tripping the life unbalanced

Sunday, January 22, 2006

what happens when you are convinced your daughter will be a tomboy

Friday, January 20, 2006

#6: Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation

After starting off my 50 Book Challenge last week, I submitted the titles to the library hold list and waited excitedly to see what would come in first (it doesn't take much to excite me, "ooohhhh the automated library lady called me!") And 10 came in all at once, as we all knew would happen.

I went to pick up the 10 books, pouring over each one. There were some novels and non-fiction I really wanted to start, but one book stood out among the rest. And as much as I tried to actually start 2 other books, it was this one book that kept calling me back. It was Jeff Chang's Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation and you better hold your breath because I am about to launch into a short lecture that should be titled "what a fucking awesome book."

The short of the long is this: the 450 + pages trace the history of hip-hop from its beginnings in Jamaica and the Bronx in the late 60s-early 70s, through to the more recent narratives of the early 21st century. As the book jacket says, it "chronicles the events, the ideas, the music, and the art that marked the hip-hop generation's rise from the ashes of the 60s into the new millenium". It is the story of DJ Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash and the famous Bronx parties and the record companies who jumped on the rising stars of hip-hip and then co-opted their music. It is the story of Chuck D and Public Enemy and grafitti artists and Ice Cube and poverty and drugs and gangs and the LA riots. It is the story of the systemic racism that ensures American institutions appropriate an art form with one hand while holding down the communities who built it with the other.

And then of course there's the music. The awesome can't-not-start-dancing music.

But it is so much more than just this, and I feel like my short description does the book a disservice.

Chang manages to place a generation within the historical events which shaped it, without falling victim to a contrived narrative. In his prelude, he makes clear that this is just one version of history, and he encourages other stories from this history to emerge. His definition of the "hip-hop generation" is one of the better I have seen that (even apart from the music) best encapsulate a poorly-named Generation X:

"My own feeling is that the idea of the Hip-Hop Generation brings together time and race, place and polyculturalism, hot beats and hybridity. It describes the turn from politics to culture, the process of entropy and reconstruction. It captures the collective hopes and nightmares, ambitions and failures of those who would otherwise be decribed as "post-this" or "post-that." (page 2)

Can't Stop is one of those books that you pass by on the shelf because it looks so long and textbook-like and you will be thinking "hey, that looks kinda cool but I just want to read something fun right now." But you will be wrong. You will truly be missing out on something incredible if you pass it by, and I can only urge you to have your own experience with it.

As some unnamed bloggy friends know from the other night at an empty bar on Queen Street East in Toronto, I just can't stop, won't stop talking about this book. So I will end this here. Get it. Read it. Pass it on.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Alice's new word

Alice's vocabulary is expanding by leaps and bounds these days. She loves to try out new words on us - especially if they sound "grown-up":

me: can you please sit down while eating your dinner, Alice? (insert: image of me making an exasperated face)

Alice: (ignores me)

me: Aliiiiiiceeee

Alice: Oh, ok, mommy

me: thanks

Alice: sitting down on our bums when we eat is appropriate, wight mommy?

me: uhhh....yes

Alice: (smiles with satisfaction that she has got a new word right)

me: where did you learn that word? "appropriate?" Is it something they say to you at daycare ('cause people, she sure ain't learning anything "appropriate" at home) Do you know what it means?

Alice: Well, mommy, things are just appropriate or they aren't. That's the way it is, mommy. So you hafta say "appropriate" when you want someone to do something. Ok Mommy? You understand now?


Friday, January 13, 2006

a new addition

No, I'm not pregnant SILLY. (good lord please please no). But we do have a new member of our family and her name is Tigger. Tigger the cat (named by her previous owners) is just a year old and very very skittish. Which means that if a giant toddler starts running toward her shrieking "COME BACK COME BACK I LOVE YOU KITTY", the cat is gone in 10 seconds. But I am happy to report the cat luurrvves moi and that is all that counts. We enjoy the quiet of the house together when Alice & Matt leave for their days.

And here she is in all her glory....

For your further \viewing pleasure I have included here our family's art project tonight - introducing the Potato Head Family!

Matt and I were killing ourselves over fascinating questions like "why do all the potato people only look up and not down? Do they have an altered sense of expectation?" And when Matt put the tongue on the Mr.'s head, well you can imagine he truly crowned a fabulous Friday night. Who needs a nightlife when you can play with the Potato family? Oh and yes - Alice was there too.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

sometimes it's hard

For the most part, I am happy with my decision to work from home while Alice is at daycare during the day. When I first came on board as a full partner at my company, I only worked four days/week and took every Friday off to spend time with Alice. Slowly, as the company has grown, that arrangement has evolved to our current situation where she is in daycare full time all week.

