Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Live show reviews

I believe I promised to take a break from talking about Gozer so that I could review the live shows that we've seen this past week. Speaking of reviews, I had an anonymous coward post a rather ridiculous comment insulting me because he/she/it didn't like what I had to say about Father's Day. Honestly, I found the whole thing more hilarious than upsetting. If you're going to insult me, please try to be creative. Also, please post under your own name so that I can take you seriously. Now, on to the reviews...

Last Thursday we went to see Rock of Ages, a musical that features music from the 80s. The story follows several people who are connected in some way to The Bourbon Room, a bar in Hollywood. Our main characters are Sherrie, who has arrived from a small town and wants to be a model, and Drew, an aspiring metal band frontman. Supporting characters include: Dennis, the bar's owner; Stacee Jaxx, a hot hair band frontman; Hertz and Franz, who want to knock down the bar to revitalize the Strip; Regina, who is protesting the bar's closure; and Justice, a strip club Madame. And of course there's Lonny the bar patron who also serves as narrator and speaks directly to the audience.

The story is entertaining, if shallow, and the songs are fun. Sometimes the dancing and the behaviour can be a little flamboyant, if you know what I mean, and if you're not into that style it can feel like a little much. The ensemble cast doing their sexy dancing in their sexy clothes makes up for some of that flamboyancy - in fact, some of the dancing can be a little too sexy, if you know what I mean, and some might find that dancing a little much. However, I noticed that many people (especially the men) were watching these dancers very carefully and none of them seemed to find it too sexy or think it was too much.

All in all, Rock of Ages was a fairly entertaining, light-hearted couple of hours. Because the story and characters are a little one-note, if you don't like the songs in this musical then you probably won't like the show all that much. At the same time, if you do like the songs then you'll probably like the show, especially if you can get tickets on the cheap.

On Monday we saw André-Philippe Gagnon. I had no idea what kind of a show I was going to see so I had no expectations. It turns out that he's does musical impressions and that he's quite good at it. Not every voice or tempo was perfect but almost all of them were spot-on.

The first hour of the show was a history of rock and roll from the 1950s to the present. What's amazing is that he's able to capture not just the singing voices of all of these singers but also their mannerisms and facial expressions. It was amazing to watch him transform from one to the other to the next over the course of a few minutes. He'd sprinkle in funny comments occasionally and sometimes he would change the lyrics to be funny in some way or another but this part of the performance was less funny and more awe-inspiring.

After he finished up the history, he got the audience more involved. He had one fellow (who was clearly not a singer) sing a verse from some song and then he was going to imitate that fellow. Instead, he switched the mic back and forth between them and it was hilarious - somehow he sounded just like the guy from the audience, flat and off-key notes and all.

I really enjoyed this show and I'd love to see him perform again. I figure that he does a slightly different show on each tour so there would be something new to see each time. If you get a chance to see AndrĂ©-Philippe Gagnon, take it - it's worth the time and cost.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Some pictures of Gozer

We haven't been able to take any good pictures of Gozer but I managed to get a few cellphone pics of her. Have a look at our little cutie after the jump.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

More about Gozer

Life with Gozer is going really well. Because Ian has been curling in a tournament I've had to take care of her on my own and I think it's been good. She appears to be housetrained. She's slowly learning her name although she hasn't yet learned the "sit" command. She does know that the only places she gets treats are where we try to do the sit command and near her crate so after walks she'll run from one place to another trying to get a treat. I don't give in to that, of course. I tell you, she's a pretty smart dog.

She's also doing better on our walks. She is a fast walker and I'm getting a ton of exercise going for twice-daily 45 to 60 minute walks. She doesn't pull too much unless she picks up a scent she likes or sees a dog she wants to meet. When that happens, she strains against the leash and I have to try to calm her down. She's not bad at meeting dogs although she can get a little barky with them.

Her favourite times appear to be cuddle times, and not just because that's the only time she's allowed on the furniture. She loves to go up on the couch and she especially loves to go up onto the bed but the only pieces of furniture she's allowed on are any floor cushions and the ottoman. Cuddle times are when I sit in the swivel rocker chair and she sits on or beside me. She loves to be in physical contact with me (of course I love being in physical contact with her, too) and will sleep (after giving me many doggy kissies) for hours there if I let her. She appears to have learned that she can't just jump up on me and will wait to be invited there. At all other times she's happy to sit on a cushion or the ottoman as long as we're nearby.

The night before last she decided that she didn't want to sleep in her crate and barked and whined most of the night. I sleep with earplugs so it wasn't such a big deal for me but it was quite disruptive for Ian. Fortunately she only whined and barked a bit last night and settled right down after that so we both slept well. This morning she even went in her crate all by herself!

We've tried to take some pictures of her but the light hasn't been good. We'll keep on trying so that you can see what a cutie she is. Everyone who meets her says that she's adorable and of course I agree with them :) She's at her most cute when she's playing with her kong or setting up the blanket in her sleeping area.

Having a dog is definitely a new experience for me and it's one that I'm enjoying even if I am tired from walking and getting up a bit early. She's happy and healthy and is making this place her new home. It'll take a while for me to get used to the new routines with her but I'm looking forward to having her here all the time.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Gozer is home!

Gozer is home and settling in well to the house. It's been an eventful 24 hours or so since she first walked in through the door!

After we picked her up, we drove to a spot near the house and took her for a very long two hour walk to get rid of some of her energy. We showed her around the house and she managed to relax a bit. She found her crate and went fully in there (with the help of a treat lure) for a peaceful rest. We took that as a sign that she could stay in her crate while we went to the show. She handled being in the crate and being on her own quite well. Of course we took her for walks before and after we went to the show.

She whimpered a bit when we first put her in the crate to sleep but settled down right after that. She only woke up a couple of times in the night to play with her Kong, which she likes. She had a hard time playing with it because she was wearing the cone but she got some enjoyment out of it anyways.

We set out this morning around 9:15am to take her for a bit of a walk and then to see the vet. This vet is really close to us and she's really gentle, friendly, and great with Gozer. Gozer had been on the antibiotic because she had an infection in her uterus which she would have got while she was in heat. Because the uterus filled with fluid, her teats thought it was time to produce milk and now we have to milk her so that she doesn't develop mastitis. Gozer got her booster shots and she'll be getting another one in a couple of weeks for something or other that's transmitted by skunks, squirrels, and raccoons.

