Dream of the Dolphin
Confessions of a Post-Graduate Pity Whore
Speaking of...I went out yesterday and donated some of my Christmas money to disaster relief. It's something to think about.
The rest I blew on clothes. Budget being what it is, and me being who I am, clothes are usually a luxury item (except when I wear through the inseam of my jeans. Then they become necessity). But it being Christmas money and all, it was guilt-free splurging. And having become a What Not To Wear junkie (Erin and I watch a LOT of TLC), I actually went out with Rules and Outfits in mind. And I think I made out pretty well. Sweaters, yes, (I can't help it, I LIKE sweaters -- these ones were fitted at least), but also one really good Outfit -- nice pants, beaded tank top, cool suedy zip-up blouse, and brown sweater to go overtop. I really have nowhere to wear it at the moment (unless they let me run Digital -- which, for January at least, they won't) as my jobs are casual dress (two of the three usually end up with me crawling across the floor at some point -- see jeans: necessity), but at least now, when I really NEED grown-up clothes, I have them.
Plus, they make my butt look good. Always a plus.
( 4:25 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Magic, Joy, and GratitudeIt has been a truly wonderful Christmas.
It really began on Christmas Eve. After taking my leave of one of my co-workers at the ROM (after a day of the two of us sharing laughter and more than a little mischief), I got into a cab provided by my grandfather that would take me from my house to my parents' in Newmarket.
We'd had an ice storm in the city. The kind of storm we hadn't seen in years, where a heavy snow is followed by a brief bout of rain, so that the snow has a crust on top of it that turns your footsteps from a "crunch" into a "cra-FOOM!". And everything, from fences to bushes to trees, is coated in ice.
Now, this makes driving perilous until the salting trucks get out. And it's cold. And people farther south often think that I'm crazy for loving it. But when you're being driven home in warmth and comfort, the sounds of your favourite Christmas CD playing in your ears, watching a world in which the light of the moon is caught and scattered by the ice on the trees so that it looks like you're traveling through a forest made of crystal... you really do find it the easiest thing in the world to believe in magic.
And magic is what I received when I got home and opened the card my co-worker had given me when I left the ROM, with express orders to save it until I got home.
We'd been talking that day, about the Nutcracker, and how much that ballet meant to me. It's one of my Christmas music staples, but I hadn't seen it since I was a little girl, because the rest of my family hates it and would rather stick hot pins in their eyes than see it again. So even though a chance to see the acclaimed Kudelka National Ballet production has been topping my wishlist since 1995, I knew I wouldn't be seeing it this year.
So she went out on her lunch and bought me a ticket.
You know those reveals in Extreme Makeover Home Edition (yes, Erin and I are total junkies), when they pull the bus away, and the family seeing their house for the first time are so overwhelmed that they start sobbing? Yeah, that was me.
It wasn't even the ticket so much, though it was fabulous -- I was in Orchestra row B, centre, so close I could see the individual diamonds on the snowflake queen's crown. I'm NEVER in Orchestra B. I'm usually in rear balcony. And the show was just as magical as I'd dreamed it would be -- Rather, it was the sheer overwhelming generosity that she had shown, going out to do this for no other reason than she knew, she knew how much it would mean to me. And it did. It really did. I kept crying during the performance, because I was so very happy. Not just because I was finally, after nine years, seeing the ballet I had so desperately wanted to see, and it was glorious. But also because I knew there was someone who cared about me enough to make it happen. And I hadn't even known she cared.
Until yesterday, that was the best thing that could have happened to me this Christmas.
Oh, the rest of it was lovely in and of itself, and the avaricious part of me delights in my gifts. I now have not only a time turner, but also Hermione's wand, 5 seasons of MST3K, a galley I've been dying to read, lovely pyjamas, and DVDs enough to keep me in a vegetative state until New Year's. We also met my cousin's fiancé (odd, in that she's my sibling's age, and I always thought that as the oldest in the family, I'd be first. But he makes her happy, and he seems to be good for her in that he's helping her get her life back on track, and I'm very happy for her). I saw a dear friend I missed deeply, and just being able to hug her again was a gift. I spent Christmas with my family, and for a lovely change, was not actually suffering from pneumonia while doing it. And I got to take particular glee in several presents I gave this year -- I actually like giving things more than receiving sometimes, and I'm quite delighted with some of the reactions I got.
