July 2, 2013 Progress Notes:

"The Catalogue of Good Days"

Words today: 200 one day this weekend, 800 today.
Words total: 2750.
Reason for stopping: Bed.

Darling du Jour: N/A

Mean Things: Aw, you broke the magic stuff.

Research Roundup: The glass floor at the CN Tower, and the outdoor observation deck.  Good running form.  What colour the track outside Central Tech is, because I can't remember.
Books in progress: Amanda Sun, Ink.

Had a surprisingly busy long weekend: Work; a trip to Ikea with P. on Saturday night so we could get a dresser, stop living out of the laundry basket, and thus petition for readmittance into adulthood; the board games afternoon he hosts one Sunday a month; and finally reorganizing our kitchen to integrate his dishes and mine on Monday, followed by a pressure headache and a serious flop.  And then the plumber came this morning, to fix the leak in the kitchen ceiling.  The kitchen ceiling isn't leaking anymore.  But he'll have to come back to deal with the bathroom sink's pipes, which are also leaking (hooray).

Okay, yeah.  No wonder I'm tired.

I blew off a meeting tonight to make the space to write these words.  Hopefully I won't have to do it again tomorrow.
June 26-27, 2013 Progress Notes:

"The Catalogue of Good Days"

Words today: 400 yesterday, 600 today.
Words total: 1750.
Reason for stopping: Have to go pick up CSA.

Darling du Jour: The memory sailed overhead like an angle-winged bird.  People closed their eyes in rows beneath it; their smiles fluttered wide.  "I'm flying," they whispered.  "I'm flying."

Mean Things: Don't break the magic stuff.  Getting cuteye from old disapproving dudes who think a job means you can't hug your friends.

Research Roundup: Course offerings at Harbord Collegiate; the Toronto Island ferry schedule, common Cantonese girls' names.
Books in progress: Amanda Sun, Ink.

It was pretty much too hot to think for the past couple days, and today is much, much cooler.  I am finally getting some momentum on this piece (much-needed).

I keep having to remember that what writing wants from me is the things I love.  And why I love them, in sincerety.

Okay.  Gotta get the veggies.  More on this, maybe, after said veggies and a small birthday party tonight.


Jun. 19th, 2012 02:07 pm
June 19, 2012 Progress Notes:

"Wild Card"

Words today: 1900.
Words total: 9500.
Reason for stopping: Time to head out to my afternoon appointment.

Books in progress: Ross Macdonald, The Far Side of the Dollar.

Written in a midtown coffeeshop, between midtown things to do. Population of this Starbucks: high school students studying for exams, retirees, office workers stopping in for takeout, or lunch, or whatever. Not a freelancer or a glimpse of plaid in sight. This plug, and this table, has been mine uncontested since 11:15 this morning.

This is looking like it might just come in at the estimated wordcount. And soon. Woot woot. :)
leahbobet: (bat signal)
So, guess what time of year it is?

Yes, this one.

I am hoping to actually pace myself this year, and not totally burn out hard on the second night of the festival like I did last year, because I have Plans (tm) for things I want to be seeing and all that. With that in mind, tonight's excursion was one set large:

July Talk
This being July Talk at the Horseshoe

So about a month back I discovered this band called July Talk, and you should click that link, and you should listen to the two songs on that website, because I am telling you to in the most imperative terms possible. This is what happens when Young Tom Waits meets a floaty-voiced, bustier-wearing girl, and then they make out to every guitar ever in a bluegrass/rock/awesome kind of way.

Understand that I was already pretty much bouncing on my toes with joy for this show. No, really. I was literally dead centre in front of the stage, beer in hand, good and early before the set time and bouncing on my toes, and I didn't care that I was seeing this by myself.

And then they went on, and...holy shit.

The stage presence that pours off Peter Dreimanis and Leah Fay is kind of visceral and incredible. They strut and tease each other and bite and blow kisses and dance and bend staggering over a guitar, and never miss a beat. They sing somehow both clean and raw at the same time. Thirty seconds into that set, a set full of songs I hadn't heard ("Paper Girl" was the closer, so there I could sing along) the whole of the Horseshoe Tavern had taken a collective deep breath that tingled down to the toes. It was thirty minutes of grinning, sweating wildness. It was the kind of thing that lots of bands try for, and never really get.

Mostly just...holy shit.

They pretty much took that house down.

They do not even have an EP out yet.

Mark my words: In two years this band is going to be famous.

I also think it says something about a set to see what the mood in the room is after. After that set the dude next to me gave me a giant high five, and then two guys in the back struck up a conversation about said set and we talked about small bands and good places to eat on Roncesvalles and whatnot, and then two guys behind us who are in a band playing a set tomorrow struck up another conversation too. This was a room full of sociable, grinning, energized people. This was a room full of liquid happy.

On that basis -- and because, y'know, I'd paid $12 cover -- I stuck around for the next set, by a band called The Heartbroken (or maybe just Heartbroken), but it was pretty apparent early on that it was a bit too country for my tastes, so out into the night we went.

I have no specific plans for tomorrow: There's a Hooded Fang set at 10pm somewhere or other, and Black Owls, the band of the dudes behind me who struck up a conversation, is playing the Hideout at some point. I'm also meeting up with a compatriot for the evening, so I think it's going to be the NXNE Free Period: we're just going to go where the wind takes us.

Look for more concert report through the weekend. Because there's gonna be more concerts.
May 11, 2012 Progress Notes:

"Werewolves of Parkdale"

Words today: 400.
Words total: 400.
Reason for stopping: We want ice cream and it is almost midnight, and we want ice cream. So.

Darling du Jour: "Which one?" she said, not a little archly. Yes; ha ha. Guys with plaid shirts and facial hair were to Parkdale what sports cars are to Monaco. Or golden retrievers to Roncy. Or flatness to Saskatchewan.
Mean Things: Nothing so far, but I smell incipient ha ha only serious. Only I can take a story built on this much sheer ridiculous jokey shit and make it serious. :p

Research Roundup: Supermoon! The music schedule at the Gladstone Melody Bar on Sunday mornings, and an image reference, since I'm not there right now. The lyrics to Cat Power's "Werewolf Song". Damian Abraham's beard.
Books in progress: China Mieville, Railsea.

