Young @ Heart

Two premenstrual females went to see the documentary Young @ Heart tonight.

We barely made it through 83-year old Fred Knittle's heart-rending performance of Coldplay's Fix You, his oxygen machine pffting-ing in the background.

The tears, oh the tears.

Since we're on the subject, I thought I'd throw in one of my favourite videos that just happens to be for one of my favouritest Coldplay songs ever. I wonder who first showed me this video, hmmm...

Go outside

I was invited by a childhood friend to spend the long weekend in a chalet up north, but as my rib-shuddering cough shows no sign of letting up, I declined in favour of spending a slow, mending weekend at home.

What I would have really liked was go camping. I've never been and everyone I know is seemingly too-citified to consider it. Powell, for example, refuses to go anywhere without an electrical outlet for her hair dryer. One of my colleagues at work, at the mention of camping, snortled and said, "People only go camping because they think it's romantic, but it isn't."

And my parents get wide-eyed and worried when I mention camping. They grew up in tiny mountain villages that electrical wires did not reach until the 1950s. Scrambling around in the dark, washing up with cold water and eating dried berries is not fun - those are the main reasons why they escaped Italy and emigrated to Canada.

"I break my back to give you and your brother a good life, and you want to go and live in the woods? You crazy? Here, eat this. It give you some sense."

Do you see the negative attitudes that I'm surrounded by? Even if I hate camping, how am I supposed to know until I try it? It's very unfair.

I love my urban life with its random, unexpected beauties. The sound of church bells on Sunday morning. The statue of Athena in my neighbour's yard. The ever-permeating smell of pizza in the Berri metro. The taste of hot samosa. The texture of my bicycle handles.

But with so much to see in the world - so many natural wonders - can you blame me for being restless?

Until then, I will treat my TB-like cough with tea, movies, Mary J and Wyclef Jean... (has anyone told that guy that he looks like Jean Destiné?)


The non-reproductive female

There are many non-reproductive females in my circle. A few desperately want to reproduce, some were never fortunate enough to reproduce (despite their best efforts), others - like myself - are still undecided, but the vast majority of women I know are childless by choice. And it's not necessarily in support of feminist or environmental values.

"I don't have the mothering instinct."
"I'm not equipped to raise a human being."
"I'm too neurotic as it is."
"I have other things I want to do with my life."

Whatever their personal reason, most of these women are highly-functioning human beings who contribute to the communities in which they live and work. Other than than occasional (well-meaning but nonetheless hurtful) lecture on how it's natural to want a child, and how a woman is never really complete until she's given birth, most people are accepting of this choice.

On occasion, I struggle with this question. Why? Because I think part of our happiness is connected to creating, whether it be a flesh and blood child, a non-profit organization, a poem, a wooden cabinet, daily joy, what have you. And if you're not nurturing some kind of life in this world, you feel lost and useless.

Or at least I do.

Not having children is a truth I can accept (if that's the way it goes), but not creating is anathema to me. It is the only thing I can cling to in this swirl of relentless uncertainty. And it clings to me so amorously too. Even if I ignore it for long periods of time, *creating* never makes me pay for my transgression. It nuzzles my neck with unabashed desire and I hold it ever closer to better hear the words it will pour into my ear.

As long as *creating* stays true - babies or no babies - I think we'll all float on ok.

Some final thoughts for those you of you currently struggling with demons --

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

--- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.

-- Rainer Maria Rilke, God speaks to each of us


Lullabies for Little Criminals

Powell says to me the other day, "Do you feel like ice cream?"
I replied, "Oooh, yes! When are we going to Ottawa?"

So me, Powell and Mani went to Ottawa today. The plan was to (a) have lunch at La Bodega, and (b) sit in a park and read while roasting in the sun. Of course, in the excitement of getting her favourite sandwich in a rosemary-dusted whole wheat focaccia, Palanca forgets her book in the car. An excellent excuse, she reasons, to go into Chapters and pick up Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill, another Montreal author.

