Friday, October 30, 2009

Random October

Before we get to the silly, a brilliant piece found via Broadsides describing women’s experience when meeting men they don’t know: Schrödinger’s Rapist. Yes, it really is like that.

And on healthcare reform, Paul Hipp sings about international standings, a wonderful animated presentation of the reform argument in a nutshell (found on Nilchance) and Patti posted a link to Roger Ebert writing about extremism and the lunatic fringe.

And after that, we could all use a little silly, so here's the Trampoline Dog (found over at Gaina's), check out what's happened to automotive safety over the last 50 years or so and Carrie sent the video of the dancing baby which almost makes That Song (the name by which I refer to Beyonce's Single Ladies) tolerable. And then I found this article from Time mentioning how not only did the video when Best Song at Nickelodeon's Kids’ Choice Awards (and someone please restrain me from having a rant about kids choosing as best song this pile of patriarchal idiocy with accompanying semi-pornographical dreck of a video), but the alleged reporter - aren't you supposed to think for yourself instead of merely parroting others to be a reporter? - writing the piece refers to it as the "female-independence anthem" and that's the point where I need sedation ("say I'm the one you own" hardly qualifies as INDE-FREAKIN'-PENDENCE, does it now?) and before I start foaming at the mouth again, I'm moving onto this piece about the latest WTF lawsuit.

This month, Trevor contributed a wonderful ad, a picture of a foundation that seems a little out of touch with its mandate, another one of a truly multitasking business and It Made My Day (look forward to losing hours of your life).

LynnM sent two great links: Art in a war zone and a sign language language special (stuffed sweet apostle was my favorite).


urkainian army
see more Political Pictures

is supposedly soldiers in the Ukranian army. How on earth are you supposed to fight in miniskirts and heels? Huh??

David(G) contributed a bit of a flurry. Best landscape photography of 2009 (seems a little UK-centric and is 2009 over already?) and best buds. An illustration of what happens when you procrastinate, that ad with the step piano (why aren't all staircases like that), John Lloyd talks about the invisible (really interesting), building the Triumph Rocket III and the humping parrot - keep an eye out for that series, it's incredible. And since the exhibit is coming down tomorrow, here’s a panorama taken/created by David of the thing. Click to embiggen or check out the set on my Flickr page.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Blogs, Communities and Meeting Friends

I'm reading Roadside Crosses, another Jeffery Deaver book, this one a spin-off of sorts from the Lincoln Rhyme novels. Our main character is Kathryn Dance, a kinesics expert who works for the California Bureau of Investigation and really, exactly what the book is about is irrelevant (except to say that when every time an emotion is mentioned, you back it up with kinesics, it’s not as fun as forensics). The Internet plays a part, specifically blogs and although Deaver tries to do his usual factual background thing, every now and again there's a not-so-subtle disdain leaking through. Aside from Dance never having heard of blogs - and what person who is even vaguely connected to the world these days hasn't? – the sense is that writing blogs is for weird people. Described – and I kid you not – as “excrementalists”. And I’m officially taking offense.

Sure, the internet has provided an astounding amount of erm… unusual people with a communication outlet that they didn’t have before the internet, but blogs have also given tons of talented people an audience they wouldn’t have before the internet. And pertinent to where I’m going with this, created communities and friendships. It may be new, it may have been unusual, but it ain't weird.

Thanks to blogs, I have friends I’ve never met. Close friends. People I care about, people I’d never have met if it hadn't been for the Internet and blogs. People who became my social life at a time when I didn't have the energy to leave my house. And every now and again, I get to meet one of them in person.

Last Thursday, I went to Toronto Women's Bookstore for Laurie’s book launch (take two) and had a very good time. On the way there, I realized that I didn't really know what Laurie looks like and worried that I wouldn't recognize her, only to instantly know her when I came into the store and saw her literally across a crowded room (the term sardines came to mind – small store, good turnout). She just emanated Laurie and it was great to meet her in person after ages of reading each other's blogs. I’ve only read bits so far (it’s a regular book and they give me trouble) - hearing her read parts of her book

was wonderful and
added another dimension to it (and may I humbly suggest to the publisher that they consider an audio book, preferably read by the author, so I can read the whole thing?).

