Thursday, 27 November 2008

Marley and BJ and Me!

It has been almost 4 years since our beloved and semi-maniacal yellow lab BJ died. It took me a long time to feel like his presence was no longer in the house. (not to mention his hair!) Several months after his death, the husband presented me with a book that had just come out and rocketed to the top of the bestseller's list entitled Marley and Me. Author John Grogan had detailed life with a big, goofy yellow lab that sounded much like my previous 12 years with BJ. I spent the next 24 hours voraciously devouring this charming, hysterical and poignant little gem of a book. I literally laughed out loud, blubbered like a baby, and I felt like BJ had brought me to Marley to help with the healing. (I realize that this doesn't sound much like the cynical personality that I have worked so very hard to cultivate, but I swear to you, that is what it felt like!) Since that time, I have lent and recommended Marley to all my friends and family, especially those who have had to deal with the loss of a beloved pet.

Last winter, came word that Marley and Me was being made into a movie and that the filming was happening all over the South Florida area where we visit. Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson stepped into the parts of John and his wife and many an ADHD yellow lab assumed the role of Marley. The husband and I were actually fortunate enough to accidently bump into some of the location scouting in North Miami. The movie opens Christmas Day and I cannot wait to see BJ (oops Marley!) again. Check out the hilarious trailer.

If you haven't yet had the opportunity to read the book-I encourage you to do so. If not-support the movie. I hope that you enjoy! Check out my own Marley! BJ-this one is for you!!

P.S. Sound of Music trivia still open. Get those answers in, folks!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The Hills Are Definitely Alive!

I had planned on regaling you all this morning with a solid review of the wondrous Toronto production of  The Sound of Music. I had planned on acknowledging my reality-show bias and skepticism, and sheepishly admitting my error. The young woman who was chosen by the votes of the country to play Maria is radiant, with a voice that can only be described as phenomenal. (She is SO young, but the age difference between her and her "Captain", and her and the children is realistic to the real-life Maria.) The staging is brilliant and the children were terrific. My only complaint was with the young actress portraying Liesl, the eldest daughter. She is obviously at least 10 years older than her "16 going on 17" character and she looked older than Maria. It also played havoc with the age difference between her and the young boy (maybe age 14) playing the oldest brother. She could have been his mother! Yes, I had planned on giving you a full review, complete with some Sound of Music trivia, but I have been sidelined by a necessary rant on theatre-going etiquette. (Ok. If you continue to the end of this post you will find some SofM trivia. Cheap prize to the first in with all of the correct answers. By the way-GOOGLING IS CHEATING!!!!)

As I have previously stated, I absolutely love going to the theatre. There is something thrilling and magical about the entire experience. The sets, the costumes, the orchestra, the live performance-I love it all. But, there are times when I truly wish that I could have this experience without the rest of the audience. When did theatre goers forget their manners? When did it occur, that payment for a ticket gave one a license for rudeness? I thought that I had seen it all, but apparently I was mistaken. PEOPLE!! We have obligations as an audience. We have etiquette that needs to be observed. Hence, I offer a short list of dos and don'ts for the average theatre goer. 

  • Do come on time. There is nothing worse than interrupting the performers on stage and the audience members around you with your inability to read a clock. Traffic is terrible and food at a restaurant can sometimes be delayed, so give yourself extra time. If I have to stand in the middle of a song one more time to allow a boorish latecomer to pass to a seat, I may commit an illegal act.
  • Do turn off your cell phone! What? You think that all of those announcements at the beginning of the play are for everybody except you? If you simply cannot afford to miss that important call or simply cannot be out of contact with your babysitter, then my suggestion is that you simply don't come! I paid a pretty penny to watch the play, not listen to your telephone conversation. Several years ago I was in New York on a Broadway weekend and I had the good fortune to nab tickets to Golda's Balcony, an incredible one-woman show starring Tovah Feldshuh. In the middle of Golda debating the pros and cons of the Yom Kippur war, some asshole's phone rang. Ms Feldshuh, being the true professional that she is, stopped in the middle of her monologue, put her head on the table and waited a good five minutes until the dick in the audience switched off his ringer. It was incredible to watch, and once she had collected her thoughts, she once again returned to the character. Cell phones and live theatre do not mix!
  • Do show your appreciation with laughter and applause, but please don't sing along with the actors on stage. I get it. I know all of the lyrics too, but I paid to hear the professionals, not you. When Maria breaks into her chorus of Do-Re-Mi, please refrain from exercising your vocal abilities.
  • Do bring your children. I love watching the faces of young people totally enthralled by their first big theatre experience. The theatre needs new blood and cannot survive if we don't teach our kids. That said, children need to understand that they are not in a movie theatre. There isn't any popcorn, it is inappropriate to put their feet on the seats in front of them, and that talking is a huge no-no.
  • Do dress appropriately. I realize that we live in a casual world and that people simply do not dress-up anymore, but the theatre is an outing. Would it really kill you to not wear the jeans with the holes in the crotch or the hooker outfit bought in the Frederick's of Hollywood catalogue?

  • Don't wear cologne or perfume, no matter how much you like it or how expensive it might be. Last evening the woman next to me bathed in her bottle of Calvin's latest. I fanned myself with my program so often to attempt to dissipate the stench, that she must of thought that I was having a hot flash. I had an asthma attack in the middle of one of the Mother Abbesses speeches. OY! 
  • Don't eat garlic, onions or fish directly before coming in. We are all in very close quarters and I really don't need to guess what you ate for dinner by smell.
  • Don't bring your leftover cocktail into the theatre with you. My smelly seat mate also found it necessary to slurp her glass of red wine during the performance-both acts!! 
  • Don't unwrap your candies and lozenges during the performance. That little exercise can safely be handled before the lights dim.
  • Don't carry on your personal conversations during the show. The mother and daughter sitting directly behind us were in the middle of a typical teenage angst argument concerning piercings and tattoos. I had no choice but to listen to this obnoxious 15 year old lecture her mother about what an old-fart she is. This "bitch in training" was loud, profane and wholly undeserving of the more than $100 that her mom had spent on her for the evening. Shut up and leave the personal dramas at home.
I feel better now. Thank you for indulging me my little rant. If you have occasion to visit the Toronto area, or you have the good fortune to live here, go see this show. It is well worth the bucks!

