Search Me

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately, and my go-to is always Google. I mean, it’s not like I can walk into a public library and take out a stack of books, although if you know anything about me and my OCD hygiene issues, you’ll know I never touch library books anyway, especially after one of my friends told me about how bedbugs can live in library books and she puts them in the freezer for 48 hours before reading them. Google is the best for finding out stuff: Firefox is obsolete, Edge is boring AF, and Bing is Satan’s search engine, which, in retrospect, might have been appropriate. Also, there are no annoying ads on Google, although you DO get ads everywhere else related to every site you visit. It amazes me that there are people who believe that bizarre conspiracy theory about Bill Gates tracking you through microchips in vaccines when Google already knows everything about you simply based on your clicks. Once, I looked at an ad for wigs, and every site I go to now has ads for wigs. Last week I posted about kittens and now Kate Spade wants to sell me earrings shaped like kittens. And two days ago, I filled in an online request for a quote from a kitchen painting company and now my gmail keeps filling up with ads for Benjamin Moore and kitchen renos. If those conspiracy theorists were really smart, they’d stop using computers all together and share their dumbassery through Morse code instead of becoming anti-vaxxers.

Anyway, I recently completed writing my first non-Young Adult novel, called The Seventh Devil, and I had to do a lot of research at different points in the plot. And then I heard that the government monitors certain topics and I got really worried that maybe I’d raised some red flags. Here is a list of things I searched for recently—tell me if you think I should be concerned:

1) What happens when you mix salt and vinegar together?
2) How corrosive is hydrochloric acid?
3) Is it illegal to make hydrochloric acid?
4) What acid is stronger than hydrochloric acid?
5) Is it illegal to buy sulphuric acid?
6) Where in Canada can I buy sulphuric acid?
7) What type of container is best for transporting sulphuric acid?
8) What acids are more deadly than sulphuric acid?
9) What does carbon tetrachloride do?
10) How does phosphine gas kill you?
11) How do you exorcise a demon?
12) What Latin phrases are best for exorcisms?
13) How do I know if my house is possessed by a demon?
14) Why does my puppy lick the carpet?
15) Is my puppy possessed by a demon?
16) What is the largest swamp in Ontario?
17) How long does it take a body to decompose in a swamp?
18) Does the government track my Google searches?
19) What kind of vehicles do government agents drive?
20)If you see a wifi called Surveillance Van 3, is it real or a joke?
21) Does stress cause hiccups?

 

Demon Dog

Then last week, I e-transferred Kate some money for her tuition, and just for fun, I put “Thanks for the launch codes” in the message line. Yeah, I agree—I think I should be worried.

But research is important though–I learned this the hard way many years ago in university when I was doing an English Lit/Film degree. I was tasked with presenting the filmmaker Stan Brakhage to the class, so I read everything I could about him. Remember, this was in the days before Netflix, Youtube or even the internet, so I DID in fact have to go to a library. From everything I studied, the man was a genius, but there was no way I could actually see any of his films. Then, on the day of my presentation, my film professor, a wonderfully enthusiastic and eccentric man, came up to me and breathlessly announced that he’d secured a 16mm copy of Brakhage’s masterpiece, “Dog Star Man Part III” which he would play on the screen behind me while I spoke. I was thrilled too—the lights went down, the film began, and I started telling the class all about the film and how Brakhage was “obsessed with vision, and tried to capture the three dimensions of the senses…he wanted the viewer to see in a fresh way, to disregard social conventions of seeing—” and then I realized that some people in the class were laughing and some people seemed shocked, so I looked over my shoulder at the film playing behind me and there was a gigantic nipple in the middle of the screen, and then a close-up of what looked like someone peeing, and I’ve never been so mortified and so happy to be in a dark room in my life. I literally stopped my presentation and just said, “Well. That’s so interesting,” and then we all watched as it got even more porn-y and my professor launched into a treatise on Brakhage’s ‘instinctive qualities’ and his ‘incredible technique’, and he was so ecstatic about the whole thing that he didn’t even notice that I hadn’t said another word and I got an A anyway (note that his comment below was “a brief but pithy statement not only of Brakhage but also his context”). And if you want to see “Dog Star Man” for yourself, you can just google it.

 

 

 

Climbing The Walls

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not very athletic. I only run if something is chasing me, although my idea of exercise HAS evolved from drinking wine while peddling a recumbent cycle to taking a brisk walk with the dog. It’s brisk because it’s the only way I can keep up with him—he’s currently terrible on a leash. He already knows the word ‘Walk’ and goes out of his mind with joy when he hears it to the point that you can barely get the leash attached to his collar before he’s out the door and gone. I’ve tried all kinds of things to calm him down but nothing works:

Me: Heel!
Atlas: Heal what? I’m fine.
Me: NO, stay by my heel.
Atlas: Then I’ll miss that awesome telephone pole. Also, there might be some squirrel sh*t that I have to smell. Ooh, a butterfly—come on!!