This story actually started, finally started after almost a year of talking shit about it, at One Hour Cafeteria over noodles and white gourd tea and dumplings. They have beanbag chairs here, and good wifi. It's like a tastier extension of the Robarts Library second-floor study room.

It is all, start to finish and the middle bits too, [livejournal.com profile] sora_blue's fault.

Okay, some of it's [livejournal.com profile] subject_zero's fault too.

I have no idea what I'm going to do with this. Maybe five people in the universe will actually get all the jokes. Totally unpublishable.

leahbobet: (gardening)
January 21, 2012 Progress Notes:

On Roadstead Farm

Words today: 150.
Words total: 12,600.
Reason for stopping: It's late, and I'm not getting too far by kicking at it.

Darling du Jour: Something hot and liquid meandered down my forearm and I knew it was life, I knew it was [SPOILER]'s, rusting out like a fieldmouse hawk-caught behind the hay barn.
Words Hallie Won't Admit to Knowing: N/A.
Mean Things: In write-ahead signposting land, the possible grim midwinter death of the only family you have left.

Research Roundup: Qualitative sound of Canadian accents to American ears.
Books in progress: Alissa York, Fauna.

Not a lot of words when you stack them up next to each other, but important ones. I found where I went the wrong way. This is the roughed-out bones of a signpost, about three chapters down the road that goes the right way.

Still a bit coldy here; enough that I'm staying in evenings instead of going out. Still, there was high tea around suppertime with a friend who's visiting from Sault Ste. Marie this week, and then one of those clear-breathed nighttime walks home that are just you and the sharp cold air and your headphones, crunching through side streets in the snow, following the instinctive compass that lives in your belly west, west, homeward; the kind where you know just how deep you're connected to the browned grass and asphalt beneath you, the strings of streetlights, the dogwalkers, the club kids, the world.

It was a good walk. I don't care if it's contributed to my sniffles right now; I've needed that for a little while.

Bed, now, to think about my right way and my wrong turn. And narrative texture.
Haven't done one of these in a while; it has been a peculiarly showless fall. But nonetheless: tonight! Matthew Good!

(For background: Matt Good is pretty much a thread through the soundtrack of every novel I write. At 16 years old, nursing my first broken heart, I went to Europe on a March Break school trip with a Douglas Coupland novel and the Matthew Good Band's Underdogs, and something fused and stuck in my brain that has yet to ever unstick. Last week, that stuck thing sent me to Vancouver, to see the mountains and ocean and crows.)

Two things mildly horrid about this show: one, the opener, who was not only Vancouver-1998-music, but generic Vancouver-1998-music. And somewhat awkward onstage. The second thing was the venue -- Queen Elizabeth Theatre -- which is great for stuff like Owen Pallett or other sit-down sorts of shows, but not at all useful when you want to either duck out to skip the rest of the opener and/or dance your face off to the headliner. Although we found out just how much headbanging/dancing range you can actually get in those seats. Oh, we did.

As for the actual set:

This opened...I have no words. This opened with the stage set with the instruments and two table lamps, glowing soft against the darkness, and then the keyboardist crept on and started with a few chords, and Matt came on, and sang an piano-and-voice version of "While We Were Hunting Rabbits" soft and in the dark, backlit by those two warm little lamps.

This is not tonight's show. This is the Kitchener date. But this is what I mean.

There is a little hook in my soul from that, a sliver of gravity and dignity and soft profound things. It's not coming out.

Rest of set...about half of it was stuff from the new album: "Lights of Endangered Species", "Shallow's Low", "What if I Can't See the Stars, Mildred?", "Zero Orchestra", "Non Populus" (yaaaay), "Set Me on Fire" (yaaay) as the end of the encore. The other half hopped around between earlier stuff, with a real emphasis on the first two albums: "Load Me Up", Hello Time Bomb", "Apparitions", "Born Losers", "The Boy Who Could Explode" (yaaay), and kind of most wonderfully, "Weapon" as the closer for the main set. I wrote a whole book to that song, once.

The huge concentrations of really old old stuff meant that any time one of them showed up, the whole theatre got on our collective feet. I found out how much dance space you get in that seat. It's not a lot, but we managed.

It was also a bit of a mouthy crowd; definitely not my favourite. But it meant loud singing along was pretty okay. Which is good. I don't feel complete if I can't at least mouth the words.

As for the encore: I can't decide if this was planned or not, but someone near the back started, in the traditional clap/cheer between set and encore, to start chanting the beginning of "Giant", which is a bunch of cheerleaders going: "K-I-C-K-A-S-S, that's the way we spell success". So it spread, and people picked it up. And once the whole crowd was doing it -- they cut in with "Giant". It kind of had to have been a plant, and planned. But y'know what? It was cool.

The middle song on the encore was something I've never heard, and I felt sort of thrown for a minute until getting home and finding out that it's unreleased. So that's fine.

There are so many things I could have wanted to hear here that I didn't even go in with a wishlist. He doesn't often play the older stuff -- I think there were, for years, some copyright issues between the other members of the Matthew Good Band proper vs. just playing all the later, solo stuff -- but really, in this case, almost anything was good. I wish I could have heard stuff like "The Inescapable Us" or "Extraordinary Fades", but I frequently fall in love with songs that aren't touring songs. There really was no wrong way to build this setlist tonight.

So this was not incandescent, like the last time I saw him, and it was not a religious experience like every BSS show is, but the waves of sound on "Non Populus" and "Weapon", and that first song and the quiet of it, and the soft darkness behind and around us -- that, I suspect, is not going away anytime soon.

Concert buddy Jeff and I walked up from the theatre instead of taking the streetcar; we're both pretty hardcore walkers, and the transit was going to be really crowded (another small downside of that venue), and I needed to move after not being able to dance myself hoarse. So we cut up through Parkdale to the Lakeview Lunch, grabbed a very late dinner (pulled pork sandwich om nom nom) and then wandered the cool night streets back up to home territory.

And now I am home, and night-air chilly, and a little, sweetly haunted. And will probably dream of rabbits, and lamplight, and guitars.
leahbobet: (gardening)
October 12, 2011 Progress Notes:

"On Roadstead Farm"

Words today: 600.
Words total: 9600.
Reason for stopping: Another pickyish night's work, and it's gotten late.

