Monday, May 13, 2013

Reflections On Watching Nightmare In Silver

Every Who down in Whoville liked Nightmare In Silver a lot.
But the Sheila, who lived just north of Whoville, the Sheila did NOT!
She didn't quite hate it, but she frowned at the plot
Now, please don't ask why. Oh hell, why ever not?

It could be the writer was too filled with worry.
It could be, perhaps, that he wrote in a flurry.
He had a dream cast, a swell Doctor and more
But the script was all wrong, it was flawed at its core.

The writer was stuck in his usual blur
Of steampunk facades and forgot to defer
To a credible story of Companion and trips
Though this wasn't the first time his Who stories have slipped.

While she hates to be mean, Sheila mourns Russell T
You might say, in fact, She is his devotee
He had narrative vision, he wrote with a purpose,
The last couple of years, without him, are a circus.

A mish mash, a jumble, no direction or end
We watch with excitement, but the stories don't blend.
They stand on their own, there's no clear end in sight
And from where this Whovian stands, that doesn't seem right.

Apologies to Neil Gaiman, who wrote the sublime and very wonderful Graveyard Book, but his episodes aren't working for this Whoville Resident, despite the presence of the fabulous Warwick Davis (not to mention the he-just-keeps-getting-better-and-better Matt Smith).


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Where I Lived: SoCal

I wrote this post for the Where I Live linky that is going on over at The American Resident. Each week there is a different topic and this week's topic is Contrasts. As in, write about the negative if you like but contrast it with something positive. And so I have. 

I'm writing about the six years Richard and I spent living in southern California. As is usually the case in these things, I might not have loved living there when we initially moved down, but by the time we left I sure did. We both did. We still think about living somewhere hot. Never quite got over living in such a lovely climate, truth be told.

So here it goes: My Life In SoCal

Right after Richard and I got married we moved from our little apartment in a small town on Vancouver Island to a much bigger city south of Los Angeles, where Richard was to attend the University of California at Irvine. I wasn’t going to do anything, as I couldn’t get a work permit, and so I was feeling kind of jittery about moving to the States, especially as everyone we spoke to said the exact same thing:

Los Angeles has some really scary areas! The drivers are all nuts! Everyone has a gun! It’s really really smoggy! Are you sure you want to live there?

Despite the fact that I’d spent several years living in tents, trucks, and the odd isolated cabin in the woods, I was soon feeling uneasy about moving to such an obviously dangerous place. Guns, mad drivers and smog? I had a bad case of the eeks. Nevertheless, move there we did. We drove down, all our possessions jammed into a truck and one of U-Haul’s finest. The noise, dirt, and sweltering heat of the California freeways were a disappointing revelation. Drivers careered around in oversized SUVs and the freeways were always jammed. The HOV lanes, which in BC required a minimum of 3 occupants, only needed 2 people in the car to be considered “high occupancy.” As we drove past one smash up after another, most involving an unnerving number of ambulances (and eventual morgues), my heart sank, especially when I heard on the local news that there was a freeway shooter targeting women driving alone in small white cars. Did I mention that our car at that time was a small, white Toyota Tercel? And that I would likely be the lone occupant most of the time, while Richard was at school?

Things didn’t look up when we arrived at the student housing complex where we were to live. It looked like something out of The Prisoner, a British TV program I loved. Well, I loved it until I moved to that housing complex. All the worker guys drove around in small electric vehicles, just like they did in The Prisoner. All the units looked identical, just like in The Prisoner. There were clean, winding pathways between units, just like in The Prisoner. And the courtyards were empty and quiet, just like in The Prisoner. Richard thought I was being melodramatic, but I could just see myself being bundled into a large white floating balloon and being drilled by some anonymous man with a No. 2 badge pinned to his striped jacket, just like in The Prisoner. I practiced saying “I am a free woman! I am not a number!” (just like in The Prisoner) while Richard, who had never seen an episode of The Prisoner, rolled his eyes but had the good sense not to say anything.

Then there was the strange method of naming streets and roads. In B.C. roadways take conventional names like ROAD, STREET, or CRESCENT. In extreme cases there’s also CLOSE or DRIVE. Not in California. Everywhere we went the roads seemed to be called CYN. I pronounced this “sin.” It confirmed what I knew about Americans: they were obsessed with sex. This extended to television, where, no matter what was going on in the rest of the world (if indeed you ever heard anything about the rest of the world) the news would always lead with a celebrity story of some kind, even if it was a grade C celebrity. (I bet you didn’t know there are grades of celebrity in Los Angeles, now, did you? Well, there are)

The saving grace was the weather: it was always sunny. Even when it was cloudy it was sunny. It was also weirdly warm all the time, even at night. We never wore socks. Or coats. Rain boots, a staple in the Wet Coast, sat in the back of the closet. We had the doors open at night and best of all, there were no mosquitoes. This was the turning point for me for I am that most tragic of things: a mosquito magnet. If there is one within 50 miles it will find me. Predictably they tend to prefer my face. I end up looking like the Elephant Man until the swellings subside. I have endured many humiliating moments thanks to the mosquito. Until we moved to southern California I had no idea there were mosquito-free places in the world. It was a thrilling discovery that greatly offset my Being Sucked Into A Large White Balloon worry.