Cookies don’t work—well, they work until he’s swallowed them, and then he’s right back to strangling himself with his collar. He WILL sit at the corner, long enough to earn a ‘good boy’, then he laughs and dashes away, dragging me behind him. At 5 months old and 40 pounds, he’s hard to control but at least I’m getting my cardio in. Once everything opens up, I’m definitely taking him for obedience classes, mostly because he’s been trying to drink my wine when I’m not looking.

Anyway, aside from my daily race around the block, I don’t do anything too strenuous, so the other day when Kate asked, “Hey, do you want to go rock climbing with me?” my first instinct was to say “Yes”, because I love hanging out with her, and my second instinct was to whisper to Ken, “My god, what have I done?” He whispered back, “Just climb the kiddie wall—you’ll be fine.” I found some old exercise gear in a drawer, put on some running shoes, and we set out. I should mention that my daughter has her own rock-climbing shoes, so that should tell you exactly what the differential is between us in terms of rock climbing acumen. We got to the facility and walked in. It was huge, with walls of grips going up twenty feet at least, surrounded by 2-foot-thick mats. “Where are the ropes?” I asked. “Why isn’t anyone got a rope around their waist?” Kate informed me that this was ‘bouldering’ which is basically free climbing, so there went my dream of just swinging casually from a rope like a trapeze performer (also in this dream, I’m holding a glass of wine. It was a nice dream). We got up to the counter where we were met by a perky young woman.

Perky Young Woman: Hi! Is this your first time bouldering?
Me: Yes.
PYW: OK, let’s go over some safety guidelines. First, do you know how to fall?
Me: I think so, but I generally tend to avoid it, so I’m probably not an expert or anything.
PYW: OK, well the important thing is to keep your arms crossed over your chest. Don’t stick them out or you might break something.
Me: Exactly how much falling is going to be involved here?
PYW: Haha! Also, don’t touch the ceiling or any of the ductwork when you get to the top.
Me: You’re very optimistic about that possibility.
PYW: Haha! The walls range in difficulty from Beginner to Really Super Hard Crazy Advanced. (*Note: she didn’t actually say ‘Really Super Hard Crazy Advanced’, but I can’t remember the actual name and that’s what it looked like.)
Me: Just point me at the kiddie wall.
PYW: Hahahaha! We don’t have one of those.

Meanwhile, Kate had already chalked up her hands and was raring to go on a course that was on a backwards leaning incline (see pic 1). She directed me to a VB section of wall, which is to say Very Beginner, which I regarded dubiously. “How do I start?” She showed me and then said, “You try it.” I put one toe of my rental shoe on a grip, grabbed a handhold, and was immediately immobilized. I looked to her for help, but she was halfway up another wall, kind of like Spiderwoman. “Keep going, Mom!” she called out as she scaled the wall like a professional. I persevered and managed to make it up the course, which was straight up and had substantial handholds (see pic 2). Still, I made it to the top, about 15 feet up, and got a little excited until I realized that I had to climb back down. I might have looked like a gecko but at least I didn’t fall (see pic 3). I ended up doing a couple of other sections—one was even slightly harder than Beginner, as Kate cheered me on, and then I spent the rest of the time proudly watching her. The next morning when I woke up, I was only slightly screaming from the pain in my arms. And I can’t wait to do it again.

 

Don’t Think of Elephants

As I sit writing this, I’m thrilled beyond belief. My wonderful daughter, due to having all of her classes online next year thanks to covid, is moving home. It makes perfect sense that she shouldn’t be paying rent for some tiny room in a unit that she shared with several other strangers, even IF the wifi is better, and since she’s one of my favourite people, I can’t wait to have face-to-face conversations with her where she doesn’t respond for an hour instead of doing it by text. So she started bringing things home this past week, and that’s where the trouble started. As we were helping her take some boxes upstairs, I couldn’t help but notice that one large box was thoroughly duct-taped. Even more, it had written on it in permanent marker the ominous warning, “DO NOT OPEN”.

Me: Why does that box say ‘Do Not Open’?
Kate: Because I don’t want you to open it.
Me: What’s in it?
Kate: Nothing.
Me: Then why can’t I open it?
Kate: Because I don’t want you to.
Me: But what’s in it?
Kate: I feel like this conversation is very circular.
Me: Is it porn?
Kate: OH MY GOD Mom, no it’s not porn. It’s nothing that you would find interesting.
Me: Well now it’s interesting BECAUSE I can’t open it!
Kate: Don’t open it.

