I have two things to say today:

1) I can't stop listening to Courteeners tunes.

2) I just sent off my contract with Random House for two more young adult novels. One Lonely Degree will be out in May 2009 and The Lighter Side of Life and Death is scheduled for May 2010.

One Lonely Degree: Fifteen-year-old Finn Kavanagh is a social outcast in a world of pack animals. In that way tenth grade isn't any different than the ninth but sometimes she doesn't feel like the same person anymore. A violent sexual encounter with "high school superstar" Adam Porter has left her wondering if she'll ever be right. Best friend Audrey does everything she can to help her through the ordeal but now Finn has other problems - like her parents' marriage unraveling and complicated feelings for Jersy, the new guy in art class who Audrey also has a thing for.

The Lighter Side of Life and Death: Sixteen-year-old Mason Rice is "buzzing like a madman." He's just delivered a stelllar performance in the school play, basked in celebratory afterglow vibes at the party of the year and lost his virginity to one of his best friends - the gorgeous but previously unobtainable Kat Medina. The future looks golden. Unfortunately, Kat doesn't see it quite the same way and it soon becomes clear their friendship's shot. Meanwhile Mason's step mom in waiting, Nina, moves into the house with her two kids, crowding him when he's least able to cope. Then an attractive twenty-four year old friend of Nina's takes a personal interest in Mason and things really get dicey.

I'll post more info on both books here when I can. I'm already in the middle of revising One Lonely Degree and I have to say it's been nice spending time with those characters again.

Okay, now time for more Courteeners. I'm starting to go into withdrawal.

What Took You So Long?


And don't forget to listen to An Ex Is An Ex For A Reason which might be my favourite...maybe...it's so hard to say.
I believe Easter cards from the Prime Minister's Office went out late this year so I thought I'd scan mine in for those who might not have received theirs in time. I'm guessing this is an attempt to soften Harper's image. I'm not so sure it works but it's nice to see him putting in an effort, I suppose.
Stephen Harper card: Happy Easter, peasants! With fondness Your Czar, S.H.

Happy egg hunting, everybody!

"I don't think there's any point in being Irish if you don’t know that the world is going to break your heart eventually.”

– Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003)

County Galway, Fall, 1992

Grafton Street, Dublin

Somewhere in Ireland in the 90's

Dublin signs, early 90's

St. Stephen's Green,  Dublin

Ring of Kerry, 1998

Dublin, 1992

Temple Bar, Dubllin, 2006

Wicklow?? 1990's

Ireland, early 90's

Bikes on O'Connell Street, Dublin, 2004

Grafton Street Busker, 2006

O'Connell Street, 1992

Trinity College, 2006

The Liffey from Hapenny Brudge
I just bought tickets to see Leonard Cohen and I couldn't be more excited. They're nosebleed seats because the good ones are crazy expensive but that's okay, I'll be happy just to be in the building. How often in your life are you in the presence of such greatness?

Back in May 2006 we went to the Leonard Cohen tribute at the Indigo on Bloor. He joined Ron Sexsmith and The Barenaked Ladies in singing So Long Marianne (which, as you know, is such a beautiful song that it makes your eyes ache) and when he shouted out my favourite lines I swear it seemed that the entire audience was holding their collective breath in awe. As one YouTube commenter put it, “You can't buy this moment in time.”

Watch Leonard Cohen's March 10th Induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:

Czar Harper Stephen Harper is making good on his March 3rd threat to sue the Liberal Party of Canada for alleging that he knew about the Chuck Cadman bribery attempt.

He's seeking $2.5 million in total: $1 million in general damages, $1 million in aggravated damages and $500,000 in punitive damages and legal costs.

So it seems that today is just like any other, in that Harper is more comfortable with the idea of being a Czar than our Prime Minister.

Anyone interested in avoiding being sued by Harper in the future should study the picture at right. Whenever an I think I just swallowed some rancid pork look creeps across The Right Honourable Stephen's face you can interpret that as a warning to shut up, and he better not have to tell you twice!
This is what it looked like out there today and the worst is yet to come:

CNE, March 8, 2008
CNE, March 8, 2008
March 8, 2008
Clearing the car, Toronto, March 8, 2008
Lost Glove, March 8, 2008
Waiting, Toronto, March 8, 2008
Front Street snow, Toronto, March 8, 2008
Toronto Newspapers, March 8, 2008

Front Street, Toronto, March 8, 2008
International Women's DayToday is International Women's Day and there's both much to celebrate and plenty of work left to do. For instance, a new report by the Canadian Labour Congress shows “women are still getting paid less than men, regardless of talent, education or experience.” According to the report women working full-time in 2005 earned an average of $39,200 compared with $55,700 for men.