But no, when I returned to the city, it wasn't over.
I've been in a little trouble lately. Thanks to bills and loans, I'm getting by on my three jobs with just enough extra to see the occasional movie, buy books, and splurge on Thai food once a month. I get by all right (unless there's large and unexpected expenses, but that another story), but there's not enough there to save up to take time off for a vacation (all my jobs are part-time, thus no paid vacation), and there's not a lot of wiggle room in my budget, especially now that I'm also trying to save up for a) a new bed (necessity), and b) the choir tour of Russia (SO not a necessity, but how can I NOT go? My choir was invited to tour Russia).
This month, I received the news in rapid succession, first that my hours at the ROM would suffer due to closures (though, thanks to Digital's reopening, I actually made out okay for January), and then that the hostel would be closing in January (being part-time, I don't get paid for the closure during renovations either). I was putting together my resume for a temp agency to balance this out when I received news that, due to really poor sales at the bookstore over Christmas, I (and the other three part-timers were hit just as bad, if not worse) would be losing half my hours there, too.
(And this, if I may digress, is why it's so important to support your local small bookstores. Because unlike the massive lumbering chain stores, when our sales go down, we have no choice but to lose qualified, knowledgeable, really good staff.)
But this announcement was not, as you might expect, met with despair. Because on the heels of that came a gift. A caring soul who had no requirement or reason to do so gave me the equivalent of a month's rent, so that I can take the two-or-so weeks of lay-offs from the hostel (the job that pays said rent) and turn that into a vacation in order to finish my book.
And I started sobbing again.
Because this, more than anything, illustrates just how magical this Christmas was. Two people I've known for a relatively short time, from whom I never would have expected it, gave of themselves to make two of my dreams -- dreams I had set aside as being dear, but unlikely enough to be impossible -- come true. And more than those dreams, it's the generosity, the caring, behind them that truly touches me, and is bringing tears to my eyes yet again as I type this. They did it because they care. About me. And that kind of love is really the greatest gift in the world.
I have learned this Christmas that magic is alive and well in this world, and that you can make a difference in someone's life. And wherever and whenever I am able, I intend to make a difference too.
( 1:06 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Schumacher, You Dickweed...And here are my thoughts on the Phantom of the Opera.
Now, to begin with, you must realize that my love affair with the Phantom of the Opera began in Grade 5, and continued through to high school. I haven't actually listened to the soundtrack in almost 7 years, and studiously avoided it once I learned they were making the movie, but that doesn't negate the fact that I'm still able to recite it verbatim. I saw the musical 5 times, and enjoyed it every single time. And I did enjoy the movie.
Now then. While what I'm going to say aren't exactly spoilers, since you know the plot already if you've ever listened to the soundtrack, there are things that will likely taint your impression of the movie and spoil some little bits that were added, so don't highlight the blank space below until you've actually seen it.
That said, I didn't hate the movie. I absolutely loved many parts of it. I will likely see it again. And since we no longer have a running production in Toronto (I don't care how much money Canon paid, it's still the Pantages) and I couldn't afford to go whenever the whim struck me even if we did, I will most likely buy the DVD as well. But it's so damn frustrating, especially after how well Chicago was adapted for the screen, to see something that could have been so damn great on screen turn into what it was.
I blame Schumacher. I know that when Andrew Lloyd Webber first saw The Lost Boys, he turned to his wife and said "if we ever do Phantom as a movie, I want him to direct it". And Lost Boys was great. But dude, did you miss that this is the same director who then went on to singlehandedly ruin Batman, because he has this problem with the whole MISSING THE POINT thing???
There were great bits. I mean, if you were indoctrinated on the soundtrack as early as I was, you're bound to love it just for the music, and it would have been very hard to ruin that with Webber working as closely as he was with Schumacher. Minnie Driver was absolutely fabulous, as were the two owners, and the Notes bits were some of my favourites in the movie, which I watched with unmitigated glee. Chris, Jana, and I kept bursting into hysterics whenever Carlotta's entourage followed her around with that massive portrait.