So there the box sits, like a small rectangular elephant, in the middle of the room, surrounded by dozens of other boxes that I’m ALLOWED to open if I wanted to, but I don’t want to—I only want to open the one I’m not allowed to. Did I secretly open it after she left? Absolutely not. I respect her privacy. Also, duct tape is notoriously difficult to peel off cardboard without damaging it, so she’d obviously notice if I tried. Which I haven’t. But I WILL have my revenge. I found this empty box and I’m just going to leave it in random places around the house:

In other news, I was driving to my shock wave therapy appointment last Tuesday and noticed that my odometer read 80 041. I did some quick mental calculations and realized that I had 44 kilometres to go before I would reach the nirvana of mileage, the incredible 80085. ‘There’s no possible way it will take more than 44 kilometres to get to the clinic’, I thought to myself naively. And so I proceeded to drive across country, trying to reach my objective before I got to the highway where I wouldn’t be able to pull over and take a picture. Unfortunately, I’m as bad at distances as I am at math, and I pulled onto the highway at 80066. ‘That’s OK’, I comforted myself—there’s no possible way that it will take 19 kilometres to get to my exit. And then, after a few minutes, the odometer hit 80083. I was still two exits away from my destination, so I did what any normal person would do—I got off the highway immediately. I drove down the off-ramp, heart beating in my chest (because where the hell else would it be beating? But I do love a good cliche) as it clicked to 80084. Then, like a beacon in the night, I saw a small laneway leading into a townhouse complex. I turned the corner, literally and figuratively, just as the odometer hit 80085, and slammed on the brakes. So here you are—I did this just for you:

And then I sent the picture to Ken with the caption, ‘HAHA it says BOOBS!’ Because I’m a grown-ass woman with a juvenile sense of humour and an indomitable will.

Finally, here’s a story I’ve been meaning to tell for some time. I came into the bedroom about a month ago, and found Atlas chewing one of my slippers. He’d already managed to destroy the sheepskin insert and was gnawing on the suede. “What the hell!” I yelled to Ken. “I thought you were watching Atlas! He has one of my slippers!”

Ken: I know. He was getting bored so I gave it to him.
Me: You did WHAT??
Ken: It’s not like you ever wear them.
Me: I literally wear them every single f*cking day, Ken. I’ve been wearing them every day for over seven years! How could you not have noticed that? Is this your revenge for that time I buried YOUR slippers in the garden?
Ken: You did what?!
Me: Nothing…
Atlas: This appetizer is delightful. Shall we proceed to the main course?
Me: You’re not getting the other slipper! Let go!

Ken was very abashed and agreed to pay whatever it cost for a new pair. We looked online but couldn’t find anything remotely similar, so the next day I drove to the store where I’d originally bought them. “Ah yes,” the owner said after I gave him my phone number and he looked me up. “The ‘Leandra”. Excellent choice, very comfortable. I see you made the purchase on February 7, 2013. Unfortunately, this model has been discontinued.”

I was aghast, and devastated that my most comfortable footware had been destroyed, but then I realized that you can order new inserts from Amazon. So I did, and now my slippers are just like new, aside from the slight toothmarks on one heel. Is there a point to this story? Not really, except that I was vindicated and was able to say, “Hah, Ken—you see these Leandras? I bought them in 2013!” and that’s all that matters.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

A long time ago, I used to be a high school teacher which meant I got summers off. Of course, I never REALLY got the summer off—I was either taking courses, getting ready for the new year, or for the last few years before I switched jobs, I was a Summer School principal (you can search “Summer School Stories” if you want to know more). Now that I work for the secret agency, I get 21 days for the entire year, plus statutory holidays. These days are like gold, and I try to ration well because they have to see me through from January to Christmas. I took a few random days at the beginning of the year. And this past week, I took 5 days in a row. That is the extent of my summer holiday right now because I thought I needed to bank the rest for later. I had set another five aside for a cruise in December, but then everything went to sh*t and we had to cancel it—who wants to be on a floating can of plague? Maybe there’ll be a cure soon though, and then I might need them, so better to be safe than sorry. Anyway, I had five days right now and needed to be as productive as possible. Here’s what I accomplished:

1) I taught my puppy to stop biting me

He’s a fantastic little guy, except for one thing. He was biting ALL the time. My arms looked like a war zone—I couldn’t sit down on the couch for five seconds before he was jumping all over me and chewing the sh*t out of me. We tried several tacks, based on what I read on the internet:

Me (squeals very loudly): ‘OW!’
Atlas: You’re a terrible actress. We both know I didn’t bite you that hard. (Bites me again).

Me: Gentle. Be gentle. BE GENTLE.
Atlas: I have no frame of reference for that. (Bites me again).

Me: Here! Chew on Teddy instead!
Atlas: Teddy tastes like sawdust. On the other hand—on both your other hands–you’re delicious.

Finally, I’d had enough. I said to Ken, “None of this crap is working. From now on, if he bites, I say “No” and walk away. If he’s good, he gets a cookie.” See, I’d forgotten that he was a Lab and that the sole motivation for the breed is food. So on Monday, I sat down on the couch with a jar of little treats. Every time he got nippy, I said “No” and took my hand away. When he was calm, I gave him a little piece of his kibble and praised him.

Me: You’re a very nice boy.
Atlas: I AM a nice boy. And this food tastes even better when you handfeed me.

It took two afternoons of focused training, and he hasn’t bitten me since then. As long as I keep dog food in my pocket, I’m golden.

