Reprinted and edited from a comment I left at The Belle Jar.

Every December, G. plays a part in the Mummers' Play, at the Flying Cloud Yuletide Celebration. So far, he's been the Doctor's Horse, the Fiery Dragon* (there never is a fiery dragon in the play, but the fiery dragon who isn't in the play is always the youngest child), Charles Darwin (in cotton-ball beard with a sea-turtle backpack on his back), and, this year, John Barleycorn, who brought in the evil triumvirate of Stephen Harpercorn, Dalton McGuintish, and Rob Barleyford. Every year, after the candle-light chorus sings, and the first story is read, we hear a jingling, and John the Master of Ceremonies announces the arrival of those practitioners of what he calls "socially sanctioned extortion," the Mummers.

The mummers come once a year, in the dark of winter. They don’t exist any other time. The rest of the year, they’re children and teens. They go to school. They do homework. They practice the piano or guitar. They play soccer and Minecraft. They don’t see each other, much, because their parents all live in different places.

Once a year, in the dark of winter, they tell a story. Adorned with the same costumes they wore last winter, they each act a part, familiar to us all from years of watching these same costumes, these same characters, this same story told with different words by children who know the story because they told it last year. Everyone quiets down when the mummers come into the room. We have a role to play, too. We have lines.

Here’s Old Bette. Her chin has sprouted whispers since last year; the actor who plays her no longer quite fits into the ancient bridesmaid’s dress. Old Bette threatens to kiss the men, and tells us all the story has begun. A gangly teenaged boy in an old bridesmaid’s dress, she lets us know that this is an upside down time, a time of misrule, a liminal time.

And now the story begins. Here’s St. George, brave and bold, her sword held high, bringing light to the darkness and hope to despair. We cheer for her bravery, and for her youth.

But you can’t have a hero without a challenge. In comes the fiery dragon!

There ain’t no fiery dragon in this play! choruses the audience, and the very young fiery dragon subsides, making room for a more serious threat.

In the muddled mythology of our play (which is like, yet unlike, any Mummers’ Play anywhere else in the world), St. George must face the threats of darkness, cynicism, and despair in the guise of a current known evildoer. One year it was Stephen Harpercorn. Another it was Rob Barleyford. The name doesn’t matter, so much. What matters is that this force of cold, darkness, meanness, and death will fight our brave Saint George and will not rest until St. George is vanquished. Also, he cheats.

And by treachery, St. George is slain.

Terrible horrible, see what you’ve done? You’ve killed our own beloved one!

All is not lost. A series of characters are summoned to try to revive St. George: Charles Darwin, an old man who wears the bottom of his trousers rolled cannot revive him. A wizard who pulls a rabbit from a hat cannot raise him. A series of singers fail to breath the breath of life into him. Pickled Herring (I don’t know, it’s *Tradition*) cannot entice him back to life. Finally, the Doctor comes, on his horse (the second smallest child plays the Doctor’s Horse.) The Doctor gives St. George some of his magic elixir, and St. George springs back to life, six times as strong as before. He kills the evil knight, and informs the ever-hopeful fiery dragon that there really is no fiery dragon in this play.

It’s the same story, every year. It has to be the same story every year: St. George must be brought down, be mourned, and be revived: Youth, warmth, life, and hope must fall before darkness, cold, cruelty, and cynicism, and be revived by the concerted efforts of, well, everyone. It’s John Barleycorn, Jesus of Nazareth, Orpheus, the Hero with a Thousand Faces, and it’s a story that we need to tell and to remember in the darkest days.

The mummers have gone to their pot-luck feast now, well compensated both with praise and with treats for their annual effort. The fiery dragon, who is three and a half this year, is asleep under the desserts table. St. George has put down her sword and is enjoying a half-pint of beer under her mom’s supervision. The Doctor and his Horse have gone home, bundled onto the subway by their tired parents. And we know that just as St. George rose again, so to will the sun, and that we need to wait, and hope, and hold and share the memory of warmth against the cold, light against the darkness, hope against fear, and community against the loneliness they can bring.

We tell this story every year because it’s a story that must be told, to remind us that spring comes from winter, that life comes from death, and, above all that life isn’t a tidy narrative. Most stories we encounter are: they have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and by the end the lesson is learned, the problem resolved, the loose ends woven in or cut off. The Mummer’s play is not that kind of story. It’s the story of the year: summer and harvest cut off by winter, then born again, and we wind up back where we started, except a year older. The year itself isn’t a unit, separated from previous years by a beginning, a middle, and an end. Well, it is, but that’s just convention: the earth, the weather, and we ourselves don’t observe these arbitrary demarcations. So open the door for the Mummers:

A merry Christmas and a happy New Year,
A pocket full of money and a cellar full of beer,
A penny in our palms won’t do us any harm,
May your days be merry and your homes be warm

Our Mummers' Play is written anew every year, always using the same cast of characters and structure, but with political content relevant to the past year. Here's a database of historical mummers' play scripts, for your interest

* This was the year I learned that we'd lost the Fiery Dragon costume at 9:00 p.m. the night before the play. I won some sort of good parental-adjunct prize, coming up with a tail and a toothy hood out of red scraps. I was not gratified to hear a voice from the audience complain "But the fiery dragon is supposed to be green!" If I'd known before the fabric stores closed, we might have had a green dragon. Folkies can be such traditionalists.
 So I'm proofreading an anthology of First Nations literature. Super cool. But I've once again come up against a linguistic snag I encounter inevery work on Aboriginal or First Nations or Native anything that crosses my desk: the term "people."

