Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Rosie Project

Don't you just hate when you get part way through a book....picture the characters and their speech patterns, then find out the story takes place in Australia? That's what happened to me while reading "The Rosie Project".

Normally, I would have been aware of such a thing. Usually, I pore over the cover, check out the author's bio and whatever info might be available prior to reading a book. This time, I ordered it on my e-reader (see "New Year, New Toys" January 2 and January 9, 2014).

The book showed up. I started to read unaware of anything more than the description. Although Melbourne was mentioned near the onset, there was no indication that this city was in fact the setting. Nonetheless, it's a book that I enjoyed, can only be described as a romance, a bit different, and easy to read.

I'm sure we've all known someone like the main character Don Tillman. Perhaps he was the "different child" when we went to school. Maybe he was the son of a friend. Perhaps he was our sibling. Nonetheless, we immediately empathize with the character in this novel. He's a genetics professor, thirty nine years old, single, socially awkward, obsessed with detail, extremely literal in understanding, a quick study in some topics, and morally rigid. He sees the world one way. We soon realize that he has issues and for those of us who have had some experience, the term Asperger's comes to mind. Interestingly, he is forced to give a lecture on Asperger's at the beginning of the book. He relates to the children in the audience who have been diagnosed with this syndrome, but fails to recognize similar traits in himself.

Don has three friends each of whom is dysfunctional in his or her own way. One is an elderly lady who develops Alzheimer's and eventually dies. He relates to her on some level and shares a unique bond. When she dies, he admits to feeling loneliness, an odd sensation for him. The other two are a couple, Gene and Claudia. Gene is also a professor, originally responsible for hiring Don in his department. He is a serial philanderer who uses research as an excuse for his affairs. Gene sometimes helps Don solve social problems. His wife is a psychologist with a high tolerance level. Don counts on both of them for support with his eccentricities although he often consults Claudia for specific advice. When Don decides that he wants to be married and creates a questionnaire for potential candidates, he entitles his search "The Wife Project" and goes about finding his perfect match. In his mind, this should work. The questionnaire is specific and describes what he wants, a woman who is pretty much exactly like him.

I found that the pace of the book was good. There was humour and adventure especially toward the middle. When Don headed for Moree a distance in kilometers from Melbourne, I suddenly realized something. He opted to drive rather than swim, so the story had to take place in Australia. I found a few gaps where the information didn't flow as I would have liked. Sometimes, one paragraph would end and another began without any connections. Perhaps it should have been a new chapter. That's the author's style and I got used to it eventually.

As I write this I have discovered that there will be a movie. Of course there will. I wonder whether it will take place in Australia, complete with appropriate "shrimp on the barbie" voices and accents or whether this will be Americanized to appeal to the mass market. I can probably venture a pretty good guess. Looking forward to finding out in 2016.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Feeling the Love

For the Valentine's Day edition of the local newspaper I wrote this column entitled  For the love of Cobourg  at this link. You need to copy and paste because try as I might, I can't figure out how to steer you there directly.

Today, I ventured out to participate in some of the town's wonderful winter weekend festivities. Hubby dropped me at a local hobby shop called "Bear's Beads" where one of the special weekend activities was bracelet making.  I entered and immediately bumped into someone I knew. We pored over the trays of beads trying to make a decision on which five to select for our bracelets, then we went to work. I thought that the selection process was the hardest part until I attempted to co-ordinate two pairs of needle nosed pliers. After much trial and error, the heart shape clasp was attached, as were my five charms and my bracelet was done.
The proprietor gave us lovely organza bags containing chocolate hearts and we were able to secure our bracelets in the bags.

Next, I wandered down the street to a shop called, "A Matter of Taste" where I accidentally ate a free sample cupcake created by a local baker, "Cakes by Tammy". It was sooooo delicious. The store had a special day of discounts because of the downtown events. I visited the antique market in another futile search for chrome chairs. The cashier made me laugh by suggesting I go to cottage garage sales. She said that all good old furniture is in cottages. I dropped in to my favourite clothing store, "From the Bottoms Up" in search of lightweight summer wear. "Next week", I was told.

