Friday, January 27, 2006

Past the Gateway

Some people can be social smokers, some people can’t. When I quit 2 ½ years ago, I knew it was forever. That I could never as much as have one more drag, because… well, here’s a hint. Although I generally am not much affected by cigarette smoke when I pass a smoker on the street, it’s all in my head, pure willpower – I’ve told myself I don’t like it anymore, hence I don’t like it. When caught unawares, however, it smells like heaven. I’ve been known to follow (subtly, y’understand) someone down the street, taking a few sniffs of second-hand smoke. My addiction is always lurking, waiting to pounce. I either smoke or I don’t. All or nothing. One drag will be my undoing and I will be sucked back into the pit.

It’s like that with knitting.

When Stephanie, Juno and I met for my inaugural blogmeet, Steph showed me a ball of Trekking sockyarn. I couldn’t let go of it. I even petted it, without being aware that I was softly stroking the soft (oh, so soft) grey shades of loveliness. Then she took it from me (claiming something about having to go home and wanting her yarn to come with her) and my hands have felt somewhat empty since. Then she roped me into knitting 16 stitches for the Knitting Olympics and this week, The Seated View looks like it’s turned into a knitting blog.

I’ve always admired knitters and knitbloggers. They are some of the most amazingly thoughtful people in the world. I have tiger socks because of a knitter, knitters have raised over $100,000 for MSF and there’s just not enough good that can be said about them. One thing that makes them great is how generous they are. Which is why yesterday, I got a way cool package containing a kismet audiobook from Alison H of the comments (and her dad) and when I opened the package, the book was wrapped in this:


How the woman knew I’ve been looking for something stylish to warm my neck, I have no idea. Alpaca, people! And it’s mine.

Also arriving in the mail was a little something from here. Until a few years ago when I accidentally read about her sister’s business on Norma’s (knitting)blog, I’d been relegated to no or crappy chocolate due to a late-developing nut allergy. It was like finding heaven on earth (their dark chocolate is particularly celestial). I made another order a little while back and remembered being very reasonable about it, deleting a number of items and restricting myself to just a bit. Which is why I was a tad surprised when the box contained this:


I apparently was under the influence of a teensy case of PMS when I ordered. Which, relatively speaking, makes it an entirely reasonable order. Right?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Monday, January 23, 2006

Asking for Trouble

I stopped knitting a while ago when my hands and shoulders couldn’t take it anymore. It’s been part of my life since I was a little girl, second nature really. I miss it still, but have found other ways of creating and amusing myself. That is, until Stephanie’s latest brainwave. Sometime last week, we had a conversation that went something like this:

Me: I thought of joining the Knitting Olympics, but then I realized I’d screw up my shoulders even more.
Steph: You could do a bookmark. Cast on 16 stitches, do one stitch a day.
Me: Hey! I could do that!
Silence
Steph: ONE stitch! Not two!
Me: How’d you know I was thinking that?
Steph: and not one row, either
Me: Shut up.

So, yes. I’ve joined the Knitting Olympics. And at some point before the flame is lit, I hope to figure out how to add the funky button to my sidebar.

In a comment here, rams talks about how this may be “gateway knitting” for me. And… well… have I mentioned my small – tiny, really – problem with resisting temptation? As in, I can resist everything but? And then there’s the way I quickly become… er… very interested in things (‘obsessive’ is such a negative word) and… um… very determined (‘compulsive’ sounds so judgemental) about the things I’m interested in.

I’ve already had fevered fantasies of knitting one stitch three times a day. Perhaps adding a flirty little cable. Or maybe a bright bit of intarsia in the middle. I could do that, right? It’d hardly count as knitting if it’s only done in bookmark size and chunky wool, right? Maybe I could even do more than one stitch at a time. Two stitches a couple of times a day? That might turn into a bootee for… well, there are two Tinks, so really, they need two bootees each. They still have really small feet, so if I just took it easy and… Hey! I could continue after the Olympics are over. A couple of stitches a couple of times a day could lead to a washcloth in hardly any time (two-three months, max) and if it’s in garter stitch, so much easier for me that I could finish it in less time and what about baby hats? That’s a small project, right?

OK, FINE! Rams is right. This is going to be hard.

I believe that the universe throws the lesson at you until you get it and once you do, keeps giving you more at higher and higher levels of difficulty, allowing you to master it. My current lesson seems to be about mental discipline. And now I’ve signed up for ignoring the siren call of wool and needles, every day, all day, for SIXTEEN DAYS! I’m clearly off my rocker.

It turns out that my Olympian feat will have almost nothing at all to do with knitting.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Still Sputtering

This post was supposed to be about three “disability” movies I’d rented, which deal with things in a pretty positive way. As a sort of antidote to last week’s rant. Then I started watching them. And then I got mad.

