Friday, February 29, 2008

4 Things Meme

Dorothy over at Scrungy and Friends tagged me for this one.

4 Jobs I've Had:

Live-in nanny to Claire. She was 14 months old when I started and 3 years old when I left. She'd started preschool by then.

I didn't go very far - I moved in with her uncle Dave! I'm still very close to her family and I'll always love her very, very dearly.

Sales associate at Simpson's Queen Street store in Toronto, Children's Shoes (later, also Infants' Wear and Nursery Furniture.)

I met my war buddy Lisa (because retail is in the trenches) and that makes the night sweats and flashbacks tolerable. She brings the silver-lining-to-every-black-cloud concept to life.

Reception and accounting clerk for a bankruptcy trustee's office. This is the most stress I've ever experienced in a job - ever. I hate accounting. How did I end up doing monthly reconcilliations? My best friend Connie summed it up perfectly: "It's not that you made mistakes. That would be understandable. It's that it balanced...!" The scary part is - I have no idea why it balanced.

Camera B operator, assistant editor and writer for Tales of a Psychic Medium. My uncle hired me for these three roles, and it was an absolute joy for me to work with him. And it was my very first paid writing gig - so this will always hold a very special place in my heart.

4 Movies Watched Over and Over:


Kate and Leopold

Phantom of The Opera

Sleepy Hollow

4 Places I Have Lived:

Fort Hood Army base, Killeen, Texas, USA - for my first three months here on planet Earth
Royal Oak, Michigan, USA - until age 6
Toronto, Ontario, Canada - I moved there when I was 21 and left when I was 34
Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada - arrived when I was 34 and left two years later

4 Shows I Watch:

CBS Sunday Morning

The Colbert Report

The Family Guy

King of the Hill

4 Places I Have Been:

Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, Canada
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada

Mackinac Island, Michigan, USA

That's my sister, 1985

She's in front of the Grand Hotel

Orlando, Florida, USA

4 Favorite Things to Eat:

Greek salad
7-Layer Burritos

4 Places I Would Rather Be:

At sea, sailing on a tall ship - haven't done this yet, but longing to
At the Chelsea Flower Show in London
In Scotland
In Sweden

4 Things I Look Forward To This year:

Typing 'The End' on several works in progress
Hopefully a joyful family event
Going up to Cape Breton for the Celtic Colours event - we've been wanting to do that since we moved back to Halifax 7 years ago
Seeing whether or not the three apple trees from seedlings my gram started will bloom for the first time

A-tagging I will go, a-tagging I will go...
Shelley, No Nonsense Girl, Ann, and Jill.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 44 - 13 of My Favorite Gowns From the 80th Oscars Red Carpet

Not all of these gowns made it to the official Best Dressed lists - but none of them were on the Worst Dressed lists. These are my personal favorites from last Sunday night's red carpet event.

1 - Diane Lane with husband Josh Brolin

Ms. Lane wore a brown draped jersey gown with beaded detail by David Meister.

2 - Best Adapted Screenplay nominee Sarah Polley wore a black gown with jewelled detailing. No designer identification available.

3 - Anne-Marie Duff with husband James McAvoy

Ms. Duff wore a periwinkle blue layered chiffon gown. No designer information available.

4 - Amy Adams wore a green Proenza Schouler gown.

Photo by Frank Micelotta

5 - Two-time Oscar winner Hillary Swank wore a black Atelier Versace gown.

Photo by Steve Granitz

6 - Best Actress winner Marion Cotillard wore a white Jean-Paul Gaultier gown.

Photo by Jeff Vespa

7 - Oscar winner Helen Mirren wore a red Georges Chakra gown with Swarovski-crystal-encrusted sleeves.

Photo by Jeff Vespa

8 - Anne Hathaway wore a red draped chiffon Marchesa gown with rosette detailing.

Photo by Vince Bucci

9 - Jennifer Garner wore a black embroidered silk taffeta Oscar de la Renta gown.

Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin

10 - Victoria Duffy with husband Dennis Hopper

Ms. Duffy wore a red draped column gown, designer unknown.

11 - Heidi Klum wore a crimson silk taffeta John Galliano Haute Couture gown.

Ms. Klum with husband Seal

Both photos by Lester Cohen

12 - Katherine Heigl wore a crimson silk georgette Escada column gown.

Photo by Jeff Vespa

13 - Penelope Cruz wore a navy embroidered Chanel Haute Couture gown by Karl Lagerfeld, with feathered detailing.

