Reading Watching Listening

Reading…
Al Purdy. I’ve been frantically trying to track down one. specific. poem. In the process, though, I took some time to finally read through the selected poems my parents bought me. It’s been a nice reminder of why I number him among my favourite Canadian poets.

 

Watching…

Bunheads. Guyyyyyyyyyyyyyys, how had I not watched this show before now!? Kelly Bishop is a goddess. And Sutton Foster is so fantastic in this show. And Amy Sherman-Palladino writes such fabulously smart and hilarious dialogue and creates quirky, delightful worlds. Plus, any Gilmore Girls devotee is going to love the number of actors who appear on both shows.

 

Listening…

“God Bless the Child” by Billie Holliday. Because this song is always always good. Though my neighbours who have to listen to me belt it out in the shower may disagree.

Read This

As someone who knows I don’t want children, and has known as much from a fairly young age, I think about what it means to be a woman who doesn’t want children and how this impacts my life a lot. I’m at an age where the children issue is both something you confront on a daily basis — my friends are starting to have kids or discuss having kids with their partners, the ones who don’t have kids or a person with whom to have kids are starting to worry about timelines, and the question of children is actually something that arises in the dating world (and knowing you don’t want kids, if you are female, is not exactly a selling point apparently). Anyway, since it’s something I think about a lot, I’m always intrigued by pieces about it. This one, “Opting Out of Motherhood” by Meghan Daum, is one I particularly enjoy.

I’ve never wanted children, but I’ve always had names picked out for them anyway. Some might say that’s a sign that I live in some sad state of unconscious regret now that, having freshly turned 45, I haven’t had them. But it mostly just means there are pets I’ve wanted to call Lucy and Thomas but didn’t because I was irrationally inclined to save those names on the off chance they might be put to human use one day. I say irrationally because this is basically tantamount to holding on to a pair of ankle harnesses in case I suddenly want to go bungee jumping—something that ranks about 500,000th on my bucket list. But that’s how deeply the motherhood mandate is imprinted in women’s brains. We try to talk ourselves into it. Sometimes we even let others talk us into it. Even those of us who aren’t programmed for it are prone to try to overwrite our code.

[…KEEP READING…]

Reading Watching Listening

Reading…

Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman. I actually started this book of short stories, the second from Mayhew Bergman, in the summer. I loved it so much that I bought it for one of my best friends this Christmas. Then the other day I was moving books on my nightstand and realized I HADN’T ACTUALLY FINISHED IT. So I’m making my way through the last couple stories now and still totally loving it. Mayhew Bergman creates truly fascinating characters in her writing, and her chosen subjects in this collection captivate me.

 

Watching…

Seinfeld. This show has been on my “to watch” list for quite some time now but I haven’t been able to track it down in any sort of affordable form (the DVDs are prohibitively expensive). I just signed up for a free trial month of Crave TV pretty much exclusively so I could finally get around to watching Seinfeld. Do I want to pay for yet another subscription service? No. Am I down for a free month to finally watch this show? Yes. I had gotten mixed opinions whenever I mentioned I wanted to watch it (it seems to be a love-or-hate kind of show), but so far I am really enjoying it.

 

Listening…

“Pen to Paper” by Modern Space. I discovered this one through Spotify, and I like it A LOT.

Read This

Required Reading. 2015 was, for my family, a year of death. I don’t know why things seem to go like this. I don’t know why death occurs in clusters. I don’t know what exactly do do with the reality of death. I don’t know how to deal with loss and grief and the looming spectre of mortality while carrying on with several jobs and daily tasks. I think about it a lot these days. I don’t mean this to sound like a cry for help; it isn’t. Life’s just been hard and weird lately. I’ve been thinking a lot about this essay by Paul Kalanithi as a result. His story is both heartbreaking and beautiful. I just bought his full length memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, and am excited to read it. For now, I  recommend that you all read Paul’s beautiful meditations in “Before I go”.

In residency, there’s a saying: The days are long, but the years are short. In neurosurgical training, the day usually began a little before 6 a.m., and lasted until the operating was done, which depended, in part, on how quick you were in the OR.

A resident’s surgical skill is judged by his technique and his speed. You can’t be sloppy and you can’t be slow. From your first wound closure onward, spend too much time being precise and the scrub tech will announce, “Looks like we’ve got a plastic surgeon on our hands!” Or say: “I get your strategy — by the time you finish sewing the top half of the wound, the bottom will have healed on its own. Half the work — smart!” A chief resident will advise a junior: “Learn to be fast now — you can learn to be good later.” Everyone’s eyes are always on the clock. For the patient’s sake: How long has the patient been under anesthesia? During long procedures, nerves can get damaged, muscles can break down, even causing kidney failure. For everyone else’s sake: What time are we getting out of here tonight?

There are two strategies to cutting the time short, like the tortoise and the hare. The hare moves as fast as possible, hands a blur, instruments clattering, falling to the floor; the skin slips open like a curtain, the skull flap is on the tray before the bone dust settles. But the opening might need to be expanded a centimeter here or there because it’s not optimally placed. The tortoise proceeds deliberately, with no wasted movements, measuring twice, cutting once. No step of the operation needs revisiting; everything proceeds in orderly fashion. If the hare makes too many minor missteps and has to keep adjusting, the tortoise wins. If the tortoise spends too much time planning each step, the hare wins.

