Monthly Archives: May 2013

100 things to do in 1000 days; #7: Sustaining Memories program at Ryerson University.

It took six months, but my part in the Sustaining Memories program, a joint project coordinated by Ryerson and the Azrieli Foundation where I used to work, is finally complete.

(The program pairs volunteers with Holocaust survivors who want to share their story in the form of a memoir, but, for whatever reason, require some help to actually get the story on paper. It involved several initiation/information sessions, interviews, hours of transcription and organisation, data gathering, chronological ordering, and finally, editing the mess into a readable story representing the life of the survivor as told by him or her.)

The experience was a wild array of adjectives and emotions. Meeting, interviewing, and getting to know my survivor was deeply moving and educational, but also disturbing and overwhelming. Where to start? How to do her story justice? How to react as she tells me about these dreadful experiences? How much and when do I probe? These problems were compounded by a slight language barrier (English is her fifth or sixth language) and the usual difficulties that come with age (hearing loss, sickness, memory lapses).

Writing the manuscript was another monumental task – I knew transcription was a long and monotonous process from my time in J-school, but I had never had to deal with such huge quantities of tape. I had over 11 hours of material from interviews and video documents, some of it repetitive, some of it contradictory, all of it important. There was also a huge amount of existing literature and data both online and in libraries in which to read, sort through, and find relevant information. And worst of all were the three competing authorial visions – left to my own devices, I would have written the memoir one way; my survivor also had a fairly clear picture in her mind of what she wanted; and the Sustaining Memories program itself had a clear and rigid set of rules and guidelines. Shaping the story into something that satisfied all three of us might have been the most difficult part of the whole endeavour…if it wasn’t for everything else.

It was stressful, time-consuming, and exhausting, but I also feel that it is one thing that is important and good that I helped bring into the world. I’ve never in my life felt like I was doing something more worthwhile. In some ways, it feels weird to write so much about my experience helping with the memoir, almost like I’m trying to appropriate her experiences. I hope it goes without saying, but I am under no illusions about how lucky I am, how minor these “difficulties” were in the larger scheme of things, and how much of a privilege it was to be involved.

Today, I received a package in the mail containing a bound copy of the manuscript, a certificate and letter of appreciation, and finally, a sense of closure, and with that, I count this item as complete.

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Name hidden to protect privacy of the survivor until she is ready to release it and/or the manuscript is published in an anthology.

(There are currently talks about putting all the memoirs from this year and last year into an anthology, and having it published. So we’ll see where that goes…)

 

100 things to do in 1000 days; #56: Run a marathon of sorts.

Ah, race day. I woke up from a decent night’s sleep after responsibly turning down the offer to watch the new season of Arrested Development (I had to be up at the ungodly hour of 7am, don’t you know), and changed into my spiffy new trendy Mizuno short sleeve technical race shirt, thank you very much (it came with the race kit), feeling pumped and ready to go but for the pre-departure pit-stop, where I was greeted by the most appropriate monthly visitor one can get on the day of the Toronto freaking Women’s Run.

Good morning! You are still a female!

“Why do I need to know this?” you may, quite fairly, be asking yourself. I’ll get to that.

So anyway, I took an Advil Extra Strength, but my body was having none of it, which was a thoughtful gesture, and I got on with things, figuring that I was already a red-bibber (signed up for the shortest distance, expecting the longest time), so it wasn’t as though I was going to surprise or disappoint anyone with my time anyway (“…and bringing up the read, it’s Lasty!”). I’ve spent the last couple of weeks treadmilling about 3k for every 30 minute workout, and running on pavements and grass and up and down hills is, shockingly, much more difficult, so I was expecting to finish in about 45 minutes, give or take.

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And yet!

I mean, it’s not as though I wasn’t beaten soundly by intrepid 10-year-olds and over-sixties, but despite all this, my lovely running partner Tali and I finished the race together after 35 minutes and 51 seconds!

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And with the help of my amazing friends and family (whom I can’t thank enough), I managed to raise $153 for POGO, a great deal more than my lofty original goal of $20.

Now, about the race itself.

“Ladies, start your engines!”

This being my first real experience with running culture, I was touched by how supportive and open to new-comers the event was. There were cheerleaders in blue waving pom-poms, people ringing cow bells, holding signs, kids clapping along the race course. My favourite was “I’m a stranger and I’m so proud of you.” This guy was waiting near the starting line for all the runners, even our measly little slow-paced 5k. Then there were the motivational posters. “Run like Ryan gosling is waiting for you at the finish line with a puppy.” Replace that with RDJ, Hugh Laurie, and Jon Stewart with MY puppy, and I probably would have beaten the first place finisher (17 MINUTES!). They also had similar signs for Patrick Dempsey (which way am I supposed to be running again?) and Halle Berry, which I thought was a very nice touch, given that this is a women’s only race. Go Toronto! They also had “Run like you’re representing Canada in the Olympics” to which I was not tired enough not to respond vocally: “Ahahhahahahahahaha no, I don’t think so.”

So mission completed, but this won’t be the last race I run. The whole experience was a joy, and I have to say, I have never felt better since starting to run regularly.

