Friday, March 31, 2006

Reality Shows

Note to all TV snobs: this post contains material pertaining exclusively to reality shows. To protect your tender sensibilities, may I recommend that you click on your way, have a fantastic weekend and I'll see you on Monday.

Still here? Alright, here we go.

Last winter, I watched a lot of TV and movies. Most days, getting through the day exhausted me and I only had energy for passive entertainment. Which wasn’t all bad - there’s an awful lot of very good TV out there. And some of it is reality shows. As the TV snobs have left the building, I'm not going to bother even pretending to apologize for the fact that I like mindless entertainment every now and again. Where was I? This year, I have more energy and had to cut down on the amount off television I watch, in order to create room for writing, reading and socializing. I trimmed off a couple of dramas and prepared to hack away at the reality shows I used to watch. Except, I appear to have accidentally gotten sucked back into a couple I didn't bargain for.

1. American Idol. I honestly hadn't meant to watch this. Since it's on about 12 hours a week, not tuning in was an easy way of creating more time. And then I got sick and incapable of doing anything but sitting still and being entertained and then I... I tuned in. And I'm hooked. Easily the best season I've seen and I think it has something to do with the contestants being older. The older you are, the less likely you are to go on national TV and embarrass yourself with murdering some hapless song. The quality of contestants is better and Seacrest is much less annoying (although that shoe thing with Mandisa was a little pervy). I don't watch the usually boring results show and I'm having a blast. I have a bunch of favourites (Mandisa, Taylor and Chris are at the top and despite being out of his element, I think Bucky has a goofy charm) and people I can’t wait to see go (Paris and Kellie are both working the cute angle a little too hard and Ace hasn’t done a good song since Father Figure).

2. America's Next Top Model. As with the American Idol, I fully intended not to watch the show, which is at the pinnacle of my guilty pleasures (except I don't feel guilty about it). Again, I tuned in when I was sick and was hooked in about 2 seconds. I don't know what it is about that show, but it's a lot of fun. The one thing I don’t love about this season is how thin they all are. There’s the regular model underweight and then there’s “get this girl a sandwich, STAT!”.

3. The Amazing Race. After the disastrous Family Edition, I was very much looking forward to things going back to normal. Except, somehow I'm not watching. The one show I had planned to watch just sort of slid off the list. I keep hearing that it’s back to being great, keep intending to tune in, but somehow miss watching. Weird.

4. Survivor. The granddaddy of them all. There is no question: I will watch. Every season of Survivor, I try to figure out what attracts me so much to the show. Maybe it's that I've always had fantasies about doing a Robinson Crusoe thing, maybe it's got something to do with watching yet another group of strangers not know our start fire (don't any of them watch the show before they go on?). It very definitely has a lot to do with Jeff Probst. Not only is he adorable, but he's also the only host who gets cranky with contestants and regularly calls them on their crap. Love that.

What's your favorite reality show?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


(for a better impression of the dizziness, click on the picture for a larger version)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Mercury Retrograde

Mercury retrograde. A 3-week period, four times a year, during which... well, it's an astrological thing. During the time of the murky retrograde, things relating to communication and technology can experience problems. Or so they say, the astrologers. I never believed it, because astrology is not a science, it’s utterly flaky and smart, rational people don't believe in astrology, right?

Except, over the years I've noticed that really annoying things tend to have been happening with communication and technology during those four times a year. Yes, yes - I know about the psychology of creating superstitions, but I have still become convinced that maybe there's something to it. So, I was playing with the idea of doing a post about some things that happened in the last three weeks - I got my new wheelchair and thanks to some fairly major seating issues, I have a $17K freakin’ sculpture standing in my living room, taking up space I don't have:

My computer had a wee crash, but it thankgodfully righted itself in no time, so I don't think that counts (although, it is the first time it’s happened in over a year and it did happen during a Mercury retrograde). And then... Then a technological issue of monumental and traumatic proportions happened.

It was a beautiful day and I was walking around the neighbourhood, camera at my side, ready to snap anything that looked snappable. I was taking pictures of a lovely architectural detail when I accidentally depressed a button and the camera lost power. Somewhere in the corner of my soul, I gulped and turned white as a sheet, but managed to remain outwardly calm while I progressed through the various fiddlings that one does while checking what just killed (I almost can’t type it) one's camera. Nothing worked and as I was a hop, skip and a jump from the store where I bought it, I went there, explained what happened and thrust it at a staff asking – ok, begging piteously - if they knew what was going on. They fiddled, consulted with other staff, but with no luck. Then they told me they had to send it into Fuji and I’d get an estimate after three weeks.