In contemporary English, the noun "people" has a couple of different meanings: it can mean (singular) an ethnicity or group (e.g., the Mik'maqpeople; the Saalish people). Let's call this Sense A. It can also mean the plural of "person" (e.g., several people ate sandwiches). When youwant to say several persons of Aboriginal heritage, you should, technically, say "First Nations people." Let's call this Sense B. 

However, we use "First Nations peoples"  (Sense A, plural) when discussing political or social issues that affect all groups of First Nationspersons (people): "We need to see greater representation from First Nations peoples in discussing environmental issues."

Many people don't seem to get the distinction between Sense A and Sense B, and seem to think that "peoples" is a plural that means "lots ofpersons of different First Nations ethnicities." So I get sentences like  "This was far from the case in Canada, where it would take anothertwenty-five years for Native peoples to begin graduating from universities and colleges in substantial numbers."

This makes no sense! Ethnicities cannot graduate from universities. 

So I queried it, and got the following response:

I checked with the editor and I think “native peoples” as used in the preface is okay as it suggests that there is a diversity of nativepeople (i.e. from different bands or nations). So, the Mik'maq are a Native people, as are Inuit but together they are “native peoples”. They used “native peoples” in the previous edition and even Library and Archives Canada categorized the previous editionas “Native peoples--Literary collections”.


Which is fine, but I still don't think ethnicities can go to university. 

Below the cut: A Usage Note I prepared for a style sheet eight years ago about the SAME ISSUE.

Old usage wankery )

Apparently this is my week for weird gendered interactions.

I'm in Stephen King country. Specifically, I'm at Indian Acres Boys' Camp, near Freyburg, Maine. I'm here to help the ever-amazing Susan de Guardiola teach a week of Titanic-era dances at an International Folk Dance camp (the dancers rent the camp from the boys' camp). It's stopped raining, and the organizing committee, who are mostly about my parents' age is bustling around putting up "etnhic" decorations and pinning people's names to their cabin doors. 

Camp starts tomorrow, but in order to save the committee some money, I travelled here yesterday with a fellow I know from the Hogtown contra dance community, who, at 54, is one of the younger members of the organizing committee. Walter is a nice-enough fellow, whom I've known well enough to dance with for about 15 years. After 10 hours in his car yesterday, I feel that I know him rather better than I did before, but I don't think I'd go so far as to say he's a friend. He is, however, the only person here so far that I've ever met before. So, when we arrived yesterday, he introduced me around, and we went out to dinner with a bunch of the other people from the camp.

Today, after breakfast, as I was cleaning up my plate, one of the older gentlemen—let's call him Marv—spoke to me. "I just want you to know," he said, "that I think you're a very nice person, and if you and Walter stay together, I hope you'll be very happy." 

I blinked, smiled, and said something like "Umm, thank you, but Walter and I just travelled down together, we're not an item." Then, to forestall any further peculiar assumptions, I said "I am actually seeing someone in Toronto."

Now, of course, I believe firmly, on no further evidence than this exchange, that Marv is carrying a torch for Walter (who, in 15 years of Saturday night dances I've never observed to have any romantic interests at all, so who knows what his orientation is?), and was trying, sweetly, if misguidedly, to be gracious in perceived defeat. 

zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Aug. 1st, 2012 12:43 pm)
 I have a little thing I try to do. I try very hard to make sure that if I buy a book by an author with given name like Neil, Jim, Terry, Robert, Fred, Vikram, or James, I try to buy at the same time, a book in the same genre by an author with a given name like Afua, Nalo, Elizabeth, Sarah, Lois, Patricia, Ursula, or Jo. 

Today, I completely failed to buy The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman, from my local small-chain bookseller, the Beaches location of Book City. I wanted a copy to take on vacation, because it seemed like it would be good vacation reading. I tried really, really hard to find a book in their admittedly small SF section that was by a living female author and that I had any desire to buy. There were a handful of books by Sarah Douglass, I think, and some reprints of books by Ursula K. LeGuin. There was probably some Ann Rice, and there was something whose only blurb was by Charlaine Harris. There was the inevitable Connie Willis, so I guess I could have bought that, but I didn't want to. There was a book by a Canadian author whose blurb was so leaden that I couldn't imagine the prose would be any better. I think there was probably some Mercedes Lackey. 

I could find nothing by Jo Walton, Elizabeth Bear, N.K. Jemison, Patricia McKillip, Robin McKinley, Nalo Hopkinson, Lois McMaster Bujold, Patricia Wrede, Jacqueline Carey, Sarah Monnette. I could find Greg Bear, Jim Butcher, Terry Pratchett, Jasper Fforde, Robert A. Heinlein, and a bunch of other dudes. 

The problem, from my perspective, was that if I wanted to uphold my own little policy, I'd have to buy a book by an author whose work I know I don't like, or buy a book that did not look appealing from an author about whom I knew nothing. The SF section did not have a sufficiently broad selection of female authors to present me with choices. 

So, I went to the library instead. 

I don't really have a coherent point to make about these two apparently unconnected incidents, but in my head they're connected, so I'm going to record them here and see what the Collected Wisdom thinks.

1) My Awkward Neighbhour

Since Ron, my next-door neighbour helped move my furniture in, I've struck up a guarded, but reasonably cordial interaction with him. He's frequently out on his front porch, so I see him when I go in and out of my place. He's chatty, and I'm polite, so we chat, some. 

