One of my new favourite bands, Beirut, as seen by our good friends at La Blogotheque.

Merci a "Stephane Richer" pour la trouvaille.


The writer's dilemma. Again.

The last two weeks at work have been the most grueling I've experienced in three years of employment at the agency. I have worked on 20 different projects - most of them to do with trains - for six different project managers.

I love the pace but after another day of generating text like a machine, I am tired.

Irony is, I miss writing.

I miss my writing. I miss spending time with Reggie and just listening for her voice amid all the words that flow from my fingertips. I miss the flush of satisfaction when I realize what must happen next.

Right now, I would happily quit my job and dedicate myself fully to revising the current novel and starting a new project. But a girl's gotta eat. And pay for that roof over her head.

How to reconcile? Someone send some wisdom quick!

Photo from the Notman Archives.


Palanca's top albums, Part III

In which the list finds it's end...

7) Stars, Heart (2003)
When I discovered my favourite band. An exquisite piece of writing and sound that makes me want to sing every word out loud, from the nuclear show in "Elevator love song" to the spotting of airplanes 'through my window lying on the kitchen floor' in "Heart". The voices on this album mirror the same careful observation through which I see the world.

NB. Amy Millan was once in my yoga class. It took everything I had not to hug her.

8) Esthero, We r in need of a musical revolution, EP (2004)

Met him on Sunday, loved him by Tuesday afternoon...

My second purchase of Esthero. I initially loved this EP because I had once met someone on a Sunday and did indeed love him by Tuesday. But that lust-at-first-sight turned into real love. I love Esthero's confidence, her unashamed expression of desire, and that balance she can sometimes paint between vulnerability/impenetrability.

Essentially, I love Esthero because she has these qualities that I wish I had. And she can put it all to music.

9) Stevie Wonder
What is the sound of pure joy? Stevie Wonder, of course! Whenever I want to extend the joy that does not cease to bubble inside of me, I pull out the Stevie Wonder. "Do I do" has always been a particular favourite as it so perfectly captures the feeling of bliss. Wonder's voice trills up your spine like a laugh. The brass warms your belly like butterflies. The bass caresses your neck like the hand of a lover. The guitar pulls up the sides of your mouth into a smile.

If to me your vibe can do all this, just imagine how it's going to feel when we hug and kiss.

Also, it goes without saying that I always skip the next track, "I just called to say I love you". That one will never sound right in my ears.

10) Hawksley Workman, Treeful of Starling (2006)
This is the album that I listen to when I am crushing on someone. As soon as I get sentimental over someone, Treeful goes into heavy rotation, with obsessive replays of "Ice age" - one of the most romantic songs - and "Goodbye to radio" - one of the sexiest songs. It also gets pulled into rotation when I wish that I were crushing on someone. Makes me dreamy.

Spread you so wide like the bluest of nights.

Anyone still there? Thanks for bearing with me on this one. I look forward to your own musical reflections. I'll be waiiiiting!


Tango lesson 5

And here is your weekly dose of 'things Adriana learned in tango tonight'. If there any real life applications to these experiences, I leave it to you, my perspicacious readers, to sort them out.

1) I am now at a crucial point. That point where I've learned just enough and am a touch too confident. As a result, lesson 5 was spent over-thinking everything, taking too-big steps, and leaning my torso too far back. There were some moments of brilliance, but they were inevitably followed by some cocky over-flourishing.

So why is this point so crucial? It is precisely at this point that I either (a) get back to basics by practicing more and letting the movement sink into my bones, my flesh, or (b) decide that it's too hard, chalk it up as a fun experience and move on to knitting (or something).

I'm booked for an extra practice on Friday.

2) I have a low centre of gravity and I'm willing to use it! This evening, I finally learned the key to making ochos sizzle. I was following the instructions as given, but somehow my ochos lacked the flow and sensuality they so richly deserve. Bulent strolled by and said, "Bend your knees slightly, shorten your step, move all your weight downward, and then pivot on the toe."

What? Shorten my step?? That's new. Okay, let's try that...

Suddenly, my hips swivelled through the air with a saucy smooth snap, my feet were hitting the mark, and my partner's next signal was *that* much clearer.

Right now I could say something about the importance of listening, but I am too stoked about practicing more ochos on Friday. Short steps, Palanca, short steps...