After meeting hubby again, we went to participate in more events near the ice rink. I had noted that there were bright pink sheets with the heading "Take Me" posted all around town. I didn't immediately realize why since I wasn't wearing my glasses. It was poetry, written by locals and offered as a way of not only showing off local talent and promoting April poetry month, but also to add to town spirit.
We enjoyed the ice sculptures and saw that one very intricate work was carved into a table. A young lady was pouring maple syrup onto snow atop the table and swirling it onto a stick. That certainly explained the growing lineup waiting for the sweet delicacy.
Of course, there were the usual ice skaters twirling to the music. Children climbed the massive snowbanks of heaped up snow laughing with glee as they rolled and slid down. Parents, grandparents and children waited for a turn to tour the town by horse and carriage, while others played with the ice sculpture tic tac toe board.
Then there was the throne. Ah yes, every child's dream...a royal throne carved from ice. Who could resist a quick, frosty sit on this wonderful huge chair? Why oh why did I forget to bring my crown?
To warm up after the adventures, there was hot chocolate and a cookie. In fact, the youngsters were allowed to decorate their cookies with icing and sprinkles as they warmed up and enjoyed their treats.
Cobourg truly is the "feel good town".

Friday, February 14, 2014

Chat Rooms, Computer Dating, and Early Escapades

I know that for every story, there is an exception. I was not one of the exceptions.

A few friends of mine have been recently complaining about their lack of success with dating sites, matching agencies, singles clubs and the like. It seems to become a particular issue around this time of year, Valentine's Day. One friend told me that she plans to venture into the realm of chat rooms. I was unable to offer any useful advice on that score. Since I've been there and done that, spending countless hours getting to know strangers and yet not knowing them at all, I did not want to discourage her efforts.

On this Valentine's Day, I've decided to fess up about some of my own single years dating adventures.

I won't use my formerly exhausting job or status as a single parent as an excuse, however, they did contribute to my experiences. I would come home at night, fatigued after a long day of work, deal with my then teen children and whatever chauffeuring, bills, housework, job preparation and so on needed my additional attention. After that, I'd flick on the computer and see what was new in chatroom 3. I made some acquaintances and even a few friends.

I actually "dated" five people that I met online and had a brief long distance relationship with a sixth individual before I was cured of this new age method of meeting people. I will try to describe some of my dating highlights as nicely as I can. Don't judge me until you've walked a mile in my shoes.

Date #1 - The first date was a man who was somewhat younger than I. He lived and worked in the city. It took him awhile to convince me to go out with him since I did not consider myself a cougar by any means. He enjoyed my sense of humour and offered to meet me in a public place to buy me a drink and chat. I went. We had a good time and met again a week later. We were more suited as friends or perhaps siblings. He brought me a gift. It was a bar martini menu.

Date #2 - This was a local person with whom I spoke on the telephone several times. He contacted me through and sounded nice enough. When he offered to take me to a church presentation, I accepted. He showed up at my door at the prearranged time...a tall, bald man in his late 50's with ill fitting clothing, indistinct features and a British accent. He had been a pleasant conversationalist and I am not that superficial. Unfortunately, he was. We headed toward the church when he made this comment "You women always post pictures of yourselves that are at least ten years old". I suppose I should have asked whether he was suggesting that I was guilty of some kind of deception and offered to remove myself from his vehicle. Instead, I sat in stunned silence. The photo had been three months old. We arrived at the church, viewed the presentation which if I recall was some type of Christmas pageant. On the drive back, he prattled on and on about relationships and how there was no point to them. We got back to my house, I thanked him for the show, wished him luck in his search for a pointless relationship and said goodnight.

