Monday, December 20, 2010

Best Books of 2010

This past week, I was told by a clerk in a chain bookstore that the printed word was dead. He was raving about the ease with which he had downloaded the latest Stephen King novel. "I decided that I wanted to read it and then - Poof!- 2 minutes later, I was!" Fascinating, I thought to myself. And do you read in the bathtub, I wonder? And what about the beach? Will you bring it there? Oh, and what about your job? Do you enjoy recommending books to real live humans? I'll stick with the printed word, I thought, as I lined up with the other dinosaurs to pay, my soon-to-be dead artifacts in tow. It took me twenty minutes to get to a clerk. If this be the state of the printed word then death be most kind.

With that in mind, I have compiled my list of the best of the year. Culled from the list you see to the left, it is short but they are the few, the proud and the strongest of the bunch and they kept me captivated, inspired and feeling nothing but love for the printed word. Dead, though, it may be......


Some books you pick up and just know, from the first page, are going to change your world. This is one of those. For 5 year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he lives with his mother - Ma-, where he was born, where he grew up, where he sleeps and where he plays. Room is home to Jack but, to Ma it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. At once frightening, enlightening and tender, Room is a celebration of resilience and a testament to the limitless bond between mother and child. It takes us to places that we don't think we want to go but once we get there, don't want to leave. After reading this book, you will never look at a rolled up piece of carpet in the same way again, nor a wardrobe or a beam of sunlight peaking through a skylight. A masterpiece.

Who would have thought that a non-fiction account of the tracking of "immortal human cells" ould be so damn gripping? Rebecca Skloot (who also wins "Best Author Handle of 2010") hits the road in a beat up car to take us on an incredible journey from the "coloured" wards of Johns Hopkins Hospital to present-day East Baltimore. Her subject's name is Henrietta Lacks but we know her as "HeLa". She was a poor Southern sharecropper but her cells- taken without her knowledge- have come to be used in almost every vital bio-medical advancement of the past half-century. Cancer research could not have ben advanced without them, the polio vaccine not developed without them, in-vitro fertilization useless without them. And yet she remains virtually unknown, her remains buried in an unmarked grave and her family destitute. Until now. It might easily be stocked in the mystery section. An unbelievably readable page-turner.

A year without a new Philip Roth novel is like a year without fresh air. This newest takes us into familiar Roth-ian territory, Newark 1944. It is the summer and a polio epidemic has invaded this close-knit, family-oriented community and its children to dizzying, devastating effects. Roth leads us, like no one else can, through every inch of emotion that such a pestilence can breed, capturing the fear, panic, anger and bewilderment that accompanies the unknown. I almost wish that it had been published last year at the height of the H1N1 epidemic when it could have been distributed as a salvo to otherwise sane and clear-thinking citizens who were crowding the drugstore lines looking for hand-sanitizers that they had come to believe would deliver them from certain ruin. How does an individual withstand the onslaught of circumstances, is the question that this book asks? Surely, cooler heads must prevail, seems to be the answer.

Labour Day

Henry has been waiting all summer for something to happen, anything to deliver him from the boredom and torpor that have enveloped he and his depressed mother, Adele, into a life of routine and dull circumstance. That is until Labour Day weekend, when he and Adele step into a "Pricemart" to buy trousers and find their wider world shaken up by a chance encounter with a bleeding man who approaches them and asks for their help. Author Joyce Maynard weaves a beautiful, poignant tale (which she wrote in 6 weeks!) of love, sex and adolescence as seen through the eyes of a 13 year-old teenaged boy and the man he later becomes. It is a touching, lovely, fever dream that left me praying for it to never end. I picked it up in the middle of January and read it in a fortnight, only to discover, by chance a week later, that it had been optioned for a movie by Jason Reitman. I can't wait to see what he does with it.

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration
I started this book in July and didn't finish it until last weekend. Not because it was a brick (which, by the way, it is), but because I kept putting it down to contemplate what I was reading. Some books need to be savored, and this epic story of one of the great untold stories of American history is worthy of a slow read. Chronicling the decades-long migration of black American citizens who fled the South for the North and West, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Isabel Wilkerson has written the definitive account of how their journey unfolded, how it changed cities, countries and the people within them. And how she does it is remarkable. Whittling down more than a thousand interviews compiled over 8 years, she chose to focus the history through the lens of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, a sharecropper who escapes prejudice (and certain lynching) in Mississippi and acheives blue-collar success in Chicago; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling who flees the Florida orange groves for Harlem; and Robert Foster, who leaves Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career. It is a bold, remarkable work that is so beautifully written that it will leave you pining for the people between the pages to never leave your house. Destined to be a classic.