I’ve had a hard time writing about them. I keep veering off in academic land, citing sources (this book, 40 years old, is hands-down the best on the topic I’ve ever read) and distancing myself with quotes and finding the good in the movies. Of which there is much – my favourite is Murderball (about the US Paralympic quad rugby team - the box scene alone is worth the rental), although Warm Springs and The Brooke Ellison Story were good, too.

The truth is… I’m beyond high dudgeon and well into incandescent with rage.

The New York Times (reg.req.) says of Murderball that “[t]he film consciously steers away from the tears and gooey inspirational uplift associated with disability movies”. I loved it. It is unflinching in showing the truth about souls and minds and bodies, it dares to show that sometimes, people with disabilities can be assholes and goes on to make the point that not even assholes are assholes all the time. It show that these guys are just like any other jocks and shines the light on them so clearly that the wheelchair become irrelevant, just another part of what they are.

Here come the problems. At the end of Warm Springs, FDR learns how to mask his disability so he could have a political future. At first, I told myself that of course, in the 1930’s things were different. Then I thought, were they? Is it just more subtle now? Have we come so very far? The tagline for Brooke Ellison says: “she rose above disability with determination” (because disability has to be “risen above”, doesn’t it?). Reviewer quotes for Murderball’s DVD case say: “a new definition of courage” and “[a]n inspirational crowd pleaser” (do you really think they’re inspirational because they’re Olympic athletes?).

In all three movies, people have goals and live life on their own terms, just like everyone else. In all three movies, the people essentially say about their disability – and pardon the language here, but it’s really the only way to say it: “fuck that, I’ve got shit to do”. Then they go about living their life and pursuing their goals. Just like you. And with all three movies, they face the world’s refusal to let them do just that, instead saddling them (us) with pity and patronizing labels. What has to be overcome and “risen above” is not the disability – because a disability cannot be “overcome”, although it can be lived with – but the preconceptions of ablebodied society, which tells them (us) in a thousand little ways that the disability will always matter most.

In an interview in Entertainment Weekly (subscription req.), Karen Valby manages to capture who Mark Zupan (the forward on the US quad rugby team) is: ferociously determined to be himself, just the way he is, and to enjoy/live his life. And then she ends the article by asking what Zupan would do if he could have the use of his legs back for an hour. Not even Olympic athletes escape the condescension.

And all I can think is a sputtering “how dare they?”. How dare they pity me?? How dare they underestimate us? How dare they impose their narrow little view of how disability ought to mean you should sit at home – oops, sorry: in an institution - bitterly weaving baskets and slowly fading into a pathetic shadow of anything resembling a human being. Certainly not Out There, going to school, working, dancing, having sex, relationships and children, getting drunk, participating in the world, having goals (beyond getting up in the morning) and working to achieve them. Living life, insisting that we are just like everyone else, with hopes, dreams, bad days (and good), bad attitudes, and every other characteristic you can imagine.

How dare they!?

Monday, January 16, 2006

And the Winner Is...

Some time ago, I had a contest. At the time, we were doing everything we could to persuade the Tinks to stay inside my sister’s belly for as long as possible and given that I couldn’t actually be there to whisper encouragement on a daily basis, I came up with a plan for karmic bribery. If you have a contest to guess the date of birth and ban any guesses prior to Dec. 6, then they won’t be born until after that, right?

Wrong.

Unfortunately, the Tinks’ insistence on doing it their way, means that there was no winner. However, when you promise something to the universe, you ought to honour it. Even if you’re a little late (hey, a lot happened for quite a while after they joined us).

With thanks to McMaster Hospital for taking such good care of Janne and Liam and Morgan, I have made a donation to McMaster Children’s Hospital in the name of the kidlings.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Follow-Up

My apologies to those of you utterly uninterested in my on-going issues with Angels & Demons. I promise this will be the last post on the matter, but as I’ve just finished it, I thought I’d let you know the final verdict. I’ll keep it short:

1. Alright, so clearly Mr. Brown owns dictionaries and other word-tools. After all, he uses big words like “cognition” and “sepulchral” accurately and in context (although I’d have much preferred e.g., “looked around the room” to “surveyed the circumference of the room”). This is why I don’t understand why none of the characters “run”, “hurry”, “fly”, “hasten” or “sprint” – they only “dash”. Which is a fine word, but when a large portion of the last several hours of the book have people racing around the Vatican, could you maybe mix it up a little?

2. I wonder whether it’s possible to plagiarize yourself?

3. When Kohler – the older director of CERN, who has been unable to walk since childhood - arrives at the Vatican and sees himself in a mirror, “the sight of his own twisted form repulsed him”. Because of his disability he “ has never known the touch of a woman”. The Swiss Guard doesn’t search him well because they “are ashamed” by the disability. I’m not going to hold forth about my reaction to those bits of supposed insight into the lives of people with disabilities and the reactions of those around us. I’m sure you have an idea.