A few weeks ago, I was away, and [personal profile] human_loser  came over to feed Musetta. Ron-the-neighbour was on his porch, and greeted [personal profile] human_loser  with some question like "Are you the pretty lady's boyfriend?" (I have been very clear to Ron-the-neighbour that I have a boyfriend). [personal profile] human_loser  reports that he gave a non-committal response, and went in to feed Musetta. 

This Saturday, another male friend came over, and we went out for dinner, then back to my place for tea and so that I could bake my mom's birthday cake. As we went into my house, Ron-the-neighbour was on his porch, and called out to me "That better be your brother!" I gave some rejoinder—something like "You wish you knew," and went in.

But it's bugging me. It's bugging me that this dude thinks he has any business questioning my guests or commenting on who comes and goes out of my apartment. And it's creeping me out, a bit, not because I think Ron-the-neighbour poses a threat to me, but because he's so obviously interested in my life and in my guests and he doesn't see anything wrong with this. Where are his boundaries? 

2) The King of Africa

Sunday, I took the aforementioned cake to my mom's (and from there to my grandmom's. Poor cake got a bit slumpy in the heat, but was nonetheless tasty). On my way home, I was waiting for the subway at Bloor & Yonge station, and found myself the object of the benevolent attention of the King of Africa. 

The self-styled monarch (or emperor? I'm not sure how that works), informed me that the print on my dress was based on an African pattern (this is possible, I guess. It's blue.), and that if I were to go to Africa (not any particular place in Africa, mind, just Africa), everyone would greet me with love and adoration, because of that dress. Of course, if I were to be wearing another dress, things might not go so well. Had I ever been to Africa? No, I assured him, I had not. Well, Africa was wonderful, and when I go there, he will go ahead of me, and tell them that I am wonderful and should receive the royal treatment. He was from Africa. He is a king in Africa, so they will have to obey him and give me the royal treatment. 

He took my hand and kissed it, repeatedly. He asked me if I would go to Africa with him. I informed him that I had to go home. He said "Not today! Tomorrow. But never do tomorrow what you can do today, because tomorrow never comes! It's always today!" He informed me that another time I may find him at the Friendly Thai on Yonge Street. He was going there now. I thanked him, and, gratefully, boarded the train that had finally arrived. Then I employed my hand sanitizer. 

Another woman watched this entire exchange. She moved away. A man kept an eye on it. 

3) You Can't Blame the Matriarchy

I've begun working part-time at my local bike store. I've shopped at the same store for 15 years, and I have a lot of respect for the owner and manager. It's one of the few stores that I will cheerfully send my female friends to, knowing that they won't be talked down to, they'll be treated fairly, and nobody will try to upsell them. I like the culture there, so I asked if they wanted to hire me to work the shop floor, and the owner and manager agreed that it would be a good thing for them to have a woman on staff. I am uncomfortably aware that I am the beneficiary of affirmative action—I don't know nearly as much about bike mechanics in general as even the least experienced of the guys on the floor, and I know that if I were a guy, they'd want to see previous bike-store or bike-mechanic experience. But they're all being very pleasant and patient, so that's good. The customers, on the other hand, are about evenly divided among three groups. One group (mostly women) is quite happy to talk to me, in particular. One group is entirely indifferent, as long as someone's helping them. One group mostly ignores me, and seeks out one of the guys. I can only assume that members of this group believe that only a dude can successfully explain to them how to pump up the tires on their bikes, or the difference between a road bike, a cyclo-cross bike, and a sports hybrid. *Shrug* 

So one day, a couple of 10-year-old guys breezed right past me, when I said "Hey guys, what's up?" and asked my co-worker where the pump was. My two co-workers and I exchanged wry glances. I wandered over to my co-workers and said "I blame the patriarchy." Then, of course, I had to explain what I meant. 

Later that day, I was booking a woman customer for a tune-up. She was pleasant with me, but ignored my co-worker when he bade her farewell on her way out of the store (we're a community bike store; we generally try to say "hello" and "good-bye" to people, at least when it's not so busy that we can't see straight.) He said to me "I'm trying to figure out what the opposite of 'patriarchy' would be. 'Matriarchy,' I guess?" 

"Yeah," I said, "Why?"

"Well, if you can blame the patriarchy when guys are rude to you, can I blame the matriarchy when girls are rude to me?"

"Not really, because there isn't really a society-wide matriarchy."


So then we talked about how really, you can still blame the patriarchy when women tend to respond better to women than they do to men, and how "patriarchy" isn't the same as "men," etc. Then someone came in looking for a lock-ring, and that was that. 

So how all this fits together is that I don't think the guys in the shop deal with their neighbours commenting on the people they bring home. I don't think the guys in the shop have random strangers try to kiss their hands on the subway platform. And while they may occasionally deal with a customer like the tune-up lady or the very flustered lady who came in looking for repairs and said "Thank God there's a woman here! I hate men!" quite loudly, I don't think they have to deal with gendered rudeness or condescension to nearly the same extent that I get to (and this is in a shop where any overt misogyny, be it from customer or co-worker, would be firmly squashed on the part of the management.) And the fact that they don't deal with this is, to me, part of why my co-worker cannot blame the matriarchy that we don't have when a lady is rude to him. He can feel annoyed or disgruntled. He can roll his eyes. He can even blame the patriarchy for causing such deep distrust and disregard between women and men, if he wants to. I don't think he'd be wrong. It would certainly be a better world if everyone treated other people with respect and good manners. Somehow I think that women—even privileged women like me—deal with more gendered nonsense on a daily basis than dudes do. 
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( Jun. 22nd, 2012 03:17 pm)
June is nearly over. I'm not even sure when it started. I did say, before this month, that the choir more or less owned my soul for the month of June, and it appears that I was not wrong, except that they worked out a timeshare arrangement with a few proofreading clients. 