After we left the vet's, we ended up walking for about two more hours, exhausting all three of us. I sat in the chair and she slept on me while I dozed. She prefers to be near people but she will sit on her own cushion. We're allowing her to sit on the ottoman but not the couch and not on any other chair without one of us. She'll figure out what the conditions are. She's already figuring out that she's not allowed to jump on people.

I love having Gozer around; she's a cute little doggy and she's quite comfortable here. I'm happy that we brought her home and that she's part of the family.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

2011 American Music Awards Red Carpet

It's been ages since I've done a red carpet post! I've been waiting for an event that had a red carpet that I could review and I finally found one: The American Music Awards, held Sunday, November 20. Short, tight, and shiny was definitely the order for the day which is a bit surprising since the day was chilly and threatening rain. 

As usual, I've only looked at the women on the red carpet and you can see them after the jump.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Visit with Gozer

We went to visit with goer again today. She's feeling much, much better than she was; in fact, I'd say that she's back to her pre-surgery self.

We started by taking her for a 35 minute walk along a trail near the humane society. I was some kind of tired after that walk because there were some big hills involved. Gozer, on the other hand, wasn't at all tired - that dog has a ton of energy to spend. Hopefully this means that we'll be able to walk her home on Thursday. Apparently because dogs migrate by walking, it's better to walk them from their old home to their new one so that they know they're going to a new home. We'll need to take a long walk when we get home anyway so that she's tired.

The only thing about walking her home is that the first part of the most direct route has no sidewalks and there's a lot of truck traffic. There's also a pedestrian bridge going over the train tracks that she'd have to cross and we don't know whether or not she can handle the stairs or that bridge. We're going to look for a different, possibly slightly longer, route home that avoids that area.

When we got back, Gozer sat with us really nicely and enjoyed our company. We re-measured her and she really is about 23 or 24 inches long. We also discovered that she's got a weird way of sitting: she puts her two back feet together when sitting. We'd brought her crate blanket with us so that it would pick up her smell and maybe make the transition to our house easier and we were able to rub it along her while talking to her and cuddling.

She's a very curious, inquisitive dog and I think she's smart. I'm not just saying that because she's so cute and she's going to be our dog! She couldn't tear her eyes away from the doberman mommy dog (she had 9 puppies in the shelter that have almost all been adopted) who was being photographed outside our room. She'd seen this other dog as we were coming in and we wouldn't let her go over there; she's been curious about other dogs but not like that. She's also previously been able to figure out how to look behind a roller blind in the rooms if she's looked behind it already.

If she is as inquisitive as I think she is and as smart as I think she is, we're going to need to be sure to provide her with things to do and puzzles to solve or else she'll end up bored and destructive. She also has more energy than we thought she did and she loooves going for walks so I foresee a lot of walking and playing in our future.

Interestingly, the shelter adopted out a whole lot of animals this past weekend. Most of the cats have been adopted, which made me happy (because I do love cats). There are more and more strays coming in, however, which is so sad. I'm happy to be able to take one of their dogs; I just wish we had her home already.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

No Gozer until Thursday

We were surprised and disappointed to discover that Gozer couldn't come home with us today. Worse, we have to wait until Thursday to bring her home - how sad is that?

We started out this morning very excited and nervous - but trying to be calm - about bringing home our new furchild and introducing her to her new home. The adoption center opened at 1pm and at first we tried to call to make sure that Gozer was ready to come home, but since the phone went straight to voice mail we decided to just go there. It was crazy busy with people adopting pets and a whole bunch of kids looking at all the animals - no wonder they didn't answer the phone!

We filled out the paperwork and got all the information we needed to bring her home. We were all set to go and on our way to get Gozer when suddenly the person helping us said, "uh oh". What? She had been looking through Gozer's paperwork and saw, for the first time, a sheet indicating that Gozer was on a second medication that won't be finished until Wednesday night. We'd originally had to wait until today to bring her home because she was on painkillers after her surgery and now we have to wait another four days.

Of course we're sad that she can't come home today. Ian has this week off from work both for curling and to help with the dog (and for playing Skyrim). Thursday night we have tickets to see Rock of Ages and we should have had no problems seeing the show if Gozer had come home today. With her coming home on Thursday, seeing the show might not be possible. If she likes her crate then she'll probably be ok if we went out for a couple of hours because we'll have tired her out by then. Of course it would be better if someone were here with her whether or not she likes her crate but if she doesn't go into her crate on her own, then someone must stay with her. I don't know which will be better: finding someone to sit with her or someone to take our tickets (if we're willing to give them up).

On the bright side, we now have more time to read the books we bought and to learn how to train her. This means I'll be much more confident in dealing with her, which is a good thing. We'll also be able to visit her and bring her the blanket we'll put in her crate so that it makes the transition home easier. Besides, waiting a few days to bring Gozer home won't matter in the long run because she'll be with us for forever. I just wish that she didn't have to stay in the shelter for those four more days.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Tomorrow's the big day!

We get to bring our furchild home tomorrow! We've decided to name our dog Gozer from Ghostbusters. We know it isn't a perfect name because it doesn't have a hard consonant sound in it but we're happy enough with it. Besides, it's a word that we never say so our cute little Gozer won't get confused when we say her name.

We visited her and took her for a short walk today. She was wearing a cone and was clearly very unhappy with it. She was very good about heeling and slowing her pace while Ian was holding the leash. Unfortunately, she didn't react so well when we saw other dogs. Instead of being nice and maybe trying to meet them, she was fearful and aggressive. The first two times she barked like crazy and tried to go after the dog she saw. It took quite a bit for us to pull her away from those dogs. After that she didn't bark or lunge quite so much and we hope this means that she'll see us as her pack leaders.

We're excited and nervous about bringing Gozer home tomorrow. We've been preparing the house by tidying things up and trying to set things up for her. We set up her crate in the bedroom with an afghan overtop so that it's nice and denlike. The crate looks so big that I worry that I measured wrong and that she'll fit in a smaller crate. If the crate does turn out to be too big, we can always return it and get a smaller one. We've also been trying to read up on how to introduce her to the house and how to train her but there's a lot to remember.

