Thursday, 19 December 2013

How to Remain Stress Free When Faced with Christmas Shopping

It has come to my attention, upon entering a mall, that some people are a wee-bit stressed during the holiday season.  The disheveled scramble to get the “perfect” gift (or any gift for that matter) leaves us all in our own little stressed out world that has us elbowing others or (in my case) being elbowed by others. Not to mention, the amount of cash we are dishing out in order to please others! Yikes! Now, being an expert shopper, gift giver, and holiday celebrator, I thought I would give you a few tips on how to do this stress free.


1.     Begin by creating a list/excel file of everyone you are buying for.

2.     Look at the above list and ask yourself—do all of these people really need to be on my list? (Probably not) so scratch out a few and make some “certificates” that a certain amount of money has been donated in their name to The Human Fund.

3.     Think about whom off of your list would be okay with a homemade gift. A book of personalized coupons can go to them—I mean this will be the most valuable gift of all—time with you!

4.     For the rest that you haven’t scratched out or couponed, set a budget for each of them, and when shopping try to stay lower than it.

5.     If you are really stumped at what to get a person, and don’t want to go the gift certificate route, get them a biography. You can’t go wrong with trying to give them inspiration!



Now that you are done the gift getting, you must wrap the gifts. Go for the bags. If you are stuck with the wrapping paper—all the luck to you and your back. If you are really stumped, you can drop the gifts off at my place, but I charge per gift!


Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

A Reflection: The Handmaid's Tale

I have finally reached the halfway mark with the one and only The Handmaid's Tale. Surprisingly, this book never made it on to any of my reading lists in grade school or university. Somehow, I have read this book until now. Not that I avoided it or felt anything towards it initially, but, after finishing this novel, I can't help but feel cheated. I feel like this novel cheated me out of a full story, and left me with an unfulfilled feeling. Yes, it is my own fault for loving the happy endings of stories, the kinds where all of the knots are tied nicely. Scratch that, I don't need it to be happily tied in a bow, just tied together. And yes, while I appreciate that this is a well established, highly esteemed novel, I am left feeling discontented and, frankly, angry.

First of all, this is definitely a novel for those who love language. It is the words that make this book (cause let’s face it, nothing really happens until, roughly, page 200). And while I enjoy language-- I have a hard time understanding sentences like:

"His face is long and mournful like a sheep's, but with the large full eyes of a dog, spaniel not terrier" (26)

Leaving the sheep aside (an animal which I have never thought as particularly mournful) what is the difference between the eye of a terrier versus a spaniel (and I ask this as a dog person)?


What is the difference? Is one more loving, more mournful, more needing? Or is she merely saying that this man, Nick, is like a dog?

This is not the only time Atwood mentions dogs, but I shan't go into all of those references in this reflection as I think I have made my initial point.

Atwood also uses this exact sentence structure when she our protagonists explains that she  " tell[s] the time by the moon. Lunar, not solar" (249). Out of curiosity, how do you tell the time by the moon solarly? Ah, well, perhaps these sentences are better left for the literary geniuses and not the general public.

The world Atwood creates is intriguing and one which the reader wants to learn more about, but part of the catch 22 is that the narrator that we are following doesn't even know about her own world because, as Atwood explains in the question and answer section at the end of the book "it would be cheating to show the reader more than the character has access to. Her information is limited. In fact, her lack of information is part of the nightmare" (398).  As the reader I say...great, just great. So we basically read about a dystopian world and **SPOILER ALERT** just when things are actually about to happen the narration/manuscript ends and we are left with an “Anne Frank effect”, of looking back through records trying to decipher, through process of elimination, what actually happened. Oh, and to top it off, we can't really make sense of anything. So what about her child, Luke, her mother, Nick, her commander, and Serena Joy? What about the eyes that just took her? What about her own fate?  WHAT IS HER REAL NAME?! The only thing that we know is that she had time after the events of the novel, to record the events. Like I said I enjoyed the world, the language was intriguing and poetic, but I am left feeling cheated