I am lucky to have the flexibility that I do, I know. I am lucky that I don't have to rush in the early mornings to get in a car or on the TTC to commute an hour away. I am lucky I don't have to deal with a boss looking at his/her watch when I come in late because my toddler had a tantrum. I am lucky I don't have to take my vacation time when my child is sick for two weeks straight with the croup. I am lucky I have a business partner who totally understands when I say " sorry, but today and tomorrow I am off as Alice is sick." I am lucky I don't have to race against the clock at the end of the day to go pick up my kid at daycare so I can then race home to start dinner. All in all, I am lucky.

But just because I get to enjoy some perks doesn't mean I don't still sometimes feel guilty or sad that my child is spending key hours of her development away from me. Today I called daycare to check up on her (it seemed a cough was developing in the morning) and the child care worker said "oh she's having a great time outside playing hockey right now." Hockey. My two year old is outside in the fresh air lauging away and running around with her friends that I don't really know and I am here in my home office feeling sad. She is only two years old, yet her life has already expanded far beyond me. And while I love my job and see how happy Alice is in her social situation at daycare, I also sometimes ache for the days when it was just her and I. When I would spend hours with her in the baby carrier bouncing around (she was a baby who liked to be held or worn, a lot). When her every movement and milestone was a part of my daily inner dialouge: she learned to hold up her head! She smiled for the first time! She is walking! You get my drift.

I guess I will always struggle with trying to balance my choices against my feelings - motherhood has mixed them up together for eternity. I know there will be other challenges down the road ("I hate you!"), but for now at least I will try to enjoy the hours I do spend with her and remember to take off more afternoons to spend together. It is the oldest cliche in the book but the time does go by so quickly. And I want to bottle it all - even the sadness I feel on a day like today.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

to delurk or not to delurk

Apparently this is national "delurking" week when those readers who normally don't comment come out of their respective closets and do so.

Apparently, I only have about 4 readers.

Apparently I wasn't supposed to care about this, as I am only really writing this for myself and close friends/family.

Apparently I am too curious.

Apparently I have no pride. So comment away, if you so please.

Monday, January 09, 2006

pants on fire

Oh. Great.

#1: A Million Little Pieces

I am glad I started out my 50 book challenge with James Frey's A MILLION LITTLE PIECES. It was a quick read but entirely satisfying - and by satisfying I mean utterly addictive. It was addictive like staying-up-in-the-wee-hours addictive so I could finish it. I now understand (from my google friend) that this book has met with similar responses all over.

Not necessarily the best writing at times, but such clarity at others. In case you were like me and living under a cultural rock in the past few months (I had never heard of this book prior to opening the gift at xmas), this is Frey's account of his 6 week stay at rehab in the early 90s. And his journey to a decision to "kick the habits" without the use of AA or the support of the belief in a higher power.

Not sure if Frey would like this comparison, but this book got me like GO ASK ALICE did in the 80s. Simple prose, but not a simple story - much more than a memoir. This book reminded me of why I love to read, and that fact alone is why I am happy it is at the top of this challenge.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

my 50 book challenge

I have seen some New Years resolutions making their way across the blogging world this past week, and have been thinking about how to throw my own hat into the ring. It has to be something that I will REALLY do, as my modus operandi the past few years has been to come up with an elaborate plan, spend time and energy crafting the ways in which it will play out, and then never following through. But this year, I think I have finally come up with something that is workable for me. So therefore, I introduce to you my 50 book challenge for 2006. And if, in 5 months, I fail miserably, you can point at me and laugh.

Many fellow bloggers have been working on different carnations of this challenge over the past few years - in basic terms, it means to read 50 books in the year and then blog about them. One of the great gaps in my present life is reading books that have commanded recent attention (either by their presence on "notable book" lists or somehow in the realm of popular culture). This gap is due mainly because a) trying to keep up with good books these days is almost next to impossible when a energetic toddler requires constant attention on the weekends and b) I am lazy. Mainly it is the latter.

So here's my plan: through a very non-scientific research methodology, I compiled a list of 50 notable books from 2005. I combined lists from the NY Times, Village Voice, Times London, Giller, GGs, Orange Prize, Booker, Amazon Editors' top 50, and so on and so on. There were some obvious repeats. I put all 50 books on my hold request list at my local library and now I will wait to see what comes in first. As each book comes in, I will try to finish it within the week and then document my thoughts. I tried to get a decent enough cross-section of fiction and non-fiction, and writers from across the globe. A few are not actually from 2005, but somehow came up either in pop culture talks or amongst my own friends and therefore I have included them here.