What were your favorites this year?

Monday, December 13, 2010

I Wish I Was......

For most, Christmas is a glorious time of year filled with festive cheer, present purchasing and wine-infused family get-togethers. I don't despise the holidays but it is a very busy time. Between the parties and the cards and Nutcracker-ing, it leaves me wishing that I were settling down for a long winter's nap. Oh, and by the way, when did December happen, anyway? It makes me want to play a round of my favorite aspirational game, "I Wish I Was...."

Here is what I came up with in just 2o minutes of play.

I wish I was.....

  • swimming in a warm body of water
  • smelling a newborn baby's head
  • having a nap
  • playing Scrabble
  • hiking on the AT
  • listening to a Nick Drake album
  • having a cafe allongee in a cafe in Paris
  • reading the new David Foster Wallace novel
  • playing footsie with my husband at a work-related function
  • singing in the car with my kids
  • laughing on a street corner with Cheryl and Jen until I wet my pants
  • waking up from a nap and then having another

So? Your turn.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It Always Comes Back to Books

book cover of  Who Will Run the Frog Hospital  by Lorrie Moore

I spent the latter part of this morning in the mall and I mention it only because I find that the mall is, well, much maligned. From an architectural standpoint, I can agree, it is a curse: unimaginative in its structure and all-around unappealing where both aesthetics and creativity are concerned. But if your looking to eavesdrop on pointless conversations? There's no better place on the planet. Period.

Here is a perfect case in point.

Time: 11:46 AM
Place: H&M line-up
The Subjects: Two teenaged girls skipping class to buy Third World factory-made clothing. Most of it polyester, all of it bejewelled .

Girl #1: Are you gonna buy those jeans?

Girl #2: Yeah. (pause) Why?

Girl #1 (with an incredulous look on her face) Do you like them?

Girl #2 (with an equally incredulous look on her face) 'Course! (pause) Why don't you?

Girl #1 I think they look retarded.

Girl #2 Then I guess I'll be retarded AND look better than you.


Girl #1: What rack were those on, again?

So funny. And yet so sad. Just like being a teenager.

The whole interaction made me think of a book I read last summer called, Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? Written by the incredible Lorrie Moore, the book is one woman's remembrance of an ephemeral teenage friendship. The narrator, Berie Carr, has a marriage that is stuck in a bleakly funny state of suspended collapse and rather than dissect it and ruefully condemn herself for how badly it's all going (that more Jonathan Franzen territory), she, instead, looks back to her girlhood in Horsehearts, an Adirondack tourist town near the Canadian border. There in the summer of 1972, as a skinny, 15-year-old misfit she idolized her sassy, sexually precocious friend Sils, who played Cinderella at a theme park they worked at called Storyland (Berie was a cashier). Told in a series of flashbacks, Berie recounts how she and Sils hung out in small town bars, snuck cigarettes and how, midway through the summer, she is shipped off to Baptist camp after filching hundreds of dollars from her register to pay for an abortion for Sils. The book is a bitterly funny hymn to vanished adolescence and is filled hilarious wordplay, allegorical images of lost innocence and a poignant awareness of how life's significant events often prove dismally anticlimactic. Like a faded pair of bejeweled jeans months after point of purchase.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Picture Diary

Today, in an effort to read my book, I sat on this,


and this.

And so instead of reading..... I did this:

The End.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Excellent Things We Can Learn from the Youngsters

I just returned from a fabulous, yet all-too-brief, weekend in Montreal. The occasion was my sister's 15th Annual 29th birthday and we celebrated it the only way we know how: with good food, good conversation and an ever-so-slight over-consumption of wines, both red and white. Sigh.

This year, though, as an extra-special treat, we dragged along our lovely and impressionable cousin, Amy. Amy -or Dr. Mamie, as I like to call her- is, however, hardly the corruptible youth that I thought her once to be. Truth be told, Dr. Mamie, at a mere 28 years old, on top of being a pediatric resident, taught us a thing or two about how to maximize our fun. Plus, as an extra bonus, she gave me free pharmaceutical samples and introduced me to the following things that made my life ever-more-excellent:

1/ Cash Cab

This is a show on the television box that is best enjoyed after having shopped all day and drunk half a bottle of merlot in the span of ten minutes. It is a crazy and slightly pointless game show in which passengers thinking that they've stepped into a cab, instead find themselves answering trivia questions for - you guessed it! - cash. It is Amy's dream to be in this show and I am going to try my damndest to make it happen for her. Don't ask me how.......

