Friday, September 29, 2006

The New Season - Reality

This year, I had every intention of cutting down on the amount of television watching being done around here. Of course, I say that at the end of every summer, after months spent only turning on the TV for Big Brother and the occasional movie. Then once the new season starts, I get sucked into all kinds of new and returning shows and within a month or so, am thoroughly enjoying being addicted. This year, however, was going to be different! This year, I was going to stop watching a number of shows, only keeping a handful. Turns out, not so much. I am happily hooked on a host of programs, although I am also happy to say that it's fewer than last year. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

Since I will be talking about a 'host' as opposed to a 'handful', I'm going to divide my discussion of the new season into two posts. Today is all about reality shows.

America's Next Top Model. Tyra and the gang had been on the list of 'Shows to be Axed', but somehow I found myself tuning in briefly. It was enough. Watching a group of skinny, clueless girls trying to become models is the equivalent of a three-layered dark chocolate cake (yes, I am aware of the irony).

The Amazing Race. I know things picked up after the Family Edition, but by then, I had lost interest. That is, until last Sunday when I wasn’t feeling well, couldn't do anything but watch mindless TV and so, I tuned in. The Mongolian leg was pure genius - some of the best TV I've seen in a very long time. Originally, when I read about the teams, I was going to root for Team Tripod (Sarah and Peter) - a one legged woman running TAR? How can you not root for them (and how can you not call them Team Tripod - a name I lifted from the inspired B-Side at TVGasm)? The problem is, they're incredibly annoying. Peter, especially, is verging on offensive for his treatment of his alleged girlfriend. Kimberly is the champion whiner, I adore the coal miner and his wife, the beauty queens are pretty good (albeit, incredibly blonde) and did I mention laughing my way through Mongolia?

Survivor. The reality genre is frequently - and justifiably - accused of not casting enough racial minorities. I love that Survivor answered that critique by giving it their own twist and I find it incredibly amusing that all the people who criticized them for casting to white then criticize them for... what, exactly? And I was hooked within minutes into the first episode (but then, I'm a rabid Survivor fan). As I expected, the division by ethnicity really doesn't matter - it's the people that matters and this season, they've found some good ones. I have to admit, my eyes are finding it incredibly restful to have such a mix of races. Maybe it’s living in downtown Toronto, a city of that's incredibly multicultural, but when things get too pale, part of me feels not quite right.

Dancing with the Stars. If you've been reading for while, you know my love for this show. Due to the family visit, I missed the first two episodes and had seriously considered scratching it from my lineup. Then I tuned in this week and within five minutes, I remembered why this one is my favorite. It makes me happy. I love how seriously they all take the dancing, while being aware of the maximum cheese factor (have you seen that trophy?). I love that it is purely about how well you do, that there are no alliances, no backstabbing, no hurt feelings. I love Tom Bergeron's awful jokes, I cheer for Samantha every time she messes up a word while wildly flapping her arms, I watch to see if Bruno will explode from excitement and mostly, I watch to cheer on the semi-celebrities, most of whom have no idea what they're doing and yet, they all work so hard. The entire time the show is on the air, I have a smile on my face and its stays after the show is finished. What more can you ask?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Random September

Which turns out to be a little media heavy. I blame the accursed neck injury. It’s been a very passive month. Enough rationalization for being a slug. Onwards!

Recently, I read an article in the paper that broke down power consumption between residential, commercial and industry to consuming about a third each. Before I start the rant, let me just say that I believe everyone should “do their bit” to save power. However! That’s just the point, innit? In the summer, people are repeatedly warned to keep their A/C at 26 to prevent grid overload (while in offices, workers wear sweaters because of the freezing temps) and in winter, citizens are asked to turn off their Christmas lights, while after business hours, the office towers of downtown are lit up like… well, like Christmas trees. Can we get some perspective here? Some cooperation?

Found this link to an Italian Vogue slideshow via Twisty. I can just see some idiot pitching the concept: “it’ll be fierce! We’ll frame it like a security thing! Have all these hot guys in uniforms and the girls will be beautiful! I know – less make them look like Barbie dolls! And then have the guys get all rough! It’ll be sexy as hell!!” Sure. Or it’ll be misogynist, disgusting, ugly and glorifying violence towards women (I am especially unfond of the third image). I couldn’t help but wonder how many of these models (the women, that is) liked that shoot. And how many did it because if they refused, they wouldn’t get work in the future. Double exploitation. Lovely.