But there was so much that just pissed me off. Webber stipulated that the actors cast must be able to sing their own parts. And while most acquitted themselves marvellously (Minnie Driver again), there were serious problems with the leads.
Christine could sing. Quite well actually, though she did that annoying sweepy thing up to some of the high notes that had Geoff's (my choir director's) voice snarking in my head -- Geoff was speaking quite a lot during the movie, proving that being a choir geek and going to musicals is hard. But yes. Christine. Great singer. Especially considering she's only sixteen, her voice was phenomenal. Pity she only had one facial expression for the entire movie.
Raoul could sing, and he was pretty enough, but they really needed to stop him from trying to act. It was just painful. And what the HELL was with all the bits where Christine and Raoul were speaking parts that were supposed to be sung? Little Lottie is just wrong as spoken word. You are not William Shatner. And saying rhyme rather than singing it just makes it sound like bad poetry, like that godawful drunk driving commercial playing on the MIX right now ("I'm sorry he drank, mom / I should be in bed / but because he drank, mom / I'm really quite dead.">
The Phantom.... oh dear. He didn't stink. He did hit the notes he was supposed to. And I could almost hear Tami saying "oh my God, we found this guy for the show who is so phenomenal, you won't believe it!" His is the kind of voice amateur theatre would kill for. But when you're Andrew Lloyd Webber making a movie, and you have the talent pool you have to choose from, why on earth would you settle for someone who's pretty darned adequate?
And therein lies yet another quibble. Chris liked it -- she said that for the first time, she understood why the Phantom had such appeal for Christine, because with the mask on he was actually pretty hot. And part of me did kinda enjoy the eye candy. A lot. And the seduction scenes were a lot more... well, seductive.
But we come back to the MISSING THE POINT. Rather important here. The whole thing about Phantom is that Raoul is the pretty one, and the Phantom is this guy with the voice of an angel (rather important that -- Christine's supposed to be actually mistaking him for an angel) trapped in the body of a beast. So making him a guy who can sing pretty okay in a raw-untrained-husky sort of way, who just happens to have a bit of a skin condition just doesn't work. Listen to the text. Gargoyle. Specter. The face that haunts my nightmares. Etc. etc. etc. And don't tell me Christine couldn't fall for him if he was ugly, because hordes of my classmates fell for the Phantom with only Michael Crawford's voice and the pictures of Colm Wilkinson in the nasty makeup to go on. Hell, most of us liked the beast in Beauty and the Beast better pre-transformation. So this whole inner beauty vs. outer beauty thing? The one you need, because when you come down to it, Raoul's a bit of a weenie and his pretty face is his saving grace? Gone.
I repeat. MISSING THE POINT.
And then there's the MASSIVE change to the backstory. We flashback to a scene from the Susan Kay book (yes, somebody working on the screenplay read PHANTOM), with the Phantom (oh hell, if we're going with Kay, let's just call him Erik and be done with it) in a cage in a circus, and Madame Giry as a young girl frees him and takes him to the opera house, where he spends the rest of his life.
Now granted, I'm having trouble remembering which was Kay and which Leroux (frankly, the Leroux lost me when Christine tried to commit suicide in the Phantom's lair by running into a wall), but I'm reasonably sure they agreed on the major points.
Yeah, the whole backstory where the Phantom studies, becomes an architect, goes to Persia and tools around for a while making potions and building torture chambers for the Shah? The one that explains all the Phantom's illusions around the opera house, the traps in the basement, the MONKEY IN PERSIAN ROBES? Gone.
And explaining his magic tricks away just ruined some of the whole creepy-essence-of-power thing the Phantom had going for him. Explaining stuff like how he made Carlotta start croaking really diminishes that.
He should have been a lot older. He certainly didn't look Giry's age. And he's supposed to have been coaching Christine since she was a child. As THE VOICE OF HER FATHER. He would have been, what, 15? "Gee Dad, does puberty undo itself when you become an angel? Hey Dad, why is your voice cracking?" There's this whole twisted father thing that's been wiped out by the recasting of the Phantom as a young man. It's supposed to be the age, the wisdom, the VOICE that appeals to Christine. Not the pretty face and the sculpted body.