Up Next: Moby Dick

Thursday, 7 November 2013

A Reflection: Crime and Punishments

This is it, the third and final "big one". By that I mean, the final book on my Challenge List written by one of the top Russian masters and, I would have to say, out of the three: War and Peace, Ana Karenina and Crime and Punishment, it is my favourite. As I mentioned in my post of Ana Karenina, I prefer more "action" writing than description writing. I would define "action" writing as actual writing of action taking place in the novel or dialogue that drives the plot forward. This novel had much more "action" writing resulting in a good paced, forward-moving plot. Because this was a translation (due to my lack of bilingualism), I still felt that I lost a lot of what makes Dostoevsky's work so intriguing and "masterful". However, the overall plot itself was still highly interesting and fun to read.
It helps, perhaps, that I began reading this novel on Halloween. The gruesomeness of the beginning of the book fits right in with the backdrop of the annual celebration of the dead. As we follow the protagonist’s, Raskolnikov's, thoughts we are lead to believe that we are reading the story of a mad man. Given that the title of this novel is Crime and Punishment it is assumed that this novel will revolve around a crime and a punishment. We quickly identify what the crime is, but what will be the punishment? Is it his own torment of mind, his illness, or, the law? At the beginning of the novel, it is assumed the purpose of the crime is to obtain money. As the readers, we understand the destitute and desperation that many of the characters are living through, but after the crime is committed, Raskolnikov continually finds himself in situations where he is given money, and he chooses not to accept it. We actually see this even before he commits his crime when he gives the last of his money away to a family he just met. Once the crime is committed there are numerous opportunities that Raskolnikov could easily take advantage of, but subconsciously (whether he realizes that he is always avoiding these opportunities is unclear) he finds reasons to turn them down: there is his friend Razumikhin who is willing to share his work on translating pamphlets (one of which comically explores whether or not a woman is a human being) , there is the woman in the street that hands Raskolnikov a coin (although if Raskolnikov had not committed the crime he would arguably not have been in the street at this time), there is his own mother and sister who send him money...etc. Slowly, however, Dostoevsky reveals that Raskolnikov had a different motive for committing his crime, a motive that revolves around theories and geniuses! All in all, I would have to say Dostoevsky does a great job of showing the different sides of a potential mad man or genius.
Before I end this "reflection" I can't help but mention the theme of fate that Dostoevsky so cleverly entwined in his narrative. Was the crime Raskolnikov committed his destiny planned from the beginning by something greater causing him to be in, what one would argue as the right place at the right time, or a conscious choice that he made which forced him to be in those places?
Needless to say, I really enjoyed this novel.

Up Next: A Hand Maid's Tale

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

A Reflection: Ana Karenina

Well, what is there to say about this massive novel? This novel, famously, deals with many major topics such as women in society, fidelity, marriage, jealousy... basically a very large list of moral ideals. Tolstoy plays with the hypocrisy between men committing adultery versus women committing adultery. Initially, the modern day reader may feel that Tolstoy is (wonderfully?—if you are a woman) highlighting the unfairness in the way society treats women. Further analysis suggests, however, that it is the dramatic character that women have which prohibits them from making rational decisions upon being disloyal to their husbands. Therefore, Ana’s life which spirals downward, is simply the consequence of her revolting against the traditional role of women in society.
Because of the size of this novel, Tolstoy has enabled himself to riddle many morals and themes throughout the story without slapping the reader in the face with them, take his slight mockery of the church or religion, or the idea of forgiveness, these are tidily placed within characters and their traits, or story lines of some of the other characters.

I would have to say, overall I enjoyed the beginning of the novel and the end, but I had a hard time staying interested in the middle. My "issues" stem from a few things: a) Because I am not reading the original but rather my Kobo translation, the actual words are not as important and the emphasis is placed heavily on the story, possibly losing some of the initial brilliance of the novel. b) The story is based on the description of inner turmoil’s of characters and while there is some dialogue and events (or more “active writing”) it is not something Tolstoy focuses on, I prefer the “more active” style c) I (mistakenly) jumped at the opportunity to watch the new film of Ana Kerenina while in the middle of reading the book. While I knew that the book was rather depressing, I was not prepared for the film to omit roughly from the 50 % mark to the 75% mark of the novel. It made it difficult to go back and read everything when I already knew the outcome.

