Tuesday, July 29, 2008

One potato, two potato


One potato, separated from its plastic vegetable family. Authorities immediately initiated a full search and recovery mission, with the suspects questioned and all the usual stashes searched and hiding places explored. As of bedtime, the potato in question was still missing and authorities temporarily halted the search. 


Authorities stated that the search was resumed upon the commencement of the evening clean up, reasoning that in the clearing away of debris some evidence of foul play might be discovered. Authorities stated that they were shocked to hear a rattle from one Mr PotatoHead, ordinarily a dapper gentlemen who is rarely seen without his full regalia, found cowering in a half-empty toy box where he appeared to have been returned earlier by his rightful owner.

When a full cavity search was completed by the seach team, the potato in question was found and recovered.

The gentlemen was returned to his home where he is said to be recovering from the day's traumatic events. Authorities stated they are baffled by the seeming brilliance behind today's potato disappearance, and will be ramping up their counter-efforts with increased communications and intelligence training.

* * *
Let it never be said that my child isn't crafty logical. God help me when she starts talking.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The limits of graciousness

Last night we had rather extended family come and stay the night with us. By extended family, we're talking the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of a step-grandparent. A family of four that we've seen twice before. They are back in Canada, visiting for the summer after two years of missionary work in the Philippines, where they "spread the word" and run an orphanage. They are strict evangelical Christian, and their religious practices and beliefs deviate wildly from my own. 

I won't go into a great deal into my own beliefs and spirituality except to say this - I was raised within the framework of an organized religion, and while I do not believe all of the doctrine or strictures of that particular religion I still take comfort in the rituals and routines of the church when I choose to attend. From a belief perspective, I (and Mr Babbler, both) fall on the exceedingly liberal side. I believe that the Bible (or any religious document for that matter) should not be taken absolutely literally, and instead is a mixture of reality, representation and parable, and is reflective of many writers, revisions, place and time and translation. I believe in difference of religion, and that ultimately we are all getting to the same place no matter how or to whom you pray to, if you so chose. I believe in questioning the leaders or organized religion, and that religion is free to expand and change with new realities. These are just a few of my beliefs. I do not impose them on others, and I rarely discuss it, as I believe it is a deeply personal matter and choice.

We approached the visit with trepidation, but figured that at the most at least it would give us fodder - a few amusing stories or anecdotes. To say that the visit was awkward would be a colossal understatement, and that while we have some stories they came at an enormous personal cost.

I did my very best to be a gracious host - I did not swear nor take the Lord's name in vain (wasn't that fucking polite of me for God's sake - heh, get it? A wee bit of gallows humour there. Moving right along.) I was careful to remove literature from the living room that they would most likely find offensive and would not want their children exposed to (an issue of Glamour magazine, and the God Delusion) despite being sorely tempted. We stuck to water and juice while in the living room talking, abstaining from the glass of wine that would have, at the very least, taken the edge of the awkwardness and made everything a little hazy and, perhaps, bearable. At breakfast I refrained from eating or serving Peanut immediately, instead bowing my head while they said their grace before the meal. I was, in a word, accommodating. 

The parents told us of their time in the Philippines, with all the religious and cultural intolerance that seems to only come from those most fundamentalist of believers of any religion, Christian or otherwise. We bounced from one uncomfortable topic or anecdote to another, while terms such as "those Muslims", for example, were bandied about, together with loose quotations of scripture from the Koran to support their assertion that "those Muslims" are more aggressive. All of this couched in language so innocuous and non-aggressive as to be discussed as fact and not worthy of argument or discussion. We are right, and we have God and Jesus on our side. Ergo, you are wrong.

The children, now 14 and 16, are mimics of their parents with no real opinion of their own and a social awkwardness that comes of being homeschooled their entire lives and kept, rigidly, from any exposure to outside or "deviant ideas". Like, say, feminism. Or equality. Or cultural differences. Or freedom of belief and religion, apparently. They do not question, they are not curious. (In one of the only humorous moments, when trying to remember the children's names prior to their arrival Mr Babbler referred to them Rod and Todd - names that stuck for us privately despite the fact that one of the children is a girl.) I would have preferred, infinitely, the sulking sixteen-year-old boy, nose in a video game, and snotty, arrogant fourteen-year-old girl - siblings who either squabble or ignore one another mercilessly, to the wide-eyed religious fervor we were faced with.

The most wrenching conversation for me came this morning, when they took it upon themselves to tell me that the little boy whom they are raising (as "English", or course, with none of the "dirty habits of his country", despite the fact that he will have to live in that country, belonging to neither one culture or another) was not allowed to play with dolls. Because, of course, "they did not want him to be gay, like half the boys there, with all their dirty cross-dressing and freakishness". This, of course, was supported by the assertion that "God does not make mistakes, and that God has a plan for us, and we should be what He intended for us to be". 

