Not To Be Trusted With Knives

Yesterday, Airdrie posted her answers to interview questions given to her by Keira-Anne, who had posted her answers to interview questions given to her… well, you get the idea.  Anyhoo, I took Airdrie up on her offer to interview people.  Here are her questions and my answers:

1.  What are five of your favourite movies?

Fight Club definitely ranks up there with one of my fav movies, as does the Matrix.  I saw both of those when they first came out before there was a huge amount of hype about them (especially Fight Club, I don’t think I’d even heard of Fight Club and we just ended up seeing it because we wanted to see a movie and nothing else playing that day looked any good).  Fight Club was so well written, well acted, well directed and it was unlike any other movie I’d seen.  Similarly, the Matrix was unlike anything I’d ever seen before – the special effects, which were created because they were actually needed for the plot and not just because they looked cool, totally blew me away.  But the thing that really clinches it for me with both those movies is that not only were they very entertaining in their own right, they both had really insightful social commentaries to make.

American Beauty is another one of my favourites – like Fight Club & the Matrix, it had a compelling story, amazing direction and thoughtful social commentary to make.

I don’t think I ever laughed as hard at a movie as I did when I saw South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut in the theatre, so that has to be on the list.  I remember sitting in the theatre watching the South Park kids sitting in the theatre watching Terrance and Phillip sing, “Shut Your Fucking Face, Uncle Fucker.” We all sat their in our seats in the theatre, stunned, thinking, “Oh my god, did they really just *say* that?” while, on the screen, the South Park kids sat in their seats in the theatre saying, “Oh my god, did they really just *say* that?”  I heart self reflexivity.

Interestingly, all four of those movies were released in 1999. Best year for movies EVAR!

For my fifth movie, I’m going with Zoolander.  As evidenced by the inclusion of the South Park movie on my list, I like stupid humour.  Usually stupid humour is only funny the first time around, but Zoolander, for some reason, stays funny no matter how many times you watch it.  And I’ve watched Zoolander many, many times and it’s just as funny the 20th time as it was the first time.  Or maybe I like it because I’m really, really, ridiculously good looking.

2.  You are mailed a box with $10K cash inside, and a note that says “Pay It Forward!”  What do you do?

I would use it to pay off some of my friend Z’s student loan.  Z did her Ph.D. along with me and, like me, accumulated a significant student debt. Unlike me, she did her Ph.D. while raising two kids on her own.  She’s very bright and very dedicated and she’s one of the hardest workers I know.  Even though she now has a great job that she loves, one doesn’t go into academics for the money and I’m sure that $10K coming off her student loan debt would be a welcome relief.

Damn, now I wish I actually had $10K to pay forward!

3. What was the hardest thing about your teenage years? The best thing?

Me, all dressed up for the high school semi-formal dance.

Me, all dressed up for the high school semi-formal dance.

I think the hardest thing about my teenage years was the crappy jobs I worked.  I knew that university was going to be expensive, so I had one (sometimes two) jobs throughout my teen years (actually, starting with my paper route at about age 8, I’ve always had at least one job!).  The worst of the worst was working in the brake part factory where my dad worked the summer that I was 19.  I worked midnights (which sucked) on a 400 degree oven that cooks the brake parts in the heat and humidity of a southern Ontario summer (which really, really sucked).  Oh yeah, and the material used to make the brake parts contained absestos.

The best part… hmm… I guess the best part was hanging out with my friends.

Erin, me (dressed for my role as Miss Casewell), Sarah (dressed for her role as Mollie Ralston), Darren.

From a high school performance of "The Mousetrap." From left to right: Erin, me (dressed for my role as Miss Casewell), Sarah (dressed for her role as Mollie Ralston), Darren.

Despite having jobs and a volunteer position, I didn’t spend very much time during my teenage years doing homework, so had a fair bit of time to hang out with friends.  Mostly at Tim Horton’s (there really wasn’t a lot to do in the town I grew up in).  The semester I had all the same classes as my friend Sarah – that was good times.  Or when Sarah & I used to sign ourselves out of class, claiming we were working on the “gifted” program conference (in later years, we’d sign out younger students too). Or the time I packed the entire cast of our high school version of “The Mousetrap” into my parents’ Jeep to go watch a performance of “The Mousetrap” in Toronto.  Or the time I packed about a dozen people into my parent’s Jeep in front of my friend’s dad, who was a *cop*, to go to McDonald’s.  Yeah, so I guess the best thing in my teenage years was packing way too many people into my parents’ Jeep.