All in all, I would say this novel is definitely worth the read. Let’s face it, it’s Tolstoy! P.S Stylistically, the movie is very intriguing, but it drags.

Up Next: Crime and Punishment (for real this time)

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

A Refelction: Catch 22

 Justice is a knee in the gut from the floor on the chin at night sneaky with a knife brought up down on the magazine of a battleship sandbagged underhanded in the dark without a word of warning.

Catch 22. What a book. I would say this has to be some of my favorite writing. I love a good satire and Joseph Heller just seems to take command. While laughing my way through, I can't help but truly think about what it's commenting on. Brilliant. I think the only way for you to understand what I am saying, is to read it-- so I will leave you a little taste of Heller.

"He woke up blinking with a slight pain in his head and opened his eyes upon a world boiling in chaos in which everything was in proper order"

"'Because I'm the people I buy them from,' Milo Explained. 'I make a profit of three and a quarter cents apiece when I sell them to me and from me. That's a total profit of six cents an egg. I lose only two cents an egg when I sell them to the mess halls at five cents apiece, and that's how I can make a profit buying eggs for seven cents apiece and selling them for five cents apiece. I pay only one cent apiece at the hen when I buy them in Sicily.' "

"There was no way of really knowing anything, he knew, not even that there was no way of really knowing anything"

Up Nest: Crime and Punishment

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

A Reflection: Of Mice and Men

When I think back to the first time I read Steinbeck I remember not liking it that much. This was probably because I was in grade 8 and we were reading The Pearl for an assignment. I can't remember the novel that well, but I can remember being overcome by a repellent feeling that I had while reading it.

Ten years later and I had that same repellent feeling while reading Of Mice and Men, but this time I was able to identify what this feeling meant. I think Steinbeck enlisted in me a range of emotions that I do not always want to deal with on a day to day basis. It's hard to face the idea of good people doing bad things, or the innocent being tormented by the more intelligent. As an animal lover I couldn't help but see the connection between Lennie and the animals that he wants to pet, and this tore at my heart. I think Steinbeck is a wonderful author who touches on themes in only 100 pages that other authors aren't able to hint at their whole lives (and not for a lack of trying).

Up next: Catch 22

Friday, 2 August 2013

A Reflection: Middlemarch

When I first began this novel I was obsessed with Downton Abbey-- so I convinced myself that this book would be a lot like Downton, even though this novel is set well before the 1900's . While this book was not a look at the lives of the rich and the poor as Downton Abbey is, they could easily take plotlines from Middlemarch (as they seem to be doing with Jane Eyre). Regardless of its likeness to a popular television show, Middlemarch surprised me by being a novel that was both romantic while being aware of the ups and downs that come with love.

This novel is not a romance novel between a couple-- instead it is a collection of relationships that allows the reader to analyze what makes a good companionship and what makes a bad companionship. This in-depth dissection is precisely why Mary Anne Evans chose to write her novels under the male pseudonym George Elliot, because it allowed her to stray from the usual constraints that were placed on female writers in the 1860's and 70's. Middlemarch is an epic without the epicness. It is a beautiful tale of normal people during a political time. It is a true insight on how the "middle"men cope in such a big world with so many other "things" going on.
Up next: Of Mice and Men

Monday, 8 July 2013

A Reflection: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

I actually finished this a while ago, but have not yet written about it. Originally this was not going to be the next book I read, but because I was involved in an Agatha Christie production, I thought it would be beneficial to begin reading some detective novels and to get the feel for them. I also thought, reading at least one author who influenced Christie would help to understand what makes her so "revolutionary" as a mystery writer.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was quite a joy to read. When reading detective stories, I can't help but try to figure out the mystery before it is revealed (I think most readers do this). As I read, I started actually getting the hang of how to solve the mysteries...or I just became good at guessing who it was and then reading how Sherlock figures it out.