This is not a fail-safe plan - I am aware of that (what if a bunch of books come in at once?) It is a push in a positive direction for me, though, and hopefully a return to reading something worthwhile instead of watching Law And Order: SVU repeats on tv.

And herein lies the list:

1. A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
2. The Accidental by Ali Smith
3. Adrian Mole and the weapons of mass destruction by Sue Townsend
4. Alligator - a novel by Lisa Lynne
5. The Ballad of Lee Cotton by Christopher P. Wilson
6. Can't Stop Won't Stop - a history of the hip-hop generation by Jeff Chang
7. Cloud Atlas: A Novel by David Mitchell
8. Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life: volume one by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
9. Envy by Kathyrn Harrison
10. Epileptic by David B.
11. Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran
12. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran
13. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt
14. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
15. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
16. The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed by John Vaillant
17. Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner
18. The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw
19. The History Of Love by Nicole Krauss
20. I Didn't Do It For You: How A World Betrayed A Small African Nation by Michaela Wrong
21. I Have Chosen To Stay And Fight by Margaret Cho
22. Kafka On the Shore by Haruki Murakami
23. Liberation: A Novel by Joanna Scott
24. A Long Long Way by Sebastion Barry
25. A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
26. Luck by Joan Barfoot
27. Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis
28. Mark Twain: A Life by Ron Powers
29. My Friend Leonard by James Frey
30. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
31. Old School: A Novel by Tobias Wolff
32. One with Nineveh: Politics, Consumption, and the Human Future
by Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne Ehrlich
33. Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books
by Aaron Lansky
34. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
35. A Perfect Night To Go To China by David Gilmour
36. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
37. Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
38. Saturday by Ian McEwan
39. Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan
40. The Scorpion's Gate by Richard A. Clarke
41. The Sea by John Banville
42. A Tale of Love And Darkness by Amos Oz
43. The Tender Bar: A Memoir by J.R. Moehringer
44. The Time In Between by David Bergen
45. Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town
by Nate Blakeslee
46. Veronica by Mary Gaitskill
47. A Wall of Light by Edeet Ravel
48. We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
49. Where God Was Born: A Journey By Land to the Roots of Religion by Bruce S. Feiler
50. The Year Of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

one good reason to love my sister


Monday, January 02, 2006

Dear Holiday Season,

You came and went so quickly this year, that I hardly had a minute to enjoy you. Or revile you. Between Alice getting sick and Alice going apeshit with cabin fever, I had few moments to reflect on your lessons and wisdom this year. Let's reflect now, should we?


1. A toddler can truly understand and revel in the joys of consumerism mixed with anticipation and talk non-stop about Santa for days on end. Said toddler can spend the days of the season leading up the 25th singing RUDOPLH nonstop and putting out a carrot for two weeks before the big night.
2. The same toddler can wake up on Christmas Day, go downstairs to the promised land, and with her parents eager to catch that expression of pure joy with camera in hand, can turn around, shrug, and say without any excitement "I have a cold".
3. It is entirely possible to get a nap in on Christmas Day if you throw family out of your house, medicate your child with Benelyn, and lock your bedroom door.
4. Despite your best intentions at snarkiness and posturing, you can truly manage to feel grateful and thankful at Christmas dinner while you look around the room at the 40 members of your family who have gathered.
5. That feeling can quickly turn to exasperation as your toddler starts licking the giant closet mirror and covering it in snot.
6. Christmas-based movies and specials really lose their appeal to grownups after the 25th, but not to toddlers who insist that RUDOLPH must be on that damn tv somewhere.
7. Daytime tv can be awesome if a) your toddler returns to daycare after days of being home b) you stay in your robe all day and c) you surround yourself with leftover holiday chocolate.
8. Feminists can buy Barbies for their daughters and only have nightmares of Gloria Steinam raging for the first few nights.
9. Presents that include a new set of pots, a new cutting board, and new juice glasses can really rock your world.
10. The best present of all is a sleepy toddler holding your face in hers and telling you "you are my best friend". You will hold this moment in your memory for years to come, when she begins hating your guts.

So thanks again, Holiday Season. For pushing me face first into 2006 with a chuckle and a grimace, and reminding me how lucky I am to be surrounded by those who love me. And how I can never escape, even if I wanted to....