Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Canadian Music - Ashley MacIssac (1997)

Been meaning to do this for a while. A weird choice, really should start with the Tragically Hip, the quintessential representation of Canadian music, or some other bands, but I've been listening to Ashley on Facebook, and so here goes.

Ashley MacIssac is from Cape Breton, which is an island off of Nova Scotia, and host to a whole lot of Scottish people and renouned for its music. In the 90's, he emerged as this young traditional fiddler who played jigs and stuff, but accompanied by contemporary influences, such as heavy drums and guitar. Which was really unusual, if you think about it. That's like heavy metal and bagpipes - not exactly common. Here's probably his most extreme punkish example from his first album, "Devil in the Kitchen", which is still pretty cool in my opinion:

Note the 90s style grunged out lighting and frenetic editing. Ah, memories.

He's still known for being a crazy-ass talented fiddler; he just had a bit too much white up the nose at the time. Has since cleaned up somewhat - is still pretty controversial. Even back then, he wasn't exactly hugely popular, but for a friggin' fiddler, he did pretty well with his debut album Hi How Are You Today? Which of course, I owned and played out.

The most popular song was Sleepy Maggie, which was a longer song with contemporary beats and fiddle, the female vocals sung in Gaelic of all things. And it was a hit! They played this video all the time. And it was my first real attempt to learn Gaelic. I can indeed still sing all the lyrics to this.

Why did I love it so much?

Well, not many people know outside of family and close friends, but when I mention, in brief, that I used to dance, people assume it's ballet or tap or jazz, etc. Which I did all take for about four years. However, the dance style I studied for 14 years was:

So yeah. I kinda know and love the music, and choreograph in my head. Stories for other times, I promise.

Final thought: this is Ashley back in the 90's, playing a traditional number, but keep watching for something pretty cool, which makes me want to dive right back into dancing again:

Monday, July 28, 2008

Who Wants to Be Cool?

I recently left the Bally's gym down the street, after being there on and off for about three years. It was good at times, but I never stopped feeling anxious, shy, and overall, like I had to work my brains out to use the membership properly.

You know what it's like. A lot of people at gyms, and a lot of women I know, have the mentality of work-out-like-a-manic-it-feels-so-good-can't-do-it-enough. So when you're me, and you like to keep it mellow, you feel like a turtle rotating on the elliptical, dumpy and slumpy as these svelte gazelles elegantly sweat at dizzying paces. And then you look at other girls, the maniacs who are not only bone skinny or have beautiful abs, but they fucking LOVE working out....man, it just makes the whole experience icky. Yeah. This ain't me.

Felt like a tool most of the time, like I'm not good enough or motivated enough or working hard enough. So the thought of "shit, I'm just not pushing myself enough" leads me to take things like intense spinning classes, which might as well be hell on a bicycle, palpatations of the heart and some seriously aching knees and hips, which are already dodgy due to years of dance.

My kind of spinning:

So I left. And I joined the local pool. And now, I'm officially an old lady! I joined Water Aerobics!

Well, and doing laps too, but it's sure funny to be in the midst of thirty middle-aged ladies doing motions in the water. I've gone from feeling old and fat at Bally's to a misplaced young'un at the pool.


But it's fun! It's easy on my old-lady joints, and it's like playing in the water for a half hour, which is a lot more enjoyable than burning up in a non-ventilated room, where all you can smell is the sweat of thirty women mingling whilst the mirrors fog up.

No, instead, all the sweat is in the POOL, slopping up against your body.

(Just kidding. But a hell no to the hot tub, I thank ya.)

I used to come to this pool when I first started living in the States - it was right down the street from our shitty apartment, and since I didn't have a school or work visa, and therefore had nothing to do or nothing I could do, I joined the pool and swam every day. Then I got hooked on the whole Bally's pitch (endless classes! fit and happy! every machine you could want!) and left.

Now, to remember my lifeguard training from high school and look like this underwater....


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Namesake

I'm watching Mira Nair's The Namesake on cable right now. It's an Indian film about a man and woman who get married and come to America. They have two children (one is Kal Penn) who are completely Americanized and separate from their parents. It's mostly from the perspective of the parents, particularly the woman, Ashima.

The woman, Ashima, longs to go back to India. She says "I don't want to raise our son in such a lonely country." But the husband is a scholar, and his position and status is in New York, not India. So they stay, her family remains back in India, and she sees them only once or twice in the rest of her life. Her parents die, and she is unable to be there. For the entire movie, I feel there is a sense of sadness about Ashima, but a resignation to go through life with strength and elegance, to be the best wife and mother she can be, despite her inability to truly assimilate into American life.
I felt for Ashima. I related to it, although my circumstances are certainly not as drastic as Ashima's, and I don't see it as such. I do see my family a few times a year, far more than she was. And I wasn't thrust into a completely foreign environment like she was.