(Ms. Julie is always on duty).

Heather O'Neill makes me want to cry - like a lot - because somehow, she's already managed to get the life that could be mine.
  • Published, highly-successful debut novel
  • Prize-winner respected by her peers
  • Sharing her life with an equally creative partner
  • Nice hair
We both grew up in NDG. We're of the same age. Maybe my life was too cushy...

Anyway, when we finally sat on a grassy knoll near the National Gallery of Canada and I cracked open the spine, it was a rush of pleasure to discover just how beautifully Heather O'Neill writes. I even added little stars next to this next passage:

There was something inhuman about her, suddenly, as if when she opened her mouth and tipped it backward you would see mechanical inner workings, like a little dumb weight instead of a tonsil.

Oooh, she's an incredibly talented writer, I realised, that's why she has that life...

I will set myself to my work again this week. I can't do anything about the hair, but I can write, dammit.

My flavours at Pure Gelato - I know you were wondering - lemon and mango. Yummsy.

The Love Guru

So it's the St-Jean long weekend. Some are off camping in Gatineau. Others nestled in a chalet in the Eastern Townships. Others still on a road trip to the Gaspé or some other salty destination.

Me? I went to see The Love Guru.

I don't know what I was thinking. I hate Jessica Alba. I like Justin Timberlake, but how many times can you watch him say tabernak before it gets tiring? Mike Myers was embarrassingly bad. Ben Kingsley was worse. There were too many penis jokes - even the 15-year-olds in front of us were sighing in disdain.

The whole film was an ungainly mess - a slapping together of bad jokes without the formality of defining characters and having them be remotely sympathetic. In Wayne's World and in the early Austin Powers, Mike Myers played comic characters, but because you could get to know them a little, they were even funnier.

The Guru Pitka is an out-of-control train that doesn't have the decency to crash.

If it wasn't for an occasional doe-eyed look from Manu Narayan as Rajneesh, I would have tried to hang myself with the dental floss curled at the bottom of Powell's purse.

Should have taken my $13 to the dollar store instead. *Sigh* Could have used that time to write! *shake, shake*

Happy St-Jean, people. I'm going to go have myself a nice, cleansing cry.

PS. It's obvious that the only reason Myers made this movie is that it's the only way he'll ever see the Leafs win a Stanley Cup in his lifetime.


Moving the bedroom

Big decisions to be made, I tell ya'. Now that I've been living here for almost four months, I've started to get some ideas about how better to arrange my living space.

Some people are visionaries and can see the possibilities in 3D as soon as they walk into a new room. Others (this is me) need to understand how they function - and navigate - in a new space before they can understand how it needs to change to be more ergonomically/aesthetically pleasing.

Currently, the bedroom is in the front, with its window directly below the outside staircase. The living room is dominated by a huge TV that I don't turn on more than twice a week, and the back room is still the repository for all stuffy stuff I can't deal with at the moment. Although I still toy with the thought of getting a roomie, I think I just need to move ahead with the improvements.

  • The bedroom is too big for me
  • The TV takes up too much space
  • The back room needs to be organized
  • My stone Buddha is cute on the floor, but he needs a home
Creative solutions
  • Move the bedroom to the back room (but keep the closet up front)
  • Turn my current boudoir into the entertainment/TV room (must purchase new couch)
  • Change current living room into a détente area with lots of colourful cushions and pretty tapestries
  • Move Buddha into the détente area??
Does anyone have any ideas? Suggestions? Who wants to help me paint? I'll need some premium primer to cover up the sheep. I haven't even thought about the bathroom yet... buh.

Hey, speaking of getting rid of stuff, remember that brilliant Ikea commercial by Spike Jonez? Let's see it again...


Yoga and breathing

I began practicing yoga at the age of 28, when I suddenly - and simultaneously - developed asthma and allergies. The onset of symptoms was so shocking to my hitherto well-functioning system that I also (yay!) developed anxiety attacks. Once I began to learn more about my new reality, I chose yoga as a way to bring peace back to my body.

