January 2007

This was supposed to be a 10-pages-in book review of PD James’ Children of Men. But the book was really good and I accidentally read the whole thing on the train going to and from my conference in Kingston last week before I could write the review. Oops, sorry about that.

I was surprised at what a great book this is. I had heard vaguely of the movie, but my life lately hasn’t permitted me a lot of time for cinematic indulgence, and the book and the movie only really tripped onto my radar screen when I read about the Barren Bitches Book Brigade Tour hosted by Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters. (Do they know how to write a catchy title or what?)

A bit of a caveat before I begin. (You know it’s going to be a long ramble when I’m making preamble-ish caveats in the third paragraph.) I’m not much of a sci-fi reader, and I’m especially not a huge consumer of dystopian fiction. I’m far too optimistic, some might even say simplistic, to submit myself to the fatalistic outlook of dystopia. So I’m not overly familiar or comfortable with the conventions of the genre, outside of what I learned from Margaret Atwood, but as soon as I read the premise of this book, I knew I had to read it and talk about it with you.

Ah yes, the book. It’s set in the year 2021, and is told in the alternating first and third person perspective of Theo Fallon, an Oxford professor and historian. The future in which he lives is not so different from the world of 2007, nor the world of 1992 (when the book was written) insomuch as there are no flying cars, no outposts of civilization on the moon, not even any mention of computers that I can recall. But it is the world of a doomed society, because it has been more than 25 years since a baby has been born. In the year 1995, all of humanity has been struck, completely inexplicably, infertile.

The book opens on a note of futulity and fatalism, many years past the panicked shock of the initial realization of infertility. Theo notes in his diary, “We are outraged and demoralized less by the impending end of our species, less even by our inability to prevent it, then by our failure to discover the cause.” Their spirits have been defeated not by the ‘what’, but by the unanswerable ‘why?’

I found a lot of resonance with my own struggle with infertility in this book. The last generation of children, born in the year 1995, are known as Omega. As they become adults, society moves to erase the painful reminder that there will be no more children: “The children’s playgrounds in our parks have been dismantled. […] The toys have been burnt, except for the dolls, which have become for some half-demented women a substitute for children. The schools, long closed, have been boarded up or used as centres for adult education. The children’s books have been systematically removed from our libraries. Only on tape and records do we hear the voices of children, only on film or television programs do we see the bright, moving images of the young. Some find them unbearable to watch but most feed on them as they would a drug.”

I was haunted by this idea, by a world without children. I think I found the concept entirely more chilling than the idea of humanity’s ultimate expiration. Theo describes in a few scenes how pets have become substitute children, as in one scene where a kitten is christened in an abandoned church. In another, he alludes to the acrimony of custodial agreements for pets: “As the registered part owner on the fecund-domestic-animal licence, I could, of course, have applied to the Animal Custody Court for joint custody or an access order, but I had no wish to submit myself to the humiliation.” (I remember joking back in the dark days, in the tight way one jokes about something that might not be so funny after all, that if we didn’t have a baby soon, one might soon find me at the mall pushing our lovely golden-shepherd mix Katie in a pram with a bonnet on her head.)

But the book isn’t entirely about infertility; it’s more of an exploration of what would happen to humanity deprived of a future and forced to live through a slow and considered extinction. Really, not the most cheerful book I ever read, but fascinating and compelling all the same.

Theo’s cousin, Xan, is the Warden of England, a benevolent dictator who gives the people what he thinks they want: protection, comfort, and pleasure. When Theo, who had previously served on Xan’s advisory council, is approached by a small group of revolutionaries who want to use Theo as a conduit to his powerful cousin, Theo is reluctant to get involved in anything that might disrupt his ordered life. When he does acquiesce in the end, it is for completely unaltruistic reasons.

The second half of the book becomes, rather unexpectedly after the thoughtful if plodding narrative of the first part of the book, a page-turning adventure that makes me glad I was too far committed to write a review before I reached the end of the story. It’s a fascinating, insightful book that left me considering the issues it raises long after I turned the last page. I’d like to go see the movie now, although I’ve heard that it’s only loosely based on the book, if only to have the excuse to re-immerse myself in the story again.

I’m not convinced I’ve adequately conveyed how much I enjoyed this book, how thought-provoking it was, and how I lingered over the last page, wondering what happened next. I’m typing this late at night, though, and rather than fuss over this and try to get the words just right, I’ll just tell you that it’s a really great book, one of the best I’ve read in a long time, and I’d love to talk about it with you.

