Thursday, December 29, 2005

God blessed us, every one.

So I got an MP3 player for Christmas! Not bad for a deaf chick, huh?

I can plug my CI directly into it. To say this is pleasing to me takes understatement to a whole new level. The model Husband - er, Santa - got me is a sport model which also takes my pulse rate - excellent since I've just started cardio training at the gym again!

Yet this year, while the bright and shinys were overwhelming (I also got Call of Duty 2 and have just finished taking Stalingrad back from the Nazis), it was the non-commercial, one-of-a-kind gifts that were the unexpected jewels under the tree.

My best friend A. in Ontario sent Husband a book that had been gleaned from a cleaning-out of her school's library.

The book, called "How Come Again?", is a collection of story-riddles (if you are familiar with the "Encyclopedia Brown" mysteries, these are similar but sillier), complete with cartoons, from 1960, and is a true delight to Husband's quirky curiosity.

My brilliant Cousin sent me a CD of her and her partner performing Christmas music! Could there be anything more wonderful than music recorded by people you love, for people they love?

And yesterday, my brother's traditionally-two-days-late Christmas parcel arrived from Newfoundland, complete with impossible-to-get-here Purity Jam Jam cookies (my favourites) and Peppermint Knobs and Blueberry Jam, and the very best things - photos of my 5-year-old nephew, and a picture he drew with his own hands.

Feline-inspired gifts included, among others, a gorgeous silver and copper kitty cat bracelet from Sis, the "Field Guide to Cat Butts" (complete with cat butt magnets), and a rhinestone cat pin from my Mother-in-law that is charming beyond words.

And far, far more, too much more to list here.

Blessed by an embarrassment of riches and some wonderful family and friends, we are.


Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Frigging Christmas

(For another picture of animals cruelly abused in the name of Christ's birthday, check out my friend Kate's Flat-Coated Retrievers Hamish and Storm.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"Touch the Sound." A film about deaf people. But not for deaf people.

I've just found out that the much-anticipated documentary "Touch the Sound", about deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie, will not be released with subtitles.

What the...?

On Roger Ebert's "Answer Man" site, a letter writer expands that "according to a representative of the distribution company, the director" [Thomas Riedelsheimer] "felt that 'the visual aspect of the film is as important as the aural' and that 'the subtitles would be hurtful' in the theatrical release. So this film is about deaf people, but is not for deaf people."

Ebert followed up with the Distribution Company, Shadow Distribution, and reports that spokesman Ken Eisen claims the problem with this is that too few theatres are equipped with rear-projection systems to display special subtitles. But they will patronize the little deaf customers by "working with theaters in each city in which 'Touch the Sound' plays to set up at least one special screening at which the film will be interpreted by a sign language interpreter so that it is as accessible as possible to all audiences who wish to see it."

Except, of course, the late-deafened who aren't yet fluent, like myself and millions of other late-deafened adults. Or users of Cued Speech, distinctly different from American Sign Language.

What a jackass.

To Ebert's credit, he (Ebert) points out that "this answer sidesteps the possibility of actually subtitling all prints of film. The special screening with sign language is not much of a solution, since all the other screenings will be inaccessible, and watching signing during a movie is more difficult than reading subtitles, particularly given the lighting conditions. I believe the non-subtitle decision by director Thomas Riedelsheimer is wrong-headed."

If you're as pissed off about this as I am, let Shadow Distribution ( know. I'd love to pass Director Thomas Riedelsheimer's email along too, but have not been able to find it online.

As for Riedelsheimer, if the unbelievably callous quote attributed to him above is accurate, he's one hearing person who can go screw himself. Big time.


Monday, December 19, 2005

"Turn 'em down and turn 'em off."

A Northwestern University audiologist is concerned that ear-bud style headphones might be significantly more dangerous to your hearing than old-fashioned "muff-style" headphones. He also worries that earbuds, combined with mp3 players - light to wear, with long battery life - have subtly changed our listening habits, and that we're listening to louder music, for longer, pumped directly into our ears, leading to audiologists "seeing the kind of hearing loss in younger people typically found in aging adults".

Switching to "muff-style" headphones is a very small and relatively inexpensive thing for y'all to do. And turn it down. Because take it from someone who knows - your hearing is a terrible thing to waste.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Engrish Sightings

Engrish is the mangled English that results when product concepts, names, descriptions or instructions are translated - badly - from another language (usually Chinese or Japanese). It can be most readily found in the west in "dollar stores" or "99 cent stores", where the vast majority of the goods are manufactured and packaged in Asia. Hilarity ensues.

Fans of Engrish collect and compare examples as religiously as Phish fans collect show recordings. It has been a pursuit of Husband's and mine for some years now, and a great example of Engrish is considered a real prize for the Christmas stocking each year.

I discovered two brilliant examples today but, alas, they adorned the display packaging and not the items themselves, so I had to be content with "capturing them" in photo format.

What kitchen is complete without that handy household ingredient, Owl Slime? Now in attractive, authentic owl-shaped container!

Or, if your tastes run to the even more macabre, treat yourself to a gigantic, fuzzy spider, which anyone with eyes in their head can see is 'horrendously animal'!

(Yes, those are the horrendously legs of the animal in the lower left corner of the photo. It is a pretty horrendously animal.)


"People are still speaking French and I am still nodding politely as though I understand them. "

Have I mentioned that we got an Election for Christmas? Ho ho ho. The Government done falled on Veronica's haid and we now have to go through another campaign for another election of another minority government which means that before Christmas 2008 we will undoubtedly have done the whole fandango yet again. I love Canada, a country which logically can't exist any more than a bumblebee can fly.