This screed went on for several minutes - minutes in which my stomach turned nauseously, the breakfast we had just eaten roiling uncomfortably. Mr Babbler was at work, and the family was due to leave any minute. Did I say something? Stand up for what I firmly believe in. Argue that God's plan may have very well been for that person to embrace their homosexuality, despite their gender? That the two (sexual identity and gender) are mutually exclusive? Did I fight back, finally, about their ideas and intolerance regarding "those Muslims" whose land they were invading, with their proselytizing and preaching? Did I finally speak up and refute every one of the far-fetched, ridiculous, intolerant, racist ideas? 

I did not. I twitched, I avoided eye contact, I did not agree nor give any sign that I was similar in my belief. I attempted, several times to change the topic and to offer up distraction (look at Peanut? Peanut, want to play with your dollies?), but I did not say outright that what they said, that what they believed, sickened and disgusted me. That I did not share their intolerance and was offended, deeply, by their opinions and their need to verbalize them in my own house. 

In the end, I felt like a stranger in my own home, as they filled the air with intolerance. I felt alone and dirty, and I wished desperately that Mr Babbler was there with me, so I could speak up secure in the knowledge that I had someone their who believed as I do, and who could back me up. I thought of my obligation, as someone who should have defended what I believe in, should have defended those (gays, lesbians, Muslims, Filipino and every other group denigrated by their words) as they were unable to speak for themselves, despite the fact that my words would, in all likelihood, not made a lick of difference - their security in the rightness of their actions and beliefs so strong that nothing I could say would dissuade them). I questioned the limits of being a polite host - of where responsibility and obligation and good manners ends. I thought of my in-laws (whom, I should note, do not believe as this family does) who have been so good to me, and never hesitate to host my friends, and how this was done as a favour to them. How a wrong word could make family relations very uncomfortable for them in the future. All this ran through my head, together with the knowledge that they were leaving imminently, and how (cowardly as it was) I did not wish to delay their departure by opening their Pandora's box of theological arguments.

I am ashamed and sickened and disgusted with myself. All I could think was that I was so grateful that Peanut was not old enough to understand their words. How, if she had been older, I would have had to intervene, to say something, for we are not an intolerant family and I don't want her, for one minute, to think that that gross display of intolerance we were subjected to is either acceptable or moral or right.

Mr Babbler and I have made a decision. This family is no longer welcome to visit us. We will be having a frank conversation with our family about what occurred and how we felt about it, and we will leave it to our family to explain (if they so choose) why this family is no longer welcome in our home. It's not a perfect solution, and it doesn't solve the shame I'm currently feeling, but it is a first step. 

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Obsession. Voraciousness. Gluttony. Part II

Since you asked, here is what is on my bookshelf/side tables/bedside. I should preface this by saying that yes, I am a complete and utter trollop - a slut, really - when it comes to books. I have many books that I've started and I have absolutely no shame when it comes to cheating on a current book with any shiny new thing that comes along. That said, most of the time I do go back and finish the poor cuckolded book. Somehow they never seem to mind my absence, extended or otherwise.

Also, it is not necessarily the book itself that draws me in, but instead the mere act of reading - of cradling a book in my hand, of turning the pages, of running my eyes up and down the page.

So here you have it, a sampling of what is keeping me busy these days.

* Petite Anglaise - Catherine Sanderson
Written by the (infamous) blogger, the book explores Sanderson's life after moving to Paris and starting her blog, and the chain of events that followed. Intriguing, but not without its issues. A full review will follow.

* ! Mister Pip - Lloyd Jones
During a civil war on a small island set in the South Pacific, one white man remains. He takes it upon himself to educate the children of the small village by reading to them from Great Expectations, which starts a series of events with consequences no one could have imagined. Absolutely fascinating and highly recommended.

* Divisadero - Michael Ondaatje
This is really two intertwined stores in one book. The first is the story of two sisters and the adopted boy/ranch hand who lives with them, and how the events of one day divide them and set them on their individual paths. The second story follows writer Lucien Segura as his life unfolds and his various relationships during turn-of-the-century France. I found the second story to be the stronger part of the novel. This book isn't an easy read - while the language is sparse it seems to be jammed full of meaning. A second read would probably elicit more meaning.

* ! On Chesil Beach - Ian McEwan
Edward and Florence have just married and are on their honeymoon. Set in the early 60s, just prior to the sexual revolution, the story explores their first night together and their expectations and disappointments. It's an absolutely fascinating character study, and a study in the morals and mindset of a time long gone.

* Remember Me? - Sophie Kinsella
Lexi Smart wakes up one day in the hospital to discover that she doesn't remember the last three years of her life - three years during which she has transformed herself into a gorgeous woman complete with high powered career with a wealthy and sexy husband yet has lost all her friends. Pure fluff and entirely unbelievable, and not necessarily as good as Kinsella's previous novels, but still a delightful bit of summer beach reading.

* ! Under Pressure - Carl Honore
Honore's most recent book examines the increasing pressure that parents are facing in raising their children. From tutoring to homework, university admissions to after school programs, daycare to team sports, he reveals how much pressure our children are under and how people are fighting back. 