Having a dog is much more complicated than having cats; i hope I'm up for the challenge. I'm definitely looking forward to having a dog around that can keep me company. I'll learn more about how to raise and train a dog over time.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Shopping for our dog

I figured that since our soon-to-be furchild is coming home this weekend I should pick up some supplies. I ended up spending about two hours trying to figure out which things she might like and which we need right away. Before doing the shopping, I visited her just to see how she was doing after being spayed on Wednesday. They shaved off all of her fur! I didn't even recognize her when I first saw her. She looked so sad being all furless! Because it's cold out and she's bald all over, I bought a tshirt, fleece thingy, and a sweater for her to wear while walking.

She's healing well from the surgery although she's quite lethargic and slow. She's still on painkillers until Apparently she hadn't responded well to wearing a cone so she wasn't wearing one but fortunately she hasn't been pulling at her incision or anything. When I first sat with her she was all trembly but she relaxed very quickly into my arms while I pet her and talked to her. I think she'll be much more comfortable once she comes home.

I ended up buying a ton of stuff, including the above-mentioned shirts, a couple of different collars, food, treats, a crate, and some toys. Trying to decide what to buy for her was really hard because I've never had a dog and I have no idea what this dog likes. She doesn't play with toys in the shelter and I don't have any idea which toys she might like to play with at home so I just picked a couple basically at random. I don't even know which collars will be best, or which seatbelt contraptions, so I got different kinds of each one. I did buy the same food that she's been eating at the shelter because I don't want to upset her tummy.

We're going to need to buy many more things for our furchild but at least we we have enough stuff to get started and to make her comfortable when she comes home. After she's fully recovered from the surgery we'll be able to take her into the store so that she can pick our her own toys and treats.

I'm looking forward to bringing her home on Sunday. Of course we still don't have a name for her but we're still working on it; right now we're looking at names of flowers as possibilities. One way or another, she'll have a name on Sunday.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

American Horror Story

We recorded and started watching the series American Horror Story on FX Canada. The series takes place in a haunted house where many, many people have died into which a family with problems has moved. There are ghosts aplenty associated with the house although it isn't always clear which characters are ghosts and which are real.

We've only seen the first three episodes on the series but I'm definitely hooked. The characters are imperfect and multi-faceted like real people, the dialogue is sharp, and there's a spookiness in some scenes that I really like. Some scenes are actually scary while others are just creepy and still others only seem strange after getting additional knowledge. There are times when I can't look away from the screen because whatever is happening there is so compelling.

This is a series that is unlike anything else on tv these days and it's about time that we had something this interesting, creepy, and compelling. I don't know if the series is going to continue to be this good but I hope so, because this is one series that was made for me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thinking about my mom

While I'd planned to see our dog today, I fell asleep and missed the window of opportunity for the visit. I feel bad because I'd wanted to see her before her surgery tomorrow but she'll be ok without me. Besides, when she comes home she'll be with us for a long time; it's not like this is the last time I'll be able to see her. At least, I hope that today wasn't he last time I could have seen her because that would be super-sad. I'm just not going to think about that.

I was pretty tired because I haven't been sleeping all that well lately. The anniversary of my mom's suicide is coming up and I'm feeling a bit stressed about it. I'm handling it and all the other stress pretty well with writing in my journal, meditating, checking in and finding out how I'm feeling, and doing things that make me happy. Even so, some things catch me by surprise.

Yesterday as I was leaving the humane society I happened to look in one of the cat rooms. There were three cats in the room: one was a calico that was sleeping in the litterbox. Normally cats don't sleep where they use the bathroom so to see a scruffy-looking cat sleeping like that and knowing that this was the closest thing to a comfortable box really bothered me. I started crying - and even now, thinking about that cat, I still start crying.

My mom had a really soft spot for cats. Her most favourite cat ever - Smokey - was a stray from the neighbourhood. Some kids came to tell her that other kids had cornered this cat in an old PCB barrel and were throwing things at it and my mom rescued that cat. Except for colouring (and gender, I guess), this calico cat could have been her favourite cat. There's also something about seeing the cats and wanting to bring them all home with me like my mom always wanted to do.

I miss my mom so much, even now. I miss my dad, too, and I didn't really start missing him until my mom died. Getting a dog is wonderful and I'm looking forward to it, but I wish my mom was here so that I could share it with her.

Monday, November 14, 2011

More doggy time

Thanks for all your suggestions on dog names and where to find them! We're still thinking of names. Ian's considering Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All ("Stormy", for short), which was Alfie the baby's name in a Doctor Who episode. That could work, although it seems like a pretty complicated name for a dog. He's also suggested Fizzgig from The Dark Crystal because Fizzgig was a cute fuzzball.

Speaking of our soon-to-be furchild, I went to visit her today and spent a good amount of time visiting. In addition to sitting with her, I took her for a bit of a walk. The person who put her on the leash for me told me that there was a nice path over by the dumpsters, which I would find if I walked around the center. Well, I walked around with the furchild but couldn't find this path so I walked back and around again. This time I went the other direction around the center and ended up walking by a number of cages, setting every single one barking. Oh, the noise!

The dog doesn't pull too much at the leash although she does walk much faster than I do. I tried jogging a bit with her and that seemed to be about the right speed but it wasn't something I could keep up. Clearly she needs a fair amount of exercise and I think we're both going to lose weight by walking her. She prefers to go her own way when she's walking although she usually responds to a light pull on the leash.

At one point she wanted to head up a path that was marked "Private Property" - unsurprisingly, her reading skills aren't all that good - and she wouldn't respond to a tug on the leash. In fact, she tried to flatten herself to the ground rather than turn around. Fortunately, when she stopped to sniff something I stood in front of her so that she couldn't continue and she turned around. When we went back into the center she was bound and determined to go and visit the lovely black kittens and didn't respond to tugs on the leash then, either. She's definitely in need of some obedience training. I ordered four books today from different authors on training dogs; they should arrive before she comes home.

