Tuesday, May 29, 2012

An Open Letter: To My Future Husband

Dear Future Husband,

First and foremost: I hope you exist. I hope I am not writing this to nobody, because then this whole endeavour will have been a waste of my time. But I'll be honest with you Future Hubby, and I'm sure you already know this, I waste a lot of time anyway so perhaps I've rendered my previous point moot.

Future Husband, I'm sure you are a pretty top notch person. I bet you're funny and more intelligent than I am. I bet you're one of these smart people who knows a lot about math and science-y things, and I'm sure I originally found your extensive knowledge of astro-physics charming at first, but it's probably a little bit boring now. So even though you're still really cute, maybe you could just not talk about it as much around company and my mom.

I know you must love God. You're friendly and open-minded - obviously, or else I wouldn't have married you. I hope you have a really great book collection that complements mine, and I hope we have a library with two leather chaise lounges and deep mahogany bookshelves filled to capacity that reach the ceiling in our home. If you don't collect books, you'd better collect DVDs and TV box sets or else what on earth do we do on a Tuesday night? I hope our home is filled with lively, intellectual discussion, as well as inane banter about the internet. I hope our home is a place where thinking and questioning is encouraged.

I hope our home is a place where there's always a pot of soup on the stove, muffins on the counter, and people are always welcome. I hope there is music and laughter, and that even when we're tired and cranky and just want to be alone that we will remember that there is joy in community. My friends are parts of my soul, and I hope you have had the privilege of creating sacred friendships too. Our friends will be a part of our everyday lives and they will always know how much we love them. I hope we have the wisdom to know when a friendship has run its course and the courage to let it go, while being open to new and interesting people who come across our paths.

In the unlikely event that you are an outdoorsy person, I hope you have made me outdoorsy, too. Not like in an "I'm going to hike Mount Everest" kind of way. Or even in an "I'm going to hike" kind of way. I hope you have given me new interests and inspired me to push beyond what is comfortable. I hope I've challenged you in the same way. I hope that even though I yell and complain and moan about it, you understand that it's just my way of getting there, and that I am grateful that you have suffered through with me. And there better be ice cream to follow any outdoor expedition.

Dear Husband, I hope you have a lovely family. I want you to love your mother and treat her with respect, and I hope your father is a good man who has been an example of how to be a strong, spiritual head of your household. If your parents have passed on, or if you did not have a healthy relationship, I am sorry. I hope you have healed, and I promise together we can build a solid, happy family. I hope my family likes you. It'd be great if my mom and dad thought you were a good man with integrity and a desire to love and respect me until death do us part. Also, if you could like cars and carpentry so you'd get along with my brother in law, I'd be grateful.

I hope when we grow as a family that we work together. We will be a team, each taking on different roles but sharing when necessary. I promise that if I embarrass or disrespect you, either alone or in public, I will apologize and mean it. I hope we learn the real meaning of compromise, and can find happiness in knowing that we are doing what's best for us instead of me. I hope we are a great example of marriage for our children, that we are committed to each other and to them for the long haul. I hope we are wise and kind and can discipline effectively. I hope that there are more fun times than times of doubt and despair.

Future Husband, this is a letter of promise. I promise that after a few years and when the cute "quirks" have transitioned into "tolerances," I will take a moment to recall how I felt when we first held hands, and the pure joy of first hearing you say that you loved me, and the way my breath caught so that I thought I would pass out when I first realized that I wanted to marry you. I will let those moments remind me that you have and will bring me happiness for a lifetime.

I promise that I will never ask you to relinquish your individuality for me. I will never demand that you become less you because it works better for me. If I do, please gently remind me that you were you long before you met me, and that being and individual is why we work together.

I promise that I will listen to your opinions and advice. I will not stubbornly charge ahead into my own plan, but realize that I have chosen you as a partner because I respect your opinion. You may need to remind me of that occasionally. I also promise that I will always do what I think is right, though, even if it goes against what you think. I hope that is one of the reasons you love me.

I promise that when I tell you that I will be with you til death do us part, I will mean it. When life becomes exceedingly challenging with money or health problems, if our children rebel in the worst ways, if we question our faith in God and in each other, I promise that I will not give up. I may be exhausted and I may wonder if it's all worth it, but I will uphold my vow to honour you and our marriage. I will seek every avenue for improvement, and when it seems like life is doing its best to push us apart, I will push back against it to bring us together.