Darling du Jour: He looked down at me; exhaled short and near-silent, and something rat-trapped and hard went out of him on the tail of that little breath.
Words Hallie Won't Admit to Knowing: N/A.
Mean Things: PTSD alert! Feeling out of control of yet another situation.

Research Roundup: My map of Detroit again.
Books in progress: Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter, The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can't Be Jammed.

It's pouring in the last outpost of Utopian Toronto this evening, and so I have been cooking: chopped egg salad, wild blueberry muffins, a bluntly amazing batch of homemade fried rice. The CSA egg share has gotten ahead of me, and I'm going away for a week and a half in fewer days than I want to think about. I've been trying to use up eggs tonight. (Yes, between the cellphone camera issue and the past six weeks of deadlines, the CSA blogging also got away from me, but look me in the eye and tell me that was unexpected.)

Tomorrow all this gets shoved aside, as a bunch of us are going for a ridiculously fancy steak dinner in a private dining room which will be ridiculously fancy. Why? Because we are awesome people who like meat and occasional dinners with tablecloths. Plans include brandy, bubble pipes, and pretending to be railway tycoons.

Between this and last night's 10-person dinner (complete with visiting Halifax friends) at King's Noodle, with the whole Chinese duck and the eggplant and the garlic greens? It's kind of been a banner week for eating so far. I may even stick that last watermelon I have in the dehydrator tomorrow to see what happens.

More words tomorrow, after dinner. Hopefully we will hit the magic number, and then this grant application can go happily on its way.
September 24, 2011 Progress Notes:

Light (bad working title)

Words today: 200.
Words total: 2675.
Reason for stopping: I think I just went to bed after. These were last night's, and I don't remember.

Darling du Jour: N/A.

Mean Things: N/A.
Research Roundup: N/A.

Books in progress: Charles Yu, How to Live Safely in a Science-Fictional Universe.

Today was the annual festival of book debauchery Word on the Street, and a gorgeous one: hot, summery temperatures, big blue sky, a slightly insane amount of people crowded into Queen's Park. We had a posse! We wandered! We bought books! We got very achy and tired!

Saw a lot of the usual suspects -- the CZP folks, [livejournal.com profile] davidnickle and Madeline, Stephen and Greg of Xeno's Arrow, Tara Tallan, [livejournal.com profile] cszego and the rest of the Merrill Collection folks, the usual HWA contingent -- and a lot more of the less-usual ones. I've been meeting more and more people from the CanLit end of things this summer, and they were pretty much all in attendance: publicists, subrights agents, magazine editors, book bloggers, etc. etc. etc. And so were a lot of the public space people. Worlds collided. Matter and antimatter met. I did more authoring than expected, and my friends laughed at me behind their hands.

But the important bit: the haul.

Municipal Mind: Manifestos for the Creative City, Pier Giorgio Di Cicco
Eye Lake, Tristan Hughes
Monoceros, Suzette Mayr
The Dead Kid Detective Agency, Evan Munday
Social Acupuncture: A Guide to Suicide, Performance and Utopia, Darren O'Donnell
Blank Slate Volume Zero: Condopocalypse Now! and Blank Slate Volume One: Death of a Spearholder, Dave Proctor
Black Eyed Kids, Ian Rogers
Holding Still For As Long As Possible, Zoe Whittall

There are several items of squee in there, notably Evan Munday's book, another Zoe Whittall (!!!) and Monoceros, which I have really, really, really been wanting to read. Acquisitions will be spread gently between my library books and rationed out to last through the long, cold winter.

The bedside pile of books is teetering precariously again, which is sort of how we like it. My feet hurt. And all is well with the world.

Back to Dayjob tomorrow. Farewell, fall drafting utopia.
September 22, 2011 Progress Notes:

Light (bad working title)

Words today: 200.
Words total: 2500.
Reason for stopping: That took over four hours, which is ridiculous. And Dr. My Roommate is home, and has offered to liberate me from my bondage so we can go get food. And I'm going.

Darling du Jour: The thrum of water rustled, gathered around her planted feet.

Mean Things: Losing your last escape hatch, for real this time. That thing where she told herself that nobody would ever find out. Ha ha ha ha--*ahem*.
Research Roundup: N/A.

Books in progress: Charles Yu, How to Live Safely in a Science-Fictional Universe.

It's fighting me today: everything that looked solid yesterday now feels dead and flat, although [livejournal.com profile] hawkwing_lb kindly assures me that's probably just my burnt-ass brain. It is true that I have spent a possibly unhealthy amount of my precious vacation days in a tee-shirt and pajama pants, in front of this computer, circling and picking at words.

I really need to get out of the house tonight.

In other news, Sunday's volunteer excursion was written up by one of the smaller newspapers, and I got quoted pretty reasonably, considering how spoken language and written translate between each other.

And I'm off for dinner. And perhaps an adult beverage afterwards.


Sep. 4th, 2011 04:46 pm
leahbobet: (bat signal)
Over the past few weeks I've been thinking about inspiration.

(No, this is not a writing post. It is a post about the things we do with our hands.)

Jack Layton -- for the international readers, the leader of the (social democrat) New Democratic Party and the current federal official opposition -- died abruptly of cancer two weeks ago. The response was solid national mourning: my very political Twitter friends posted their personal Jack stories; publishing people linked articles and eulogies; my very apolitical suburban upper-middle-class relatives talked about him in an almost puzzled, off-balance way at a family funeral last weekend, like people who'd lost a tooth and kept worrying at the gum. People who didn't like this mostly demonstrated enough sense and class to keep their mouths shut and respect everyone else's mourning.

There was a state funeral, and a lying-in-state at both the Parliament buildings in Ottawa and City Hall here, where he served for many years as a very active and visible city councillor. I went to the visitation with friends, and waited an hour and a half in line to pay my respects at that flag-draped coffin. [livejournal.com profile] commodorified, who was in town though I did not know it, inadvertently started a tribute they'll be talking about in the history books. We left chalk. It was almost the definition of a community experience: the vast iceberg of a whole city and country groaning and shifting together. Everyone drawing a little closer.

