Friday, November 28, 2008

Random November

Cats can make everything entertaining. Mojo and I need a Roomba.

Michele has sent me two very blogworthy links this month. The first one measures how old your brain is - the fact that mine was 36 after spending a day with two very energetic three-year-olds made me worry a lot less about my Swiss cheese memory and whether that meant I was getting old. She also sent me this one on side effects of a particular new beauty product. Make sure you have time, a cup of tea or a glass of wine and no children (or work people) around when you go to that link. You won't regret it.

The presidential election may be over, but if you didn't hear about the Qu├ębec comics who reached Sarah Palin and persuaded her that they were Nicolas Sarcozy, the president of France, read the story here. And you can hear the recording of the call here.

The 100 most commonly misspelled words. I didn't read the whole article in one sitting or my internal editor would have become quite unhinged.

From Trevor. Why can't all Internet shopping be like this?

My friend Page works with vets who have PTSD and was recently interviewed by NCTV. Well worth watching and if you know of someone who might need help, they talk about a number of different resources.

And your quote of the day by Martin Luther King Jr.: “Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

12 Words

Introspection time over at HealthCentral:

"At the beginning of this year, I injured myself while having too much fun with Photoshop, rendering my right elbow and shoulder utterly messed up (note to self: decrease amount of time spent at the computer)."

The rest is here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Celebration x3

I used to be a bit of a culture vulture - went to concerts, museums and galleries, the opera and dance (modern, traditional ballet sort of bores me) – and most of the time, I went either with my mother or Ken. It was our "thing" and I have a lot of good memories connected to those outings. Like the time when mor - if you're new around here, that's the Danish for mom - and I were almost thrown out of the opera because we couldn't stop giggling at a particularly ridiculous performance. The time Ken and I went to see an exhibit by Anish Kapoor (astonishingly beautiful art and last year, Ken made me a purple hat inspired by this, which is breathtaking in person) and on the guided tour when the woman working in a gallery spoke of how she felt she could whisper all her secrets to one particular sculpture, we had to stop looking at each other in an attempt to control another helpless fit of the giggles. Ken and I, awed, seeing Cirque du Soleil for the first time together, both of us wanting to run away that very moment and join the circus, mor and I silently weeping with the power of a song.

And then I got sick and didn't go out anymore. When I started getting better, for a very long time, there wasn't enough energy for a social life and in the last year and a half, there may have been more energy, but it was used for other things and then there was the hellacious injury from January that never went all the way away. And somehow, I lost the part of me that used to go out and see things, get my mind and soul expanded and there were times when I felt like that guy in The Lives of Others - grey and bland and closed because there is no art in his life. Because art is necessary, no matter what they try to tell you.

And lately, after my vacation when AB was here gave me some space to think, I realized that spending all your energy on things you have to do makes your life disappear, because I have no idea how it got to be almost December already. It makes you disappear and I have vowed to change that. There's going to be more social in my life, more art, more taking the time to have a leisurely, meandering conversation with friends, because without it, I can't breathe. And in a revolutionary act, Ken, mor and I went to see a play this weekend. Festen is based on the Danish movie The Celebration and when I first saw that on the poster, exactly those words, flipping the languages - Festen is based on the Danish movie The Celebration - I laughed so hard I started hiccuping. It is a story of a family that gathers for the 60th birthday of their patriarch, not too long after one of the four children has died. When Christian, the oldest son and twin to the woman who took her own life, stands up to give a speech, he gives his father the choice between the one written on green paper and the one written on yellow. And then things happen. It is as powerful on stage as it was on film and made me want to see the movie again. It's playing at the Berkeley Street Theatre until December 13 and if you live in Toronto or are visiting, go see it. We went for dinner afterwards to debrief the experience and just talk until the restaurant closed and I felt like a normal person again. It's been a long time and well worth celebrating.