"Three weeks?" I gasped, feeling the blood draining from my face. Three weeks or more without my camera? The camera that is just below 'without my computer' in my personal pantheon of hell? The camera that has become an extension of myself? Spring is coming - how can I live through spring without the camera to take pictures of all the gorgeous spring things? I may have sobbed. Just a little.

I took the camera home - I had to find my extended warranty and I wasn't prepared to leave my baby alone with strangers. When I got home, I dug out the instruction manual, called up the Fuji web site and prepared to troubleshoot. I couldn't make myself believe that my darling was broken. After a while, I thought 'before I try anything else, maybe I should try to put in new batteries, just so I can say that of course I tried to put in new batteries'.

The camera's fine.

I’ll defend my being a Techno Twit of such extraordinary proportions by saying that the time between pressing the button and the camera dying was of a definite cause-and-effect length. And I was hungry. I get stupid when I’m hungry. Thinking outside the box is impossible when I'm hungry. However, I kinda thought that just as a computer tech’s first question is “is it plugged in?”, someone working in a store where people would likely come in and desperately hand them inoperative cameras all the time, would have a first question along the lines of “how’s the battery?”.

So much for Mercury retrograde.

p.s. Please note that although I wrote this post a week ago, I refrained from making it public until after Mercury changed direction. And that knocking sound you’re hearing? I’m checking for secret compartments in my desk. Really.

p.p.s. Looks like Juno and I had a “great minds think alike” moment. Or maybe it’s “fools seldom differ”. I prefer the former.

Friday, March 24, 2006

By Popular Demand

It'd be cruel to make The Tink Freaks(tm) wait until next week, so here are the latest (taken by one of the TDT - that's Tink Delivery Team - members). Please note that the very snazzy sweater/hat sets were made by mormor.

During the knitting, I received countless calls from the woman complaining about how they - the sweaters, that is - weren't cooperating. When I gently suggested that maybe she could consider following the pattern instead of viewing it merely as a suggestion, she would, without fail, scoff and talk about how she was "improving it". On the fly. Note to self: keep my mother and Stephanie (oops, I mean Stephanie) apart. If they ever knit in the same room, they might become a force of nature with a vortex so powerful that everything would start to evolve and mutate at such high speeds that we wouldn't recognize ourselves from one minute to the next (I think maybe I've had too much caffeine).

With no further ado.... Liam and Morgan, at approximately 4 months:

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Tink Alert

This is for the Tink Freaks out there.

John's employer is doing a radiothon for McMaster Children Hospital today and the Tinks (and the TDT) will be interviewed. On K-LITE 102.9FM sometime between 10:30am and noon and sometime after 12:30pm on CHAM 820AM (you can listen via the sites).

I was going to add the latest pictures, but Blogger has crapped out again.

Late note:
That'd be Toronto time. Eastern, I think?

I really like the sound of Tink Freaks. It's like the Deadheads, innit? Except for the following around the country. And there being no band. But otherwise exactly like the Deadheads.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

What I Did On My Winter Vacation

I had a mostly lovely week off, with only a smattering of things that pissed me off (more about one of ‘em later). Space to think, space to rest, all kinds of time to get perspective. Or try to get perspective. I learned, among other things, that I have to take more time off and that’s something. Herewith a brief rundown of the happenings at chez Lene in the past week.

I napped. Quite a bit. It was lovely.

Watched movies. A History of Violence - brilliant story, brilliant directing, brilliantly acted, a brilliant special feature on ‘the making of’. And Viggo Mortensen has a really brilliant arse. Walk the LineReese Witherspoon has a surprisingly nice singing voice, both she and Joaquin Phoenix were good. I just wish the script had been better. And…

I consider the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice to be the definitive one. Who could possibly do Darcy better than Colin Firth (who has the sexiest walk I’ve ever seen)? It was with some trepidation that I rented the recent film version with Keira Knightly as Elizabeth Bennett and Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy – I was worried I’d only see that it wasn’t the BBC miniseries. And I loved it. Macfadyen made me forget anyone else was ever Darcy (but only as long as the movie lasted – my heart still belongs to Colin, although Mr. Matthew might share a top 10 spot), the movie’s gorgeous on all levels and I think the two can comfortably co-exist as different and equal interpretations.

Read. I was in the middle of this book before the vacation, but it made me too upset, so I switched to this one. Don’t let the Harlequin label mislead you – it’s well-written, funny and highly entertaining.

Speaking of books – did I manage to persuade any of you to read The Historian? Let me know what you think.

Found a blog entry (through this article – a very good read) that advocates putting elevators in hard-to-reach areas to encourage people to take the stairs and hence achieving a better fitness level. When asked about the impact on people with disabilities, the writer of the blog replied in her comment box “I accept for some people with disabilities that would be inconvenient - those for whom walking a very short distance is possible but longer distances aren't - but that would, I think, be a not unreasonable price to pay for better overall societal and environmental health.”. It took me a full day to get my blood pressure down to normal. Let’s hope she never breaks a leg skiing, have a child in a stroller or y'know… GETS OLD!