Palanca's top albums, Part II

And the list continues.

4) Depeche Mode, Violator (1990)
While all the other kids in my private girl school were listening to dark sounds that mirrored the torment inside, the darkest I could get was Depeche Mode. Thanks to my mother, the dark side had been my companion since childhood, so all mystery was gone. What pull could there be after years of... ?
  • "Don't swallow that button, you could die."
  • "You can't sleep over at your friend's house! What happens if there's a fire and Mommy isn't there to save you?"
  • "You don't want to go skiing, you'll hurt yourself."
  • "SOCCER! You can't play soccer! You wear glasses - they'll break if you play."
In my mother's world, death and ruin was always around the corner, so I didn't need to listen to Ministry or the Smiths to toy with destruction. I eluded destruction daily!

All kidding aside, Depeche Mode's music did open me to the understanding that love/life was equal parts light and dark. I was drawn in by their vision of love/life as happening in dark places, where need was greater than reason, and where desires were uttered in low voices.

This album is probably one of the few that I listened to without wanting to sing along. It was enough to feel the sounds moving through my body.

5) Rufus Wainwright, Poses (2001)
An album I will never tire of. One of the few that I can listen to end-to-end without fast forwarding through some tracks.

Track 10: "One man show" will probably be a favourite of mine until I die. Upon first reading the track listings, I assumed that Rufus had written a song for a beloved. But no. It was actually written by his father Loudon Wainwright and is a sorta love song written for your self. Think Walt Whitman, but with a guitar and sideburns.

But these three cubic feet of bone and blood and meat are all I love and know.

6) Damien Rice, O (2002)
I was listening to the CBC one morning when I heard my first strains of "Delicate". I bought the album on the day it was launched in Canada and have turned to it time and again over the years whenever I need to nurse certain feelings. Heartbreak. Longing. The anguish of an unexpressed desire. It's the soundtrack for all my pity parties, helping me ride out a sadness and quickly get to the other side.

Interestingly, as much as I love this album, I know to absolutely avoid it when I am feeling good. Even "Blower's daughter" is sorrowful to my ear. So if you ever glance down at my iPod and see O playing, it's probably best to leave a cup of tea by my elbow and come back later.

Still a little bit of your taste in my mouth. Still a little bit of you laced with my doubt.


Palanca's top albums, Part I

I generally don't trust anyone who says they "don't care for music much". It's like openly admitting that they have no soul - or at least no interest in discovering whether or not they have one.

Music is as powerful as sensory perception, able to make long-ago memories fresh within a few bars. Music can stir up flavours I have tasted, places I have seen, sensations felt, skin I have touched, and aromas I have inhaled. Music is one of few forces able to leave me speechless - even render me immobile, enthralled by the sounds in my ears. Know my music, know Adriana.

I've been thinking about the albums that have most marked my life path. Naturally, this list evolves as I do, so take the following as a snapshot of Adriana, thus far. If there are any that I've forgotten, my apologies to the artists.

There will be ten, but here are the first three with notes. Oh, and they're in order of when they entered my life, so don't get all "Where's Michael Jackson?" on me.

1) Cyndi Lauper, She's so unusual (1983)
This album taught me to dance. I was 10 and my elementary school had organized a jazz ballet group. I was very excited about this group. My mother bought me a leotard, we had a choreographer and there was going to be a performance. We were dancing to "She Bop" (if anyone knew what the song was really about, they weren't letting on).

Everything was going swimmingly until I forgot about the last rehearsal one lunchtime and my punishment was not being allowed to perform. So St. Ignatius Elementary was responsible for quashing my dance career even before it started, but it's okay, I'm not bitter. And I certainly never held it against Cyndi.

2) Crowded House, Crowded House (1986)
First cassette I ever bought and I actually did listen to it until the thread broke. I had listened to music since I was a kid in corduroy overalls, but this was the first time that I chose what I wanted to listen to. The lyrics used the same style and metaphors that I was starting to discover in the adult novels I was reading. I felt like a "big girl" now.

As the hormones were starting to kick in, this was also the first time that music seemed to be speaking directly to me. About feelings. And boys. I dreamed of Australia. Of Neil Finn writing a song about me.