Sincerely, and with love,
Your Future Wife

PS - we are naming all of our children after Harry Potter characters. Deal with it.

Number of books read in 2012: 7
Current TV series: The West Wing (season 3)
Today's nail colour: nails inc.'s "london town'

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Book Review: Londoners by Craig Taylor

My friend Jill is currently studying at the London School of Economics, and consequently lives in the heart of London. While she was home about a month ago, I subjected her to a long, self-indulgent monologue where I waxed poetic about how much I simultaneously love and miss London and how I want to live there and see plays and go to museums and eat at Pret-a-Manger. After she graciously listened to my boring whinging, she recommended this book, Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now - As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It, and Long for It by Canadian author Craig Taylor.

I naturally went to Chapters immediately after we parted and nestled down with a coffee to see what this book about the greatest city on earth had to offer. I was not disappointed.

Quick plot summary:

I actually can't really give a plot summary for Londoners, because, well, there isn't one. This book is a collection of interviews conducted by Taylor over a series of 5-ish years. He divides the book into different topics: arrival, moving around the city, culture clash. Under each heading are a series of interviews with an often unlikely bunch of people. My personal favourites include a chat with the woman who is the voice of the Underground, several interviews with a man named Smartie who worked as the most popular London club DJ in the 1980s, a late-night and early morning spent with a man who works buying produce at an open market, and the story of a man who worked as a rickshaw driver for years.

Taylor begins the book with a preface outlining his inspiration for the book. As a young writer, he left Canada to work in London and spent a miserable first year there. Yet when he returned home, he couldn't escape the draw to the city, and he eventually moved back. His intention as he embarked upon his five-year journey of meeting and interviewing Londoners was to discover what it is that makes London - its appeal for some, repulsion for others, and the ever-changing cultural landscape that makes defining what it means to be a Londoner nearly impossible.

I liked Londoners. I thought it was really interesting to read the sort of vast and varied opinions of London and living within the city's limits. I read a (much better) review on Aarti Chapati's blog that described the book as "haunting," and I can't put it any better myself. I felt simultaneously enamoured and repulsed, fascinated and frightened of London long after turning the last page of this book; I'm sure that was the very point Taylor was trying to make. That London cannot be defined as one thing. It does not evoke one particular feeling or memory; it is a complicated, living, moving entity.

If you like London and interviews and personal histories, I think Londoners is a book you simply must pick up.


Number of books read in 2012: 6
Current TV series: The West Wing (season 2)
Today's nail colour: Essie's "Turquoise and Caicos"

Friday, May 11, 2012

Why I Am A Christian Who Believes in Gay Rights

There are plenty of reasons I shouldn't write this post, and even more for why I shouldn't publish it on my blog. But I am feeling such a level of outrage, a level of sorrow and sympathy and motivation for change that to stay silent would feel incredibly unproductive and passive.

I am a big believer in the idea that we should be more informed about and focused on what's happened locally, so that we can engage in discussions that affect us immediately. I am not American, so I suppose I am being a bit of a hypocrite here. But I need to be a part of this conversation.

As I'm sure everyone already knows, earlier this week North Carolina had a vote to ban same-sex marriage. The amendment passed, and shortly thereafter President Obama publicly declared his support for gay marriage. Neither of these two events provoked me to reaction, except to say "not surprising" to NC and "that's nice to see" to Obama.

No, what really got my goat was when I saw fellow Canadian Christians declaring support for the US in this trying time, what with a president who has clearly thrown all morals out the window. This was the last straw in a discontent that has been brewing for the past year.

I have before on this blog made references to my opinion on gay rights, but I am outright declaring it now: I support gay rights. I believe that same-sex marriage should be allowed, and it actually astounds me that there are people in the year 2012 who still believe that they shouldn't. No matter what religion one follows, it just seems like to not allow two consenting adults who want to share the same legal rights as other straight committed couples is denying a whole section of the population basic civil rights. I found this video today by the great Hank Green which outlines in a succinct, concise way why the denial of these rights is absolutely ridiculous. 