And just before heading home, I popped around the corner to take some pictures of Notre Dame Cathedral (okay, so it's Knox Presbyterian Church, but in the dark, it looked positively Parisian).

Quasimodo, is that you?

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Rant Revisited

I subscribe to a number of HealthCentral writers and a couple of days ago, got the latest notification that Karen Lee Richards (who writes about fibromyalgia and chronic pain) had written another post. It turns out that it was an alert mentioning that Dr. Oz has a segment about fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome on today's show. The guest in this segment will be Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum who's written a number of books on chronic pain in fibromyalgia, lives with these conditions himself and is, as Karen describes it, is mentioned by Dr. Oz as the person "who first convinced him that these conditions are indeed very real."

And if you've been reading this blog for even a couple of months, you are now imagining me having a total apoplexy, complete with foaming at the mouth, fire shooting out of my eyes and an intense desire to throttle someone.

Isn't that nice? I'm so glad that Dr. Oz - whose expert credentials in addition to having a medical degree appears to be that he's kind of cute in that American boy-next-door kind of way and used to be on Oprah - deigns to believe that this condition is valid only when a fellow physician (who happens to be male) tells him. Because the millions of breasted Americans who have been going to doctors for years trying to get a diagnosis with the same symptoms are apparently not reliable enough sources.

Fibromyalgia affects approximately 5 million people in the US - I haven't looked up the Canadian numbers, but imagine that the rate of 2% of the adult population would transcend borders - and 80-90% of those are women. And aside from the fact that I'm stunned at the 80-90% thing - I wonder what it is about fibromyalgia that it's so closely connected to one particular gender? - I'm also not stunned that it's taken this long to get fibromyalgia even vaguely acknowledged as a real condition because as in many other conditions where doctors tend to claim it's all in your head, fibro mostly hits women.

There might be a few people out there thinking that I've gone ‘round the feminist bend again and being somewhat unreasonable, but you know what? I haven't and I'm not (and when did feminist become a dirty word?). Yes, many of the conditions that occur more in women than in men (rheumatoid arthritis, MS, fibro, etc.) are notoriously vague and mysterious in the beginning and that certainly contributes to the diagnosis of hypochondria - or shall we call it hysteria as they did in the old days when women had problems male doctors didn't understand? - because doctors are not fond of diagnosing something without it showing up on an x-ray or in a blood test, but study after study has shown gender bias in medicine. If a man and a woman report the same symptoms, there's a greater likelihood that the man will be believed and a woman given antidepressants and a suggestion that she try yoga to relieve her stress. Well, maybe I wouldn't be so damn stressed if I could find a doctor who'd bleedin' believe me!

Gender bias is real. Whether it is people interacting differently with a baby based on identified gender (even if it's the same baby that has been given different names and different outfits), calling a man assertive whereas the woman is a bitch if she behaves in the same manner and do I need to go on? I really shouldn't have to, because it's 2009 and unless you've been living under a rock for the last 50 years, you know that gender bias is real.

And whereas I am happy that fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are now being given more attention, being identified as real conditions and am glad that it's being put out there on national television by the latest medical authority (?), a little statement like Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum being the person who convinced Dr. Oz that fibromyalgia and CFS are real speaks volumes about the battle for it to be recognized, the battle for women’s experiences to be taken seriously and the connection between the two.

I can't be the only one who feels patronized…

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Spoons Are Not Just for Soup Anymore

My latest HC post is up:

"There I was at the computer, staring at my monitor, seeing a vast expanse of white space that needed to be filled with this post. This post about spoons. I stared at it on and off for six hours and nothing came to me -- well, nothing other than the overwhelming urge for a nap. Eventually, though, it occurred to me that trying to write about spoons when I was completely out of them was perhaps flirting with idiotic, so I turned off the computer and had a nap."

You can read the rest here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Ice Age Cometh



I just want to cry.

These are words and phrases used in conversations with friends, acquaintances and total strangers when talking about Toronto's weather in the past couple weeks.

