Monday, November 26, 2007

The Golden Compass

Being the incredibly fast reader that I am - NOT! - I'm only now getting to my book review for 'The Golden Compass' by Philip Pullman for Kailana's Four-Legged Friend Reading Challenge. I started the book in October and finished it just about the time that my gram went into hospital on November 7th.

No one should ever judge how much I enjoyed a book by how long it took me to read it. In fact, I often put off finishing a book when I really like it because I hate leaving that world behind. I'll start another book and keep the last 20 pages of the one I need to finish like a last delicious morsel to be savoured.

I'd been wanting to read this book for awhile, and Kailana's challenge was the impetus I needed to crack open that book spine and dive in. First published in 1995, as most of you know it will be released as a film next month. I cannot WAIT!

This is the cover of the book I read. I often gazed at the illustration which I really loved. Winner of the Carnegie Medal, this book is absolutely phenomenal. It reminded me a lot of my beloved Amber series in the way it presents our Earth as merely a ripple dimension, one of countless other dimensions which coexist without most of us knowing about the others.

Main character Lyra Belacqua is a girl growing up in an Oxford University-like setting called Jordan College, raised by academics and visited occasionally by her remote, fierce explorer uncle Lord Asriel. Lyra presides over a child culture of servants and gyptians, waging war on each other, honing her natural leadership despite her guardians' best efforts to remind her she's a young lady.

In Lyra's world, humans each have daemons which accompany them through life. Adults' daemons solidify into one form, while childrens' daemons change theirs according to the untamed passions of the young. Lord Asriel's, for example, is a snow leopard. The unnerving Mrs. Coulter's daemon is a cruel golden monkey. Lyra's daemon Pantalaimon often settles into an ermine, but becomes a bird, rabbit or even a moth. These daemons house the soul of the human and cannot be separated.

Lyra gets caught up in events with terrifying consequences for every child in her world. Mrs. Coulter works with the Church to eradicate Dust, which in this dimension emanates from the Northern Lights and seems to be connected to original sin. Lyra embarks on her journey armed with an alethiometer, a truth-telling device somewhat like a Tarot deck which only Lyra can decipher. She tries to rescue her Jordan College friend Roger from the Gobblers, who have been kidnapping children and taking them to the far north.

Lyra is such a heartbreaking character - her bravery really moved me so many times. The stakes in this novel are astronomical, yet placed at the feet of this bold little girl. And Lyra is up to the task in a humbling and completely believably way.

The reason I chose this for the first in my Four-Legged Friends Reading Challenge was the armored polar bear character Iorek Byrnison. I had no idea about the animal daemon characters which pepper the book, soon realizing I'd chosen a novel packed with four-legged friends. Iorek Byrnison is another character that had me in tears toward the end. His loyalty, courage and nobility are truly unforgettable.

I can't tell you how grateful I am that the film version is only weeks away. The image of Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel never left my mind as I read the book!

And to sound off on the ridiculous controversy about a supposed stealth campaign to promote atheism:

The book indeed paints the Church of the novel's dimension as a Spanish Inquisition-type entity. I have no idea what bearing this has on our Earth's actual church communities. I could potentially see people who are pathologically rigid being distressed by the philosophical subtexts present in the novel, where the scholarly academics are trying to preserve their autonomy from Mrs. Coulter's Church. Apart from that, I sometimes wonder if these so-called Christian protestors even read their New Testaments. More to the point, I sometimes wonder if these 'Christians' even read. They seem to me to be filled with hatred, and one can only wonder what goes through their minds as they charge throughout the world throwing stones at Mary Magdalens.

Case in point: this article from an online news site called AC Associated Content contains several utter fabrications that should embarass these rumour mongers, though I know that's not possible. Total lie number 1 - "For instance, in the movie the children set out to kill God, and when they do they go about life doing whatever they want."

Huh?!? In the book, on which the film is based, the children set out to rescue kidnapped children, who are being experimented upon by the Magisterium, the Church of the fictional other dimension. How this becomes children setting out to kill God is beyond my feeble powers of imagination.

Complete lie number 2 - "If you Google the synopsis of the book version you will read such topic as castration and female circumcision. Whether these concepts enter the movie series I don't know, but why would you want to take your kids to learn something like that."

