Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Twist on Goldilocks and the Three Bears

My son Julian recorded his four year old little brother's re-telling of the Goldilocks story. He then matched it up with his own illustrations, with a simple animation created in iMovie. It made me laugh. A lot.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Russians Led Me to My PG Wodehouse

The doctor in my mind wrote a prescription for me and the prescription was: Insert More Pelham Grenville into your life, daily, for several weeks.

I've been feeling droopy of late, lacking the ability to laugh at self, or to feel particularly chirpy about anything, let alone make a "Five Year Plan". This, coupled with a decided lack of sleep, and waking in the night a regular occurrence, finds me, these days, with my knuckles dragging on the ground. As it's the season when most things are coming alive, birdies are tweeting and gardens are growing, my state was irksome, to say the least.

The prescription was to re-read the very first P.G. Wodehouse book I ever read, preferably in the same paperback edition, for maximum impact. I knew that this book had made me laugh out loud, and laugh more than I had ever laughed reading any book ever. It was the one that confirmed me as a life long P.G. Wodehouse fan, particularly his Jeeves and Bertie series.

Problem was I had no idea which book it was. I'd borrowed the book from a friend at the time of reading. I knew it had a picture of someone in a boat, and a circular garden pavilion, and there was something about a hostile swan. But couldn't for the life of me remember the name of the collection. And there are quite a few novels and short story collections.

Thank you internet! Yesterday an online search for clues brought me to this wonderful compendium of Wodehouse, from the Russian Wodehouse Society. Yes, from the Russians! The really helpful thing was their inclusion of photos of the actual book covers used over many years of publication. I found my book! It was right there: the boat, the pavilion, the swan. I think the swan, anyway, the book cover is a bit tiny.

It was with me the work of a minute (or several minutes) to locate a used copy of the book online, for practically nothing. And soon my prescription will be winging its way to me. Thank you, oh nameless and meticulous Russians for your love and dedication to one of the wonders of English literature: P.G. Wodehouse, and for leading me back to a delightful pleasure from my past.

It's all the more charming that Russians have put this website together as Wodehouse liked to rib the Russian temperament regularly in his books. For example, this little excerpt from Wodehouse's Monkey Business:

I have a tender heart (said Mr Mulliner), and I dislike to dwell on the spectacle of a human being groaning under the iron heel of Fate. Such morbid gloating, I consider, is better left to the Russians.

I look forward to a lot less morbid gloating in my future.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Not so Still Life With Canine

Dog heaven, aka, Cherry Beach, with ice floes breaking up

One of the best things about my new Life with Dog is the outdoors, the fact that I am outdoors. It's walking and going places, in the fresh air, immersed in the landscape, whether I like it or not. And in the past, my usual inclination on a cold day was to not be outside.

Taylor Creek park, after a snowfall

This winter, however, has passed in parks, forests, fresh snowfalls, along wintry lakes with ice floes on the shore. I've seen beautiful skies, and sunsets. Lots of bad weather too, but the good outweighed the bad.

My dog, Izi, (Isadora) is still a puppy, just turned eight months, and she's now more of a dog, assuming her dog shape: legs are long, and snout is long and pointy. She's lost the cute bluntness of the puppy form, but stayed fairly small, which I'm happy about. I look at her sometimes and think: Don't grow, please stay that size, you're perfect now.

Izi on forest path in Greenwood Conservation Area

Taking the dog out, as much as it sometimes feels like the last thing I want to do, gets me out, and away from the laptop. There's one focus: I'm constantly on the lookout for playmates at various dog parks I haunt. She loves other dogs. A trip to the park with no other dog who's a pup or still has puppy energy is a letdown, as playmates help burn off that crazy puppy energy. As they say, "a tired puppy is a good puppy."

"I am too still cute," says Izi.

She's grown. The difference between walking into a dog park with a puppy on the end of a leash and a dog on the end of a leash is noticeable. Puppies generate instant oohs and ahhs. Izi doesn't inspire that any longer. She's not a fashionably cute dog, like the Goldendoodles or Labradoodles you see everywhere. She's a dog dog: a generic-looking classic dog. She's beautiful in her dog way, but no longer cute.