I’ll be revisiting this book next month as part of the Barren Bitches Book Brigade Tour, and you still have time to join in if you’re interested. Read the book by the end of February and we can host our own conversation about the book on March 5.


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It’s been at least a week since I posted about working mother guilt. Surely we’re due for more angst?

Poor Simon. He and Tristan were horsing around just before bedtime, and Tristan more or less took him out at the knees, completely by accident. Simon cried for a few minutes, but not with that heart-stopping urgent cry of pain that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up and gives you little doubt that you’re about to reaquaint yourself with the local health-care facilities.

He was easily comforted by Beloved, but started crying again when he tried to take his weight on the injured leg. We called a boo-boo bunny into service, then spent 20 minutes or so playing various ‘games’ trying to figure out the extent, and even the location of the injury. Even though he was obviously favouring the sore leg, and even wobbling a bit when he put his weight on it, he could jump on both feet and stand on the sore leg while holding my hand, and he climbed the stairs without complaint.

Trying to figure out the severity of an injury to a stoic three year old is a little bit like trying to read the mind of a crazy person. The terms of reference keep shifting. I touch his knee and ask, “Does it hurt here?” and he says no. I touch his ankle, his shin, and his toes and ask, “Does it hurt here?” and he says no. I touch his knee again and ask, “Does it hurt here?” and he says yes. I touch his ankle and ask, “Does it hurt here?” and he says, with obvious expiration of patience, “Mommy, stop it!”

This morning, he is still favouring it but doesn’t cry when he walks on it. I just called Beloved at home, as he has the boys for two hours between when I leave and when they leave for school and daycare, and he says Simon seems fine now, and he’ll have the daycare provider call me if she notices any trouble. There’s no bruising, no swelling. We even spoke to a nurse at TeleHealth Ontario this morning, and although she recommended we see a doctor, I’m trusting Beloved’s assessment that he’s fine, not complaining, not hurting, and so we’ll wait and see how it is in a couple of hours.

This is the part about working and mothering I hate. After almost two years back in the office, I still feel horrendous guilt at having to choose between an overflowing plate of responsibilities at work and the pull of my possibly-hurting baby. I hate having to choose between competing responsibilities, and I hate having to leave the assessment of Simon’s condition to anybody else – daycare provider or Beloved. Mostly, though, I hate that I’m here at work instead of at home while I’m writing this.

Sigh.


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I’ve just spent a very unsatisfying lunch hour scouring the interwebs for party-game ideas for three year olds. When will I ever learn that all I need to know about life I can find out by asking my bloggy friends?

There will be six kids, ages 10 weeks, 2 years (two of them), 3 years, 5 years and 6 years. Okay, safe to say that baby Brooke will be happy to simply look on while the other kids play.

Any ideas for simple games that can be played in a relatively small and crowded (with onlooking adults) space would be greatly appreciated!


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For the most part, going to the gym has been a solitary activity for me. Back in the day, when I was first getting into going to the gym, Fryman and I used to go together, and I give him props for getting me into it in the first place. But in the last ten years or so, I’ve been content to go on my own and do my own thing while I’m there.

In the last month, I’ve started meeting up with a friend at the gym on Monday mornings. She arrives a bit before me, and so far we’ve been able to get two elliptical machines side by side to chat while we sweat. Trying to have a conversation while on the elliptical machine has added an entirely new dimension to my workout!

And since we work in the same building, we amble past Timmy’s and grab a coffee and walk over to the building together and use the shower facilities there, which are considerably less gross than the dingy, grungy shower facilities at the gym.

All of this I like very much: the extra encouragement to get out of bed and show up for the workout, knowing she is waiting for me; the companionship; the chance to make friends outside of work with someone who I’ve always liked. It’s all good – right up until the showering part.

It’s surprisingly difficult to carry on a conversation with a friend you like and admire – while naked and getting in or out of the shower.

I’d like to be more comfortable with nudity, really I would. Bodies are beautiful, I agree. No reason to be ashamed. On an intellectual level, I totally agree with you. But in practice? Where’s that extra-large bath sheet?

And why is it so much easier to be naked in a locker-room full of complete strangers than in front of one person you’d like to invite out for a chat over coffee? Would it be weird if I started showering in my bathing suit?


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Another dead iPod

by DaniGirl on January 28, 2007 · 12 comments

in Rants and rambles

My iPod died on Friday night. Again. I mean, seriously. How many times do I have to go through this? There’s no doubt that iPods are to MP3 players what Kleenex are to facial tissue and Frisbees are to flying disks, but there’s a limit to how much patience I have for technology that dies multiple times in the same year. I love the holy hell out of it, but it’s more fickle than a hungry, overtired two year old.

