Sunday, February 27, 2011

From the Vault

This is another piece of writing I did for a class. It was entitled 'Soundtrack' and we had to write about one song that would be included on the soundtrack to the movie of our lives.


I hear the phone ringing in my mom's room. A quick glance at the clock shows that I still have an hour before I have to be up for school so I roll over and being the process of falling back to sleep. I am interrupted by a knock on the door.

"It's your dad," my mom says as she walks the phone over to me. "He wants to wish you a happy birthday."

I take the phone and mumble some sort of greeting that vaguely passes for 'hello'. My dad had moved back to Ireland for a year with my stepmom and Baby Bro. I had last seen him seven months earlier when we said good bye in Belfast. We had gone for a pint and then to a Christy Moore concert, just the two of us. It was the best send off I could have asked for.

"Good morning, Claire," came the response. Claire. I haven't heard my name since his Christmas phone call. His time in the old country as he called it has strengthen his previously mild accent and I can hear the accent my friends had always commented on growing up. "I wanted to make sure I was the first to wish you a happy birthday and of course..." He starts to sing.

When first I saw the love light in your eyes, I thought the world held nought but joy for me,

I sit up and smile. It's a song I've heard so many times in my life, I don't recall not knowing it. My dad had always said he was going to sing it to me on my sixteenth birthday.

And even though we've drifted far apart, I never dream but what I dream of thee.

My knowledge of this song comes from my dad blasting his tapes of The Furey's through the house on Saturday mornings. Name a Furey's song, and I have a memory to go with it. Green Fields of France is my Remembrance Day song of choice. From Clare to Here reminds me of driving the length of Ireland many times over to visit family when I was six. The Old Man made me break down in tears after my dad fell ill for the first time. I Will Love You takes me to the day when I learned my aunt Eileen had finally died of cancer. The list is endless and it runs the gamut of every emotion I have ever felt.

I love you as I never loved before since first I saw you on the village green,

I had heard him sing this song many times--along with the recording, when driving in the car, with his musicians friends (usually fellow immigrants) at his parties--and now here I sat, alone in the dark, with my dad thousands of kilometres away while he sang it to me. My dad is not a great singer but in that moment it was the most beautiful rendition I had ever heard.

Come to me e'er my dreams of love are o'er

I am my dad's only daughter and I was also the only child who really took to music. Long before the explosion of Celtic music occurred in North America, I knew more Irish folk songs than I did popular songs. I got that love of the Furey's, the Chieftains, Christy Moore, the Dubliners and countless others from my dad and I got my pride in being Irish from those songs.

I love you as I loved you when you were sweet, when you were sweet sixteen.

The last note hangs in the air for a moment before slipping into the darkness along with my anger at having been woken up so early.

"I love you, dad."

"I love you, too."

"But, dad?"


"It's my seventeenth birthday today."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Books, Movies, Reviews. Oh My!

I've been doing a lot of catch up work this morning which is why there was a flurry of posts this morning. Finally, all the books I've been reading are up to date! Part of the reasoning is that I don't have Internet in the apartment this morning and if I'm going to haul my laptop all the way to the coffee shop, I should at least be productive while I'm there...

I mentioned briefly that I attended the Victoria Film Festival. Every year I pick about ten films I want to see, try to find people to go with and then end up maybe seeing one. This year, I decided to pre-pay for tickets and go regardless of company. In the end, I saw The People vs. George Lucas, Le Poil de la Bête, Out of the Ashes, Two Indians Talking, and Kinshasa Symphony. I really enjoyed all the movies. The People made me think about how I view George Lucas; Le Poil was a lighthearted comedic romp through werewolf lore, Ashes was wonderful film about the power of sport, Indians could have used some editing but I thought the ideas put forth were very interesting and a great jumping off place for a discussion on the current state of natives in Canada, and Kinshasa Symphony did for the power of music what Ashes did for sports. As someone who is a lover of music in all forms, I really enjoyed this documentary.

I feel like I have a million more things to say, but I've now been at the coffee shop for over two hours so it might be time for me to pack up and head home. That floor isn't going to vacuum itself... unfortunately.

GBC Book Review: Stardust

Stardust begins in the village of Wall. A young Tristran Thorn, consumed by love, sets off on an adventure through the mythical land of Faerie (located on the other side of the rock wall which runs along the village) to find the falling star for the young lady. Little does he know that when a star falls in Faerie, it appears in its human form and Tristran is not the only person who wants to find it.

Six out of seven ghost brother's agree: Stardust is fabulous!

I saw the movie for Stardust shortly after it first came out on DVD. My roommate at the time and myself watched the movie and when it ended at roughly 9:00pm, we agreed that we had enough time before bed (it was a work night) to watch it again. Since that time I've read some of Neil Gaiman's writing but never any of his full novels. I've always enjoyed his writing so I don't know why it took me so long to read this book but I'm so happy that I finally did. Mr. Gaiman creates a beautiful fantasy world and weaves its existence into every day life with ease. The descriptions of both places and characters are detailed and in depth without being laborious and plot-delaying.