She's very smart, too, I think. When we were sitting in a privacy room to visit, she went to look out the window to see who was there. I pulled down the roller blind so that the view was blocked and she figured out how to look around the side so she could still see out. Even if she isn't smart, at least she's not a "slow" dog.

I hope to visit her again tomorrow. While we were visiting, I petted her and it occurred to me that I could brush her while I was doing that. Although they trimmed her facial hair a bit, she's still got some matts and tangles in her body hair. They said that I was welcome to bring a brush and brush her if I want; I think doing that would be a good way to let her get to know me better.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Video game: Skyrim

We'd planned to go and see our soon-to-be furchild and take her for a walk this weekend until we realized that the adoption centre has very limited weekend hours. They'd said that it was likely that other people would want to come and visit with the dog even though we were first on the list. With so few hours for other people and us to visit, we figured that it would be better if we didn't go and see her. I'll go tomorrow for a visit and maybe a short walk.

While we did manage to get some yardwork done today, we actually spent most of the weekend playing video games. Well, Ian played and I watched. He's started playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, an role-playing open-world game with magic and dragons and battles and quests and at least 100 hours of gameplay.

It's easy to get lost in playing the game because there's so much to do. There's the main storyline to play as well as tons of smaller side quests and the player can just find things by exploring an area. Add to that all the different character combinations, skill trees, and choices that can be made along the way and you can see that the game can be as complex as the player wants it to be.

The game is visually lovely and filled with lots and lots of details. It's made by the same company as that made the later Fallout games - a series I love - and there are many similarities between the two games even though Skyrim is much more complex than the Fallout games. To be honest, I prefer the Fallout story and world because I like post-apocalyptic settings more than the fantasy settings as in Skyrim. Even so, I'm enjoying watching Ian play the game. That's good because there's a lot more game yet to play!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Time for a dog

It looks like we're going to become furparents! We visited our soon-to-be furchild today at the humane society. This is her cute, if dirty and scruffy self:

She came in to the center as a stray about a week and a half ago and since her owners didn't claim her within five days, she went up for adoption. I don't think she's been out on the street for all that long because while her hair is dirty and matted, she's not malnourished and her hair is in good shape. She looks like a bigger version of a shih-tzu so they think she's a lhasa apso/shih-tzu mix and about two years old.

She was clearly treated more as a person and less as a dog at her previous owner's house. When I sat on the floor with her, she would stand up, put her paws on my shoulders, and lean in for a cuddle the way one would cuddle a child. And she licked my nose and lips and chin many, many, many times - I've never been french-kissed by a dog before. She's also a jumper, especially when she saw a leash (which was also the only time she barked), and she prefers to sit in a lap. We're going to need to do some obedience training with her which will be more complicated by the fact that apparently she doesn't respond to food rewards or many toys, although she does play with people.

While she was very excited and her eyes were a little wild and scared at the start of our visit, after about 25 or 30 minutes she calmed right down and was sitting nicely like a good dog at our feet. I had the cane with me even though I'm not suing it these days and it didn't even phase her. We felt that since she was able to calm down and accept us, and since we like her even though she's a bit of a badly-behaved dog, she's a suitable dog for our home.

The shelter operates on a first-come, first-serve basis for adoptions and since we were the first to put in an application, which they've already approved, we'll almost certainly get to be her furparents. Yay!! She's going to be spayed on November 16 and will be able to come home on or after November 20. We're allowed to go and visit her before and after the surgery, which we'll definitely do. We want to visit her this weekend and take her out for a walk and see how she is on the leash. They're also going to give her a bit of a grooming today or tomorrow so she should look nice and pretty for us.

One thing we want to do is give her a good name: the shelter calls her Peppy but we don't really like it. Suggestions for names or how to choose good names are welcome. We have a lot of other things to do to prepare for her arrival - thank goodness we have some time to get things ready.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

So much for that party

It seems like my Pampered Chef party is destined not to happen this year. You might remember that my last attempt at holding the party was canceled by my consultant because she had some kind of family emergency going on. We rescheduled for next Monday and she emailed me today to cancel because she's had a death in the family. It was awkward enough telling my guests that the first party was cancelled but to do it twice is a little weird.

Right now the plan is to reschedule for sometime in the New Year but we haven't set a date for it. I'm going to wait to set a date until after Christmas because there's a lot going on before then.

In some ways it's ok that the party was canceled because I wasn't sure I'd have enough people this time around. Not having to worry about getting everything together right now is ok by me, especially since the anniversary of my mom's suicide is coming up in about three weeks. I know that the days leading up to that day and the day itself are going to be hard and need a lot of energy and attention. Therefore it's important that I spend the rest of my energy doing things that I find soothing and that make me happy. Preparing for a party isn't really one of those things.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Book Review: Swan Song

It's been a long time since I've stayed up until the wee hours of the morning reading a book but that's exactly what's happened over the last few days while I read Swan Song by Robert McCammon. I'd downloaded a sample on my kindle and found myself engrossed in it, which should have been a sign that I would be unable to put it down at night.

This book focuses on several people who find themselves alive after a nuclear holocaust. As they're faced with the difficulties of surviving a years-long nuclear winter, their true selves emerge and they find themselves on either a good or evil side. Central to the good side is Swan, who is able to make things grow, and Sister, a former New York bag lady who finds a crystal ring. Focusing evil energies are a former Colonel and his protege and something fundamentally evil.

All of the main characters are very well-rounded and have depth to them. They feel like real people and the reader feels sympathetic to them even when they're being unlikable. Where the writing really works is in the way the situations are described. It's been a long time since I've felt so tense or worried or happy for characters in a book. I always wanted to find out what happened next and while I had an idea about where the story was going to go, the specifics were always a surprise.

The only area where I found the story was lacking was in the way that the characters were so unaffected by radiation. Radiation was definitely part of their lives and experience but they didn't get as sick as I would have expected given that they were out amongst the radioactive fallout. Other than this one small issue, I found the book pretty much flawless.

