Sunday, July 29, 2007


I'm currently awaiting the arrival of my stuff. My latest source tells me it's sitting in Montreal. Sometime next week a container of STUFF will be delivered to me. Reading the shipping manifest is hilarious. Just about every item on it is scratched, marked or worn. But I want it anyway.

In preparation for my life to be taken over by a Giza-like pyramid of cardboard boxes, I've been tidying away all non-essential items. As I was packing up books this morning I thought this would probably be a good time to post some random reviews of STUFF I've read (note the emerging pattern?)

So today: Sherri S. Tepper, Grass

Let's see: Oppressive theocracy? Check. Ludicrously oversimplified sexual politics? Check? Female protagonist? Check. Deus ex Machina? Check. If you've read one SST, you've read them all.

Despite this Grass is a thoroughly satisfying read. Convincingly creepy mormon-esque future dystopia, humanity about to be wiped out by a disgusting plague, the mysterious extinction of an alien race, atavistic 'foxhunting' nobility, and miles and miles of lovingly described pampas, all come together very nicely.

So if you like your sci-fi intermingled with musings on the nature of God and humanity's role in creation, and if you've ever fancied getting it on with aliens this might be one to check out.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Like the Interweb needs more pictures of cats...

But they've settled down enough to take the odd photo.

Enda is Shy.

Iarla is Friendly.

Iarla is VERY friendly.

Enda and Iarla are friends.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I Have Cats

Their names are Iarla and Enda (although they might just as well go by their OTHER names: Shredder and Stinky). To date, they won't stay still long enough to be photographed, so here is a picture of a wapiti. I always wanted to know what a wapiti was. Mislead by the Ogden Nash poem "There goes the Wapiti/Hippety-hoppety" my mental image was a cross between a possum and a rabbit. Turns out it's a kind of elk. Isn't the natural world amazing?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Your Ovaries Are Senescing!!!

This week I've had Irish Election Fever. It's similar to the Boogie Woogie Flu in that it sounds entertaining but is ultimately embarrassing. Irish Election fever required listening to 'Morning Ireland', RTE Radio One's current Affairs program. This has brought into high relief the dire quality of CBC radio's morning programs. Little National news, barely any International news and a lot of self-satisfied waffle.

A couple of weeks ago this situation reached its nadir with a week long 'investigative series' on the IVF industry. For a whole week my impressionable, just-waking brain was subjected to a program that was the aural equivalent of a perfect stranger coming up to in the street, grabbing you by the shoulders and shouting 'Your ovaries are senescing! Your ovaries are senescing'. It was that subtle. By Friday I was practically brainwashed into thinking "Hmm, maybe I should try and have a child. Oh no, it's too late." I felt very angry about the whole program, which did nothing except point out the obvious: women have decreased fertility after they are 30, IVF is not a magic bullet. Er, yes, I knew that thank you.

I was even more irritated by how the 'investigative' aspect was utterly neglected. One morning the reporter purred "The first thing women see when they come to the office of Dr B is a wall of baby pictures and thank you notes from the grateful women he has helped to become mothers". I was SHOCKED to hear this, having already listened to many tales of woe from couples who had spent many tens of thousands of dollars on cycle after cycle of unsuccessful IVF, getting into debt, selling their home, sometimes even divorcing from the stress of it all. My first thought would have been to ask the doctor was this ethical, to prime the hopes of women who have only a slim chance of success? But no, the reporter blithely moved on to another zombie-voiced woman saying "freedom in my 20s...didn't think of'm 36...doom...dooooom". The whole thing was a textbook case of lazy, derivative journalism. When my pirate ship with eight sails and fifty cannons comes into view I am so going to enforce journalistic standards (also, the penalty for littering will be crucifiction, you have been warned).

Friday, May 25, 2007

New Game

I call it Blogger Scrabble (Scroggle?), although really it's Call My Bluff. I've been playing it for a while now. Every time I've left a comment on Blogger I've amused myself by thinking up definitions for the jaw-breaking passwords of vowels and consonants. So I've decided to share the results in my comments. Lucky you.

Monday, May 21, 2007


I have made a marvellous and serendipitous discovery. If you get a bar of Green and Black's Mayan Gold chocolate and leave it in your dashboard for months while it freezes, thaws, melts, solidifies, melts, and soldifies again you will get a chocolate bar that resembles Aero, but much, much nicer.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


This caught my eye the other day, as I was checking out some other stuff on Amazon (for Queenie's Kitty in fact). I'm mentally wiped out after a year of teaching so a teen trilogy sounded just the ticket.

And Scott Westerfield's Uglies series is not bad. It's not a shivers-up-your-arms classic, but it has enough solid interest to make it worth recommending to someone with young teens who might need a little self-image persepctive in their lives.

