Monthly Archives: February 2013

The DapperDame take Vegas by Light Drizzle


For 5 days ShanWow and I unleashed our old lady ways on Las Vegas, Nevada.  Which means I get to check another state off of my been-to list (taking it up to 10/50).  Las Vegas is an intense place and a place I was interested to see for myself but glad there was a conference as an ulterior motive.  There is so much to see but it ends up being casinos and fancy stores where I can’t afford the keychains (or cheesy keychain and magnet stores).

Since I wasn’t interested in snow globes and I can’t afford Gucci I came home with one souvenir:

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Ceramic, balloon shaped booze holder

Classy, right?  I thought it would go better on my hutch than a plastic guitar

Highlights:

1. Scoping someone (aka using a rigid endoscopy camera to view their vocal folds!) at the conference

2. The Titanic exhibit at The Luxor – real artifacts, facts on real passengers, nighttime replica of the deck complete with cool air and “stars”, and a giant chunk of the hull.  Yep, the Luxor even bought the Titanic.

3. Blue Man Group – a very interactive show with visual percussion, floaty eye balls and a truly impressive round of chubby bunny

4.  Don’t Tell Mama piano bar on the old strip – singing bartenders and a very chill vibe made this a good contrast to almost everything else in the city

5.  Cinna-stack pancakes at IHOP – this was my favourite culinary experience in the city.  No regrets getting off The Deuce for a pit stop at that great American diner.

Lowlights:  Really, there are no overtly negative memories but some things were a little “blah”

1. Slot machines get boring fast – and $20 goes quickly as the machine teases you with a little influx and then down, back up, down but you know you aren’t getting your money back.  Plus it is depressing when it costs $11 to take $40 out of the bank.  Snap!

2.  No poker – there was a $100 buy-in poker tournament open to anyone in the conference and I chickened out.  It was a big price (for me) and I didn’t know anyone playing but it would have been good to network and probably just fun.

3.  Missing the last few lectures at the conference – to save money and vacation time we left mid-day on Tuesday and skipped some interesting talks.

4.  No grand canyon – we were all conference and no canyon.  Logistics won out but this would have been something more my style.

A photo essay

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Fremont Street aka Old School Vegas

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Take your pick – buy a 4 foot bong-shaped receptacle, choose a slush, add booze – walk around on street drinking and looking….awesome.

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ShanWow, Dopey and the best menu on earth

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IHop offers choices (ones that are more impressive if you don’t actually eat them). #underwhelmed

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One of the many lobbies…Caesar’s?

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Outside the Venetian.

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Mama gypsy eyeball and baby chirpy eyeball at the Blue Man show.

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A wall of every M&M colour ever created.

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Can I check New York off my list?

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Our perfectly-acceptable-and-not-a-lot-more hotel

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We ran into quite a few celebrities

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Can I check Paris off my list?

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This one is for the sister – in the handprints of Samuel L. Jackson

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Bonus – did we mention that we got free food and beer (that we were too full to eat/drink) to be extras in an MLive TV shoot to air in all M hotels in April.  That is just one step before fame.  Don’t know what MLive TV is?  Well, neither do I.

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Canada Reads Report

The week has come and gone and this girl read all the books BEFOREhand.  Preparation.  Now the process of narrowing down to the winner.  Jian Gomeshi sits around a table with the panelists inciting debate.  During each hour long round the other panelists vote books off a la survivor.

Prediction:  Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

Winner:  February by Lisa Moore

Indian Horse was my prediction for the win for two reasons:  it was an engaging story; I thought no one would speak badly of it because of the burgeoning Idle No More movement.  While the book was generally supported by 3/5 panelists, Charlotte Gray (defender of Away) and Ron MacLean found major fault with it including not enough hope at the end, too much hockey (from Ron MacLean’s mouth!) and lack of realistic non-native characters.

First to go was Age of Hope by David Bergen and defended by Ron MacLean.  Although Mr. MacLean started the reading reality show as the jokester and slight-hard-to-take panel clown he spoke passionately in defence of Hope Koop and her seemingly unexplained depression.  But the other readers weren’t moved – they needed her to have a reason to be depressed, something to set her off so even though MacLean tried to rally for the cause of being more understanding of mental health it was the first to be voted off.

Away, though championed by the most eloquent of the panel, Charlotte Gray, the other panelists could not get past the poetic language to connect with the characters and it was eliminated next.

