Wednesday, February 28, 2007

February 2007 Books and Movies

Kinky Boots (DVD)

Cute British off-beat flick about a shoe factory fighting to stay in business. They find a niche market in making fetish footwear for men but the small town mentality is hampering their efforts. The message of tolerance and acceptance is well put, but the bashing over the head with symbolism is a little much. I like home grown British fare, so enjoyed it very much.

Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys
Dave Barry

Not as funny as expected. It's very topical and written 12 years ago, so reads a little out of date. I laughed out loud twice but the downside was that I only laughed those two times. The urinal diagrams provided some very interesting new information. Got to the last 50 pages and started skimming. I think I'll wait a while before trying another Dave Barry book.

Rabbit Proof Fence (DVD)

Unbelievably beautiful. Three mixed aboriginal girls are forcebly removed from their homes and taken to a camp to be trained as servants. They follow the rabbit proof fence (the longest fence in the world, built to keep rabbits from invading the farmland) over 2000 km back to their homeland. A very sad commentary on not only Australian history, but on most aboriginal/european relations throughout the world. That people continue to force change on what they do not understand is one of humanity's greatest dysfunctions. The aboriginal children who played the main characters were heartbreakingly realistic, likely because they had never acted before. Watching the behind the scenes documentary tells you more about how this experience changed the girls too much, they came into the film completely innocent and have walked away changed and I'm not sure for the better. They ask the girls what they want to be when they grow up and all three of them say actor/director, but they haven't done anything else according to IMDB. This suggest to me that the experience may have been too much for them. As far as the adult actors, absolutely stellar, Kenneth Branagh and a host of Australian stars. The cinematography is phenomenal, showing the extreme climates of Australia and the sheer force of nature the girls were up against. An absolute must see.

Etre et Avoir (DVD)

Beautiful documentary about the workings of a one room school house in the middle of rural France. I loved the way the teacher and students were almost oblivious to the camera. You felt like a invited observer as opposed to a intruder. The children are unconciously funny and Mr. Lopez is the three Cs to a T, committed, consistant and caring. I was so engrossed that I was surprised when it ended. The rural dialectal French is hard to understand, so I found myself reading the subtitles to double check what I had just heard. This movie has been on my must see list since it came out in 2002. Time well spent.

Music and Lyrics

Really bad! Although the 80s new wave band spoofs were funny and there were a few good one-liners. Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore do not have any chemistry. Too bad, I've liked them in movies like this individually. Give this one a miss unless you are really bored and need a mindless dvd rental.

Catch and Release

Ummmm, not bad, not good. Fairly static romantic comedy (referred to as rom coms these days...cheesy!) Kevin Smith makes it watchable, Jennifer Garner makes you cringe, supporting cast are pretty and so-so. The most interesting thing about it was that it looked like they started filming some time ago (ancient analogue green back lit cell phone) and shelved it. Most movies that come out in February are run of the mill as not to upset the Oscars. This one definitely qualifies. Ho hum.

12 Riffs on the Power of Music
Edited by Jennifer Armstrong

Great read for young people (12-16) about how music affects diffent people. The short stories are great for read aloud to jump start a lesson or to practice public reading. Could easily be turned into a writing project for grade 9 or 10 English. I thouroughly enjoyed the diverse stories.

The Areas of My Expertise
John Hodgman

Well I tried to get through this book. I really did. It was funny in parts, but I don't think I'm into his ironic writing enough to push through to the end. Amy made a observation about it being a good book for the bathroom. (I don't think you're supposed to keep a library book by your toilet... :) ) You don't have to read it from start to finish and it's chunked in all different sizes and types of text from charts to pictograms to lists. Anyway, I got through nearly halfway when I decided to throw in the towel. When I don't want to pick up a book or feel it's a chore to read, it's time to move on. Not to mention that I have a very big stack waiting paitently to be read.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend (DVD)

I didn't make the choice to rent it, but when I looked it up on IMDB I was surprised to see that Ivan Reitman was the director. I usually really like his movies. This one was pretty contrived, with really bad dialogue. Didn't make me laugh uproariously, but I did snigger once or twice. You really have to be in the mood for physical comedy and sledgehammer jokes. The guy from Six Feet Under and The Office (Rainn Wilson) is a fun addition to the cast.

Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen
Glen Huser

Really great early teen read. Skinnybones (Tamara) is a foster kid and the Wrinkle Queen (Miss Barclay) is an 89 year old woman who lives in a nursing home. The two meet in community outreach program between Tamara's school and the home. Without giving too much away, the relationship becomes mutually exclusive and they take off on a road trip adventure. I really liked the dual point of view first person narrative. It's set in Western Canada and involves Wagner's Ring Cycle, so there are elements that may be new to young readers. The author gives just enough details about the two main characters to entice the reader, without comprimising the storyline. A great book for class study or stand alone read.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Voice Clinic at St. Mikes

Saw Dr. Anderson today (although not until I had been pre-screened by everyone from the front receptionist to a med student to Dr. Halal who I saw the last time I was there) at her voice clinic. The news is a mixed bag of good and bad. My voice has improved and it seems to be coming along at the same rate my arthritis is improving. She thinks it's likely that my voice has not returned fully because I'm not in remission yet. The scope showed that I still have inflammation and also some scarring on the right fold of the vocal chords. The acid reflux is still not entirely gone, so I have to continue taking the Nexium. She has suggested some speech therapy to keep the elasticity and prevent further scarring. I have an appointment next week with the speech pathologist. She does not recommend surgery at this time.

It's hard to process all this. Singing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I do it for a living, I do it for my own art, I do it for fun. Even though I can sing somewhat (I have good and bad days) I know my voice is not back to normal. My high notes (B and C - 3rd octave) and my break (G, A, and B - 1st octave) are rough and I never know how it will come out. I can't imagine not being able to ever sing to the best of my ability, but if I never go into remission that's my reality. I really can't get too bogged down in all this, I just have to hope for the best.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Hearing Raffi Speak

Tonight I went to a dinner put on by the Reading for the Love of It conference where Raffi Cavoukian (children's performer, environmentalist and self named World Troubador) was the guest speaker. He spoke about his new book Child Honouring: How to Turn This World Around, his new CD, Resisto Dancing - Songs of Compasionate Revolution with it's lead single Cool It! about Global warning. He talked about the 9 child honouring principles of Respectful Love, Diversity, Caring Community, Parenting, Emotional Intelligence, Non Violence, Safe Environments, Sustainability and Ethical Commerce. If you're interested in further explanations go to

He sang a few new songs from what he calls his Raffi Renaissance. I got a childhood album signed and was able to get a picture with him to show my students. I was really impressed with his public speaking and of course enjoyed his singing. This was definitely worth the money out of pocket. I've come away with some new ideas to add to my new project at school which is to promote social justice in our school community. I've formed a committee with a few teachers and we are specifically focusing on hygiene and nutrition. We're still brainstorming ways to deseminate more information to a largely ESL community faced with socio-economic inequity.

Looking forward to sharing my experiences at the conference and putting new ideas into practice

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

You know you have a pretty amazing boyfriend when the whole of Halton region is having a snow day and he doesn't even have to go to to work yet travels 50 kms to see you on Valentine's Day. I came home from work to find him cooking with fresh ingredients from the St. Lawrence market and a bouquet of flowers waiting to be opened. I even got a Starbucks card, which I know doesn't sound romantic, but is for me! Quite a way to end a 11 year V-day drought. Thanks for a lovely evening!