3) a-ha, Hunting High and Low (1985)
This was almost solely hormonally driven. Morten Harket was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I would have watched him sing his way through the alphabet in English, Norwegian or even Japanese. I wasn't quite sure of what I would do with him if ever he wandered into my room, but I knew that it would be something really fun. Like really fun.

a-ha was also my gateway drug into fluffy pop music (I blame Morten et al. for my current weakness for Justin Timberlake). Although I listen to very little of it today, I am not completely insensitive to a happy pop beat now and again. Good news is - if Powell keeps it up with her boy bands, I may soon be cured of this malady.

Numbers 4-10 to follow.


Sign I have been living alone too long

This morning, I showered and moisturized, as I am wont to do. But while I was getting dressed, I realized that I had missed a few spots with the cream. I said the following out loud:

"Oh, no! I forgot my arms! Sorrrry arms!"

Thankfully, my arms did not answer. I think I need a pet or something...


New glasses!




Tango lesson 4

I love learning new things. Tango is teaching me new things. Ergo, I'm loving tango. Here's why:
  • I always assumed that to learn to dance, you had to worry primarily about the footwork. If you had the footwork down pat, you could refine the rest. Whoo-hoo, was I wrong! In tango, not only do you have to learn how to push your body forward in one fluid movement, but you also have to be completely aware of what your partner's body is saying. Footwork is just a small part of it. You have to be completely versed in your body's energy, your partner's energy, and how the two interact.
  • I love the push and pull. That is, I love feeling my body's weight against my partner's. I love feeling his weight against mine. And I especially love how the resistance created by those two weights can transform us into beautiful, sensual creatures in motion.
  • As Mtnhighmama pointed out, the inconsistencies. Tango is as unpredictable as love, sometimes fluid and romantic, sometimes difficult and requiring special attention and care. In moments, the only way to be successful at tango is to not overthink it. In others, to be successful, you have to be totally focussed on your movements. It changes every moment and you have to be open enough to welcome every change - rather than gnash your teeth and stop. The yogi in me can appreciate this.
And we're not even very good yet! How is it going to feel when we're not stumbling through the rough bits?


Valentine's Day 2009

Valentine's Day has always been a day spent with my best friends. There's usually a fantastic meal+vino involved, consumed in the dark corner of a favourite restaurant (away from the gooey-oozy couples, bien sur). Much laughter. More crude talk than I'm willing to admit to.

A good time is generally had by all, you know.

I don't give the chocolate hearts and flower bouquets too lingering a thought. Although it would be nice to receive some, I'm not going to throw myself into a pit of despair if I don't receive any.

Except yesterday, I got a very sweet Valentine from a total stranger on the 80 bus.

I was listening to some Basia Bulat when the young, clean-cut Indian man sharing the two-seater with me suddenly held out a blue gumball before my face. I watched his lips form the question: "Sweet?"

Bewildered, I slid off my earphones and said, "A sweet? Oh, no thank you, I'm already chewing gum."

Turns out he's only been in Canada for two months, loves our winter, is studying ESL at McGill and hopes to make movies one day. He also has a sweet tooth and carries a pocket full of gum balls to feed his habit. Because my mother taught me well as a child, I don't accept anything edible from strangers, but he was so earnest in his desire to practice speaking English that I did not refuse when he insisted that I take a gumball - "No, two gumballs!" - for later.

So you'll understand if I say that I don't feel as if I missed out by not having a boyfriend on Valentine's Day. I had a great yoga practice, good chats with people who are important to me, a surprise gift from a stranger on the bus, a sumptuous dinner with those I love most, and ice cream for dessert.

I'm feeling pretty loved, thanks.


No, you're not crazy.

So a few days ago I asked you - friends, readers, countrymen - what question do you pose most often to your best friend. I added my own response - "Am I crazy?" - to get the flow going. Perhaps I influenced the type of response I would receive by asking that question (all the psych majors in the house please stop shaking your heads), but the milk has been spilt, so let me just get to the cleaning up part.

"Yes. But WHY?"

Stating the obvious: We rely on our best friends to give us the perspective to understand situations (or people) that are beyond our immediate understanding. 

"It's not just me?"

Said situations (or people) are beyond our immediate understanding because our emotions are clouding our ability to perceive the situation realistically. Clearly put, you're too *fekked up* to see what's right in front of your nose.

"Am I fucked up in the head?"

So we ask for clarity - using the various formulations you see here. Hoping to get compassion, agreement, validation and kindness from a trusted source - a familiar source.