I would highly recommend this novel to anyone. It's sure to delight teenagers and adults alike which is not easy to do. I also recommend the movie, but approach it as a separate body of work.

GBC Book Review: A Study in Scarlet

I recently watched the BBC version of Sherlock and was inspired to go back and read the original works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A Study in Scarlet is the first book in the series so it seemed like a good place to start. After the small formality of learning how Dr. Watson and Holmes meet, the reader is taken along on the journey of Dr. Watson’s first foray into being Holmes’ sidekick when a man is found to have ingested poison in an abandoned house.
This novel serves as the basis for the first episode of the updated Sherlock, so I knew who the killer was before I had even started the novel. In that sense, it didn’t grip me trying to figure out who the culprit was (although it did in the TV episode so I’m sure if I had read the novel first, it would have as well). What I really enjoyed about the novel (and all the Sherlock mysteries) is that it’s told from the point of view of Dr. Watson and so Holmes is slowly unveiled to you as if you were also meeting him for the first time. It’s a great way to introduce a character as dynamic and yet socially inept as Sherlock Holmes.
I’m part way through the third book in the series (I don’t have the second book) and I can honestly say that I’m really enjoying them. Doyle has created some really memorable characters and some very interesting mysteries of which I’ve had varying degrees of success in solving. It has also given me a great appreciation for the amazing effort that went into updating the stories for their use in Sherlock. The series is incredibly true to the original stories in tone and pacing and suspense with lots of little running gags that pay homage to Doyle’s work (much more so than the recent movie version).

GBC Book Review: A Holiday for Murder

I found this Agatha Christie novella in my laundry room almost a year ago. I’m a big fan of whodunits and it’s a quick read. It centres around the murder of an old disliked patriarch who has assembled his family for Christmas after years apart. In true Christie style, there’s a huge cast of characters who almost all have motive and opportunity and the book abounds with red herrings. Written in a way that makes me want to beat Stephanie Meyer about the ears with the book screaming “this is how you write a plot driven novel while filling in back story”, I was guessing the whole way through changing my mind every few pages.

It wasn't an earth-shattering book, but it was quick and enjoyable. Like many of her works, it's a great option if you want something just a little more involved when you're on a plane or sitting on a beach. I don't want to give away the ending but I will tell you that the butler didn't do it.

GBC Book Review: The Girl Who Kicked at the Hornets' Nest

I’m well behind in my novel reviews because I finished this one on Christmas Day! It also means that I don’t really remember a lot of the details I wanted to talk about except that I enjoyed it. Most of the things I do remember would give away plot points for those who haven’t read it yet and that’s just a cruel thing to do. Stieg Larsson had created some really interesting and unique characters without turning them into clichés; I would really have enjoyed seeing where the series would have gone had he been able to finish it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love To You All!

I don't hate Valentine's Day but I don't love it. I've done the coupled-up-over-priced-dinner. I've done the single-ladies-hit-the-town-en-masse. I've done the coupled-up-cook-a-romantic-dinner. I've done the single-ladies-fancy-drinks-and-chick-flicks. Ugh, none of them really made me feel any better about the day.

This year I decided to do something a little different. This year I'm taking myself on a date. In about an hour, I'm heading out to see Casablanca at a nearby theatre and I'm getting dressed up for the occasion. My original plan had been to find people to go with and then I just decided 'fuck it'. Not to say that if a friend had wanted to join me I would have said 'no', but I liked not having to worry about whether or not I'd find someone to join me.

Maybe I'll run into someone up there that I know or maybe I'll be the lone single ticket in a crowd of couples. Either way, I have a date with Rick and Ilsa and that's more than enough for me.

Happy Valentine's Day, Everyone!

After I posted this entry, I disappeared into the back of my apartment where there are no windows. When I returned to my living room less than 5 minutes later, torential rain was pounding against my window.

If I was driving I would have still gone, but I'm a public transit gal and I really don't like wearing my dry suit on the bus. So instead I've had a quiet Valentine's evening doing a few jobs I had on my list for tomorrow. Romantic, I know.

But don't worry, I still plan to keep my date with Humphrey. Just a few more items to cross off the list, and then it's me, Humphrey and a glass of wine.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Victoria Film Festival: The People vs. George Lucas

I never saw the original Star Wars on the big screen because I was born the year The Empire Strikes Back was released. I have no stories of first time viewing, no life changing moments brought about by the films, just that I always remember them being a part of my life and I always loved them.

When the Special Editions were released, I eagerly lined up with everyone else to see them. It made me so happy that I was finally able to see these three films on the big screen after years of watching them on warped VHS tapes, but a little part of my love died as I watched Greedo shoot first. HAN SHOT FIRST!!

