Blue Sunday

My in-laws were in town over the weekend, and so we were looking for something new to do. You get to the point where you feel like you’ve taken them to the aquarium 5000 times, y’know? Well, every time B practices a blues song on his guitar, we’re always commenting how much these particular grandparents would enjoy hearing it, so S got the bright idea that we should see whether there’s any blues going on in the greater Vancouver area.

Turns out there is. Sunday nights, out in New West, there’s a Blues Revue at the Columbia Theatre — and it’s an all-ages show! So off we went last night, on an adventure.

It’s one of those theatres where you sit at tables and have drinks and snacky food while you watch. B was SO EXCITED, and we realized this was his first non-school concert ever. As the youngest person there (by far) he attracted attention right away, and one of the stage crew invited him for a tour of backstage. He got to meet some of the musicians back there, and watch from the side of the stage for a while.

It was a review show, so it had a bunch of different acts, each playing three or four songs. The featured guest guitarist of the week was a fellow who goes by the stage name “Blues Puppy”. He was a lively, charismatic player, and only sixteen years old. We kept telling B, “Practice really hard for six more years, and maybe you can go onstage too!”

Well, B was totally smitten. When Blues Puppy came offstage and was walking past our table, B (with Grandma’s help) got the fellow’s autograph. It totally made B’s evening, and I have a feeling it made Mr. Puppy’s evening too. He told B, “You play guitar? Well don’t give up! Keep playing!” And B was nodding big-eyed, like this wasn’t something we told him all the time, no no, Blues Puppy had made it new, and better! SO CUTE.

So then B decided he would need a Blues Name, if he was going to be a Bluesman. He decided he should be “Rockin’ Hound” — do I detect a little canine influence there? I suspect I do. But then B told me, “I’m not just going to have a stage name. I also have a MOTTO.”

“Oh?” I said. “What’s your motto?”

“The blues is the seeds of most music — I just supply the fertilizer.”

The music was loud enough that I had to walk around the table and tell everyone B’s motto individually. And one by one, his father and grandparents all just about fell out of their chairs, bowled over by the hilarity awesomeness of that motto.

Fertilizer indeed. What a kid. He was super inspired, and I think we’re going to have to get back out there sometime.


Return of the annual Greek play!

* It’s been a few years since they did a Greek drama at Jericho Arts Centre. In the interim, we found a few others to attend, one at UBC, one out of Commercial somewhere. But then the plays dried up completely and we went without.

But! They’re back, at Jericho, and just in time for Valentine’s Day (as, weirdly, they all seem to be). Last night S and I saw Euripides’ Hecuba – a bit of an early Valentine, sure, but babysitters are harder to find than ever, it seems. Looking forward to B being old enough to sit on himself for an evening.

In any case, the play was very well done, very accessible (which is the trick with Greek drama), and had a few creative touches that made it unique and interesting. Ghostly echoes and repetitions added some real sorrow and creepiness to Polydorus’s ghost (and I loved the way his ghost took his body’s place under the shroud). Eerie music added to the choral sections; Scott thought they were too witchy, but I thought it was a good thing.

Anyway, glad to have the dramas back, and I hope this means they’re making it an annual thing again.

* This afternoon we broke out one of the board games we got for Saturnalia – a cooperative game called Zombicide. Supposedly B isn’t old enough to play, but he did very well at keeping track of the rules and not getting too freaked out by all the zombies, although the latter took a few turns and some experience. Honestly, it took a while for me to get used to them too; my first inclination was to hide. But you can’t hide, because the monsters just keep accumulating.

It claims a one-hour play time, but it took us a couple hours anyway. Maybe because we’re new at this and we had to talk a lot of hypotheticals through before we could act. Also, we had one particular opportunity to use a Molotov cocktail that we didn’t take, and one of our characters died later at the hands of that very mob (after some other, unanticipated bad luck).

The game is good fun if you love zombies! I have been protesting for years that I don’t really love zombies, except maybe ironically, but I think I need to just come out and admit that I do. Of course, they’re ubiquitous now; there’s some zombie zeitgeist happening. I’ve read a variety of theories – zombies as dehumanized “other”, zombies as e-mail (no, really: there’s always more) – but the one that resonates with me the most is that zombies represent the ceaseless stream of disaster, violence, and catastrophe we hear about on the news, the relentlessness of war and impending environmental calamity. We fight because we have to, insofar as we can, but it just keeps coming.

