ahhh, breath.

Two namaskaras later I realize that One is behind me in class and has no idea what a downward dog is. Last week NOW magazine had a free class pass add for Downward Dog and I suspect he's clipped the coupon and come to an advanced class. By the time we get to suri namaskara B, the teaching assistant is helping him from the class. Hopefully he's been refunded and can return for a beginner class.

After yoga, the day has warmed up and I barely need my hat, but put it on anyway just because it's light and I like it. The useless gloves are stuffed into my pocket, freeing my hands to enjoy the sun light. I walk through the park and make my way home.

Monday, November 21, 2005


I thought I'd never get here! I'm having new problems accessing my blog and posting that's related to my browser, but you don't need to hear about that. I'll sort it out.

Saturday we ("we" being my signif other and myself) went to see C.R.A.Z.Y. The Quebec film that has had huge success (for Canadian film). The film is beautifully crafted and there are some stunning cinematographic moments. The dialogue is excellent and true to each character; character's act subtext and never speak it. I didn't get the joual but my signif other did and thought it was great. It's a wonderful film. That said...yes, here comes the rest.

That said, between the lovely moments of the film there are some problems that don't make the film less enjoyable, but rather makes me question the decisions made during the making of the film.

Briefly, C.R.A.Z.Y. is a coming-of-age film in (I think Montreal) Quebec where we are invited into the intimacies of a working class family from the 60s to the 80s, predominately through the eyes of the main character Zac. Zac, almost not suriving his birth, but is born on December 25th, struggles with his identity spiritually and sexually. Nothing is summed up easily or neatly for the audience, but rather we are left with an understanding that there many ways to define "crazy".

As I said there are some lovely moments such as Zac (the main character) singing Major Tom in his bedroom. My absolute favorite scene is between the father and mother in the bathroom getting ready for bed, brushing their teeth and discussing their son as a problem. This is a long quiet scene and I think one long take. The dialogue is brilliant. Even though the frame is static the moment is far from it. The strength of the characters and the actors portraying them make this scene quite breathtaking.

The above mentioned scene is a startling contrast to the moments of pop cultural reference that at times borders on nostalgia. The representation of the different eras (60s, 70s) is done in a very pop cultural way that hold true to maintaining Zac's teen point of view. There are no political references of the eras, not even the cliche back ground t.v. and/or radio sound to tell us about changing government or current events of the time). This succeeds in so far as it keeps the film focused on what is relevant and important to Zac. There are some "how things change and stay the same" through the repetitions of the Christmas gathering, Zac's birthday, mass, the father singing the same song at family events. However, within this beautifully drawn child's world the pop cultural references become too detailed to the point of excess and eventually they began to pull me out of the film. One moment in particular was when we have a C.U. of a Double Bubble being torn in half. Zac tosses a half to his younger brother. I don't think this is a necessary detail to sustain the moment it gets, even metaphorically. We are already well aware of Zac's dualities and his struggle to let one identity emerge while being torn in two directions. What is positive about the cultural references is the masks Zac find to hide behind: Bruce Lee, Ziggy Stardust, Punk Rock. That is the point of these pop cultural moments, and for the most part the film succeeds.

Having both local and universal appeal, this film has the ability to reach into all of us in an intimate way.

Try and see this film if you can, it's worth it.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

who is whoville?

For me "whoville" was a village of Fisher Price little people that was my playworld circa 1972 or 3? to 1979? In this world I had an entire community of characters that had their own identities, relationships, homes, jobs etc etc. There were main characters and sub-characters that got to participate in various journeys of my childhood world.

The main house my father built for me that was double sided and open. It did not close up like the store bought Fisher Price house that was on the market at the time. While I still longed for this pre-fab house as seen in the sears catalogue, I loved the sturdy wooden house that was painted the same colours of our own home on the end of that village road in Grand Bay, N.B., which was white with green trim. My mother did the interior decorating using mac tac to tile the kitchen and small pieces of carpeting to warm the floors. She even drew picture frames on the walls.

The house boat was also a main feature for me since it was entertaining in the bath. For some time I believe I had the A-frame house that was used more as a secondary home to the main family. I may have even housed the secondary characters in there.

I can pretend that the pleasure I had in playing with these toys fulfilled me in other ways that my dysfunctional real home life didn't, but I'm not sure I would have played with them in any other way had my own home environment been more positive. I do recall that my whovilles (as I and the whole family called them) pretty much went about their daily lives in somewhat mundane ways such as, driving to work, sitting around the table having dinner, going for groceries etc. They lived much the same life as my own family did, but without the parental and sibling conflicts. Conflict that arose was more centred around search and rescues, trips to hospitals, and being saved from drowning while vacationing on the houseboat. This way I could use all of the pieces I had collected (the ambulance, police car, and rowboat attached to the larger boat).

So what does all of this mean for the whoville blog? It will also contain characters, resolve conflicts, and use the tools provided to explore what is going on in my present world and is a place to explore the past as nostalgia.

