March 29, 2011

When Writers Should Just Shut Up...

You don't have to be a writer to appreciate this fabulous book review....and more importantly, the following comments that feature the 'author' freaking out.

This is awesome. Thanks to Brad Smith for the forward. Maybe you could send her some of your reviews so she knows what it feels like to do it right.

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March 24, 2011

Spring All Over

The Cogeco guy was coming over the other day because our modem is crap. We know this because I keep buying new routers, and it is never the router, but once you open them you can't return them - very much like having babies. I tried to leave one at the hospital one time. I was soooo tired. But no, they have this weird policy of 'you spawn 'em, you take 'em', and we all know how that turned out. Same with routers. Except nobody sends over food when you get a new router. They should; I keep paying this much for routers, and we won't be able to afford food.

Anyway. Of course it's the modem. It's always the damned modem. And when you call them, this is what they say:

Me: "Hi, our modem is pooched."
Them: "Oh, it can't be. We used 24K gold modems and they last forever and pull in frequencies that only dogs and sleeping mothers can hear."
Me: "No, they don't. You got them at a frickin' garage sale in China, they are crap, you know it, but you refuse to buy new ones for your customers until you've used up all the dusty ones in the shipping container out back."
Them: "They're not dusty."

So we go back and forth, and they promise to send out a technician. Actually, this time around, I made Ari make the calls. It was his computer most affected, and I reckon a boy who can work a debit card, a motorcycle and a slingshot (sometimes all at the same time) can work a phone.

So Technician comes in, and puts his little diapers on his feet. I'm convinced he is doing this so his shoes don't get dirty, but I let it go. In preparation, I have pulled my computer tower out so he can get at the new router and the crap modem. As I did this, I noticed some papers and stuff behind the computer, and decided to clean it out. I did this once before, and found some prescription receipts that were two years old. I tried to claim them; they turned me down, saying they were past the claiming date. I called them and rolled my eyes really loudly and said 'as if you haven't dropped stuff behind the computer.' There was silence. I didn't get my money.

As I cleaned, I found my computer speakers back there. They fell off months ago, and I just got used to not hearing anything. Silence is golden and all that. I decided it might be nice to hear things, so I propped them up and turned the button on. Mostly all I hear is Avast telling me my computer virus has been updated, and it scares the hell out of me every time. I must have been a nervous baby.

Today I've been cooking dinner, and as usual, I have a thousand windows open. I am doing research. Seriously. Stop rolling your eyes. Anyway. The fan over the stove is on, and all of a sudden JoJo (scroll down; black cat) is in my chair yelling at my computer. As I get closer, I realize it is chirping. Some open screen I can't see has a bird on it. JoJo has decided there is a bird somewhere behind my computer, and it is her duty to catch it and kill it. I'm making that up; she's never seen a bird. But buried deep in her little brain is an ancestry of bird eating that is making itself known.

So, JoJo, before I can stop her, lunges at the monitor. And knocks the speakers down behind the computer.

I give up.

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I am Angry That Christopher Hitchens is Sick

Selfishly, bitterly angry.

He has cancer, has had for a while now. He isn't doing well, and we are no doubt on the edge of losing one of our best. One of our best writers, best debaters, best agitators, best provocateurs. Sometimes I agree with him; often I don't. But I absolutely respect him 100% of the time.

He engages on a whole other brilliant level, and is one of the few people who will laugh at himself, call Mother Teresa a fraud, dual with politicians and priests, and always, always, always do it with a word skill that makes me wonder why I bother.

In a recent Vanity Fair column, he was relaying a debate he'd had with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Now, Hitchens is as right as they come, and he and Blair make strange bedfellows. Yet the piece was enlightening, respectful and revealing. This is how you have opposing views; this is how you engage across aisles. Noting that Blair has lost none of his political savvy, he describes how Blair has somehow managed to get Hitchens to speak first. "I feel as if I have gone into a revolving door in front of someone and come out behind him."

I have been hauling that line around with me for months now. I love it.

So, that's all. I hate that Hitchens is sick.


March 22, 2011

It's about the cats....

Every morning I am waking up to Q-tips all over the house. One on the stairs, one under the couch, a couple in the bathroom. They are clean but a little the worse for wear, and I keep chucking them and yelling at everyone to stop leaving Q-tips lying around.