Briefly, the series (Uglies, Pretties, and Specials) follows the coming of age of Tally Youngblood, a girl who lives in a future environment where our civilization (the Rusties) imploded centuries ago from our dependance on petroleum. Humanity now lives in environmentally harmonious communities with a sophisticated bioscience industry. Most adults live and work in small suburbs. Children leave their parents to be educated up to the age of sixteen in Dorms. In their late teens early twenties they live in the City, eventually meet a partner, and settle down to the suburbs to produce the next generation, all in a sustainable, green kind of way.

The twist in the tale is all about appearance and conformity. At the age of sixteen, every citizen undergoes major cosmetic surgery. The idea is that if everybody is equally good-looking the desire and envy that subconsciously drive human relationships is eradicated. Disagreements, prejudice, discrimination, favouritism - all are done away with. Pre-Operative children are called Uglies and encouraged to disparage themselves, secure in the knowledge that on their sixteenth birthday they will become Pretty. In Pretty City they party all night and sleep all day. Not surprisingly, you can't wait to grow up.

Tally is scheduled to follow the same path as her parents and her peers, until a problem brings her to the attention of the barely-rumoured to exist Special Circumstances. Told by the Specials that she will not be allowed to turn Pretty until she finds and betrays a community of City runaways who refuse to have the operation, she is exiled into the Wild. There she discovers - surprise, surprise - that the transformation from Ugly to Pretty is a not entirely beneficial tradeoff between security and freedom.

To my jaded old eyes many of the bells and whistles features that other teens have raved about - bungee jackets, hoverboards - are the least interesting elements (but work as handy deus ex machina). Far more engaging is Tally's not always successful struggle against her conditioning and her determination to find her own way.

"I ain't no whoremonger"

"so come and see me whenever you want. I ain't coming on to you, I just feel we have a connection."

As opening lines go it takes some beating.

He's a good ol' dude, and clearly has lost many years to rock & roll. Saturday night he tells me about his experiences with astral projection and the signficance of numbers.

"Did ya ever wake up in the middle of the night and it was 4.44? Did ya? I have, several times and it makes you wonder, it really does. Or the other day, it was the fifth hour of the fifth day of the fifth month. Something special there."

People want to make meaning of their lives, it's both sad and wonderful to see them reaching out for such small building blocks.

He's writing his memoires, or rather rambing them. He needs someone to write them down for him. I regretfully tell him that I'm fully booked this summer, but my husband might have some time free. He is disgusted to hear I have a husband. "Now you've broken my heart, ain't no fool like an old fool."

amen to that, brother.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Emotional Rescue

Can't get that song out of my head.

I took the last four days off from work 'cos I was feeling very close to burnout. A combination of end of term blues, exam marking that went on forever, and meeting after meeting as people try to get items cleared before everybody disappears for the summer. Woke up Friday morning and realised everything I had scheduled for the weekend would just have to go and do something carnal to itself (now that I am among so many fresh faced kids I have to watch the SWEARING, which is a shame becuase I do love a bit of imaginative and filthy cursing). This feeling carried over to today, so no school for me.

Instead, I gardened. All weekend I was going to garden centers and clearing up bag after bag of dead winter plant. And feeling so much better. I cannot recommend gardening highly enough as a stress beater.

So now I write this on my porch (see above for lovely view) while drinking a Ricard. All I need now is some quality chat.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Hat Trick!

Thanks to the glory of iPod I've recently experienced visceral flashbacks to the 90s, courtesy of Pulp's 'Different Class'. An onlist offhand comment mentioned the possibility of 'seeing Jarvis' at an upcoming summer festival. 'Hmm,' I wonder, 'do they mean Jarvis Cocker?' And so I google and lo and behold the man has emerged from his millenial funk and produced a solo album. And quite good it seems too, from the couple of tracks I've heard.

'What next?' I hear my hipster muso friends think. 'Will she discover the wheel?'

Well, almost. I discovered Jarvcast, a podcast that has managed to score a hat trick with me through:
1) The seductively flat Sheffield tones of Jarvis Cocker
2) reading me stories
3) by Richard Brautingan!

Yes! I'm lying in bed and Jarvis Cocker in reading from The Tokyo Montana Express, one of my favoutite books of all time. Truly, the man can do no wrong.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Ask me about my poor self-image....Part 2

Ummm…Where was I?

Oh yeah, tattoos. One of the first things that struck me about St. Kit’s was the disproportionate number of Tattoo studios (6 in the city centre). Of course, now that I know about the city’s crystal meth cottage industry it starts to make more sense. I’m not saying that meth and tattoos are an inevitable pairing, it’s just that for me they tend to fall into the same category of ‘poor lifestyle decisions’.

And the odd think is, I used to really like tattoos. I was fascinated by them back in the day when I had a biker boyfriend (and yes he did have ‘Live to Ride, Ride to Live’ on his bicep). Every chance I got, my fingers traced the raised ink lines with childish wonder. Painted skin. Cool.

