Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Heathrow Redux

Sure, you've probably seen this already.

I don't care. I'm posting it again.

Because it makes me feel good.

And I always cry at the end.

Yes, T-Mobile, you stole my heart. Damn you and your corporate agenda to stroke my heartstrings and make me dance like a monkey.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Hidden Power of Smiling

The span of your smile can predict the span of your life.

The act of smiling can make you healthier, and make you happier than eating chocolate or winning cash.

Well, I guess I knew all about the power of a smile. I married a dentist, who not only gives brilliant smiles to others, but goes through life with a broad smile himself. This is an awesome lecture, and not that long.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I love this photographer

Untitled, a photo by mindazonaltal on Flickr.
Each of the photos are like a fairytale. I don't know how they are done, but I love them all.

This is the latest.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Just when you thought it was safe to go outside

I almost got run over today.

I was out with The Budster for our morning constitutional. He'd finished his business, so I sat for a bit on the bench in the children's playground at the end of our street. He nosed about nibbling on the grass while I enjoyed a bit of sun on my face, the only bit of my flesh exposed to the air as it is now below zero. I left the playground and started to cross the street to go home. Bearing in mind that Quebec drivers are notoriously irresponsible drivers, I watched as a car approached going at least twice the posted speed limit.

No problem, since the driver had a) a large stop sign, b) plenty of time to stop, c) a giant speed bump and, d) a pedestrian with the right of way, clearly visible in a puffy down-filled coat holding a bouncy dog on a leash.

But the woman at the wheel simply ignored the sign, the speed bump, me and the dog as she plowed right through, not even slowing down to make a pretense of stopping. I took a couple of steps back and almost tumbled into the ditch, then waved my fists in the air and yelled a "hey, hey, hey!" in the middle of the street (that'll show her!)

I figured she would just disappear down the road, but...she pulled right into a driveway about halfway up.

So what do you think I did? Yup. I jogged up the street and caught the passenger, a middle-aged woman, as she was going into the house right behind the driver.

"Uh, excuse me," I called from the street, deliberately keeping my voice level. "You guys almost ran me over back there. Did you even see the stop sign?" Note that this was a rhetorical question, since they live on this street and therefore must know it is there, and always has been there.

"See?" the passenger calls into the house to the driver hiding in there. "I told you that was bad. You could get a ticket!" She looked at me. "I told her she could have gotten a ticket."

A ticket? You're worried she'll get a ticket? "Uh, this was right beside a playground. You could have killed someone. It's not about her getting a ticket. That was dangerous what just happened back there."

And with that, she went in without another word and closed the door. No apology. Nada.


1. What would you have done?


2. If I happen to come across a dead skunk, what should I do with it?

It also explains why we have signs like this here in La Belle Province:

"Keep an eye on your kids. This might be yours."

Note missing shoe, ripped shirt, closed eyes and lack of irony.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Stephen Fry Asks You to Enjoy Language

"Write poems, love letters, novels and stories..." and leave your red pens and sneering in the desk drawer you "semi-educated losers."

So says Stephen Fry.

Take that, all you pedants out there.

thank you Brenda, for sending this to me and for knowing what makes my heart truly sing

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sarah Kay If I should have a daughter

Sarah Kay is an American poet and founder of V.O.I.C.E. (Vocal Outreach Into Creative Expression) a "group dedicated to using spoken word as an inspirational tool." This TED lecture was part of a series called "Beauty, Imagination, Enchantment."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gay marriage is confusing? Quantum physics is confusing.

Trying to get a childproof bottle open? Confusing. Gay marriage? Not confusing.

Dear friends of ours, two women to be specific, are getting married next year. We're pretty chuffed about the wedding because, a) there is a lot of love between these two and it lifts me up when I'm around it and, b) many of the invited guests know how to party likes it's 1999 and I'm always up for a good party with people I know well. We don't yet know whether there will be two suits, two gowns or one of each at the altar, but it doesn't matter. They are committed to each other, and their marriage, and all the people who love them will be there to witness it. The only question on my mind, as it is at every wedding, is whether or not the DJ will be any good and will he/she be able to get everyone up on the dance floor.

I realize there are still some people who don't believe in gay marriage, just as there are those who don't believe in true love, or that dogs who can communicate their feelings with their eyes, or why eating chocolate every day helps you live longer. (It does.)

This is what I think:

Love is love.

The End.

"Now they’re saying that we can’t have gay marriage because it would confuse the kids. But you know what else confuses kids? Everything: Time zones. Books without pictures. Cargo pants. Certain hair colors. Jello molds. The magic trick with the quarter behind the ear. Mirrors. Mentadent toothpaste dispensers. Everything confuses kids, because they’re kids. So “Will it confuse kids?” is probably not the best litmus test for, well, anything besides toys and Spongebob plotlines (and even then, there’s a lot of leeway)."