Date #3 - I agreed to meet this man at a donut shop. He was very nice and actually seemed quite enthralled with me. He offered to take me to dinner. Again, he was a local person. We had a pleasant conversation and a nice dinner. At the end of dinner, he told me that he had a present for me. He removed a jar of pickled onions from his pocket and proudly announced "I got them at the dollar store for only a dollar."  I kept in mind the old saying, "It's the thought that counts." Honestly, though, I'm wondering what he was thinking. We hung out a couple more times but didn't really have much in common.

Date #4 - Once again I agreed to meet at a bar. If I wanted to meet people at a bar, I suppose I could have gone to a bar in the first place. He was younger than me, had 3 kids (a slight deterrent), but when he started to smoke while sucking back beer as if it were water, I politely excused myself and headed out to get some rest for my "early day tomorrow".

Date #5 - This one came all the way from northern Saskatchewan. Imagine that. He brought me flowers and was in town for a number of days for work. We talked, walked, ate Chinese food, swam, bowled, went to the top of the CN tower and enjoyed a movie. It was fun. He offered to visit more often. Unfortunately, I saw no future because I had no interest in potentially living amongst the polar bears in a town of 100 people. Did I mention that he was missing three teeth? Maybe I am more superficial than I thought.

So I say, congratulations to people who actually met in chat rooms, on lavalife, plentyoffish, eharmony, christiancafe and the like. Perhaps I just didn't have enough patience. Perhaps my expectations were off the mark. Perhaps I was waiting for the absolute perfect person. How lucky am I to have found him...and I didn't even need a computer, a dating service, or a bar.

Happy Valentine's Day to  my dear husband Adam.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I'm Participating in Omphaloskepsis, What Are You Doing?

I have come to realize that my dad was full of interesting expressions, foreign words and turns of phrase. Some can be repeated, others, not so much. Here's one such example.

"What are you doing?" mom would often ask dad as he sat quietly, clearly doing nothing.

"I'm contemplating my navel," he would respond every time.

I didn't really give it much thought when I was younger. I'm retired now and yet, I get the sense that every minute of my day should be filled up with doing something...anything. Although I have no interest in wasting the years I have left, I also have no need to rush everywhere and stick to rigid schedules unless absolutely necessary. I think I'll make more of an effort to set aside some time to contemplate my navel.

I haven't often heard the expression, "I'm contemplating my navel." In fact, I've never heard it except from dad's mouth. He obviously picked it up someplace. I decided to do some research because, after all, it had to originate somewhere and if it didn't, perhaps I could attribute something else to dad's huge list of lifelong accomplishments.

Naturally, I went to the source of all information "Google" and typed in "contemplate my navel". My initial reaction  upon seeing what showed up on Wikipedia was to lol....that's laugh out loud for those who have been living in the jungle for the last ten years. I discovered this word "Omphaloskepsis" and a full description of contemplating one's navel as an aid to meditation. Seriously.

When I learned that the origin of the expression was the novel These Barren Leaves written in 1925 by Aldous Huxley, it all made sense. Dad was an avid reader and had advanced ideas and thoughts. He was a fan of such writers as Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, George Orwell, H.G. Wells,*C.S. Lewis and of course, *Aldous Huxley.

Dad often told the story of his younger years when he was placed in a travel bed atop a china cabinet for his afternoon naps. Instead of sleeping, he said that he used the time for introspection, thinking, imagining...contemplating his navel as it were. It seemed like a strange story, but then, parenting habits were peculiar in previous generations. We asked no questions.

Contemplating one's navel, is not to be confused with naval-gazing, although in some cases they are interchangeable. The latter refers more often to an activity by people who are self absorbed or egocentric to the point of narcissism. If I recall correctly, many Shakespearean characters fall into this category.

Well, now that I've made connections with some new information, I think I'll find a quiet place to absorb it all. I hope my navel can handle an influx of contemplation.
***I found out something else today as I researched this navel contemplating information...irrelevant and yet, interesting I find. Did you know that on November 22, 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, both C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley died? Curious? Significant?