Some SofM trivia to liven up your Wednesday. Take special care to note whether I am talking about the stage play or the movie. Good Luck all.

  1. Mary Martin played the original Maria on Broadway. She was 46 at the time. How old was the actual Maria when she married Captain Von Trapp?
  2. What does Marta want for her 7th birthday?
  3. Oscar Hammerstein II died before the film went into production. As a result, 2 songs that were added for the film were composed entirely by Richard Rodgers. What were they? (By the way-both of these songs have now been added to play!)
  4. What do Lesley-Anne Warren, Patty Duke, Mia Farrow, Sharon Tate and Kim Darby all have in common?
  5. The movie features a rare on-camera performance by Marni Nixon as Sister Sophia. Ms. Nixon was better known as the behind the scenes singing voice of many a famous actress. Name 3 movie musical roles that Marni Nixon dubbed!
  6. Who played the Captain in the original Broadway production?
  7. The entire children's cast was nominated for a Tony award. Which award were they nominated for?
  8. Angela Cartwright, who played Brigitta in the movie, had to miss the final episode of her TV show that year in order to make the filming. What was that classic show?
  9. How old are the Von Trapp children? (Remember there are 7 of them!)
  10. Julie Andrews nearly turned down the role of Maria. Why?
I realize that these are tough, but did you honestly think I was going to ask you about My Favourite Things? Enjoy, and remember first with all correct answers wins a CHEAP prize.

Monday, 24 November 2008

My Not So Secret Obsession

I realize that I have been out of touch for the past few days. Coming down from an incredible high will often render one incapable of thinking of anything else for a time, but I think that I am ready to re-enter the land of humanity once again, and so back to reality.

We all have some hidden pleasure in our lives that we are reluctant to share with friends and family for fear of ridicule. Maybe you are a regular viewer of American Idol or Dancing With the Stars, but you watch in solitude on a Sunday night when nobody knows. Maybe you like a good romance novel, but will only publicly discuss the bestsellers lists. Maybe you like Elmo? (Ok-I adore Elmo. That furry red monster just makes me laugh. I cannot help myself!) I myself have an obsession that is really not so secretive. I have absolutely no problem telling the world that I am an enthusiastic devotee of musical theatre, and by extension the Hollywood musical film. (I realize that there are several of you wincing in pain as I divulge this bit of information, but I really could not care less!) My name is Dawn and I am a "musical junkie"! There is no rhyme or reason for my freaky fanaticism, I just truly love the art form. (Yes, it is an art form. I'd like to see you all break into a rip-roaring free-for-all, truly athletic song and dance in order to celebrate something as benign as a picnic!) 

I was raised on the stuff. How many people of my generation do you know, who can recite the resumes of such illustrious performers as Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Jane Powell, Russ Tamblyn and Gwen Verdon? (Who?--Look 'em up!) How many people of my age do you know who can regale you with trivia like "Who played the original Curly in the brilliant Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway production of Oklahoma?" (hint: it wasn't Gordon MacRae! First person with the correct answer, wins a prize!!) I just love the stuff. I love how the music weaves into the story. I love the simplicity of it, even when the action is far from simple. (See Spring Awakening!) I marvel at the choreography and I am in total awe of the talent, the voices, the musical composition and the creativity. When I saw Idina Menzel in the original cast of Wicked, I bawled my eyes out when she sang "Defying Gravity". It isn't even a sad song! I was just so totally moved by the sheer power of her performance. I even love the crap. Judy and Mickey putting on a show in a barn! Mamma Mia? Crap! But I can't wait to see the movie. We Will Rock You? Utter crap!! (On second thought-don't even waste your money on that one!) Hairspray? Great play- average movie. John Travolta was seriously miscast, but I have seen the stupid thing 10 times! I am a sucker for all of it. But, the ultimate, the all-time favourite, the piece de resistance is The Sound of Music.

I have no rational explanation for my clear obsession for this piece. (Julie Andrews' vocal range may be part of it!) I have seen the movie more times than the Husband or I dare count. The Progeny are so mystified by my devotion, they have stopped asking for reasons. I personally and currently own copies of the film on VHS, Laser Disc and DVD. I have the special editions and the director's cuts. I can recite every line and every lyric. I know which nun Marni Nixon played and which nun was played by Anna Lee. (Sick, no?) But, despite my true reverence for this work, I have never seen it on stage. (Camp does not count!) So, it was with absolute giddy excitement that I bought myself a present. Tomorrow, the Husband and I will brave the Toronto traffic and head to the theatre district to finally see The Sound of Music live and onstage. Sir Andrew Lloyd  himself is mounting this production, and the part of Maria is being played by a young woman who was chosen by a reality show. In spite of all of the obstacles, the reviews have been astounding and I am truly psyched. Many of my nearest and dearest have asked me how did I managed to cajole the Husband into such an obvious "testes-squeezing" evening. What can I say? He loves me! Musical theatre lives!!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Kol Isha: The Afterglow

Well here I sit in sloth-mode, attempting to come down from the incredible high that was the Kol Isha concert.  I have tried to collect my thoughts all day before attempting to construct this post, but my head is so very muddled.  Please indulge me if I sound a tad incoherent.  