And again, it's not that I didn't enjoy those. They were quite lovely if you take them on their own merits. But not ON THE PHANTOM.
MISSING. THE. POINT.
And I can totally see Schumacher going "you know what this musical needs? A big-ass sword fight!"
And then, as Erin rightly pointed out, Schumacher resorts to all the 80's Lost Boys shaky whip-pan camera tricks, that take the majesty and spectacle of the musical numbers on stage and break them up so you can only see tiny pieces. So much of what makes the musical so stunning visually -- the large chorus numbers and great choreography -- is lost when you focus in on one person at a time. In Erin's words, "they put in a lot that was bad, and left out so much of what was good".
She was right. They took characters we knew for so long, and bled the depth and personality out of them. In Erin's words again, "it was like watching strangers." Which may be part of the problem -- I honestly don't know what my reaction would have been had I never seen the musical or heard the soundtrack, but I suspect there would have been a lot more delight and a lot less "oh, dear." Pity I'll never know.
Again, despite all this, I didn't hate the movie. I will buy the DVD. I will watch it often. But I will also listen to my original Cast recording again, and mourn the movie-that-might-have-been.
( 1:22 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
More Birthday StuffWe went to see Phantom of the Opera today for my birthday, and while I did enjoy it, I have much to say about it. But that's a topic for a later post, when I've had time to think about it and I'm not running on 5 hours sleep.
In the meantime, I received many birthday cards along the way, some funny, some sweet, but the winner for strangest, hands down, is this:
I love you, Shannon.
( 1:31 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Happy Birthday To MeToday was one of the best birthdays I've had in years. Why? Because I spent it with people I love.
I had the family dinner over the weekend, because I was scheduled to work at the bookstore today, and I couldn't have been happier. I arrived to a big hug from Chris, a present, and a big box of birthday cookies (Chris understands my love affair with Felix and Norton). Then, after giving Chris her Christmas present (the Muppet Movie Soundtrack), we spent the day listening to my favourite Christmas CD interspersed with great Muppet music. There was much singing and bopping all day long.
Then it was back home with Karina, where we worked on our plumbing issue (we are the queens of home repair improv -- yes, you can fix a toilet with nothing but duct tape and a glue gun), and then watched Elf while enjoying the fabulous Thai dinner Karina treated me to.
And I realized what had been missing from the last few birthdays I've had.
A best friend.
(Oh, and yes, I'm posting a birthday snippet on my newsgroup)
( 11:25 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Friday, December 17, 2004
Alas, A Cornucopia of LoveI'm ready to kill a certain someone, so for a much needed laugh, the ingenious sibling sent me a link to some great Harry Potter flash animation. And this one too.
I'm still feeling decidedly gryphonic. But at least I'm in a better mood.
( 1:17 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Festive FuzziesIn a follow up to the miracle cephalopod: Best. Crustacean. Ever.
And check out the Bakka Christmas Section. It's best to get to it by clicking on the present on the main page, because then you get to see the cute wee rocket ship. John outdid himself.
And it may not be festive, but the skeletal systems of cartoon characters is just plain neat. And hilarious.
( 10:56 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
See?When I was having One of Those Days at the ROM a while ago, I mentioned my theory that the universe thinks I'm funny. Sharilynn responded with an article about three people who'd drowned in a septic tank, and said "the universe is not out to get you. When you feel like it is, remember it could be worse -- you could die in a septic tank."
Today on my way to work, I was in a big hurry as I reached the corner of University and College -- probably the only part of the College reconstruction project that's still under heavy construction.
"Oh, look," I said to myself as I headed up toward Wellesley. "The firefighter monument is done--"
At which point I fell in a hole.
Oh, there were sawhorses around it. On three sides. Guess which side I was walking past.
It could have been a lot worse. It was pretty cold, so the hole was pretty much frozen and I didn't even get muddy. But it was about chest deep, so it took me a few minutes to get out of it. Unhurt -- the worst that happened was I scraped my palms on the edge of the hole trying to get out -- but seriously embarassed.