Violence against women and girls continues to remain an enormous problem worldwide. Amnesty International's new report Safe Schools: Every Girl's Right documents violence against girls in schools across the planet.

The World Health Organization found that school is the most common place where sexual harassment and coercion are experienced. Recent research has revealed that Canada is no exception and in the U.S. 83% of public school girls in grades 8 to 11 have experienced some form of sexual harassment. Psychological, physical and sexual violence committed against girls at school is common globally. “In war zones, the dangers increase, with girls being seized by armed groups or injured or killed on the road or when their school is attacked. Sexual abuse and exploitation of girls are common in refugee or displaced persons camps.”

Amnesty International is calling on “governments and school officials around the world to take concrete action to end violence against girls, particularly inside schools.” You can help by informing your elected and school officials that this is an important issue to you. In Canada you can also support women in general by signing Oxfam's petition to Prime Minister Harper, urging him to support gender equality and an end to violence against women.

International Women's Day events are listed by country here.
SantaThey say this will be a thirty-six hour event, our upcoming winter storm. We've had such a furious winter in the GTA this year that I've been telling people that I think Santa should do an encore.

I don't have any lights up or anything but I would be more than happy to provide him with milk and cookies (gourmet ones even!) and I'm sure a lot of people up here would do the same. Don't we deserve some kind of reward for enduring all this crazy cold and mountains of white stuff? Is spring even going to show its face this year? We need hope, Santa. We need you!

I know, I know, I live in Canada, right? I should expect this. But seriously, this is overkill by any standard. We've had snow three out of every four days this year, nearly three times more snow than last year. Much more and we could be looking at the all-time record. Back in the winter of 1938-39 207.4 cm of snow fell in Toronto and if we get the 25 cm they're calling for today and tomorrow we'll only be 5 cm short. The way things have been going this winter (storm after storm after storm) we should topple that 38-39 record no problem.

Anyway, I realize that you haven't been back at your workshop long enough to have our presents ready, Santa, but that's okay, I'll be happy enough if you just drop by for a cup of tea or whatever. We can watch Christmas Vacation, sing Feliz Navidad and string popcorn and cranberries.

So can I count on you tonight, Santa? Whatever time you want is good for me. I'll just be sitting here watching winter flex its muscles, hoping that spring, unlike the Easter bunny or tooth fairy, is for real.
Before I DieI like knowing there are books hanging out in the wings, waiting for me to read them, but lately things have gotten out of hand. I was just on Dot's blog, where she was highly recommending Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You (by Peter Cameron) and decided to look it up on my local library's online catalogue. Unfortunately, they don't carry it but I noticed that two of my holds - Eclipse (Stephenie Meyer) and Sparrow (Sherri L. Smith) had come up.

Usually this would be good news but I just picked up three other holds on the weekend - Burned (Ellen Hopkins), The Boy Book (E. Lockhart) and The Off Season (Catherine Murdock) - and I haven't started on any of them yet because I'm currently in the middle of Slam (Nick Hornby).

Obviously I've been a little too enthusiastic about putting books on hold lately and on top of that, last week I bought Breathe My Name (R.A. Nelson) and The Angel Collector (Bali Rai) and my dad bought me a copy of Shake Hands With The Devil (Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire). Could it be that I'm in need of an intervention? I mean, I don't even have anywhere to put these books. Seriously, our apartment is very compact. Soon I'll have to start getting rid of cutlery and plates to free up room for novels, which is the reason I've been taking so many books out of the library lately in the first place (lack of storage space!).

How will it at all end? I'm having visions of an overstacked bookshelf toppling over, trapping me underneath it (where obviously I will continue to read, read, read until paramedics show up).

Yes, things are well out of control but before I go back to pondering the numerous books I have to read, how I'll get through them all before the due dates start coming up and the numerous ways in which e-book readers could be a positive thing (if only their success wouldn't exponentially increase the likelihood of piracy), I really need to mention Before I Die by Jenny Downham. It took me weeks to dive into because I knew it would be rough watching sixteen year-old Tessa die. From the beginning it's clear that there's no other way out of this book. Her leukemia has progressed to a point there is no coming back from.