Thursday, March 16, 2006


The view from my window earlier this week, when the weather changed from early spring back to winter.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Technical Difficulties

For the last couple of weeks, I've been going around saying "I need a vacation" and bitching about how when you don't work for pay or work for someone else, you don't get time off and dear GAWD, running your life makes you understand a little what Sisyphus went through.

Then, sometime this past weekend, I realized that not only was I in serious need of a vacation, I was also in charge of allowing myself to take one. So, as this week has minimal appointments and no meetings, that's what I'm doing. I'm on vacation. I'm watching good and/or mindless TV, reading thoroughly entertaining (but non-Literary) books, eating yummy things and not doing much of anything I should be doing. This week, there are no 'shoulds', only 'wants'.

What that means in terms of blogging is that it'll be a bit light. I was going to post a picture today, but Blogger seems to be having issues with uploading pictures and as I haven't written anything blogworthy (that was for later this week), inane babbling about what I'm not doing will have to do for today. Scintillating, ain't it?

Friday, March 10, 2006


Normally I try to make this blog a positive space – not just as a way to help me practise living in a new way, but let’s face it, I’m not writing these posts to get comments of the type “oh, you’re soooo brave, you have the courage to [insert everyday thing that’s apparently only remarkable when you have a disability]”, which whining often elicits in my situation and you know how I feel about pity. However, lately, I’ve been stuck and I have a feeling getting unstuck might need putting the dark stuff out there. So as notice to the universe that I’m ready to move on and as an exercise in honesty, here goes…

I’ve been really angry lately and it’s a bit of a problem. Mostly because of the target of my anger. It’s me. Or, more specifically, my body.

This past year, I came closer to finding peace with this sack of bones that houses me. The Enbrel helped, I felt healthier, able to do more and when injured, I could heal in less time. Then I got something whiplash-like at the end of September and it stuck around. And got aggravated at Christmas (because there were too many hugs, fer fuck’s sake). It’s still here, making me sit still or go slow and not do what I want. Also, due to some ‘amusing’ (that’s sarcasm, folks) side effects, I’m having trouble tolerating the doses of Enbrel that I need for squashing my arthritis into a decent level of submission.

I don’t want the pain anymore – it's been with me since I was 4 and I would like for it to go away and leave me alone. I resent, with a seething, roiling rage that it keeps me from doing what I want. It’s taken too many things over the years, pillaged and burned like a Viking on PCP and I am incandescently furious that now it’s starting to make inroads on what I got back over the past year. There seems to be a part of me that believes when you’ve done it for long enough, sucked up the pain and the setbacks and the indignities with as much grace as you can manage, then the universe will say “alrighty then! Test over!” and it’ll go away. Except, apparently the bitch is too busy to pay attention and take her finger off the “harass Lene” button.

Essentially, I’m having a massive temper tantrum, complete with stomping my feet and yelling “it’s not fair!”. When I was younger, that’d usually be the point where my dad would say “and whoever promised you life would be fair?”. Then I’d mutter something about a fairy godmother, laugh and move on. And… I know. I know that there is no such thing as ‘fair’, that expecting life to treat you well just because… what? you deserve it? is a waste of time. I know that the way to some measure of serenity lies in seeking out joy and laughter and to focus on the positive.

I am terrified of going back to the bad place of 2004 and the thought makes me angry (because anger is so much easier to bear than fear) and keeps me fighting. That and sheer ornery I won’t let it win, dammit! It feels like I’m in a battle of wills with myself, that my enemy is me. I hate my immune system because it’s confused and attacking me, I hate my body for not being able to fight it off, I hate my will, which isn’t strong enough to fight it and I’m angry at every single other part of me that can’t quite figure out how to apply the maxim “I am exactly where I’m supposed to be” in a situation with this many limits.

A while back, Michelle wrote about finding an appreciation for the body in all its states. This idea has rattled around in my head for the past month, and I think it might be the way out. That I can be thankful for what my body does do, that despite the damage, it still keeps going. That I need to treat myself well, be kind to myself on bad days and enjoy being here. That I need to learn to separate my fucked up immune system from me, who not only haven’t consented to being sick, but also has no say in the matter. No power. No control. And did I mention I hate not being in control?