Photo by Frank Micelotta.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - 37 - And Review For The Cat Who Sang for the Birds by Lilian Jackson Braun

Photo by Steve Granitz


Book Review

I'm posting a two-in-one today, as I've got my review for the last of my Four-Legged Friends Reading Challenge on the very last day. Just squeaking it in there.

As I've mentioned before, I read mainly on the bus to and from work - and that's it. And I read while waiting for said bus, and of course including the ferry with the public transportation. Actually, I got used to writing my own book during this commute, because that gives me two extra hours of writing per day. But when I decided to take up Kailana's challenge, I had to give some of my writing time over to reading.

And then I was part of Christine's Mid-Winter Kick in the Pants writing challenge, so I was pretty much stuck between a rock and a hard place.

But I breezed through Lilian Jackson Braun's The Cat Who Sang For the Birds. I borrowed it from my sister, who is a big fan of The Cat Who... series. It felt wonderful to settle into a literary world where I know my sister enjoys spending time. She's told me about the two main cats before, Siamese crime solvers Koko and Yum Yum. They're not magical creatures like the Firebird from my last reading challenge book. Nor can the main human character suddenly hear them speak to him in his mind, like magically-gifted Ilya.

These two cats are just cats, with in-depth cat behaviour in a contemporary mystery set in a small town in Moose County, '400 miles north of everywhere.' I had to look Ms. Braun up in Wikipedia to see if she ever states where Moose County is, in any of her other books, but apparently she never does. But it seems she's modelled Moose County after towns in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, since she once wrote for the Detroit Free Press. Being a former resident of Michigan myself, that just makes her all the more appealing.

The main character is Jim Qwilleran, former journalist and current columnist for the local Moose County paper. Generally, I shy away from contemporary novels, but this book follows the quirky-small-town feel of some of my favorite indie films. Like Local Hero, or TV series like Twin Peaks or 90's Scottish series Hamish MacBeth with Robert Carlyle.

Through Qwilleran, who knows a whole host of residents in Moose County, we're introduced to Polly, his lady friend; Celia, his neighbor who always makes extra when she cooks for herself and delivers it to his freezer, while squeezing juicy gossip from townsfolk when he needs clandestine information; Rollo, farmer and fire fighter whose 9-yr-old son out-spells the city in a spelling bee; Beverly, the manager of the new art center; and Phoebe, the young artist who paints butterflies.

I really enjoyed the local uproar in their city of Pickax between the art center and the farmers over the mud tracked onto the art center parking lot. There was a lot of plot that centered around art, and what could be better than that if I'm reading a contemporary?

The cats are wonderful characters. Koko especially has a sixth sense which he uses to let Qwilleran know important details whenever he's trying to get to the bottom of something. Being very in tune with my own dog, who lets me in on secret doggy info, I really relate to their relationship.

Here's an excerpt. Enjoy!

"In what remained of the evening, Qwilleran read aloud to the Siamese, one of their favorite pastimes, especially before bedtime. It was Koko's responsibility to make the literary selection. They never read one title from cover to cover but sampled a chapter of this book or that. Qwilleran suspected they all sounded alike to his listeners, and he himself liked dipping into books he had read before. It was like running into an old friend on a streetcorner.

On this occasion Koko sensed new acquisitions from Eddington's bookshop. After serious sniffing of the three World War II titles, he dislodged Fire Over London, and Qwilleran caught it before it landed on the floor. As usual he stretched out in his lounge chair with his feet on the ottoman and Yum Yum on his lap, while Koko sat attentively on the wide arm of the chair. It was a toss-up whether the familiarity of this ritual was more comforting to the cats or the man.

After the reading session the Siamese had their usual nightly snack and then went up the ramp to their room on the third balcony. Their door was left open, since the addition of the bird garden, to accommodate their early-morning bird-watching through the foyer windows. The door to his suite was closed to prevent furry bodies from crawling under his blankets.

It was a clear night. The weather was calm. The stars were bright. Sometime during the small hours Qwilleran was jolted awake by a thumping against his door, followed by unearthly howling. He jumped out of bed and yanked open the door.

'Oh, my God!' he yelled, dashing to the phone.

The large windows on the east side of the barn framed a horrifying sight: a night sky turned brilliant orange! He punched 911."