On another celebratory note, Dave has nominated me for the Canadian Blog Awards in the category of Best Disability Blog and they're right, it's an honour just to be nominated. Round one voting runs until the 29th - please go vote for your favorite blogs, having your say is not limited to only Canadians (and alerting you to the nomination while trying to avoid asking for a vote wasn't awkward at all. At all) (although, if you think I deserve a vote, by all means, g'head -I'd be honoured) (seriously. Awkward)

Friday, November 21, 2008

7 Things

A while back, Laurie tagged me in the "7 things" meme and much as I like the theoretical idea of this one, my reaction was more along the lines of "seriously? How do I do this?". I've been blogging for 3 1/2 years and there are few corners of my psyche that I haven't already written about. Well, there are some, but I’m not willing to hang everything out there in public! So it’s taken me a while to get here, percolating on this in the back of my mind - it’s possible I may have been overthinking this a tad - and here they are. And here are the rules:

Post the rules on your blog
Write 7 random things about yourself
Tag 7 people at the end of the post
Pass on the tag

I have an overactive internal editor and automatically edit anything I read, although most of the time, I manage not to write irate letters to newspapers about the way they are bastardizing the English language and grammar, dumbing down beautiful and eloquent in favor of what? Hipness? So it fits the space rather than making the space fit the words? Heresy! The other day, I saw a Fox News compilation on The Daily Show in which the Fox caption read 'Obama Reax to Aunt news' and nearly had an apoplexy. Now the "news" - I put that in quotation marks because it’s Fox News and I can’t write it straight without giggling - organizations are getting in on it, too?? Mark my words, in another 10 years, that’s how we’ll be spelling "reacts" and I blame Fox! And by the way? It's pronounced nu-cle-ar, not nu-ku-lar!

I believe in love at first sight, but not the concept of true love.

I've never stolen anything in my life. Well, that is until a few years ago when I accidentally shoplifted $1.98 worth of peppercorn salami (it had fallen down the side of my chair) and because I didn't discover it until I got home and the weather was awful, I didn't go back to the store to pay for it. It still bugs me.

You know how everyone has a 'thing'? Mine is my hairbrush. I can't lend it to other people. No matter how much I love the person, there's something about someone else using my hairbrush that gives me the willies. I'd rather lend out my toothbrush.

When I’m depressed, I buy trashy celebrity magazines (Star, In Touch, etc). And never read them.

Clowns giver me the creeps. Always have, even as a kid. Every time we went to the circus, I cringed through the clown act until we got to my favourites. Which involved horses. I also never liked monkeys – when every other kid at the Zoo ran for the monkey pit, I went to that area, too, but only because that’s where the big cats were.

When I was a teenager, I wrote bad, angst-ridden poetry (but then, didn't we all?).

My seven taggees are Mary, John, Janine, Nikki, Trevor, Helen and Sarah.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hero Worship

I don't use the term 'hero' often and I don't have an awful lot of personal heroes - in fact, I think it might take me it some time to come up with even a small list. But last week, when I rooted around on the new 7-day releases at my video store (where you can rent three old releases for the price of two new ones and I'm cheap enough to like that), two of the ones that made it home with me turned out to be about two men who I definitely consider personal heroes. And I only knew about one of them.

Shake Hands With the Devil. When Romeo Dallaire's book about the Rwandan genocide came out, I couldn’t find in audio, which upset me, because I believe there are certain things you must read, must watch, to which you must bear witness. I believe we must do this so that when it happens again, we will be among the people who stand up and say no, who are part of the voices that speak against it. It is the only way to lend validity and weight to the phrase "never again" because those two words are thrown around a lot, but genocide happened again in Rwanda when the world looked away and quibbled over terminology. I bought the documentary when it came out and it is harrowing to watch, to see on Romeo Dallaire’s face the scars scored into a person’s face and soul that happen when you watch 100 days of unspeakable horror and are helpless to act. I watched the movie and it is good, it rings true, there seems to be no rewriting of history and Roy Dupuis embodies Dallaire's soul. Made me realize all over again that despite what happened in Rwanda, despite the book, the documentary and the movie, Romeo Dallaire is a living reminder of what the world didn't do. He bears our scars for us because we wouldn’t look in Rwanda and we’re not looking in Darfur or any of the other places where "never again" is happening all over again. And that's why he's one of my heroes.