Set in the aftermath of the dot-com bubble, Then We Came to the End is the study of the employees of an advertising agency weathering massive layoffs. Written in the first-person "we", this is book that is an often funny (in the manner of The Office) occasionally heartbreaking and always real glimpse at the work environment and the people we live and work beside each day. For anyone who has ever worked in an office environment, complete with cubicles, water cooler gossip and company events, this book will strike a chord.

! Blood of Flowers - Anita Amirrezvani
Set in seventeenth-century Persia, the unnamed narrator is a young girl who's hopes for a good marriage are dashed by the untimely death of her father. She and her mother move in with her uncle, a wealthy rug maker. Without a dowry, the girl is left with a few options. Literature light, but a good story and interesting setting and topic make this a great beach read.
A terrific examination of the physiology of women, drawing from medical, historical, mythological, artistic and literary sources. Easily accessible, Angier has raised many interesting ideas and theories. A terrific, must-read for all women.

Love In The Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Marquez's modern classic tale of love denied. A dense and intricate read, it is, nonetheless, a terrific tale of almost every type of love story. 

High Noon - Nora Roberts
A typical Roberts romantic thriller, the story finds Lt Phoebe McNamara, the police department's chief hostage negotiator, finding love while fighting off a stalker who means her harm. Incredibly fluffy beach reading, this is still a fun story for summer with a strong heroine and an interesting love interest.

The Last Lecture - Randy Pausch
Based on, and an extension of, the YouTube video sensation, Pausch (who is dying of pancreatic cancer) writes about achieving your childhood dreams and being a good person. Best digested in small bits, as it can be sentimental at times.

Brick Lane - Monica Ali
Nazneed, a young Bangladeshi woman, moves to London to live with her husband, a much older man, in an arranged marriage but starts an affair with a young radical. 

* The Tenth Gift - Jane Johnson
Johnson's (a U.K. publishing exec) first novel is both a contemporary and historical tale, set in Morocco.

Obama's personal thoughts on faith and values, democracy and the political process. 

Tthe subtitle says it all.

What the Body Remembers - Shauna Singh Baldwin
The story of family and relationships and power struggles between Satya, Sardarji's current and barren wife, and Roop, his new, younger second wife, during the time of partition of India.

The Book of Negroes - Lawrence Hill
This award-winning novel is the epic story of Aminata Diaoll, who is kidnapped from her home in West Africa and sold into slavery to her eventual freedom. 

Gore's follow up to an Inconvenient Truth is both an examination of the current state of American politics and a scathing critique of Bush's White House.

Gladwell's study of the power of snap judgments.

Roma - Steven Saylor
A hefty traditional historical epic covering five centuries of Rome through the eyes of several founding families.

* The Toss of a Lemon - Padma Viswanathan
The story of one woman's life. Married at ten and widowed at eighteen, Sivakami is extremely devout, and her actions have consequences for her children and her grandchildren's lives.

* Full review coming
! Highly recommended

Friday, July 4, 2008

Obsession. Voraciousness. Gluttony.

It is an all-consuming obsession, and I am voracious. A veritable glutton. An addict.

I am insatiable, unable to consume the words fast enough. My eyes race along the pages, eagerly devouring the story. If it were possible to become obese on literature, you would find me, confined to a bed, the weight of stories trapped in my head making it impossible to leave the room, able only to lift the book (another book) to my face. Fueling my obsession.

Right now, I am surrounded by books. Good books, mediocre books, terrible books waiting for their spines to be cracked, their pages turned, their secrets to be discovered. They are lined up on shelves, stacked on end tables, piled next to the bed. I cannot pass a display in a store without leaving with some new treasure, to be tucked away. (Budgets are weighed briefly in my head, along with the possibility of slipping it onto the shelf, unnoticed.) 

They tempt me at every waking moment, and at every opportunity I am an addict getting her fix. I grab the closest book, if only to snatch a paragraph or two before returning to a job at hand. The story echoes in my head as I move through the routine that is our days - play time, diaper changes, mealtimes, trips to the park. House cleaning has fallen by the wayside - nap times are better spent satisfying the endless craving. Evenings find me burrowed on the couch, tearing through the pages once again. 

I finish a book. I ponder writing down my thoughts but cannot bring myself to put pen to paper (hands to keyboard) and instead pause only briefly before grabbing another, already tempted by what is hidden within. Vacations and trips away are carefully plotted. Books are lined up and their relative merits (good story, weight and heft, sequence in a series, genre) compared before whittling it down to the three, or four, or five that make the final cut (before the just in case book is hastily stuffed in the bag on the way out the door). 

Is it possible to have too much of a good thing?

I'll let you know. I just have to finish this book first.

* * *

Written for Anne, who has kicked my butt and urged me to write something, anything. And as a bit of an explanation and apology, for being so lax in both my writing and my visiting lately. So what are your current obsessions?


BLITHELY BABBLING © 2008. Chaotic Soul :: Converted by Randomness