As breathing is the core of yoga, I began to feel the benefits of this new practice immediately. One of the first concepts you're taught as a yogi is that most people only use the top third of their lungs while breathing, and that to breathe more effectively, you must learn to use your full lung capacity.

Simply put, most of us breathe at the level of our collarbones, with our chests pumping in and out. Yogis learn to breathe with their full rib cage, and are able to breathe through the back as well.

These early morning classes I'm now taking are proving to be beneficial in that I seem to be more aware of my breath at seven a.m. than I am at seven p.m. Especially when in savasana. Even though I am lying on my back, I feel my breath moving horizontally and not just vertically. My organs and muscles moving apart like tectonic plates with each exhale, and then knitting back together again on the inhale.

So your challenge for the day? Try breathing with your whole lungs. Use you full rib cage. Feel that oxygen moving around...

NB1: Chapter Five is a hot mess, but getting better.

NB2: Thanks to Porkchop for the Fleet Foxes cd. They'll be playing Divan Orange in July.


Hysterical post from a fellow blogger

In an attempt to make me feel better about my car being vandalised yesterday (the ratfinks!), Steve sent me this post from one of his favourite gaming blogs. I'm still achy from the laughing. Parents will especially appreciate this...

Lil' Gabe is 3 and a half now and so it's very important that we always have a ready supply of fruit snacks. If we're out shopping or at the bank or whatever, fruit snacks have the ability to soothe the savage three year old. We like to let Gabe pick out his own fruit snacks and he usually will choose Spider-Man or maybe SpongeBob. However I came home recently and found these in the pantry.

I would love to know what sick bastard at Kelloggs came up with this genius idea. I just spent the first three years of my sons life trying to get him not to eat blocks, and now you're telling him they taste like fucking strawberries. Thanks a lot assholes. Seriously, how in the hell did this ever get past their legal department. You can't tell me that this isn't a lawsuit just waiting to happen. I can only assume that their next product is fruit flavored thumbtacks




The story started with a conversation I once had with Powell, but it didn't hit its full stride until a subsequent conversation with Martin and Alex at the office.

Me: I don't chase anyone anymore. I don't feel as if people respect me because I give too much. From now on, I'm a trout. If someone wants my attention bad enough, let them put some bait on a hook and come find me.

Martin: A trout?

Me: Yes. I am a trout. Je suis une truie!

The two of them laughed so hard, they were turning purple.

Alex [gasping]: You mean a 'truite'. Je suis une truite.

Me: Oh, I missed the 't'. What's a truie?

Martin [choking]: A female pig!

[More laughing at the cute writer speaking French]

So from that point on, the allusion spread across the office. Whenever I call any of my colleagues, the call display flashes 'Trout'. We sometimes conduct entire conversations by making fish noises.

It's all very funny, but I don't know if I can have faith in this system anymore. There are no lines in the water and I'm starting to feel very lonely. I don't want to be a trout if I'm the only stinking fish in the stream.


Oh, and I should probably stop listening to David Martel's Yours and Mine. It makes Trout sad.


Ms. Julie does Toronto: Day Three

Now today was fun.

Yesterday, we didn't quite know how to proceed and the aisles were crowded with hordes of attendees grabbing at the free stuff so circulating was a dangerous business. If you've ever been to a trade show, apparently it's not surprising to see people racing up and down, cramming swag into their wheeled luggage or six tote bags with as much speed as possible. If you're not vigilant, the attendees will upend you and take your shoes.

And don't ask about the crush when the word got out that a publisher had chocolate cupcakes at their booth.
My only loot: a canvas bag from McGill Queen's University Press. Thanks Jacqui!

The crowds were thinner today, and Francesca and I actually got a chance to take candid shots of Ms. Julie (tenderly, lovingly) showing her appreciation for some Quebec English-language writers. Needing more snaps for Ms. Julie's soon-to-be-published blog, I also accosted a Vehicule Press marketing guy, and read to a marketing rep from DK while he reclined on a couch. They didn't seem to hate it.