He left a letter. It was his last public act. It's called A Letter to Canadians, and was released shortly after his family announced that he had passed away.

You should read it, but here's the important bit:

...consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

I am not politically partisan, both by personal inclination and professional obligation, but I believe in those words. They took me in the chest and made me cry at my desk for the loss of a person I'd never met. They are good words, and I say that in the way Beowulf keeps repeating þæt wæs god cyning. Yes, they confirm my worldview to a certain extent, and one must always be a little careful of that. But they are good words. They are right.

I want them so very badly to be right.

It's been a week. Things go back to normal. They do, and they don't.

But this is a post about inspiration.

I don't know why it's faintly embarrassing to say that paragraph inspired me, especially when it came from someone who was often cited as being close in the vicinity of inspiration: down the block or right next door. I want to twist to avoid the word. I want synonyms, waterings-down, elisions.

Possibly it's terrifying.

It's the same root as respire and spirit; Latin spirare. It means "to breathe". It means to have something put its lips to yours and fill your lungs or soul like a sail.

There is, I think, a particular courage inherent in being willing to be inspired: being willing to take someone else's words into you, breathe them into your lungs, and let them animate your arms and legs and heart. To hear someone else's words and change your life is a ceding of a certain kind of control, and it's frightening, and brave: it puts you on roads you didn't plan to walk to places you've never been, and some of them can be trying and terrible and dark.

They demand willingness to devote yourself passionately to something bigger than you, and nebulous, and chancy, and like all passions, bearing a terrible risk of heartbreak. And many of us, in pursuit of ways to never fail, are perfectly willing to make a very bad tradeoff, and never try.

It does not mean agreeing with everything the speaker ever said or did. That's role model, not inspire, and I remain very against role model on the grounds that it's sloppy critical thinking. But it means picking your stars, and orienting yourself by them, and then throwing yourself into space by their light.

(Yes. Throwing yourself into space.)

It's been six months since my grandmother died. She left a letter for each of us too. Mine was not polished in the way political rhetoric is: either because of the times, or possibly my great-grandfather's views on women and education, my grandmother never got halfway through high school. But it was honest, like the one I linked above. It was good words, and true.

She told me that she would be there for me, and that good things would happen; questions would be answered in their own ways. She told me to always smile.

I take that as one of my stars too. I carry it in my lungs.

This can be read, I suppose, as an argument for activism. It's definitely an argument for living an engaged and deliberate life. It could also be an enormous arrogance and intrusion: to have someone else speak, and expect you to twist and alter your life and all your careful plans.

What I think I'm asking here is for you to take courage: to not shrink from that word (that task, that challenge) or minimize it. To reject the cynical, slowly or altogether, raise sail, and fix, one by one, your stars.

It's terrifying, yeah. Space is cold. Jumping is the kind of thing that always tends to make my knees lock.

But it's the most natural thing in the world, too. It's nothing but breathing.

Breathe in.
leahbobet: (bat signal)
Quick pop out for a couple sets at the Rivoli tonight with [livejournal.com profile] ksumnersmith: the band one of her workfriends sings for was playing at Pop With Brains, which is a bi-monthly indie showcase that donates the cover/proceeds to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. So we get bands, Karina's workfriend gets some cheering section, good charity donations are done, all's good.

I have no pictures for this one. See last post re: the cellphone camera, its stubborn refusal to, y'know, focus, and how I was going to take it in to get looked at this weekend sometime.

We grabbed some fancy Queen West burgers beforehand at BQM, which was pretty tasty if not so air-conditioned. I had one called the Ossington, which was the most gentrified burger on the menu (cow, grilled portobello, tomato, lettuce, garlic aoili, balsamic glaze, mozzarella). I am not sure if the name is a very subtle joke.

The show itself was in the back room of the Rivoli, which was sort of half-empty and weirdly reminiscent of the sorts of battle of the bands friend-of-friend's shows you'd go to see when you were 15, and this is not a criticism. Tiny cashbox at the door, very loud monitors (and not-so-great levels, honestly; I think they didn't have a dedicated soundperson), people who obviously know each other/know the bands. This was kind of amazingly nostalgic for me, even though it was always the Opera House or the Big Bop when I was a high school band groupie.

There were some other attractions going on: a clothing label selling some stuff, and an artist who was doing quick paintings of each band off to the side of the stage, in watercolour, which was neat. You'd stop every so often and look over at the easel to see how the painting was coming.

We were, sadly, the jerks who only stayed for the set we came to see* -- Karina has to be up early tomorrow, and I have had a somewhat long day here -- but I did catch enough of the first set to comment. The band was Drugs in Japan, and it was very metal: the bassist took this seriously and had the giant poofy metal hair that entirely obscured his face/head, as well as tight black pants with a giant zipper. As far as metal goes it was okay -- actually, I'm deeply impressed that the singer was the drummer, because that means offsetting your own rhythm, and that is not easy business. But mostly it was there, and it was okay, and it's not really my genre.

The workfriend's band, Dinosaur Dinosaur, was...actually, really, really good.

They're a three-piece: bass, guitar, and vocals, with occasional keyboard and other stuff, a drum machine in back, and some legitimate stage presence. And the sound is not easily definable: the things it reminded me of the most were that kind of lush eighties goth music; Shriekback or Sisters of Mercy with the occasional heavy rock guitar thrown in and a definite sultry, noirish, cabaret sort of thing on the vocals and rhythms, although not so much cabaret as Ruby Spirit, which we have established I did not like on the grounds of finding them to simultaneously be trying too hard and not really trying hard enough. It was a little hard to dance to until I figured out that yes, I should just dance like goth clubs, and then it all came together.

Really, really liked the first song -- I think it was called "Somniloquy" -- and a newer one they played, the name of which I didn't catch. I do remember one called "Vampires vs. Swear Words", which is all kinds of excellent.

They do not have an EP yet. This is sad, because I would have honestly bought one after that set even if I wasn't there on friend-of-a-friend grounds. But I am told that by the end of summer this will happen. But I have found their downloads, and I will rest content.