2/ Hobo Drunk

This a term that Amy uses in reference to too much alcohol consumption. It is evocative, funny and politically incorrect. Lethal combination. But where, dear reader, does this fit on the drunkeness scale? Well, according to Dr. Mamie, it goes a little something like this: slightly buzzed, tipsy, drunk, high school drunk , hobo drunk. I am very proud to say that I stayed at tipsy most of Friday and Saturday night. I think.

3/ Shazam

This is a great, free app that the my techno-dealer, Apple, puts out and goes a little something like this: You hear a song. You don't know who sings it. You press Shazam. It tells you. Sweet, huh? I downloaded it as soon as I got home.

There is so very much we can learn from the young......

Can Someone Please buy this for me for Xmas? Thanks.

This is all I want for Xmas. Both the print AND the sentiment. Thanks.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Placenta! It's What's for Dinner.

Lasagna (finished product)
Originally uploaded by jbaugher
I was cruising the internet cooking sites the other day for the perfect lasagna recipe when I came across one that I thought looked perfect. Until I checked the ingredients. Tomatoes? Check. Mozzarella cheese? Check. Noodles? Check. Placenta? Read again. Placenta? Find glasses and read again. (Pause) Bueller? Bueller?

What's up, intraweb? Are people really eating this?

Apparently, yes. After a thorough search on my computer box, it turns out that placenta has all sorts of healing properties for which I was unaware. It can be dried out and used to boost the immune system for those with iron deficiencies, chopped up and baked into ceremonial cakes. The possibilities are endless, apparently. And disgusting, quite frankly.

I remember, not so fondly, that moment just after childbirth when, in possibly the most exhausted I had experienced thus far in my life, I was asked by the attending nurse -in dulcet tones - to push just one more time. Whatever for, was my thought? Wasn't giving birth to a human more than enough? No, came the reply. You also need to push out a placenta. Whaaa?!!!!! It was like asking someone who'd just run a marathon to pop over to the store and grab some milk. And when I agreed to her absurd request, I discovered -to my horror- that she'd extracted a piece of nastiness that would best be described as a Glad bag full of veins that even Jabba the Hutt would find repulsive.

This, my friends, is not the stuff from which lasagnas are made. No! No! No!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Break It Down!

Today while having lunch, I did something I vowed I would never do once my kids started school full-time (and NO! It is not get drunk on wine on a school day. Shame on you for dreaming of it, Laura.) I watched a kids show. On my own. When no kids were around. I know, right?

The show in question was, Yo Gabba Gabba, and here comes the worse part: I loved it, loved it, loved it!

After viewing, though, I have become convinced that it was conceived by an ambitious burner which is worth noting because they are a rare breed. A rare breed, indeed. Damn, now I'm rhyming things. Yo! Gabba, Gabba has all the things I enjoy: indie bands, fantastic dancing and songs about not biting your friends which, for my money, is the sort of lyric that has been a long time in coming. Also, the fashions are off the hook, they do the disco roll properly and they use the term "break it down" in the correct funky functional context. Nuff said.

More importantly, though, I think the lead and I look slightly alike.

I know that many of you frown on TV viewing during the day but my justification for it is that when I was younger, I used to watch The Price is Right with my babysitter, Louise Duguay. She was cool, made the best Kraft dinner of anyone before her or since and could guess the correct retail price of almost anything without going over. And we worshipped her because of it. How can you develop these traits if you don't watch a little useless boob tube mid-afternoon? Just sayin'.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Longing for Lines? I Think Not!

There was a fantastic article that appeared in yesterday's New York Times that lamented how there were so few memorable lines in movies nowadays. In it, the writer asked a few well-known film scribes to list a few from recent films, just off of the top of their heads. And - Gosh darn it!- if they weren't stumped! It made me wonder whether, at the end of the day, our fearless reporter had really sampled the correct group. Isn't this more of a movie fan type of question?

My suspicions were confirmed a few moments later when I noticed that the ol' comments section in the "paper of record" had started to heat up. When I checked back 3 hours later there were 203. And counting.

Listen, I would be the first to admit that there is a lot of movie dreck out there but are you trying to tell me that there have been no lines that haven't hit the zeitgeist? Pu-leeze!