2) I wrote three and a half chapters of my new novel

I’ve been working on a new project for a little while, and at the beginning of July, I sent the first ten chapters to my current publisher to see if they had any interest in it. They do, and now I have a mid-August deadline to get the bulk of it complete. According to my plan, it will top out around nineteen chapters, which means about five and a half to go. Good job I still have some vacation days left. The new book is called The Seventh Devil. Here’s the synopsis:

“20-year-old Verity Darkwood and her mentor Gareth Winter travel across Canada in an old pickup truck and fifth-wheel trailer, exorcising ghosts and demons for people who’ve answered their ad in The Echo: A Journal for Lovers of the Macabre, edited by the eccentric Horace Greeley III. All the while Verity continues the search for her younger sister Harmony, who disappeared when Verity was 14. As she gets closer to discovering what happened to her sister, she and Gareth cross paths with the mysterious and dangerous John Berith. A confrontation becomes inevitable if Verity ever hopes to see Harmony again.”

I’m excited about it. If you have any good book cover ideas, let me know.

3) I watched Ken work on the gazebo

He finally finished the roof, and started working on the railings, benches, and stand-up bar this week. I now have the most ostentatious mansion for my blow-up hot tub possible. You’d expect something with this much architectural splendor to house the Statue of David or something, but no, it’s just a large vinyl container of hot water. Still, it’s glorious.

4) I went clothes shopping for the first time since March

My office in the city is right across the street from the best Winners store in Canada. I was over there at least once a week, because they always have fantastic clothes, a great clearance section, and it’s the only place I can buy the good vegetable spice. This spice is made by Gourmet Kitchen, and during the worst of the plague, I tried to order it from Amazon. I normally pay 6.99 for a jar at Winners; Amazon wanted thirty-five dollars US, which is around fifty Canadian. My potatoes would have to roast naked for that price. But there’s also a Winners about 20 minutes away from my house. It’s not at the same level as the downtown store, but still…And not only was I able to get the good spice, I bought three tops. Obviously, I don’t need to buy pants until I’m working in an office again instead of doing virtual meetings where people can only see me from the shoulders up.

5) I discovered that we get a channel called A&E. A long time ago, this channel used to show almost exclusively BBC series and documentaries. Now, it’s like the National Enquirer. On Mondays, you can watch marathons of Hoarders, which is the most insane show on the planet. On every episode, one of the psychologists says, “This is the worst hoard I’ve ever seen” but the next episode is ALWAYS WORSE, like the old man who slept in a tiny nest of garbage in his living room surrounded by mountains of more garbage, or the woman who had 117 cats—43 of them were alive and the rest were in her refrigerator. One episode had a guy who had stacks and stacks of magazines in one room, which hit close to home:

Me: See that? It reminds me of your office. You’d totally be a hoarder if it wasn’t for me refusing to let you keep crap like that.
Ken: Says the woman who has 27 clocks that don’t work and 12 seashell jewelry boxes with NOTHING IN THEM.

On Friday nights, you can also binge watch a weird show called Storage Wars. The premise is simple—we follow a group of *ssholes as they try to outbid each other on storage units so that they can make a profit on the junk inside. And they really are *ssholes, whose sole motivation is to screw each other over. Every episode, at least one of them says, “I don’t want this unit but I’m going to bid on it anyway to drive the price up so that Barry has to pay more than it’s worth.” None of the people on this show have anything likable about them, and I don’t understand why I watched 6 episodes on Friday night.  Oh well—I’m on my holidays.

I’m Ready For My Close-Up

On Monday, I received a FaceTime call. The only person who normally tries to call me on Facetime is my 6-year-old niece, Cecile, so I answered, thinking that a lovely exploration of the topics of Minecraft or slime would ensue. She’s a remarkably blithe conversationalist; for example:

Me: So what would you like for your birthday?
C: I’m not sure. I like the Galaxy, stuffies, and my favourite colour is blue.
Me: What’s ‘the Galaxy’? Is it a game?
C (laughs): No, Aunt Suzanne. It’s like the stars and stuff.
Me: So would you like a telescope?
C: Actually, a telescope would be great. My cousin Gio has one, but we literally never go over there.

Telescope it is. But the Facetime call wasn’t from Cecile, who has picked up a lot of her vocabulary from watching Youtube videos of Jojo Siwa. No, the call was from Jamaica, but I didn’t realized that until I answered, and saw an older woman who looked at me blankly. “Sorry,” I said. “I think you have the wrong number.” She seemed a little confused and put out, but apologized and hung up. Then I looked at the name and realized that it was Shane’s mom. If you don’t remember “Blayz For Dayz Shane” from previous posts, you can look him up–start here if you’d like. I was worried, of course, that she might be upset with me over that whole forklift situation from a couple of weeks ago—had I ruined yet another of Shane’s chances at honest work? (the first time was the warehouse heist from last year, and I still regret not being given the opportunity to go all in on an Oceans 8 type scenario). At any rate, there were no further repercussions, and I comforted myself that at least I looked good, her having caught me early enough in the evening (6-ish) that I was still wearing make-up and normal human clothes.