For those of you who know me personally, know that I am a bit tightly wound. (I can almost hear a collective facetious chorus of  "No shit"!!!) So, heading into our dress rehearsal yesterday I was stricken with an assortment of psychosomatic ailments ranging from intestinal disorders, to headaches and a strange nervous cough that just lingered all morning. To put it mildly, I was scared shitless and no amount of stroking, joking or confidence boosting psycho-babble was going to help the condition.  In short, I needed to get the proverbial show on the road and the anticipation was killing me-literally! To add to my now-legendary anxiety, was the fact that our colleague from Western New York was finally going to be in attendance to rehearse with us and nobody knew how the whole thing would come together. I needn't have worried. She proved to be warm, willing, gracious, altogether humble and wholly uncomfortable with the spotlight being thrust upon her. My kind of woman for certain! We all meshed in voice and, more importantly, in personality and character. By the time all of  the fussing with music stands, microphones, choreography, a slightly flattened Eb on the piano, reserved seating, frigid temperatures in the theatre (we were all blue with cold!) and the storage of our stuff backstage (six women have bags and bags of "stuff") was done, we knew that there was nothing left to do but sing our lungs out. 

And sing we did!! We sang from the depths of our souls and we sang to the rafters of the moldy old theatre. (Is it ever a blessing that this place is being torn down and rebuilt properly. The backstage and dressing areas are truly disgusting with mold stains on the ceiling and cracked tiles throughout. The bathrooms need a thorough cleaning and the temperature in the building is so inconsistent that we were wearing our winter coats inside for much of the day! We were forever warming ourselves on the light bulbs on the make-up mirrors.) We created a new model for the dusty old cantorial concert. We danced and we shimmied and we played. One of the email comments that was forwarded to me today spoke of seeing Miriam and the women with their timbrels. That comment touched me in a way that was so strikingly personal and was so at the heart of everything that we attempted to convey last night. It was impossible to get a sense of the audience (who braved a miserable weather night to fill the place to capacity!) while actually being in the moment, (the lights blinded me so completely to the crowd, that I had no idea who was there until this morning when I started getting messages!) but the response has been overwhelming. 

I need to express my heartfelt gratitude (it seems like so little, but it is what I have to offer) to my "singing sisters" who stood together as one on that stage and saw this project through to a remarkable conclusion. The music, the love, the debates, the devotion and the chocolate were more than I could have ever hoped for! The connections that were forged will last a lifetime. I need to acknowledge the wonderful people at Kolel and especially their visionary leader for even pondering the notion that something like this could work. I need to thank my Kol Ami family who turned out in force in support of something that I am certain many thought would be a colossal bore. (Boy, were you ever WRONG!!) We may be small, but we are mighty and our strength was there for all to see last evening.  Finally, to my family-those who were there physically and those in spirit-thanks for putting up with my "stuff", for listening, for lending credence to my shit and for just saying "Yes, Dear", "Yes, Dawn" and "Yes, Mom" for much of the last three months. Your support was unwavering as always.  And now, I need a vacation! Take me south, husband!!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Sarah Palin:7 Million Dollar Woman!!

I'm sorry.  I have absolutely no time to be writing this today, but the headline just could not escape my attention.  It seems that the Governor of Alaska is in line for a big payday in the form of a book deal.  Publishing houses are lining up to throw money at this woman. This woman who could not string together two coherent sentences if her career depended on it! (Oh-that's right-HER CAREER DID DEPEND ON IT!!!)  If Governor Moosemeat deserves 7 mil, then I believe that I am entitled to at least half of that for having to endure the farce that was her campaign for almost three months.  Honestly!  Who in their right mind would actually shell out $25-$30 for the ramblings of the "Mind to Nowhere"?  If Sarah were to ask for my assistance on her book project, (and I am certain that she could care less about anybody's opinion but her own) I might offer her these samples as potential chapters.

  • The Tenderized Moose and How to Cook it.  She could include family favourites like Moose chili, (which poor Matt Lauer had to endure!) moose burgers, moose meatloaf, a nice moose rub, and maybe chocolate moose for a dessert!!  She could also add step by step instructions as to the art of moose stalking and a how to guide on the rigours of how to properly dress a moose, so that the funky taste of buckshot is removed.
  • Snowmobile maintenance and Care. She might require the "First Dude's" help with this chapter.  Relevant advice could include how to start the damn thing when the temperatures dip to the ungodly, diesel vs unleaded (drill baby drill!!) and how to safely affix a car seat to hold baby Trig! 
  • Pandering to Congress for Pork Without Getting Caught.  Build a few more bridges, drill on a few more wildlife preserves and melt a few more glaciers all without it sticking to you politically.
  • How to Shop at Saks and Barneys for $150,000 or less.  Worthwhile tips could include how to blame others for the expenditures, how to dress down a wardrobe so that items appear to have been purchased at the consignment shop in Wasilla, or how to teach your 7 year old to work that Prada bag!!
  • How to Deal with the Liberal Media. Basically don't engage in any press conferences, hide your medical records from prying eyes, and only give sit-downs to the friendly sorts like Sean Hanity.  Avoid the beast that is Katie Couric at all costs!
  • How to Name your Child like a True Alaskan! Just look around the room and find the most obscure object there, and VOILA!-baby name!!  "Sofa" "Frame" "Stool"......
  • Vacation Ideas from the Gov! Who needs to travel and see the world when one can see Russia from the front porch.  

Please feel free to add your own chapter ideas for the "Thrilla from Wasilla".  Mama needs to earn that 7 mil!!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Kol Isha

This coming Wednesday has been circled on my calendar in red for almost a year. On that evening, I will join together with 5 of my colleagues and participate in a concert that has become known as Kol Isha -An Evening of Women's Voices. For one fateful night in November, the women cantors and soloists from the GTA will put our talents(?) on public display in support of Kolel: The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning.  A bucketful of emotions has been churning within me for the better part of six months, and any attempt to validate them would seem strangely sad and pathetic.  Instead, I thought that I might share with you some of my observations of our preparations over the past year or so.  