This is a great book, which I recomend to all detective lovers who have not yet read Sir Aurther Conan Doyle.

As for Christie, I then went on to read And Then there were None, which has had it's title changed twice since being published-- and continued with Murder on the Orient Express, which has also had it's title changed. These murder mysteries have been fun and enjoyable-- although giving me incredibly strange dreams.

Up Next: Middlemarch

Monday, 22 April 2013

Meeting Mya

Meet Mya (pronounced My-ah-- and yes, we recently changed the spelling), the newest addition to our family. She is a 3 year old (estimated) Chihuahua- Dachshund mix who is about 10 pounds. I would like to start with a bit of her story so you can fall in love with her (if you haven’t already from the pic).
Mya came from a puppy mill near Milbank Ontario. For those of you who don't know what a puppy mill is, it is a place where (usually Amish/Mennonite) people have turned to breeding dogs in order to generate income. The dogs are often kept in a barn, in small cages where they have to defecate, sleep, eat and live-- never seeing the outside world. They are simply livestock. Because the Amish do not (usually) have electricity or running water etc., the conditions that the dogs are kept in are horrific. Many dogs go blind, lose teeth and get a variety of other viruses because of the poor, unclean quality that they are kept in. Often, females are over-bread and do not make it past the age of 5. Once the "caretakers" are done with the dogs, they shoot them. Mya is lucky. Mya made it out.

Kismutt Small Dog Rescue is responsible for saving our Mya, and many like her. They "call [themselves] Kismutt Small Dog Rescue because the word kismet means fate or destiny. [Their] mission is to alter the course of destiny for dogs in need, dogs that have been abandoned or abused, or are in danger of being euthanized. [They] provide them with a happier, more deserving fate by placing them in loving permanent homes. Kismutt Small Dog Rescue was created to help counteract the pet-overpopulation epidemic facing North America today. For whatever reason, our society has deemed pets a disposable commodity, to be acquired and discarded at will. Millions of pets are senselessly destroyed every year..."( . You can follow this link to find out more about Kismutt and the amazing work they do-- you can also get a better visual of puppy mills (but I can't post them here because they break my heart). An interview with Kimberly Thomas, founder of Kismutt, can be found at  where Thomas speaks about how Kismutt began. Thomas delves into the fact that while she is an enabler (because she responds to the puppy millers and picks up the un-wanted dogs in essence, helping the mills), it is about the dogs in the end.

While puppy mills are not illegal, because of Thomas, and people like her-- more and more inspections and regulations are being placed on puppy mills. It is time that people become more educated and aware of the puppy mill predicament, so we can provoke change within our country.

As for our Mya apparently, upon a visit to the puppy mill "she was hiding in the back of her cage and the Amish mill owner grabbed her out and held her up by both hind legs. [The rescuer] was full of mill dogs, so [they] sent her to TAS... She is the sweetest little girl you can imagine" (a fb post I found on her).

I first saw my baby-girl on a blog post on the Pound Dogs of Toronto Animal Services South face book page. The blog ( which is full of beautiful pictures taken by a man named Fred (who also takes care of the blog itself).

Fred went on to chronicle Laura's, now called Mya's, story of how she came to TAS with an eye infection that, left untreated, would have caused her to go blind. With the help of both vet check-ups and foster care, Mya was treated and her eyes became clear again. She was described as a "happy, though still shy, little squirt".

This is where I come in. I saw her picture. I fell in love. We had been talking about a second dog for a while (specifically thinking about getting a Chihuahua), however the idea of going through the "puppy stages" right now was not what we wanted. We also knew that Vinny (our toy poodle (5 lbs)) doesn't like puppies so it would be a challenge to work with him. Could this be a different option? The "shy" description is what made me know it would work. If we were to get a second dog, it would have to be one that wouldn't push Vinny around. I kept looking at her picture and asking myself if this was our dog. I checked the pound site-- there she was. We slept on it and in the morning, when I checked on her, she was gone. Adopted. Not meant to be. I was disappointed. I didn't realize how much I was thinking of adopting her until I wasn't able to anymore.