4.  What makes you sad?

Lots of things make me sad:  My Granny passing away.  Seeing how sad my niece was when my family dropped me off at the airport at the end of my recent trip to visit them (I miss her a lot!).  Seeing my friends or family in pain.  The song “Hate Me” by Blue October.  The thought that I may never pay off my enormous student loans.

Fortunately, many things make me happy too!

5.  Tell us about the last time you had an adventure.

Hmmm, define adventure. 

Getting home from Mexico was a bit of an adventure.  The 12 Bars of Christmas is always an adventure.  Surfing in Tofino in Januar was definitely an adventure, but that was almost two years ago now!

Damn, I really need more adventure in my life!

And now it’s time to meme:

Want to get in on the fun? You can be a part of it by following a few simple steps…
Send me an e-mail with the subject line “Interview Me”
I’ll respond within 24-ish hours with 5 questions directed to you (I promise to try and be unique)
Answer the questions on your blog (or Facebook or MySpace) and link back to this original post
Invite others to participate by re-posting these steps

Also, email me if you any good ideas for an adventure!

Image credits:

{December 20, 2008}   My Granny

This morning, my Granny died.  She’d not been well for some time (having heart disease (including some heart attacks in recent years), suffering from type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and debilitating osteoporosis), yet I still didn’t expect when my dad called this morning that he was calling to tell me that his mom was gone.  The last few times I’d been there to visit, she’d told me that she’d had a good long life and that she was tired and was ready to go when “the good Lord was ready” to take her.  I would always tell her that we liked having her around and that we’d really miss her when she was gone.  And even though we knew it was coming, it’s still hard to believe now that it’s happened.

My family thought about not telling me right away, since I’m leaving on Mondayfor a week in Mexico and they didn’t want to ruin my trip.  But they quickly realized that they had to tell me. I mean, what if one of my cousins mentioned it on Facebook (which, of course, one of them did. And why wouldn’t they?) and I saw it there.  My dad told me that even though the funeral will be next week, I should still got to Mexico rather than canceling my trip and heading to Ontario for the funeral.  “You can’t get your money back, right? Granny was always so careful with money and she’d be really upset with you if you wasted money! Grampa said to tell you that he knows you are with him and that he’s surrounded by family and that you should go to Mexico.”  After talking to my dad, I talked to my mom for a bit and she told me about the dress they’d picked out for Granny to wear.  I asked to make sure they’d picked nice shoes because Granny, like me, loved shoes, especially high heeled ones. My mom said they had thought of that and chosen a nice pair, with heels, that go with her dress.

I’m sure that over the next few days this will become more real to me.  It’s hard to believe that she’s gone.  I’m very glad that I have a lot of happy memories of my Granny –  for some reason, the first one that comes to mind is how she used to put orange juice in the blender to make it frothy for me and my cousins.  I remember how she pulled me aside the first time I saw her after I told my whole family that I was getting divorced and she told me how sorry she was about my marriage breaking up and how she was proud of me for doing what was right for me and that she knew I was strong and that she wanted me to be happy.  I remember how she complimented my platform sandals that I bought on eBay, saying they were the type of shoes she would have worn in her youth.

Last year, when I was in Ontario for Christmas, my dad’s whole family got together to take a big family photo and my Granny was really happy to have the whole family there in one room.  Here’s the photo (which is already out of date as we had two new babies in the family this year):

My Granny is survived by Des, her loving husband of 65 years; five of her six children (predeceased by her beloved son, Bob); her nine grandchildren; her twelve great grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild.  I’m proud to share my Granny’s name.  I love you, Granny.

{September 19, 2008}   RIP DFW

Last Saturday evening, I received a text message that, despite being only 6 characters long, sent a chill through me.


The text was sent by my friend, JB, the one who had suggested – well, insisted really – that I read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.  The book that took me a year to get through.  Not only because of its enormous length, but because of how intense and emotional it was.  Not because I didn’t want to read it – in fact, at times I felt like I couldn’t stop reading it – but because the richness of the writing made me read slowly, savour it, flip back to re-read pieces as new things came up that shed light on things I’d read earlier in the book.  And sometimes the intensity of it meant I had to take a break for weeks from reading it.