Things really started looking up when we drove back to Canada for Christmas and realized how cold and wet and dark it was up there. I started prefacing everything I said with “In California it’s —” much to my Canadian friends’ dismay. Yes, I had become an American Apologist. You see, in Canada scorning all things American is a bit of a national sport. A quiet, polite one, true, but it’s there. We Canadians grow up feeling superior to America by virtue of our smaller cars, nationalized health care, good libraries, sensible gun laws, expensive junk food, and well-maintained highways. An anti-American ethos runs through our (clean, drinkable) water. It surprised me a little that I had become an American Apologist. If I had to be honest, I was also a little horrified, but that could be offset by an hour in ROSS Dress For Less or the liquor section of Costco. Or even better, Trader Joe’s. I loved Trader Joe’s. I loved the cheap food, the lack of Bovine Growth Hormones in the dairy products, the friendly staff, and the slightly inferior imitations of well-known products. Plus, their slogans on all the packaging was brilliant. My Canadian friends no doubt found me irritating but they were too polite to say much, other than “can we come and stay with you?”

We spent six years living in SoCal, had three kids, and grew to love living in such a hot dry climate. When we eventually moved back to Canada my eldest son and I cried as we raced north in our cramped, air-conditionless little white car. I had made a cassette tape of music for the road and we listened to Everybody Wants To Rule The World at full blast as we careered along the freeways with everyone else. It seemed appropriate, somehow. I had avoided the Freeway Shooter (who was never found but killed 4 women in small white cars), learned to drive on busy freeways and lived in Prisoner-like housing complexes. Richard graduated one year too soon to have Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature (as California’s Governor) on his PhD diploma but that was okay - I'd had six mosquito-free years AND escaped the Mysterious Floating White Balloon. But Richard had a job in Vancouver and it was time to move on.

Oh, and the roads in California? The ones named CYN? I learned that it was actually an abbreviation for CANYON. No sin in sight, although I did miss seeing grade C celebrities leading the news hour. Canada doesn’t have quite the same obsession with celebrity as Southern California does. Which is probably a good thing. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Now You See It...

The greenhouse I mean. Here it is, sitting at the end of the garden, unaware of the fate about to befall it. It's been sitting here for the past 4 years, looking after a variety of seedlings, perennials, and paper wasps. It's covered with 8ml greenhouse plastic, held in place with Lee Valley's finest greenhouse tape, guaranteed to withstand even the worst rainstorm.

(I haven't been paid to say this but I'm interested if you are, Lee Valley)

But it's getting old. Crotchety. Bits are falling off. Plastic is cracking. There are stakes where sidings buckled.

If you look closely you can see why my trays of seedlings sometimes fall to the ground. Or slide sideways in the middle of the night if there is a heavy wind.

Or why I needed to lean heavy items against certain sides to keep the entire structure upright.

Or buy the Super Great Bulk Econo Deal packages of bungee cords so I could strap the sides together.

And why I have lots of nylon rope...for typing shelves to wooden stakes.

Ahem. Case in point.

Now you don't see it. It's being replaced by a newer model. A younger, more attractive model, made of glass and aluminum. I feel moderately conflicted by my lack of remorse about this switching of affections, but I'm sure it will go away once the new structure is in place. And all those trays are sitting without the aid of ropes, bungee cords, stakes and plastic.

No more racing out in the middle of the night to buttress up sagging plastic or holding down flaps threatening to blow away in a rainstorm. No more feeling desperately fed up with high wind alerts. No more buying Gorilla Tape.

Goodbye greenhouse. It was nice knowing you.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

In Which I Become A Sports Figure

This is me as a LEGO sports minifigure. I took a quiz and the good people at LEGO decided what minifig I should be, based on my answers. They even asked me which superpower I wanted most. I asked for the ability to teleport. Kind of odd question considering that we're talking sports here. I don't really associate sports figures with super powers - like appearing in other places all of a sudden. Inflatable muscles, perhaps. There is obviously some cross over with the Which Sci-Fi LEGO Figure Are You? quiz (which I haven't taken yet, but I did do the Monster Quiz, oh the joys of letting an 11 year old on one's computer and then looking over their shoulder at what they're doing, now I'm obsessing over the fact that I am a LEGO witch in some alternate universe).

Anyhow, I was assigned the SuperHero Sports Figure of the - tennis player. Don't like that one. I mean, I might be grouchy on the odd occasion but I don't generally go around glaring. Plus, I never wear little white skirts and I'm quite sure my legs aren't that thick. Also, I don't have red hair. Even the kids found it bizarre ("YOU? A tennis player? That's so FUNNY"), although I think they were more curious about the idea of me actually playing tennis. On a tennis court. Guess they don't know about the teleportation super power.

But I was mollified by the killer description of my prowess in life on the tennis court, even though some people around here laughed rather rudely and immoderately.

My new mantra is thus this: "Let's face it, I AM just that good."