The funny thing about time in the OR, whether you frenetically race or steadily proceed, is that you have no sense of it passing. If boredom is, as Heidegger argued, the awareness of time passing, this is the opposite: The intense focus makes the arms of the clock seem arbitrarily placed. Two hours can feel like a minute. Once the final stitch is placed and the wound is dressed, normal time suddenly restarts. You can almost hear an audible whoosh. Then you start wondering: How long till the patient wakes up? How long till the next case gets started? How many patients do I need to see before then? What time will I get home tonight?

It’s not until the last case finishes that you feel the length of the day, the drag in your step. Those last few administrative tasks before leaving the hospital, however far post-meridian you stood, felt like anvils. Could they wait till tomorrow? No. A sigh, and Earth continued to rotate back toward the sun.

[…KEEP READING…]

Reading Watching Listening

Reading…

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick, illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Yes, this is a children’s book. No, I don’t have a child. I do, however, have a deep love for Winnie the Pooh, so as soon as I saw this book I snapped it up. The story is both true and sweet, and the illustrations are beyond adorable.

 

Watching…

The Office. Canadian Netflix finally added this show, and I can’t get enough of it. Jim and Pam are pretty much all of my relationship goals. John Krasinski is adorable. BJ Novak is adorable. And Mindy Kaling is my spirit animal.

 

Listening…

Shake Shake Go. One of my best friends introduced me to this group over Christmas, and I’ve been listening to their EP over and over while doing work. Definitely need more from them.

 

Read This

Required Reading. Sloane Crosley is hilarious. She is also whip smart. I mean, I’m going to be a huge fan of anyone who titles her first essay collection I Was Told There’d Be Cake. Similarly, anyone who opens said collection with an essay beginning with “As most New Yorkers have done, I’ve given serious thought to the state of my apartment should I get killed during the day.” Her observations of her world are nuanced and hilarious and feel oh-so-familiar to this twenty-something dealing with the weird world of adulthood. In case I was wondering if it really made any sense for me to identify with her life, this New York Times essay titled “Cat People Are People, Too” assuaged any doubts.

I only have the one and she’s a rescue so it’s O.K. 

So goes the party line regarding my cat. Five years ago, her pregnant mother was abandoned and locked in a warehouse in North Carolina where she gave birth to a small litter of kittens. For days, the kittens survived without food or water before being discovered by a friend who knew exactly where the pictures should be sent. By the next week, I had a gray tabby with snowcapped paws peering at me from the laundry basket in the closet. 

I named her Mabel after a store that once existed on Madison Avenue. The store — itself named for the owner’s cat — dealt exclusively in overpriced feline-themed merchandise. And it did so with no sense of irony whatsoever. There were cat-head mugs and wide-brimmed hats with knit Persians curled on their brims and museum-sized oil paintings of cats lounging in the branches of an oak tree. I know, I can’t believe it went out of business either. It was a retail Mecca for crazy cat people. I’m fighting the urge to call it a “Meowca” although, frankly, the store’s owner probably would have wanted me to.

There is no such thing as a crazy dog person in New York. Are there people who are completely insane about their dogs? Hordes. But cat people may as well have whiskers and tails themselves. That’s because their pets’ lack of social need taps straight into our worst fears as the human inhabitants of New York. Cats, after all, don’t have other cat friends. You can’t take them to the cat run. Cats and their owners are on a private, exclusive loop of affection. Thus cats have become symbolic of a community eschewed and a hyper-engagement with oneself. They represent the profound danger of growing so independent in New York that it’s not merely that you don’t need anyone — it’s that you don’t know how to need anyone.

[…KEEP READING…]

Quoted

If I stay long enough in the studio, just stay with the work even if it doesn’t feel great or seem satisfying or directional or conclusive, if I just stay to tend and garden, then my mind gradually yields control to the more automatic labor of painting, and with that comes a sweet spot in the process further down, a worn groove, a sense of ease.

— Anna Schuleit

Reading Watching Listening

Like the weekly reading series I introduced on Wednesday, this is another returning personal favourite series. Part recommendation, part record for myself.

Reading...

I’ve started some reading for a contract research position at a museum, so just yesterday I re-read Margaret Atwood’s “The Age of Lead” from Wilderness Tips. It’s a surprisingly touching story from a collection that I would argue is some of Atwood’s best writing.

Watching…

I started re-watching One Tree Hill over the Christmas break. Sometimes a girl just needs a good dose of teen-oriented soap opera-esque drama supported by a kick ass soundtrack and the prodigious use of “meaningful” quotations. I’ve also been actively trying to convince myself that the weird dye-job and cut I got in December isn’t actually weird, it’s just very Peyton.

Listening…

I have a continuing obsession with “S.O.B” by Nathaniel Hawthorne & The Night Sweats.