Music Within. Janne and John had recommended this movie to me a while back, but as mentioned above, I'm cheap, so it took a while for me to get there. And once I did, I realized that I want to own this movie. Music Within it is the story of Richard Pimentel, a young man who went to Vietnam and lost most of his hearing there. When he came home, he went to college, made friends with with a man named Art who had severe CP (late edit: Cerebral Palsy) and one night, when they went out for pancakes, they were refused service because Art looked too weird and might make the other patrons lose their appetite. The two refused to leave and were removed by the cops, who charged them under what was called an "ugly law", according to which, people who might be termed freaks were not allowed to be around normal people. It was this moment of what Pimentel terms disability apartheid -and how could it be called anything else - that set him off on a journey to break down barriers and make sure that no one with disabilities would ever be refused service again. And after years of working on this, the Americans with Disabilities Act passed into law and it is a model that I wish more countries would follow. The movie is fantastic - tight, incredibly funny in one moment and makes your heart ache in the next. When you get it - because you are going to get it, right? - watch the special features. One of them is composed of parts of Richard Pimental’s speech on the process and he is a brilliant speaker who I would love to hear in real life. And then watch the "making of" feature, in which the actors who play Richard and Art talk about discovering that playing a person with a disability means just playing the person, not the disability. I'm pretty sure that Richard finds that as funny as I do. I didn't know it until this weekend, but Richard Pimentel is one of my heroes and he is my hero because, in the words of Art after his friend asks him to read the draft document: "You know what we cripples watch besides getting laid? To be seen. When they look at me out there now, you know what they see? Nothing. I'm ignored … [T]hey ignore me, because I am so disturbing to their definition of human that it makes them feel. I love that. What you've created will help to make them see us."

Who are your heroes?

Monday, November 17, 2008


I've been thinking about assumptions. More specifically, the assumptions made by certain bright lights in festivals and other organizations. Assumptions about the audience, the people who will come out to shop, to participate. Assumptions about whether these include people with disabilities, people who use wheelchairs or scooters.

And apparently, we aren't expected to attend Buskerfest. Or have the money to make a donation.

(to be fair, on days 2-4 of the festival, they did provide big barrels at waist height. You all know how much I love (grrr) Buskerfest and leap on any chance to rant about it, but I have to be fair. Dammit)

The local tourism board (of Toronto? Ontario?) is kind enough to set up a stall at the Market during the season to provide visitors to our fair city with information. Based on the height of that window (the top of my head may just peek above the counter), we don't travel, either.

Or buy condos.

And the winner is...

I decided to get the Tinks to pick today's winners and when I got them on the phone, I asked each of them to pick a number between 1 and 20 - clever that, as there were 20 entries. It turns out that they may have been just a bit too young for this game, because they picked numbers 1 and 20 - which works great for my sister, as she was the last entry (I swear, it wasn't rigged). Congratulations to Janne/TinkMama and Gramma Carol! Please email me with your address at landers5ATgmailDOTcom so I can get your calendar ordered. And Janne? I have your address, so don't worry about it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Beginners Guide to RA: Love & the Horizontal Tango

This week on HealthCentral, I go on about romance and sex:

"One of my favourite frog stories -- as in, "you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince" -- was the man who said he didn't want to date me because he wanted an equal partner. As I'd managed to have a number of equal relationships with family, friends and past lovers despite my disability, I inquired what prevented me from taking on that role. To which he muttered something about wanting a woman who could help paint the house. And that was the moment I realized that someone not being able to "handle" my RA was entirely about them and not me. Quite a liberating moment."

The rest of the post is here. And the contest will remain open until Sunday.

2009 Calendar Contest

I’ve been slaving over a hot computer for a while, gathering images that qualified as candidates for next year’s calendar and this weekend, did the final push, Photoshopping like mad and battling with CafePress designs (which are deceptively easy-looking). My shoulder’s fucked, I’m cross-eyed, need several day’s worth of codeine and sleep, had a blast (most of the time) and am yet again wondering why I keep forgetting it always takes longer than I think it will. But the good news is that the 2009 calendar is in the shop

along with a few other seasonal products (plus one that’s an antidote to all the looming winter). To celebrate my doneness, I considered getting drunk, but that’s just fun for me. And potential witnesses. So I’ve decided that instead of making a fool of myself in public, I’m giving away two (2) The Seated View 2009 calendars. Leave a comment saying pretty much anything you want - tell me a joke, talk about your Christmas stress (if you celebrate Christmas) or what you're looking forward to about the season, tell us what cute thing your kid and/or pet did this weekend or how on earth it got to be almost 2009. You get the idea. And if your brain's on vacation, just say "I'm in" and, although a tad boring – no pressure here! - that will count, too. Contest closes this Sunday, November 16, at 6 p.m. Winners will be selected randomly and announced next Monday.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Reading Lolita in Toronto