Because it's cold. Really, really cold. 470 degrees (at least) below average for this time of year. But why would October be any different? All year, it's been like this, most of the summer was like that and that's one of the things that makes it even harder to take. Because we had maybe four weeks of real Toronto summer, the kind where you gad about in light summer dresses, keep the fans going and bitch about the humidity. Except this year, nobody bitched, mostly because we spent May, June, July and the first half of August bitching about it not being warm. And in the third week of September the temps dipped again and by now, it's as cold as it normally is in November and we haven't had that week in October that we almost always have that feels like summer all over again, except with yellowing leaves dancing in the warm air and yesterday, they said it might snow. I've been in Canada for 27 years and I'm pretty sure I don't remember ever having seen the possibility of snow before Halloween. Okay, logic says it may have happened once or twice, but I don't remember it.

And did I mention I'm wearing socks and have been for two weeks now? Not only was it a month later than it normally is when I took them off, but now it's a month earlier than it normally is putting them back on and my feet would like you to know that they are deeply unhappy. Well, not deeply unhappy with being warm(ish), but they do have that claustrophobia issue and the thought that it is going to be at least seven months – SEVEN! MONTHS!! - before there is slightest hope that I can take them off again and walk around with bare feet is enough to make me want to cry.

And it's not just me. It's everyone I know. When you live in Canada, you may not like winter, we may complain bitterly in February, but once it gets a bit colder in November, it's noteworthy, something to chitchat about, but under normal circumstances, it's not something to resent with a burning fervour. It's expected and once it gets cold and snowy in December, is actually sort of nice, adds to the whole seasonal joy and happiness. But this cold? In October? After a shitty summer and last year's neverending winter and the summer before that that was really wet? It turns out that Canadians - or to be more specific, Torontonians - suck up the usual seven months of cold only because we’ve had four glorious months of warmth to heal the wounds of the previous winter. This year, we had four weeks of summer and I'm pretty sure that the February blahs are going to arrive on or about November 14th.

The phrase temper tantrum does not begin to describe how I feel….

Bitterness and shivering aside, I'm also excited about Laurie's rescheduled Toronto booklaunch and hope to meet a few friends for the first time there (y'know... barring illnesses and misc acts of various divinities):

Friday, October 16, 2009


I remember watching the Oscars last year and being really confused about the nomination for best actress for a movie called Happy-Go-Lucky that I'd never even heard of. Put it on my mental to-rent list, but very low down as the clip they showed during the Academy Awards looked kind of… well. Stupid? But when this past weekend found me in the video store - and I'm still wondering when the vernacular is going to change to DVD store - wandering among the aisles, not able to find anything I recognized or was in the mood for, I saw it and thought Mike Field Leigh, British, why not…

Happy-Go-Lucky is the story of Poppy, a primary school teacher somewhere in England (I'm a bit vague on the geographical details - the accent was familiar, but I was too busy focusing on other things too pinpoint it). It's not one of those stories where something big happens, instead a sort of snapshot of a couple of months in Poppy’s life.

Poppy is a happy woman, able to see the fun in most situations and I'll be honest, initially the woman got on my nerves. Well, for more than initially because 40 minutes into the movie, I put it on pause to write the following: "this movie is supposed to be an 'invitation to find joy and grace in everyday moments' (so says Entertainment Weekly), but really, 40 minutes in, all I wanted to do was strangle the giggling idiot. Seriously, the woman seems not to be quite sane.”

I'm a big fan of joy and grace, I'm a tremendous fan of laughing as much as possible and finding the humor in pretty much everything but this one? Batty, a bit touched, a few biscuits short of a tin and I could go on. Only my insane need to complete what I've started and a brief scene in a white Poppy teaches her class and seems good at it made me go back and… I'm glad I did. It turns out you need that first part where you just see the giggly bits in order to get to know her and that's exactly what you do. Like every time you get to know a new person, you first see the surface and the depths later and it turns out that I ended up liking Poppy quite a bit. Sure, she laughs her way through life, but she is far from superficial – she thinks deeply, is genuinely nice and actually really smart. Sally Hawkins as Poppy gives an excellent performance, slowly showing us all the facets of the character.