Despite Indian Horse consistently winning by a big margin with readers in the online poll and the book tackling a very current topic MacLean and Gray thought there are other books available that do more to speak about residential schools.  It was then down to Two Solitudes and February.  

After some intense discussion and a valiant defence by Jay Baruchel for Two Solitudes it was kicked off in favour of a more modern novel of grief called February.

 

Do I agree?  Yes and no.  The discussion convinced me that, while a very captivating novel, Indian Horse was lacking in some key areas but they did not convince me that February was a book for all Canadians.  If I could change my vote it would be for Away by Jane Urquhart for its beautiful language and interesting characters.  Knowing each of the books made the discussions more personal and helped me consider each book from angles I hadn’t seen on my own.  I hope this becomes an annual DapperDame event.

The Dapperdame Can Lead

There are three basic types of climbing:  bouldering (no rope, not very high), top roping (the rope is anchored above at all times), lead climbing (you bring your own rope and hook it as you go).  I’ve still been making it out to the climbing gym about 3 times a week and it has been split between bouldering and top-roping working on 5.10s (although not very well).

So one of my climbing buddies, Sister Act, that I met in the climbing class that started this obsession wants to take the next class for climbing outdoors.  The catch was that I couldn’t sign up without my lead belay certificate and there were only 3 spots left.  Crunch time.  So after a refresher on Friday, Sister Act and I went to the wall tonight and got me my LEAD.  That’s right, I can LEAD climb.  LEAD.  Should I mention it rhymes with tweed and not sped?

Then I promptly strolled over to the counter, whipped out my avion card and…was told that the class filled up yesterday.  At least it finally inspired me to move to a whole new challenge.  Sister Act and I then proceeded to very timidly try out our new lead belay skills.  All of a sudden I find myself afraid to fall off the wall.  But the fear was conquered on a second attempt of a….5.8.  I guess no daring routes on lead quite yet.  Back to the basics.

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The DapperDame does a winter carnival

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Father and daughter

In an effort to challenge ourselves to take more photos S-Club and I moseyed down to the Silver Skate Festival in Hawreluk Park yesterday.  Not really sure what to expect we weren’t prepared for offerings of free cross country ski rentals, snowshoes and speed skates.  Free was apparently the theme of the day and we stood in line to cook up some bannock and roll some maple syrup on snow.  That’s right, two essential Canadian food ‘speriences in one shot – too bad I wasn’t hosting any surfers at the time.  The festival ended with a magical winter fairy land.

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Preparing for the jingle dress dance

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Plus there were some old school metal workers.  The festival was a bit of a mishmash but an entertaining and interesting one.

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Plus some secret little hanging eggs.  Fun lights to light the path at night?  Perhaps…

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Or surprise little fantasy worlds

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The DapperDame does Sikhism

A little couchsurfing birdie told me about a beautiful Sikh gurdwara (aka place of worship) on the northeast side of Edmonton.  Even though I wasn’t in the market for a religion I was definitely open to lovely architecture, friendly people and free food.  Apparently there are 4 gurdwaras in the Edmonton area and a bursting Sikh community.  The religion originated in Punjab, India in the 1400s by Guru Nanak who was followed by 9 other gurus.  My daily life is impacted by Sikhism as I often eat lunch in the Guru Nanak healing gardens at work to watch the snow and relax.  The Sikh holy book is the Guru Granth Sahib and it is a monotheistic religion with Vahiguru as god.  The founding principles are equality (rejection of caste), charity and salvation by spiritual unification with god often via meditation.  And that was an extremely simplistic and possibly not entirely correct overview of Sikhism.

Since she’s usually up for an adventure ShanWoww joined me to tour the facilities (but there was no slack to pick up).  One could not miss this massive and ornately decorated dome looming over the highway.  Even though it has been there for over 20 years they continue to add wings to the building and worshipers are encouraged to volunteer some of their time to help with construction.  The gurdwara is open 24/7 to anyone. We were welcoming immediately and offered a tour.  The only thing requested of us is that we cover our heads with a white cloth provided by them.

After the requested covering we were led upstairs to a beautiful room where members take 2 hour shifts from Friday to Sunday and read through the scriptures from start to finish.  We were offered a handful of sticky, sweet dough of which we did not quite understand the significance.  Please please let it be nothing like the Catholic eucharist* because I immediately dropped part of it on the carpet.