However, this got me thinking that maybe-- just maybe it was finally time to consider adopting a rescue dog (something I have always wanted to do, but have never been sure if I had the strength or if I was a good enough dog owner). I started checking the adoption site regularly (I get obsessed very quickly). That afternoon, she was back. It was our dog. I knew it. I phoned to find out when we could come meet her. (Once you meet these babies, there is no going back-- and we both knew that). We met her, and she became our newest baby-- Vinny's new sister. Although I don't think Vinny was as excited about this as we were, but he still manages to get more than enough attention.

We take things day-by- day with Mya. She is a shy, special little girl, who needs patience and love. I realize that this is a ‘three steps forward, two steps back’ kind of situation, but focusing on the positive is key. We have already come leaps-and-bounds with her.

I would like to thank all of those people who helped Mya out along the way. To those who rescued her, fostered her, took the time to give her eye drops, all of those at the TAS, caring for these animals, and constantly trying to find good homes for them, my heart goes out to you.

Friday, 19 April 2013

A Reflection: Jane Eyre

I wasn't sure whether or not I was going to enjoy reading this book. We did a version of this play (an adaptation of the novel) in my final year of university, with my graduating class. I know the story fairly well, and while I had forgotten some of the details, the general plot was still embedded in my brain. I, usually, love not knowing what comes next. However, I was very happy when I started reading the novel and found that I really liked reading it (for the most part). Some lines that I remember from our play were directly taken from the book, which was a pleasant surprise (finding that the play didn't totally twist Bronte's original story).
I don't think it was ever a requirement for those of us in the play, to actually read the novel. While some of us did, many of us did not. My excuse...well I had started the novel when I found out that we were to be doing a production of it-- and before I knew it I was only 188 pages in, and school was starting, and I had no time to read the rest of it. (So… not much of an excuse, to say the least). Lucky for me, I had read my characters (Helen Burns’) entire portion of the story, so I had done some research.

As for the novel itself, I think it is a definite testament of true love. The characters are not depicted as the most attractive, or the nicest people, but they have qualities that the reader can't help but like. For the most part, the novel seemed to move along at a good pace until we reached Marsh End (aka no more Mr. Rochester). The reason why I found this part of the novel so slow-- I believe-- was because it became repetitive in conversation and conflicts. Bronte revisited the same topics a few times-- in fact once Jane has a dispute with St. John Rivers, the readers have to read through a recount that Jane tells Diana. I suppose, it makes us feel as though this is truly Jane's diary-- but all the same, it seems to slow the progress of the novel down -- I mean just go back to Mr. Rochester already! This was also likely to add suspense (but let’s face it, that suspense doesn't need to last 90 pages).
All in all, I like the novel and am happy that it brought back so many memories of my university years!

Up Next: The adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Friday, 5 April 2013

A Reflection: Lord of the Rings

If there is one thing I can say about these epics, it's that they took you on quite a journey. The world Tolkein has created and made come to life through these tales is incredible. I am not going to sit here and explain what I liked and did not like about these novels, as I realise that many people love these books for good reason, and who am I to talk about something I have only read through once. I understand why people have come to love and cherish these books for they are grand, incredibly well thought out, and the world is so well developed that it would be easy for a reader to fantasize about being there themselves. As a woman, I would have to say that I felt these novels were lacking in women characters-- however, given the time that Tolkein wrote, it is forgivable. After reading these adventures-- I have to say how shocked I am at how much is taken from them for other works *cough* Harry Potter** cough...but, then again, the best artists steel.

Up Next: Jane Eyre

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

A Reflection: A Tale of two Cities

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this novel after having read Great Expectations—but I did. I found it really touching. The goodness of the characters was beautiful and refreshing to read. I love good characters. I don’t mean to say that I love perfect characters, I just love good characters; Characters that, in spite of their flaws and failures, never cease to try to better themselves. As Les Misérables takes over (in film form), I can’t help but think that this is a wonderful story to make you think about the different sides of this French Revolution. Dickens makes you think about the Republics – who win your heart in the Les Mis musical—and the “rest” of the French population. In the musical it is clear who is evil and who is not, and Dickens does a wonderful job of making that less clear, making you really think. (This is not to say Victor Hugo’s Les Mis is not brilliant or too simplistic as I have not read it yet and look forward to doing so in the near future).