And every morning, same thing. But today, I finally figured it out. I caught JoJo sneaking out of the bathroom - early -3 Q-tips in her wake. She's been fishing them out of the box in the drawer. I did not think she was bright enough to even jump on the counter, let alone help herself to toiletries. So now I know.

We had to cut the cats' claws last night. We call it a manicure, because JoJo will run and hide if she knows what we're about to do. She's probably stealing all the Q-tips to clean her ears out so she can listen better. Maggie will basically hold out each paw, grit her teeth and glare at you as she hisses "get it over with". JoJo cries and wails and hides, shuddering and sobbing that we're trying to kill her. Maggie thinks JoJo is an idiot.

So what happens is we get to Maggie one day, then have to wait for JoJo to forget what we did so we can get her. But whichever kid has to hold JoJo has to wear chain-mail and get a tetanus shot - she is a big girl and she squirms. Hard. We often only get a few nails clipped, and I can never remember which ones. JoJo knows I'm writing about her. See her crabby little black face?

March 21, 2011

Bonus Rolls-Royce!

Nah, not the actual car. What kind of contests you think we run around here?

Just a piece I wrote for a bonus Wheels section in today's Toronto Star - all about the luxury...

March 16, 2011

John Boich Funeral & Memorial Details

Friends, please note the following:

Friday, March 18, 2011 11am- 12:30pm
Funeral to take place at Wellington Square United Church, 2121 Caroline Street, Burlington, ON, (905) 634-1849

From 1-3pm the same day, there will be a celebration of John's life at Sotiris Restaurant, 3135 Harvester Road, Burlington, ON. Bring your memories; this is all about the wonderful life this man has led.

Formal notices will appear in the Globe & Mail, the Hamilton Spectator and Tina Depko at the Burlington Post has written a really lovely piece.
More in a bit.


John Boich 1933-2011

When I was a kid, I used to stare at the population signs posted at the entrance of each town and city. A very literal child, I would ask my mother how they knew when to change it, and did someone come out each time a child was born or someone died. She remarked that while she guessed they were changed annually, if I thought about it, the two numbers would probably balance out most of the time, and the tally was close enough.

Burlington has to change its signs this morning. We lost John last night, and I highly doubt that any number of waves pouring onto the sand will be able to erase his imprint on this city. For those close to home, more information will be forthcoming. For anyone else, I'm just going to reprint here the Motherlode I wrote a month back for this great man. I'm glad my boys had him as long as they did; I'm only sorry the ride was so short.

Football Games And Life Lessons: Thank You, John Boich
Monday, February 7, 2011

If you ask my sons to tell you about their grandfather, they will reach for photo albums or retell stories they have heard so often the words are smooth with wear. His mannerisms, his favourite foods, his epic temper, his stunning gentleness in surprising moments. When I tell Ari, 16, he has Dad’s strong frame, or Christopher, 19, that he debates in the same infuriating way, I see the quiet pride. My boys are becoming men my father will never see, but that reminds me the long shadow cast by his death also contains a brilliant light.

In high school I was taught English by a remarkable woman who later married a remarkable man. While Arlene continues to remind me she isn’t nearly old enough to be my mother, her husband, John Boich, is only a handful of years younger than my father would have been. This has never been lost on me, and he has assumed the role of grandfather to both Christopher and Ari.

But it’s been more than that. A former professional football player, he has brought to them an older male role model they never had. Athletic, accomplished, political and kind, he has shown them what it takes to be a gentleman while never suffering fools. He has demonstrated all the traits I love in a man, and done it with a polish my Dad would have admired. My father would have liked John. I wish they could have met.

For half a dozen years now, my boys have watched every Grey Cup and Super Bowl in the company of men. They brag to their friends who covet an invite to eat too much of John’s famous chilli while placing bets on the game and roaring at the television. They smile in awe at the insight they get from a real football player. I watch them try to reconcile this gentle man who moves through a room equally at ease with royalty as riff raff, with the former jock who never really left the game.

I find out days after the fact that Christopher has stopped by for a free meal, but stayed to discuss his interest in education and politics. This with a man who has mastered both, and dispenses his knowledge with a generosity that defies description. As my younger son pursues a field more foreign to John – the trades – he is no less supportive of the importance of an ability he considers as valuable as any of his own.