Relentless is the word. On that level, the game’s kind of intense, but at the end of the day we get to put the little figurines back in their boxes and pack them away.

Guts and nerves

In celebration of Bobbie Burns’s birthday yesterday, we acquired, cooked, and ate a haggis. There’s a place out in Maple Ridge that makes ’em, and a place in Vancouver that sells ’em (frozen). Considering that it looked like this:



…it was actually quite edible. Also: full of organ meats and suet. Leftover haggis the next day was ROCK HARD, due to high suet content. Not for everyday use, methinks, but good every once in a while, as a side dish, alongside Tatties and Neeps.

Tomorrow I drive to Seattle, eat with some publishing people, spend the night, and come back Monday after lunch. I’m to be there for the announcement (Monday morning) of all the major US children’s book awards, and then give a little speech (win or lose). I confess to being slightly nervous. OK, slightly more than slightly.

Scott (who believes awards are a referendum not on my book but on the jurors) (and he has a point) set me up with voice recognition software, which is proving both useful and difficult. It’s very useful for editing; it’s like I just think the changes (out loud) and they appear. Composing is rather another story. I freeze up. I’m learning ways around this, such as turning my back on the computer screen so I can’t see how stupid I sound, and trying to remind myself that first drafts are always bad.

Dictated first drafts, however, are a few degrees worse. Still. It puts crap on the page, and I can turn that into writing. That is always the order of things, just not quite so self-consciously.

And who’s to say but that some of this isn’t award-jitter-nerves leaking through as well? Maybe once I’ve officially lost (or not lost) I can go back to not feeling quite so stared-at, even when I’m all alone, talking to no one.

Two sunny days in a row

* I think I get colder on sunny days than on rainy days, because I’m fooled into thinking it’s warmer than it really is outside. I’m not generally the biggest fan of the sun, either – which I suppose is fortunate, given where I live – but still, it was nice to have a couple days where I didn’t have to have lights on in the apartment.

* I have been writing a lot this week, trying very hard to focus on enjoying it. If a scene feels miserable to write, maybe I need to find a scene that ISN’T miserable. If a character is moping around, being a drag, maybe I’m not utilizing his talents in any meaningful way (and what are his talents anyway? I have discovered a lot of underutilized resources, just twiddling their thumbs and MOPING in this book. No moping, miscreants!) (and that goes for the author, too).

* We started a new quarter at choir last night. This time around the selection of songs is even MORE eccentric than usual, which I hadn’t really understood was possible. We’ve got another semi-nautical drinking song, echoing my last-term favourite “Down Among the Dead Men.” This one’s called “I’ll Fathom the Bowl”, and I can not, at this point, sing it without cracking the hell up. Because seriously: “Bring me a ladle, I’ll fathom the bowl”?? Tee hee hee. Such grand nautical language, such silly imagery, such a way to say “I’m going to drink all you’ve got!”

* We’re also singing “Tainted Love.” ‘Nough said. I’m going to have to stand in the back where I can bend over double, laughing.

* Honestly, I’m feeling pretty good. My diabolical spawn – who I said I wasn’t going to talk about as much – is occasionally a trial, but one I’ve probably earned somehow. Nine and a half seems young to start in with the attitudinous mutiny, but what do I know? My sisters and I were a docile crew, and differentiation is a thing to be desired, is it not? I foresee, however, that I’m going to be the parent more pushed against as we go forward.

* Then again, how is that new? When was I ever NOT the parent more pushed against. Sure, he had his daddy-scorning moments, but I was the one in the trenches every day, and I got plenty of push. Always.

* I am scouring the neighbourhood for the first signs of spring already, that I may torment you all with them the moment they arrive. If it stays this cold (a whole -3C! Heavy frost that never thawed, even in sunshine!) maybe we’re in for a late spring.

* Eh. It’s January. It’s supposed to be cold. It’s not supposed to be this sunny. I’ll treasure it while I may.