We were then led back downstairs where we were offered delicious vegetarian Indian food prepared by volunteers that start at 4am to have food prepared for the day.  We had chapati, dal and a few other dishes and all was scrumptious.  Better than the food it was sharing it with a Sikh woman and her 5 year old daughter.  This woman spends all week at work to provide for her family and then spends the whole weekend volunteering at the gurwara including teaching Punjabi to a bunch of kindergarteners.  And I got a little hug on the way out from the bouncy little one.

*Catholics believe in a process of transubstantiation where those little tasteless wafers with the help of some ritual prayers literally become the body of Jesus.  Yes, cannibalism.  So to drop a wafer on the ground would be frowned upon to say the least.

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Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese (5/5)

This is it – the last book and with 24 hours to spare before the Canada Reads debates begin.  I’ve also decided which book to root for.  The newest book on the list by, possibly, the least known of the authors is Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese and it is my choice for Canada Reads 2013.  As the first time through CR I enjoyed the process and the journey but I enjoyed some books more than others.  The reason I support Indian Horse for the win is that this was the only book I would recommend to friends outside of Canada and to Canadian friends who aren’t in to stodgy, flowery, theme-heavy CanLit for the sake of it.

Somehow Indian Horse manages to be about hockey, white-aboriginal relations and to be set in northern Ontario but still accessible to anyone.  The author addresses some very dark corners of Canada’s recent past.

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

Saul Indian Horse introduces himself to the reader while he is at a very low point in his life – he is in an addictions treatment facility and has been asked to tell his story as a form of healing.  In his own words he takes us through his early childhood with his parents and grandmother to his time in St. Jerome’s, a residential school in Northern Ontario, where he is introduced to hockey and teaches himself to play as an escape from the spirit-breaking clergy that run the school.  When it is clear that he has some real talent he begins to play for the Manitowadge Moose traveling team first playing other Reserve teams and then being pitted against white teams.

Wagamese sets our protagonist up as a very thinly veiled Indian Wayne Gretzky:  Indian Horse is much smaller than other plays; he prefers to walk away than to fight, not to engage; he is a very fast skater; Indian Horse has “the vision” often prescribed to Gretzky that allows them to read the ice and know where players will be when seeming to make completely blind passes.  Essentially, we are given an alternate reality where these almost supernatural hockey skills are found not in a member of privileged white society of the 1970s and ’80s but in a First Nations boy in a residential school around the same time – perhaps one of the least enfranchised groups ever in Canada.  Will Indian Horse be able to keep the joy he gets from the game as he is subject to racism, stereotyping, the pressure of living out the dreams of others and haunting memories that surface from his time in St. Jerome’s?  Would the outcome have been the same – would we still have Canada’s sports icon?

Warning:  this isn’t an easy book to read.  Indian Horse’s life was not an easy one.  Yes, it is a novel but do not think that any of the events in the story were entire fabrications.  All of these things could have (likely have) happened.

Quotes:

1.  “They took me to St. Jerome’s Indian Residential School.  I read once that there are holes in the universe that swallow all light, all bodies.  St. Jerome’s took all the light from my world.  Everything I knew vanished behind me with an audible swish, like the sound a moose makes disappearing into the spruce.”

2.  ” ‘This ice is crap,’ I complained to Virgil. ‘On outdoor ice you really gotta know how to skate.’

‘It’s arena ice,’ he said. ‘Same everywhere.’

‘That’s what I mean.  The ice in Heron Bay was rough where the wind cut through the black spruce and made ripples and ridges.  It was uneven in Ginoogaming because the ground slanted up from one end.  We had to know that.  Had to use it in our game.’

‘This makes it easier.’

‘Easier ain’t better.  It’s just easier.’

3.  “I was a whirlwind in those first games, and nobody could miss that.  But the press would not let me be.  When I hit someone, it wasn’t just a body check; I was counting coup.  When I made a dash down the ice and brought the crowd to their feet, I was on a raid.  If I inadvertently high-sticked someone during a tussle in the corner, I was taking scalps.  When I did not react to getting a penalty, I was the stoic Indian…This explosively fast, ordered game I was learning to play had set me on fire. I wanted to rise to new heights, be one of the glittering few.  But they would’t let me be just a hockey player.  I always had to be the Indian.”

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Quotes from “The Age of Hope”

The Age of Hope is a novel by David Bergen that I read as part of Canada Reads 2013.  I reviewed the book here but wanted to include some quotes and thought the review itself was already a tad wordy.

Some quotes that I appreciated:

Hope Koop (the main character) and her then-fiance Roy are living in Manitoba in the early 1950s when Roy takes Hope to make a car sale across the US border.  They spend the night at the buyer’s home with his family and talk over dinner.