The very next day, it was well after 6, and I had lounged in a nice hot bath, washed my face, slathered it with night cream, and put on some cozy PJs, when an alert on my phone went off. I looked at it and gasped. It was a reminder that in 15 minutes, I was due to attend my good friend Susan Richardson’s book launch and poetry reading. It’s an amazing collection of poetry, and her first published compilation, and I was so excited for her when I was invited that I immediately put the evening’s festivities in my calendar. And then I immediately forgot what day it was. Which is why I put stuff in my calendar in the first place—I have a memory like a sieve when it comes to important events, as Ken will tell you:

Ken: Happy Anniversary!
Me: Whuh?
Ken: It’s our 30th anniversary. Today.
Me: I KNOW that. Here. I bought you a puppy.
Atlas: Put me down. Why do I feel like I’m an afterthought?
Me: I have a JibJab card for you. Just give me a few minutes to “find” the link.

Anyway, the alert on my phone went off and, as I said, I gasped. What was I going to do? I looked in the mirror at my greasy face and comfy PJs. This would not do. I was not going to appear at an important event looking like something the cat dragged in. So I wiped off the night cream, got out the make-up kit, and carefully reapplied the make-up I’d removed literally ten minutes before, and when I say ‘carefully’, I mean as carefully as I could given the clock counting down. I finished, threw on a fancy top (keeping on the PJ bottoms because no one would be able to see my pants), and sat down in front of the computer, just in the nick of time. And there was lovely Susan. She was glowing, and I’m assuming it was for a different reason than me (a combination of wine and running down the stairs to get to the computer). She smiled and said, “Hi!”

“HI!” I said back enthusiastically, and waved. I couldn’t see anyone else in the meeting yet, so I said, “How are you? You must be so exci—” and she launched into an introduction and then started reading the first poem. I assumed that my camera and mike were off, and I was worried she wouldn’t know I was there, so I looked and realized that there were no icons. NONE. And I discovered something new that day—Facebook Live Video is a one-way street. All my efforts were for naught—no one could see me and no one would have cared if I’d arrived naked, let alone with a bare face. But there was a chat function, so I was able to congratulate her and applaud her wonderful reading. And I looked good doing it:

Ken: Did you make it on time?
Me: Apparently, on Facebook Live, no one can see or hear you.
Ken: Well, you look pretty.
Me: Aw. Happy Anniversary.
Ken: That was last week.

If you want to see Susan reading poetry from her collection Things My Mother Left Behind, you can go here. In other news, here are some things that my puppy barks at:

The toilet
A piece of celery
The spray bottle that sprays him for getting too bitey (we call it Mr. Spray Bottle and he hates it with a passion. If I say, “Uh oh, time for Mr. Spray bottle”, he loses his sh*t. It’s hilarious.)
My daughter, because she changed her outfit
His reflection in the window
My reflection in the window
Ken’s reflection in the window
A bird. It was flying overhead
The ball he was playing with the day before
The rake
The broom
The hoe
My mom, because she got her hair cut
My dad, because he didn’t
The stairs (he’s at the age where we expect him to at least try to go up and down on his own, but he wants to be carried)
The hot tub, especially when we turn the dreaded bubbles on

He’s barky but adorable.

Detective Duos I’d Love to Watch

On Tuesday night, I was bored and there was nothing good on TV, so I decided to watch a rerun of a show whose title had intrigued me for a long time: “Houdini and Doyle.” From what I understood, it was about a detective duo at the turn of the century, and I love detective shows. One of my all time favourites is the updated version of Sherlock Holmes called Elementary, starring the irascible Johnny Lee Miller, and Lucy Liu as Watson. I also adore Benedict Cumberbatch in the BBC version of Sherlock, which I’ve rewatched several times on Netflix, so I thought I’d give Houdini and Doyle a whirl. All I knew is that Harry Houdini was a Hungarian-American magician, and that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was the Scottish author of the Sherlock Holmes series, among other things. I love magic and I love Scottish fiction writers (albeit a very small group) and I had high hopes for its ability to keep me happily occupied for the next hour while Atlas slept. Unfortunately, the TV show was—and I’m being polite here—absolute sh*t. Here are my main complaints:

