Monday, March 11, 2013

On Mercury Retrograde and other believing

I have a bit of a problem, which is that most often when asked about my religious/spiritual/life perspectives I say, "I don't really have beliefs, I just kind of have things that I like the idea of, so I go with them."

This is mostly true.

I am constantly awed by the universe, and interested in the great many possibilities of life. I have no idea which of them are true, even out of the ones that seem like facts. I don't believe in an afterlife, per se, or in tarot cards, or in simulation theory, or in astrology - but I kind of like the idea of all of these things, so I count them as possibilities, and act accordingly.

But I'm not sure I can claim that something is not a belief if I follow it. À la: I am planning a trip with my dad. We'll be going to Japan in October. And tonight I said to him, "I don't want to book our tickets until Mercury goes direct." Yes, I - out loud - used astrology as a guiding factor in my life and my decisions. I said it as if I were hiding my face behind my hands, which I might have been, had we been talking in person rather than over the phone. It seems to be that my fondness for astrology has become a belief. I'm still uncomfortable with that word - after all, I can't know. I have no idea. And whatever I believe, or think, or imagine is possible, some day it will be proven right or wrong, whether or not I am conscious/still exist to know it. And so I don't necessarily believe in beliefs - vaporous as they are, they seem sort of pointless.


But, maybe they're good for us. 

I recently read a couple of books about near death experiences, because it's a phenomenon I find fascinating and, you know, possible. The thing that I was left with, though, is that if there is a space we inhabit after death, a space where all we feel is connection, where all we feel is love, why on earth (in sky, in nonspace?) would we spend time on earth, in the opposite of that? I don't get life. I like life fine; I think it's endlessly fascinating and amazing and painful and weird, but I don't get it. 

And so I decided to just pick a reason. Rather than beating my firsts against the sky, asking repeatedly "why?" I decided to decide. 

I picked love. 

I was reading (still am, actually) Emotional Freedom, by Judith Orloff, and I came across the following passage: 
My teacher says to look at life as your main career and as a divine classroom. Your spirit is in human form to learn what the body and emotions can teach about love, including how to overcome a slew of obstacles. The way you approach everything - your job, family, friends, health - must be in service to that aim. (44)
This made about as much sense as anything else, and, moreover, it felt nice. So I decided to just believe it. I don't know - I can't know - why we're here (or even if we're here, it sometimes feels like), so I might as well pick something. It's nice to have, this belief. It's something to return to, and it has become a kind of mantra. Whenever I am anxious about anything, whenever anything feels like it's going wrong: "I am here to learn about love." I have no idea whether or not it's true, but I'm going to believe it.

And now, because I also apparently believe in astrology, I am going to go back to researching my trip to Japan, without signing any paperwork until March 18, while figuring out what all of this can teach me about love.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Books and Movies

Where do I stand with my 100 books and 100 movies in 2013, you ask?


  1. Stories We Tell
    Who deserves to tell a story? Who does it belong to? It depends on who you ask. 
  2. The Lucky One
  3. Groundhog Day
    Interesting how every time I watch this it has a different effect. Last time I saw it, I'm pretty sure I wept - somehow this time was less moving, but still as enjoyable. 
  4. What's Your Number?
    UGH again. I'm pretty sure there was one funny moment in this movie. 
  5. Sleepwalk With Me
    An odd film, about sleepwalking, relationships, and comedy. Quite enjoyable, though. 
  6. This is 40
    I laughed about a thousand times, but there was no plot to speak of, and the people were terrible to one another. I love Judd Apatow, but this was a pretty meagre offering. About 50x better than What's Your Number, but still worse than most other movies I've seen in my life. 