Here are just a few:

Squirrel! (Up)

What's a liger ? (Napoleon Dynamite)

Those aren't pillows!!! (Planes, Trains and Automobiles)

I drink your milkshake! (There Will be Blood)

I'm not the guy you kill. I'm the guy you buy...(Michael Clayton)

Call it, Friendo. (No Country for Old Men)

Mmm Hmm. (Slingblade)

I'm the cautionary whale. (Juno)

Anything to add?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Yet Another One to Explain to the Kids...

It is almost impossible to sit still while listening to this song. My kids can't get enough of it and I can't help singing with the original lyrics.

They, however, know the song as, "Forget You". As Cee Lo, himself would say, "Ain't that some shit."

For my money, this song could not have happened to a more talented guy.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

25 Films Your Kids Should See Before They Turn 25

A few years ago, I wrote a piece for a local newspaper that attempted to be a primer for establishing the love for good film in the lives of your kids. It was a inspired by the list that the American Film Institute had come out with in 2005 listing 100 of the best films for children. Though they claimed to be the "ultimate" list, some of the selections seemed to confuse children's films with films with children in them.

And so, I created a list of my own, which I have updated for you here. It reflects what I have come to love about movies and it was screen-tested by the toughest critics I know: my kids.

The criteria for the list was simple: each film had to be artful in some way, have a strong story to convey and be able to keep kids engaged for its entire length. No small feat. A few are box office hits, others may leave you scratching your head but all are worth watching. With your kids or without.

The Essentials

1) The Triplettes of Belleville (2003)
2) E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
3) Babe (2001)
4) Babies (2010)
5) Etre et Avoir (2002)
6) The Wizard of Oz (1939)
7) My Life as a Dog (1985)
8) Kirikou and the Sorceress (1998)
9) Lord of the Rings (2001)
10) Whale Rider (2002)
11) Toy Story (1995)
12) Spirited Away (2001)
13) Star Wars (1977)
14) The Black Stallion (1979)
15) Breaking Away (1979)
16) To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
17) Paper Moon (1974)
18) Edward Scissorhands (1990)
19) The Princess Bride (1987)
20) It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
21) Sounder (1972)
22) Kes (1969)
23) A Day at the Races (1937)
24) Raiders of the Lost Ark
25) The Incredibles

Did I miss anything?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Spaghetti Tacos...For Reals.

Would you eat this?

Apparently, across our fair and messed-up continent, children are requesting that their parents prepare this for their next meal. It started with an episode of the kids series, "iCarly", in which the lead's older brother, Spencer, makes dinner. He slapped red-sauce-coated pasta into a hard taco shell and Voila! A foodie phenomenon was born.

Spurred on by reruns, Internet traffic and good old-fashion word of mouth, spaghetti tacos are apparently all the rage (particularly if you're under five feet and still live with your parents). Cooking blogs and web-sites are filled with recipes, a Facebook page has sprung up with more than 1200 fans and several cooking shows on the Food Network are planning on working them into their show rotations.

What could be more unappealing?

Well, besides actually having to make them, you mean?

What gives, people?

Is this Festivus for the tween-set?
What's next, chocolate with peanut butter?

Let's stop the madness.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Death Trifecta

Tony Curtis
Originally uploaded by david haggard
I have mentioned it many times on this site and it bears repeating: famous people die in threes. Threes, people. It happened last year when Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon died within days of each other and it has happened again this week with the passing of Tony Curtis, Gloria Stuart and Greg Geraldi.

This year's death trifecta, though, gives us an interesting glimpse into Hollywood's many incarnations: the former golden boy, the comeback and the could-have been.

The first, Tony Curtis was a Hollywood fixture of the highest order. He starred in more than four dozen films, Some Like it Hot, most famously, bedded famous starlets and then callously wrote about them, sired famous children (Jamie Lee Curtis) and pretty much abandoned them and in his later years, managed to annoy most of Hollywood's new guard when he announced on Larry King Live that he, like many of his old Hollywood friends, would never dream of voting for Brokeback Mountain as Best Picture. Why you ask? Because the film was about homosexuals and quite frankly, that was something he just couldn't get behind. These were his words, by the way. Not mine. It was a full life.

Gloria Stuart, on the other hand, didn't get to taste Hollywood success until she was well into her eighties when she starred in Titanic as an older version of Rose (Kate Winslet played the younger version). She had spent her early years on contract to the studios and when she grew tired of playing the girlfriend ditched town to become a graphic designer. She hadn't ever intended on acting again until James Cameron came calling and invited to join the cast of Titanic. Now, everyone remembers her as the old version of the lady who got to pop Leonardo DiCaprio in the hold of a ship. You could do worse in this life, non?