Forgiving Gustav
A long time ago, when I was a wee slip of a children's chorister, Sir Andrew Davis, the conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, retired. In order to mark the occasion, he decided to program Mahler's Behemothic  8th Symphony (aka the "Symphony of a Thousand," though I've never personally performed it with more than 700). I had a particular fondness for Maestro Davis, because he had conducted the symphony for the children's concerts that were my first exposure to real classical music, and because on the occasions that my choir sang with the orchestra, he treated us very seriously like musicians and not like toddlers. For these his final performances as the conductor fo the TSO, I sang in the Knabenchor, and was really very proud to be there.

I remember being captivated by the dramatic and spooky part  of the second movement at which the men start to sing, [the singing starts at about 3:30, but it's worth listening to the orchestral stuff beforehand for context and Mahlerian sound; in fact it's worth listening to the entire symphony. That's Leonard Bernstein conducting, btw.] and being sad that I would never be a tenor when I grew up, so I'd never get to sing that bit. Some consolation came from the thought that I'd very likely get to sing the pretty women's parts. Either that or I'd be an opera singer, which would be better, but much more difficult. 

The second time I sang Mahler's 8th was for the retirement of Dr. Elmer Iseler as the conductor of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. I guess I was sixteen. That time was even better, because despite his tendency to talk to the children's choir as though we were a bunch of six year olds who had never seen sheet music before ("Now, children, I would like you to make the singing louder, just bit by bit, a little bit at a time," he'd say to us from the podium. "You mean crescendo?" we would think (but never say) from up in the organ loft, where we could see only his pink head surrounded by white fluffy hair, looking like nothing so much as a bowl of strawberries and cream). That time, I was seated way up in the organ loft, with the great Roy Thompson Hall organ on one side of my head and a brass choir on the other. Some sixteen year olds lose their hearing at clubs or concerts; I lost mine to Gustav Mahler.

In any case, I didn't become an opera singer. 

So this year, my first in the Mendelssohn Choir, I was pretty gratified to see the 8th Symphony on the schedule, as a performance in celebration of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's 90th anniversary. Most choral singers don't get to do Mahler's 8th even once, here I was doing it for the third time, and yay, I'm a grownup now. Pretty women's parts, here I come!

Only not so much.

You see, Gustav Mahler wrote the 8th for two full adult choirs (SATB, with various of the voices split into higher and lower parts whenever he wanted even more notes in a chord). Being a second soprano, I was placed in Choir 2. 

I think Mahler must have hated Choir 2. Or maybe his Choir 2 sopranos sucked. Because there are a couple of really pretty women's parts in the 8th, and the Choir 1 ladies have them all. Basically, Choir 2 is like the tomato in a club sandwich: we fill in the flavours. 

Curse you Gustav Mahler! And curse you Mighty Conductor for making all second sopranos the Choir 2 sopranos! Twenty years I've waited to sing the part of one of the more holy angels, and now I am DENIED! 

I was pretty sad, I'll tell you. 

But then, at the performance, I had to forgive Mahler. Because the 8th is just so blessed amazing. It still takes my breath away. You can watch the whole thing on YouTube, of course, but that doesn't really do justice to the immensity of the sound of the first bombastic movement, nor to the chills that the changes in dynamics and the tension and release of the second movement bring. The Angelic Soprano always, always gives me warm chills. So Gustav Mahler, I forgive you for your strange dislike of Choir 2 sopranos. 

Also, I hummed along with Choir 1. 

Some other good things, for them as might be able to use a good thing or several:

Thing #1: Prayerful Trumpets
This past week, I got to hear this lady play this piece of music not once but three times. Sadly, I can't find a video or online recording that combines Alison Balsom's playing and Hovhaness's music, but both were a revelation to me. 

Thing #2: Tasty Greens
I made pasta with Kale and Garlic Scape Pesto last night, and may finally have found a delivery method for kale that is not only tolerable, but also actually yummy. So if you want to up your veggie-cred, but find yourself not thrilled with kale as a food, consider making it into pesto. 

zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Mar. 21st, 2012 04:40 pm)
And you can come hear me and about 140 other people! If you're in Toronto, that is, or willing to travel. Also, given the nature of this concert, if you won't burst into flames entering a Catholic basilica on a big Christian holiday.

What's That About Christian Holidays? The concert is called Sacred Music for a Sacred Space. It's on Good Friday, April 6, in St. Paul's Basilica. So basically, it's about getting your liturgical music groove on in a venue that really works for this sort of thing. If churchiness isn't your thing, then this probably isn't the concert for you. If, however, you really can't get enough of modern mass settings, then prepare to be delighted.

Church Music is a Wide Field. What, Exactly, Will You Be Singing? The big works are Vaughan Williams Mass in G minor, Martin's Mass for Double Choir (in a lot of different keys. The mass, that is. The choir sings in one key at a time.). We'll also be singing some Willan, Morales, and Nystedt. You can see the full programme here.