Well, Before I Die totally broke my heart. It's been a long time since a book made me feel this much and afterwards I wanted to buy everyone I know a copy and insist they read it. Yes, it will absolutely break your heart but there's so much life and hope in this book too, as much as I imagine any book could hold. If you think you might not have space for it on your already crowded bookshelf, you should give away some soup bowls, coffee mugs or whatever it takes because this is a novel you don't want to miss.

I'm late on this but I don't think it can be repeated too many times. We need to internalize Ellen's message:

“I would like you to start paying attention to how often being gay is a punchline of a monologue or how often gay jokes are in a movie and that kind of message, laughing at someone because they're gay, is just the beginning. It starts with laughing at someone then it's verbal abuse, then it's physical abuse, and then it's this kid Brandon killing a kid like Larry.”

Countless candlelight vigils are being held in remembrance of fifteen year-old Lawrence King. Online you can join the MySpace or Facebook group. This year the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network's (GLSEN) annual Day of Silence, April 25th, will be held in memory of Lawrence.

Why, oh, why in 2008 is being gay or identifying yourself by traits that aren't traditionally associated with your gender still often treated as a laughing matter or worse? We're people, with limitless variations in personality and ways of expressing ourselves, not binary numbers.

It's unthinkable that an eighth grade student was killed because of his sexual orientation and gender expression and we need to make sure this doesn't happen again. As Ellen passionately points out, it's an election year in the U.S. and it's of the utmost importance that you vote for a candidate who truly believes all people are equal under the law.

At the moment there are only ten states that protect students from bullying based on sexual orientation (and only half of those protect students based on gender expression and identity). If you're a student or educator in the U.S. find out how you can get involved with the Day of Silence here. You can also check out GLSEN for resources on starting a GSA, developing a safe school campaign and research on bullying.

I caught my favourite band on the Massey Hall stop of their Small Miracles tour last night and what an amazing show. Massey Hall is my very favourite place to watch Blue Rodeo. I've been watching & listening to these guys for twenty years and both the venue and the band feel like home. Blue Rodeo are a national treasure, one of those bands that make you want to come home to Canada when you're living in a far off place. I can't tell you how hard the song Hasn't Hit Me Yet made it for me to move back to Dublin all those years ago (and I love Dublin!).

“I never thought this could happen
But somehow the feeling's gone
You got sick of the patterns
And I got lost in this song”
Hasn't Hit Me Yet

Here's the video from their 1993 album Five Days in July:

Blue Rodeo's eleven album history means they can never possibly play all the songs you'd like to hear but the show was an excellent mix of classics like Try and Lost Together and tracks from their latest album. Some of the highlights of the night include Greg Keelor's haunting rendition of Dark Angel, the Lost Together finale (including opening band Cuff The Duke, Melissa McLelland and tonight's opener, Luke Doucet) and of course the enthusiastic audience singalong to Hasn't Hit Me Yet (Greg didn't even have to utter a word until the second verse). This YouTube clip of Hasn't Hit Me Yet live is from the Ottawa show but gives you an idea.

And here are some photos I snapped, followed by last night's setlist:

Bazil Donovan, Jim Cuddy, Greg Keelor, Massey Hall, February 29, 2008

Greg Keelor, Massey Hall, February 29, 2008

Jim Cuddy, Massey Hall, February 29

Dark Angel

Greg & Jim

Blue Rodeo, Massey Hall, February 29, 2008

Lost Together finale


1. 5 Days in May
2. Cryin'
3. Rebel
4. Blue House
5. 3 Hours Away
6. Try
7. To Love Somebody
8. Tell Me Your Dream
9. Know Where You Go
10. Bad Timing
11. Till I Am Myself Again
12. Joker's Wild
13. Rain Down On Me
14. Black Ribbon
15. C'Mon
16. What Am I Doing Here?
17. Dark Angel
18. This Town
19. Head Over Heels
20. Heart Like Mine
21. Trust Yourself


22. Hasn't Hit Me Yet
23. After The Rain
24. Lost Together

One of the things I've always loved about Blue Rodeo is that as well as being outstanding musicians they're consummate storytellers. Check out the first few lines of Sad Nights:

“I walked you to the corner we stood beside the bus
And the tears rolled down our faces as the driver stared at us
Typical summer that time of year
When you go back to Toronto and I stay here”

Better yet, watch the video so you can enjoy Jim Cuddy's heartbreakingly wonderful vocals:

God, I wish I could write books the way Blue Rodeo write lyrics!
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