  1. The company that I have been keeping lately is astounding.  The talent of these women, both individually and collectively, is all at once truly remarkable and truly frightening.  I find myself torn between being in constant awe and being continually intimidated.  This group of women came together without much of a blueprint for the concert, but we have worked collegially without ego and without discord, (like the pun?) to strike a musical balance that I think really works. 
  2. It was important to me right from the very beginning of this project that we "be ourselves" and not attempt to emulate the men, who have been giving these concerts for generations.  While we all agreed on this principle, finding music that would fit our criteria and yet be suitable for the woman's voice was a challenge.  We started out hoping to do only pieces that were composed by women, but that proved limiting in terms of the types of music that we could do.  In the end we compromised in composition, but refused to compromise in ourselves.  While many of the pieces have been composed by women, some have not and that is okay given the musical standards that we have set for ourselves.
  3. We all came together to present this project, but we all come from very different places. There is an age range that spans decades, vocal ranges that spans octaves, musical styles that are varied and Judaic backgrounds that are eclectic.  We are all used to singing as soloists, and yet we have had to check those expectations at the door in order to sing as a group.  Some are comfortable with traditional chazzanut, while others are enmeshed with the more modern Jewish musical experience.  Some have known for a lifetime that this was a calling, while others fell into it by accident.  Some of us have day jobs, while some pursue it full time, but all of us have a true passion for the music and it shows in every note and every song.  (As an aside--I have joked during our rehearsals that at times I have felt like the Appalachian cousin whose musical stylings are more the "picking and grinning" type, which are in direct contrast to some of the more fluid and lyrical offerings. I am perfectly fine with this characterization because I have come to realize that all of our musical gifts are valid musical gifts and it would be terribly boring if we all derived from the same cookie-cutter mold. On the other hand, it is difficult to pretend that you are "Live From the Met" when you are much more comfortable with "Hee Haw"!!)
  4. I am a performer who hates performing. I realize that this is a somewhat incongruous statement given my chosen line of work, but it came into focus for me when one of our group was able to better articulate it than was I. I see myself as a musical facilitator of prayer.  I enjoy the music because it is a vehicle that transports me to the spiritual plane. Singing with my choir or congregation is a natural extension of this collective prayer. Transferring what I view as an intuitive skill on the bimah, to a somewhat unnatural competency on a stage has been a true challenge for me.  I know that stretching myself has been a real positive in this experience, but I still find performing to be quite the foreign concept.  
  5. A natural extension of this aversion to performance, is all of the "stuff" that goes along with performing.  I can honestly say that my wardrobe is not usually one of my prime concerns.  I throw on a pair of black pants or a black suit and I am dressed.  I could care less about accessories or how accent colours fit with lighting schemes. I don't give much thought to backstage food (I rarely eat on the day of a performance) or if the water backstage will be in environment-friendly bottles or single servings. It is a very good thing that I am working with people who do find importance in what I used to believe was superfluous detail, because without them I would be dressed for a coffee house (beret is optional!) instead of a theatre.  Thank you to everyone who became a detail-oriented maniac throughout this process, because I would be lost, parched and dressed like a refugee from a Kerouac novel without you all.  
And so, my friends, the day that has been haunting me for months, is drawing near.  I am excited, exhilarated, terrified, numb, giddy, and even somewhat horrified.  My chronic stage-fright has kicked into overdrive and my stomach feels as though it has been through more than a few turns on a theme-park ride. If I don't completely humiliate myself, I will regale you all with some backstage gossip.   

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Ok, I Get it-I'm Short!!

Here's a little quick post to liven up your weekend.

The husband was returning from a business trip to Calgary this afternoon and he had asked me to pick him up at the airport. I generally loathe the drive to the airport. It is all highway driving, which by definition does not thrill me, (I think it is my aversion to speed that kills the excitement of the highway. "Life may be a highway", but I prefer the slower and more deliberate "Country Roads"!) and to make the trip that much less enjoyable, it has been raining steadily all day today. In addition, Pearson International Airport has been a misery to access over the last few years. There has been continual construction and the roads to the terminals have changed so many times, I have found myself on outer auxiliary routes too many times to mention. But, the husband demanded asked so nicely, that I found it impossible to refuse. In fairness the man does pick me up whenever I return from a jaunt to the southern home, so refusal was hardly an option. And so it was, that I spent the better part of Shabbat afternoon sloshing through a November rain to the newly constructed Terminal 1.

Now this brand-spanking terminal is absolutely state of the art. The parking garage is a wonder of modern technology. When you enter into the complex, you are stopped at the gate by an automated machine that should dispense your ticket. Being the conscientious driver that I am, I pull up as close to the machine as I can without scrapping the side of my beloved car. I roll down the window and to my horror, I discover that my arms are not long enough to reach the f@$#*&g button. I remove my seat belt and practically do a contortionist maneuver in order to reach. Still no dice. I literally stick half of my body out of the window and finally manage to push the button. As I am hanging half of my body out of the driver's side window and getting soaked in the process, the f@#$*^g machine spits the ticket out at me as if it were hocking a loogy!!! The ticket, which I will require to exit the bloody terminal is now in the water, muck and tire grease of a Toronto rainstorm. I wriggle back into the car (swearing the entire time) and put the car in park, because now I have to open the door to scrape the wet ticket off of the asphalt. All the while, the asshole in the gas-guzzler behind me is honking his horn as if I were doing this for some sort of enjoyment. I finally manage to find the bloody thing under the front end of my car, and enter into the parking garage. It takes me a good few minutes to dry off the ticket (which I can only pray will be accepted by the automated teller on the way out!) and make my way into the arrivals lounge, where I discover that the husband's flight is delayed by 1/2 hour. Now the parking gods not only had a great laugh at my expense, they are going to charge me extra for the privilege. Please answer this question for me: "Isn't there an industrial engineer anywhere in the world that recognizes those of us under 5'0"? " I get it-I am short, but do I need to be humiliated by this fact every time the world insists on technologically re-inventing itself! GIMME A BREAK!!!