I replied immediately to the text message with one of my own, saying “NO! What happened? How did he die?”  But before I’d even hit send, I knew.  A quick Google search confirmed my suspicions:

“David Foster Wallace, the author best known for his 1996 novel “Infinite Jest,” was found dead in his home, according to police. He was 46.

Wallace’s wife found her husband had hanged himself when she returned home about 9:30 p.m. Friday, said Jackie Morales, a records clerk with the Claremont Police Department.” (source)

I had never read anything about David Foster Wallace1 and I’d only read two things he’d written – IJ and some article about tennis2.  But the theme of suicide runs deep through IJ – the main character3 committed suicide and Madame Psychosis/P.G.O.A.T. and Kate Gompart both attempt it. And I’ve since read that DFW had battled depression for over 20 years.  He was described by fellow author Jonathan Franzen as “as sweet a person as I’ve ever known and as tormented a person as I’ve ever known.”

Since his death, two things of his have been cited as the things you really need to read from DFW.  One is “McCain’s Promise: Aboard the Straight Talk Express With John McCain and a Whole Bunch of Actual Reporters, Thinking About Hope” – which he wrote after following McCain around as he campaigned to become president back in 2000.  The other is his address at Kenyon College’s Convocation in 2005.  Some of the things in this address that stuck out to me included:

  • “the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance” – in IJ, he talks about the sayings in AA.  One day at a time. Easy does it.  Things that should be obvious but, in the day-to-day, we easily forget.
  • He describes both dogamatic religiosity and dogamatic atheism as “a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up.”
  • “Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it’s so socially repulsive. But it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.”
  • And probably the most cited quotation from that convocation address since Wallace’s death: “Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.  This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.”

I’ve been reading some of the reactions to DFW’s death and I think Lee Henderson expresses well what I was thinking:

“He wrote about depression, compulsivity, and suicide in all his books, but I had hoped that by writing out his demons their grip on him weakened, and his ambitions would keep him going.” – Lee Henderson

I’ve personally been fortunate not to suffer from clinical depression3.  But I know several people who do struggle with this disease4 and I’ve seen just a glimpse of how devastating it can be. But even that small glimpse has shown me how cruel a disease it is5.  My heart goes out to David Foster Wallace, his family and his friends that after a long and terrible battle, the disease killed him in the end.  Losing his genius at such a young age is tragic for his fans and followers who loved his work, but I can’t even imagine what those close to him are going through.

1DFW was quite an accomplished tennis player in his youth, which manifested itself in his use of students of a tennis academy as one of the main groups of characters in IJ and in his sports writing about pro tennis – I read one of these articles that he’d written.
2In fact, I had no idea that DFW was so young. In my mind, I pictured him as an older gentleman, with salt and pepper hair, slight crinkles around his eyes and, inexplicably, a British accenta. You can imagine my surprise when I saw photos of this young man with long brown hair. Not at all how I’d pictured him.
aDFW is American, and I did know that.
2Well, arguably the main character. Although it’s hard to pick a single “main” character, J.O.I/Himself/The Mad Stork is certainly a central charcter in the book.
3Although I do believe I suffered from a depressive episode when my marriage fell apart, but this was never formally diagnosed and which I got through with the help of an amazing counsellor and the best friends and family that a person could ever ask for.
4And make no mistake, it is a disease, just like cancer, heart disease or diabetes. It’s not, as some people seem to believe, just a matter of weakness or a lack of will. Mental illness is every bit as much “illness” as other illnesses. I read recently – and I wish I could remember where – that telling someone with depression to just “snap out of it” or “cheer up” is akin to telling someone with a broken leg to “just walk it off.”
4On a brighter note: in the fourth part of her series on depression, Airdrie writes about the silver lining to her own battle with depression and I found her words “depression is treatable” to be one of the most hopeful and inspiring things I’ve read in a long, long time.  I know others who, like Airdrie, have managed to treat their depression and I hope that others who are dealing with this devastating disease can find inspiration in those words as well.