Finally, Greg Giraldo, was a funny, funny, dude who could have been huge had he not gotten in his own way. A former lawyer who gave up a job at a law firm to pursue comedy, Giraldo became a wildly successful stand-up comic who specialized in dispensing his own brand of sharp and often brutal humor. Like Lewis Black, his routines tended to clever and exasperated rants. The best of which, to my mind, was one I caught last year on Comedy Central at roast in which he excoriated that douche, Larry the Cable Guy.

“Some people say Larry’s only successful because he’s pandering to the lowest common denominator,” Mr. Giraldo said. “Don’t listen to these people, Larry. They’re just bitter and jealous and right.”

Mr. Geraldi, I think I will miss you most of all.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Woman Pneumonia

For the past few weeks, I have been struggling mightily with what I believed to be an allergy-related cold and sinus infection. I tried everything - pills, change of diet, masssive doses of Vitamin, prayer - and yet nothing seemed to work. A few days ago, tired of my beleaguered state and needing some help getting ahead of the massive buckets of mucus, I went to the walk-in clinic and got a diagnosis that left me humbled and slightly shocked: pneumonia. Sweet Mother Of Jesus, I thought to myself as I left the office with my prescription (for a scorced earth-type of antibiotic AND a puffer...Damn!), if I didn't think I was old before, I sure as Hell know it now.

Before heading home to download Enya albums and episodes of Matlock, I told myself that I would do my best to stay off my feet and really give my body a chance to heal. No housework, I thought to myself. No yard work, no errands, no laundry. Just healing. And reading. And sleeping. And more healing. Serenity. Now. Now, dammit!

Guess how long this deal with the devil lasted?

I'm just gonna make dinner and then I'll sit. Wait no, after I make the kid's lunches, then....Shoot, I gotta get cat litter! I'll get it after I drive the kids to their after school activities. Might as well pick up some groceries while I'm there....Car needs gas, too, sooooo.....

The whole experience reminded me of an article I read last week about reading. The author was lamenting how he could never remember the plot of any of the books that he'd read. What's the point of reading at all, then, he surmised? Why not just watch golf? Same thing with pneumonia. Why even bother giving me a pneumonia diagnosis if you aren't going to send me home with a a giant mallet and lock for my bedroom door? Sheesh.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Originally uploaded by mill

*** SPOILER ALERT( for my male readers only!) **** This post concerns waxing. Be Ye Forewarned......

Many moons ago, I told a friend that I had never done any waxing. I believe my exact words to her were, “I have never, ever waxed. I don’t have any intention of waxing. It sounds pointless and incredibly painful. So I am never going to do it.” I'm sort of unequivocal in that way.

Well, guess what? Now I know I was right. And the worst part, is that I cannot bask in my own self-righteousness because I am in too much pain.

Let me start at the beginning of my terrible judgement. A few days ago, I went to the pool to swim a few laps. I have gotten into swimming this summer after completing a 1.5 KM swim this summer and coming in fourth. Out of four. Sigh. Next year I wanna do better so, I have been pseudo-training -and by pseudo-training I mean heading to the pool only when my overwhelming shame from coming in last forces me there - in the hopes of doing a bit better next year. I'll take third, even.

Anyway, after my swim I realized that I had a bit of a Chewbacca thing going on in the leg area and I thought to myself that maybe, it was time to start waxing. I would be coming here more frequently, I surmised so why not try to look like I didn't just step out of the primordial mud.

So, I went to a place and the girl there, Natalie (may she burn in hell) convinced me that I should try a bikini wax, as well. What the hell, I figured. Why not? I was getting my legs done at a place that offered hair-ripping services, so why not go all the way.

Why not, indeed!

It wasn’t so much the the waxing itself — which was deeply undignified but not too painful — it was the horrifying, burning, swollen aftermath. It never occurred to me that I would need to heal after waxing. Perhaps because I am stupid.

I texted a friend who did this frequently and angrily asked the obvious. Why do you do this? Why does it hurt so much? Why hadn’t anyone told me?

But you’re smooth right?, she answered.
Yes, I replied. Like a plucked chicken with some sort of inflammatory disease. Screw you.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Magazine Hoarder? No More.

I have a real thing for magazines. How much of a thing? Well, here is a sample of just a few that I could find in two minutes:

P.S. Most of these were the ones within arms reach of my desk. I didn't even need to stand up to get at them! Sad, non?