See, the universe isn't out to get me. I never claimed it was. It just thinks I'm funny.
( 11:48 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Monday, December 13, 2004
PerspectiveGrowing up, I spent the summer and a goodly portion of my vacation time at my aunt's house in Milton. I adored it there, in no small part because that's where my best friend lived. She'd been my best friend for really as far back as I could remember, and remained my best friend until high school.
At that point, we really drifted apart. Other people entered my life who would become additional best friends. But even though we never really communicated anymore, I still thought about her often.
After having pretty much lost track of her, I found out yesterday from my aunt that she's just undergone surgery for type 2 ovarian cancer. She's scheduled for additional surgery in January.
Sometimes life just throws something at you that makes you see things in a new perspective.
If there's anyone out there you care about who you haven't talked to in a while, do yourself and them a favour. Drop them a line. Just to say hello.
( 10:51 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Bookvoid and Old PocketsI discovered today that there is a print error in the hardcover BLADE DANCER, by S.L. Viehl, and that several pages repeat. Which prompted me immediately to check my copy. How could I have reviewed the book for the store and not know if there's a repeat in my book, you ask? Simple -- I received an ARC and when I was finished, passed it on (as you do with ARCs -- except those signed by the author, which never again leave my hands). Then cursed loudly when we sold out of hardcovers before I got one. Then snagged what turned out to be our last remaining hardcover when I was doing returns. So I'd never actually read that particular copy. When I learned about the printing error, I decided I should probably check.
There's one small problem. I can't find my copy of BLADE DANCER.
Oh, it's in the house somewhere. The problem is that it's vanished into the bookvoid.
You know -- the bookvoid?
That strange alteration of time and space that occurs when you insult gravity by attempting to pile ten bookshelves worth of books onto your only five shelves, into which books vanish, never to be seen again.
I'll find it again. Most likely when I recover from the post-Christmas cut-hours financial crash, use my newfound wealth (snerk) to purchase BioRescue, and try to find a place for it on my shelves. I do actually have an ARC of that one, but it's one of those ARCs that I'm SO not getting rid of. But even though I'm keeping it, I still want one of the pretty ones.
In other news, we've entered crazy time at the museum, which will last until early January (when our hours get cut -- whee). It's insane, but fun. Currenly, the Origami club is making reindeer and Christmas trees out by the bees, Charlene's leading roots and shoots in making Christmas paper out by the wings, and I'm walking around with a 15-million-year-old shark tooth in my pocket.
God, I love my job.
( 1:25 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Saturday, December 11, 2004
I have fairy dandruffSo, the bath bomb I bought to help me relax? Yeah. Full of glitter. So now I sparkle. And it's falling off as my skin dries. And it's in my hair. So I have fairy dandruff. I'm gonna be finding glitter for weeks.
In lieu of actual content, cause I'm sparkly-but-exhausted, some fun stuff:
Best. Cephalopod. Ever.
Sometimes Teresa Neilsen Hayden says exactly what I'm thinking, only coherently.
Yet another reason to love Johnny Depp.
( 1:41 AM ) Sarah Jane ~
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Caving inStep One:
Make a post (public, friends-locked, filtered...whatever you're comfortable with) to your LJ. The post should contain your list of 10 holiday wishes. The wishes can be anything at all, from simple and fandom-related ("I'd love a Snape/Hermione icon that's just for me") to medium ("I wish for _____ on DVD") to really big ("All I want for Christmas is a new car/computer/house/TV.") The important thing is, make sure these wishes are things you really, truly want.
- If you wish for real life things (not fics or icons), make sure you include some sort of contact info in your post, whether it's your address or just your email address where Santa (or one of his elves) could get in touch with you.
- Also, make sure you post some version of these guidelines in your LJ, or link to this post (it'll be public) so that the holiday joy will spread.
My list (in no particular order):
- Surf around your friends-list (or friends-friends, or just random journals) to see who has posted their list. And now here's the important part:
- If you see a wish you can grant, and it's in your heart to do so, make someone's wish come true. Sometimes someone's trash is another's treasure, and if you have a leather jacket you don't want or a gift certificate you won't use--or even know where you could get someone's dream purebred Basset Hound for free--do it.