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[A reminder: I am (now) aware that marathon doesn’t just mean “organised race” and actually refers to a specific length of 42km. The key part of this item is “of sorts,” with the main idea at the time being “raise money for a charity while running.” Which is done! I am, however, planning to do a full marathon in October, as a specific and personal challenge to myself.]

100 things to do in 1000 days; #80: Witness an eclipse.

Unfortunately, when I put this on my list, I didn’t take into account the fact that I do not get to choose when the next eclipse will be, nor do I set the level of awesomeness. So the best I could do, in this particular set of 1000 days, was the tiny little lunar eclipse that happened last night. How tiny? “It [was] such a shallow eclipse that it[ will have] be[en] mainly of academic interest and very difficult to detect.” Well, fine. But it was also, apparently, a full moon, a flower moon, a rose moon, a strawberry moon, and best of all, a supermoon. So I went outside at 10:45pm and actually observed the night sky.

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One of the wonderful things about this list is that it forces me dip into little pockets of knowledge that I might have avoided, ignored, or been ignorant of (which was sort of the point). Astronomy is fascinating and I’ve always wanted to learn more about it, but where to start? Putting a little thing like “go outside and put eyes in direction of sky one night” on the list made me aware of penumbral lunar eclipses and supermoons and that this website exists. I learned that you can take a perfectly good picture of the moon with your little point-and-click Canon, no telescope required. And, if you’ll excuse the sentimentality, I learned that it doesn’t have to go dark in the middle of the day for the sky to show you wonders.

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I will, however, still put this same item on my next list, and keep my eyes open for more…actually visible astronomical events.

100 things to do in 1000 days; #47/50, 51: Watch the Alien Quadrilogy.

My continuing education of the world of sci-fi movie geekery continues to continue. There’s not a heck of a lot I have to say about this series. I have now seen it. I consider it seen. New knowledge of pop culture references achieved. Sigourney Weaver gets prettier with age and her name is impossible to spell.

This:

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clearly equals this:

alien eggy

But in the interests of completion, here are some more half-assed reviews™:

alien-1979-posterAlien:

  • Slow beginning, effective middle and end
  • *nods* Yes. Yes, I liked that.

Aliens-movie-posterAliens:

  • I enjoyed it more than the first (it was more entertaining/didn’t take so long to get going, and I liked more of the characters – Bishop!), but I don’t think it was as good a movie.
  • I hate what it did to Ripley’s character. She went from a smart, sane, and kick-ass woman to a damsel in distress whose only saving grace was her brand new maternal instinct. And as much as I enjoyed them, I didn’t see the need to add in a forced love interest and family dynamic.
  • Funny how she never mentioned any interest in getting home for her daughter in the first film.
  • Overall, I’m not sure which ship had the dumber crew. But in this case, Hudson couldn’t die fast enough, Jesus Christ.

poster-alien3Alien³:

  • Well, that took forever to get going and felt utterly pointless.
  • But hey, Pete Postlethwaite!

resurrectionAlien: Resurrection:

  • I suppose there were ways that could have been worse.
  • Evil!Ripley was pretty cool. Completely pointless otherwise, but I needed SOMETHING to enjoy.
  • You know what the Alien series needs? More stupid people! Even STUPIDER people!
  • Whiniest. Robot. Ever. With constant lower lip malfunction!

Ranking: The order of release. They should have stopped at two.

100 things to do in 1000 days UPDATE; #62: Read one bookshelf’s worth of my unread books.

Just a quickie update on #62 (just in case you didn’t read the title): I have now finished half the books, and it’s not even June yet. Hurray! Unfortunately, it seems I have finished shorter and/or smaller books, because the damned shelf still looks more than half full. Ah well.

Currently, I am in the middle of Kurt Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titan.

A reminder:

36 BOOKS

36 BOOKS

 

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Books on The Shelf:

  1. I, Mona Lisa – Jeanne Kalogridis
  2. We Are here – Ellen Cassedy
  3. If Only They Could Talk – James Herriot
  4. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell – Susanna Clarke
  5. The Piano Man’s Daughter – Timothy Findley
  6. The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
  7. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter S. Thompson
  8. High Fidelity – Nick Hornby
  9. The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls
  10. The Transformation – Catherine Chidgey
  11. Late Nights On Air – Elizabeth Hay
  12. Barney’s Version – Mordechai Richler
  13. The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton
  14. The Sirens of Titan – Kurt Vonnegut
  15. Schindler’s Ark – Thomas Keneally
  16. Black Swan Green – David Mitchell
  17. Exodus – Leon Uris
  18. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
  19. Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen
  20. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
  21. The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde
  22. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll
  23. Loving Frank – Nancy Horan
  24. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  25. The Devil in the White City – Erik Larson
  26. The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
  27. Survival Kit – Zuzana Sermer
  28. The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  29. The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan
  30. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress – Dai Sijie
  31. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
  32. Stargirl – Jerry Spinelli
  33. The Sisters Brothers – Patrick deWitt
  34. Lamb – Christopher Moore
  35. How To Be A Woman – Caitlin Moran
  36. Elements of Style – E. B. White

Completed: 18/36