“…with much conversation that eventually turned to politics and then religion, which had been quite interesting because it turned out that the doctor was an atheist.  Hope was especially curious about his lack of belief.
‘Not a lack of belief,’ he had clarified. ‘I believe in humanity, in caring for one another, in the continuation of the species.  I just don’t believe in God.”

That clarification was a nice touch.

She had another quote about books being pretentious and selfish because you accomplish only something for yourself by reading and not something measurably productive however I can’t find it so here is another similar-but-different quote.

Hope’s thoughts after her friend, Emily, shares the latest high-minded book out of New York whose author Hope doesn’t recognize to the open dismay of Emily.

“On the other hand, she wondered if there wasn’t entirely too much thinking going on and not enough work.  Work was good for the soul.  Thinking sometimes confused the heart.  Leisure, as Roy said, was a luxury that shouldn’t be overindulged, and for once Hope agreed.”

Nothing revolutionary just a reminder to myself that I can be a little too cerebral at times and scrubbing the floors or doing something physically (not just intellectually) productive could get me out of my own head sometimes.

The Age of Hope by David Bergen (4/5)

Canada Reads is fast-approaching and I’m pretty much right on schedule.  A week left and one more book to go.  Since my reading during the week has slowed considerably it looks like next weekend will include a variety of coffee shops.

The Age of Hope by David Bergen

This number was chosen to represent “Prairies and the North”.  Set in Eden and Winnipeg, Manitoba it tackles an area of the country in which I’ve spent no more than 3 hours.  Eden probably could have been a small town anywhere in the prairies – or Northern Ontario, for that matter.  We start at Hope Plett’s late teens and follow her through marriage – with a name change to the succinct Hope Koop – the birth of their children, through friendships, times of strength and times of weakness until we leave Hope as a woman in her 70s.  The author divides Hope’s life into 5 epochs or ages: innocence, despair, profit, longing and hope.  Born before the feminist revolution Hope always had a restlessness that she was never sure how to satisfy in the confines of what was expected of her. Her marriage to Roy, a steadfast and calm man, is maybe not fulfilling in every way but she loves him and she appreciates his innate goodness.  Across the span of about 50 years we watch Hope acknowledge who she is and figure out how to fit in the world.

A general theme across Canada Reads 2013 has been stories about the lives of Canadians.  Perhaps fictional Canadians but, nonetheless, characters you could picture as people who really exist(ed) alongside ourselves.  People experiencing life at the same time as we completely unaware of each other but having a vague sense of 30-or-so-million others sharing a similar existence.  People you brush past at the grocery store and to whom we pay general courtesies.  The one except to this may be Away by Jane Urquhart thus far.

Of all these people created in the minds of writers Hope Koop is the one with whom I most closely identify.  Which is not necessarily an altogether positive thought nor is it inherently negative.  I identify with Hope because she finds herself in a life that she anticipated and accepted and maybe even wanted but that does not quite suit her.  She finds herself in bouts of melancholy at times primarily because she questions how things are and how she is – she is more or less normal and acceptable to society yet still fails to quite fit.  At times she lets people walk over her or control her.  Even though she is in a loosely built cage of her own making she does little things to rebel, to remind herself that she doesn’t fit and that she could tear down the bars if she so chose.

The other thing I enjoyed about this book was how real her family felt.  Bergen is great at making characters feel real and at giving them a personality that makes sense and stays true throughout the novel.  **Spoiler** When reading the book I expected Hope to eventually leave her husband and as the right side of the book was growing thinner and I had gotten to know both Hope and Roy better I knew that she wouldn’t leave and that, if she had, Roy would not have stopped her.  Not because he didn’t love her but simply because he had already accepted who she was and wanted her to be happy – if leaving meant she might be happy he would not stop her.  Later in the book Hope basically reflects the same thing: he would have let her go.  Their 4 children were all individuals, all products of both nature and nurture and felt real.  There was something genuine about Penny who, as a young child, hid around corners and took notes on adult conversations in her own concocted script.

As I try to decide what I want from life and who I am this book spoke to me.  Have I already made choices that mean that, as I mature, my path and Hope’s will diverge until the resemblances that were once there have faded? Or perhaps I’ve kept myself in the same set of bars but painted them a different colour and changed the window dressing?

This became more of a self-reflection than a book review but what good is a book that doesn’t teach us something about ourselves or about the world around us? Or at least challenge us to ask ourselves questions.

What most recent character in a story resonated with you?

Up next: Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

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