Thursday, 13 November 2008

The New Bond Girl is a Polydactyly

Did the title of today's post catch your interest? Are you curious about the new Bond girl or the fact that I included the ten dollar word "polydactyly"? Well if you came aboard for the former, I suppose I owe you a picture of 22 year-old British-born beauty Gemma Arterton who will be opening in the new flick this coming Friday.

But the fact that Ms. Arterton is making news as a polydactyly truly intrigues me. This condition, which occurs in approximately 1 in 1000 children, involves the happenstance of extra digits on hands and feet. It includes everything from small skin buds next to the pinkie to two fingernails on one finger to fully functioning extra digits to fingers or thumbs split into a Y shape.

According to Dr. Terry Light, a hand surgeon and chairman of the department of orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation at Loyola University Medical Center in Illinois, polydactyly and syndactyly, the webbing or fusing of fingers and toes, are the two most common congenital hand anomalies seen in the U.S.

“The limb bud starts off as a glob – like a paddle – that normally separates into five distinct rays or digits,” says Dr. Light. “But if that process of separation goes a step too far, then it separates into more packets, or one of the digits, such as the thumb, becomes separated yet again.”
Ms. Arterton, it seems, was born with 6 fingers on each hand. Are you fascinated yet? YAWN!!!! If this is all it takes to stand out in a crowd and get your name in the press, then Older Son should have been rich and famous long ago!!

You see, Older Son is also a Polydactyly. This congenital defect which runs through families, was presented to us on the occasion of the birth of my first-born. Since he was born at 2:30 in the morning, none of the doctors or nurses were either awake enough or astute enough to examine him closely. (You know all of those stories of parents checking fingers and toes to make certain that they add up correctly-HORSESHIT!! New parents are either so exhausted or so excited, that they rarely notice a newborn's digits in the first moments after birth. We leave that little detail to medical professionals and ours were certainly derelict in their duties!) It was left to me at our first feeding to notice the "y"-shaped dual thumbs on his right hand.

It was a weird sight to behold and being that he was our first, I was left with numerous questions as to the origin of said digits. I mean he was born with opposable thumbs that opposed and opposed again. He had a spare! In later years he would write about his uniqueness and was left to wonder what interesting things he could have accomplished had we not had the extra removed at age 2. (The following are some of his observations!) He could have thrown a mean split-fingered fast ball! He could have had one mean "green" thumb. He could have thrown some mean spin on a bowling ball. He could have typed or texted with extra speed. (A whole new meaning to the term "Blackberry Thumb"!) He could have been his own movie critic-three thumbs up! He would never have been without a ride while hitchhiking and he would have made the Fonz jealous-AYYYYY!! And now, dear son, I can add one more to the list. Apparently, you could have been a Bond girl!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

The Great Miriam Makeba

I had the profound privilege of seeing this great woman perform with Harry Belafonte way back in the 70s. A courageous champion for South Africa and a brilliant musician. May her memory be forever a blessing!

Monday, 10 November 2008

My Anniversary Issue!

Today is an anniversary, of sorts.  Around this time last year, I began this exercise in idiocy that has become known the world over (ok-maybe just in my small corner of it!) as Dawn Ponders. On November 5th 2007, I decided to write a short Facebook note describing the impending chaos of our kitchen renovation.  (If anyone is interested in those early posts, they can be found in the archives on this site and the pictures are in the file Kitchen Renovation 2007.) The initial impetus in starting the Kitchen Reno blog was to keep my parents, who had already made their snowbird flight to Florida, up to date on the progress.  Facebook was an easy way of posting the pictures and writing a quick blurb.  Never in my wildest dreams did I suspect that others were lurking and reading the posts and keeping abreast on my kitchen progress.  I was stunned to receive comments from friends and their friends asking me for more.  As the project wound down to its natural conclusion, I figured that my scribbling days had come to an end. But, something strange happened on my way to writing retirement.  I found that I missed it.  And so, I started up again and have kept it going ever since.  I don't expect anyone to read it (although I am truly gratified that you do!) and I certainly don't expect everyone to agree with my ranting. (I love that we all have differing opinions, and I love the debate and dissent.) This is my space and these are my thoughts alone, but the feedback has been eye-opening and gratifying.  So, on this my anniversary, I thought that I might share with you my random thoughts on blogging and my tentative sticking of the toe into the water of the blogosphere

  • My sister-in-law, the political science professor, has described blogging as a giant sociology experiment, sort of like a giant virtual time capsule.  On any given day and at any given time on that specific day, millions of people around the world are expressing their views, thoughts, dreams and disdain on a whole host of issues.  We can read about parenting problems, political and social issues, humour and maybe a kitchen renovation or two. It is a slice of life that cuts across oceans, socio-economic and racial lines, sex and age. It has been truly fascinating to venture into this world and peek into people's living rooms, kitchens, backyards and read what is on their minds.  There are some very talented people out there and some very scary ones as well.
  • Unless I personally know the blogger, I never post a comment.  This is an extension of my own shyness, and I cannot understand speaking, even virtually, to a total stranger.  I admire those who can, but it is not me.  On the other hand, I have become a rabid lurker, a sort of legalized peeping tom.  I am fascinated by what is out there.  
  • There are some very famous bloggers out there who make very substantial livings through their blogs.  Some have book deals, some have become attractive for advertisers, some have set up virtual stores on their sites and some have made their way to the mainstream media. This is most definitely not me, but I am so in awe of these people. They have found a new medium to build careers upon.
  • If there was any doubt left in my mind that this is the new wave of communication, it has been put to rest.  I absolutely believe that we are witnessing the final days of the printed media.  In the next 10-20 years, (and that is generous!!) it is my belief that all of our written media- newspapers and magazines- will be online exclusively. The print guys simply cannot keep up with the instantaneous nature of the internet and they are putting more and more of their resources into their online sites.  Most newspapers have blog sites of their own!  Save a tree, read online.
  • You have no idea how techno-savvy I have become.  I can now upload, download and create slideshows, movies and add music.  I understand more about my computer than I ever have before.  I think that this new side of my personality is a serious turn-on for The Husband.
There are some rules that I have learned to follow while blogging. (These are the rules according to Dawn and should not be misinterpreted as blogging-gospel!)