Like other Mike Leigh films I've seen, although Happy-Go-Lucky has a main character, the movie is more of an ensemble piece and as we go along, we meet the people in Poppy's life. Unique characters all, they may not occupy much time on screen, but the actors manage to leave an indelible impression of a real, three-dimensional person. Poppy’s friend and roommate Zoe really stood out, having some fantastic one-liners and Poppy’s pregnant younger sister has what could best be described as a cameo, yet is not only a complete person, but in those moments that she and Poppy share the screen, you see who they are as sisters and as family. However, it is Eddie Marsan as Scott, Poppy’s driving teacher who stands out among the cast of actors who all stand out. Working a hostile slowburn, Scott is angry at the world and everyone in it. Like the other characters in the movie, slowly peels off layer after layer and as he and Poppy provoke each other to what's worst about each, Marsan reveals a deeply sad, yet frightening man with unbelievable skill.

One of my favorite movies is Vera Drake. I've only seen it once, but it made an incredible impression on me. Also directed by Mike Leigh, it showcases character actors who do not seem like they are acting, but not in that "really good actor acting" way, more like the people portraying the family in the movie really were family, sharing an easy communication that just doesn't happen unless you know someone really well. I later found out that Mike Leigh had the cast eat dinner together for several weeks before filming started and as in Happy-Go-Lucky, encouraged actors to adlib and improvise the characters as they felt right and the result in both movies is spectacular. Watching really good actors become the character is a treat and I highly recommend both movies.

Just be prepared to want to smack Poppy for a bit in the beginning.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thanks Giving

It has ripples, this thing. This exhibit. This fulfilling of a dream I thought was just a dream, something to wish for, think about, but never realize. A dream, a fancy, not an achievable goal. And besides the mindboggle of holycrapIhaveanexhibit!, there’s something more, a deeper awe. Because as Dawn said when I told her about it, "just think of how much have changed in the last five years".

Five years ago, I was on the wrong side of the abyss, descending into one of the biggest flares I've ever had, losing function, losing myself, losing my life. Five years ago, the idea of manageable pain was a pipe dream and the life I have today unimaginable.

And then came the Biologics, first Enbrel and then Humira and they gave me my life back, both literally and figuratively. The change from who and where I was five years ago is so vast it's hard to comprehend. It's happened slowly, moment after moment, strength after strength coming back, building on what was there before, like coral and looking back, I can see how one thing stood on the shoulders (so to speak) of another, but yet... I look at my life today and the tears still come, the gratitude so deep, so profound that it fills me up with silent awe because there are no words to describe this level of joy.

And it's not just the big things, like fulfilling a dream, like having a job, like finding love when I'd come to accept that it wouldn't happen again, but the small things, as well. It's normal blood tests (OK, so that one's pretty big, too), it's being part of events and family visits, it's laughing every day, it's whining about being so busy that I can't think - because I'm busy! It's moments like the days where my shot of Humira kicks me into super health, so I fall on my dinner like I haven't eaten in days - because I'm starving, not nauseous. It's moments like when the orange I have for dessert is so intensely and deliciously orange, hitting my mouth with a burst of flavour so complex and sunny I almost weep. It's chasing a bumblebee among the lavender for that perfect shot, it's having the mental and physical space to think so I can write and even when I injure myself, even when the pain fills up that mental and physical space so I can't think, it's knowing that with patience and with effort I have the ability to bounce back. It may take a while, it may feel like forever, but I can and I do and I have. And it is all because of Humira.

I live a miracle every day. I live a miracle so profound that I don't even notice it half the time. And on this Thanksgiving Monday, I give thanks. To the people who invented this medication, to the taxpayers of Ontario who pay for it and make my life possible, for being given the chance to give back a little of what I have received. I give thanks to the miracle.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Fall Bokeh & Winners

Inspired by Ree's (Pioneer Woman) latest call for... well, Fall bokeh.