"Are they all stupid?"

These formulations are tinged with a little indignation, as if some part of us is already convinced that the answer will fall in our favour. But we ask anyway. Needing to hear the answer in order to convince the rest of us that we are right to be feeling whatever it is that we are feeling.

"What is WRONG with THESE people?"

If you are very lucky, you have the kind of best friend that will give you that compassion, agreement, validation and kindness - when needed. And if you're very, very lucky, she gives it to you freely, happily and genuinely.

"Am I on glue?"

All this to say - I want to thank my BFC3R2WZ9 for being a reliable pair of eyes when mine are just too tired to see. If in the next 50 or so years of our friendship, you require said service, I will only be too happy to oblige. Even if it means sneaking bottles of merlot into the retirement home and pretending to agree that Bob down the hall is a good catch because he has most of his own teeth.

 Happy Random-Monday Powell


Funniest thing I've seen in ages

Thanks to funny man Joel West for sharing. Click on the image to enlarge.


What question do you most often pose to your best friend?

Me: Am I crazy?

What about you? What words do you often find yourself repeating over and over again to your BFF?


Tango lesson 3

Sometimes, the small Armenian man who teaches you tango will explain quite clearly:
"torso over hips, move with your whole body, always keep your feet in contact with the floor when moving, extend the leg backwards, don't shift your weight so soon."

You generally nod in understanding before puffing out your chest and following your partner down the scuffed dance floor.

But sometimes the words sound a little garbled in your head and your nod is a little less confident. Your partner is feeling gimpy because of a capoeira incident and you're mostly hungry, but you puff out your chest bravely anyway. 

Turns out, your torso and your hips aren't talking and insist on moving in two separate directions, your feet have decided that they might like salsa instead, and your balance is off pouting in a corner with your cranky hamstrings.

The Armenian tries to work with you and you start to get it, but that's when the arms decide to show you who's really boss, and you have to admit defeat.

  • Always eat before class.
  • It'll be better next time.
  • Better shoes are in order.
  • Practice. Practice. Practice. 

Stop complaining about Valentine's Day!

Read this instead, from Alessandro Baricco's Ocean Sea.
Bartleboom is thirty-eight. He thinks that somewhere in the world he will meet a woman who has always been his woman. Every now and again he regrets that destiny has been so stubbornly determined to make him wait with such indelicate tenacity, but with time he has learned to consider the matter with great serenity. Almost every day, for years now, he has taken pen in hand to write to her. He has no names or addresses to put on the envelopes; but he has a life to recount. And to whom, if not to her? He thinks that when they meet it will be wonderful to place a mahogany box full of letters on her lap and say to her, "I was waiting for you."
She will open the box and slowly, when she so desires, she will read the letters one by one, and as she works her way back up the interminable thread of blue ink she will gather up the years - the days, the moments - that that her man, before he even met her, had already given to her. Or perhaps, more simply, she will overturn the box and, astonished at the comical snowstorm of letters, she will smile, saying to that man, "You are mad."
And she will love him forever.


Valentine's Day status lines

For the gooey, I'm-in-loves...
  • Jolie is in love with love.
  • Jolie xoxo
  • Jolie is smitten.
  • Jolie is smitten with her kitten.
  • Jolie only has eyes for you.
  • Jolie loves her baby.
  • Jolie hearts you.
  • Jolie is your funny valentine.
For the bitter single people...
  • Aniston has decided to marry her cat instead.
  • Aniston is going out to buy more batteries.
  • Aniston is wondering when Happy Divorce Day is coming around...
  • Aniston thinks Valentine's Day sucks rocks.
  • Aniston is. Perfectly. Happy. Being. Single. Thanks.
  • Aniston says you can shove Valentine's Day where the sun don't shine.
  • Aniston doesn't care about romance. She has her health!


Death of the rom-com

I recently saw the trailer for a new Matthew McConaughey rom-com called The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. I believe the French have the perfect adjective for this film - minable. The trailer showed too much, the plot seems too cutesy, and there's no doubt in anybody's mind that MM and Jennifer Garner will find themselves in a picture-perfect wedding on a tropical beach, orchids in the hair, cute dog with a bowtie, etc.