Pictures will be posted soon. I have the pdfs on my desktop but blogger cannot display that format. I have some more intelligent comments to make about my first foray into the world of publishing, but I will deal with that when my stomach isn't grumbling.

Bref, I just arrived back in Montreal, I'm taking the day off tomorrow, there's nothing to eat in my house, and I'm trying not to get upset about the ant infestation in my kitchen. Tiny little bastards.

Is there a trend?
Notable sighting: Woman at BookExpo wearing tshirt that reads:
I love my Canadian beaver.


Ms. Julie does Toronto: Day Two

Coolest thing I saw today: David Suzuki!

Weirdest thing I saw today: an advertisement for Evil Dead, the musical.

I kid you not. I took a brochure and will show it to you upon request.


Ms. Julie does Toronto: Day One

10:36 AM/Train 53, VIA 1 class

There’s a silvery mist over Lake Ontario. Only an hour left before our arrival in Toronto.

The last time I visited the Queen’s City was winter 2007. We stayed in an old house that shuddered with cold. All weekend long my body shuddered too, with a feverish chill and violent sneezes that left my tongue feeling thick and heavy in my mouth.

But I did eat the best veggie dog of my life on the corner of Dundas and Yonge at one o’clock in the morning.

I am tempted to leave my bags at the hotel and find that vendor again. Maybe stick my head into H&M. I should nap instead. Ms. Julie needs to look fabbo tomorrow.

So Ms. Julie is a character created by the QWF to celebrate and promote English-language literature by Quebec writers. The promotional campaign featuring Ms. Julie (er, me) will be launched at BookExpo in Toronto this weekend, with Ms. Julie herself making an appearance during both days of the event.

To help Ms. Julie share her love of Quebec literature with the rest of Canada, the QWF has created a poster and a booklet featuring Ms. Julie and the various new English-language Quebec books that she’ll be enjoying this summer and fall.

I tried to attached the image but sometimes technology wins the battle. I'll try again later.

And there’s that huge Bowmanville refinery that spreads along the left side of the train like a cement spider. Oshawa is not far off. More stories later.

12.21/ Starbucks, Yonge and King Sts.

Notable sighting. Lesbian couple strolling hand in hand. The one on the right is wearing a t-shirt that says:
Beaver groomer


90 Degrees blog

All week long I've been working on a post for 90 degrés, the agency where I work, and it was finally published this afternoon. But as it's the only English post on our blog (so far), it was only published on the English version of the site.

Someone take pity on it and read it here, please. Make my words feel less lonely. Snif.


Giving users the tools to build their online experience

I was reading Jakob Neilsen’s AlertBox for June 9, 2008, and I came across some good arguments about writing actionable Web texts that focus on user needs.

However, although Neilsen’s points are persuasive, I only really came to understand the important of his words after following two small rational detours. Here they are:

Getting users involved
The guru of usability writes that the difference between the Web and television can be summarized as lean forward vs. lean back, in that the Web is an active medium used for a specific purpose, while TV is a passive medium allowing viewers to slip into relaxation mode.

DETOUR 1, or defining what makes the Web different
There is so much talk about the rise of the Web and how it may - or may not be - squeezing out other media like print, television and radio.

In my mind, the problem with this kind of thinking is the assumption that the Internet, print, television and radio are all on the same level. As Neilsen writes, each medium has its own audience, context and meaning. They cannot be compared. Think apples and oranges.

The Web is a powerful tool not because it is more effectively persuasive than other media. It is a powerful tool because it is completely different to every other medium we have ever known.

Neilsen on user experience
Further down the page, Neilsen writes, “In linear media — such as print and TV — people expect you to construct their experience for them. Readers are willing to follow the author’s lead. In non-linear hypertext, the rules reverse.”

Users want to construct their own experience by piecing together content from multiple sources, emphasizing their desires in the current moment.