John has filled a space I hadn’t considered was missing; losing my Dad when we did was too soon for lasting tactile memories. It rarely occurs to me my sons could miss something they had never known, until I see them engage in a relationship with a man of this age, a man of this substance.

Arlene assures me this blast of boyness is as important to him. I’m not sure how it could be, but I treasure this idea anyway. That my sons could bring joy to a man who is helping them become men is a heart-clutching thought for any mother. There is such goodness here. There is such love.

John has surrogate grandchildren already, but when my boys showed up, he moved down the bench to make room for them. Just like that. They were added to his life so seamlessly, so graciously, it’s hard to believe they haven’t always been there.

I thank you, John. And I’m sure my Dad does too.


March 12, 2011

QWERTY Thoughts

I was skyping with my friend, Sarah, when I spilled tea into my keyboard. This is hardly the first time and won't be the last, but it was slurpier than usual, so I grabbed a paper towel. Actually, that's a lie. I smooshed the end of my sleeve in there first,then realized it wasn't going to work, then grabbed a paper towel.

Because one thing always leads to another, I noticed some more crud under the keys, so I reached for my special computer tool kit. This means I opened up the cutlery drawer and pulled out a butter knife. I pried up the little quartet of keys where the tea had landed, and figured I'd just sop it up. Ick. Do you know how much serious crud can build up in your keyboard? My god, that cat can shed.

I did the only reasonable thing. I pried every key off the board, confident I could remember where they all went. See that title up there? That's all I could remember. I forgot to tell Sarah what I was doing, so this popped up in the skype box:

[1:55:41 PM] Just Lorraine: 66666uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu7h6r777777788r4e
[1:55:46 PM] Just Lorraine: i';m cleaning ig
[2:11:09 PM] Just Lorraine: e`sdddddffxfxfgXXXXXXXXXGCVGVCgzzzzxxxcccccxxvvvvvvvvjkjjjkk]]]]]]]]]\[]'[[]]\\\\\\\\[[[]\p///9mm
[2:11:17 PM] Just Lorraine: ]'[''''''''''''''''''

To which Sarah replied: "oh, this can't be good".
I got enough keys back on to tell her what I was doing, so she didn't go all Life Alert on me. I then proceeded to use most of a container of Lysol wipes to clean the keyboard.

It is not lost on me that a new keyboard costs about 20 bucks; I just had to get the junk out of it. Sarah then had to watch a steady stream of entries as I tested each key to see what it was, then put the little button back on. Part way through, I realized I'd pried off the keys and some had flown a distance. One of the 7s was under the stove. At that point, I could only tell her I'd lost the seven. That, and now my space bar is clanging in a really annoying manner.

As I assembled random keys back into place, I thought how easy it would be to do the same with, I don't know, my life. To pry everything up and totally clean underneath, then just pop everything back into place and carry on. It's never that easy, of course, and there is always some part that clangs or bangs that didn't before. Part of getting older, I'm sure, but I also think it has a lot to do with the way I look at the world. It changes, a lot. I'm speechifying on Monday, and this particular group is a good audience for stories about my Dad. But as I sit here thinking 'you can't talk about that again', I realize, I can. It's not about a story changing, it's about the fact that I now see things differently. That's my Dad for you; the lessons carry on long after the curtain has fallen.

I was writing earlier and another language peeve of mine popped up. If 'too' means more, than I think there should be a 'soo' as well.

I'm also joining the Trillium Miata Club tomorrow as their guest speaker. I have no idea what they're gonna get. Should be fun. Every year, I go on the time change day. I figure if you invite me on time change Sunday, you get what you get. Maybe I'll just tell them some Dad stories.

March 9, 2011


I'm eating jubjubes for dinner. For those of you who automatically think to yourselves, "hmmm, Lorraine must be out of Alpha Bits" I say....well, I am, but that's not the reason.

The reason is that whenever I go to Arlene and John Boich's house, they have a keg of jubjubes on the table. They also have a jar of cashews on the counter. And tons of other great food, because they don't have children who eat said food the second it comes into the house. And the jubjubes they have are the soft gushy kind which mean they are high-end jujubes and not the cheap-o ones I'm eating that came from No Frills.

I was at their house on my way to No Frills. And of course I ate some of their awesome jujubes, and when I saw them at the store, I had to buy them.

I've cooked the past three nights, which around here amounts to a tryout for Next Great Chef or some such nonsense. Three dinners, three nights - IN A ROW - means I'm cooked out.