I'm going to do something serene now. Maybe I'll stop sputtering in a couple of days.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Angels & Demons

Normally, the rule here is that I don’t diss authors. Someday, I might be in their shoes (if you dream, dream big) and I’d probably like it if people kept their critique of my work constructive and refrained from pointing and laughing. Today, I… well, I won’t go as far as breaking my promise to be civil, but I am going to be opinionated. Luckily, the guy in the line of fire is a Big Name, has likely heard this type of thing before and with the amount of success/money he has, I doubt he’ll be terribly wounded if he sees this.

I’m reading Angels and Demons by Dan Brown this week and a little over a third of the way in, I’ve developed A Problem. I read The DaVinci Code this summer and had a blast. A pure rollercoaster thrillride that had me reading compulsively wherever I went, breathlessly trying to keep up. Reading it on audiobook (vs. actual book) was alternately making me happy because if I were reading it as a book, I’d have skimmed to get to the next chapter(s) and missed a bunch of details and frustrated because I couldn’t handle the suspense and desperately needed to skim. Much as I enjoyed the story, I wasn’t a big fan of the author’s writing style – I’m all about the words. An elegantly turned phrase or perfectly composed sentence can make me all woozy with wanting to grovel at the writer’s feet. Mr. Brown may be a fantastic storyteller, but he… er… um… is not the best wordsmith I’ve ever read.


(a wee sidetrack into my not-so-favourite soapbox: A good editor is invaluable in making a book the best it can be. However, I get the impression that once an author reaches a certain level of success, the editors can become lazy. When millions will buy an author’s grocery list, why spend a lot of time on a manuscript? I’ve seen it happen before. Why won’t someone say “er, dude? Great book, fantastic story, edge-of-my-seat. Now can you just do another polish and tighten it up a bit? It’s a little wobbly here, here and here”. Thank you. Now back to my original gripe)


I feel like Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code are the same template with different decorations slapped on top. I should mention that I’m only a little over a third into the book and I will cheerfully eat my words if I change my mind by the end of it. Warning: if you haven’t read these books, stop now. There may be spoilers ahead.


Both storylines have many things in common. For instance:


Beautiful intelligent woman of traditionally sexy country of origin (French, Italian)


Crippled smart guy. Yes, I use the term ‘crippled’ deliberately. Brown seems to use disability an outer manifestation of inner nefariousness. It remains to be seen whether the director of CERN is just a nasty human being or whether he’s with the black hats


Preternaturally talented assassin who doesn’t know who hired him, but is slavishly devoted to the task. Hired and controlled by:


Mastermind of mysterious origin


Secret cult in opposition to Catholic church, with major ancient founder/player a Renaissance artist (DaVinci, Galileo)


Gruff bastard of an authority figure


Police officers known by animal nickname (The Bull, Bear, Viper)


Really cool library


Trail of clues leading to religious art with secret meaning


Etcetera.


There are also good things about the books, lest I be accused of being a grump. With both, I’m learning new things – I find myself looking up historical figures, artwork and other things as I’m reading and I like that a lot. Both stories are compelling, but “light” and entertaining enough that I can do other things while listening without missing much of the story (ok, so that’s one benefit of the somewhat pedestrian language).


And now for my biggest beef. In Angels and Demons, Robert Langdon – a professor of “religious symbology” - is an expert in the Illuminati. A year later, he’s an expert in the Priory of Sion and the divine feminine. I know how long it takes to become an expert in an academic field and A YEAR won’t do it. Yes, yes - “suspension of disbelief” and all that. Sure, maybe this is all some remnant of my academic years and ambitions, but could you at least skirt reality??


Danny-boy? Yes, I know I sound like your mom, but I’m about to say a very mom-like thing. You can do better. Your stories are intricately plotted, well-researched and you are very good at pacing. Practice some character development, give in to your inner language slut and find a new editor. Please.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

My Firstborn

Suffering under the double whammy of reticence from spending the first 20 years of my life in Denmark and the next 23 (so far) in Canada – both of which are not exactly known for ebullience in their citizens – I find myself getting all shy about blogging this one.

Ever since I knew what a writer is, I've wanted to be one. Anything else I have done has been a second choice, brought on by fits of being “realistic” and having “something to fall back on”. I’ve had some interesting second choices – corrections, social worker, policy work in human rights – even felt passionate about some of them, but never like writing. Writing is the holy grail for me, it’s a magical place where I've always felt a sense of belonging, a sense of rightness and for a long time, I wrote for myself, leaving being serious about it for “some day”.

Then last year, I decided that “some day” was now, that I had dreamed long enough and it was time to take a leap of faith and buy the ticket.

And today I hold in my hands the magazine in which my first piece is published and the cheque with which they paid me.

I am ecstatic and overwhelmed.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Good News Tinks

The Tinks came home just in time to ring in the new year in the proper way, which appears to have a lot in common with their normal M.O.: keeping their parents awake. Despite the sleep deprivation on the part of the adults, all parties are doing well.

Liam and Morgan are here seen in their natural habitat:



And the first-born (so to speak) is making sure Janne never leaves again:



(pictures by either Janne or John)