So we gothdanced a bit, and then headed out on earlier grounds of having to get up -- plus, the next band was named R.A.P.E. Tazer, and they were all dudes, and that sort of thing just doesn't bode well -- and I walked back up through Chinatown and Kensington in the soupy air, and around the raccoon sacked out on the sidewalk on Brunswick because it was just too hot to raccoon properly, and home. I have not been walking enough this week. My feet hurt just from down and back.

It is too hot to Leah too, so I am going to sack out myself. Although not on the sidewalk.

*This is something like the downtown twentysomething equivalent of the parents who go to the dance recital and only stay for their kid's number. Très crass.

At home.

Jul. 6th, 2011 03:27 pm
leahbobet: (gardening)
Dr. My Roommate and I went for a walk last night: the tea shop, and then Fiesta Farms (which was closed), and since Fiesta was closed, the big Loblaws at Christie and Dupont. I wanted the groceries; she wanted the walk, and maybe some yogourt while we were up.

I don't remember how we got onto the topic of why we don't drive.

Neither of us do. We both can; we both have held driver's licences in the past, although for me it's the deep and distant past: I haven't been behind the wheel of a car since I was 18. The roommate bikes, and I walk.

She had a reason for why she didn't drive, a fairly neat and clearly articulated one which has nothing to do with the way bike lanes, cars, cyclist and driver behaviour on the roads, safety, and the whole general culture war between bikes and cars, downtown and uptown, is politically exploding in Toronto this month, after the Public Works Committee of municipal council recommended that the year-old bike lanes on Jarvis be removed.

My reasons? I had to stop for a second (on the other side of a stoplight, next to the big, leafy hedge at Bathurst and Wells, which nudged against my shoulder) and unearth it. Yes, there are the environmental benefits, the health benefits, the fiscal benefits of choosing not to drive, but those are really the bullshit on top. If I really wanted to drive a car, I would, I'm sure, have an equal list of benefits to doing so. There is something deep inside me that just finds the act inimical to my personal nature, and so no matter what the drawbacks, I'll put it aside and structure my life -- downtown rents, travel times, occasionally missing get-togethers in the far suburbs or Hamilton -- around that lack of desire for cars.

What it is (I said, after starting to walk again, reaching up to brush low-hanging maple leaves, get a handful of the humid, muggy breeze) is that I dislike the disconnection that comes with doing your travelling in a car. When you are in a car, you have a skin of metal between you and everything else. You control the temperature of the air, the sounds you hear, the tactile input. You don't have a chance to see things, so much, because if you're being anything like a good driver, your eyes are on the road. It can be an inherently wagons-circled experience: moving on your way in a bubble. In a car, the world goes by.

On your feet, you move through the world, and in it. You smell the air. You hear insects, and traffic, and wind, and other people's snippets of conversation. You touch and are touched by plants; pet other people's dogs in the park; jostle and bump and shake hands. You stop places, read signs, look in windows, study the sky. You linger. You engage.

This morning, I read a post from one of my favourite Torontostuff bloggers, Cityslikr, about being at home in the city.

What struck me most about these conversations, though, was how in touch with their surroundings the folks were who spent their time hunting and fishing. At home in their environment, knowing everything there was to know about every hill they climbed, every point they positioned themselves at while tracking their quarry.


It all got me to thinking and wondering if those of us big city dwellers could ever attain such equanimity with where we live.

The other reason I don't drive is because of a certain idiosyncratic little fear.

I get afraid, I think, that when you spend too much time in spaces that are defined by hard borders, which you control, which are all about you and where you are not simply a component, equal to all others, of that bigger, more-encompassing space? That your head and your heart start to think that way too. That you withdraw a little from an openness to random experiences -- to the thought that you may well get rained on, or told by a drunk-or-just-weird guy on the sidewalk that you are totally awesome -- and a sense of community, both social and geographical. You will not have stories about your places. You are not at home.

This could be true. This could be true just personally for me. This could be a delicately crafted pile of steaming bullshit. Who's to say? For you it might be nothing, or more of my trademark flakery -- and that's cool, because we're different people. For me, it's like breathing.

I have lived in this neighbourhood a year next week, and I know its byways. I move through it like a needle through soft fabric. I can tell you stories about this tree, or the Most Metal Garage in All Toronto (south of Bloor, alleyway around Lippincott or thereabouts), or the Door to Nowhere, whose function we do not understand, but the pondering of which is really, really entertaining. I know where all the little parks are, and the fruit trees, the cheap hardware stores, the secret bar patios. I know my neighbours. I know when the tiger lilies bloom. My fingerprints are all over this place now. Its fingerprints are all over me.

And maybe that's the first step to the thought Cityslikr's positing: Cities are our homes. Instead of fighting that idea, we need to embrace it and figure out the best ways to make our home, well, livable. Dare I say, desirable? For everyone who chooses to put down stakes here and not just those who can afford it.

I think about how to do that a lot. Don't talk about it so much lately, not in this venue, but it's going on up there. And some of that drive to the livable and desirable comes from civic programs, funding allotments, infrastructure initiatives; but some of that comes from us. Some of that is cultivating a personal and very individual capacity to open yourself to whatever the city will throw your way; to giving it space to leave fingerprints all over your head and heart, and not just trying to leave yours on it. Relationships are two-way things. Your interaction with the place you live in, if it is to be truly a home, is no less a relationship than a marriage. You can't keep a marriage going on metal walls, and controlled sound systems, and climate control.

I have no water-proof, bee-proof, age-proof idea on how to do this. Like I said, you're you and I'm me, and what works for one person is pretty much guaranteed to not work for another, and that's just how things are. But I do have a good starting point:

Take a walk. Take a couple, long and meandering, with no particular destination in mind, or no real attachment to how you get there. Engage with the things you find along the way. Touch things, and smell. Linger.

See how you feel about it.

It was a good walk, last night. I got home, and slept well after.
leahbobet: (bat signal)
Ha-HA. I bet you missed this tag. Or you didn't, but I did. So there.*

It is North By Northeast! And this year, with deliberation and malice aforethought, I took this week off work. I didn't get to enough things last year, what with work and moving house and the G20 and general craziness. This year none of that's getting in my way.

Anyways, tonight's rundown.

