View From The Glen

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Leonard Cohen Day

I drove to Kingston and back today, and much as I love the Limestone City, I find the drive tedious.

Not today though, because today was Leonard Cohen Day on the CBC in honour of his newly released album, Old Ideas (which, incidentally, I am listening to right now as it's being streamed live all day). From here to just this side of Kingston, where it got unbelievable fuzzy, and again on the rather treacherous journey home, every few minutes was a clip or a song from Leonard.

This week, I've been teaching poetry to college students, and have been struggling with how to get them to just read it and enjoy it as so many of them seem to have negative attitudes toward what poetry is and what it means. I think tomorrow I am going to take some of Leonard Cohen's work in with me. For inspiration, as I try to elicit their poetic responses to the world around them.

In the meantime, here is one of my favourite of Cohen's songs/poems. I really like the stuff I heard off his new album - such as this - but I'm going to go with this classic.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

On Languor

Move your lips as you read the words - feel them rolling off your tongue. Slowly, slowly, turn each crisp, buttery page. Notice the hollow sound. Inhale the papery scent.

Pause at the chapter changes to let the title sink in. Consider what you have read, and what is still before you. What treasures still await?

Put it down before you are tired of reading.

Let the story waft over you for a day or so. Come back to it, remember it. Savour it.

When you can't wait to get back to it, wait a little longer. Embrace the longing. Go snowshoeing. Recall details of the characters, the plot, the setting, as you move through the field.

Come home, relax, drink white hot chocolate laced with Grand Marnier.

Pick it up again. Read another chapter. Force yourself to slow down. Not to rush.

Revel in the languor of a long, slow, sensory, read.

Julius LeBLanc Stewart (American, 1855-1919) Reading Aloud (c. 1833) Oil on canvas 28 by 51.5 inches (Private Collection)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Chain Letter Equivalency

I love Facebook, yes even with the new timeline. I love seeing pictures of my cousins' babies all the way over in the UK, and keeping up with the lives of friends who live around the country. Without Facebook, my connection with these people would be tenuous: a Christmas card, and an occasional phone call, at best.

But there is one thing that Facebook enables that drives me crazy and I call it the chain letter equivalency. You know what I'm talking about...a post that makes a comment or suggestion (often quite interesting) and then urges everyone to "repost on your status if you agree with it." Sometimes it goes even further, implying that if you don't repost, you are perhaps not the very good friend you assumed yourself to be.

I just want to get one thing straight for all my FB friends...If I didn't want to follow you, I wouldn't. Simple as that. So sorry if I don't post a word in the comments that describes you and starts with the third letter of my name, and then repost to my status because it will be fun. Sorry if I am one of the many who won't repost a disease or condition for only one hour on my status. Let me reassure you that I care about you, and about the disease, and about small chia pets in Egypt - I just don't want to repost the information.

Now, I am mocking just a little. And because I have a friend considering joining Facebook (Hi Julie), let me also say quite seriously that what I get out of this social media platform far eclipses this reposting nonsense. And many things that are reposted are fascinating, timely and entertaining, for example this one (thank you, Keitha!):

But one that circulated today started this rant because it, in particular, epitomizes all that is silly and annoying about these things.

It looks like this:

If you have a wonderful man in your life... A man who helps bring balance to your world... A man who is perfect for you... A man who would do anything for you....A man who makes you laugh and drives you crazy....A man who is your best friend and soul mate..... A man who you want to grow old with.... A man who you're thankful for everyday and is the one and only true love of your life.... Brag about him a little and repost this! I LOVE YOU (INSERT NAME HERE)=)

Seriously. Seriously!

If you do have a man like that in you life, by all means brag about him. By all means post about how you love and adore him (though too much baring of souls in a public forum is another form of Facebook abuse, so tread carefully). By all means tell us that he is the yin to your yang, that he brings you flowers for no reason, or that he picks up the kids and makes dinner without complaint.

But don't do it

  • in a cut and paste post 
  • that someone else created 
  • because someone else told you to.

Not cool. Definitely not romantic.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

 Wouldn't it have been glorious to wear this dress and matching gloves in 1939? There is something resplendent and yet bittersweet about such luxuriousness on the eve of World War II.

I don't very often get to dress up and go out anymore. Twenty years ago, I had a closet full of evening gowns and cocktail dresses that I wore to a myriad of naval functions: The Trafalgar Ball, New Year's Soirees, Meet and Greet events held at the fabulous Wardroom (Naval Officer's Mess) in Halifax, or events held in one of many private clubs where our commanding officers would host evenings of food and wine and music. As a lieutenant, I could have worn uniform, and often did wear my formal mess kit, but more often than not, when non military members were joining us, I wore evening attire. Not quite like this dress, unfortunately.

But occasionally, events like last night's International Wine Festival are held at the same happy time as we are able to organize babysitting (hello, Grandma and Grampa!), and though I don't have many gowns left in my closet, I do have a little black dress that was perfect for the event.