Winners were selected by asking David - it seemed appropriate - to choose a number between 1 and 53 and then another one. Random enough, since I asked it late in the evening and he was blessedly oblivious of my evil plan. First number was 42 (because his geekiness matches mine) - congratulations Wren, you win the 2010 calendar! Second number was 36 - congratulations Cynthia - let me know what print you want. Email me your respective addresses at landers5ATgmailDOTcom and I'll get them to you as soon as possible.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Great Expectations

Not surprisingly, I've been thinking of dreams and how to make them a reality and I wrote some of those thoughts down for this week's HealthCentral post:

"Be kind to yourself, we say. Work within your limits, we say. Accommodate your illness. Don't push yourself too hard. Sometimes, it sounds as if now that you have rheumatoid arthritis, it comes first no matter what. If managing pain means doing less, does that mean you have to give up on your dreams?"

You can read the rest here.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Bonfire Planned, Bring Your Own Kindling

And she's off on a rant again….

In Monday evening when I was vaguely skimming the paper, seeing what had happened during my four-day absence from anything not exhibit-related (I still giggle when placing em and an exhibit in the same sentence – bear with me for a bit longer, okay?), I came upon this article which tells the story of the Toronto Public School Board looking into a complaint about To Kill a Mockingbird. Apparently, some dimwit - and clearly I have no problems with broadcasting my particular bias early - wants it banned. This book has previously been pulled from the grade 10 English curriculum by the Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board in response to the parents complained about the use of the n-word.


If a book, as described in the article, "chronicles racial injustice in the American deep south" during a specific era, why on earth would you ban it because of the N-word? Is the n-word in this book not a vital component of chronicling racial injustice? If you're trying to teach adolescents about racism and its historical evolution, why would you even think of omitting literature - nevermind something that's considered a classic - that actually makes the experience of racism visceral and real that way only a great story can?

The article also talks about last year's review of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, complained about by yet another dimwit because of "sexuality, language and criticism of religion" and I would say WTF again, except perhaps I should attempt to achieve a higher level of intellectual discourse.

Heaven forbid that we should actually teach our children to think. Heaven forbid that we should show them how ugly isms are. And teach them to consider how extremism happens and what it can do to our world so maybe the kids can go out there and not fall for the kind of circuitous and limited arguments usually involved in such schools of thought… well, that's just radical, innit? No, instead, let’s burn ‘em all. Anything we don’t agree with, find vaguely objectionable and especially the books that makes us feel queasy and challenged and… oh my, think of The Children!

Protecting said children from information is one of the most ludicrous ideas I've ever heard. The only protection that works, that combats racism, sexism and extremist ideologies is development of critical thinking. And in order to teach kids critical thinking, they need exposure to the kind of source material, questions and discussion that will arm them when they next encounter a dimwit.

I'd go on for a while, but the ranting has taken my available energy, so I'm going to go stare vacantly some more. I'm hoping that you'll have a lively debate in the comments section.

Monday's contest is still open - leave a comment by Thursday, 6pm to qualify.

Monday, October 05, 2009

You're All Invited

An Exhibit of Photographs
From a Wheelchair Perspective

Yorkville Public Library
22 Yorkville Avenue (Yonge & Bloor)
October 5-31, 2009

This was supposed to happen in December, but on Wednesday night (September 30 and the reason I'm mentioning the date is coming up in a second) they called me and said renovations have been scheduled for December, so how would I feel about October instead?

More that a little panicked, actually.

Pulling this exhibit together in four days was a team effort and I would like to publicly shower appreciation on the following people (in alphabetical order):

Mor (whose first name is Birthe, so it is too alphabetical) for all the conversations we've had over the years about art - her paintings and my photos (and other people's art) - and for the conversations we've had over the past week about the particulars of the show.

David (a.k.a. DavidG) for saying "just tell me what you need," doing what I needed, thinking of several things that hadn't occurred to me, keeping me laughing and in general being the perfect boyfriend (or whatever they're called when you're a grown-up and by the way, yes, you read right. I've tried to find a elegant and dignified way of mentioning it, but it's one thing to tell the people in your off-line life, a bit more difficult to phrase it when telling The Blog that you’re no longer unattached. So blog… meet David)

Dawn for without hesitation offering her van for transportation even though she's buried under a mountain of papers and exams that need to be graded.