Up until about three months ago I had stacks and stacks of every magazine I have ever bought or subscribed to, squirreled away in various dark corners of my house. Martha's Stewart Livings from as far back as 1998, three years worth of Country Living, old Rolling Stone's from way back in the day(not Keith, though...Charlie Watts) I guess my thinking was that one day I was going to need to look through these for inspiration! ONE DAY! Hell, you never know when you are going to need to decoupage a side table.

And then the Tyrant threatened to start throwing them away willy nilly if I didn't start refining my collection (All except for The New Yorkers, of course, because those are his bathroom reads). So I kept all the copies of magazines that have gone out of business (Cottage Living, Martha Stewart Baby, Hoarders Weekly) and then got rid of everything else. Ahem. IT WAS BRUTAL. You have no idea. It felt like I was cutting off a limb, I can't explain why. One day I'm really going to need to reference this specific Martha Stewart Living, AND WHAT WILL I DO THEN?

And then what should I get in the my child's backpack. A magazine subscription fundraising catalogue. AHHHHHH!! Thanks universe.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Recipe for a Perfect Day

The following is the recipe for a perfect weekend afternoon.

What you'll need:

The new Arcade Fire album

1 glass of wine

A good book.



Enjoy your long weekend.

I Know What you Did This Summer


Summer is leaving....

Was it something that I said?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

In Their Shoes

This week marks the 5th year anniversary of the devastating hurricane - Katrina - that rocked the Gulf coast. I remember, like yesterday, how I watched on TV as the elements so utterly ravaged the city of New Orleans and was speechless and angered when I saw how callously the Bush Administration was in its response to the aftermath. If anything, the hurricane peeled back the layers of how truly uncaring those bunch of morons really were. Nice work, Mother Nature!

While, it's tough to leave aside all of the horror and outrage that Katrina wrought, it is even tougher to realize that a mere 5 years later with an entirely new administration (Obama) and an entirely new natural disaster (BP oil spill), we are straddled with a similar response: utter indifference.

Which is why I was almost flooded with relief when I picked up the latest issue of Esquire at the library and read a piece about the oil spill that put its cost into perspective. Written by Tom Junod, the piece recounts the night that Deepwater Horizon - the rig that started it all - exploded claiming the lives of 11 men ranging in age from 22 to 56. It has been a long time since I read an article that so poignantly made an attempt to connect readers in a tangibly human way to an event that due mostly to media saturation and confusion, leaves the average brian reeling. Junod shapes the lives of these 11 men into a touching eulogy and manages to do what the 24-hour news cycle has somehow managed to evade: make sense all the images of gushing wells and oil-drenched birds that have pounded us into senseless submission.

Eleven men with stories died on that day and it will be impossible for me now not to see the story of this disaster a little bit through their eyes.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rememba! Rememba!

Hey People-

I'm back from vacation happy, rested and looking to get my creative jones on. Let's hope that that particular impulse can overcoming my other overwhelming desire of dropping everything in my life and watching all the movies they made passive reference to in the Entertainment Weekly magazines I read on the dock.

To that end, yesterday we went to see the film of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Awesome. Beyond awesome. Get your ass to the theatre and see this film. It is funny, sweet and so highly entertaining that I am scheming to get my ass in that theatre seat again. Plus, my sister worked on it and there is nothing more satisfying than seeing your siblings name roll by on the same screen on which on you just watch Micheal Cera (he off the Gumby voice and even gumbier body) kick the asses of half of US Weekly's Hot Under 25 list. Sweet.

I did have a hilarious conversation with my daughters at the theater. Here's how it went.

Enter scene. Concession stand of the Whitby 24 theatre complex. The song Fame! comes on and it is blasting overhead like a drill sargent in an Oliver Stone film. Myself and the old gent in the line beside me (age approximately 75) are trying not to get down.


Xenia: Who sings this?

Me: Pausing dramatically. You know, I have no idea.

Bryan: But Mom! She only asked you to do that one thing.

Here's another little something that made me chuckle.

Nice, huh? This is funnier to those who have no children, I suspect.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why, Michael? Why?!

"This Is The Worst" Face
Originally uploaded by Woodmania
Dear Steve Carrell-

Why are you leaving The Office? Why?!!!!

Just reading this news make me want to put on my "The is the Worst" Face. (P.S. Thanks Greg Z. for ruining my day. Wah!) They might as well close the Scranton branch 'cause my ass will not be sitting on the couch Thursday nights.