Monday, February 3, 2014

All Is Lost

***Warning: May Contain Spoilers
Yesterday, we went to see the film "All Is Lost", starring  Robert Redford as Our Man. Other stars included, well, nobody. He was the lone actor. All Robert Redford, all the time. There's nothing wrong with that.

Written by J.C. Chandor, "All Is Lost" was mentioned at several film festivals as one of 2013's best. I enjoyed the movie very much and came to think of Redford's boat trip as a metaphor for life's journey.    

The film begins with Robert Redford speaking these words. This is a message which he eventually writes, places in a jar and drops into the ocean.

13th of July, 4:50 pm. I'm sorry... I know that means little at this point, but I am. I tried, I think you would all agree that I tried. To be true, to be strong, to be kind, to love, to be right. But I wasn't. And I know you knew this. In each of your ways. And I am sorry. All is lost here... except for soul and body... that is, what's left of them... and a half-day's ration. It's inexcusable really, I know that now. How it could have taken this long to admit that I'm not sure... but it did. I fought 'til the end, I'm not sure what it's worth, but know that I did. I have always hoped for more for you all... I will miss you. I'm sorry.  (Quote taken from IMDB)

After that, there are only a few words throughout the whole movie.We then flash back to eight days prior. Redford is sailing in the Indian Ocean when a shipping container hits the side of his boat and floods part of the cabin. He treats this as a nuisance at first and before long, has the situation under control when he removes the container and patches his boat. Great acting here as it's easy to see by Redford's body language and facial expressions that he's unperturbed and has the situation under control. 

His troubles only begin. Redford continues to sail while struggling through storms, tumultuous seas, personal injury, loss and other challenges of the sea. It's intriguing to see how he, as an experienced sailor, overcomes every obstacle he faces while dealing with his predicament and the elements. 

There is not a dull moment in this movie. It would be hard to imagine for some, that despite the fact that there's no dialogue, no car chase, no sex, no police shootout, no explosion and no cursing, that this plot can be riveting. It is. 

The movie is well thought out and cleverly assembled and edited. After each action packed, stressful segment, the audience is given a break with some calmer, more hopeful scenes. There are successes and failures There's hope and lost hope.

The conclusion of the movie had some audience members laughing. I'm not certain whether it was because of a certain amount of relief that the ordeal was over or whether it was how the end was handled. We knew throughout the film that Redford's odds of survival were getting smaller. Yet, his ingenuity and skills kept him going. 

I appreciate that the audience was given some credit for having imagination and intelligence. We are not smacked in the face with a long back story or the need to have every detail that led up these eight days at sea explained to us. We don't know who the man is or why he's in the middle of the ocean. We learn about his character, skill, strength and tenacity through his actions in the face of adversity. At the end of the film, we are left with a lot to think about.

This movie is suspense at it's gore, no vampires and no ax murderers...just excitement. The acting is brilliant. I highly recommend seeing "All Is Lost".

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Groundhog Day 2014

This morning I spent many minutes putting on  my boots. It's another one of those daunting tasks that I don't perform anymore unless absolutely necessary. It was necessary. You see, today is Groundhog Day. That means, the North American world is alert to the fact that a rodent will be predicting the upcoming weather. I decided that I wouldn't count on Wiarton Willie, Punxsutawney Phil, Winnipeg Willow or Shubenacadie Sam to decide my fate. After all, what do they know about weather in this town? 

Instead, I checked with Cobourg Calhoon. Here's his story.

After digging his way out of the snow and today's new layer of ice, Calhoon suffered a slight whisker injury. Being a consummate professional, he soldiered on.
He moved rapidly from under the shelter of a tree to a location where he could more clearly determine whether or not there was a shadow.
He saw none. On the other hand, he thought, "How can any northern hemisphere groundhog see his shadow at 8 a.m.?" After looking at his surroundings and wondering how he would survive in this while living outside of his burrow, he decided, to turn tail, shadow or not. The prediction therefore is still, six more weeks of winter.
The lesson learned from this story? Given the choice of staying outside in the current conditions or inside, the groundhog finds six more weeks of in a dark hole to be preferable.