Another television-related moment came last weekend, when I was channel surfing late at night and came upon an infomercial for a Time Life 70’s music collection. The safe (it is Time Life, after all) psychedelics on the screen, the horrific tunes, all caused an acid flashback - and I’ve never tried acid - and I thought who’d want a 70’s collection? Wasn’t the music as awful as the clothes? Except, then I listened to the excerpts and realized I loved about half. The other half was dreck, but still. This, plus it being late at night, a time during which I have no resistance to temptation, resulted in me almost signing up for 4x$37, but I came to my senses the next morning. Luckily, my self-imposed rule about never making decisions late at night - or sending email, for that matter, as emotions tend to run much, much higher when it’s dark out – is by now strong enough to largely keep me out of massive amounts of trouble (and yes, I am aware that saying it is so asking for serious temptation to be dangled in front of me).

There’s a commercial on TV for a new LG fridge with built-in LCD TV. Fer fuck’s sake. Must we include the idiot box in all aspects of our lives? (says the woman who’s spent too much time gawping at it lately)

I was flipping channels not too long ago and swung by CP24 (one of the Canadian 24-hour news channels). In the small space for headlines, one of the items said “panda Lun Lun of Zoo Atlanta has given birth after 7 years of trying” and all I could think was “that’s a really, really long labour”.

Friday, September 22, 2006

As Bilingual As Baltimore

Not too long ago, I was replying to an email sent by a friend. She had asked me whether the Tinks were going to be bilingual and I explained that as both Janne and I are generally a little rusty in the Danish department (mor is way better), we’d do our best to help them be as bilingual as possible. Except, because I was using Dragon and we were still getting to know each other, what appeared on my monitor was “as bilingual as Baltimore”. Given the context, it seemed fitting.

After 24 years in Canada, we don't use Danish very much anymore. Janne was nine and I was a month from 20 when we arrived in Canada. We were both immersed in speaking English in school/university, then with friends and then in work and love, so we find it easier to express ourselves in English, our Danish being hopelessly outdated. I think (and dream) in English and I'm pretty sure Janne does too. Of course, there is the weird Danglish we speak when around mor - a mad jumble of English and Danish, strung together in a way that is perfectly sensible to the three of us, yet renders any witnesses hopelessly confused.

But here's the thing. Janne and I aren't exactly rusty when it comes to speaking our mother tongue. Plop us down in the company of Danish people and within a very short time, our fluency starts increasing by leaps and bounds. It’s as if being around the language opens up a door within and it all comes back to us. Admittedly, the first day or so, our companions laugh their arses off at our – get this – English accent.

The same thing happens to me when I watch a Danish movie. When I watch The Celebration (which is awesome and will seriously mess with your mind) or Italian For Beginners (also very good), I can't think in English. For about half an hour or more, depending on when I am next exposed to English, all of me is Danish. And then, after a brief conversation with a Canadian, English becomes dominant yet again. My theory is that when you’re bilingual, the different languages exists in layers.

It's the only way I can explain the flips. I literally feel like some switch is pushed inside my brain and the layers exchange depending on the context. Although there is some overlap (see above re: Danglish), mostly, they muscle each other out of the way, one overshadowing the other. English, by the way, is much more insistent than Danish, but perhaps that's because it's in the majority in the place we live.

I miss Danish. I miss speaking eloquently in Danish - my vocabulary is about a quarter-century old and there are limits to how eloquent you are at 20. Last year, when my cousins came for a visit, it became apparent just how out of date we are. We learned a lot of new slang, but I'm pretty sure we've all forgotten most of it by now.

Having Poul here for his annual visit nudges Danish to the forefront yet again and I have enjoyed a tremendously. However, after two weeks, I’m hopelessly jumbled and have trouble speaking either language fluently. I speak Danish to Canadians and English to Danes (which doesn’t matter quite as much, as the Danes involved speak both languages).

I hear that the optimal time for teaching children to be bilingual is up to 4 years old. I think we need more Danish movies to keep it alive for the Tinks. And to unrust my sister and I.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Link and Some Muzak

The whirlwind Poul visit is almost at an end and we've been cracking up the quality time. Which means that when I'm not spending time with family, I'm running around like a decapitated fowl, trying to catch up with the rest of my life. Much to my chagrin, there hasn't been much blog-writing - words to come on Friday. Honestly.

AlisonH got herself a
blog. Go check it out!

Until my return, I present you with the visual equivalent of muzak.

p.s. Should you wish to be the happy owner of a lamp made from popsicle sticks, it can be yours for about $30.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Tink Invasion

This weekend, the Tinks came to town, expertly wrangled by Janne and naturally, today's all about loads of Tinks pictures (click for larger versions).