I can happily assure all of you that there is neither castration nor female circumcision in 'The Golden Compass.' But it does relieve me that people who didn't read the book took time out of their day to bombard emails all over North America to warn people of nonexistant evils in Philip Pullman's exquisite fantasy novel.

Poetry Train Monday - 27 - The Fairy Glen

Here's a real trip down memory lane. Believe it or not, I wrote this when I was 13. Obviously, I was channeling my inner Victorian poet.

The Fairy Glen

As I was walking down the lane,
Streams of sunlight rare

Because the trees had formed a veil,
Shadowing the country trail,
My head empty of care,
My heart empty of pain,

I chanced to find among the grass
An old an tarnished ring.
I rubbed it clean and saw inscribed
Something written by one which'd imbibed
Too much of an intoxicating thing.
It didn't make sense to me; alas!

However, as I stood beneath
The ancient limbs of a giant oak,
There happened to me a curious thing.
I spoke the words on the little ring,
Its meaning quite clear as soon as I spoke.
Magic hung over me like a wreath,

Colors of red and purple and green
Twining around me in an eerie dance.
The tingling of bells greeted my ears,
Calming my wild and anxious fears.
I opened my eyes; in a single glance
I beheld a thing I'd ne'er before seen.

Brownies and fairies, pixies, too,
Stood in a ring around me, so;
Bewildered, I stared, my thoughts awhirl -
How could this happen to an ordin'ry girl?
I guess my thoughts my face did show -
A pixie, clad in shades of blue

Stepped forward, grinning from ear to ear.
Stretching out a friendly hand,
He welcomed me to the circle, thus;
Everyone made a royal fuss
As if I were something really grand.
I looked at the ring that had brought me here.

It shone with golden beauty bright.
Transfixed, I held it in my palm,
My eyes, from it, I could not tear.
A voice spoke from I knew not where.
It said, its tone so soft and calm,
"Home do you wish to return tonight?

Or would you rather stay among
Us fairy folk in this magic glen?"
I asked, "I cannot return again?
Can't I go home and visit when
I wish to?" The pixie shook his head. "Then
It's home to stay that I do long."

The blue-clad pixie nodded slow,
His eyes understanding.
When night encased the fairy glen,
Closing day's petals upon the stem,
The pixies and fairies and brownies standing,
Uneven, row by row,

I took a last look and said my goodbyes,
Feeling my tears well up.
Through a misty haze which blurred everything,
I read the words on the magic ring.
Then I was doused in the color cup,
The tingling of bells and the small fireflies,

Made of the sparks that swirled to and fro,
Taking me from the fairy-ring there.
The colors disappeared, and in their place
The lane uncovered its friendly face.
If it weren't for the ring which I did wear,
That the fairies were real I couldn't know.

The ring again dirty, the sun still a-shine,
I didn't know even if I were real.
Home I went and found time had not passed.
Had I dreamt the bit of the fairy blast?
I only knew what was mine to feel:
My adventure, if true, had been one divine.

Copyright 1978 Julia Smith

Friday, November 23, 2007

Coming At Us From All Sides

My mom is finding it hard tonight to accept the idea that it's no longer an option to care for Gram at home. Mom has been caring for Gram for fifteen years.

The past few months have been really hard on Mom, as Gram was declining and Mom had to perform real nursing care for her mother. Though you'd imagine it might seem like such a relief to know that she's no longer tied to the house, to have to keep her ear listening for Gram getting up and shuffling off to the washroom with her walker - it's actually very distressing for Mom.

Luckily her two brothers flew here for the past few days, plus her brother that lives here has been sharing the visits at the hospital so that Mom feels a great deal of support from her siblings. I know it's meant a lot to Mom to be surrounded by her family for this dreaded transition in her mother's life.

I'll be getting up at 4:00am tomorrow to drive my uncles to the airport. It's been a short, emotional visit and I've so enjoyed seeing them. I'll share their trip here in my next Thursday Thirteen.

Meanwhile, after enjoying a family dinner quickly put together by Mom so my uncles could see all of us, Brad and I returned to our apartment downstairs to find this note on our Facebook pages:

'Say A Prayer For My Dad'

This was posted by Brad's brother Jeff this evening.