Well, as much as I groan, I am a political junkie from a family of political junkies, married to a professional political junkie, surrounded by friends who are political junkies and we will play and play with all our hearts. We watched the French "debate" last night (if your idea of a debate is to watch four middle-aged rich white guys look earnestly into a camera and regurgitate prepared policy statements, you were in for a real treat!) and will watch the debate in English tonight. (Speaking of the French debate, what was the idea with the CBC of having a guy with a British accent translate the voters' questions into English? Were they trying to make Gilles Duceppe's head burst like an overripe cherry?)

Well, if you have to follow this thing you may as well have a jolly good laugh while you're doing so, and the most talked-about online element of this election has been Scott Feschuk's weblog. Scott is Paul Martin's chief speechwriter and his election blog has been truly funny from the very first post. (I wasn't the only one less than impressed with the new, 'more decorous' Leader's Debate format. Feschuk: "I am dejected to see that, yet again, the consortium of television networks that presides over these debates has declined my innovative, audience-friendly format of 'answer a question, chug a beer'." Now that, my friends, would be some good debate.)

Scott's correspondents express outrage that his "drivel" is allowed to be published by the Liberal Party of Canada. A reference he made to "Omni subscribers" being socially awkward people who believe in UFOs was picked up and denounced by Conservative MP Jason Kenney who misunderstood Scott to be talking about subscribers to Canada's multicultural tv channel "Omni", which made me laugh hysterically. ("What's he saying?" Kenney sputtered. "That people from ethnic minorities who are the television viewers of Omni are paranoid, are abnormal, are ungrounded in reality? What's he saying?... I think he has to explain himself, and so does the prime minister!")

Feschuk was, of course, referring to readers of the now-defunct Omni science magazine.

Ah, Scott. You're gonna be good company through this looney campaign.


Monday, December 12, 2005

You got here how?

I've mentioned before that I have a tool that allows me to do a "keyword analysis" for this weblog. What that means is that I can see the words that someone types into Google or Lycos if the results include my site and they visit here as a result.

Some of them are amusing. Some of them are downright disturbing, like today's result, when someone ended up here by typing "needle injection gays on bed pictures".

It gets weirder. He was surfing from Islamabad, Pakistan.

I'm guessing whatever he was looking for, he didn't find it here.


Friday, December 09, 2005

Tracking Santa for Fifty Years

This year, NORAD marks 50 years of tracking and escorting Santa as he delivers presents to children around the globe on Christmas Eve.

It's amazing to think that this gentle tradition was born of a simple newspaper typo and a military man with a heart big enough to not disappoint the kids who called as a result of it.

I remember as a child listening to these updates on CBC Radio on Christmas Eve. It made it oh, so real. We would tremble with excitement at the crackling reports from those military men. It was a trillion times more exciting because we lived in Newfoundland - officially the first stop on Santa's tour. NORAD says so! Our parents must have blessed them - we'd be in bed by 9 pm, terrified that if he saw us, he'd leave without leaving any presents behind. (Every kid knows that's the rule - although he has been known to make exceptions.)

It's hard to explain to kids today what exactly it meant to us, back in those Cold War days when NORAD was as much a part of a kid's vocabulary as - well, as Santa Claus.

Today, children can follow along with Santa in English, Espanol, Francais, Italiano, Deutsch. and Japanese through the NORAD Tracks Santa 2005 website (you'll need to have the latest Flash player to view it - and the fact that the word "English" is illustrated with an American flag makes me want to claw my eyes out, but let's try to be gracious). Amazing how the technology has changed, but the willingness of children to believe, and the efforts that the toughest men and women will go to to help them do it, hasn't, not a bit.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

The gift of nothing.

C.'s niece doesn't want anything for Christmas this year.

There are, says the young teen, just too many people in the world who don't have enough. With that being the case, how can she justify getting more and more?

So she doesn't want anything for Christmas.

It's a phase most us who know thoughtful, smart, good-hearted kids may have observed. Some of us will have even gone through it ourselves.

It's a phase that is usually greeted with either impatience ("Oh, for God's sake, Jennifer, how is you not getting Christmas presents going to help all the starving people in Africa?"), condescension ("Yes, dear. And I'm sure you'll feel that way on Christmas morning, too.") or outright amusement ("She said that? Oh my God, that's adorable. I have to get her a little something extra from the Oxfam catalogue. Or maybe one of those rubber bracelets all the kids are wearing with the, you know, activist thingies on them.").

C. responded instead with a gesture that, in my humble opinion, is simply perfect. For Christmas this year, C. is taking her niece - both her nieces, in fact - to spend a day volunteering in the Community kitchen. It respects her niece's feelings and gives both girls some experience volunteering and an opportunity to give something back this year.

How very, very cool, my friends, is that?


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Seize ans

Today is the sixteenth anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.

How can it be only sixteen years ago? It seems so much longer that it's been part of our emotional landscape.

Lepine killed those women because they were women who wanted an education - characteristics I share and cannot change. To know that there are people out there who hate you to death for something you can't change - your sex, your skin colour, the religion you were born into, your sexual orientation - that is something that chills you to your very core and it's why the anniversary of the massacre affects me very depressingly and profoundly every year.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

Political crisis, eh?

"Tonight, Canada's government falls. Will the streets murmur with quiet disagreement?''
- Stephen Colbert, "The Colbert Report", November 29