Apathy vs. Rage: Thoughts for a New Year

Maybe it’s winter, blame Canada, point the finger at the polar vortex: 2014’s malaise has kicked in fast and hard. As I curse the cold, fumbling at child seat buckles with numb fingers, I observe a behavioural trend from within. Something that totters between frustration and rage, these are ugly demons that must be dealt with promptly.

Over the holidays all work stops and my gaze was locked in on the Internet. It was too much. I lost my way, irritated by BuzzFeed‘s jaw-dropping mind-blowing bucket-listing posts, or maddened by the confused philosophies of Jezebel (which I think, like Gawker, is too cynical to keep reading…that bookmark is getting deleted riiiiight…now! *click*). Let’s not mention Facebook. The sad, window into the lost souls of the 21st century. You, FB, are also getting downgraded. *sound of apps being deleted from all devices*

I am optimistic about the future, and despite the paragraph above I am generally a glass half full person. But the unsettled vibes echoing throughout my body straight up suck. Or is it that at all? Is it, simply, the world: the unfairness, inequalities, the music biz, the brutal mirrors…

As mothers, the future bears down on us in an inexplicable way. The weight of the world is heavier than, well, before we were mothers. Lately, overwrought news items about how Stephen Harper is burning books and dismantling the health care system are not sitting well. I wake up with my teeth clenched. I remind myself these are editorials, or in the words of Todd Flanders: “Is your source on this reliable?” Where is everything headed? What about the country, the citizens of the world, global warming, food crises, money, life, death, all these things…

Well? What about them?

Somewhere in this brief yet wandering post I’ve found my resolve. The impetus for 2014: a middle-ground between hashtagging everything #CCL and hot, complaining rants. I must respect the world, love everyone and especially myself. To not resent things beyond my control and to remember what it means to be alive — how organic and fragile that is. It is perspective, simply: life is so simple and oftentimes it seems everything out there aims to knock you off your feet, to cause you to lose balance.

My inspiration, visually, is BigDog. He gets kicked and shoved around by thin pale robotics engineers ALL THE TIME and still he keeps prancing along. Moving forward. Like BigDog I will learn to trust my inner algorithm.

Solar Maximum

An active sun during the recent solar eclipse. This image is a composite of several observations from various perspectives. Read more about it at NASA.

Backyard Projects: Outdoor Sink (Part 2)

Read part 1 here.

This morning I said to myself: “Natalia, you should blog.” And since the weather is rapidly descending into Autumn — and before we Montrealers know it, Winter — I figured I’d better get this summer-themed post happening. Anyhow, back to finishing my potting nook:

First I laid out the wood:

Then flipped it over to create the frame/rigidity:

Murray and I notched out the wood to fit the sink and accommodate the HydroQuebec tubing that leads to the meter. At this point, my daughter thought this construction was the window to some mythical clubhouse I’d built her:

The next big step was the plumbing. It was blazing hot outside and wearing shorts while soldering in a tight space, I later discovered, was a bad idea. I must have burned myself around six times with dripping molten solder. Still determined to “freecycle” all my materials, I limited myself to the valves and pieces around the house. At times during the plumbing step, I felt like I was a contestant on Canada’s Worst Handyman. It was laughable. The final product, however, boasts no leaky connections! TA-BLAOW!

Add legs and here she be! Drainage, at the moment, is into a “grey water” bucket that I use to water the garden. We wash vegetables out here when we’re cooking outside. In addition to planting and potting, and this area has been super useful to keep the kid’s hands clean when mucking about before dinner!

The end.

Book Review and Notes on The Science Fiction

Last night I finally finished reading The Windup Girl. This is the first book I’ve read – honestly – in years, a statistic I am slightly embarrassed to reveal. I used to read way more: reading would inspire me, make my vocabulary better, make me think more analytically. But then I went through a phase of either starting books I couldn’t get in to or just being a too-tired new mom to dedicate the time. So I would get my “intellectual” fix from the pages of The Economist and call it a day.

I’m on a science fiction kick. As a genre it is liberating, allowing for adaptability to style and genre, a realm where ideas propel the language. Often I find other forms of fiction restrictive in this way: where I am easily distracted by an author’s choice of words, language before the ideas. With sci-fi I let it slide: I don’t know why, I just don’t really care if the choice of words isn’t executed with laser-like precision. Maybe I find some sort of sense of satisfaction, newly inspired by my own “not-good-enough-yet-now-good enough” writing style. So now I read the sci-fi and I write it. And now I write about it, in the form of this one-paragraph review:

The Windup Girl: Author Paolo Bacigalupi drops us into a world where calories are the currency. A near-future, dystopian Bangkok that is threatened by rising sea-levels and a “gene-hacked” food supply. Oil is out: energy is kinetic. Disease is manufactured, and people live in a caste-like militarised Kingdom. I won’t lie to you: life in this world sucks for everyone. Though it is a city in delicate balance: each character’s life is under constant threat, comforted by any fleeting moment of stasis. Everybody needs each other – as with any society – needs one and other to complete their job, their task, to ensure survival. It is a beautiful, tropical world that has been created by Mr. Bacigalupi, one that is being coaxed by its characters into a continued existence. As a reader, I got familiar with it, intrigued by it. Then, towards the end, this fragile balance is upset in a major, major way: it is fucking destroyed. So awesome, so satisfying. Loved it. Thank you, sir.

Anyhow, selfishly, this book kind of mind-fucked me. I had begun writing a piece of sci-fi last year before knowing that The Windup Girl even existed. There were several similarities to what I was writing – not a totality, but the thread of food being totally industralised, and the world being at the mercy of some forces of nature, were common to my thing. I suppose those themes probably exist in tons of sci-fi: they are prevalent issues in today’s society, and that is was sci-fi does best: critique/troubleshoot our real world problems.