  • The plot was ridiculous. This episode took place in a town where everyone except the local doctor and a little girl suddenly died. People were just lying on the streets in their period costumes, or keeled over their dinners of mutton and ale. Even the dogs were dead. And so were the mice—I know this because Houdini pointed out a nest of dead mice under a porch in a very obvious way in order to prove—well, I’m not actually sure what he was trying to prove. Houdini and Doyle eventually decided that everyone died due to a large cloud of carbon dioxide which had escaped from a nearby mine and which had asphyxiated the entire town. And as convoluted as that all sounds, it wasn’t even the ridiculous part. The most illogical part of the whole thing was their explanation regarding the survival of the doctor and the little girl. I was hoping beyond hope that since the show revolved around a famous magician that there might actually be a supernatural or magic-y rationale, like they were both alien mutants with cosmic lung capacity, or immune to the biological weapon that the government was experimenting with or something cool, but no. The doctor was in bed having a nap, and the little girl was sick and was also in bed. Therefore, they were BELOW the gas cloud and escaped its nefarious and deadly clutches. At which point, I yelled at the TV, “WHAT ABOUT THE DEAD MICE UNDER THE PORCH?! ? WHAT ABOUT THE DOGS? ARE YOU SERIOUSLY TELLING ME THAT ALL THE DEAD DOGS WERE TALLER THAN THAT KID’S BED?!” Yep, it made no sense whatsoever.
  • It made even less sense later, when having “solved” the first mystery, Houdini and Doyle then prevented the assassination of the President of the United States at a hotel because they had found a note with the words “King Edward” on it, and after thinking it was about killing the King, they realized it was the name of a hotel and got there just in time. All in one episode of 45 minutes (not counting all the commercials).
  • There were no magic tricks AT ALL. Considering the show stars one of the most famous American magicians of all time, there was a surprising LACK of magic-type stuff. Not even a f*cking card trick. They should have had Houdini in a locked closet, tied up with padlocked chains, racing against time to escape and thwart the assassination. Instead, he just knocked the gun out of the guy’s hand. Boring.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was Scottish, yet he spoke with an English accent. Yes, they sound different. The English always sound like they’re trying to schmooze you, and the Scottish always sound like they’re mad at you, thusly:
    English: Darling, can you please be quiet?
    Scottish: HAUD YER WEESHT, CHEEKY WEE BISSOM!!
    But Doyle was always like “Good Heavens! What the devil happened here, my good man?” instead of “Whit? Awae wi’ ye, numptie!” Yes, I know that the actual Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was well-educated and spoke the “Queen’s English”, but it would have added something to the show if he’d used spicy phrases and unintelligible dialect. The plot didn’t make any sense, so why should the dialogue?
  • Houdini sounded Canadian and the whole show had a distinctly Canadian feel ie: it was kind of amateur-ish, like Murdoch Mysteries, where a Canadian detective in the 1890s “uses radical forensic techniques of the time, including fingerprints and trace evidence, to solve gruesome murders” (imdb) along with his partner, female coroner Dr. Julie Ogden . An episode was once filmed in the town next to mine—we were at Wine Bayou bottling wine, and when my mom found out, she ran out on us mid-cork just for a glimpse of Yannick Bisson, who plays Murdoch. I’ve never seen her move so fast. Anyway, I wasn’t sure WHY I felt like it was so Canadian, then I googled it, and it turns out that the show “has Canadian producers and comes from the same production company as Murdoch Mysteries.” Mystery solved.
  • Last, throughout the show, Houdini kept insisting that you always know when you’re dreaming because “You can’t read in your dreams.” This is patently untrue. Just last night, I was reading Facebook posts in my dreams and some of them were just as annoying as they are when I’m awake—I don’t give “amens” to anything, and NO, I will not copy and paste your anti-mask rant regardless of my state of consciousness. But the kitten videos were a-DOR-able.

Anyway, in keeping with the current trend of unrealistic detective duos, like Murdoch and his Victorian female coroner partner, or Houdini and Doyle, I came up with a couple of my own.

1) “What The Dickens!”: This show stars Charles Dickens and David Copperfield, played respectively by Gerard Butler and Shia LeBoeuf. Because why the hell not? In the show, Dickens has time-travelled to the future and meets American magician David Copperfield. Together, they investigate the disappearance of many large buildings and monuments, and battle their arch-nemesis Uriah Heep, played by Betty White, who is as immortal as any supervillain. After they’ve solved every mystery (turns out it was Copperfield all along), Dickens returns to his own time and writes a very long novel called “David Copperfield” where he makes a LOT of stuff up, (he got paid by the word, after all) but leaves out the detective/magic part because he doesn’t want his heirs to get sued by Copperfield in the future for revealing his magical techniques.

2) “Fitzgerald and Wife”: In keeping with the fine tradition of married couple detectives, this show stars F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. Every week, they are presented with a new mystery which they fail to solve because they are too drunk.

3) “Robbie and Doug”: This is a Canadian show starring famous author Robertson Davies, who almost won a Nobel prize, and Doug Henning, a Canadian magician who ran for Parliament as a candidate for the Natural Law Party, which believes that all the problems in the world can be solved by learning the art of “yogic flying”. In the show, Davies just grumbles a lot about everything because he’s 90 years old and Scottish, and Henning solves all the crimes by flying around and meditating. The show is cancelled when viewers discovered that Henning isn’t REALLY flying—it’s only special effects. Yogic flying is actually just bouncing in a lotus position, and everyone knows you can’t solve crimes by bouncing.

As a side note, I know that neither F. Scott or Zelda were magicians, but I liked the concept too much to leave it out on THAT technicality. Also Ken just read this, and got really huffy:

Ken: I can’t believe you criticized Murdoch Mysteries.
Me: I didn’t criticize it.
Ken: You called it poorly made and amateurish.
Me: That was a generalization. ALL Canadian shows are poorly made and amateurish.
Ken: The BBC is just as bad.
Me: What are you talking about? The BBC is awesome!
Ken: Next time you’re watching Masterpiece Theatre, pay close attention to the terrible production values!
Me: OK, Ken.