After three hours of useless troubleshooting on Friday night, during which I once resurrected it like Lazarus only to have it die again when I tried to load the music back on it, and reinstalling iTunes not once, not twice, but three times on two different computers, I finally gave up.

We got it last summer from Best Buy, and bless Beloved’s paranoid susceptibility to marketing, we bought a $40 product replacement warranty. When we returned it the first time, less than three weeks after we bought it, they simply took the dead iPod from me and gave me a new one still factory-sealed in the box. I was highly impressed.

Saturday, I headed out into the frigid morning expecting the same service. But much to my dismay, when I showed up at Best Buy with a handful of unresponsive iPod, they told me I’d have to either contact Apple, who offer a one-year warranty, or Best Buy’s customer service telephone number. Either one would take a minimum of 10 days to get a working iPod back in my hands.

I was not impressed. I’ve been pushing myself to do a minimum of two, but preferably three, workouts at the gym each week, and my iPod has been carefully loaded with music to burn calories by. I had made it through my Saturday workout without it, but I have to tell you that listening to Angler and Hunter (rant for another day: why on earth does my women’s-only gym play Angler and Hunter on its TVs on a Saturday morning?) definitely detracts from my energy level and my enthusiasm for the whole workout.

Petulant, I started flipping through the Best Buy product replacement plan (please take a small moment to admire the fact that I had not only kept but could find in a timely manner the receipt and warranty) and read the fine print: even though the warranty covers a period through July 2008, its obligation to replace an item ends after one replacement. In other words, even though I paid for two years of coverage, if I were to get a replacement iPod today and that iPod died again in six months, I would be SOL. Given the fact that I’m on my third iPod in the first six months, I don’t like those odds.

So I called Apple, and they have sent out a box I will use to send my recalcitrant iPod back to its mothership, or at least a satellite repair depot. I asked the very nice lady at the call centre somewhere in Pennsylvania whether they would repair or simply replace it, she said they would make a cursory attempt to repair it, but would likely simply replace it. It should be back in my sweaty little hands in 10 to 14 days.

That leaves my Best Buy warranty intact for the next iPod failure. At least now I know to expect it. In the end, my annoyance with the iPod’s untimely demise is at least reasonably offset by the fairly decent repair and replacement service from Apple. I don’t have anything nice to say about Best Buy, though. A two-year product replacement plan should replace products for two years, wouldn’t you think?


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A Friday comment game

by DaniGirl on January 26, 2007 · 56 comments

in Memes

I went nearly 48 hours without Internet access while I was in Kingston, and ironically, one of the main things we discussed at the conference was new communication technology and social media. It was really interesting, and I can’t wait to get to work on some of that stuff with my day job.

But today, I’m drawing a blank. I’m playing “stay at home mom” today, because our caregiver is out of town, and I’ve got one of those headaches. I have no idea what to write about.

Hey, it’s been a while since we’ve played a comment game. You seem to like them. Wanna play?

I think it’s been almost a year since we played this one. First person names a famous actor/actress (i.e. Nicole Kidman). The next person names a movie that person played in (i.e. Moulin Rouge). Next person names a person who was in that movie (i.e. Ewan McGregor). Next person names a movie that person was in (i.e. Trainspotting). Hint: IMDB is your friend!

Ready? Let’s start with… Matthew Broderick.


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First kiss

24 January 2007 It IS all about me

Although I truly love to travel, I’m glad that my job doesn’t require me to be away overnight very often. I’m off to a conference in Kingston for the next couple of days, and while I relish the idea of no cooking and no diaper changes and a bed I don’t have to share for […]

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A helmet law for toboggans?

23 January 2007 Life, the Universe and Everything

Normally, I tend to favour the legislation of safety. I’m all for car seat laws, and bicycle helmet laws, and non-smoking laws, and seat-belt laws. I think the state has as much of a role to play in these areas as the individual. On this issue, I’m not so sure. Today in the Citizen, there […]

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Easy come, easy go

22 January 2007 Working and mothering

I should have known it wouldn’t be so easy.I posted an online classified ad about looking for daycare for the boys, and one of the first people to respond seemed, on paper at least, perfect. I know, nobody is perfect, but I had a hard time finding anything to complain about with this one. She […]

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Baby it’s cold outside

21 January 2007 Photography

Back in the day, before we had kids, we lived in a townhouse on the edge of a fairly large urban woods. One of my favourite times to go walking through the trails with my constant companion Katie the Dog was on a sparkling cold winter day. The fresh snow made the world clean and […]

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