And so, I’ve convinced myself to finish my short story. It is a story that should belong to something longer, but there is still an independent story in there. I’ll make it available on my Scribd page (which is in it’s infancy, I admit). Follow me and get this first piece of writing as soon as it’s up. I’m giving myself one month – until June 4th, 2011. Everyone who follows me on Scribd before then will be rewarded with an exclusive audiobook/podcast version of the story, read by me!

I guess reading books can still be inspiring…

Black Locust Redemption

About three years ago my mom brought me a young sapling from her garden in Toronto. She assured me it was an acacia tree – one that flowers exquisitely. I was excited for an ornamental tree (our lot is treeless), and I planted it in the front, in order to fulfill my homeowner’s fantasy of looking out my bedroom window to leaves and a lofty canopy.

After two years, when the tree had hit almost ten feet tall my mom basically straight up told me it was not an acacia tree. Betrayed by its thorny branches, the tree was identified as a common weed: the black locust.

Cool name, but a weed? What constitutes the distinction? Something that just grows where we don’t want it to, that can’t be contained (also known as invasive)? Except for the fact that my black locust’s roots are choking out my peonies, astilbe and irises, I don’t feel like the tree is weedy at all.

Being on tour for part of the spring and summer means oftentimes things in the garden will bloom and I’ll miss them altogether. I missed this last year (we were on tour all of May), but check out the black locust’s redemption:

Good news: The tree is totally covered in these delicate, cascading blossoms. And they fill the air leading up to our front steps with a sweet aroma that I totally dig. I feel like the success of this plant validates my role as a gardener.

Bad news: I’ve just learned from Wikipedia that the robinia pseudoacacia is totally toxic if ingested, from branch to leaf to seed pod to root (except for the flowers). Keep your horses away, or risk them experiencing depression! Note the Latin name confirms this plant is an acacia fake-out. My mom did tell me to rip it out last year, but I don’t have the heart. It’s too pretty.

Besides, bees love this thing, and those little guys need all the help they can get.

Bring Back the Victory Garden

Why did this stop? North Americans in the 1950’s got so obsessed with consumerism and plenty vs. constant rations and shortages, that they forgot about the earth…which I guess after a world war is forgivable. But taking is always easier than giving. So while reading the Economist I was reminded about the Victory Garden: a WWII effort where Americans were encouraged to turn their backyards into vegetable gardens and grow their own food. Could you imagine? What would Michael Pollan say?

I was listening to the CBC news and they said a report issued by the city of Montreal on climate change and reducing our individual carbon footprints recommended Montrealers wash their laundry in cold water and eat less meat. Though, of course, I can’t find a link to back it up, because asking an entire population to eat less meat, while inspiring and groundbreaking, is also kind of unbelievable.

My friend Jason sent me this interview with Louis CK – a comedian – on Conan last year: “Everything’s Amazing, Nobody’s Happy.” And I kind of agree…we should be more grateful for our lives, live less with a feeling of entitlement and more with a sense of giving, sharing and community. We should rely on ourselves first, rather than on Wikipedia to answer all our questions (of which I am so guilty). Imagine if we reconsidered our real estate: not just a house full of things and stuff and the right paint colours, but as land. Could you imagine?

Less PS3 and more gardening…except in winter when we can’t get to the soil for six months. Although the “Victory Garden” does sound like a level in Bioshock….maybe that’s what I like about it…

Only Interesting to Canadians: Federal Election Blog

This headline warranted a double eye roll: Pro-soverignty Protesters Target Justin Trudeau. Why the double eye roll, you ask? Because that’s the proper way a Canadian is to react to political activism. Papineau is our riding, so I met the young Trudeau at a neighbourhood picnic a few months ago. Well, I kind of just shook his hand since it caught me a little off guard. I was thinking about how many chips Neptune was eating and the suddenly I’m shaking hands with Canada’s “rock star” candidate. Most Americans know very, very little about Canada, let alone Canada’s politicians. But they know about Pierre Trudeau. I grew up with Chretien in office, and even though his spoken English was thickly accented, he still owned it. Fierce. Charming. Laughable. Quintessentially Canadian.

We can only hope that Stephane Dion gets drunk in public sometime soon, or, as I heard Grant Lawrence note on the CBC radio today, “gets contact lenses.” Anything to spice things up. Canadian politics is just so boring. Stephen Harper is Mr. Snoozeville himself. He also hates the environment AND loathes the arts. It’s embarrassing.

So only a few days after turning down playing at an NDP rally (because why should non-political music be aligned politically?), Dan Seligman of Pop Montreal fame emails us the following poster for our show:

I rolled my eyes (appropriately) but was perplexed: what should I think of this? The irony works on so many levels, and the posters would go up near the venue which falls in Stephane Dion’s home riding. Dan’s logic was: “Maybe we’ll get sued.” Classically hilarious.

So let’s bring it down a little, and close it out with a something educational: Oldest Rocks in the World are in Quebec. ‘Nuff said.

“Don’t burn food: biofuels standards now!” – Avaaz.org

I talked about it before in my Corn Aggression post: the biofuel conundrum. Anyhow, if you want you can do something – something small but meaningful – to encourage sustainability and responsibility among our leaders:

Don’t burn food: biofuels standards now!

Please consider participating in this campaign by taking two seconds to fill out the important bits to send an email to your country’s prime minister, president, monarch, benevolent dictator, or whoever is in charge where you live.

Thanks! Back to my otherwise inane blog…