DETOUR 2, or why Web writing is the user experience
In such a context, good Web writing is crucial. Anyone who continues to believe that cutting and pasting generic marketing copy into their website is making a potentially disastrous mistake.

If your Web text does not immediately answer your visitor’s question, they will move on to other sources - and quite possibly never return. Good Web writing will ensure that users stay on – and ideally, return to – your site to satisfy their needs.

Finally, good Web copy is what differentiates the Internet from print, television and radio. Repeat: good copy written specifically for the Web is what makes online communication so powerful.

Indeed, if Web text and print text were exchangeable, then there might be reason to fear the decline of television.

Until then, the only thing television must fear is bad screenwriters.


Yoga inversions

I want to salamba sirsasana so badly, it's amazing that I am able to function. Supported headstand is one of the hardest positions I have had the pleasure of working on, and I'm so close to getting it!

I can scoot my booty parallel to my hips and I can even lift my legs without having to kick up (thanks abs!). My last hurdle is that my legs tend to fall against the wall once I'm up. I need to get that tailbone action going to keep my legs - and pelvis - aligned straight up.

Soon, Palanca, soon.

Lesson for the day: in yoga - as with other things in life - time and practice is the only path to success. If it takes me another three months to get it right, then I look forward to salamba-ing like crazy in September.

So be patient in every thing you do today. You're getting closer to the goal. I promise.


The New Yorker, Week of June 9-16

I had already started drafting this post when The Other A sent me a link to Anthony Lane's review of the Sex and the City movie. She knows how much I love quick-paced, clever writing - and Lane's review does not disappoint.

Even though I haven't finished reading this issue, I started to blog about it on the strength of Lane's review - and the new short story by Nabokov.

I like Lane's review because:
Between you and me, I never really liked Sex and the City, the television series. I loved watching the parade of gorgeous shoes and fabulous outfits, but when the mouths started moving, I really didn't pay attention. In fact, there's only one episode I like - A Woman's Right to Shoes - as every disgruntled repeat bridesmaid should.

(My calculations would indicate that I have spent something like $10,000-$12,000 on other people's weddings. Ugh.)

After reading the review, I felt like I have found a kindred spirit in Anthony... and that I no longer had to hide my limp enthusiasm in seeing the girly movie of the year. If it's an opportunity to get crazy with my girls and slap arms whenever some sick pair of shoes crosses the screen, then I'll do it. Otherwise, I'll be pining for the Audrey Hepburn era with Anthony.

Best writing from the Lane review:
As the release date neared, the paranoia thickened; at the screening I attended, we were asked not only to surrender our cell phones but to march through a beeping security gate, as if boarding a plane to Tel Aviv. There was even a full-body pat-down, by far the biggest turn-on of the night. Not a drop of the forthcoming plot had been leaked in advance, but I took a wild guess. “Apparently,” I said to the woman behind me in line, “some of the girls have problems with their men, break up for a while, and then get back together again.” “Oh, my God!” she cried. “How do you know?”

I like Nabokov's story because:
I love Nabokov, first of all. His words flutter and move like ribbons in the wind - his images so crisp, you see the scene immediately before your eyes. Nabokov's ability to imbue the tiniest detail with the most resplendent beauty has been an inspiration to my own writing.

I also generally love stories about people caught up in their own private universe, and discovering how their secret world will unfurl as the pages go on. Even though I saw the ending coming, my breath still got caught in my throat a little because the execution was so delicately crafted. If you don't believe me, read Natasha for yourself.

Best excerpt from the Nabokov story:
She flitted past in her rustling raincoat, hatless.
Leaning over the bannister, Wolfe glanced back at her. For an instant he caught sight from overhead of the sleek, girlish part in her hair. Still whistling, he climbed to the top floor, threw his rain-soaked briefcase on the bed, then thoroughly and satisfyingly washed and dried his hands.