This book has been compared to Stephen King's The Stand and the two books are definitely similar. Both have a battle between good and evil after some kind of disaster that wiped out most of civilization. The Stand is still one of my favourite books but I have to say that Swan Song is a better read. The Stand is in need of some ruthless cutting as the story is much too long and has a tendency to drag in places while Swan Song is tightly written with no extra bits and nothing missing. If you're a fan of The Stand, you'll love Swan Song and if you've been avoiding The Stand because of its length, definitely give Swan Song a read.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Metalsmithing fun

This week is the last for my regularly-scheduled metalsmithing classes this session. I've missed so many classes for one or another reason and I haven't made up all (or even most) of the classes I've missed. Of the three projects I started, I've given up on one, made progress on the second, and am struggling with the third. I had no idea that it would be so hard to make a bezel (aka a strip of metal) conform to an smallish irregular shape. I was able to get square, 2mm thick wire to conform to a larger irregular shape with no problem but the smaller not-quite-oval is giving me trouble.

Lucky for me, my instructor is offering open studio nights before Christmas so I'll be able to finish all these projects. I could also, in theory, work on things at home and then solder or finish them as needed in the open studio. It could happen, although I'd have to work at to achieve that goal. My psychologist suggested that I use a calendar to structure my days more effectively so that I can get things done each day instead of sitting around watching tv and surfing the interwebs. If I do that I can be sure that I make time for this hobby and for walking (which she has recommended I do twice a day for 20 or 30 minutes each time).

I'm also going to sign up for a one-weekend workshop on enameling metal. I've been interested in doing this for awhile because it's a way to introduce colour to a piece without using stones. I think she's going to give us instructions on making Christmas ornaments using enameling techniques which I think would be an awesome thing to make. I can imagine a pendant and earring or ring set also.

I plan to continue taking metalsmithing classes in the new year. I'm hoping that I'll be able to spend more time working on projects since that's when the weather starts to really get cold and I don't like to go outside then. By then I should be a pro at this scheduling thing.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

The mulberry tree has a new home

It turns out that moving the weeping mulberry tree was very easy. It helps that Ian had dug out the birch tree stump yesterday so the hole was already there. When we first uncovered the roots we thought that they were wrapped cables because they were about a quarter to three-eighths of an inch in diameter and butter yellow. I always thought roots were brownish like the trunks are; I never expected them to be bright yellow.

Anyways, the mulberry tree's yellow roots are quite shallow and so it was easy to dig them up and move them to the hole Ian had already dug. We put the soil back in, stood back, and Ian said that it should have been moved six inches over that way. I kind of agreed with him but we decided it wasn't worth moving it. We went up to the greenhouse and wandered around the garden and every time either of us looked back at the tree we said, "yeah, it really should be moved, but it's not worth the trouble."

Finally, just as we were about to go in and call it a day for outside chores, I looked back at the tree and said once again that it should be moved so pulled out the shovels and moved it that six or eight inches over that way.  We were both much happier with the placement of the tree now, at least from outside. To be perfectly placed from the great room it needed to be moved a few inches over the other way. We're not going to move it again, however!

Hopefully the tree will survive the transplant. It's dropped its leaves already so we figure it's dormant enough and should happily settle into its new location. It definitely has more space for its roots than it did before; in its previous location, it could only grow roots in two directions. We tried not to pack the soil around the roots too tightly so it should have lots of room to grow new roots. However, we're a bit worried that if we get big wind storms, it won't stand up too well. We'll have to wait and see how the tree holds up.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

At last, some normalcy

Finally, after a whole week of doing as little as possible, I think I'm back to feeling like a normal person. I'm no longer exhausted and wanting to sleep all the time or feeling fuzzy-headed and stupid. I think I also managed to avoid getting sick which I consider a real accomplishment. I was doing so much more than I normally do and I was around so many more people than I usually am. The plane rides alone would have been enough to make me sick!

I did try to eat well, to rest when I could, and to get as much quality sleep as I could. Somehow this managed to work to make me not sick. Unfortunately, Ian doesn't seem to be so lucky. He's coming down with something so he's getting as much rest as possible and drinking lots of fluid - including cranberry tea, which we think of "sick person's tea". I hope that he manages to avoid getting too sick because he's got things to do. Work won't just do itself, apparently.

The one thing we're going to try to do this weekend is to move our weeping mulberry tree. It's over by our neighbour's crooked fence and we've decided to move it to the spot where the topiary birch had been sitting. That location was definitely set up for a tree of some sort and the weeping mulberry will be perfect for that place. Between the two of us (and possibly our neighbour, if he notices we're out there), it shouldn't take too much energy to move the tree. We're spending the rest of the weekend playing video games and relaxing in front of the tv so that Ian doesn't get any sicker..

Friday, November 04, 2011

Conference in Baltimore

The day after the Toronto After Dark Film Festival finished, I went to Baltimore for a one-day conference on living with metastatic breast cancer that was sponsored by the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network (MBCN). When I booked the trip I didn't care so much about the conference itself; my whole reason for going was to hang out with my friends.

I was able to take an earlier combination of flights to Baltimore which meant that I could have a nap before the evening's get-together and dinner. One thing I loved about this particular hotel was the sheets on the bed. They were the softest, smoothest, most comfortable sheets I've ever slept on ever in my life. We all raved about these sheets because they were so awesome. It turns out that they're Comphy microfiber sheets and they can be purchased for home use. Ian doesn't love smooth sheets but I'm going to buy these anyways because they're so amazingly soft and comfortable. Even though they were polyester microfiber, I didn't sweat or feel hot at all; they felt and breathed like the softest silk.

We ate at the hotel that night and although the food was great, the service was terrible. Our server didn't ask whether the 14 of us wanted separate bills and gave us one ginormous bill that we couldn't divide because we didn't know what was taxed at what rate. she was cranky throughout our service and when we asked her to separate the bills she got really angry. She took 45 minutes to separate our bills out for us and she wasn't separating them that whole time; she went for a walk and was talking on the phone.

The conference itself was much more informative than I thought it would be. I figured that I'd hear information I'd heard before but they actually talked about new-to-me things. They talked about cutting-edge treatments in vaccines, for example, and how they worked which I knew nothing about.