Amelie Gillette at A.V. club

From the Huffington Post

My Gay Lifestyle, by Dominick Scudera

I live the gay lifestyle, the gay lifestyle that is often mentioned by some Republican candidates for president. For those who are unfamiliar with the lifestyle, this is a typical day:

7:00 a.m. I wake up, and just as I have done every morning since puberty, I choose to be gay today. This will come as a great relief to my gay, homosexual, male lover who lies beside me. Because being gay is a choice, our relationship is a gamble day to day. Even though we have both chosen to remain gay and to be together every day for the past 16 years, we never take anything for granted. One of us just might throw in the towel one day the rest here.

thanks Jason D. for the link.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

PSAs revisited

Five years ago, I visited London with my youngest daughter. I bought an original postcard-sized painting in my favourite gallery/museum in the world, the National Portrait Gallery, which has been in operation since 1856. The painting was part of a blind sale (i.e., artist's name was not revealed until you bought and picked up the piece) to raise money for the gallery, which was celebrating its 200th birthday. I was there to celebrate a significant birthday so I bought two paintings, one for me and one for my husband, who was also hitting a milestone that year.

One of the paintings was by the artist Stephen Earl Rogers and I love it, and the rest of his work. We've stayed in touch via emails over the years, and he lets me know when he has new shows.

His latest is a series called "What To Do In An Emergency" based on the 1980s Reader's Digest self-help, family manual many of us remember reading. Part of his exhibit and some his other paintings can be seen HERE.

This put me in mind of some of the really old PSAs, which seemed to put equal emphasis on dating advice and what to do in the event of a nuclear blast. Or they dispense advice on dining, like, "Most families don't have maids, so Mother needs help with the serving." Oy.


Monday, November 7, 2011

An Ancient Parable from India, not to be confused with an ancient parasol or parasite

A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone in the wise woman's bag, admired it, and asked the wise woman to give it to him. The wise woman did so without hesitation.

The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the jewel was worth enough to give him security for the rest of his life.

But a few days later he came back, searching for the wise woman. When he found her, he returned the stone and said, "I have been thinking. I know how valuable this stone is, but I give it back to you in the hope that you can give me something much more precious."

"If you can, give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me the stone."

Words to live by (unless of course we're talking about oatmeal cookies, especially if they're still warm from the oven. Then this parable is totally bogus.)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Joanna Bourne and THE BLACK HAWK

If you like romance and mystery and historical fiction, check out Rita Winner Joanna Bourne's latest book THE BLACK HAWK, which has just been nominated for Best Historical Romance by Romantic Times. Some of her earlier books include THE SPYMASTER'S LADY, MY LORD AND SPYMASTER, and THE FORBIDDEN ROSE and if you haven't read them, stop what you're doing (seriously, stop it, right now) and go get them.

(Jo is an awesome storyteller, and I'm telling you, hand over heart, that Spymaster's Lady made me stop and gasp and slap my thigh and yell a hey nonny nonny WHATNOW?! when I got to a certain part in the story. You will too. Trust.)

Publishers Weekly said this about THE BLACK HAWK:

Bourne mixes heart-pounding mystery and romance in her spellbinding fourth Spymaster historical romantic thriller (after 2010’s The Forbidden Rose). From childhood, Adrian Hawker spied on France for England while Justine DeCabrillac gathered intelligence for the Police Sècrete. They were teens when they met in Paris in 1794, and as they grew up, their paths crossed often in a changing world. Sometimes they were on the same side, and sometimes they were opposed, but it was inevitable that they fall bittersweetly in love, knowing that any minute duty could take precedence over passion. Their tempestuous love affair unfolds in flashbacks, alternating with scenes from 1818 London, where somebody tries to kill Justine and frame Hawker, now head of the British Intelligence Service with as many enemies in England as in France. Just the right amount of intrigue makes this vivid romance a gripping page-turner.

(Name drop alert.)

Last year, I had lunch with Jo and Anne Perry and the luminous, unflappable, awesome writer and conference coordinator Kathy Chung at the Surrey International Writers' Conference. Listening to Jo and Anne in conversation was like watching two master tennis players lob a ball back and forth for fun. They both have brilliant intellects and wit, and as they discussed details of the French Revolution as casually as one might discuss the weather, I felt privileged to be their ball boy grabbing at stray balls. Jo knows her history, and she is a born storyteller, so the two combined? Magic.