I feel like I’m two people: the positive, peaceful person who’s exactly where she’s supposed to be, grateful for everything, past and present, good and bad, and the dark woman, who hates and rages and despairs. I know that the more I give in to anger, the more I hurt. That the more positive I am, the easier it is to deal with the crap. I know that the universe gives you more of what you pay attention to. That this will be easier if I remember my Olympic lesson. But the darkness pulls with such power and the fight for light is exhausting. I know that this is the only place my will has control: in deciding to fight and keep fighting, to not give up, to keep seeking the light. Even when I’m tired. And I’m very tired these days.

The idea of appreciating my body in its current state, brilliant though it may be, is really hard to do when I’m this pissed at it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

No Comment

You can find everything at the Antique Market in my neighbourhood.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Historian

In the past couple weeks, I have been doing mini-raves of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and planned to write a post about it as soon as I finished reading the book. After a month’s reading, I’ve only just finished - I had to read a couple of short stories and a funny mystery in the past week, all in an attempt to postpone reading the last hour of the book. I just couldn’t do it, couldn’t leave these people. Only a handful of times in my reading career have I become so involved in a story and its characters that I couldn’t handle it being over.

The Historian is a vampire book and a historical mystery. It starts in Amsterdam in the early 1970’s, where a teenaged girl finds a mysterious book in her father’s library. Tucked into the book are old letters starting with the words “My dear and unfortunate successor”. As a father starts to tell her the story – the story, we gradually find out, of the search for Dracula - we move back in history. This story is told from different points of view, in letters, postcards, even a historical essay. Each new character adds their knowledge, answering some questions and raising others.

I have read reviews of the book that complain that it moves too slowly, that a vampire book should suck (so to speak) you in and hurtle along at top speeds, keeping ‘the scary’ coming quickly, overwhelming you. I disagree. I like that this book takes its time, slowly building the tension. With horror that’s horrible right away and keeps piling it on, you may get pulled into the ride, but on some level, there is an awareness that you are letting yourself be scared. You know it's not real. In this book, your belief in the existence of vampires moves at the same speed as the characters, starting with non-belief and moving towards a creeping, dawning realization that maybe, just maybe, they are real and among us. And as bad things keep happening to characters who get too close to Dracula, on some level, I got more and more nervous that I was starting to know just a smidgen too much for my own good.

As the characters delve into the search, Kostova slowly builds the tension. She has a way of subtly creeping you out that is far more worrisome then outright horror. The sense of menace builds, then plateaus, then builds, then plateaus, then builds, etc. With each plateau, she lulls you into false sense of confidence and calm, then, when you least expect it, whacks you upside the head, leaving you whimpering “oh no, oh no, oh no” (actual whimpering was done. I’m not ashamed to admit it).

If you are going to be attracted to this book, you likely know at least some of the historical basis for the Dracula legend. Exceptionally well researched, the book presents historical facts about Vlad the Impaler with such detail that, unless you are a Dracula scholar, it is impossible to see where the facts stop and the fiction begins. Combined with Kostova's talent for menacing you at an almost imperceptible level, it didn't take long before I was close to convinced that it was all real. Her ability to describe vampires without really describing them hits you in an almost visceral place and convinces you of the terrible in a way that sidesteps your brain so neatly that the primal part of you worries about something before your brain realizes what’s happening. Midway through the story, I realized I could no longer read the book just before bedtime - it made me too anxious.

Not only would I like to grovel at Elizabeth Kostova's feet, but I plan to read this book again soon, just to see how she did it.

I do think that part of my love for this book is based on how well it is read. A woman and a man (I am not sure of their names, Books on Tape lists the narrators of the unabridged version only as 'various') take turns telling the story from different perspectives and they do it with such skill, that I believed they were the characters. This is definitely a book that requires your full attention. Skimming or doing something else which require part of your attention while listening to it, will prevent you from immersing yourself fully in the story and its atmosphere. And what a story it is.

I could talk for hours about everything I love about the book, but instead will say only this: run – do not walk – to your local library or bookstore and prepare to disappear for a few days.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Gratuitous Cuteness

I had a Plan. It was a good Plan. I was going to finish my book and write a post about it. Plan B was to write a chatty post about something fluffy (no, not the cat).

And then my life got hijacked by necessary, but very unexciting events, and… well, here I am on Friday morning with nutthin’. So for your entertainment, some pictures of cuteness personified to hold you over until Monday.

(taken by a TDT member - TinkMama, perhaps?)

And, not surprisingly, Mojo still has her box.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Talk about external validation, people! Your comments on Monday’s post were wonderful. I’ve been blushing madly every time another one got posted and am just overwhelmed.

I wish I could email all of you individually and thank you for making my day. Unfortunately (as many of you know by now), that’d just wreck various body parts. As the tiniest of thanks, here’s this week’s picture, dedicated to you. In the midst of dreary, dark winter days, a little globular sunshine.

I feel like I’ve had a parade.