At lunch on Saturday we took a photo of us all. Notice the boots I'm wearing - they're the Frye Veronica slouch boots that I'd wanted. Yes, I bought them! They're so comfortable and gorgeous.... just like all of the women in this picture.

Baltimore MBCN 2011 conference group photo
I'm in the tie-dye top in front (wearing the great boots).

I left the conference a bit early because I was still really tired. Although I'd planned to get up around 6pm, I someone called to wake me at 8pm and I rushed out to dinner. I was so happy they waited for me! We went down to the Fell's Point area for Spanish Tapas and then the yummiest gelato and sipping chocolate. We hadn't known that Fell's Point was the main area for all the bars and stuff and we hadn't thought about the fact that it was the weekend before Halloween. We were pleasantly surprised to see all those people dressed up for Halloween. Watching costumed people walk by is an interesting pastime although it would have been more fun if they weren't all drunk.

As great a time as I'd had talking and catching up with people, I was really tired after being away from home for so long and I wanted to get home. My flights were delayed and I freaked out a bit but I made it home safely. I've spent the week catching up and relaxing and I think I'm finally mostly normal.

Toronto After Dark Film Festival reviews, part 3

Wednesday, October 26
The Corridor
This film focused on a fellow who'd had a psychotic break after his mother died and who got together with his friends at his mother's cabin in the woods to say goodbye to her and to reconnect with his friends. Things go awry when his friends go as crazy as he did after they discovers this other-worldly corridor. To be honest, the portrayals of mental illness throughout were so well done that they hit a little too close to home for me and I ended up a little uncomfortable watching parts of this film.

One thing I loved about the film is that the purpose and presence of other-worldly corridor and everything connected to it was deliberately left vague. Was that corridor really there? That's up to the viewer. This film was very well-acted and the story and music were quite compelling.

The director was there for a bit of Q&A afterwards and apparently this film was difficult to shoot because they decided to shoot live in the middle of winter in the Nova Scotia. It hadn't occurred to him at the time that once someone walks through the snow, there's no resetting the snow for another take so a lot of the scenes had to be shot in just one take. I thought the film was good before this knowledge, and now I think it's even better.

There is some gore in the film although most of the time the viewer just sees the aftermath of violence and gore. This is a thought-provoking film that I really enjoyed it and I highly recommend it to you.

This film had a fantastic premise: take four super-heroes, deprive them of their super-powers, and set up challenges where they have to choose whether to save themselves or innocent people. Think about that for a second - it sounds really interesting, doesn't it?

Sadly, this was one film that definitely did not live up to its hype or its promise. during the Q&A afterwards, the reason this film was so bad became quite clear. The director was also the writer and all the actors were given their lines along with exactly how to say them. Had someone helped the director/writer by reviewing the lines, they wouldn't have sounded so wooden. Unfortunately, actors can't do much with wooden lines except deliver them woodenly.

This film could have been really good and it turned out to be really bad. Don't waste your time finding or watching this one.

Thursday, October 27
The Woman
I was interested in seeing this film because I'd read the book. I remember thinking that the book felt a little superficial and that it would make a better movie than it would a book. It turns out that I was right: it made a better movie than it did a book. The movie didn't go quite as far in scenes involving sex as did the book but otherwise it stayed completely true to the book. The story is about a cannibal woman who is found by a guy who wants his family to help tame her.

In some ways I felt that maybe it was a little too close to the book because the film held no surprises for me. I wasn't shocked by anything that happened - and believe me, some of what's in that book/film is shocking - and I found that a little disappointing. This film is unsettling in many ways, and not just because it involves cannibals.

With one exception, the acting in the film was really good. That exception was a supporting character and because her acting was so bad she was a distraction. Everything else about the film, from the story to the music to the acting to the editing was very well-done. If you didn't know what was going to happen in advance and you love gory movies, this is a film for you.

The Innkeepers
This, the closing film of the festival, was billed as a super-scary supernatural horror film with non-stop action in its second half. I was really tired by the time this film was shown and I thought about skipping it but decided to see it because it was the last film. I should have skipped it and gone to bed early as it just wasn't that good.

If I wasn't expecting non-stop action in the second half I might have enjoyed this film more than I did. In this film, two amateur paranormal hunter friends are trying to find evidence of ghosts in the hotel at which they work which also happens to be closing the next week. The friends have fun exploring the hotel until the one sees a ghost. Then the chase is on! There was an interesting twist at the end and this was also one of those films that could be interpreted in different ways, which I enjoyed.

Interestingly, during the Q&A the director said that he and his crew stayed at this particular hotel, which really does exist, while filming this and a previous film. He got the idea for this film because weird things kept happening at the hotel - doors opened and closed, there were weird thumping sounds, and other things like that.

The acting was believable, the story was good, and the music and editing were good. If you're not expecting a super-exciting second half like I was, this would be an enjoyable film and one I'd recommend.

Overall Experience
Each main film was also paired with a short film, which I haven't reviewed. The short films were almost all Canadian and almost every one was good. Overall, I enjoyed this film festival. Some of the films were great and others were not at all great but what made the festival especially interesting was that there were so many Q&A sessions with people involved with the films. These sessions gave each of the films more depth and made the films more interesting. I always love insight into the process behind which a film gets made.

I really enjoyed going to this film festival and I had a great time there. I will definitely consider going back to this festival next year. Now I know that if they're promoting something as a "world premiere", it's probably an indie film and probably isn't that great. However, there are enough other good films - including the aforementioned short films - to make it worth attending for at least another year.

It's possible - some might even say likely - that I'll "grow out" of this festival since I'm always looking for bigger, badder, and crazier films. Since my favourites from this festival were originally shown at bigger festivals in Montreal and LA, I can see myself wanting to go to one of those film festivals eventually.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Toronto After Dark Film Festival reviews, part 2

While I'd wanted to finish all eight remaining movie reviews but I'm still very tired and was up early for denosumab today so I only wrote four reviews. I'll have the remaining four for you tomorrow.

Monday, October 24
This film was funded entirely through Kickstarter, a site that provides brings together people who need money for a project with small investors who are willing to contribute money towards projects. It's a great idea that made a great dramatic, well-paced, well-acted, and well-told film.