Hie yourself over to The Debutante Ball where you'll find an interview with Jo and a chance to win her latest novel.

Friday, November 4, 2011

All Is Really One

All things are our relatives;
what we do to everything,
we do to ourselves.
All is really One.
Black Elk, religious leader of the Lakota tribe

I've been pondering this lately because I live in a small town where gossip runs as freely as the draft beer at the local pub. Also, I just finished reading an excellent book on sociopaths - THE SOCIOPATH NEXT DOOR by Martha Stout - and at the end of the book, she mentions gossip, and lack of conscience.

"Conscience is...the place where psychology and spirituality meet." Martha Stout.

Sometimes gossip is just little harmless bits of information - have you seen B. lately? She's lost a lot of weight. Did you see that tree that came down on V.'s back porch? But then there is harmful gossip that crosses a line. It's mean-spirited, intended to isolate and attack another person. It is a form of bullying because the person spreading the rumours believes he/she is elevated by pulling someone else down.

Let's be clear. I'm no angel. I am as tempted as the next person to pass on some juicy tidbit overheard at the local hardware store about someone's kid being arrested or the state of someone's long-term marriage that seems to be on shaky ground. We pass around celebrity gossip like a plate of warm brownies so why not include people we know, or think we know?

My opinion on gossip changed when I found out my family was the latest casualty. A neighbour saw boxes being carted from the house to a waiting van and assumed, incorrectly, that my husband had moved out. Did she ask me? No. She called another neighbour to report what she saw and what she suspected. As the gossip spread down the street like a game of broken telephone, it took on a life of its own. The story was embellished with lies and speculation as to why he had moved out, no, he must have been thrown out. He must have been unfaithful, that bastard, no she had it coming...none of it true, of course. But some people never let truth get in the way of a good story. The real story - we were renovating our entire basement after some minor water damage and the contractor need to have everything out temporarily - was not as juicy.

It's changed how I talk about, and behave, around others. I'm not as open or trusting with confidences. I resist spreading rumours but sometimes I slip and when I find myself zinging someone else, I end up feeling guilty as I remember how I felt when I was the target. Let's just say, I'm a work in progress.

Some ancient Eastern mythology states that gossip is a form of mental illness. Stout believes conscience, and the ability to feel empathy towards others, is how you end up with a happy, successful life.

All that we are is the result of
what we have thought.
If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought,
pain follows him.
If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought,
happiness follows him,
like a shadow that never leaves him.

Now, before I am tempted to spread gossip, I ask myself three questions:

1. Is it the truth?

2. Is it well-intentioned?

3. Is there a valid reason to share it?

If I can't answer these questions, I shut my mouth tighter than a crab's ass at high tide.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A "poetree" mystery

This is making the rounds on a few blogs and I thought I'd share it here in case any of you missed it.

First there was a tree, a "poetree" sculpture made of paper, left in a Scottish library.

It had a cryptic note and a poem in pieces hidden inside a golden egg.

Then, there was a coffin topped by a gramophone.

This was followed by an Edinburgh movie theatre, a dragon in an egg, a teacup...

The shredded paper sculptures were mostly, but not exclusively, made from Ian Rankin's books.

Were they from him, some sort of publicity stunt? Apparently not.

They came with the note:

"This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas..." and the tag @ByLeavesWeLive

Who was creating these marvelous pieces and sneaking them into libraries undetected?

No one knew.

The coolest part of this story?

A former music librarian with the Edinburgh Evening News thought he recognized the artist and had a name. But did the newspaper print the name?

Nope. They took a poll to see if readers wanted to know the answer or did they want it to remain a mystery. The answer was a resounding "keep it a mystery!"

So they did!

Read about it and see the fantastical photos of all the art pieces HERE.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Graffiti, like it or loathe it

I don't like graffiti as a rule, but I love it as a side dish. No seriously, it's wrong, and not respectful of other people's property, and wrong. However I do like cleverness. So I'm torn between laughing at these and feeling Very Guilty about it.

I remember the toilet stalls at the university library provided the best ongoing dialogue of current affairs out there. There were debates that went on for, well, walls and walls, at least until the cleaning staff gave it a good scrub. But then like magic, another debate would begin under the coat hook or above the toilet paper.

One began "My mother made me a homosexual!"

Underneath someone wrote "If I buy her the wool, will she make me one too?"

(Don't forget, this was the 70s in Toronto, so coming out was a big deal.)

So imagine my delight when The Bloggess posted a link to photos with some pretty funny responses to graffiti.

If you want to see them, just point your little mousie HERE and press go.

And then of course, I ended up at sarcastic additions to well-meaning signs.

For the rest of those, direct your little mousie HERE.