Up Next: LOTR (finally!)  

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

A Reflection: Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility is Jane Austen’s first novel, and I must say has a much more tragic element to the romance than her later work. This is not my favorite Austen novel.  I find the constant heart-break of the two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, to be depressing and slightly tedious. What I found interesting about this novel, however, is the comparison between the two sisters. The brilliance of Austen titling the book Sense and Sensibility and leaving it to the reader to judge and determine who and what this is, is ingenious.  It is definitely worth the read, especially if you are an Austen fan—but my heart belongs to Pride and Prejudice…

Up Next: A Tale of Two Cities

Friday, 8 February 2013

A Reflection: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The fact that this novel began as a radio show makes me smile and fall in love with this humorous entertaining story even more than I already am. There is not much that I am going to say about this novel. I enjoyed how quick paced and funny this story is. I thank Douglas Adams for not making this into something overly serious and I would encourage anyone who is currently endanger of taking life to seriously, to read it.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

A Reflection: Madame Bovary

At first, when faced with reading this novel, I was excited-- I mean, a novel written in 1856 about an adulterous woman is very scandalous and I was sure that it would be fun and entertaining. I had high expectations for the main character, Emma.  I figured Emma was to be this strong, take-charge woman who had men falling at her feet, and used this as power. I should have known better. Let's face it, no novel in 1850 is going to allow adultery to be thought of as a powerful thing. (Not that I think women should commit adultery to be powerful... I just mean that it would be exciting to read about a liberated woman who takes charge of her own boring life).


I was right about the beginning, we are introduced to Charles, Emma's soon-to-be husband who happens to be fairly dull and who the readers are naturally not very fond of (due to Flaubert’s I suspect ;)) However, other than the fact that Charles had to take his medical exams twice, he is not unlikable-- just simply uninspiring and lacks passion. Emma is your typical small town woman who dreams of passions that are beyond what her life holds. Before I complain about what I did not like in this novel I have to recognize the fact that this was written in a different era for different reasons. Nonetheless, I found Emma irritating. Her adulterous nature leads her to be heart-struck, ill, near death, whiny, and lacking strength. She never finds fulfillment in her own choices which leads to her **SPOILER ALERT** downward spiral of impeding dept, and of course tragic suicide (which was not very tragic). Yes, it teaches us women a lesson-- cheating is wrong and will lead you to great unhappiness....tragedy and death. (You will also become an increasingly irritating character who the readers (perhaps just me?) care little about!). I am being brief and there are wonderful things about the writing of this novel so...  Read it yourself...although it is rather long and sometimes tedious-- maybe you will not find Emma so irritating...

Up Next: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Monday, 21 January 2013

The Balancing Act

An Actors To Do List:

Take a dance class $
Get an agent
Take a film class $$
Take a theatre class $$
Take a vocal class $$
Get new Headshots $$$
Take a casting directors workshop. $$
Take an improv class $$
Take another Dance class $

Balancing Act: Fret Less, Smile More

So, I was visiting my fathers house and had the pleasure of having a disgussion with my younger brother who was trying to figure out what courses to take in his grade 12 year. You see, the problem is he wants to keep his options open. This seems like a reasonable dellema, as I too went through the same confusion during my final year and made the fatal mistake of taking Grade 12 chemestry because clearly that would help me in my theatre life. What I have now learned is that sometimes, by trying to keep yourself unlimited, you limit yourself. Or, if not necessarily limiting, life becomes unnecessarily stressful. In the discussion with my brother we spoke about the option of taking a class in summer school. This would not be taken to lighten his load in his final year, but instead, to make space in his time table to take another class. In fact, he has made up his mind that he is not taking a single spare, meaning that he will graduate with an extra 2 credits that he doesn't need-- all in attempt to keep his options open for university.