In this film, a woman whose husband disappeared seven years ago is about to declare her husband dead in absentia. Her drug-addict sister has come to provide moral support and discovers that there's something weird about the nearby tunnel. There's some creepy stuff here - or is it just a drug-induced hallucination? Either way, this is a great story. I found the film less frightening and more unsettling with a few climactic scenes.

I highly recommend this film if you're interested in creepy films involving ordinary people.

A Lonely Place to Die
I loved this film; it was one of my favourites from the whole festival. In it, a group of mountain-climbing friends discover a young girl who is being held captive. They immediately shelve their plans to go climbing to move to get the girl down to the nearest village... all while being hunted by the girl's captors.

Sure, this is mostly a chase movie, but it's a GOOD chase game. It helps that the scenery in Scotland is gorgeous and the action is quite realistic. One of the directors was there for the Q&A and apparently they'd wanted to make a mountain-climbing movie so they learned to do rock-climbing. They taught everyone in the cast how to climb and did some of the stunts, too.

If you like action films or mountain-climbing, this film is for you. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, October 25
The Divide
This film was my other favourite from the festival. It's about what happens to a group of people trapped in a bunker after a nuclear holocaust. The conflicts between the characters and the actions they take are very realistic and sometimes horrifying. This film portrays the kind of dark, realistic, post-apocalyptic scenario I love to watch because it makes me think about people and the things they're capable of doing once there's no civilization or society to constrain their actions.

The director and some of the actors were there for the Q&A after the movie and apparently the movie was shot in chronological order over 31 days and the characters were put on a severely reduced diet for that entire time. The film's timeline was basically scripted but all of the actors were able to give suggestions for their characters. Apparently tensions were quite high off-set because everyone was starving and not everyone got along and all of that made it into the film. I hadn't known all of this before watching the film and now that I do know it, I want to watch the film again.

This is not a film for the squeamish or faint of heart. If you want to see how people would behave if they were trapped underground with a lack of food, this is the film to watch. It's an intense experience and one that I enjoyed very much; I highly recommend it.

Ian was really looking forward to seeing this film while I wasn't quite so excited about it. It was made in the style of an 80s VHS movie with all those crazy special effects, bad dialogue, and unusual story. It ended up being a funny, lighthearted movie with lots of good stop-motion animation. If you like this type of movie, this is the one for you.

As an aside, the director was there and apparently this film was made for a very small budget (and it shows). The director was also responsible for Father's Day so clearly he's got more interests than just cheesy movies.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Toronto After Dark Film Festival reviews, part 1

As promised, here are reviews for the first few days of films I saw at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. I'll post the remainder of the film reviews tomorrow.

Thursday, October 20
Monster Brawl
Already reviewed.

Friday, October 21
The sound problems in the cinema were worse this night. I`d forgotten earplugs and so my ears were ringing and I couldn't hear people talking after the first film. When I left the second film, my hearing was a bit worse: when I heard loud noises it felt like someone was driving a spike through my eardrums. It was very painful. In addition to being afraid of damaging my hearing, the sound issues were making it difficult for me to enjoy the shows.

When I got back to the hotel, I contacted the film festival organization through their website and also emailed them via a contact email I found there about the sound. I figured I wasn't the only person affected and that if they didn't know how bad it was, they didn't have any motive to fix it.

Exit Humanity
I don't know if it was the sound problems in the theatre or what, but the actors appeared to have been cast based on how well they used their breathing to convey emotion. I can see the auditions now: "Give me anguished! Now enraged... ok, now anguished AND enraged!" This was a little distracting, as I'm sure you can imagine.

This film is kind of a zombie Western that is divided up into seven or eight chapters with title cards. A man comes home from an unthinkable Civil War in which zombies were involved only for his wife to be attacked and bitten by the zombies. After being forced to kill her, he begins the search for his son. He meets up with other people and he eventually discovers the source of the outbreak.

Mixed in with the story is beautiful animation showing past events for each character. The story is unique and original and could have made a fantastic movie if there weren't seven or eight chapters and it wasn't 114 minutes long. There are many, many, many flat, boring, walking-through-the-woods shots that add little or nothing to the story and end up slowing down the overall pace.

The cinematography was interesting, with lots of unusual and (some might say) pointless crane shots. The entire film was shot in Southern Ontario and was supposed to represent Tennessee or Virginia. Unfortunately, the distinctive Southern Ontario geology and flora do not appear in those southern states, so every time I saw something recognizably Canadian, I was taken out of the movie experience. There was also something just a bit "off" about the costuming. For example, the wife was wearing a hoop skirt in the bush. Just because the film was set in the 1870s doesn't mean that all - or even most - frontier women wore hoop skirts.

I don't recommend this movie. If it were edited to remove about one third of it and to reduce the number of chapters to, say, three, it would have potential. As it is, it's too long and unevenly paced to be enjoyable.

Father's Day
This was one of those low-budget, B-movie horrors about a serial killer (The Fuchman), who sodomizes and then brutally kills fathers, and the three people band together to kill him. There is a ton of gore in this movie and scenes that many men had difficulty watching. Seriously.

Because it is a campy movie, my expectations are low and they were met. The acting was ok but not great; the story was believable enough, and the direction, music, and cinematography were passable. The only problem I had with this movie is that it should have ended when The Fuchman was killed, as the quarter or third of the movie that happened after that was stupid, silly, and unnecessary, even for a B-movie.

I wouldn't watch this film again and I wouldn't recommend paying for it, but if you're ok with a LOT of gore in campy movies and don't mind if the movie takes a ridiculous turn, then you might enjoy watching this movie for free.

Saturday, October 22
Happily, the event organizer forwarded my email shortly after I'd sent it to several event manager people and asked them to investigate the sound problem. They were able to change things so that the sound was more balanced and less loud. Although I'd brought earplugs, I didn't need to wear them most of the time. Ian did wear his occasionally during Redline and some other movies. I was thrilled that they'd taken my email seriously and that they were able to adjust the sound and speakers to solve the problem. I'm impressed at how quickly they responded to the problem.

Shorts After Dark
I missed this one as I was driving to and from Kitchener to pick up Ian.