So When, Where, and How Much?

Friday, April 6, 7:30 p.m.
St. Paul's Basilica, 83 Power St., Toronto

General Admission $50
Senior $45
VoxTix (25 and under) $20

Wait, Who Are You Singing With, Again? I'm a second soprano in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Toronto Mendelssohn Singers.

So If I Even Wanted to Spend $50 on a Concert Ticket for Something Other Than, Oh, I Don't Know, Placido Domingo and a Huge Muckin' Orchestra Including a Cat Organ, How Would I Do That? You could follow this convenient link!

Dude, You Know I Like You and Support Your Artistic Endeavours, But That's a Lot of Money! Also, I Don't Live In or Near Toronto. Yeah, I totally hear you. It's okay! 

If you really want to support me, but you don't want to come to this concert, maybe you can come to another concert! Or ask me to sing you a song sometime, and I will. If $10 or $15 is burning a hole in your pocket, you could make a donation in my name to the TMC Conductor's Challenge, which will stop me from feeling guilty at every choir rehearsal when they ask us if we've raised any money yet. If you don't want to donate, you can still ask me to sing you a song. 

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( Mar. 4th, 2012 10:28 pm)
 A little bit ago, [personal profile] commodorified  held a Food Security carnival, with lots of lovely posts on cooking, shopping, and eating. I've posted a lot about cooking in the past, but missed out on this one. Tonight, though, I tried a new recipe and I was pretty happy with the results. It occurred to me that being relatively simple, relatively inexpensive, filling, and yummy, it would be a good one to share.* 

Herewith, then, I present to you White Lady's Aloo Channa. It's based on this recipe,  but because I don't have a have a pressure cooker, and I was short some ingredients, I created a simplified version. This goes nicely over rice, so put a cup of rice on to cook when you start chopping, and it should be done by the time you're ready to eat. 

1 tbsp cooking oil, 1 tbsp butter
1 cooking onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
2 heaping tablespoons prepared Indian curry paste (or follow the instructions in the linked recipe to make your own). I used Patak's mild, and it was fine, though next time I'll start with spices and work from there. 
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 – 1 tsp red pepper flakes. If you want it hotter, you can used chopped hot peppers of whatever variety you like, but I didn't have any to hand. 
1 tsp ground cumin
 2 potatoes (fist-sized, roughly)
1 large fresh tomato, chopped OR 1/2 can tomatoes
1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed
Chopped cilantro (optional)

Chop the onion into roughly 1/4-inch pieces. Scrub and chop the potatoes into 1-inch cubes
Heat the oil and butter in a deep frying pan over medium heat.

1. Heat the oil and butter in a deep frying or medium-sized saucepan pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, curry paste, and mustard seeds, and cook until the onions are clear, about 10 minutes (but go by the clarity of the onions, not by the clock. If the onions start to brown, turn the heat down).
2. When the onions are clear, add the ground cumin, and cook for 30 seconds. 
3. Add the chopped potatoes, and stir to coat with all the fragrant curry goodness. Add the tomatoes. If you're using whole canned tomatoes, smoosh them with a wooden spoon to break them up. Add the chickpeas. 
4. Cover your frying pan, and let everything cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20–30 minutes. When it's ready, garnish with the chopped cilantro, if you're using it. 

This makes enough for two or three people, but it scales up quite easily. If you're being very economical, use a cup of dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked in place of the canned. It tasted pretty good this way, but I imagine it would be even better with turmeric, garam masala, and curry leaf, instead of prepared curry paste; I just didn't have the spices on hand, and I did have a jar of Patak's, so that's what I did this time.

My new place has closets! Two of them. They're not very big though, and I have a lot of clothes, so for Christmas, my mom offered to go wardrobe/armoire shopping with me.* We found a suitable used wardrobe at a little second-hand furniture store, which I'll call Aba's**Furniture Grotto and Lampshade Emporium near the new place, and after some bargaining with the proprietor, arranged to have the piece delivered.

"The apartment is a second-floor walk-up, and it's just me there," I cautioned him. "You'll need two people."

"It's fine, it's fine!" he assured me.

Tuesday, we went to Aba's Furniture Grotto and Lampshade Emporium to arrange delivery, as we would be at the new place painting the bathroom. We also bought a tall dresser, so that I can use that instead of the two small dressers that I've had since I was a baby (and my mother had, as a teenager before me). Aba promised delivery. I reminded him about the stairs.

"It's fine!" he said "No problem!"

So off we went to the paint store and to the new place, to paint the bathroom, and other areas forgotten by the landlady's painter.***

My mom was back at the paint store, fetching more primer, when the doorbell rang. I went downstairs to find one guy on my doorstep.

"So, where's do you want this?" he asked me. I told him the apartment was upstairs, and asked where the second mover was. He said "Don't you have someone here?"

"I told Aba it was up on a second floor, and that it was just me," I said, "I warned him, and he said it was okay."

"Well," said the mover (I think his name was Frank, so we'll call him that for now.) "That's Aba. He's kind of shitty. Maybe your neighbour can help."

My neighbour was sitting on the porch of the house next door, enjoying his beer and cigarette. "Hey, man!" Frank said, "You wanna help me move this stuff up the stairs for your new neighbour? You, know, do a good deed for a nice lady?"

"I dunno," said the neighbour, "She pretty?"