But even more than these sort of legal issues, what bothers me is some Christians' blatant, outright arrogance about this topic. Personally, I've had a long struggle with finding where I stand on kind of the general topic of "homosexuality" because I believe so strongly in equality, but as a Christian I had been taught that I had to "hate the sin but love the sinner" (which, I might add, is not in the Bible). The problem with this statement, and people who repeatedly say things like "you can love gay people but you don't have to love their actions" is that I've never been shown what that kind of act is supposed to look like. I am beginning to suspect that people who say this sort of thing don't know either.

I believe in the Bible. I believe in the teachings of Jesus and that he has given us the Bible as an example of how to live a holy and fulfilling life. Recently I have been reading the Bible sort of frantically and sporadically, searching for meaning where I have missed it before. What struck me the other day were verses in John 15 that I've heard before, but have never really resonated until now:
"As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. [...] This is my command: Love each other." John 15 : 9-14, 17
- John 15 : 9-14, 17

Jesus repeats himself twice in this short passage, and when Jesus repeats himself throughout his teachings, he really means business. We are to love each other. We are his friends if we obey this command. Jesus shows us what he means by love by his actions throughout his adult life. He hangs out with prostitutes. He has dinner with the poor and he asks the least educated and qualified people to be his disciples. He heals sick people who are not Jewish, and he does it on the Sabbath no less! And, my favourite part: he rebukes the Pharisees who know the scripture by rote but do not know the love of God in their hearts.

So, I truly wonder where the love and compassion and healing are when Christians trumpet hurtful words and condemn others who are, like them, just looking for a happiness and love in this short life we have on earth. When people say they believe in a God who is great and just, but deny that he has love for gays and lesbians, I feel sad because their God is very small. I feel angry because their arrogance and stubbornness to admit that maybe we, as humans and objects of God's creation, don't have all the answers does not at all show any elements of loving each other.

I also frequently think of 1 Corinthians 9, where Paul talks about how his rights and freedoms have been compromised by those who are judging his actions and choices. However, he says "But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ." (1 Corinthians 9:12). To those who are still fighting vehemently and who truly believe that gay marriage is an infringement on their rights, I present this verse and ask: Is your desperate need to be "right" more important than Jesus' command to love each other?

I am not American, I am not gay, and I am not a biblical scholar. I know that there are a million counter arguments to mine. But, as I stated way back at the beginning of this post, I cannot sit idly by while I feel like there is a gross injustice being done. Until gays and lesbians do not feel they have to hide their identity from Christians; until same-sex marriage is recognized as a basic right; until our language is one of love, I will fight.

My support of friends and strangers in their fight to be realized as equals: This is my act of love.


Book Review: Veronica Roth's Insurgent

About a year ago I posted a review of the book Divergent by Veronica Roth. The second book in the trilogy, Insurgent, came out the first of this month. I just happened to be at Chapters the day after it was released, and, naturally, had to pick it up.

To be honest, I had completely forgotten about the series. I had some reservations with the first book, and as such was quite blase about the release of Insurgent. But I have rarely been known to put down a book once I've picked it up, and one must finish what one starts, and so let's get crack-a-lackin' on the review, shall we?

Insurgent picks up right where Divergent leaves off. And I mean literally exactly where it ends. Unlike each of the Harry Potter books, as well as many, many other series which give you a sort of gloss over what's happened previously so you have a hope of following along, Roth dives into the deep end without even testing the waters. It's been over a year since I've read Divergent, and Roth introduces many characters throughout the first book who seem as though they are - and will remain - insignificant; I was utterly confused when I opened the first page of chapter one and vaguely familiar names and situations were being dealt with rapidly and with no introduction. I was forced to do a quick skim through Divergent before I could proceed. I didn't like this at all, and I think this sort of beginning is definitely another sign of her immaturity as a writer.

Quick plot summary:
(also: minor plot spoiler if you haven't read book one)

Tris, Tobias, and a handful of other Dauntless and Abnegation have survived the simulation uprising. As they are unable to return to Dauntless headquarters, they seek medical attention and temporary refuge from the Amity sector. They are offered sanctuary, but not for long. Tris and Tobias know that they must break out and find out as much as they can about the Divergent and why they are being targeted. Meanwhile, Tris overhears Marcus telling Johanna, unofficial leader of Amity, that there is a great secret that was being stored by those in Abnegation, but he cannot reveal what it is.