Janet for instantly accepting being volunteered to help her brother's girlfriend who she's only met once.

Janne/TinkMama for taking a great photo for my bio.

Michele for listening to me plan out loud repeatedly and ad nauseam over the past four days, for running around all over the east end of Toronto and beyond picking up frames and for donating what was to be a relaxing Sunday of regenerating after a hard week to helping David and I frame photos.

Last Wednesday's phone call also served as a motivator to get off my arse and get next year's calendar and cards for the upcoming season finished - they are, so check out The Shop (no photos of dusty items this time! However, the small poster is experiencing technical difficulties, hopefully solved soon by CafePress so I can put a different photo on it).

And to celebrate this - my first exhibit, getting through the last four days relatively sane - it seems a good idea to have a contest. Leave a comment, any comment (feel free to suggest charming alternatives to the word boy/girlfriend), anytime before Thursday at 6 PM Toronto time. Winners will be selected fairly randomly with a clever method I haven't figured out yet – the first name will win a 2010 The Seated View calendar and the second name an 8 x 10 print of any photo in my Flickr account.

And now I’m going to collapse, heal my shoulder, shut up so the lurking stress-laryngitis can abate and be vacant for a couple of days.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Playing Nice

There I was, about a week ago, watching the words "yes, I know that's not nice, but neither was his narration" show up on my monitor. I was writing about narrators and audio books and what a difference it makes to have a good match between the material and the voice, using a particular example of a narration by Dennis Boutsikaris that was very much not to my taste, contrasting it with another reading of the same author by George Guidall and gushing unreservedly about the latter. But instead of saying that I wasn't fond of the work, I let loose with my renaming of Boutsikaris. When I wrote the line about it not being nice, I thought for a while, considered rephrasing and then I sacrificed being kind for being funny because I've been sitting on that particular messing with the man's last name for years and it's been making me giggle for about that long. It's snarky, but it's funny. So I decided to go with it.

And then George Guidall left a comment on the post.

My first reaction was akin to the excited squeal emitted by teenage BFFs who haven't seen each other for a long time (e.g., since before history class). My second reaction was to realize that if George Guidall (website up soon) found my post, then so could Dennis Boutsikaris. Because the Internet is that small and sometimes, I forget that, instead feeling like I'm having a conversation with friends in my living room.

I try to lead with kindness, both in my life and on this blog and although I will be opinionated and sometimes ranty, I do my best to limit it to behaviour and opinions - things that can be changed - keeping away from the personal, things that can't be changed because to be snarking about such parts of a person can be really hurtful.

Snark is in these days and snark can be really, really funny, but it requires walking a fine line. I read recaps of reality TV on TVGasm especially because of the snarky, but the best of them, the funniest and the ones I keep coming back to the ones written by people who love the show they're writing about and where that love shines through almost every single snarky paragraph. It's the good-natured teasing of someone who loves you and considering that this constitutes much of the communication in my family, it's something I grok. But snark without the affection too often comes close to laughing at someone, instead of laughing with them.

Some people say that when you choose a profession in which becoming a public figure is part and parcel of that - e.g., actor or politician - you're fair game, but those people usually run around taking pictures of celebrities hiking out for coffee in their yoga pants and without makeup. In my view, you're fair game when you're at work, dressed up and on the red carpet, but when you’re not working, your privacy is an important as mine. And by extension, you have as many feelings as I do and although I welcome disagreement with my opinion (as long as we can have an intelligent, civilized debate instead of belligerent hate mail), pointing and laughing at me will hurt.

So I would like to apologize to Mr. Boutsikaris. What I didn't say in that post but should have, is that when I first started listening to the book narrated by him, I checked on imdb and was surprised. I remembered having seen him in things on TV, enjoyed his work as an actor and wondered what happened in the translation to a narration that made things so different. And what I didn't say, but should have, is that this particular example of his work was not to my taste.

Sorry, Dennis.