The boys were told I'd make grilled cheese, or they could fend for themselves. Both opted for the sandwiches, because they're lazy little cusses. But I do go gourmet: For Ari, I stuffed really good mozzarella into a sandwich with pepperoni. I told him it was grilled cheese pizza. Christer came in and spied the two sandwiches I had for him, and promptly assembled another one.

And while rumour has it I believe melting cheese on pretty much anything is the gateway to heaven, I realized the only thing I wanted was jujubes.

So, glass of wine and nasty little chewy bits.

Good night.....

March 7, 2011

2011 Ford Explorer

I asked for a red one, and got it. Then I asked to see the puppies...

Come to Quebec City with me...

CHCH Square Off @5:30

So your kid's hockey coach throws a game to make sure the team faces a weaker opponent in the next round of playoffs.

Yeah, I don't think so.

Join Mark, Donna and me* at 5:30....CHCH11.

*I just edited that. I'm sure it was Arlene who is anonymous down there...or the legions of others who love to call me out=)


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Polar Bears: So much better than all that other noise on the Web...

Extraordinary video clip from 60 Minutes last night...via Jezebel.

Polar bear momma and baby, and a camera. Isolated. If nothing else reminds you we spend far too much time and money clicking on garbage, this should. Dare you not to smile...

Mining for Meaning

Excellent slideshow in Salon today that matches my decidedly pensive mood.

Flip through the pics and descriptions from another era - abandoned mines and mining buildings. I've seen a lot of these in Colorado, and they really do pull you up short. We climbed over them and peered down into them and mostly just soaked up the eerie echoes of what was a terribly brutal yet sometimes euphoric past.

Considering the moment the United States is embroiled in right now, with the swirl of abandoned cities and the destruction of worker's rights, it's not a bad time to look at these photos with a nod to history, geography and humanity in general.

March 6, 2011

Words, words, words...

Wonderful piece from Calvin Trillin in the G&M today. It's about swearing and The New Yorker and while I swear much too much, it's from a man I adore, and therefore I will read and consider and carry it around with me like a little amulet. Trillin writes nothing trivial, ever. I still have snippets of a short he once wrote flipping around my brain. It was about finding a street parking spot in New York City. And the value of that spot, and the search for that spot, and the protection of that spot. It wasn't about a parking spot at all, but Trillin is that brilliant.

I'm in a pondery kind of mood of late. Which means the cats stay close and the kids stay away, as I noodle over things that I shouldn't, and sit at my computer until my shoulders seize up like rusted carnival equipment and I don't notice until I try to unkink and can't. I think about things like Trillin's piece, about words. I've been using a lot of them lately, churning out words, some good, some less so, and some pieces of beauty that will never be seen. I can't leave 'bad' standing, in case you think I'm saying I'm not capable of 'bad'. I am; I just fix it or kill it, because nothing in that much pain should have to suffer.

Twenty years ago I would have argued until blue the sanctity of words. And I of course was thinking of those words in terms of newspapers or books or magazines. Speeches or scripts or placards. And in my pondery mood, I find my brain cracking open to allow new growth as I consider Antonia Zerbisias's piece in the Star today about cyber rebels. Words as warfare; a morphing, evolving force of Anonymous who hack and slash and instigate and post on the web. 'Interactivists', they're called, who keep people connected when governments or armies have stripped away that ability. They - this faceless, nameless entity - ensure no censor will rewrite history.

So these two ideas have melded this morning, this idea that I should be able to say anything I like, while realizing the care I must give to anything I do. It will always be about the words, and whether we unleash them like mad dogs or unfurl them like brilliant banners.

Some days it's a bit of both.

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March 5, 2011

For Your Consideration

Hahahah. That's me making fun of Melissa Leo for the ads she took out before she won her recent Support Actress Oscar. Made herself all glamourpuss and posed for dorky ads in the trade newspapers to make Academy members vote for her. Considering in most of her best roles she looks as frumpy as I do, they probably didn't know who she even was all 'shopped and 'brushed and non-raging. That and the fact that the median age of Oscar voters is about 127.

But my 'for your consideration' is way more fun, especially for a rainy Saturday morning. Go here; come back when you're laughing. And if you don't laugh, well, there's something wrong with you, and you probably won't be back anyway.

Thanks to Emily in Dallas for starting off my morning with cats!