"Yeah, man, she's actually quite attractive," Frank assured him.

At which point I said, "Dude, no. I'll move the damn' things myself, if I have to, but you are not having this conversation here, in front of me, and expecting me not to feel completely creeped out by this."

Frank just looked at me. "The dresser's really heavy," he said.

"Fine." I went out onto the porch, in my jeans and "5,000 Years of Patriarchy, and All I Got Was This Lousy T-shirt" t-shirt, hating myself, hating the furniture, hating Aba and Frank and as-yet-nameless neighbour dude. "Hi, I'm [[Zingerella]], your new neighbour. Am I pretty enough for you to help with this furniture? I could really use a hand."

The neighour's name is Ron. He allowed as how he could help, but made no further mention of my appearance. I don't think he read my t-shirt.

So Frank and Ron moved the dresser and the wardrobe up the stairs and into my bedroom. Frank, who seemed have brought his girlfriend or some female friend along with him in the truck, asked loudly if I was moving into the place on my own, then if I was single, or if I had a boyfriend. I wished I had a girlfriend, so that I could truthfully say that my girlfriend hadn't been available that night.

The wardrobe door swung open, hitting my nice brass candle-lantern thingy and breaking the shade off the arm (does anyone know how to braze brass? I think it can be put back together, but I don't know how to do it.), but without committing further damage. I asked Ron what kind of pie he likes, and promised him a pie in payment for his moving assistance, after I get moved in. For some reason, in my mind, if I give Ron a pie, we're quits, whereas if I just accept a favour from him, there's some sort of imbalance in our interaction, and he gets to expect that I'll be super-duper nice to him or something. I wouldn't feel that way if he hadn't asked if I were pretty, though. I mean, I'd still take him baked goods to thank him for the help, but it would feel pleasant and neighbourly, rather than transactional and necessary.

So now I have a wardrobe (which needs shimming), a dresser (whose handle needs re-applying), and a broken candle-holder which needs repairing. I also have an accent wall above my fireplace, a very bright green bathroom, a debt of one blueberry pie to my next door neighbour, and a set of complicated feelings about my furniture which mostly boil down to hating the patriarchy. I also have green paint in my hair, and, unaccountably, on my bra. 

* Note to online furniture vendors: Armour is something you put around something else (like your body) to protect it. An armoir is a free-standing cabinet in which you store things like clothing, linens, or televisions. Advertising an armour in which you can store things leads me to think that you're selling a pair of greaves stuffed full of socks, or some such. Amour is French for "love," and should not be used for storing socks at all. 

** Because that's the proprietor's name.

*** Who, unaccountably, left the area above the bedroom fireplace plain white, having painted the entire rest of the bedroom in the boring putty colour (I think it's called "Mountain Mist" or "Cloud Cover," or some such attempt to make light grey sound appealing) the landlady requested (after I thought we had agreed on sage green. Sigh.)

 Well, that's over. 

Jesus was born, there were angels and shepherds, then there were unbelievers and the kings conspired against him, and he was mocked and he died. Bummer. Then he rose again, to much rejoicing, with trumpets. All done for another year. 

Tonight's audience featured a passel of nuns and priests up in the top balcony opposite me. They caused a minor ruckus.

Note to fellow choir members: it is not polite to point at people. Ever. Even if they are nuns in blue habits. Sheesh!

Okay, it was a really minor ruckus: one of the priests was on crutches for some sort of leg injury, so the nun seated beside him offered him her seat so that he could put his leg up. She then perched on the steps in one of the aisles until an usher asked her not to. Eventually the usher found the nun a spot to perch for the duration of the performance. 

The rest of the audience was unremarkable, if tubercular. There was a dear old thing in a red sequinned hat in near the front of the orchestra. Her sequins kept catching the light. 

The maestro seemed happy. So that's good. Me, I'm about ready for a long winter's nap. 

 Audience completely normal, and less tubercular than usual.  Handsome dude in the balcony made eye contact with me, then took me out for dinner. 

I'm so tired. Also, I know how this story ends now. Can we have a different oratorio, please? 

One more Messiah. 

ETA: I keep meaning to post this, but forgetting: I cannot get behind the current trend among male orchestral conductors to wear Nehru jackets instead of the traditional evening coat with tails. The gentlemen of the orchestra wear tails. The gentlemen of the choir wear tails. The male soloists wear tails and the ladies wear evening gowns. Why is it then appropriate for conductors to dress as though they were headed to a loft party in SoHo? Also, I think tails look much more impressive than short jackets, from behind, which is the way the audience sees the condutor, mostly. 
 Last night's audience was less tubercular, for a mercy, but gracious me did they wander! I mean they got up and wandered around the concert hall, re-seating themselves periodically. It was like the musical chairs Messiah. Except that because Maestro Kramer is relentless, they never really had time to get seated before the music started again. 

Cut for wandering audiences (gone astraaaaaaaay), and thoughts on deportment )

Last night's Messiah was strangely uneventful. The audience produced its usual counterpoint of catarrhitic coughing during "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth," but was otherwise unafflicted with distracting bodily emanations, at least as far as I could tell from the chorus. 