The Devil's Rain

Ah yes The Devil's Rain.
Judging from this photo you might think that this is an episode of Star Trek where they travel to a planet and disguise themselves as cowboys to go "unnoticed" by the townspeople. You're wondering where this lost episode is and why haven't you seen it. It's not what you think. This is from a great B movie The Devil's Rain (1975). Don't let the picture mislead you, this is a horror film, but I see it as a mixing of two genres: the horror genre and the western genre.

I caught this on the drive in channel one evening and somewhat dismissed it after reading a rather dismissive review of it in my Terror on Tape (O'Neill) book. The stellar cast drew me in, Shatner, Borgnine, Ida Lupino. What are these actors doing in a B horror movie? I'll tell you in a future blog when I review it in more detail after I find it on video or dvd, rent it (or buy it) and watch it again to consider the dualities in the film that the cross genre and double meaning title, The Devil's Rain (read: Reign), permit that elevates this film to a level that needs to be considered more seriously in with the other greats of 1970s horror.

More to come.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Catering season

How to Survive the hors d'oeuvre Christmas Party Season.

It's that time of year again! Our bread and butter season so-to-speak. Night after night you have to put on your catering personality and tray up those tiny delicacies and oh the shame of returning to the kitchen with a tray half full. This is the dangerous part when food disappears one canape at a time into your mouth. The staff will indulge. There is also the delicate matter of keeping what you really think to yourself and try not to let your face show it too.

Now I don't really have to worry about the food since I'm vegan and ninety percent of what I serve is inedible. But for those of you out there who sneak around the corner and pop three or four crostinis down the hatch you need to be careful. One, two, three...no wait was that five? Uh-oh you may have come from the gym, but you haven't had your dinner yet and your filling up on puff pastry stuffed with a soft creamy cheese and topped with colourful somethings. Also the buffet style dinner party is very dangerous. Not only have you snaked your way through prep but mid way through the dinner you get a dinner break yourself that is hastily eaten. So my advice is to limit yourself to one hors d'oeuvre of each variety since a simple taste is fine and after all isn't it far more pleasurable to foist the puff pastry treat upon a guest who has been a complete pain in the derriere? Let him or her gain the extra five pounds. As for the buffet...drink water or juice or have mint to get through the prep phase. Wait for your dinner and select small tastes of each dish and avoid the sauces all together. If you find that you can't change your ways there's always veganism, which is the best option for all these reasons and more!

I should mention cocktails as well. Try to avoid testing the pre-mixed cocktail if you're not working the bar. Some pack a powerful punch and the sugar content in those concoctions might push you straight into an early New Year's hangover. Stick to water which is almost always plentiful and juice is a good option.

Now for the guests and I'm not going to mince words here. Maintain your composure and keep acting. Keep the evil thoughts to yourself or to share later with colleagues or wait until you're well behind closed doors where the guests won't hear you.
Here are some hints for approaching the guests with food. When a group is in conversation try to aim for the most likely candidate that will break the hors d'oeuvres ice and then others will follow or "give in" as they often claim. Older men are always a good place to start. They rarely refuse anything being of that generation that ate anything their wives put in front of them. Often they don't care to hear your spiel about what you offer and may even give you a blank stare when you say "endive with chevre and a port reduction." Women are a challenge. Generally, and I hate to say this but, the skinnier and younger they are the less they eat. Once again that older generation of women tend to give the tray a scrutinizing squint before helping themselves. The more botox and surgery in the room the less likely they are to even acknowledge your presence, sad but true. Don't despair aim for the man beside her because with a little encouragement he will go for it. My favourite is when the men tell these oh so "tailored" women how fantastic the food is and they should try it themselves. Does he not see the expression of disgust on her face? It is hard to read since the skin if often very taught. Just keep passing, hitting these people you are confident with and the food will go. You might even get lucky when passing sweets since women tend to give in and start eating. Aren't we a complex gender? Unfortunately, these events do tend to be generally gender divided in this way and the male and female behaviour is all too predictable.

Good luck with your December parties. Keep your head up, your tray steady and the glasses full.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The End of Nature

Bill McKibbon's "The End of Nature".

I'm reading that right now after having it recommended to me from a professor during my thesis defense.
This is an interesting read that examines our imprint on nature, suggesting that nothing is untouched in the natural world and that what we view as nature has been and continues to be manipulated by humanity.

So far so good. I'm recommending this book.

Monday, November 07, 2005

fauxblog or not fauxblog

My initial motivation for creating a blog was for the wrong reasons I created an alias and set out. After a nights sleep and feeling somewhat uncomfortable with my motives, I decided to start fresh and not really hide myself behind a fauxblog. Then again part of what I do and who I am is imagining characters and bringing them to life in some shape or form and wouldn't a blog be a perfect oppotunity to create someone else? This is nothing new. Who isn't someone else when it comes to the internet? Who hasn't created another persona that is either a side of themselves or becomes a side of themselves? How much do we really give away of personal selves in a public realm?

On with it then...