"I'm calling on all of my spiritual friends to say a prayer for my Dad. David Smith is 70 years old and has cancer of the pancreas. He's been fighting it for 8 months and recently he has been having a real tough go of it. He's taking chemo-therapy once a week and he's on pain medication the rest of the time, it either makes him so dopey he's zombie like or it doesn't properly control his pain and he just can't get comfortable. I know from my birthday that people will chime in and send best wishes. I'm hoping to harness a little bit of that good will and send it to my dad. If you're a part of a prayer group and can pass this along or if you've got a good connection with your higher power, please send out a prayer for him. We're doing all that is earthly possible for him. I'm hoping for some kind of holy intervention. Thank You."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thursday Thirteen - 32 - Eye on The Prize

Many bloggers are taking part in NaNoWriMo this month (as I am, unofficially - I haven't got Microsoft Word in my new computer and thus no way to tally a word or page count! Working on that, though.) At this point many writers have tippy-tapped their way to almost 40,000 words. The 50,000-word finish line is so tantalizingly close.

Yet this is the point where we all have to push through the burn. Big problem for me - I'm at the point where generally in a non-time-crunch situation, I would take a few days and let the plot settle itself in my subconscious for a bit. Walls have been slammed into. Plotlines have galloped their way right over the cliff.

This Thursday Thirteen is for all of us who have our eye on the prize - the high of doing something completely insane like writing half a book in one month.

And not only that. People sell these things! Like Amy just did!

1 - "Chase down your passion like it's the last bus of the night."
- Glade Byron Addams

2 -"There are only two words that will always lead you to success. Those words are yes and no. Undoubtedly, you’ve mastered saying yes. So start practicing saying no. Your goals depend on it!"
- Jack Canfield

3 - "When I was a Boy Scout, we played a game when new Scouts joined the troop. We lined up chairs in a pattern, creating an obstacle course through which the new Scouts, blindfolded, were supposed to maneuver. The Scoutmaster gave them a few moments to study the pattern before our adventure began. But as soon as they were blindfolded, the rest of us quietly removed the chairs.

"Perhaps we spend our lives avoiding obstacles we have created for ourselves and in reality exist only in our minds. Don't avoid any chairs until you run smack into one. And if you do, at least you'll have a place to sit down."
- Pierce Vincent Eckhart

4 -"Obstacles are like wild animals. If they see you are afraid of them...they are liable to spring upon you; but if you look them squarely in the eye, they will slink out of sight."
- Orison Swett Marden

5 -"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."
- Winston Churchill

6 - "When we walk to the edge of all the light we have and take the step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for us to stand on, or we will be taught to fly."
- Patrick Overton

7 - "You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist."
- Friedrich Nietzsche

8 - "Time you enjoyed wasting is not wasted time."
- T. S. Elliot

9 - "As poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense. Long distance runners know this instinctively. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with such effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being - a call that asks who they are."
- David Blaikie

10 - "A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent in doing nothing."
- George Bernard Shaw

11 - "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."
- Henry David Thoreau

12 - "The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become."
- Charles DuBois

13 - "Success isn't a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire."
- Arnold H. Glasow

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wordless Wednesday - 26

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

November is Birthday Month

Not only is November my own birthday month, but it's the birthday month of almost everyone I know! Seriously.

Let's see - who do we have?

Nov. 1st


Nov. 2nd

My best friend's daughter, Kayleigh

Nov. 7th

My husband Brad

Nov. 11th

My birthday

and my Uncle Warren's

Plus a friend of mine I sang with in choir in Toronto, plus blog friend Gabriella

Nov. 16th

My mom Paulette

Nov. 18th

My friend Donna

and my blog friend Akelamalu

Nov. 20th

My brother-in-law Jeff

and a friend from film school, Jason (here with his wife)

Nov. 22nd

My friend from high school, John

Nov. 23rd

My cousin's wife, Heather (with my mom)

Nov. 25th

My Uncle Charlie

That still leaves 20 days open. I wonder if they'll all be filled up by the time I'm Gram's age?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Rhian's Blogiversary

Step into the tent,everyone - there's lots of room. Welcome to the International Dance Tent, celebrating the energy of The Creative Goddess. In honor of Rhian's One-Year Blogiversary, I've assembled dancers from around the world who will be performing throughout the tent. Be sure to snag something from a tray as cuisine from different countries will be wafting by, as well.