Lilian Jackson Braun, The Cat Who Sang for the Birds, 1998

Monday, February 25, 2008

Poetry Train Monday - 38 - Shared Fantasy

I have a guest poet appearing on the Poetry Train today. It's Jeff Smith, my brother-in-law.

Shared Fantasy

I'd like to share this fantasy with you
And because we both write it
It's a living dream, in a wishful moment

We both write the lines as it goes along
Just the right set of words in our own perfect song
Your hand in my hand, and my hand in yours
Through quiet streets, and on far off shores

No one can condemn us for sharing it's wonder
For only we two know this dream that we wander
It can be wild and savage, or friendly and tame
We both can decide on the rules of the game
We can go as far as we both feel safe
Safe to explore and yes, to also feel great

It's a place we can come back to time and again
Reserved by our hearts, played out by two friends
We're never trapped by it, It always is free
It allows us to see things that otherwise couldn't be

Finding the feelings we may have misplaced
To share, feel joy, express and relate
Afraid that you'll awaken some hidden desire?
Relax just say stop, and I'll put out the fire!

It never existed, it's all in our heads
We'll both just wake up and be in our own beds
There is no commitment, We just close our eyes
listen to the story, and react with surprise

We become part of the scenery in our own little story
It doesn't have to be now... It could be in our glory
Have the story unfold back before there was guilt
Just to add to the patchwork of our own life's quilt

If ever you wondered just how it might be
Just hop on the same page and share it with me

You see, we all do this, every day, but alone...
A poet shares it, through a poem
What's wrong with exploring this other dimension?
Afraid of a little sexual tension?
Don't worry... it's nothing that I haven't seen...
I'm just missing the part where you would have been!

Copyright - Jeff Smith - Feb. 23, 2008

Friday, February 22, 2008

Six Unimportant Things About Meme

The rules are:

1. Link back to the person who tagged you.

That would be Ann at Fractured Fiction.

2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Share six unimportant things about yourself.
4. Tag six random people at the end of your blog entry.
5. Let the tagged people know by leaving a comment on their blogs.

It's very hard for me to imagine that there could be anything unimportant concerning myself. I'll have to think of this as six things about me, or I'll be stumped.

1 - I may need bifocals. What do they call them now? Progressive lenses. I always love it when terms get repackaged so they don't sound depressing.

2 - I'm hoping to add a hydrangea shrub to the yard this year.

3 - When my sister and I were kids we shared a room, and my mom painted it to look like a garden, with a fence, a few flowers and an 'ABC' scattered over the wall. This was in the mid-70's when girls' rooms were rather basic. Certainly hand-painted wall murals or floating text was not usual then. Our mom has always been out-there.

4 - As a girl, I was allergic to anything with fur or feathers, so there were no pets for me. But after two series of allergy shots, and time passing, and allergies changing, I'm good with dogs. Not cats, unfortunately. So I've had two dogs in my life: Nikki, a husky/Samoyed mix during high school and my 20's, and my current dog Xena, a beagle/NS duck toller mix.

5 - If the no-smoking-in-bars-and-clubs thing had been in force when I was in my 20's, I would have danced the night away every weekend.

6 - I don't like to wear wristwatches. My dad was obsessed with watches. He looked at his own about 100 times a day, and often bought me watches. Then he'd ask me, "Where's that watch I got you?" And I'd pull it out of my pocket where I kept it instead of on my wrist. The last watch he bought me was a nurse's watch, a sort-of pocket watch that pins onto a uniform. He tracked me down at work and gave it to me. Because apparently I couldn't make it through another moment without my new watch! But I do love it. When I saw it, I felt so happy that he'd finally figured out that a pocket watch was what I really wanted.

And now, the tagging:

Miss Sniz
Samantha Lucas

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 43 - 13 Things I Love About Oscar Night

1 - The celebration of achievement in film. Here's a lovely explanation of my view of film as an art form by David Bordwell, co-author of one of my university textbooks, Film Art:

"Rather than denounce mass-audience filmmaking as mindless or manipulative, we have to be alert for those moments and those films that are subtly altering received forms and formulas. These changes aren’t 'deviations' from norms but revisions or transformations of them, sometimes wholesale alternatives to them. Once a student called me perverse: 'You look for the innovative parts of conventional films and the conventional parts of innovative films.' Not the complete truth, but a good part of it, I must admit."