Last year, in response to NaNoWriMo, Matthew over at Defective Yeti came up with NaNoReMo - same concept, except instead of writing a novel in the month of November, he read one and blogged about it. Much less work! Last year, he chose Catch-22 and although I enjoyed reading about his experience, I'd read it already and didn't join in. This year, he and his readers chose to read Lolita
by Vladimir Nabokov. It's one of those classics that I've always meant to read, but never did and so, in a moment of procrastinating doing something I ought to be doing, I popped over to Audible to check out the edition/narrator. And found that the narrator was Jeremy Irons, an actor I have liked tremendously since the early 1980s when I first saw him play Charles in Brideshead Revisited. He makes interesting choices, not always the standard good guy, instead choosing complex, complicated roles, finding the humanity and relateability in men who are often very unlikable, at times to chilling effect. And he'd played Humbert Humbert (the protagonist in Lolita) in the movie, so would already be thoroughly inside this character's head. Which is a very lengthy way of saying that the minute I saw that he was the narrator of this book, I signed up for NaNoReMo 2008.

So far, I'm a little over an hour into the book - have no idea what that translates to in terms of chapters - and am more confused than I've been in years.

The writing is insanely good. It's evocative, hypnotic, sensual, petulant, cranky and with a vocabulary well above most of the things I've read lately (which possibly says something about the books I've read lately). Jeremy Irons is great while reading the stuffy professor-type prologue defending the publication of the novel - is that part of the fiction or was that written by someone real? Does anyone know? - but it is his complete commitment to Humbert Humbert that has me gobsmacked, in awe and very, very uncomfortable. The man's voice is like dark, melted chocolate, seductively seeping into your ears, bypassing your brain and connecting to something limbic and primal, lulling you into a relaxed, transfixed state (much like a mouse before a hooded cobra) of being utterly lost in a story that's a bit like I imagine the woods in late summer in the South - redolent with the heady perfume of gardenias and jasmine, hiding the rot underneath.

Because just as you’re swept away by the beauty of the language and the seduction of the words combined with a brilliant reading by a master narrator, the reality slams into you that this guy, Humbert Humbert who you're connecting with as a protagonist, is a pedophile. And of the sort that reminds me of N A M B L A (am trying to avoid hits from google here - I refuse to link to them directly, but you can read more about them on the Wikipedia page) in the deluded defense of their predilection, claiming that children want and can freely choose a relationship of sexual love with a grown man. And that’s the point where I get completely creeped out and have to stop reading for a day or so while I try to figure out how to shower on the inside.

I don’t know if I’ll make it to the end of this book or if, once we get to the part where H.H. meets Lolita, I’ll have to stop to conserve my sanity. So far, though, I’m reading and getting an education in what makes a writer, being challenged in my idea of what makes art and am astonished at Nabokov’s ability to create beauty while writing about something so repellent. And I'm very, very confused.

That’s what I wrote last Thursday, before I felt a rant coming on that I ended up posting instead, keeping this one for today. And by now, I’ve read about a quarter of the book, well past the point where H.H. meets Lolita. And can no longer hear the beauty in the words - or really the words at all - having slammed up heavy shields to protect myself from the horror of the story told by those words. Words that are changing Jeremy Irons’ voice from beautiful to sinister. I know too many people who were molested as children – no surprising, given the stats of 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 10 boys (or has that number changed now?) – and know too well the permanent scars left by people such as Humbert Humbert.

I can’t do it. I feel contaminated. I need the book off my iPod now.

Friday, November 07, 2008

I Thought It Was a Science?

Earlier this week, I read a post on one of the HealthCentral sites by one of their medical experts. This doctor started by saying she did not “believe in” a particular medical problem and continued to explain how she had come around by experiencing it herself. The particular site, doctor and medical problem are irrelevant to my rant today, so I'm not going to link to the post because there's no need to flame the woman. However, as I was reading the post, I could feel my blood pressure rise and all that’s in my head was a giant "Pardon Me?!". Which has followed me around for days now.

It reminded me of the numerous other incidences I've heard of and read about, as well as experienced myself, in which a doctor didn't believe in something, believe their patient's experience of symptoms and as a consequence, people have gone without treatment, have been in excruciating pain, have had their bodies irreversibly damaged by a disease that that doctor didn't "believe in".