Here, Janne looks somewhat like a deer caught in the headlights (albeit an absolutely beautiful deer - ahem!), but the boy's so damn cute, I can't not post it.

Morgan already has impeccable manners.

Morgan spent much of the day sitting quietly with Poul (and if you know the kid, you know how rare that is). Love at first sight, I think.

Both are now standing (with help) as often as possible...

And after dinner, both zonked out.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Woman Inside


Self-image is a funny thing. How many of us see our ourselves with any degree of objectivity and/or accuracy? Usually, it's manifested along the lines of a body image that just never measures up – when will we learn that it's not normal to look like a stick? - but every now and again, the warped idea of self goes in another direction. Earlier this week, a couple of things happened that has brought home to me just how out of whack my own self-image is.

On Wednesday, I had yet another in the seemingly endless appointments to try to wrestle some seating apparatus into a shape that’d be comfortable for me so I can start using my new wheelchair (a.k.a. the sculpture in my livingroom) Who knew that finding a cushion that’s comfortable for your arse could be that difficult? 

While discussing the frustrations of the lengthy process, the seating expert (and she is good), said that people with “a fair bit of skeletal deformities, who are very active, are the hardest to fit”. I don’t often hear the word “deformity” applied to me and every time, it stuns me. In a medical context, it makes sense – there, it is a value-free word, used descriptively and as such, the right word in this situation. But in the outside world, it’s loaded and it makes my head spin, no matter where I hear it.

Apparently, in my head, I look entirely “normal” and hearing That Word shifts my perspective so much that I get emotional whiplash and it takes a while before I can see myself as not-deformed again. While in the throes of the reeling, I looked up ‘deformity’ here. The entry has definitions from several sources, all some variant of the following from Random House Unabridged Dictionary (as an aside – who’d buy an abridged dictionary??):

1. the quality or state of being deformed, disfigured, or misshapen.
2. Pathology
. an abnormally formed part of the body
3. a deformed person or thing.
4. hatefulness; ugliness.

It’s the last one that does it. It’s why the word (and the condition) is often used in art and popular culture as an outward representation of an inner evil. That or its exact opposite - the misshapen physique hiding a saintly interior. Where is there room to be a normal person when you’re pigeonholed like that?

Later the same day, Poul took us out to dinner and included Michele. At one point, she and I are messing around, bugging each other like only people who’ve known each other forever (half a century next year - I feel so old) can do and she puts up her hands, ready for a fight. And I say, with a distinct swagger in my voice, “you wanna take it outside?”, in that moment perfectly assured that I can take her. 

Now, aside from the standard facts, such as height and weight (I’m shorter and lighter), there is my disability. Y’know – the one that has fairly seriously affected my mobility, flexibility and strength for over 30 years. Oh, and did I mention that Michele has a black belt in karate? Yet, in a shining moment of complete delusion, I knew I’d win the fight.

Sometimes, I wonder what I’d look like if the inner me could be manifested outwardly…

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Not a lot of words today, but to keep you entertained, a few pictures triggered by John's comment on Monday. As he mentioned, my uncle (or yes, morbror) Poul is highly entertaining. He's lived all over the world, is a bottomless fount of interesting stories and bad (but funny) jokes and he has several signature moves. I like to call this one The Stork:

And it's contagious. A few years ago, he infected John and Ken.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Siblings Are Forever

When the monarchs start fluttering south in September, my uncle Poul (mor's brother) arrives for his annual visit.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Something for Everyone

The Obsession is nearly over and this week saw such monumental moves that I have to discuss it again. But first! A photo to keep the hordes who are unaccountably not glued to the TV at Big Brother All-Stars time - if you only knew what you’re missing – from banding together and doing an intervention. Yes, I have A Problem, but I don’t want to be cured:

I call this Storm Coming:

And speaking of approaching storms... Coming into this week, things were looking dire for my Janey. Will was brilliant at manipulation - he made this season - and I think I figured out how he does it. I noticed how Janelle would every now and again frown when he said something that set far-away alarm bells ringing and every single time, he’d speed up the talking, give her a twirl and a compliment. I saw how he did the same with other players (sans twirl) and realized that he drowns them in words. He notices a crack in the spell and before it has time to widen, he talks and talks and talks, obfuscating, distracting until the other person forgets about the brief moment of clarity. Masterful! Chilltown had successfully convinced both Janelle and Erika they were the Chosen One and kept them separated and distrustful of each other. Until Janelle won veto and Erika started campaigning to stay. And that’s when they slowly started realizing they’d both been played. If a woman scorned is something to fear, imagine two! Boogie’s face when Will got kicked out was the defining image of the season. And later, for the second season in a row, Janelle coined the catchphrase of the year when she mentioned how Will would say that he was the fox and she was the bunny, then continued “who’s the bunny now, bitch?”. Awesome!! I think she might win this after all…