Fun fact for the day

Some Italians, to express the fact that they (a) need to poo, (b) will soon take a poo, or (c) have just taken a poo, will say:

"Devo fare un bisogno" (for example)

The word "bisogno" means need. So the meaning of that phrase is equivalent to, "I have a need to take care of" or "I'm just going to take care of something".

Italian is such a pretty language, that even poo-ing sounds pretty and delicate.


Why I'm not posting tonight

I'm not posting tonight because I'm too busy writing. With a pen. On paper. Like in the good old days.

I'm reworking Chapter One with a red pen. Then I'm going to write in my journal with green ink. Then I'm going to make a shopping list with a pencil. Yes, I'm still a dinosaur sometimes. Yes, there's a greater chance of my getting a splinter than carpal tunnel syndrome. But I like the feel of a pencil sticking to your thumbprint when you press too hard. I like the smudge of ink pens sometimes leave on your writer's bump.

In the meanwhile, to learn more about my unhealthy obsession with stationary products, read this article I wrote when I was studying Italian at McGill.


Meet Ms. Julie

And no, I'm not talking about the film by Swedish director Alf Sjöberg. I'm talking about the star of a new campaign that will soon be launched by the Quebec Writer's Federation (QWF) to promote English-language books written by Quebec writers.

Ms. Julie c'est moi.

The pictures are in and they are spectacular! I cannot post them quite yet as the campaign has not been officially launched, but I grateful for the extra time it gives me to get used to the idea of my body and face on posters, brochures and stickers (oh, yes, I said stickers). I can't wait to show you the promo stuff - and I'm especially looking forward to Ms. Julie making her first in-person appearance at BookExpo in Toronto this June 15-16.

I was made to shmooze with big Canadian authors and get dreamy-eyed about MTLit. In preparation, I am reading Bang Crunch by Neil Smith, Vandal Love by D.Y. Bechard, and Bottomfeeder by Taras Grescoe. Whatever I don't finish now, I can squeeze in on the train to T.O.

While you wait for my stellar supermodel debut, check out Seen Reading. You'll kick yourself for not having thought of it first.


A word from Pema Chodron

"When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it's bottomless, that it doesn't have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless."

Be bottomless today.


Adriana Palanca is scary.

I've been dealt something that I don't know how to deal with. It's laughable, but I really can't understand how these circumstances came to be. Don't laugh, but there are people out there who find me intimidating. And no, I'm not being paranoid. I have proof - testimonials even.

In my head, I'm a coward. I never speak when I should. I never say what I really mean. And I certainly don't ever ask for what I want. So how could I possibly be intimidating to anyone?

Some day I'm going to be like a Tegan & Sara song. Heart on my sleeve. Unapologetic. Fiercely asking to be loved unconditionally. Unafraid. Speaking the truth always and crisply.

But until then, my mock reign of terror continues.


En passant, I nearly peed in my pants yesterday watching Tina Fey eat a whole sandwich in real time on 30 Rock. Check out the video - it's easily one of my favourite moments in television. I don't think she's chewing.


New moon

Are you feeling superstitious today?

My friend Isa has informed me that this month's new moon begins precisely at 2:23 p.m. on Tuesday, June 3 (her information comes from NASA - I think they can be trusted in these matters).

What does this have to do with anything?

According to Isa, any wishes you make within 8 hours of the new moon have a better chance of coming true.

So, before 10:23 p.m., hand write 10 wishes in ink on paper. It's usually best to focus on one subject at a time. Be specific.

Let me know if it works.

Your musical heads-up of the week: She & Him, formed by M. Ward, one of my folksy favourites, and the lovely Zooey Deschanel, one of my perennial girl crushes. And good news for Benjy Ferree fans - he'll be at Le National on October 22!

And for you Facebook whores:


Discussion at a party

Last night, there was a party. And a few of us were commenting upon the unusual amount of girls at said event.

Someone asked, if it's a sausage party when there are too many men, what is it when there are too many women at a party?

Current front-runners:
  • Canoe regatta
  • Fig shindig
A Google search offered up taco fiesta, but that's lacking in imagination.

Any suggestions?