First stop, Rusty (Rusty!) at Dundas Square.

For those not familiar with Rusty (!), they were an awesome sort of alt-punk thing back in the mid-to-late 1990s. They had some very good songs (oh wait, this one too). They are also the second show I ever saw: summer of 1995 at Mel Lastman Square, and I remember that show distinctly. So you can see why this was a big nostalgia deal for me.

It was a good set for a short one, and an interesting mix in terms of the crowd: some older dudes who were obviously fans back when, and some younger dudes who were probably there to see the next few sets (Fucked Up was playing the next one). Yes, it was mostly dudes. A lot of them had beards, which I found odd, because usually it's supposed to be the hipsters and not the punks who are all beardy. Also, you could tell who had graduated Nineties Concert Finishing School**, because we know how to headbang right proper, thank you.

Dundas Square is still an awful concert venue. All the sound escapes up. But I got right up front and it was a beautiful night tonight, all warm-but-not-too-warm and breezy and light, so that was all fine.

I have no good critical input on the set proper, because mostly I was dancing about and trying to headbang in a fedora (bad planning)*** and going Rusty! (!) while singing along with lyrics that I somehow still remember even though they haven't played a show or been a band in something like ten years.

So that was good.

After that I didn't really have any good direction for the rest of the evening; the one other band I'd really wanted to see was actually playing opposite Rusty (!), so I'd already missed them. But Evening Hymns was on right after them at the Music Gallery, which is a kind of wonderful space -- it's actually in an old church in Grange Park, and has the incredible acoustics you'd get in an old church -- so I went.

This was a good decision.

See, I meant it. It's beautiful in there.

I stepped through the door into this little cluster of people -- it had gone standing room only -- and a wall of beautiful sound. It kind of knocked my heart sideways. So of course, it was time to stay, and I scooched down the aisle to the front, planted my butt on the floor (nice hardwood heritage church planks, and yes I will sit on the floor, because we are not proud here) and kind of just sank into it for the next half hour.

This is one of those bands I've heard of more than heard, and I'm glad I heard them. There's this layeredness, charisma, intensity to their stuff. It's this folky indie music, slightly country at times, which gets quiet or intense by turns and just goes through you. It probably didn't hurt that the music was literally something I could feel through the floor as well as hear, and it's really suited to that kind of sitting-down, intimate kind of venue. But I got the egg-of-music feeling: just closed my eyes for the last song and felt it go all around me, and was really, really, really happy.

I bought the EP after.


I stuck around for the next band, Forest City Lovers, figuring that I had really liked the last one, and I really like Snowblink, who opened up the whole venue (and who I missed), so it was worth a try.

Sadly, this was kind of not to be. Maybe it was the sheer intensity and energy of the last set versus the decidedly more mannered feel of this one; maybe it was just the wandering kind of structure. Maybe they were honestly just nervous. But you could kind of feel the room flatten out, and people started drifting out a bit, and then so did I. Apparently I won't actually stay for anything with strings.

Rambled homeward, made a quick stop at the grocery store for tomorrow's breakfast material, and my feet are sore enough that I didn't actually go back out for the Evan Dando/Juliana Hatfield set which is...right about now. I have blackberries with creme fraiche and rose petal syrup, I have a burn in my legs from a night walking all over downtown, I have the warm feeling in my chest that means good music, and I think I am done for the evening.

Tomorrow is a major concert happening day: Diamond Rings, Land of Talk, and Stars at Dundas Square, and approximately 17,000 other shows I would like to catch in and around that. Further reports on this station as developments occur.

Goodnight. :)

*No wonder I had a rough winter/spring. Not enough concerts.
**It need not be said that I graduated Nineties Concert Finishing School summa cum laude.
***Although aesthetically? Pigtail braids and a pinstriped fedora are very good planning indeed. I swear I make more friends with good hats.
leahbobet: (bat signal)
Saw, with concertgoing compatriot [livejournal.com profile] ksumnersmith and her guy, the first show of 2011 tonight: four Toronto indie bands that are actually indie enough that 99% of everyone hasn't yet heard of them (and won't for probably a year or two) at the Toronto Underground Cinema.

Yes, I am aware that I just said "I went to see bands you don't even know about." In this case I am not just being a disgusting cooler-than-thou Annex hipster (although if you call me that, I will say "thank you!"); I didn't really know about this show until last week myself and went specifically to see a grand total of one of the four, which I only discovered...well, last week. Hanging out for the other sets was done in a spirit of adventure and discovery. Also, it was an $8 show and really, why the hell not.

The Underground is a weird venue for music. I think this might have been a bit of an experiment for them. I've seen a bunch of movies there (friend [livejournal.com profile] theshaggy is housemates with one of the owners, and we spent a fair bit of time hanging out there this spring/summer) and it's a good theatre with good acoustics, but there's not a stage per se or dance space. They set up a stage on risers of sorts, and while a bunch of people hung out in the seats, some of the more dancingly-inclined sort of crowded by the stage and in the aisles and did their best. I admit I kind of prefer club-style venues for this sort of thing. If I'm going to dance, I want space, and if the music's much good I want to be dancing.

The lobby did actually work out well, though: there was the concessions for food and beer, and the merch tables could be out there, and if someone wasn't interested in this particular set (each band played a 40-minute set or so) they could go hang out in the lobby and not bother other people.

Okay. Actual sets:

The opener was Young Doctors in Love, who I think were added late. This was kind of melodic poppy stuff, two female vocalists, dancy but not hugely remarkable? Bits of their songs kept sounding like other songs. Their drummer kicked a good deal of ass and was awesomely steady. I didn't find this good or bad or awful, it was mostly just there.

Heartbeat Hotel was who I came to see: they had a song on BlogTO's Neighbourhood Mixtape last week (there, I have given you one of my sources for good music) that made me listen to the thing over and over and over, and then stop listening to the five-song mix and just listen to that song, and then go to their Bandcamp site and just buy everything they'd ever made. This has so far proven to be a good decision.