To step back a moment, I have to mention something that’s been bugging me. All over the internet, people have been screaming about Erika and Janelle’s willingness to be played, calling them all the lovely names people call women who are making unwise decisions. Here’s the thing: they are living in a bubble, completed isolated from the outside world, their family, their friends, spending every day, all day with the men who are manipulating them. Men who don’t give them any space to think, to step back to see the big picture, but keep inundating them with lovely words at a vulnerable time. You try going without your loved ones for 3 months – how much would you be able to keep a distance from someone bound and determined to romance you? How can you not fall for it in that situation? And let’s not forget, everyone else believed Will, too, despite being aware of his nickname (the Puppetmaster) and knowing that he’s probably lying at all times.

That said, I’m much relieved that they finally came to their senses and I hope they kick Boogie out, despite both having a better chance to win against him. I’d love to see this pact of empowered women go to the end, principles intact, having played the men who played them.

Who do you want to win?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Magic Carpet

Last week’s post about Moments and eternity sparked a good deal of reminiscing and walks down various memory lanes hereabouts. One of the paths led to the floor. Or rather, my parents’ floors.

Persian rugs have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. My parents would save up money, often for other things, but then chance upon a particularly beautiful rug and be unable to resist, putting off the practical for little bit longer. They didn't have many rugs in my childhood, but as the years went on and they gradually became more comfortable financially, more were added. Placed around the house, they were islands of beauty, pulling the rooms together, pulling our family and our history together.

My favourite has been with us since I was a child. It is a Maslagan rug.

I don't know much about it, its origins are a mystery to me and although I did do a brief Internet search, I stopped once I found a place to link to, because I discovered that I don't really want to know the details. This rug has become something more than itself, it has become a vessel of my history.

When I was a child, the Maslagan provided hours of play for me. It was my stage when I was a ballerina, it was my interior hopscotch field, it was where the Christmas tree stood and when my sister was born, it cushioned her crib during the day.

This rug also taught me important things. It is not perfect, there are many small mistakes in it and I would spend hours lying on my stomach, finding them, memorizing their place. When I asked my parents about it, they told me that it was for two reasons. One, so you could see that it was handmade, a quality that in my family is more valuable than anything. I come from people who worked with their hands, creating works of art in wood and food. My grandmother cooked like an angel and my grandfather made beautiful furniture - he never made much money, but his dressers sing.

The other reason there were mistakes in the rug was that they were deliberate, inserted because 'only Allah is perfect'. Decades later, I found out that this idea has a name. It's called the Persian Flaw. The admiration my parents had for the people and traditions that created their beloved rugs taught me much about how to interact with the world. And their passion for these rugs created in me an abiding love for imperfection and the handmade.

These days, the Maslagan lies in my mother's living room and I still get lost in its colours and patterns. Every time I look at it, it gives me a flash memory, so quick as to be gone in a second, yet containing everything of my life.

Late note: Today, I have a piece published in The Globe and Mail. I'm fairly jazzed about it.

Friday, September 01, 2006

After Life

A long time ago, I watched a Japanese movie called After Life. It takes place in a sort of way station between death and eternity. As far as I remember – and after all, I am getting old, so who knows – the dead would spend 7 days there reviewing their life to choose the moment in which they would spend eternity. Once they had chosen, the staff of the place would recreate it and voila! eternity would start.

I thought – and still think – this is the one of the most charming ideas I’ve ever heard of and naturally started thinking about my moment immediately. The problem is, I can’t choose just one. I have narrowed it down to a handful and wonder if they’d let me have a sort of slideshow, so I don’t have to let go of a few favourites…

For as long as I can remember, touching a tiger has been #1 on my Life List (i.e., the “list of things to do before I die”). Six years ago, Ken worked some magic and made it happen. With mor as driver, we went to a wildlife sanctuary north of Toronto and I saw, smelled and touched Siberian tigers (flat hand through a chain link fence – I’m not crazy). I learned how to say 'hi' in tigerspeak and had the best time. By the way? An adult Siberian tiger is really, really big. This is Tsar

I smelled of tiger the entire way home. Because I also got to hold one. A four-week-old cub called Rain. And this moment is on the shortlist for my eternity:

Do you have a Moment?

(pictures by Diane)