You needn't spend money on these wishes unless you want to. The point isn't to put people out, it's to provide everyone a chance to be someone else's holiday elf--to spread the joy. Gifts can be made anonymously or not--it's your call.
There are no rules with this project, no guarantees, and no strings attached. Just...wish, and it might come true. Give, and you might receive. And you'll have the joy of knowing you made someone's holiday special.
( 2:07 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Finding the UpsI got an e-mail today from an editor who has had one of my stories for over a year. He apologized, assured me that he had sent a response a couple months ago, and that it must have gone astray. He said he'd go through his files to see if he had his notes on the manuscript, and get back to me by Friday.
Now, I can't presume to speak for him, but the lack of anything like "you mean your contract hasn't arrived yet?" tells me that his response was a polite and personable (it always is with him, which is why I continue to submit, despite year-long response times) rejection.
I'm getting used to it. I started actively submitting things for publication in second year university, to MZB of all people. I realize now how lucky I was to get a "not really for me at this time" from both the stories I submitted to her, because had I gotten one of her infamous "I didn't care whether your main character lived or died" rejections from her, it might have booted me out of writing. Well, out of submitting my writing, at any rate. Anyway. That was back in 1998. I finally sold something in 2003. That's 5 years of rejections in the interim.
The first couple times it was devastating. Now it's more of an "Ooh, there's an envelope from thatplaceIsubmittedto.... DAMN! Crap. Okay, what am I having for dinner?" But there are still odd moments, be it that I'm having a bad day, or I'd had really high hopes for that particular story,
when a rejection catches me hard. On days like that, I need to find the ups.
What are ups?
I have a concert tonight, that's going to kick ass.
One of my parents is actually coming to this one.
Mum is taking me out to dinner before the concert tonight.
I have two jobs I really, really like.
It's December, and I'm not sick yet (touching wood).
I have a best friend who loves Inuyasha as much as I do.
I'm panelling again at Ad Astra.
I'm down two sizes in jeans.
I have one story in print, and another sold.
There. Much better.
( 1:11 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Whoa!So at dress rehearsal on Monday we got our orchestra in for the first time. We went from one piano accompaniment to string quintet and the church's pipe organ.
Holy difference, Batman!
It's incredible. See, Handel has this habit of plonking a chord at the beginning of the chorus, to let the choir know where their notes are.
The usual response (with Bill on the piano):
::dong:: "Oh, okay, that's where I am."
::DONG!!!!:: "Holy crap, I can feel that through my feet!!!"
It really is astounding. Singing -- singing right -- is a full body exercise. An A feels different though your body when you sing it than when you're singing a C or a D. When you really mesh with the rest of your choir, you get a kind of aftershock sensation that tells you you're all working together.
But this. Big, serious choral music, is the kind of thing that rocks you from your head to your toes.
I love this stuff.
( 1:00 PM ) Sarah Jane ~
Friday, December 03, 2004
Ow.Adding to the list of Sarah's Inexplicable Injuries, I woke up today with a black eye.
No. I don't know either.
All I know is that I noticed during choir last night that blinking hurt, as the area under my eye was sore, and when I got home, the bottom lid was visibly swollen. Today, the swelling is less, but the area under my eye is slowly turning purple. How or why -- I'm clueless.
I suspect that it's some combination of the physical stress of December, the financial concerns, and the bleeding disorder. After all, I'm almost always coming up with strange bruises. What's one more? It just happens to be really inconvenient.
Although, I still have trouble explaining to people that I'm happier now than I've ever been, negative bank account and mystery bruises notwithstanding. It's most evident in the fact that for the first time in six years, I'm not critically ill in December. Ever since the first time I got mono, I've ALWAYS been critically ill by December (touching wood). But I'm not. Because even though I'm sore, and stressed, and exhausted, I wake up 5 days out of seven going "God, I love my job".
It really does make all the difference in the world.
Even if I can't wink just now to prove it.
( 1:09 AM ) Sarah Jane ~