Who am I fooling? Of course it will. There's still some 30 Rock to be rocked.

Off on vacay people. Will probably not be posting for a 2 weeks. Think of me dockside, with book. It's gonna take me this long to get over the Steve Carrell thing, so......

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Weekly Salad-Celebrity Edition....Kinda

I just finished reading an interesting book that Entertainment Weekly recommended (yah, I read Entertainment Weekly! What of it?) called The Imperfectionists. It was a nice read - not too spectacular or filled with incident, actually - that put me in mind of the movie, Babel, for some reason. For those of you who actually saw and remember the film, Babel was a series of disjointed stories set in several countries around the world that managed to come together in pretty whole near the end. But not before you almost lost the will to live. It left me lukewarm, as I remember. And was half an hour too long. And what is it these days with non-linear storytelling, BTW? Is it just a new way to invigorate film and books? I get the feeling that the creative class have been too unduly influenced by Mrs. Dalloway, as a whole. But I digress.....

A few minutes after I finished the book, I opened the paper only to discover that young Brad Pitt had optioned the rights to the book and would be producing the movie. And that he had also produced the film, Babel (I had no idea!) Hmmm, I thought to myself with a self-congratulatory smile on my fae. Mine instincts were true after all, then, concerning this book! Crazy coincidence? I think not. Oh, and good luck with keeping the people awake in the theatre, Benjamin Button.

All this as a an awkward anecdote to introduce this week's WEEKLY SALAD feature. What salad has to do with Brad Pitt and Babel, I will never know. This salad, however, does features my favorite star: avocado.

Halve an avocado and scoop out some but not all of the flesh. Roughly chop the flesh with black beans, a spoonful of green salsa, cilantro, chopped tomatoes (seeded, of course) and lime juice. Serve in the shells. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It Definitely Holds Up

Have you watched Jaws lately? No? That's too bad 'cause I watched it last night and now I can't sleep.

I guess it still holds up in the "Crap Your Pants Everytime You Go for a Swim from Now On" department. Sheesh.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Weekly Salad is Back!

A few months ago, my husband and I leaped into the wonderful world of cottage ownership. Though the journey was slightly fraught in the beginning with renovations, clean-ups and the like, the experience of being at this new-found property has been life altering. We have - all of us - found a place to truly connect and relax.

It's also a place where I want to do my two favorite things - read and eat. The reading part is a no-brainer but the food part- tough! Which is why I've decide to revive last summer's feature: The Weekly Salad. Salads are my favorite food in the summer mostly because they are delicious and easy to make. They also need just a few combination of ingredients to make them great. Here are three to get you started:

1. Grate carrots, toast some sunflower seeds and toss blueberries, olive oil, lemon juice and pleanty of black pepper. Sweet, sour, crunchy, soft.

2. Blanch spinach, then drain and shock in ice cold water. Squeeze it dry, chop it and toss with toasted pine nuts, raisins, olive oil and a tiny bit of balsalmic vinegar. Very elegant.

3. Make a grilled cheese sandwich, with good bread and not too much cheese. Make a salad with cherry tomatoes, basil, black olives, olive oil and balsalmic vinegar. You will not believe how damn good this is.


P.S. Holla! to Tracey Green and all of her visitors from Cookies and Catwalks!!

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Little Stranger

Are you looking to completely lose a few days of your life between the pages of a good book? Here's the one for you. It is by far, the best book I've read this year and it completely highjacked my week. Also, as an added bonus, Steven King lurvs it! But what does a hack like him know about writing a scary book, right?

Sarah Waters was an author I'd heard a ton about but not read. She has written a trilogy of Victorian novels Tipping the Velvet, Affinity, and Fingersmith which have earned her legions of fans around the world, a number of awards and,tons of critical success. And, man, does she know how to build suspense!

Set in postwar Britain in the 1940's, Waters gives us a sinister tale of a haunted house, brimming with the rich atmosphere and psychological complexity that have become hallmarks of her work. The book follows the strange adventures of Dr. Faraday, the son of a maid who has built a life of quiet respectability as a country doctor. One dusty postwar summer in his home of rural Warwickshire, he is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline-its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more ominous than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become entwined with his.

Piqued your interest, yet? You. Will. Love. It.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Life's Too Damn Short

Muffin Top
Originally uploaded by NoT Photography
This weekend, I spent a good deal of my time shaking my head at the universe and saying over and over to myself that, well, life's just too damn short for (insert appropriate caveat HERE).