Dressing up, doing my hair (which, for me means drying my hair. With an actual hair dryer), wearing high heels and - yikes - makeup...let's just say it doesn't happen often. But perhaps that is part of the charm of going out for the evening.

We had a wonderful time. International cuisine (the Indian food was superb), plenty of unique wines to try, good friends, plenty of socializing, a super jazz band, and an ice-blue mime that welcomed us to the event.

No, we don't get out to functions like this as often as once we did. We do enjoy good food and company, but have sort of evolved into homebodies who invite friends over for dinner where we duke out seating arrangements with the kids, or who host an afternoon of snowshoeing followed by an evening sitting by the fire and enjoying a casual pot luck, or who throw a bonfire party in the dusk at the last minute. Even the dinner parties we enjoy that are more formal don't exactly call for evening dress. And I like it that way.

But sometimes - sometimes - swanky events like last night just fit the bill.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Editing Update

It's been a busy few months in editing.

Current Projects
I've been working on a couple of projects including back-to-back pirate stories which are now completed and for which the author and I are waiting with baited breath for  cover art. They are both due out this year, and you can check out Jennifer Bray Weber's website for more information.

I've also been editing a steampunk novella, which I have really enjoyed. If you're not clear what steampunk is, it's a great mash up of history and technology. One site I really like is Steamed, which reviews steampunk novels, but also has great links.

A new book I'm looking at is about superheroes, and there seems to be a trend because there were two in a row on the same theme - though both very different books in their own way. You'll have to stay tuned for more because they are still in progress.

Award News
One of the authors I work with had some exciting news this week. Her book, Viper's Kiss, is a finalist in the Romantic Suspense category of the Australian Romance Reader Awards. Viper's Kiss was the first book I worked on with Carina Press and I love the banter between the hero and the librarian heroine. As a side note, the author, Shannon Curtis, and I just finished edits on another book in the same series, It's called Guarding Jess and is another romantic suspense due out late spring/early summer.

New Releases
Last but certainly not least, if you are looking for something to read this cold, snowy, icy day when you are housebound with the kids - or even (given that this is the world wide web) if you are sitting on a beach in the sun, you can't go wrong with either of these two new releases.

Amazon Heat by Melinda Leigh and Rayna Vause is a novella set deep in the heart of the Amazon with magic and legend woven into the adventure of a young researcher and the man who follows her into the jungle to rescue her. As an aside, Melinda is a 2nd degree black belt who blogs about writing action scenes at Attacking the Page.

The Professor by Cathy Perkins is a suspense novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat. I still get shivers thinking about the murderer in this story, a man both chilling and mysterious. Known only as The Professor, he has his sights set on Meg, a grad student, and this causes complications for Agent Mick O'Shaughnessy whose interest in Meg goes beyond the call of duty.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Blogging Comment Challenge

One of the things I've been bad at doing recently is visiting other blogs and leaving comments. It's Twitter's fault (heh heh). Twitter often leads me to cool blogs, but so often my comment seems quicker and easier in the form of a tweet back, and I have noticed that trend on my own blog too. People often comment via Twitter instead of on the blog.

No biggie, but blog comments are a different species of comment. And frankly, while I love Twitter, I kind of miss some of the blogging connections I had built. I recently updated my blogroll of regular blogs I follow, and knew I wanted to make a concerted effort to check in and comment more often.

Then (via Twitter) came a post from a peek inside the fishbowl about making Sunday Blogging Comment Day. I left a comment that it was a super idea and decided to take up the challenge. Every Sunday, I'm going to try to leave 5 comments on blog posts. And to up the ante, I'm going to try and make 2-3 a week be new blogs because let's face it, half of social media is meeting new people. I've been fortunate to have old friends who blog with me, but I've also met numerous new friends through blogging.

And so begins the challenge. I made it today, leaving posts on the following new-to-me blogs.

Chaos Theory
Kitchen Counter Chronicles

If you have any links to other blogs, feel free to leave them.

Or, you know, there is always Twitter. I'm still there.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Stories of Long Ago: Enid Blyton

Stories of Long Ago is actually the name of one of the many Enid Blyton books I own, but in this context it has a double entendre because I'm really talking about my long ago. I was a huge fan of Enid Blyton. She was pretty much a mainstay of a British child's library in the....I want to say 70's, which was when I was reading her books, but I have at least a half dozen books - hardcover and plainly bound - from the 50's that belonged to my Aunt Val when she was young too.

So tonight, sitting here relaxing on a snowy evening, I picked up a book one of the girls had left on the coffee table: Enid Blyton's Bedtime Story Book.

The books I remember were all series books: The Secret Seven, The Adventure series, Mallory Towers, St Clair, the Brownie and Fairy books, Mr. Pink Whistle, Noddy and Big Ears, Mr. Meddle, The Magic Faraway Tree, and of course that watershed series of my own childhood - The Famous Five.