And yet, and yet…I’ve never seen a genuinely good-looking tattoo. In the websites and magazines dedicated to ‘the art’, the content tends to be distinctly underwhelming despite. Dragons, Skulls, Roses, Crosses, Hot Babes. So I was quite exited to find myself watching a docu-dram about top tattooists and the stories behind their creations. As someone whose thought for may years about getting a tattoo, and knowing many in the same frame of mind, I was intrigued to learn what other people’s thought processes are when they go to get inked. Proper thought processes, not drunken clarts on holiday stumbling past the resort tattoo parlor at 2am (hello Hersonissos!).

So I was sorely disappointed to find that people going to Miami Ink basically commissioned the same core iconography of Dragons, Skulls, Roses, Crosses, and Hot Babes for basically two reasons: 1) commemoration of a dead person, 2) finding God (and this often involved reason 1 as well). Executed with wonderful skill but in response to sore lack of imagination. Which really does force me to conclude that there is something essentially mimetic about most tattoos. For all that the customers are claiming their design as a mark of individuality the effect is homogenous branding. I think I will leave my tattoos on the inside.

CODA: Walking into one the Second-Hand bookstores a few weeks ago I overheard this snippet of conversation between the owner and a customer ‘…and he tells me he’s off the meth. And he’s given up the daytime hookers.” Note, nothing said about night whores.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ils en ont parle

In other news, I've been reading Barbara Tuchman's 'The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the world before the War: 1890-1914'. Finally, I understand the Dreyfus affair!

And as a bonus, Wikipedia have answered one of the idle questions that have from time to time drifted across my consciousness: "Did the cartoonist Caran d'Ache take his nom de plume from the pencil brand, or vice versa?"

The answer is: the company was named after the cartoonist.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Ask me about my poor self-image....Part 1

I've been sick, really sick. Truth be told I'm still sick, but after 6 straight days in bed I've hauled myself down to my Ikea Poang armchair for a change of scene. I'm telling you the name of the chair because I like the sound of it: Poang! It doesn't have any further role in this narrative. Forget about it.

The worst fucking part of living alone is being sick on your own. Such a drag. And of course, I've managed to lose my mobile, just to add to the felling of isolation. I tell you if it weren't for broadband, iChat and Skype....thank god for the internet. I was remembering my first year in Dublin when I knew no-one and lived in Rathfarnham next to the mountains (back in 1989 this was like living in Wales). And my landlords were an insanely houseproud newly married couple whose spare room I rented. They put a lock on the phone and were always away. And even if I could drag myself from bed the number 16 could keep you waiting an hour in the cold on Grange Road - I really was trapped there. At least with Femputer I can check out Britney's bald head. Yes, my finger is on the pulse of the zeitgeist, though the rest of me can barely sit up.

But I'm not here to talk about my phlegm- and fever-tastic journeys in self pity. I'm here to talk about tattoos.

I know, wierd segue. But there's a logical connection of sorts. This time last year I was interviewing for the job I now have. Around the time of my first interview I began to feel a bit wrong in the stomach, not nerves but something far more fearful: the winter stomach bug. I held it together for the interview and then spent the next 2 days shivering and sweating in my hotel room. And during that time I had the tv on and I watched episode after episode of Miami Ink.

Miami Ink: 5 guys and a token woman set up a tattoo business in Miami. The episodes are built around people coming in for tattoos, what they get, why they want to get it. With and ad break every 15 minutes it was perfectly geared for someone with no concentration who had to shoot to the bathroom.

And then this past week I found clips of those episodes on YouTube. And they got me to thinking about tattoos.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Sudden Thought

Late last night, sudden thought: I've heard of guys who have three nipples (that assassin in one of the Bond movies, Chandler, Damon Albarn [actually I'm not sure about that last one, night have been a dream]). Never girls. Is it a male only mutation? I'd google but I'm scared of what I might find.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


That sound you hear is a pile of work landing on me the minute I touched down in Canadia.

So after all my promises that, yes, I’ll get back to blogging, it hasn’t happened.

Anyway, things are easing off a bit (I’m not preparing classes until midnight anymore).

And I’ve been bookgaming, since it only takes a minute or two out of my day, and only every 2-3 days at that. It makes me feel as if I’m still close to my friends, just in the next room over, as it were.

What else? I went through a bad patch when I got back. After 2 solid weeks of Family and Friends coming back to an empty house felt very odd. I began to obsessively look at pictures of cats. I even went to a shelter, but came back empty-handed.

And I finally got tired of waiting for my furniture to arrive, which will be a while because I’ve not had the time to arrange a loan with the bank for the money to ship things over (note to self, must also see accountant and sort out if I can write this off against tax). So I went to IKEA. I’ve never been. IKEA is brilliant! And thanks to IKEA I now have a comfy chair and table to write this on. Working from the floor got very tiring.

Anyway, duty calls.