Obviously, I can't help feeling that this is just another in a long line of movies marking the end of the beloved romantic-comedy genre. What 27 Dresses and Failure to Launch left gasping for oxygen, The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past seems intent on killing.

This genre may be giggled at today, but it has produced some stellar classics like When Harry Met Sally and Roxanne. In your heart-of-hearts, you know there's going to be a happy ending - but the writing is so flawless, the plot so cannily revealed, that your heart aches at the very possibility of everyone's wishes not coming true.

Where is that pitch-perfect writing? That careful construction of plot? Seems like most rom-coms assume that showing you a few shots of Matthew McConaughey without a shirt - or Katherine Heigl in a sexy dress - is enough. 

Most rom-coms today are fantasy-driven, relying on dashing heroes, romantic landscapes, and a splashy ending to make their mostly-female audience ooh and aah. The denouements are overly dramatic and tend to unfold before a rapt audience of bar-goers or Internet cafe-gamers who will burst into applause when the heroine finally relents and forgives the very-apologetic hero with a very-wet and very-public kiss.

I get chills just thinking of Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan finally surrendering to the obvious on a dark street on New Year's Eve. The intimacy of it. The feeling that you're watching a private moment is goosebump-worthy.

But I don't get that feeling so much in the movie theatres anymore.

Where is the anticipation? The suspense? I want that moment when I sigh and think, 'How are they ever going to get past all this and fall in love?' All I seem to think is, "If James Franco flicks his hair one more time..."


Jivamukti yoga

Tonight I participated in my first jivamukti yoga class at Centre Luna Yoga in Old Montreal. I immediately understood the attraction - the music and the chanting creates a soothing environment, but I most enjoyed the hands-on approach used by the jivamukti teacher.

There's a lot of touching, but it's very gentle, compassionate touching.

For example, while in uttanasana, I was pleasantly surprised to feel the yoga teacher's hands massaging my neck muscles with a tea tree scented oil. She did this for everyone. She also made a lot of adjustments and not necessarily because you were doing something incorrectly - but also just to help you feel the pose more deeply.

I like being handled, what can I say?

The turning point came while in paschimottanasana, when the yoga teacher knelt behind me, pressed down into my hip joints with her thumbs, and then lay her torso full-length against my back to help guide me downwards. With just two inhalations, I found myself nose pressed against kneecaps (just like in the picture).

It was a turning point because it reminded me how important it is to keep renewing your yoga practice, especially if you want to improve. Yoga, just like anything else, can become commonplace and repetitive if practiced with the distraction that sometimes comes with familiarity. I've done seated forward bend a thousand times, but I tend to hang in the same place, not even trying to get my nose to knee.

When you mix things up a bit - by trying a new practice or even trying a new teacher - you renew awareness of your body and often discover space where previously there was little or none.

Same thing with tango. I can't help feeling that tango will make me a better yogi. And maybe - just maybe - being a yogi will give me a better tango.


I'm a web junkie

Hello, my name is Adriana Palanca and I am a Web junkie. My sins are as follows:
  • I check my email every 28 seconds.
  • I immediately Google all new people.
  • I am currently embroiled in nine poke wars on Facebook.
  • I get impatient when someone actually starts typing "www" in the URL window.
  • I have been known to "take control" of the mouse when colleagues are moving too slowly (I'm sorry, Martino, mea culpa).
  • I now say things like, "I can't get the RSS feed to work on Facebook. I've enabled all the automatic updates. Is the app a non-starter, or am I missing something?"
I don't think Hail Marys and Our Fathers will help on this one.


Tango lesson 2

What I learned in tango today:
  • There's no need to apologise all the time. Give one blanket "sorry" at the beginning and let the dancing begin.
  • Tango is about lines. Straight. Forward. Sideways. Diagonal. No circles or swirling. Lines. This is not a salsa class, missy!
  • To dance tango, the woman must listen to her partner's body. If you concentrate your attention on his energy, you will easily 'hear' the direction you're supposed to move in.
  • Heels together, toes slightly apart.
  • "Make your decision and move!"
  • I would like a tango shoe with polka dots. White on black. With a little red trim maybe.


An evening well spent

Monday nights are what I call "sweeper nights". After dinner, I begin cleaning up the odds and ends of my life.

Opening mail.
Paying bills.
Running the dishwasher
Cleaning up files on the desktop.

Nothing special.

And yet, it's one of my favourite nights of the week.