I loved this hand-animated Japanese film about an inter-galactic motor race. In it, people from different planets race against each other in different qualifying races, each with the goal of competing in the big race - the REDLINE. The prize is huge, the publicity is huger, and everyone involved wants to win. Of course there are a couple of subplots that make the race more complicated than it first appears.

The story is fairly simple and believable enough within the universe it creates to be enjoyable. It's a racing film and there's lots of racing with heart-pumping music and fantastic motion so the viewer feels present at these events. Everything, from the story to the animation to the music, works together in this film to create an experience that allows the viewer to immerse his- or herself into it.

Although this film was sub-titled, we wished that it was dubbed because the time taken to read the subtitles meant that we couldn't appreciate all of the animation. This is one film that we're gong to want to purchase so that we can re-watch it. I highly recommend it if you're at all interested in Japanese animation or racing.

No film festival would be complete without a buddy road-trip film, and this was that film. Our protagonist "wakes" from being dead to discover that the dead have risen and are eating people. He's not so hungry for human flesh and just wants to find his girlfriend. He teams up with another thinking, speaking, non-flesh-eating zombie, a "regular" zombie, and some guy to drive across the country. Along the way, they're chased by people who are trying to clean up the zombie outbreak.

The story, cinematography, editing, and music are well done and they all work together to create a fun road trip movie without too much gore involved. The worst thing about this movie is that some of the acting (or maybe it's the script for those characters?) is really bad. It would be better if all those characters were written and acted as well as all the other characters or if every single character was written and acted that badly. As it was, the pacing and feel of the movie changed every time those characters were on-screen.

If it weren't for those particular actors and actresses and their lines, this would be a truly hilarious movie that pretty much everyone who likes funny zombie movies would enjoy. As it is, it's a pretty good movie that most people will still enjoy and I do recommend it if you're looking for some laughs.

War of the Dead
This film about Allied soldiers battling Axis zombies created by Nazi experimentation is better than I expected it would be. Since the director in the introduction and Q&A made it clear that he'd just wanted to finish this film and that he didn't think it was that good, I wasn't expecting much.

I was surprised that most of the film was fairly solid. The sets, costumes, makeup, and music were all very well done and worked together to create a cohesive, creepy atmosphere. Most of the characters and their actions also made sense in the context of the film. The only places where the film fell short were some plot points and parts of the script that didn't flow so well. I didn't even think about most of those problems until I walked out.

I wouldn't see this film again but if you are interested in Nazis and zombies and don't mind some plot issues, this film is for you.

Sunday, October 23
Some Guy Who Kills People
We loved this film. In it, a man who has recently returned from a mental institution stalks and kills the people who tormented him and drove him crazy all while maintaining a relationship with his mom, his mom's boyfriend the town sheriff, and his newly-discovered daughter. This is one of my favourite films of the fest because it had drama, comedy, and a reasonable plot. The script was well-written and well-acted and the production was definitely high-quality. There isn't too much gore in this film and the killings are done off-camera, for the most part, making this film more accessible to a mainstream crowd. I highly recommend this one.

I'd really looked forward to seeing this film and I wasn't disappointed. It follows an astronaut up in the international space station for the first time in decades who is abandoned there as everyone on earth dies. As he rambles around the station he finds a diary of a man sent from the civil war front to witness something unusual. The film opens with and returns to this traveler's adventure as the astronaut's story is being told.

There are pats of this film didn't like, such as the interviews with the people about connections and relationships. The film is about relationships and how important being connected to other people is to each of us and it shows this by providing the lonely counterpoint of the astronaut to the story. The interviews kind of "hit the viewer on the head" with the point of the film and it simply isn't necessary.

This small fault aside, I loved this film. There was really only the one main actor throughout and he was able to carry this film and keep it interesting. It helped that the film was beautifully made and scored and that the pacing and imagery and actor worked together to create a moving work of art that also happened to tell a great story. Most astonishing is that the film was made in the director's parent's ranch backyard and the director built all of the sets - including that amazing replica of the International Space Station (ISS) - himself over a couple of years using materials from home-building stores.

This film felt like a good independent film from a major director who was doing a side project for fun because it appears to have been professionally made with a huge budget. In fact, the director has done mostly shorts and it was made for almost no money. The main porthole on the ISS, for example, was a washing-machine door over a 42" screen showing the planet Earth.

Contributing to the professional look and feel of the film as well as its atmosphere was the haunting score by Angels & Airwaves. Some people were put off by the fact that Angels & Airwaves and this film are kind of side projects by Tom DeLonge of Blink-182 but there's no Blink 182 in any part of this film.

If you don't mind slow but not boring pacing and love beautiful imagery, great acting, and a compelling story that stays with you, this film is for you. I highly recommend it.

The Theatre Bizarre
I skipped the films this evening as I was very tired and I figured that I would be better off resting than staying out late watching the movies. Apparently this one was a bunch of shorts that worked together around a particular theme. While it sounded interesting, the trailers didn't compel me to stay and watch. If I hadn't been so tired I'd have watched it.

Midnight Son
I skipped this film, too. Again, if I wasn't so tired I'd have stayed to watch it. However, I was so tired and the subject of the film - a vampire comes to terms with his new life - wasn't all that interesting. In retrospect, I probably would have enjoyed this film although the rest did me some good.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Reviews tomorrow

I'd planned to review some of the films I saw last week but that's not going to happen today. I'm exhausted after all that traveling and I need some more time to sleep and recover. I'll post reviews of some of the films tomorrow after another good night's sleep. And maybe a short nap.

I did see my psychologist today and we talked about how I was freaking out on Sunday when I realized that my flights were delayed. I realized yesterday that instead of crying, I would have been better off doing a "check-in" or evaluation of my overall physical state to see where I'm holing tension and then doing something to reduce all that tension. That was the point of making a list of things I like to do and that make me happy, after all - but it didn't occur to me to do any of that.

My psychologist said that it was ok to not remember this technique because I remembered it on my own afterwards without any prompting from her. Forgetting that I have these techniques is normal and even expected because they're new to me. Remembering the techniques on my own through self-reflection is part of the learning process. Hopefully the next time I'm feeling frustrated and upset I'll remember that I have these tools in my toolbox.