I did, however, get clarification on the Wednesday night's Front-row Fracas, via the time-honoured expedient of pumping one of the ushers. Turns out there was no cell phone at all. According to my source, the tall woman was talking loudly and carrying on in the front row, and generally behaving in a manner distracting to both audience and performers. So the cellist leaned over to tell her to cease her distracting behaviour. The man who was with her was so embarrassed that he left the performance, leaving his date to fidget and fuss in the front row, until finally (midway through the first half of the performance) she decided that she'd had enough. So she made a show of putting on her coat, made a rude gesture at the cellist, declared loudly that this thing was "too fucking long," and stalked out. 

Upon leaving, she found that her date had left $20.00 with one of the ushers for her and that he was not coming back, and kicked up a ruckus in the lobby of the concert hall, and security had to be called.

So that's the skinny on that.

I do kind of want to know what series of events led up to the disastrous date. Was the man a businessman travelling in Toronto, who received the tickets from a client? Did he not know anyone else in the city who might enjoy the concert and was free that night? Was he just a terrible judge of character? What happened next? 

Incidentally, the reason I get snippy about coughing is that it's clear to me that the coughing is, in part, the result of suggestion: outbreaks of coughing come in waves in audiences, frequently during slow or quiet parts. One person will experience a terrible tickle, and be unable to refrain from coughing. Someone on the other side of the hall, hearing the cough, will subconsciously notice the tickle or dryness in their own throat, and cough. The music isn't loud enough to mask the sound, or lively enough to keep the subconscious from noticing "hey, it's very dry in here, and I have phlegm," so another person coughs. Most of the time I don't think that people do this on purpose (I still have my doubts about Wednesday night). I think they're bored and easily influenced. I just wish they were more aware and more prepared, is all. Because even if they're bored, I'm probably not, and I, or someone else, might really enjoy hearing the (admittedly very long, slow) aria without additional counterpoint. 

Apartment 5
: Gerrard and Victoria Park. This area really doesn't have a name.
Level: Basement
Bike storage: Garage or basement storage room
Rent: $775 incl
Landlords: Seems pleasant and sane.
Number of rooms (excluding bathroom): 1
Verdict: Kitchen area tiny with less than a square foot of counter space. Current tenant says it's "freakishly quiet"; however, as I said to the very pleasant landlord, the kitchen would make me sad. Asked him to get in touch if the apartment upstairs comes available, because although the area's pretty remote, it's manageable, less expensive than this place, and has a fireplace. But probably nothing will come of that.

Onward, then.

One of the difficulties facing me, this time through, is the fact that I'm freelance, my income is sporadic and unpredictable, and the past year has been financially challenging—I've been late with rent several times, which has only not been a problem because my current landlord has been remarkably understanding. I can't really scrape together first and last. I'm sitting on $2600 in accounts receivable, which I will receive some fine day, I'm sure. I have work to carry me through to February, when my teaching gig at Ryerson starts. On paper, I'm a terrible risk as a tenant. I understand that, and I'm trying to lower my expectations accordingly. But I know that if I can get through the current financial setback, I'll be okay—the teaching gig will cover my rent, and freelance (or any steady work I find) can cover all my other expenses. I just need to get from here to there.

... and find an understanding landlord in Toronto. Other than the one I currently have. 

That's all. 

 Apartment-hunting record:

Apartment 1
Neighbourhood: "The pocket"—Jones and Gerrard-ish (nice and close!)
Level: Basement.
Bike storage: Backyard, probably 
Rent: $900 incl.
Landlords: Seemed sane and cool 
Number of rooms (excluding bathroom): 2 (Not ideal, as I'd prefer not to work in my living area, but manageable)
Verdict: Applied, haven't heard from landlords; they probably went with someone else. 

Apartment 2
Neighbourhood: Little India on a cul-de-sac
Level: Basement.
Bike storage: None
Rent: $750 incl.
Landlords: Seemed nice enough
Number of rooms (excluding bathroom): 2 
Verdict: AUGH. Filthy. Ceilings low. All chopped into weird-sized rooms. Kitchen tiny. NOT A CHANCE. Left quickly. 

Apartment 4
: If you're a developer or real-estate agent, this is "Upper Beaches North." If you're a normal person, this area north of Danforth between Woodbine and Main doesn't really have a name. 
Level: Basement
Bike storage: Landlord will build a wee enclosure by the entrance
Rent: $750 incl
Landlords: NICEST PEOPLE EVER. They made me tea! They promised to build me a bike enclosure. 
Number of rooms (excluding bathroom): 2 (kitchen and living area)
Verdict: Sigh. I wish I could be happy there, but I'm not tall and the ceiling height made me miserable. The kitchen was tiny with a foot of counter space. The entire apartment had three tiny windows. The landlords were super-nice, and I wish I could rent a different apartment from them, but this place would make me sad. 

So, unless I hear from the landlord of #1 or #3, I'm still looking for either an apartment or a roommate who can move into Dictionopolis. 

I purely hate this. I hate learning what some landlords consider fit for people to live in—I know people typically don't rent out apartments out of the goodness of their hearts, but I wouldn't let someone I despised live in the first place. I hate feeling like I'm being auditioned for a place to live and knowing that there are people with full-time jobs who want the same apartment that I want and look like better tenants on paper. I hate not knowing where I'm going to move to or when I'm going to move. And of course I hate the thought of packing everything, moving everything, and trying to make everything fit into a new place. 

Sigh. Okay. Tantrum over. 

Next step: 12-page co-op applications, plus continued phone tag with other landlords. Also, e-mail Landlords #4, and tell them I can't rent their place, even though I'd love to go cycling with them sometime. 

So last weekend really sucked.