  1. Heads in Beds
    An enjoyable read - quite light, with tons of insight into the Hotel world and how someone can be sucked in for life. I now feel the need to tip everyone I see in a hotel, which was, I think, the point. I'm sure this will pass.
  2. Yes, Chef
    The early chapters were really compelling - about growing up in Sweden after having been adopted from Ethiopia, finding himself as a chef and traveling the world, discovering new flavours. The later chapters, once Marcus is established, were less engaging, but the book was, overall, enjoyable. A glimpse at what it takes to become a top chef (let's just say long hours).
  3. Don't Breathe a Word
    Was very compelling as I started and got into it, creepy but not so dark I had to put it down as soon as the sun set, but too many questions are left unanswered and I found the ending very dissatisfying. Tuns of twist and turns that seem to end up just in a tangle: instead of the catharsis of unravelling them, it feels like McMahon just cut through it all with a convenient, too-shiny pair of scissors. Snip.
  4. The Diviners
    The characters were enjoyable but slightly flat (at times), the 20s-speak felt a little forced (at times), but the story definitely pulled me in. I could picture everything that was happening, and can imagine a super successful film version of this series. Since only the first in the series has been published, I'm looking forward at how everything comes together - hopefully now that all of the characters have been introduced, the next book will have a li...more
  5. Sharp Objects
    I knew what the themes were going to be pretty early on, but still enjoyed the narrator - flawed but beautiful, in a whole lot of ways - and the way Flynn tells stories. I loved that everything wasn't tidied up in the end - the mystery is solved but sad people are still sad, and so on. One thing: I think I read this too soon after reading Gone Girl - need to give Flynn's books more space, because the tone/style/plotting (which I do enjoy) are too similar, so far.
  6. Heaven is for Real
    Ugh. I find near death experience stories endlessly fascinating, but the overly preachy tone (surprise - the author is indeed a preacher) of this one left me cold.
  7. State of Wonder
    So, so gorgeous. Everything is perfectly placed, every story unfolds exactly as one knows it must, and every element comes to have deep, resonating importance. I cried as it ended, and I wanted to know what's next, but I also knew that it was a completely perfect telling of the story, and the end comes exactly where it should.
  8. Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore
    For the first chapter I was convinced this was one of those blogs that got turned into a memoir (somehow I missed the whole "a novel" bit on the cover, though I was reading the e-version, so I have a sort-of excuse). It sort of feels that way - I could actually imagine it being written that way, too - fiction in blog form - but it quickly became too weird to be non-fiction. A hyper-modern fantastical journey through the stacks of a very odd bookstore (with very few books for sale) and beyond, this book definitely pulled me in. Where it fell flat, for me, was the lack of emotional depth. Everything was very flat, very surface, maybe to match the shiny tech setting (complete with multiple trips to the Google campus). I chuckled quite a number of times, but while there was lots of cleverness, I didn't find much heart. And I need heart in my books.
  9. Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife
    Much more interesting than Heaven is For Real (and much less preachy - not surprisingly), and fascinating in light of the author's original skepticism. I wish this had been a long article, though - turning it into a book meant it was full of all kinds of stuff that I had no interest in - what was happening in his hospital room, who came to visit him and when. And I'm not convinced by his arguments as to why this was definitely a visitation to the afterlife, as opposed to some kind of chemical function of the brain upon nearing death (not that I'm sure they are different). Still, if you're interested in life after death stuff, this is a pretty interesting addition to what's out there (Rosemary Altea, anyone?)
So, I'm a little behind, and need to read and watch more. I'm especially surprised by how few movies I've watched, though I realize that I've become more of a television person. Watching a season of television is so much more satisfying than watching a film, much of the time. I'm not counting the TV shows I watch, though maybe I should... every season counts as a movie. If so, I'm almost finished House of Cards (the new Netflix version), which has devoured me (it feels more like that than the other way around, sometimes). 

Sally asked what winter is good for, after Christmas is over (actually, I think she asked how one can conceptualize winter after Christmas - the nerd). My answer: making crafts and watching movies. So I can catch up, I think. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

In 2013

Image via Flickr user davidmonro

Initially inspired by the massive influx of new Goodreads friends and their 2013 reading challenge aims, I committed to my first real resolution of the year: read 100 books in 2013. Except, being a hippie, I don't believe in resolutions, and instead call them intentions. And also, being a hippie, my sister and I had already done early Solstice intentions for the coming year (complete with burning them to release the energy into the world), and mine centered on taking action more. Anyhow, 100 books in 2013. Okay.

Then, listening to my favourite, they discussed their own resolutions for the year, and I was again inspired to set some more goals.

100 movies. Unlike Ms. Holmes, I will not require myself to see new movies (and I have yet to decide whether they have to be new to me), but I'm going to watch 100 movies this year. And read 100 books. And, the strongest bit of inspiration, I'm going to write about them. I was sitting around the other day, after reading some great bit of writing about some great bit of pop culture, and I was getting down on myself for not writing about things, mostly because I worry that I won't have anything to say. Brainwave: write about things you love and why you love them, and about things you hate and why you hate them. Easy. Hopefully I'll come across (or, you know, have) some insights, and I'll find some interesting things to say. But yes. Action. Action!