Here are just a few things that I was able to come up with in 10 minutes:

- cold tea
- whiners
-stale chips
-mealy fruit
- muffin top
- lazy people
- shitty books
- pointless movies
- shoes that don't fit correctly
- idiot Prime Ministers
- deliveries that don't arrive when they say they will
- reruns
- worrying about things you can't control
- coffee tables you can't put your feet on
- jumping to conclusions
- root canal

Anything to add?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Albert Einstein
Originally uploaded by ThomasThomas
Today, is the official first launch day for the new version of iPhone. Am I bitter that it launched just shy of the 2-month purchase mark of my iPhone? 'Course not. (P.S. F**ck you, Steve Joby-Jobs....)

Anyhoo, by far, the best feature on my iPhone is the "Genius" feature that's baked in to the iPod. What is Genius, you say? Here's how it works (the following words are Apple's...not mine):

Say you have one song you really love and want to hear other tracks that go great with it. A few clicks on iPod nano, and Genius uses that song to find other songs in your library and makes a Genius playlist for you. You can listen to the playlist right away, save it for later, or even refresh and give it another go.

It's like being given an excellent mixed tape at every touch.

Watch. I'll do it now. At random. I just pressed "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) by The Arcade Fire (a personal favorite song of mine, BTW) and here's just the first five songs (of a possible 25) that came up;

White Winter Hymanal - Fleet Foxes
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi - Radiohead
My Moon my Man - Feist
Pizza Catcher, New York - Belle and Sebastian
Ziggy Stardust - David Bowie

Awesome, right? Do this. Now. Go. Make haste. Your music library needs to be listened to in a new way. Stop playing Fleetwood Mac, Rumours over and over again. K? Fanx.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sex Ed - Benoit Style

Sex Ed - Sixties style
Originally uploaded by painter girl
My son was home this week with a sore throat and to pass the time, we watched a few pointless shows on the Sundance Channel. ( Hell, it's dedicated to independent film, was my thinking, it's got to have more interesting programming than TeleToons, non?)

In between shows, the channel has programmed bumpers - little independent features - that are often hilarious and very innovative in their format. One of them is a series called, Green Porno. Hosted by its creator, the beautiful and talented Isabella Rossellini, the premise of these shorts is to show the bizarre mating rituals of various insects and animals. And here's the kicker: Rossellini, herself, stars. In costume. As an insect. The costumes are fantastic, the sets are hodge-podge-y and strangely fabulous and the dialogue? Well, let's just say that you have not lived until you've heard Madama Rossellini say, "And now....We are sequential hermaphrodites!" Awe. Some.

I did, however, have to don the the parenting hair shirt shortly thereafter, though.....

Benoit: Mom, what's a porno?
Me (trying not to puke and scream AND stay calm, all at the same time :
It's a movie, with very little plot, whose sole purpose is to show people having sex with each other.
Benoit: (aghast) Eeeeew! (pause) I don't mind watching these insects do sex, though.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Road Trip Time Lapse
Originally uploaded by Neil Dorgan
When I was a kid, my parents would take my sister and I on road trips. To pass the time, we would play a game that we came to call, Who Am I? The object of the game was simple: you had a person, place or thing in your mind and it was the goal of those playing to ask the proper questions in order to reveal the answer. With the right sort of questions, the game would be over in few short minutes. The wrong sort of questions, though, could lead you down a perilous path and you could be guessing for hours. The game kept us amused, made every trip seem shorter than it was and most importantly, gave us the opportunity, as a family, to be playful with one another, something a lot of kids my age didn’t get the chance to do with their parents.

I have wondered, often, why my mother had us play that game so many years ago. Partially, I believe, it was to pass the time but mostly, it was to keep us from doing what alot kids will do when they are forced into a confined space: get in fights and start poking fingers at each other over the smallest of perceived slights.

This week, my immediate family found itself in a similar spot. No, not forced into the backseat of a brown Pontiac Perisienne that reeked of bologna on white, but forced to redefine itself in the face of a difficult circumstance. My Nana - matriarch of a strong family, player of cribbage, lover of the Blue Jays, love of all jokes practical and all-round saint - died after a long and fruitful life.

Her death shook us all to the core.

But instead of pointing fingers and railing at the universe, we made a decision, one similar to the one my parents made each and every time we got into that car and headed out on a long journey. We decided to play, Who am I, and define who we were as a family.

And guess what?

My name is Laura Francis. I am a member of the mighty Robinson clan. And it is my honour.