I don't know if I was that big of a help. I can tell him my opinions, but ultimately his choices and future are (and should be) his own. But as I started thinking about his delimma, I started to realize that this balancing act does not really dissapear. How do you keep being a triple threat performer while trying to make a living? One rich. Obviously this is not an option for many of us but ultimately it would solve most of our problems. However, for those of us who are determined to do this despite the general lack of funds, we fight through balancing well...a lot! Not only do we have to work our Joe-job that sustains us and allows us to eat something once in a while, we are also trying to take dance classes, voice/singing classes, film classes, improv classes, going to shows, beinging in (mostly non-paying) shows, auditioning, picking up extra shifts/jobs, workshops and then having somewhat of a social life so that we can keep our connections/friends.  So maybe there is time in a week for the majority of the things listed but there sure isn't the money to keep up all of that. It's like my brother can only take 8 classes per year so which out of the 12 do you leave out -- well I only have enough money to do one class at a time so which needs the most work?

Of course seeking councelling is not always an option for either high school students trying to choose which path to take, or artists trying to choose which class to invest their time and money in. Everyone will have their opinions on what you should do and what you should become-- parents telling you to take an extra year in high school to "make up your mind" (secretly planning to keep you at home for the rest of your life), or other artists helping you by telling you which teacher is the best in the city (because they took from them and they are just trying to confirm that they too made the right choice). We are all just trying to remain on the balance beam and not fall. So instead of falling... I say jump. Follow your heart, your dreams, and your ambitions. Because, sometimes they are trying to tell you something but you are making too much noise trying to work out your life. Yes, you may have to close a few doors-- but in the mean time, you will open many more windows and meet many more fabulous people.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Bill 115

It's hard for me to sit by and listen to all that is being said about elementary school teachers and bill 115 that has recently been pushed upon them. It is "a collective agreement that was not collectively agreed upon."(Professor Marvin Rider, Ontario Today) I think when the general public gets a hold of situations such as this one we let our emotions takeover; emotions that blind us and make us argue with an uneducated, irrational opinion, especially because it is the children who take the brunt of the inconveniences when there is a strike involving teachers.

I am biased as I do have family members and friends who are teachers, fighting for their rights to collectively bargain. I also have family members and friends who I have had countless arguments with regarding what the teachers are fighting for. It is for both sides of my family that I write this-- to the family and friends fighting: stand up for what is right and what you believe in, I support you and your cause. And to the family and friends who fail to see the importance of the teachers plight: please consider what follows.

Countless articles, reports and discussions focus and revolve around the wage freeze that the government is implementing on the teachers. Yes, Bill 115 implements a salary freeze, 3 unpaid P.A days (where the teachers are still working), a cutback of annual sick days from 20 down to 10, and a losing of all banked sick days teachers previously acquired. However, for the majority of teachers the most important issue with this Bill 115 does not concern the above impositions. The majority of teachers are fighting against the part of the bill that allows the cabinet to intervene and prevent any strike either before or after it begins-- an infringement on the already established collective bargaining practice. In other words, taking away the unions rights to collectively bargain. Regardless of the money or the sick days, I ask you: is it a crime for teachers to stand up for their rights? Because tomorrow, the government may say that it is.

Yes, I realize at the end of the day it is always about money. Even if the teachers agree to the wage freeze for now, the collective bargaining rights that they are fighting for allow them to negotiate wages. But if you were in their position, wouldn't you want this right? The teachers are not getting paid while walking out and protesting against this bill so it can't just be about money. Furthermore, they are not just fighting for their own collective bargaining rights, but for union rights in general. If the provincial government is able to pass this bill it will set a dangerous precedent for all future union-labour negotiations.