Both my sister and I moved to different parts of North America with our husbands, with the belief that it wouldn't be permanent, that we would stay for a few years, and then go back closer to our families. But in both cases, our husbands have jobs that are either very specialized, or rely on tenure. So, we both ended up in a place that we weren't expecting to be, and we will stay there for years and years, separated from our families.

And that's hard to deal with. It's particularly difficult when you start thinking about children, and how your family won't get to see them on a regular basis. That you can only hope that when you go into labor, your mother is already in the area, or on the way, because otherwise you'll be terrified in the delivery room. How if you're panicking, you can't drive to see your mother to help. Or you can't make a playdate with your sister and her children. Particularly when you have an awesome family like I do, that I wish and wish that my children could know them so well, because they are so fun and adventurous and joyful and kind.

But it is what it is. And it's something women have been doing forever. You marry, you have a husband who works, and may be the breadwinner, so you go where he goes. My grandmother did it - she moved from Prince Edward Island, where all her family was and still is, and went to Burlington, in Southern Ontario, because my grandfather chose to go. She's still there, and goes back to PEI once a year, for part of the summer.

I am not complaining, or not meaning to. And I'm not blaming M for "dragging" me here or anything. I chose to come, to stay. M says it all the time, how much he appreciates that I choose to leave at the end of our vacations back home, though it still, after nine years, breaks me up inside. It's just something I've thought about recently, and the thought was triggered by this movie.

But there are a lot of alternatives today, which make the distance a hell of a lot easier. Blogs, email, we're looking to get Skype to have video chats.

I also recently got the news that I will be an auntie. And with that announcement, came the instant decision that I must get a better car, because I'm going to be involved in that kid's life. I will learn to drive hours by myself, so my niece or nephew knows me, and knows I love them.

It is what it is. Make the most of it. And one day, I'll be back.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Slang, Ya Know?

Found this website on "Canadiana", or Canadian culture and slang. Here's what they consider some basics:

"Pop: soda - ask for soda and you'll get soda water." Doubtful, there. You'd have to be real dimwitted to assume soda water for anything. Pop is the popular term for soda, that's true.

"Click: kilometre" - ha! My stepdad always says this, usually with a straight-shot hand gesture.

"Hoser: an insult (was popular thanks to Bob and Doug!)" - Uh, I've never heard anyone call anyone else a hoser, despite what the movie Canadian Bacon would have you Yanks believe. If anything, it's used in a joking sense referencing the movie.

"Mickey: 13 ounce bottle of booze." Yup, the old mickey. I giggled saying that in Canada last week, because people actually knew what I was talking about! Usually it's a mickey of vodka for me, though my brother bought a mickey of Triple Sec for white wine sangria (so good....)

Two-four: case of 24 beers (may also be pronounce 'two-fer')." Yeah, or not. We don't say it like that. The term "two-four" is also used for "May two-four", which is Memorial Day Weekend, aka party city.

"Double-Double: coffee with two creams and two sugars." Good for all you coffee drinkers to know when you go into a Canadian Tim Hortons - wouldn't try it in the American ones, though.

I was listening to my family and myself (because the accent comes back in full force as soon as I cross that sweet border) and though the stereotype is that the Canadian accent is all about "eh" and "aboot", that's actually not the case.

Yes, we say "eh" at the end of sentences. Example: "What'd you think of that, eh?" Kind of a "ya know?" or "hmm?" sort of emphasis.

We do NOT say "aboot", though we do not say "about" in the traditional sense. I was listening, remember? It's more like "ah-ba -oot."
Here's a boot for you.

And the traditional Canadian accent, it's basically, from what I can hear, heavy emphasis on "r" and vowels. This is not the case everywhere - obviously Montreal and Quebec have their own accents, and a lot of Ontario is pretty flat sounding. But up where I'm from, it's full force.

For example: "Maritime" is pronounced something like "MARE - i - TImes" with emphasis on the "air" sound of the first part, and emphasis on the I in "times." And words are kinda tucked in the back of the throat. Try this out and see what kind of sounds you make.

Really, the easiest reference is probably Fargo, even though it's set in North Dakota:

Just scale it back a little bit and that's basically the accent. Here's a scene:


Oh, and other gems from that website?


1. Everybody assumes you're an asshole