Where she was once the puppy being overwhelmed by the bigger dogs, she can even intimidate little pups now, with her enthusiastic playing. Sometimes she growls as she play fights. She pulls out all the stops to look fierce, bares her teeth. A couple of small dog owners have looked at her and pulled their dogs away. Where did this scary dog come from? It's over the top play-fighting, something that would have put me off too, in my days pre-dog. I'd think, "Are these dogs ready to kill each other?" Apparently its normal dog playing behaviour--the way a kid in a playground growls like a scary monster, chasing another one in a game. I remember doing it myself as a kid, vocalizing to make the game more authentic. Scary, but it stops in an instant. One second she's growling, the next second, she's looking down at the ground to inspect a stick, an extremely interesting stick.

Izi, being eaten by GoldenDoodle

The two combatants will sit side by side to watch a new dog approaching the park. Yay, here come new friends to play with, to steal balls from.

Oh, the ball stealing. The agony of that. But that's a whole other post.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I'm an Immigrant in the Land of Dog

It appears I have a dog. How did this happen? It was a coup de foudre standing on the outside of a kennel looking in at 9 bouncing six week old puppies. They belonged to my neighbours in the country. He wanted to spay his Chocolate Lab and decided to let her have one litter before he did. I've seen 101 Dalmations, but really I was kind of shocked to think a fairly little dog would give birth to nine!!!! puppies.

This one looked right at me and jumped up against the side of the pen. I knew she wanted to jump into my arms. It was like she had searched her whole life for me and finally found me! How could I resist that call to action??? Can puppies hypnotize people? I think they can. I picked her up and she melted into my body, smelling like something not all that nice, Eau de Puppy Crate. Sawdust and remnants of whatever else. But I didn't care, she was so warm and just collapsed into me. After a couple of minutes of holding her my brain started working on its own saying crazy things like, "I want to have this puppy."

Finally we went back home, leaving her there, with her littermates and mother. My son and I fantasized about what we would do with a puppy, what we would call her, what our lives would be like if we had her.
Julian instantly thought of a name, one which I thought was fairly appalling. Kubokan. I said, I don't think so. Too long.* But no other name popped into my head. We went for a walk in a conservation area, crossed a suspension bridge, and talked about the puppy thing. I said, look at that trail. If we had the dog, we could go walking down that trail, with her.

We went back to the city, 150 miles away from puppy temptation. We sort of forgot about the dog. But two weeks later I drove back out, and as I got in the car I suddenly thought, I wonder if I'll be coming back with a dog? My neighbour dropped by to talk about some stuff, he does maintenance for me at my place. I said, do you still have the puppies? I figured the one I liked, the smallest, the prettiest, the cutest, couldn't possibly still be there. He said there were three left. I arranged to come over and see them later that morning. Just to see them. Walked over and there she was. A little bigger, but still that same little face. Black, with butterscotch eyebrows. Too cute. She seemed to know who I was. Picked her up and it was game over.

That small rational piece of my brain did kick in slightly and I said, "I'd like to take her. But I don't know if it will work out at my place in the city. It's small. Real small. And I have the cats. I don't know how she'll manage with the cats. So, I can take her for a trial, as long as I can bring her back if it doesn't work out." My neighbour said, fine.

I'm still not totally sure how it's working out, but after almost 2 weeks of being a puppy owner I've had my heart melted, and my nerves fry repeatedly. Over and over and over again. One minute I think I can do it and the next minute it's, "No, what was I thinking? This is insane. She's gotta go back."

You see, I am an immigrant in the Land of Dog. Never had a dog. Never looked after a dog. Never really ever known a dog. Not well. I've always been a cat person. I've even been a little scared of dogs my whole life. Except for the ones that look like stuffed animals. Which is the kind of dog I'd been hankering after--off and on for the past few years. Just in an internet-browsing sort of fantasy way.

But I guess this is one of those Life Happens to You While You're Busy Making Other Plans kind of thing. I could still decide not to keep her, I guess. The bloom is off the rose for my son, definitely. He's wanting things to go back to the way it was, pre-dog. But as each day goes by, I'm getting a little better at learning this new dog language. I'm still on Ellis Island, and I'm waiting in line. Hoping for the best.

* Her name is now Isadora: Izzy.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Witty & Amazing: Nancy Mitford

A friend pressed this book into my hand earlier this year: Love in a Cold Climate. She told me that she loved the way the cousins and sisters in the book really appreciated the things the others did, and told them so. In the book, this ability is called "exclaiming" and it's a mixture of noticing, appreciation and yes, in some cases, gushing. New pair of drapes? New hat? An enterprising endeavour? Do they like it? Are they proud of you? How nice to have your friend tell you so, enthusiastically. Nowadays I guess it's called "positive feedback" but I rather like the word "exclaiming". A sincere bit of exclaiming in this world of disappointments and failures is something I wish there were a lot more of in the world.