But I remember books like  Enid Blyton's Bedtime Story Book too. Stories about children and nurseries and toys and magical creatures. And the food, oh-my-gosh the food. Treacle Pudding, sticky buns, Tippy Toppy Tarts (no ideas, but they sound delightful), ginger beer, sausages, sandwiches.... I get almost as hungry reading Enid Blyton (even as I type, Andrew is off in the kitchen concocting something yummy for me) as I do reading Dickens.

So it was something of a shock glancing through as an adult. Oh, I know the stories are dated, but it's part of their charm. What surprised me was the moral underpinnings of all the stories.

There is Dame Poke-Around (and seriously, who invented the word Dame? Ick.) who is taught a moral lesson when she talks everyone in the village she is visiting not to contribute money to someone whose house just burned down, only to get home and find it was her house. Subtle, if you like sledge hammers over the head. Also extremely predictable.

Or Tig and Tag, the quarrelsome brownies who lose their bag of juicy apples to goblins, Snick and Snack after Snick and Snack incite the duo into an argument. Not only do Tig and Tag learn their lesson, but Dame Enid (I must assume) doesn't let greedy Snick and Snack off the hook either and sends them both home with tummy ache "which really served them right for they shouldn't have taken those apples."

Then there is poor Peter, who on his birthday gets a brand new bike. But does he listen to his mother who says he must learn the Highway Code before he takes it out? Oh no. Poor Peter goes for a ride anyway while Mom is on the phone, and ends up spending his birthday in hospital with a broken leg. A cautionary tale if there ever was one.

Greedy rabbits, cheeky children ("What he wanted was a good spanking, but nobody gave him that which was a great pity."), tiresome brownies, forgetful schoolboys, untidy pixies...they are all in here, learning their lesson, making me cringe.

I am now almost afraid to revisit The Famous Five. What if they too are preachy and condescending? Oh, the horror?

PS: as an aside, I am thinking of other books my kids might like. Ideas welcome. Erik is reading the classics this year (or some of them, at least). Was thinking of The Secret Garden for Anna. Or if I can find it, Tom's Midnight Garden which I loved as a kid. Black Beauty? Watership Down? The Hobbit? Grace is doing Harry Potter - as soon as I rediscover what we did with the first book. I know it's on a shelf somewhere...

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sending the Wrong Message?

Both my eldest son and youngest daughter are Lego fans, so I was very interested in the stream of conversation started by Melissa Wardy of Pigtale Pals on Twitter and her blog about how Lego is selling out to the media portrayal of girls...well you can read her wonderful piece here.

I sort of forgot about it again over Christmas, and since I don't have TV and have not seen the Lego ads, have not really been paying attention. Also my youngest tends to be interested in the same sets as her older brother, so I'm not sure I was really aware that there was girly Lego out there.

But today, Melissa posted this on Facebook.

It's a wordle from an advertisement for Lego's girl-marketed sets of all the nouns and adjectives used.

A wordle (an amazing tool I use all the time when teaching and/or editing) takes all the words and arranges them in a visual representation of how often they are used and how important they are. You can learn more about it on the wordle web site.

Maybe there is nothing surprising here. But then she made this one.

This is from a similar ad for the boy-marketed sets.

Side by side, we see this.

Which is very interesting.

Girls decorate, and boys do exciting stuff. Is that really the message we want to be sending?

Marketers can argue (and they do) that they are just responding to a consumer want or need. But I think they also need to accept that their marketing has a lot of clout (and klout!) in society and on our children, and that this consistent kind of gender division sends a strong message.

I don't think it's doing our society any favours. But I'm interested to know what you think.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Letting Go

Generally, January is about looking forwards. But sometimes that is difficult to do without also looking backwards as well. And sometimes that leads to uncomfortable decisions. Decisions about letting go of big parts of your life. Possibly even parts that you don't want to let go of.

It's like that pair of size 4 pants in your closet. You know you'll never fit into them again. And even if you could that 80's style is so outmoded you wouldn't want to, the fit is so uncomfortable they don't make you happy, and the material so worn there is nothing of substance left. They're pants that fit 20 years ago, but which are no longer suitable.

And sometimes, it is sad to say, relationships are the same. You understand. You make allowances. You empathize and support as best you can. But there are only so many calls and visits you can make, only so much effort you can put into sustaining a relationship, only so much energy you can allow the other person to take from you without giving back...and eventually - eventually - you reach the tipping point where you have to let go.

As I write this, from this side of the point of view, I am realizing that I am also guilty of being the one who takes. I have friends who I don't call often enough, don't make plans with often enough, and don't have enough time for on a regular basis. And I recognize the excuses: we are busy, we need downtime, we are away, we are at soccer...karate...bookclub...that weekend. All true. And none of it relevant.

Perhaps good comes out of all this then. A reminder that as much as it is important to let things go...even with the hope that they will one day be stronger is also important to reciprocate the efforts of those who do value you, lest you in turn become the one who is let go.