Ken and I would make a great detective duo:

Me: Ken. The puppy just threw up.
Ken: It’s 4 o’clock in the morning…what does it look like?
Me: Pretty solid. Doesn’t look like food. Kind of stringy.
Ken: Stringy…string…rope. Ah ha! He swallowed that little chew rope he was playing with earlier.
Me: I don’t see it around here anywhere. Good deduction.
Atlas: Better out than in.

In other news, I was recently interviewed by Jenna Neece, writer and editor. If you’d like to learn more about The Mystery of Mydangblog, you can read it here

Forklift Fantasies, Atlas is Invincible

I really thought that a golden opportunity had knocked on my door the other day. I was sitting at my work computer reviewing some secret agency documents when my text alert sounded. I get very few text messages—in fact, the only person who texts me regularly is the comedian Jim Gaffigan. Somehow, I got on a list to receive texts from him, and while I’m sure he’s a very nice man, I wish I wasn’t on his list, because he texts me at least twice a day. I’ve written in the past that I have a very sensitive startle response, so every time the notification goes off, I just about jump out of my chair, only to discover that it’s yet ANOTHER clip of Jim doing stand-up or Jim forcing one of his many children to eat liverwurst. Random? You bet. I suppose I could text him back with “New phone, who dis?” but I don’t think he reads any of the replies, at least not any that I’ve already sent. Plus, I don’t want to hurt his feelings because what if I’m the only person who hasn’t dropped him by now, and then he’s like “Not you too, Mydangblog! I thought we really had something special! Oh, WHAT’S THE POINT?” and then he never does stand-up again and it’s all my fault? You know who’s a GOOD celebrity to have on text? Jeff Goldblum. He texted me once and I’ve never heard from him again, but he’s in my contact list so I can show people and be a little braggy without having to suffer through clips of him in The Fly or whatnot.

Anyway, my text notification went off, so I sighed and braced myself for Jim but it wasn’t him. It was potentially a dream come true. You may remember that I have waxed poetic on a number of occasions about driving a forklift. And why WOULDN’T I want to drive one? A forklift is like a golf cart with arms, and you should all know by now that the only reason I have EVER golfed is so I can drive the golf cart, and a forklift is just one step better. It’s like being a human transformer. If you’ve ever seen that Alien movie where Sigourney Weaver wears the forklift suit, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The only thing more badass than a forklift suit is in the final installment of The Matrix where Captain Mifune wears the human machine gun suit. They call it an Armoured Personnel Unit, but if it was me, I’d just be yelling “Get me my damned human machine gun suit—Player One’s got a dock to defend!!”

And what did this magical text message say? It said, “Urgent Requirements! Forklift Operators needed! Long hours and long term possible. Text TPI!” and there was a number to text back. Also, UNLIKE Jim, there was also the sentence “Text STOP to opt out”, but in this case, I would NEVER want to opt out. I was momentarily thrilled and was about to text back, “Yes! A resounding yes!” when I read it again. Long hours? Long term possible? That didn’t sound like much fun to me. I mean, 45 minutes would be good—that would give me a chance to tool around the neighbourhood, go to the park and rearrange some picnic tables, you know, the normal sh*t you do with a forklift (in this scenario, I’m obviously wearing a cape and a Spanish Inquisitor hat because no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, particularly on a forklift). But anything longer than that might become more like a job than a pleasure, and I already have a job. So I texted back, “Ooh, I’ve always wanted to drive a forklift. But I don’t think I could do it for hours, more just like around the block or whatnot. Thanks though!” That was the end of it, and I was a little sad, thinking I would never hear from them again, but about ten minutes later, my text notification went off again. I didn’t look right away, assuming it was Jim talking about manatees AGAIN, but no—it was from the forklift people. The text read, “Thank you!” So now I don’t know if that means they’re considering me and one day this week a forklift might pull into my driveway, but I have my cap and hat ready to go.

In other news, my new puppy is fearless and also has a huge ego:

Atlas: Ma! I will defend this abode from all intruders!
Me: Dude, I think you mean “commode”. You’re barking at the toilet.

Atlas: Watch me harness the power of electricity!
Me: Stop chewing on that electrical cord!

Atlas: Whee, I can fly!
Me: Do NOT try to leap into my arms from the top of the stairs.

Atlas: I have a gourmet palate!
Me: Well, that rug IS an antique.

Atlas: I’m a savage predator!
Me: The garden hose certainly agrees with you.

Atlas: I’m a hat!
Me: You aren’t allowed to sleep on my head!

Atlas: I’m Aquaman, Ma!
Me: Get away from the pond—you’re scaring the fish.

Atlas: I’m a very good boy.
Me: Yes, you are. Especially when you’re asleep.