A conversation with my subconscious

* So last night I dreamed that I was being given a tour of New Improved Walmart by Toronto mayor (ex-mayor? what’s the latest on that?) Rob Ford. Only he didn’t want me to know he was Rob Ford. He had grown some kind of chinbeard as a disguise, but it was a pretty pathetic disguise because he was totally Rob Ford and we all knew it (we? I was with a school group of some kind; I was a schoolgirl). Anyway, he was giving us a tour because Walmart had developed a new Shopping Structure and we needed to know how it worked. And I don’t mean Structure as in “building”, no, this was a new way of organizing your shopping, inspired by Facebook games. Anyone could still come in and shop, but they could only shop for crappy junk in the front room. If you wanted to be able to shop for any of the GOOD stuff, you had to pay for access to those parts of the store. There were multiple shopping levels you could buy into, just for the privilege of shopping. You still had to pay for things you decided to buy. Rob Ford said this was going to revolutionize shopping. For too long, we freeloaders had been allowed to browse the store all we liked – for free! Well, no more. Now, at last, Walmart would start making money!

*I admit, I felt pretty skeptical of his business plan. Who in their right mind would pay to shop at Walmart? A lot of people were doing it, however, and it was true that the stuff you could shop for in the “free” part of the store kind of sucked. And wasn’t really free.

* I can’t decide if this dream is about Facebook, or politics, or some other thing my subconscious has decided to drape in a skin of Facebook and politics.

* Oh, wait, yes I can. Hello, symbols.

* Maybe it was a dream about writing and blogging, about the hidden costs. Here I am a writer, on the NYT best-seller list, in an enviable position, but it doesn’t come without compromise, without paying some part of yourself that you think you won’t miss until one day you do.

* But! Here I am. Things can be recovered. Maybe even all the things. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to do it and doing the work required.

* I make it sound so simple.

I welcome myself home

Oh Milkbreath blog. I’ve missed you.

No, really, I’ve MISSED you. That other blog? Just doesn’t cut it. I have to be on my good behaviour there, all the time. I can’t cuss or fart or leave my dirty socks lying around. I have to make sense and write in complete sentences and I am in constant fear of sounding like a dork. I used to write actual interesting things there – and I hope I can eventually figure out the way to do that again someday, but the borderline between interesting and personal is really thin, you know? And I really can’t get personal there.

Which sucks. I like getting personal. That’s the best of me. The big, idiosyncratic ME behind everything.

So, since today is a good day for resolutions, this year I resolve to use this space more, and better, and more better. I need a place to cut loose a little. I need a place on the internet that’s creative and nourishing and GOOD, and not just me turning to the internet like some kind of internet junkie, hoping the numbing stupidity of it will silence all the things I have no place to say.

Not that I have much bad to say, really, right? I just need to feel free, feel like I CAN say whatever I need to. I need space. So here I am again, mostly me, not so much Milkbreath (whose privacy I probably shouldn’t be violating in any case; 2013 is the year he’ll turn TEN, OMG).

Here I am. I find myself breathing easier already.

An evening of Viking Metal

So Scott and I had an Evening Out last night, something we far too seldom contrive to do. Scott had recently discovered a “Viking metal” band on YouTube, a group called Tyr. They’re from the Faroe Islands and they sing in Faroese (and also in English, but we’re in it for the interesting languages!). By bizarre coincidence, it turned out they would be playing here in Vancouver, along with three other groups, so of course we had to go.

We started out the evening by checking out the new Storm Crow Tavern, which bills itself as “An Olde Medievalle Taverne, with rayguns”. And indeed, there were rayguns on the wall near the door. There were people gaming and all kinds of fun geeky decorative objects. The waitress wore elf ears. We found the food a little scant to make a dinner of – although it was also correspondingly cheap. Go there to snack and drink and play, or if you really want dinner, order some appetizers and dessert as well.

The concert was at the Rickshaw Theatre. We bought Tyr t-shirts so we wouldn’t be the only people there not wearing black; some people were also wearing helmets and chain mail and waving axes. We sensibly brought earplugs. The opening band, an Estonian group called Metsatöll, turned out to be our favourite, because they had the most bagpipes and obscure Estonian stringed instruments. Tyr was fun, although they mostly sang their English songs. Their Faroese saga-inspired songs were more to my taste. The third band was called Moonsorrow, from Finland, and we weren’t too into them – lots of Cookie Monster voice, and they seemed to take themselves too seriously.

Because we are old, we didn’t stay for the final band, the actual headliner, Korpiklaani. It was kind of a pity, but we were overheated, foot-weary, and we had to get up before six-thirty the next morning. Still, a fun time, and we didn’t end up too deaf, so you can’t ask for more than that!