They're less polished live, a bit fuzzy, but still together. I don't know if they have the thing of doing live shoegazer quite together yet, not the way Andrew Bird or Owen Pallett do. They had a good fanbase out too; this is when people started going up front and dancing. They do the wall of sound thing well -- good thumpy through-your-bones drums -- and I like their vocalist live; there's a good rawness to it, versus the "we don't know what we're doing" kind. I didn't quite get my slip-under-the-skin-of-the-music happy place -- and admittedly I spent most of today in a weirdly grim mood, and that probably wasn't helping -- but I got close, and they closed out with two songs I knew and really liked.

(Interestingly, when we were heading out, I took a nose around their merch table and got talking to two of the guys from said band, and asked if they were doing anything else local soon because I found them last week and I like their stuff etc. And they were very nice, and even though I had already bought digital copies of their last EP, they gave me a physical one for free, which was super sweet and unexpected. And if anyone does like the stuff on the Bandcamp site, apparently they're doing a show late next month at Sneaky Dee's, and I will probably go.)

The Ruby Spirit was obviously one of the bigger deals of the night -- fanbase, a better video-montage thingie than Heartbeat Hotel had, costumes, etc. They're a lot more polished than the other two bands, better technical skills on the instruments and just more together in general, and seemed to be doing this sort of big-band pop cabaret Moulin Rouge thingie. They had some dancers up behind them who were obviously their friends in matching white shirts and feathery hair things. I am not being uncharitable when I say that only two of the six were much good at moving one's body in a dancy way. So think We Are Trying For Amanda Palmer or maybe Hannah Fury Fronts a Band With Guitars.

Thing is, they left me weirdly cold (and Karina said the same, actually): maybe it was the singer doing the carnival-barker overenunciating between songs in a very deliberate way, or maybe it was the dancers that were sort of...if you're going to do that, go all-out and have funky costumes or get people who are good dancers. Or maybe it was the weird backhanded "Oh, if you're going to sit in the seats you'll be fined $100" thing the guitarist came out with. Or maybe it was just the very conscious theatricalness of it all: the presentation, the music itself, everything. It was working to be very cabaret, and I have a bit of a reaction to the sensibility of that on a few levels and for a few reasons. I just did not click with this one. Period.

We decided to skip out on The Lovely Killbots; it was close to one in the morning, the potential fourth compatriot wasn't making it from uptown after all, and my blood sugar was doing a couple dubious things. The company decamped up the street for some iffy Chinese and then we went our ways. I walked home through Kensington in the dark and quiet and thick snow, watching the last bits and bobs of the bar crowds empty out, and decided to wipe away the penises and swear words the drunk kids from the Brunny had drawn in the snow piled on parked cars along the side streets. Because y'know, it was a nice night, and even if I can't prevent people from being dicks about things, I don't actually have to walk by and leave their dickery out there.

So in sum: This thing with going to shows of bands that are really young as bands is interesting. It was kind of like watching junior hockey or reading semipro fiction; you see as much of what isn't there yet as what is, and what could be there very soon, what's growing, and there's an interestingness in that. Also, I have to say the price is right. Tonight's outing equalled out to $2 per set.

I am reminded that I like night walking very much, especially when there's a lot of bright white snow on the ground. There is a terrible peacefulness to 2:15 in the morning in the wintertime.

Lastly, it is late and I am tired. Bonne nuit, l'internet.
Today was a good day, because today, for the first time in a long while, I managed to get in 12 hours of sleep. So I woke up happier and less sinusy/feverish than I have been in a good bit -- yeah, I still have circles under my eyes, but they're the normal overworked girl circles, not the Deathly Pallor of Illness -- and had a lazy breakfast, and walked around the city in the sub-zero nasty temperatures to buy cheese and replacement lighbulbs and lemons from Kensington Market because cold or not, I'd really just rather walk.

I did not make it to the Tightrope Books vintage clothing sale, even though it really was just down the street and around the corner, but it was cold. And I already spent too much at One of a Kind. And it was cold. Yes, this is the beginning of the season were I will opt not to do things because it is cold and my house is warm, and I have no cabana person to send down the street for milk.

So instead, tonight has been several loads of laundry, bill-paying, and some little bits of housekeeping (replacing those lightbulbs, dishes, spot 'o vacuuming), and Ideomancer work, with a cup of rose petal rooibos at my elbow. Order slowly reasserts itself in all things. Including and especially myself.

I had one of those moments this afternoon, sitting in The Grilled Cheese* at the corner booth table, with my coat off, scarf and hat on, working through a bowl of tomato soup with one hand and reading a collection of essays about Toronto's food infrastructure** with the other while the sunlight dropped in a grey sort of winter way outside and the radio played some classic rock station, where I suddenly saw myself from the outside. You know those: when you just stop and realize how you -- where you are, what you're doing, your hair and clothes and the general curve of your back -- looks to everyone else in the room; what semiotic subcultural signals you're sending off?

I had one of those this afternoon.

It made me happy, because there is this girl I used to want to be very badly and this life I thought was utterly out of my reach, and apparently I am her now. Without even consciously trying, most of the time; just by doing my thing.

So that's pretty awesome, that. Sometimes you can get what you want after all.

*Good, hot, crispy sammiches here. Nom nom.
**Good book here. Actually, all the ones in the uTOpia series are.
This afternoon I am skipping out on The Toronto Specfic Colloquium and eating cheese (apricot stilton) and crackers (fig olive Raincoast Crisps) in my pajamas, because I have not really been home all week except to sleep, and not enough of that got done either. Even when this means doing impeccably fun stuff in and around the usual Dayjob activity, this can be stressful and eventually one's dishes do need washing.

What did get done?

A Brazilian barbeque outing. Dance class.

A book launch for Amy Lavender Harris's Imagining Toronto, which is an academic book about how Toronto is reflected in literature written about it and set in it. This is enough to make me geek out and buy myself ten signed copies all by itself, but doubly so because she talks about my "Midnights on the Bloor Viaduct" in it. Eeeee. :)

Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell in concert at Lee's Palace, which was not precisely what I was expecting -- apparently their second album together went really country -- but was saved by the encore (Wedding Dress! Revolver! Whee!) and the company.