Before I read my Poetry Train offering, I just wanted to say a deeply-felt thank you to Rhian for starting the train in the first place. I've read so many incredible pieces since I hopped aboard. It has reawakened a cherished part of myself.

Today's poem is in honor of another creative goddess, my mom, who celebrated her 66th birthday on Nov. 16th. I wrote this for Mother's Day when I was 23.

When I Think Of My Mother

My memories belong to no other
Daughters think of mothers
Who aren't you
My sister
Thinks of a mother
Who is not the you
Of my memories

Standing in my crib
Dim grey light
Day shut out
My gaze on the door
Finally you're there
You lift me out and liberate

To me you are a smile
Framed by autumn hair
My favorite season
Do I see my mother
In every brilliant leaf?

Sitting on your lap
I reach for coffee cup
Listen to the
Lilt of conversation
Cyphers and whispers
Needing only the
Sounds of your speech

Sun drops down
I rock in the swing
You left your work to push
I see you in the square of light
Kitchen window face
Glow of yellow comfort
It too will be mine
As soon as I'm done
With my One More Swing

Creeping to you
In the dark
Patiently poking
Praying that Dad
Won't wake first
Always on guard
Ready to show me
There's nothing to fear
At last you stir
Mumble incoherent
Lift the covers
I crawl beside you
Getting no sleep
Reassurance settling
Like your arm around me

Piling onto your lap
Our baby stands tall
We sing
'Dinah won't ya blow'
We laugh
When my sister claps her hands

Does that little girl
Erupt from my giggles
As your hands
Seem always
To hold the wisdom
Of a mother

The mother you are to me

Copyright Julia Smith 1988

(Big hug for my mom.) The Blogiversary dance tent is huge and there are thirteen acts scheduled, so if you want to pop in and out, feel free. I'm going to head over to the stage - the tango is up first!

Ooo, I'll snag a sip of Mate, an Argentine herbal drink. Oh, hi Devon!

And I'll have a bite of zapallitos rellenos(stuffed zucchini.) Hey, there's Ann Aguirre. Isn't this delicious? Try some, it's good.

And a few strips of Argentine grilled steak, marinated in wine, vinegar, rosemary and pepper. Mmm. Miss Frou Frou - hi!

The dancers are walking onstage. Three men and one woman...hmm!

Argentine Tango

Wow - that was hot! Oh, something yummy just went past me. I'll grab it.

Mmm - ginger beer.

Looks like the East African musicians and dancers are taking the stage. While they set up, I'm going to taste a little bit of this. Hey, No Nonsense Girl!

Mmm! This is fantastic. Coconut bean soup. It's heavenly. Cute little bite-sized servings so I won't get full before I've had a chance to eat my way around the globe.

Ooo - this is good, too! Ethiopian berbere stew, with lamb. Ginger, garlic, red pepper and the distictive berbere spices. Woo, I need more ginger beer. Danika - hey! Here come the dancers. I'm totally grooving to this.

East African Trio

Woo! I danced along to that! Can't help myself. Phew, I need another sip of something. This looks good - thanks, yes, I'll have one. Oh, my, my. That is delicious. What's it called? Lava Flow.

Akelamalu! Have one of these. Mmm, rum, strawberries, coconut, pineapple and banana. Mmm.

The dancers are approaching the stage. I'll try some of this while we wait. Hmm - poi, is it?

I'll take a few wedges of this, for sure. Love pineapple. Drippy! Oh, here they're starting. Red - Red Garnier! (hug) I'm already dancing again.

Maui Hula Dancers

That was really great! I should try doing that once a day. My hips would be lethal. Here's a little something I could use. A sip of soothing peppermint tea from the Crow First Nation.

Acorn pan bread. Amazing. Isabella! (wave)

Assiniboine bear stew. Hey - Camille! Yeah, bear stew - I can honestly say I've never tried it before. They've got dandelion root in here, maple sap, mint leaves and wild onion. I can hear the jingling of some of the costumes. The dancers are stepping onstage. Four of the North American First Nations will dance, each in their own style to the same music.