{July 29, 2008}   Buh bye, sweet Scrabulous

As you know, I heart Scrabulous.  So you can imagine my reaction when I saw this Tweet from J.K. Parker this morning:

Sad that Scrabulous is gone from Facebook! 😦

Tanya sent me a link to this article on the Wired website:

The creators of a Scrabble knockoff responsible for countless hours at the online hangout Facebook suspended their word game Tuesday after being hit with a lawsuit, disappointing fans who logged on expecting to make their next moves.

And clareondrey sent me a link to this petition: Hasbro: Don’t Hate, Cooperate!

Yes, copyright laws exist for a reason.
No, we are not anarchists.
Can’t Hasbro work together with the creators of the Scrabulous application?
Pluses: We keep our Scrabulous; Hasbro retains its rights; everybody stays happy!
Minuses: None!
Many of us have learned the joys of Scrabble from this online application. Some people have enhanced their previous love for the game. Reward the Scrabulous makers for this accomplishment – and take over from there!

Oh Scrabulous, remember the good times we had?  How I will miss you.

{May 30, 2008}  

I was saddened to read that Canuck defenceman Luc Bourdon died in a motorcycle accident yesterday. He was just 21.

I remember being quite excited when we drafted him (10th overall) three years ago, because he was quite a talented hockey player. My condolences to his family and friends.

People from all around the world have been sending donations to Canuck Place Children’s Hospice in his name, many for $28 or $28.28 to honour his jersey number (28) and the person who won his jersey at the “Jerseys Off Our Backs” event (where people win the jerseys that each of the Canucks were wearing during the last game of the season) contacted the Canucks to give Bourdon’s last jersey back to his family, which I think is a very generous and thoughtful thing to do. (

{April 21, 2008}   Can’t blog. Marking.

It’s exam time, which means I’m now faced with a giant pile of exams to mark. *sigh* And they don’t seem to be marking themselves, so I’m resigned to the fact that I will, in fact, need to mark them myself. *double sigh*.

And, because I have this crazy idea that university should be about learning how to think critically, how to analyze and synthesize and evaluate using information rather than how to regurgitate random, out-of-contexts facts, I won’t give fill-in-the-blank or multiple-choice or matching questions, which are, of course, waaaaay easier to mark. So marking 94 exams is quite a project. Now, I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much, as at least I’m being paid to do this, whereas the students have to pay to take the course and write the exam!

But I still don’t like marking. I don’t like it in a house. I don’t like it with a mouse. I don’t like it in a boat. I don’t like it with a goat.

{January 22, 2008}   I’ve got the bark

Well, it could be worse. I could have pneumonia; I hear that’s going around. Although my doctor assures me that pneumonia is not the kind of thing that “goes around” and that what people call “walking pneumonia” isn’t really pneumonia.

Instead, I have bronchitis. I’ve been sick since New Year’s. It started like a flu – fever, chills, all over body aches – but after day or so, it turned into been more like a cold – sore throat and stuffed up-ness and tiredness and coughing. And coughing. And did I mention the coughing? My ribs hurt from all the coughing. So, since it’s been three weeks and the coughing isn’t getting any better, I decided to go see my doctor. Who turned out to be an hour behind schedule, thanks to some med students slowing things down and some randoms who showed up without an appointment1. And, of course, by the time I saw the doctor, my cough had settled down quite nicely. Making me look like a big whiner who isn’t really sick. But she listened to my lungs and told me that I have bronchitis in the right one. Lucky me.  And she gave me a ‘script and sent me on my way.  And the moment that I’m out the door, my cough is back in full force.  By the time I reached the pharmacy, downstairs from the doctor’s office, I sound yet again like I am hacking up a lung.  The pharmacist hears my cough and says, “Ah, you have the bark.”

So, anyway.  At least I don’t have pneumonia.  But it means I definitely won’t be going skiing again tomorrow.  In fact, I’m not even feeling well enough to go into work – I think I need to rest and let my meds kick in.  =(

1I didn’t think that you could just show up and actually get seen by the doctor, but apparently you can and those of us who actually made an appointment can sit around and wait for a freaking hour.

{December 30, 2007}   Goodnight, Sweet Monkey

My sister’s cat, Monkey, died yesterday. This is a picture of Monkey from better days. She never much liked anyone other than my sister and my niece, but one time I tricked her into thinking I was my sister and she let me pet her. She will be missed.

Rest in peace, little Monkey.

et cetera