And then I saw the latest poll over at the HealthCentral Chronic Pain site that asked the question "do you think your doctor is hesitant to prescribe some medications for chronic pain?" And the options for answers were "won't prescribe under any circumstances", "very hesitant" and "will prescribe in the right circumstances" and right next to it, there was a link to a quite excellent rant by a doctor on the suspicion cast on physicians who prescribe narcotics for chronic pain and how the "war on drugs" is curtailing their ability to treat patients. Which means even when you can persuade a doctor that your pain is real, they're afraid of giving you what you need because the DEA might come crashing through the door. But today I am not ranting about government idiocy, I am ranting about physician idiocy.

When did people who have chronic pain (or other symptoms) become presumed guilty until proven innocent? (Hypothetical question, the answer is "since always") Why is it that our legal system insists that in order to convict someone on of a crime, you have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they did it, but if you need the big drugs to control your big pain so you can get back to your life instead of lying whimpering on the couch, you have to jump through years of hoops and tests in order to persuade your doctor that you are not a junkie seeking a cheap high, but actually have the kind of pain (or whatever) that ruins your life while they lollygag and wander around "not believing in" your experience?

Because when I say "ruins your life", it really does ruin your life. Big enough pain can take away your job, your marriage, your kids, your house, your everything, up to and including your life, as recently happened when Carla, one of the community members on the Chronic Pain site who had fibromyalgia, decided that she could no longer live with not just intense, unbearable pain, but with a medical system that repeatedly told her it was all in her head. And after years of being viewed as suspect and/or crazy - I don't know which is worse - she took a voluntary exit the same week that I, for the first time, saw a commercial for Lyrica targeted at people with fibromyalgia. And I remember the validation I felt, a moment of such relief that finally, this condition is recognized as something real enough for a drug company to make money off a remedy for it. And then I read about Carla.

When, exactly, did it become a religion? Last time I checked, I’m pretty sure being a doctor was based in science, not faith. In a vow to "first, do no harm", not "first, your patients will try to trick you to get the pills – chances are they aren’t really sick". And although I hear you saying that maybe a scientific approach is part of the problem, as doctors tend to not believe anything they can't see on an x-ray, you'd think with a history of disease after disease after disease being proven to exist after an extended period of people having said disease being shut up in the loonybin because "it's all in their heads", they might be more open to actually considering believing what their patients tell them.

When I run the world, it’ll be different...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Etched Window

Congratulations to those of you in the US for an election that's reminded the rest of us why voting is such a terrific idea. Nicely done.

Monday, November 03, 2008

In Summary

The other day, I was having conversation with a friend - you know the kind (the conversation, that is, not the friend) - the kind that takes place late at night when it's dark outside, your shields are down, making you get all deep and philosophical. Great fun, but it makes you think for days. This particular part of the conversation was about epitaphs, as in what would you want your epitaph to be. Aside from the fact that I'm not sure something as complex as a human life can - or should - be summed up in a pithy one-liner, as an exercise in connecting with what you consider meaningful, what you would like your life to mean, it's interesting. Also potentially depressing if you upon consideration discover that you would've liked to colonize Mars and instead became a well digger, but let's skip right over that part...

I remember exactly where I was and when the moment I realized what my life's ambition was. I was in my teens, in my room in Denmark watching the news on TV. There was a story about the death of a relatively famous author and the anchorperson (although in those days, they were news announcers - they read the news, they didn't star in it) told us about the books the person had written and the difference they had made in their life. And that's when I realized that when I died, I wanted it to be on the news, not because I had died in a particularly horrifying or entertaining way, but because I had made a contribution in some authorly way.

Being a teenager, naturally I interpreted this to mean that I wanted to save the world and this goal continued for several years until the last year of my undergraduate degree, where I realized that saving the world was a bit of a tall order. After a period of existential angst and a deep funk at this loss of purpose, I figured out that all you can do, as one tiny person, is to do your best to change your world, because it's quite possible that whatever changes you may create have ripple effects and as a butterfly beating its wings in Brazil, your actions may travel down a chain of other human lives and effect change elsewhere. Then I felt much better.

I'm still working on that book that will get me to the point where somebody on TV will mention me when I die - a goal which feels less essential now than it did in my adolescence - but the thing about making a difference has stuck around. And I'm trying not to laugh at the very "generic Miss Universe answer" quality of that, because we all want to make a difference, don't we? But there is, trite though it may be. So I try, because that's all we can do - do our best. You never know when a small kind thing will ripple to a large kind thing, right? So I'd like my epitaph - without tiara and plastic smile - to be 'She made a difference'.

What would you want yours to be?