I miss Luna, tiny bundle of fluff, nerves, and affection that she was. I miss the vocal demands for affection. I miss the morning cuddles, when she'd settle into the space beside me on the bed, not touching, but hanging out. I miss her amazing self-petting action: you'd put your hand out, and she'd rub back and forth under it. It's been completely weird going downstairs this week, and seeing Marinetti curled in the papasan chair, without Luna on the padded stool beside.

She lived with me for eight years, and there's now a Luna shaped hole in the world.

More practically, speaking, there's been room for another cat in this house. It's weird having just one cat here. And today, the Toronto Cat Rescue had an adopt-a-thon at a pet supplies store not far from here. So [ profile] captain_mushroom, the increasingly-less-wee Mushroom Lad (who, ironically doesn't like mushrooms at all), and I went. Just to see. Maybe one of the cats there—not a black and white cat, not a skittish Ontario Barn Cat—needed to come home with me.

We saw a lovely black and white kitten named Lily, who played with everyone. She could have gone home with anyone, and eventually she did. But not with me. Captainmushroom fell in love with a spotty black and white girl, who snuggled into his arms (and into mine), but eventually went home with someone else. Two tiny black kittens—two months old, and all eyes, fluff, and little tails—entranced the WML, but we knew that tiny kittens would find a home. A dignified grey fellow looked lovely, and his fosterer assured us that he had the temperament to match, but he wouldn't give me the time of day. Ditto the trio of slightly older kittens: one mostly black, one black and white, and one calico. 

And then I opened the cage for this two-year-old beauty, and she wandered into my arms, and looked up at me, and purred quietly.
Fluffy orange cat, turning to look at the camera
So, despite some reservations about how she would get on with Marinetti, I went home to get the carrier and [personal profile] sabotabby  and I brought her home. 

So far, she's spent about an hour sitting on top of my shoes in the back of my closet, wandered out into my office to snurfle around and nibble some kibble, wandered out of the office and explored my room, exchanged some Language with Marinetti, and discovered the nice place to hang out on the chest under the window. Right now, she and Marinetti are staring at each other, but he's staying in the hallway and not making eye contact, and she's settled on the floor of my room. I expect a certain amount of discussion will ensue. 

I think her name is Musetta. 

She doesn't replace Luna, but she's a lovely girl who will, I expect, make her own place in this household. 
 Scene from today's voice lesson with the amazing [personal profile] sarcasma  (whom you can hear, incidentally, in this weekend's Essential Opera performance of Massenet's Chérubin. I highly recommend EO based on their last performance.):

We are working on "Why Do They Shut Me Out of Heaven?" which is one of Copland's settings of Dickenson. (Here's someone very competent singing it.) Sarcasma has been very patient while I grapple with the fact that Copland expected singers to just kind of pull notes out of chords that do not contain those notes and it's much more difficult than learning something by Mozart, darnit. 

Sarcasma: Now, because this is you, I don't have to worry about saying things like "What are these words about?" 

Me: Yeah. Patriarchy.

Sarcasma: *Sputter.* Yes. Okay, maybe I do have to worry. 

There ensued a fruitful discussion of the text and the interpretation thereof, during which we agreed that it really is about the patriarchy. So that is how I will sing it. 

Now, of course, I want to find more patriarchy-blaming soprano repertoire. Suggestions? 

Overhearing screaming fights through walls.

First it was shouty neighbour. Now it's the landlord and landlady, through the kitchen wall (the landlord's office is an extension on our house—with its own separate entrance and all, it's not like he walks through the kitchen on his way to work each day).

I went down to make a cup of tea, and she was shouting. She left and slammed the door, and he screamed out "FUUUCK YOOOU!" I ducked so she wouldn't see me through the kitchen window as she drove past. I don't know why I did that. I didn't want them knowing I'd witnessed their anger, which is kind of odd, because if they didn't want people to witness, maybe conducting their argument at top volume wasn't the best strategy. But I assumed they'd not thought of that, and thought their fight was some sort of private. Walls, even thin ones, do provide a sense of privacy, which is often incorrect, as anyone who's ever conducted private affairs in a tent has learned.

I do not like overhearing other people's personal business. I find arguments, especially heated ones, extremely uncomfortable (I guess most people do). I'm always waiting for the moment shouting turns to physical violence, ready to call 9-1-1. Then, when I encounter the people I've overheard, later, all I can think of is the things they said in the heat of anger. My view of them has changed, and it now includes this angry, shouty, not-very-rational person

It's weird. Prior to moving here, we lived in the Eyrie, and our downstairs neighbours, when they weren't smoking the foulest pot imaginable, had pretty regular screaming fights, at least one of which turned physical. Now shouty neighbour, and FUUUCKYOOOOU landlord. Perhaps this kind of noisy disagreement is actually common, and I'm just weird? (Of course, now that I've been all judgemental in this post, people aren't exactly going to cop to screaming at their partners or members of their household, or their dogs, I guess.) Still, I am wondering whether I am just really unfortunate in my neighbours.

It's puzzling.
zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)
( Apr. 6th, 2011 05:05 pm)
Progress continues to be made in many little, pragmatic things. I think I'm less wobbly, in general; overall, though, I still feel stuck.

Listing All the Things, Both so That I Remember and So That Something Holds Me Accountable )
Work is sloooow as of today. Must hustle!

Yet another list.  )


zingerella: Capital letter "Z" decorated with twining blue and purple vegetation (Default)


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