Spoiler Alert

One of the bonuses of not being able to go anywhere for the last few months has been the ability to binge-watch TV shows without feeling guilty. Did I do a Tiger King marathon, becoming increasingly more disturbed and fascinated over the course of one delightful evening? You’re damn right, and I did the same thing with the Criminal UK/Spain/Germany series, Sex Education, Better Call Saul, Queer Eye, Picard, every Rupaul’s Drag Race episode available to humankind on a variety of platforms, and a myriad of other shows. And I did it all on WEEKNIGHTS as well as weekends. No remorse whatsoever. One thing I struggle with though, like many people, is that there are SO MANY shows out there to choose from that I quite often end up scrolling through lists relentlessly looking for something that catches my eye. Because more often than not, the titles make it very difficult to judge what a show is about. Tiger King was simple—it’s actually called “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”. All three of those things are very enticing as far as I’m concerned. Same goes for The Haunting Of Hill House. There’s a house on a hill and it’s haunted—watch to find out what happens next! Then there’s The Witcher which is about a dude who’s a witcher—fairly self-explanatory if not a little derivative. And if you’re like “Hey! It was very original, dammit!”, let me summarize the premise for you thusly: a nearly immortal lone wolf-type who is very attractive to the ladies and has a relationship with a magical woman travels across a fantastical land with a group of dwarves. He and the dwarves skirt around a mountain containing their old mine looking for a dragon who is killing villagers nearby. Sound vaguely familiar? Of course, there are differences too—there’s a bloody and violent race called the Nilfgaardians who are kind of mutated elves—oh wait, that’s just like Orcs…anyway, it WAS a great show, and sorry for the spoilers, but if you’ve read Lord of the Rings, you already have a pretty good sense of the plot.

Speaking of spoilers, Ken and I were watching TV a while ago, and a commercial came on for a 6-episode mini-series about a female doctor who kills people with a hypodermic needle. The show was called “Mary Kills People”.

Me: Way to give away the ending.
Ken: Well, the whole commercial showed her killing people. It’s not like the title was the REAL spoiler here.
Me: Couldn’t they leave just a little bit to the imagination and call it “Mary May or May Not Have Killed People”?
Ken: At least we don’t have to watch it now.
Me: It’s such a dumb title. Can you imagine if the first Star Wars movie was called, “Luke Blows Up the Death Star”? What would be the point of seeing it? Why would anyone read Pride and Prejudice if it was called “Elizabeth Marries Darcy”? I like the trailer for Cardinal better.

Cardinal is another series I want to watch, but I have no idea what it’s about , except that there are two detectives investigating a murder in a cold town somewhere. The trailer doesn’t show much, except the one detective says to the other, “I’m happy to be working this case with you,” and then a block of ice containing what looks like a body is pulled out of a frozen lake. See, THIS is how it’s done, because at the end, I was like “What?! I need to watch this show and find out what happens. And who the hell is Cardinal? Is it a guy? Is it a bird? I need to know.”

It’s a certain fact that people HATE spoilers. Have you ever just seen a fantastic movie and you want to share it with a friend, so you only tell them the beginning? And then they say, “So what happens at the end?” and you have to first confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt that they will NEVER see it themselves, because you don’t want to be the one who spoils it for them? Have you ever accidentally given away the end of a book, and had people look at you like you bought the last remaining rolls of toilet paper in the store?

Of course, there are people who deliberately give away the endings of movies just to be a dick, and they’re hated almost as much as racists. And they probably get punched in the face more frequently, even though the racists deserve it more. Seriously, I think the only way Donald Trump’s supporters would ever turn against him is if he finished every press conference and Nuremberg-style rally with “And by the way, the head in the box was Brad Pitt’s wife. Such a great movie.” So the people who decided to call the series Mary Kills People are not very astute, in my books. Unless…maybe the series isn’t really about a female doctor who kills people. Maybe it’s just a ploy to get people who’ve exhausted all other options to watch it, and then those people will be like, “OMG, it was SO good! I can’t tell you what happens, but it’s not what you expect…Oh god, I wish I could tell you! Are you sure you’re never going to watch it?!” And maybe the body in the lake in Cardinal was put there by a female doctor named Mary. Don’t tell me. Don’t spoil it.

In other news, my puppy’s a ho.

Oh, he’s as sweet as pie most of the time, but he has two teddy bears. One is name Blue-beary, the other is named Thurston, and he is regularly having relations with both of them. Indiscriminately. It’s simultaneously hilarious and horrifying. We play a PG version of a certain game that we like to call Marry, Make Merry, or Murder. He decided he wanted to marry me (he demonstrated this by licking my face, rolling over on his back and waving his paws at me), make merry with Blue-beary, which he did with incredible gusto for such a tiny thing, and murder poor Thurston by attempting to rip his furry face off. And then he made merry with Thurston right after, and murdered Blue-beary. But he still wants to marry me, which I suppose will wear off when I tell him that not only am I his Ma, we’re not even the same species. Spoiler alert.

Creative Wednesdays – The Singular Discrepancy Between Poet And Object

Neuro Logical Magazine is a new on-line poetry journal. They had tweeted out “if you have a poem you don’t think fits anywhere, send it to us. I’d been working on this piece for a little while and thought, “I have no idea where it fits” so I sent it to them and they very graciously gave it a home. You can read “The Singular Discrepancy Between Poet And Object here.

If you have a poem that you really like and you don’t know where it “fits”, I highly recommend sending it to them. You can find them on Twitter as well @LogicNeuro. And here is a random puppy picture for you, just because.