When an unexpected raid of traitor Dauntless break into Amity, those who are willing to fight escape the compound and spend a night among the Factionless, where Tobias is confronted by an unexpected ghost from his past. They quickly leave and seek alliances with the Candor faction, where Tris learns what she must do in order to save the rest of her society.

I don't know what it is about trilogies and series, but it seems like there has to be at least one book of the bunch that a little bit sucks. This book isn't awful. It isn't great, either, though. A large part of the book is spent telling you that there is information to be found, but they keep not finding it. There is a lot of walking, a la The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and Roth keeps introducing characters without really giving them enough qualities for the reader to get a firm grasp. And while the book seems to move quite quickly - everywhere people move they are running or punching or frantically searching for something, by page 400 you realize that nothing has actually happened and you've still got 100 pages to go.

I will say this for Insurgent, though: the ending is definitely gripping. Up until the last two pages, I was thinking that I probably wouldn't give book 3 a whirl, and then WHAM! Roth broke out her first interesting twist of the book, and now I must find out what happens.

Insurgent isn't bad. It definitely fulfills the seemingly necessary YA elements of unconsummated yet passionate young love, a young protagonist who is the intellectual equal - indeed, superior in some cases - to her adult companions, and a lot of not-particularly-violent fighting. I think Divergent is definitely better than this book, and I can only hope that book 3 is best of the batch.


Number of books read in 2012: 6
Current TV series: Firefly
Today's nail colour: L'Oreal's "Penthouse Pink"

Friday, May 4, 2012

Elementary, My Dear

I watch a lot of TV. I tweeted the other day about how I think I've reached the end of cable, because I cannot think of any shows I have not yet watched, at least in part. I also rarely discriminate between "bad" and "good" TV. I watch Storage Wars and Jeopardy and Roseanne and Mad Men.

Recently, however, thanks to Tumblr and a friend who is particularly obsessed with England (hi Lilly!), I have watched the BBC show Sherlock. About 2 minutes into the first episode, I was 100% committed to the series. It's so good, dear readers, that I have to blog about it. This show cannot be left unwatched by anyone.

Sherlock is, as I'm sure you've guessed, based on the now almost mythological Sherlock Holmes character brought to life by the words of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I also should preface this complete love letter to the show with the fact that I am not a fan of Sherlock novels; in fact, I haven't even read any. I haven't seen the Robert Downey Jr. movies. My knowledge of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson before this show was based almost entirely on Wishbone reenactments. So I am not a gushing fangirl, to say the very least.

There are two seasons, or "series" as the Brits call them, of Sherlock. Each episode is 1.5 hours and based on the plot of one Sherlock Holmes novel. But what makes the episodes incredible is that they have been updated to include modern settings, attitudes, and technology. Dr. John Watson is soldier returned home from Afghanistan trying to reintegrate back into society, and struggling to write a blog at the behest of his therapist. Sherlock is a self-diagnosed "high functioning sociopath" with the inability to feel empathy and who makes excellent use of his smart phone as a companion to his mind-blowing observational skills.

Excluding the interesting plot lines and great writing and witty dialogue, what makes Sherlock so great is the photography and cinematography. It's the most visually interesting show I have ever seen. It breaks the standard blocking and framing of TV and just makes it much more appealing to watch. It uses text on screen to hint at what Sherlock is thinking, walking the viewer through the astute thought processes of a genius. Scenes fade into others through cleverly placed scene splits, and often the camera is not facing where you'd expect it - say, on the person who is speaking, but rather frames them through a mirror or the reaction of the person listening.

John: "Are you wearing any pants?"
Sherlock: "... No."
I would be remiss if I didn't address the incredible acting of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock and Watson, respectively. They really are just that: incredible. I often feel as though I am eavesdropping on someone's real life as opposed to watching a TV show, because Sherlock and John feel so real. I am particularly a fan of Martin Freeman. He plays Watson as an incredibly nuanced character, the tone of each "no" meaning something different, the shape of his mouth and eyes conveying as much meaning as what he's saying. The timing of Sherlock and Watson's dialogue is fast-paced and witty, and they are the perfect match.

In sum:
I really cannot rave about it enough. It's funny. It's clever. Every time I watch it (which has been ~4 times as of today), I find something new and different. The show feels classic and old, while also being updated and accessible. It is funny, smart, and suspenseful: how could it not be amazing?


PS - If you have any shows to recommend, please do!