  1. Use a pseudonym whenever possible.  While many of you personally know The Husband and the Progeny, I would never think of putting their actual names out there for the world to see.  I think that some semblance of privacy needs respecting and frankly, I am not certain that they would speak to me again.  Many many bloggers would disagree with me and state that the intimacy of putting themselves and their loved ones out in the forefront is what makes their blogs work.  I need the veil of anonymity and it works for me.
  2. Always be careful to credit other people's work.  The internet is easy to steal from, but it is still stealing.  If I use another site, music or words, at the very least it should be credited and linked.  I personally know the pain of being ripped off.  Years ago, I attended a kiddie Channukah party with a young teacher who was passing off one of my songs as her own.  While somewhat flattered, I felt a flash of hostility that I was being usurped. Intellectual property is still property.
  3. Too personal is uncomfortable.  Nobody really wants to read about certain things and I am certain that you all can figure out what they are without me labeling them.  
  4. Trust is important.  My friends and family need to know that they can talk to me without fear of it ending up on the blog. With one notable exception, (which was quickly rectified!) I think that I have managed to walk that line. The stories that you all get here are the PG versions and they are usually about me and my ineptitude, with a bit of The Husband thrown in for good measure. (He loves me, so he is somewhat tolerant of this nonsense!)
I want to thank all of you who have visited, read, commented, lurked, dissented or merely just tolerated me while I have experimented with this new side of my personality.  I have found that since I don't drink or do the wacky weed, (believe me both have been suggested on numerous occasions!) this blog has become my outlet.  It is definitely cheaper than therapy. And now--onto year 2!!

Friday, 7 November 2008

Germ Phobic and Still Sick!!

We have a quaint little custom in our synagogue whereby at the conclusion of the service, everybody joins hands and lifts voices collectively in the recitation of the Motzi, the prayer before we break bread. As much as I love the connectivity of the community, I hate this little exercise in germ warfare. It is a proven fact that most viruses are passed on by simple person-to-person contact, and frankly, I don't always know where those hands have been. I have always thought that a dab of Purell should be required before we link around the room. At the height of the SARS crisis here in the GTA, we temporarily suspended our practice and grabbed forearms instead. I felt much better knowing that those insidious little buggers didn't have as much chance for survival on people's clothing as they did on the warm host of the human flesh. But, while the grabbing of forearms may provide for some fraternal bonding, it does not provide for the true human contact that people crave, and so we have resumed the joining of hands. I love the idea of the practice, I just hate the practice of the idea!

You see, I am extremely susceptible to the rhinovirus, also know as the common cold. I always have been. As a kid, I was sick at a minimum of 4 or 5 times during the school year. If it was going around, I caught it! It got so that I knew with the first scratch and itch of the throat that something was coming, and it was never easy. The watery eyes, congestion in the nose that inevitably found the chest, fever, chills--the whole enchilada! I learned to live with constant tissues falling out of my sleeves or pockets, and Vicks Vapo-Rub on my pajamas and sheets.

In my first year of marriage, I was afflicted with pneumonia, and was sidelined for weeks. The coughing was so severe that I cracked a rib, and the husband sent me to his doctor for a narcotic so that HE could sleep. (Never again. I was so loopy that I don't remember much of that time. I could have stripped naked and danced on the roof and not known about it. Maybe I did and that is why the neighbours were so odd for weeks after!) The residual effect of that illness was adult onset asthma. I have suffered with it ever since, and as such, the common cold has become much more of a hardship. The effects linger in my chest for weeks, and in my line of work, I can ill afford the brutality that the hacking and coughing inflicts.

And so, as I grew older and wiser, I learned how to better wage the preemptive battles. I learned to eat better and I tried to sleep better, though not always successfully. I took up exercise and found that it boosted my immune system, even while it caused aches and pains of a different sort. I became a freak about hand washing and I taught my boys the same. If anyone brought home a bug that was better left elsewhere, we washed and scrubbed and took great care with communal surfaces. It didn't always work, but it reduced my sick days markedly. I carry around hand sanitizer in my purse for the emergency situations like the Motzi and I avoid the sick people like the plague. (pun absolutely intended!) Nothing is foolproof however, or even Dawn-proof (some might argue that these are one and the same!) and so, today I find myself wheezing, dripping and coughing. (The only comfort I take from this fact is that my Kol Isha colleagues are ALL wheezing, dripping and coughing as well!! Now I know where it came from!) Since we all have two weeks until the concert to recover, the old adage of "timing is everything" could never have been more apropos.

So, here I sit with my green tea, "blankie", foot duvets (these are fantastic--find them at Restoration Hardware!!), tissues, hot water bottle and Vicks Vapo-Rub staining my pajamas in an effort to be well enough to sing this weekend at Shabbat services, a B'nai Mitzvah and a wedding! No rest for the weary, I suppose. I do know one thing. I will NOT be joining hands for the Motzi. I refuse to pass this misery on to anyone else.

Shabbat Shalom to all who observe.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The Sun Also Rises

There is so much to be awed by, touched by, mesmerized by and captivated by on this the day after. My cynical half is wrestling with my etherial half.  I want to bask in the glow of sanity returning to the world.  I want to relish the historical magnitude of the moment.  I want to shade my vision with rose-coloured specs, but I find reality invading at every turn.  Please do not misunderstand me.  I am beyond thrilled at the events of the past 24 hours.  I was personally drawn into the pure universality of the moment, when I found myself texting my Viet Nam- traveling parents electoral college updates so that they might in turn, keep their tour companions informed of the doings back home.  They were starved for information and when Ohio turned deep blue, I could almost hear 20 North Americans scream in joy from Ho Chi Minh City.  It is just that I know that in spite of the results of last evening, there is still a long way to go.  My progressive nature will not let me forget the battles for equality that were waged and lost yesterday.