Some extra-credit Dayjob work helping with a Canadian Parliamentary conference yesterday, which meant getting to watch their presentations on stuff like how PEI is coping with global warming and a particular point of political strategy involving private member's bills. This is probably not interesting to you, but after two years at Dayjob, it is interesting to me. Also, I found out that there's a lighthouse on PEI that is, no kidding, an inn that you can stay in. You can sleep in the actual lighthouse tower, right on the coast, right next to the ocean. I shit you not.

I am falling over with writing retreat lust.

Last night, Tokyo Police Club and Phoenix in concert at the Ricoh; they put rubber tile thingies on what's normally hockey ice to make a dance floor and had both a floor section and stadium seats. And this was what I was expecting: happy and bouncy and full of guitar and enough bass to make my ribs vibrate and the tip of my nose itch. I didn't take pictures: we were too busy dancing every stressful thing from the last week down to a puddle on the floor. But have a sample.

Phoenix did this sweet little three-song acoustic bit in the middle of the dance floor, where the sound boards were set up: now it's an arena show! Now it's an intimate venue! Presto! It was really nice, and very deeply French in a way I can't pinpoint for you. And while Dr. My Roommate was a little ambivalent about the "Now we will be experimental rock people!" thing that preceded it, I was fully on board.

There are two shows tonight I could be going to, one stand-up-and-dance, one sit-down-and-get-squished-because-it's-Massey-Hall. I am probably bailing on both. The allure of my jammies is strong, and after all this, an evening in knitting and watching bad TV is probably indicated.

Note that at no point during this post did I mention the word revising. :D
Things have been busy, both at Dayjob and home (and abroad I'm sure, and socially, for that matter). All-night art festivals! Dance classes! Scavenger hunt dinners! Revising! Rush projects! Digging out from altogether too much e-mail!

There is much too much to do in this city in the fall, and this is a wonderful first-world problem to have.

Some stuff piled up while I was doing all that.

For one, I have an episode -- "The Closet Monster" live at Shadow Unit this week. About 13,000 words of ECR goodness!

For two, Horrorscope reviewed On Spec #80, and with it, "A Thousand".

For three, poem "For Pomegranates", the one I read at the Rhysling thing at Readercon this year, will be in this month's issue of Goblin Fruit when it goes live, which is sometime this weekend. Not yet. I let you know when.

For four, I'll be panelling at the first annual SFContario in mid-November, and here is my panel schedule:

Saturday 8:00PM, Gardenview
Best Books of 2010
Hugo and Aurora nominations open soon. What novels and stories caught your attention this year?
(Leah Bobet(M), Sandra Katsuri, Karin Lowachee, Michael Martineck)

Saturday 10:00PM, Ballroom BC
Short stories and Novellas: Where’s the Love?
Sure, we say we love reading shorter works, but it’s the novels that sell, and awards for shorter fiction tend to go to successful novelists. Why don’t short stories and novellas get more respect?
(Leah Bobet, Stephanie Bedwell-Grime(M), Gabrielle Harbowy, Michael Swanwick, Hayden Trenholm)

Sunday 12:00PM, Ballroom A
Review and Criticism in the SF Field
How is science fiction and fantasy being reviewed? Is it only amongst readers of SF or is it getting more mainstream attention. Are reviews helping or harming the genre, and where can the most reliable reviews be found? Are there things, aside from writing a brilliant story of course, that a writer can do to insure a positive review or should the writer ignore reviews altogether?
(Leah Bobet, Peter Halasz, Monica Pacheco, Tony Pi(M))

Otherwise I will be in other people's panels knitting and listening with intent. Or in the bar.
A lot of my days are spent revising things right now (well, the parts that aren't spent working the Dayjob). Yesterday was primarily devoted to revising a new episode of Shadow Unit, which debuts next week, I think; the default position is revising Above.

Today, though, was Word on the Street.

It was a really good day for it: sunny and cool and bright. The whole thing felt a little smaller than last year, and my haul was proportionally smaller:

Words Written Backwards, Gemma Files
Temporary Monsters and The Ash Angels, Ian Rogers
Greentopia: Towards a Sustainable Toronto, Alana Wilcox, Christina Palassio, and Jonny Dovercourt, eds.
HTO: Toronto's Water from Lake Iroquois to Lost Rivers to Low-flow Toilets, Wayne Reeves and Christina Palassio, eds.
Your Secrets Sleep With Me, Darren O'Donnell
Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto, Shawn Micallef
Witness to a City, David Miller and Douglas Arrowsmith

Those last two are signed. The mayor of Toronto said I have a lovely smile while he signed my book. Squee.

Saw a lot of the usual crowd: the CZP peoples, Merril peoples, Stephen Geigen-Miller and Greg Beettam, [livejournal.com profile] cszego, [livejournal.com profile] delta_november, [livejournal.com profile] davidnickle, Claude Lalumiere, Madeline Ashby, horror writers, etc. and et al. I stayed most of the afternoon, and walked home as it was starting to cloud over.

Tonight has been for using up the farmshare. The radio's on, there are cabbage rolls in the oven and potato-leek soup on the stove, and the rest will go into some red curry tomorrow. Dr. My Roommate has made cranberry-honey sauce and beef stew. We're chipping away at a bottle of apple cider.

I went outside earlier to take out the (massive quantities of) organic waste and recycle that happen when we get into cooking fits, and there's the smallest bite of winter in the air.

I think I'll leave it there. There's a massive satisfaction to the sharpness of that smell, and the double handful of leaves already underfoot.
leahbobet: (gardening)
Normally, on a Labour Day long weekend, this post would contain a public accountability list: especially since the temperature's dropped like a rock today, and everything is crisp and cool and putting me in mind of roasting a chicken and wearing sweaters and wristwarmers everywhere I go. Thing is -- and I don't know if this is a side effect of getting rid of half of what I owned, or embracing the philosophy of maintenance cleaning (if I clean it while it's just a little gross, it won't get really gross!) or just finally being rid of forced-air heating that blows dust everywhere -- I don't really have all that much I need to be doing.

No, really. My primary responsibilities this weekend are to drink lots of tea, do a little cooking so my farmshare veggies don't go bad, and work on the edit letter for Above. That's about it. I do have to do a few little things like returning the empty milk bottles, but those really hardly count.

All this freedom is giddy and terrifying. *g*

November 2016

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