But all that aside, which is only a small part of the book, reading Love in Cold Climate was a happy experience. I was thrilled to discover a writer this entertaining. Almost a cross between P.G. Wodehouse and Jane Austen. Nancy Mitford, writing in the 1930s was funny and astute. In her life she was a privileged child, debutante, book store clerk, essayist and finally, succesful and famous writer, who spent most of her adult life in Paris. She was a good friend of Evelyn Waugh, and their letters have also been published - now on my list of things to read. (I've always been an Evelyn Waugh fan as well.)

Love in a Cold Climate and the Pursuit of Love (two short books packaged together) are very loosely inspired by her own experiences growing up-one sister of many-in an upper class family in the countryside in England. This was a time when girls still were not routinely sent to school, and mostly grew up in an atmosphere of benign neglect. Marriage was the main goal. Surprising that in 1930s England, not much had really changed since Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice.

A couple of gems from the book that I didn't want to forget:

On Mirrors
We then sallied forth into the street, looking at ourselves in every shop corner that we passed. (I have often noticed that when women look at themselves in every reflection and take furtive peeps into their hand looking-glasses, it is hardly ever, as it is generally supposed, from vanity, but much more often from a feeling that all is not quite as it should be.)

On marriage prospects of Linda, main character in the Pursuit of Love
I looked about hopefully for a possible life partner, but though I honestly tried to see the best in them, nothing remotely approximating to my requirements turned up.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Oh, Spy Magazine, how I miss you...

Every now and then, usually while web surfing, something reminds me of Spy Magazine and I'm thinking it may be time to drag out my old copies, saved from the 80s and early 90s.

Spy was a funny, very funny, scathingly brilliant publication with beautiful graphic design, edited by Graydon Carter, who is now the editor of Vanity Fair. (I think he's still there). It was the first to christen Donald Trump as a "short fingered vulgarian".
The title came in part from the society gossip magazine for which Jimmy Stewart’s character works in the suave 1940 movie The Philadelphia Story. With relatively little budget for design, however, Spy’s editors saw their best route forward in giving ambitious designers a free creative license. Doyle, who had recently quit M to form his new partnership, found his own inspiration for the prototype in the typographic density and variety of sixteenth-century Polyglot bibles and 1920s type-specimen books. He recalls a reverence in design circles at the time for art directors like Fabien Baron, who in the late 1980s gave Italian Vogue a spare elegance reminiscent of Alexey Brodovitch’s midcentury designs. “In the 1980s there was this annoying supposition that Baron had invented white space,” Doyle says. “This was our reaction against clean minimalism.”
Quote above is from a great article about Spy. Read more here. Some issues, one in particular (that I somehow lost), actually made me cry with laughter. It was an article that had something to do with made-up names, and the names themselves were the key to the unstoppable shrieking and guffawing.

I notice that a fellow Torontonian, Joe Clark, at is collecting Spy back issues. His site is called Ten Years Ago in Spy. Joe's own blog (linked above) is interesting as well. I enjoyed his critical review of Toronto's Jones Avenue the last time I was there.

Of course I can't remember the Spy issue or even the particular article that set off my marathon laughing fit, but I will be racking my brains trying to remember it. Off and on. When I remember.

Spy was also the venue of a monthly column about life by Ellis Weiner, who now writes on the Huffington Post and is very funny and brilliant. His columns were always one of my favourite things in Spy. It's great to find his writing again on the web. Here is his entertaining and informative deconstruction of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Ellis is also the author of a number of books: The Joy of Worry, the unjustly neglected but hilarious Drop Dead, My Lovely and The Big Boat to Bye-Bye, and Santa Lives! Five Conclusive Arguments for the Existence of Santa Claus.

He is co-author, with Barbara Davilman, of Yiddish With Dick and Jane and Yiddish With George and Laura, both published by Little, Brown.

More to add to my Amazon wish list.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Great List of Best Documentaries

I just realized that I'm not a fan of  the "must see before you die" gambit as a method of nudging people towards a valuable experience, because....well, how else are you going to experience anything? Presumably you will be alive while watching or doing anything on a "bucket" list.  I'd prefer to use the words: "see while you are alive", if anything. However,  with that bow to my peeve regarding the author's phraseology out of the way,  I'll simply say: Take a look at this excellent list of documentary films. (The list's author includes pictures and an illuminating recap of each film.) See a bunch of these films! After reading it today, many titles will be going on my 

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