And yes, perhaps the teachers should be happy with what they already have, the perks of being a teacher are numerous; there are the benefits, the pension plan, the steady salary and of course the vacation time (two weeks in the winter and two months in the summer)-- but how is this an argument when you, too, could have chosen to be an elementary teacher-- it's not like these perks are hidden away and kept secret from the general public. The fact is this job is not for everyone. They are sometimes treated like glorified baby sitters, and often deal with things that are not listed in the job description. They volunteer their time to coach a sport or run a team. Do you really think the teachers are happy about the "Work to Rule", where because of the actions by the provincial government they can't run the homework club, or the school play or the basketball team. The majority of teachers are just as frustrated with this situation as you are. As for the sick days, working with kids all day has got to get a bit “germy”, so frankly I wouldn't be surprised if the average teacher is more likely to catch a flu or cold than the average office worker. They need those sick days.

Unfortunately, when the teachers fight for their rights, the kids are the ones who suffer-- so if you are frustrated by this GOOD (that’s the point!), get educated and educate your kids about what the teachers are fighting for. These are jobs and unions that those kids may one day join. The teachers are not asking the kids to take sides, but they are asking for awareness and for people to understand why they must sometimes strike. And if you agree, they could use your support. Yes, it is inconvenient and frustrating and this recent skirmish has gone on far too long; teachers agree with that!

So remember tomorrow that if the teachers walk out, illegally or not, it is not because they want to. Most of them would much rather be in the classroom teaching and doing what they love. But instead, they are fighting for their rights, for what is right, and hopefully teaching the children this important lesson while they try and pave the way for union rights.

Goodbye Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Love Love Love

Bring it on. That's what I say to you 2013 (who was pointed out to me as an ominous sounding year). Ominous or not, I choose to conquer thee with lots of love, happiness and determination as I set new year goals that are, more than likely, overly ambitious and were probably my goals in 2012 and will be again in 2014. What I won't do, however, is tell you what said goals are because in all honesty...I don't want or need you to judge whether or not my year as an artist or as a person is or was a success. Setting unrealistic goals and not reaching them is not failure IF you tried. Maybe all of our goals should be unattainable; this way we never stop trying. I don't want to sit down at the end of the day and say that all my goals in life are complete. If all your dreams came true, what would you dream about? Most (all?) artists are dreamers; it's what allows us to always be working on bettering ourselves.

In the mean time, some things I dug into over the holiday season:

Les Miserables

I have read numerous people’s feelings/opinions/reviews on this film, some raving and generous, some hateful an uneducated and some straight down the line. I enjoyed it. I am not going to sit here and pick out the flaws that are obvious to some and not to others. But if you are curious-- go see it and make your own opinions. I for one can't wait to read the book after seeing this, I think it will shed new light on the performers choices, and the composers creativity.

Gone Girl

I heard about this novel from a store clerk in Coles who raved about it. After reading it, I am not sure how I feel about this novel. While many people believe it to be one of the best novels they read in 2012, I cannot attest to that. This is a mystery/thriller novel that has chapters that alternate between the husband and wife's voice. It is about a relationship and a wife that goes missing. I can't tell you more because it pretty much would give the whole thing away. This novel is a good novel but I am not sure if I liked it. The characters are difficult to love and for this reason I give Flynn props for being able to create characters that are not always likeable, and yet you want to continue with the novel none-the-less.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This is a gem of a film. Who doesn't like Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. This film hit a sweet spot for me as the acting was wonderful, the story was charming and of course the backdrop of India is irresistible to someone who clings to the memories of a trip that seems so long ago. No wonder it has a few Golden Globe nominations!

Life of Pi

The more I think about this film, the more I like it. My first reaction was that the story makes for a better book than movie, but ironically this is exactly what the movie wants you to think about -- story telling. I do not think you can realize how clever this film is without having read the book first. The storybook frame, and postmodern twists are what make this film smart but I must tip my hat off to Ang Lee for making this film stunning. Yes, at times I felt that it was a more humorous take on the infamous Cast Away, and natural animal behavior is sometimes difficult to watch, but overall a stunning and clever film.

So, 2013, we are off with a few new projects to look forward to doing (A Chorus Line, Lovelash, Auditions...etc) and a lot more story's, be it books or movies, to dig I can't complain!