I feel the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences does this very thing in selecting its nominees each year. Art is always subjective, and every year people gripe about who was left off the nominee list and who got on. But the Academy has its criteria, and it's not always obvious as to why, especially when the film or performance is a step or two ahead of its time.

2 - The red carpet. I love the whole red carpet event. Especially for the union of two creative mediums - film and fashion.

I don't understand the people who are jaded and think of the whole affair as a parasitic use of one for the other. Let's replace that word with symbiotic. Then it becomes a win-win situation.

Charlize Theron

3 - Best-dressed women - for someone who rarely gets dressed up myself, I love haute couture fashion. This is where design is at its most creative and I find that exciting. I 'ooo' and 'ahh' and really enjoy seeing Hollywood's most beautiful women presenting themselves at their most luscious.

Jodi Foster

Liv Tyler

Kate Winslet

Jessica Alba

Scarlett Johansson

4 - Best-dressed men - These fashions tend to be more traditional, but men in formal tuxedoes just look knee-weakening-hot.

Hugh Jackman

Mark Wahlberg

Jamie Foxx and Morgan Freeman

Peter Jackson, Viggo Mortensen and David Cronenberg

George Clooney

5 - The Billy Crystal opening songs. The first year he did it - truly inspired. And every other year, still inspired. I miss those.

"It's a wonderful night for Oscar - Oscar, Oscar - who will win?"

6 - Film montages, especially last year's Tribute to Foreign Language Film Winners. Just check out the segues between the films in this montage.

7 - The film clips they show when they announce the nominees for the acting and directing awards. I love watching what has been chosen to represent the performance as a whole. We get dropped right into the most dramatic and stressful moment. I love that!

8 - Oh, how my family loves the Oscars. Some families are hockey families. Some families are political families. My family is a film and tv family, and we never miss an Oscar broadcast.

One year we had our monthly family dinner on Oscar day, and my mom and I went all-out. She made a red carpet (which we didn't tell anyone about until they were on it.) We had all agreed to wear blingy red-carpet wear, though, so as soon as someone arrived, we surrounded them with a camera and a microphone and said, "Who are you wearing?" This is my cousin's daughter showing off her evening gown.

This is my other cousin Charlie arriving, armed with shades to ward off the paparazzi.

There's the paparazzi now. I'm all decked out in vintage flapper style.

This is my cousin's husband, my sister and me playing an Oscars trivia game (my husband Brad is the quiz master, reflected in the mirror.)

9 - My mom tries to see all the best actor/actress nominees before the Oscars, but I usually can't swing it. Leading up to the Oscars, I can figure out what I need to about their performances from previews and clips, anyway. I always have favorites whom I hope will win, but I also have a likely-to-win list as well. I seriously feel that every performance nominated in each year is a winner.

10 - I love the clips from both the animated and live-action short subjects, because it's not likely I'll ever get to see them, and I enjoy that brief glimpse into those films.

11 - This might sound weird - probably is - but I find it fascinating to watch the degree of fear present in the nominees. These people go through a lot in their creative lives, pushing past their comfort zones all the time. And yet the Oscars reduces them all to states of intense anxiety. What I find fascinating is watching how they rise above it all - mostly with grace and poise - when I would be a basket case in their shoes.

12 - The Post-Oscar Governor's Ball and the Vanity Fair Party. I love thinking of all the awards show attendees finally relaxing after so much stress at these parties. Here Helen Mirren and Jamie Foxx chill with a friend at the Vanity Fair party, with Francis Ford Coppola one table over.

How I would love to go to one of those parties. And eat a gold-covered chocolate Oscar by Wolfgang Puck.

13 - Local events with an Oscars theme. These often raise money for different causes, while regular folk get to be celebrities for a night. My best friend Connie and I attended one of these soirees last Saturday night here in Halifax. It's called Haliwood and was held at the Lord Nelson Hotel.

Photo - James Ingram

This is me with the guy who appears on the print ads for the event.

Connie had put her name in for a pair of tickets and won them (otherwise, we wouldn't have been able to go.) It was a fundraiser for Kids Help Phone.

I'd never been to the Lord Nelson, which was fun in itself. What a gorgeous older hotel. We dined on an endless parade of hors d'oeuvres.

We had fun watching the live golden models break their poses to chat with guests.

We saw my friend Jen perform with the Pink Velvet Burlesque and listened to an 8-piece band who were awesome.

And we got our pictures taken with practise Oscars - so we'll be ready for the real thing.