I've made my way through the first of my books for the year: Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality, by Jacob Tomsky. I'm giving it 7/10 - a solidly enjoyable account of a life spent working in hotels, along with all of the dirty (like, pretty gross) secrets of the industry. Included: how to steal from the minibar, and how to get an upgrade. Also included, an odd undercurrent that felt like it was leading to a story of sobriety, but maybe that's still coming (he needs to keep something for the next book). The main theme: Tip! Also: Unions are awesome.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I'm writing a book

So I'm writing a novel. I'm forcing myself to say it that way, rather than the thing that would come easier: So I'm doing this nanowrimo thing. Every day since November 1st, save for one, I’ve written at least a few words of fiction. The first few days were easy. After day three, when my banished inner editor somehow managed to escape from his or her (I think maybe it’s a he, though maybe not. Actually no, definitely a thin faced woman.) cell (the first thing I did was lock her there, as per instructions), it got hard. If that sentence is any indication, I probably should not have, but that is exactly why she got locked up in the first place. There is no space, in noveling, for second guessing, because second becomes third and fourth and seventeenth, and then there’s no more writing happening. So, back to the start. For the first few days, she stayed where she was supposed to be. I may have heard some murmuring coming from way down below, but I was fairly well able to ignore her and just keep writing things down. Then, on day three, the thought:

This looks nothing like a novel.

How one is meant to recognize a novel with only about 5000 words written, I have no idea, but the thought was still there. To be fair, I had no real plot, no real end goal in mind, only vague meanderings towards a theme, and a character who was nothing more than a sense I had. Each time I sat down to write I just picked a point, whatever came to mind, and started. The first day’s writing had nothing to do with the second’s, and so on. So, I might have had a point, wondering where the novel was, but all it did was stop me. I found the next couple of days to be enormously difficult, feeling like I should be able to step lightly across mountain ranges, and instead moving slowly, at odd angles, stumbling here and there. I was able, quite quickly, to realize that this fear was doing nothing more than making this harder than it needed to be, so I decided to let go. It more or less worked. I can admit that it’s still there, a little, a thin layer of fear and shoulds (this should make more sense, I should figure out exactly what’s happening here, and so on), but I’ve done my best to muffle it with a blanket of bravado and the actual belief that not knowing what I’m doing is entirely okay. Maybe even magnificent. And that the point is not to write a perfect novel; the point isn’t even to write a novel – it’s to write a draft of a novel, in whatever form it’s managed to take. It feels sort of like there is this thing that is struggling to create itself, as if from scavenged materials, arms made of twigs and marbles for eyes, slowly taking form, and however monstrous it might be when it’s finished, it will still be something of a miracle.

In 15 days (ack, today is the halfway point, how terrifying) I will have written 50,000 words of fiction, a work that won't exist until I pull it out of wherever it is coming from and put it down on the page. That seems pretty magical, to me. I still don’t have a real plot, I don’t know my character as well as I’d like to, and I have no idea what’s going to happen to her or why, but I just keep writing things down, whatever comes to mind, and accepting that as all I need to do.

Friday, June 29, 2012

What's making me happy this week: Friday, June 29, 2012

What's making me sad this week is Nora Ephron's death. What's making me happy is all of the remembering going on, about this fantastic writer and movie maker and woman. Specifically Lena Dunham's piece in the New Yorker.

For why I love this woman (aside from When Harry Met Sally, as if you need an aside): things she wouldn't miss and things she would.

Friday, May 4, 2012

What's making me happy this week: first week of May

Aside from the fact that it's the first week of May, a realization that has blasted a smile across my face and right into my soul, there are a couple of things making me happy this week.

Firstly: I discovered today that Drew Barrymore is, at least probably, pregnant. This made me giddy. Drew Barrymore is the only celebrity whose personal life has the power to affect me like this. I'm not sure why; I just adore her. I found out she was engaged to a handsome, nice-looking non-celebrity a few months ago, and it just made me glad for her. This, too. I really, really want Drew to be happy.