The state of California passed Proposition 8 by the narrowest of margins.  This initiative will overturn the legalization of gay marriage in the state and will entrench a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Arkansas saw the approval of a ballot initiative that will prohibit same-sex couples and unmarried straight couples from adopting and Florida and Arizona approved marriage protection amendments that, in Florida, defines marriage as a bond between straight couples and renders invalid any other union that is "treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent." In other words, they have effectively eliminated any hope of even a civil union surviving in the state. Colorado citizens had the great sense to reject granting personhood to the unborn fetus, but they are very close to banning affirmative action.   

While a tremendous blow for equality was struck yesterday, there is still a segment of the population that society deems acceptable to marginalize.  Until all people are given equal rights and equal protection irregardless of race, creed, religion, sex or sexual orientation we cannot truly bask in the full glow of Mr. Obama's magnificent victory.  I am fortunate to live in a country where the issues of gay marriage and women's reproductive rights have been rightly consigned to the dustbins of history. Among my many hopes for an Obama administration is that my American brethren will come to understand the true empowerment of equalization for all.  And, while I want it to happen all at once, I take tremendous comfort in the enormous leap forward that was made yesterday.  

Baruch atah Adonai,
Eloheinu Melech Ha-olam
Shecheyanu, vikimanu, vi-higianu
Lazman Hazeh!!

Blessed are You
Adonai our God
Ruler of the Universe
Who has given us life
Sustained us
And enabled us to reach this day!


Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Waiting for the Morning After

I don't do suspense well.  I hate movies that put the audience through the ringer, simply because they have as their goal a massive payoff at the end. (Mood music sucks!!)

I hate surprises.  I am anal retentive and methodical, hence I appreciate order, uniformity, regularity and routine.  I have suffered through only one surprise birthday party in my lifetime (my 18th) and I was thankful to have been felled by the flu, so that I did not have to feign shock.  

Fifteen years ago, I was fortunate enough to have attended a couple of World Series games involving my beloved Blue Jays.  I was grateful that they were early in the series, so that I didn't have to sit on shpilkis while my team battled for the championship against the Phillies. I had just arrived home from an evening at the theatre,  when Joe Carter hit his now famous home run. The husband and I managed to view the final inning without any of the suspense that preceded it.  I recently watched the entire final game on ESPN Classic, and I must say that it was very satisfying to view when the outcome was known and no longer in doubt. 

So it is with knotted stomach and lumpy throat, that I sit here in anticipation of the polls closing.  I am allowing my imagination to run wild.  I am concocting scenarios whereby we might witness another tarnished election.  I am watching CNN with the sound muted because I cannot take one more story about voting problems and broken machines.  I am avoiding all talk of exit polls and voter fraud.  I just want to know the inevitability.  I want to know the winner and I want the winner to be.......well, guess!!!

Monday, 3 November 2008

Some Random Pre-Election Thoughts

I realize that I am a dumb Canuck and have no real legitimacy to comment on the day of historic proportions that awaits, but I have been pondering some of the outright lunacy that surrounds the American political system. Call it a Stop the Stupid for the 2008 election season.

1. Why is it that every state cannot harmonize their voting processes? One would have thought that after the debacle of 2000 that introduced the world to the existence of a hanging chad, that the federal government would have passed a law that demanded uniformity amongst the states, at least in the cases of federal elections. I find it absolutely appalling that what might work well in Nevada, contravenes law in Florida. (Don't yell at me for ambiguity, these were just examples!!) Ohio, which has been a bastion for voting issues over the years, is operating under a new system for the third time in three elections. I realize that the ballots are about far more than the election of the president. They are crammed with House races, Senate races, Gubernatorial races, sometimes state house races, judges, sheriffs, Attorneys General and a whole host of ridiculous ballot initiatives. All the more reason to properly and accurately count each and every ballot with a uniform system that can be traced, retraced and backed up!! I understand that special interests on both sides of the aisle have interfered with a coherent election system, but this nonsense affects both parties equally and the untold millions that have been spent on band-aid solutions, should be an embarrassment to the American people. Come on, folks! It is time to practice what you preach to the rest of the world and hold an election that is totally democratic and above board. Harmonize the voting booths.

2. And while I am on the subject, what is wrong with a piece of paper and a number 2 pencil? That is how we do it in the north hinterland, and we don't have many problems. Simply go into the voting booth with a piece of paper that lists the candidates and mark a big fat X next to the name you choose. Sounds simple, doesn't it?  There is a paper trail that follows the vote and there is no doubt as to the veracity of the ballot.  If the argument against the paper ballot is that it takes too long to count, I cannot concur.  We here in the Great White North seem to always know the victors within a few hours of the polls closing.  Now I realize that you have a lot more people voting then do we, but that also means that you must have more volunteers, scrutinizers and paid employees to count the votes.  Trust me! Sometimes the simplest solution is the best solution.

3. There are thoughts that my friends to the south could be facing a record turn-out tomorrow. Fantastic, except if you happen to be stuck in one of those three hour lines.  Early voting has certainly helped to alleviate some of the expected congestion, but there are only a handful of states that permit early polls.  Again, there is an issue with harmonization. It is every citizen's constitutional right to vote and most workers should be provided with a window of time during the day to actually get out and exercise that right.  But, it seems to me that if numbers are a problem (and a nice problem to have, since we up here only managed to drag 58% to the polls) the idea of making election day a holiday has some merit.  For God sakes, you have holidays that celebrate dead presidents, why not have a holiday that celebrates a live one?  Maybe voting days should be shifted to Saturday and Sunday so as to maximize the turnout.  Whatever the solution, the disenfranchising of any voter should not be tolerated on any level, and it should be incumbent on the states to make the process user-friendly.