I don't hate the prequels but I also don't love them. 'Meh' is the best word I can find to describe my feelings towards them. Instead of getting angry about them and indignant at what George has done to the Star Wars franchise, I prefer to pretend they don't exist. My children will grow up believing that 'IV' is the roman numeral for 'one'.

Enter the Victoria Film Festival and its showing of The People vs. George Lucas. I attended tonight's showing with Darth* and I do take a little bit of dorky pride in saying that we were second and third in line. The film was well worth the wait in the cold.

It was a very funny and interesting look at how people feel about George Lucas. We have a man who created this incredible world and shared it with us through his films. He shaped pop culture in a way that could never have been anticipated prior to the first movie's release. He was the driving force behind our childhood imaginations. And then he tinkered with it. People got angry. But did they really have a right to get that angry? It is, after all, his original work. Where are his rights to do with it as he wants? The film wasn't a deep, philosophical look at the subject matter but it definitely did make me stop and think on a few points.

It's a film that I think even non-geeks would enjoy and I was glad it was my first film of this year's Film Festival. Now, bring on the werewolves!

*Names have been changed to protect the evil.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Can I Get a "So Say We All"?

I find dating torture.

There, I said it. Dating sucks. At best, you find someone you want to pursue a relationship with. At worst, you are twenty-five minutes into an hour long hike when he says "I don't really get why people like sci-fi" and you spend the rest of the time in uncomfortable silence. And that right there is the crux of my problem.

If you get this, you just made my heart go pitter-pat.

I'm a geek/nerd/dork/dweeb/incredibly-uncool-but-still-somewhat-normal-person. There are no dating guides for my kind. Cosmo has never written an article about when it's acceptable to bring up the Kirk vs. Picard debate, I've never heard any tips on how to get a guy to watch Doctor Who with me, and no one can give me a definitive answer on when I should confess to having watched every SG-1 episode. (Right now, I'm going with 'never' as the answer for the last one.)

Enter the web series Awkward Embraces and all its nerdy awesomeness. Finally, a show about dating that I can relate to!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Love Letter To My First True Love

I was six when I first asked to take piano lessons.

My first piano actually belonged to our landlords. It was a large, black piano that stood along the far wall in the dinning room. I'm sure it's only because I was six, but I just remember the piano being massive. It towered over me as I learned to find middle C. When my mom and stepdad bought a house we couldn't take our landlord's piano with us so we purchased my second piano, a spinet piano.

Then we got you and you became the love of my life. Your keys were weighted properly and your tone was so full and gorgeous. In my dreams I owned a baby grand but when I played you I knew that you were better than any baby grand I could ever own. We would spend hours together. Sometimes I'd hit all the right keys and you'd reward me with beautiful music. Sometimes, like lovers do, we'd quarrel. The notes were wrong, I couldn't get you to understand what I was trying to do, and I would pound on you in frustration. I would yell words I would later regret. I was always sorry. It wasn't your fault. It was me. It was always me.

You supported me through years of lessons. You were my constant as I struggled to learn all that was expected of me. You celebrated my highs and felt the depth of my lows until one day I just quit. I could feel the joy slipping away and you deserved joy. I had reached Grade Nine. I knew that I didn't want to become a professional pianist, so why continue if all it was doing was removing the joy from playing? I knew you understood and we returned to playing just for the pleasure of it, just for the sheer love of making music.

I used you to teach children to love music as I loved music. You never complained. Through all the wrong notes and tripped over fingers, through all the hours of explaining what a major scale is and what a sharp is, through it all you stood fast and true. You were my rock. When the children were gone and we were all alone, I would thank you in the only way I knew how. I know you took pride in exposing another generation to the world of music. They may not have known how to express it to you, but I know they were as grateful for you as I was.

Then I moved to Europe. It was the beginning of the end for us. When I returned things were different. I moved out and couldn't take you with me. When I finally found a place for both of us it was with a roommate that thought he was a great musician but didn't understand that sometimes people just play for the fun of it. I didn't play you because I didn't want to listen to someone who didn't play the piano criticise me and, by extension, you. I should have stood up for you. I'm sorry.

I now live in an apartment and you've moved to my dad's. I know I always said that one day we would live together again, but how long should I hold onto that 'one day' for? You were so vibrant, with tones so rich and full. Now you sit quietly, collecting dust. It's not right. It's not fair. You are meant to be played and I can't play you. You should be with a family. You should be teaching children about the joys of music. You should be singing out Bach, Chopin, Beethoven, Debussy, Mozart, Liszt, and countless others. You should be used and loved and adored like you were when I first got you. You should be happy. You deserve to be happy.

Ending our relationship and selling you is the right thing for both of us. It will allow you once again be used to your full potential, and it will allow me to buy an electronic piano with a headphone jack which I can play without ever bothering the neighbours. Letting you go is the best thing I can do. I hope you understand that. But please know, every time I play a piano from now until the day I die, I will think of you and hope that you are happy where ever you are.

Because I love you. I always will.