Secondly: when other people prove to be hippies. I am a total hippie, but usually try to hide it, at least a little, because I feel like smart, rational people disapprove. But I am smart and rational, or at least smart, and I love astrology. And crystals. Hooray for paying attention to energy.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

What's making me happy this week

I love stealing ideas, especially good ones. Something that makes me happy every week is Pop Culture Happy Hour, NPR's weekly pop culture podcast. At the end of each episode the PCHH gang discuss what's making them happy this week. As I listen I'm constantly imagination-responding, thinking, "Oooh, ooh, yeah - that made me happy, too."

Rather than just chiming in silently, I'm going to steal Pop Culture Happy Hour's idea, so that I can share the glory of whatever thing is making me happy. I intended to have this posted on Friday, because that seems like a good day for things that are making one happy, but I was at work. And also, I didn't encounter the thing that is making me happy this week till about four o'clock on Friday afternoon.

Bon Iver Erotic Stories.

This is all you need to know.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Draft draft draft draft

I suppose that title could refer to the wind you can feel moving through this space. It is almost empty, but still there is that feeling, like you've walked into what might be a scary movie. Somewhere, someone (or something) is hiding.

I guess that something is me.

Really it refers to the fact that when I go to my dashboard I see a line down the middle of the screen: draft draft draft draft. I have been thinking a lot about writing, I have even been doing some of it, but somehow the publish button stays unpushed, just unrealized potential at the bottom of the page. I've realized a lot of it is fear. I am terrified of writing. I was about to stop myself and say, "No wait - I'm terrified of people reading what I write and hating me (or worse, not loving me)," but that's not true. I am a little bit terrified of that, but I think I am just as much afraid of writing and hating myself.

I read. A lot. I am not afraid of reading. I think I'm an amazing reader. I see nuances and imagine settings  and feel characters and laugh at all the right spots (and some I'm probably not supposed to). I appreciate and recognize great writing. And it paralyzes me. Because it makes me want to do that, too. It makes me want to find just the right words and capture feelings and truths and tell stories that take you up and down and around and around. But what if (and this will happen, undoubtedly) what I write isn't as good? What if it's just terrible? Somehow my body must be convinced that if this happens I might die. That's the only thing I can think of. That is the only good excuse for not doing what I know in the depth of my being (note: find a better line than depth of my being, ugh) is something I need to be doing to survive. The world doesn't make sense until I write it down.

I'm taking a course on writing for a living. In the first class we talked about that - the idea that one writes because (and I almost quote) something something spider weaving web of words from the soul something something. Which is a perfectly good reason to write, but not really to write for a living. So now I'm trying to find that spot, where I can write for me, for my soul and so on, but also write stuff that people want to read. And that people want to pay me for.

I suppose it's also partly a war that's happening within me between earnestness and snark. I like funny, snarky writing. I really do. I also find myself in that age of aquarius place where I just want the world to be full of love. But I still want to be funny. And it's kind of hard to be funny without being mean. (Thing I just googled: how to be funny without being mean. Judd Apatow comes to mind.)

And now I have written all this and am feeling slightly anxious about putting it into the world because it is just a bunch of ideas and I feel like it should be a perfected essay in order to go out and be read, and if I try to wait for that right now it's just going to stay a draft and so I'm just going to push publish.

Most of this is inspired by reading I've been doing lately. Other blogs. Especially ones where people are dealing with desire and doubt. Like Christina Kelly's. That name feels so good to read again; those Sassy ladies felt like... what and who I wanted to be. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dreams by Mary Oliver

by Mary Oliver

All night
the dark buds of dreams

In the center
of every petal
is a letter,
and you imagine

if you could only remember
and string them all together
they would spell the answer.
It is a long night,

and not an easy one—
you have so many branches,
and there are diversions—
birds that come and go,

the black fox that lies down
to sleep beneath you,
the moon staring
with her bone-white eye.

Finally you have spent
all the energy you can
and you drag from the ground
the muddy skirt of your roots

and leap awake
with two or three syllables
like water in your mouth
and a sense

of loss—a memory
not yet of a word,
certainly not yet the answer—
only how it feels

when deep in the tree
all the locks click open,
and the fire surges through the wood,
and the blossoms blossom.


Email me at thenewisthetrue (at) gmail .com
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Toronto, Canada
I think I might be addicted to books. And noodles. I need the ocean. I want to know everything. Almost. I love love. And loving things. Like love. And like.