First Nations Pow Wow dance

Time for some Sangria, I think. La Espia T., take a glass. You too, Karina.

And a little gazpacho, please. Mmm, mmm, mmm. Darla, hi! Samantha!

And paella. Oh - this is just delicious. Here come the flamenco dancers! Jill, you're just in time. I love flamenco - it's SO sexy.

Flamenco Couple

My, oh my, that was scorchy. Oh thank you - this is an Indian drink, is it? Lime, date and honey - mmm. Nimbu Pani. Hey, Gautami!

Some tandoori chicken. Pass a napkin, Lesley? Thanks. Mmm!

Matar Paneer - cheese cubes and peas in a delicous sauce. Divine! Gabriella, hi! Just in time for the next dancers, from India.

Indian Gypsies

Time for a stiff shot of vodka, I guess. (only knocking back a tiny sip) That ought to keep me warm! Not that I was cold after all that Indian food. Susan! (hug)

Perogies! Oh, how I love them. Anna J. Evans! (wave) Ooo, sour cream, too. Mmm!

What's in this sweet little pot? Oh, hi Dara!

Kutia - wheat berries, poppy seeds, honey, nuts, raisins and cream. Mmm. Here they come! You can really see where modern classical ballet jumps came from when the men start dancing.

Photo from Christine at EastFeast Recipes

Ukrainian Folk Dance

Here comes some Dim Sum and tea. Hi Ann from Fractured Fiction! Here, try this. Oh, this one's good.

Hey Sans! Cool how it makes a flower once the water's poured. The original Magic Grow toy.

Shelley, hi! Shall we try some shanghai noodles? They're my husband's favorite. I love them, too - Julie, hi! Though I'm a total rice fanatic. Hey Jessica!

Chinese Fan Dance

Now, who wants an Irish coffee? Bridget? Jenny?

And who wants a pint of Guinness? I'm going to have an Irish coffee, myself. Toni and Miss Sniz! (hugs)

I'll have a few bites of that Dublin coddle. What about you, Sandee?

Irish soda bread. My first boyfriend used to make this. It's delicious. Wylie, Wylie! (hug) And Carrie! Oh, here they come! I always loved this part of 'Riverdance' when it played at the theatre where I worked. Always brought down the house!

Riverdance Thunder

I'll take one of those Cachacas. Mmm - hits the spot! Rhian, have one of these. You want one too, Lisa?

And how are these? Dip them in a little mayo. Manioc fries from Brazil. Hot! Hey, Dr. Bill! Dale! (wave)

Bananas in rum - decadent. Robin - hi! Time for a little samba. Lillian! (wave) I won't be able to keep still for this one.

Brazilian Samba

Time for some saki. Hey, Stak.

Sushi? I'll try a bite. Mmm. Want one, Sparky?

What's this, now? Jakopi tofu. Delicious.

I can't believe the Japanese dancer is so quiet. I didn't hear her get onstage at all.

Japanese Dance

Ahh! Here it comes, my darlings. My beloved single malt whisky. Double shot, neat. Inhale first - oh, the shiver of delight. Touch it to my lips. (sigh) Thomma Lyn, hi! (hug)

Let me sink my teeth into this Scotch pie. Hey, Kelly! I should introduce you to Uberstrickenfrau - she knits, as well.

Another sip of whisky. And now for some shortbread. I'm think I'm dying, this is so heavenly. Want some, Annie Mac? There's lots, I promise I won't eat it all. Annette, hi! Amy! (hug) Skittles!

No, wait - now I'm in heaven because the men in kilts are coming.

Scottish Folk Dance

So I guess this is the final dance presentation. What do we have here? Labrador tea. Hmm - can't say as I've had it before. Have you ever tried it, Dewey?

Clam soup. (sip) Mmm! Hey, Kailana! I'm glad it's not seal flipper soup. Probably figured our palates weren't brave enough for hardcore Inuit fare, eh, Christine?

Salmonberries. Oh, these are delicious! Angela/SciFiChick! (wave)

Inuit Throat Singing

Thanks for sharing this celebration - hope you had fun. If there's any leftovers, scoop them up before you head out for more fun with Rhian's Tribe. Hug and kiss!