4. Which leads me to the voter lists and rolls.  New laws in many states, (Indiana are you listening?) are being enforced that will demand proper ID at the polls.  While fraud is of major concern, the type of photo ID that is required is sketchy at best.  Driver's licenses are now required in many places to prove identity.  The problem is that 1 in 4 African-Americans do not hold a driver's license.  Many people of a certain age have no further need of a driver's license. Many people cannot afford to drive a car, so getting a license has been on the back-burner. While it is my hope that other forms of ID might be accepted, the laws have become increasingly picayune, and many people may find obstacles to voting.  There are solutions to these issues, but once again each state is different and research needs to be done to find out how best to exercise the right to vote.  Allow me a bit of a personal anecdote. Since Canada was dragged kicking and screaming to polls for the third time in six years, many new voters were not on the previous voter lists.  Younger Son, having just reached age of majority was one of these new voters.  No problem.  On election day, he simply walked into the poll in our riding and presented the Elections Canada wonks with his photo ID and proof of residence. (He does possess a driver's license, but they would have accepted a passport, health card or university student card!)  He was immediately placed on the list and allowed to vote.  Older Son cast his ballot from his new address for the first time.  All that was required was ID and proof of residence. (In his case, a Hydro bill with his name on it was sufficient!) Voting made simpler, not stupider.  

5. Here in Canada, no electioneering is permitted on election day.  No rallies, no ads, no dirty tricks like putting up flyers with false election dates.  NO POLITICKING ALLOWED ON ELECTION DAY.  On election day here last month, I entered the polls wearing my Barack Obama button. I was approached and asked if I was making a political statement. I responded I absolutely was, but not one that was relevant to the Canadian election. The only reason I was permitted to keep it, was because it didn't support or bash one of our parties. You all should consider this hiatus.  It is a true breath of fresh air after the stench of muckraking.  

6. After the election is over, there should be a moratorium on 2012 speculation, at least until after the 2010 midterms.  Give the poor bastard a chance to govern.  Not only that, think of the money that will be saved.  Every political reporter should be on vacay until the inauguration. Enough already.  The world is screaming "UNCLE" in unison. 

That's it!  Enjoy the drama, the comedy and the absurdity.  I hope that on Wednesday, we can all collectively breath and know that we witnessed the truly historic.  

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Nice Jewish Girls Do Not Eat Bambi!!

Sometimes there are perks in being the wife of a whisky widow.  Since I have absolutely no use for the free booze that might come my way, nor have I seen the monetary fruits of the Husband's and his Twin Son's labours (yet!!), I must content myself with whatever meagre crumbs are dropped under the table.  So, it was with eager anticipation and a fair amount of goofy-grinning excitement, that the Husband, the Twin Son, his Better Half and yours truly headed out to the horse country of Ontario to a lovely little place called The Millcroft Inn and Spa. The gruesome twosome of the whisky world had been invited to show their wares at the Inn at a fancy schmancy whisky tasting and gourmet dinner.  As part of the experience and as a reward for shlepping the bottles, the boys were graced with complimentary rooms and meals for 4. (It was nice of them to invite their wives, wasn't it?) On a cool and crisp All Saints Day, we headed into an area of the province that is still worthy of the word quaint, and has yet to be invaded by strip malls and big-box stores.  If we had been two weeks earlier, we would have been blessed with the magnificent colours of autumn, but I have no complaints about the true beauty of this place. The rooms were beautiful, spacious and wonderfully appointed and the grounds, complete with the requisite waterfall, were truly stunning.  

After a trek around the grounds and the requisite nosh and drink before dinner, we made our way down into the bowels of the Inn to set up for the whisky tasting.  The guys came complete with 5 (yes that is 5) different scotches from 5 very different distilleries. (This is what they tell me.  Honestly- and I realize that this is somewhat blasphemous-it all tastes like paint thinner to me!) The idea for the evening was that the chef would pair each of his courses for the dinner with one of the whiskies.  Well, this disgustingly creative man, went one step further.  He actually used each scotch in the recipes for dinner.  

Now, before I venture further into this description, I should warn you all that I have the palate sophistication of a gnat.  I have various food sensitivities that have dulled my appreciation for fine dining, and I am truly hesitant to try new dishes simply because of my fear of bloating and other hidden adventures into a gastrointestinal wonderland.  In other words, the menu scared the shit out of me and I was extremely hesitant to venture forth and sample.  Not only that, but there was a great deal of treyf on this menu. You would have thought that with last names like ours, the kitchen staff might have discerned that Whisky Brined Pork Belly topped with Truffled Quail Egg and Frisee Salad was not in keeping with our ancestral heritage.  It didn't seem to matter one whit to the patrons who shelled out $150.00 a plate for dinner and scotch, and my three dinner companions were way more into the experience than was I. I give each of them huge props, because there was absolutely no way that I was going to venture forth and gnaw on Bambi's mom!! Yes, the main course was deer, otherwise known as venison. I think that they call it venison because if it was called deer, nobody would eat it!  The audacity of eating a cute and furry woodland creature straight out of a Disney movie was enormous. NOT HAPPENING ON MY PLATE!!!  I instantly and automatically became a vegetarian for the evening.  I made every attempt to smile and nod throughout the evening at the wonders of the culinary creations put before me, but I was truly thrilled with my tomato salad and my pearl barley entree.  The food was delicious and the reviews from all present were exceptional.  The chef did a masterful job pairing the courses with the spirit and dessert alone was worth the drive.  I should also note that the guys were really on their game.  They spoke with authority on their whiskies and they were smart and self-deprecating.  The diners were novices that were very interested in learning and most, if not all, wanted to buy something. (The holidays are coming-have you all checked out The staff was gracious and hopeful of another Premium Bottlers evening. I, on the other hand, was thrilled with the 24 hour hiatus.  I would gladly go back and pay for the privilege.  The spa looks glorious and if there was more time, I would have parked myself on the massage table.  My only caveat is that I really do not want to eat anything that I see on my walks around the grounds.