Monday, 22 August 2011

I Love Love Love Neil Young - Who Knew?

My husband is a wirehead.  And I am forever thankful that he is!  I like to think that I am technically savvy, I mean, I use a MacBook, I try to remember to back it up regularly onto an external harddrive, I know how to navigate my remote control to access cable tv, Apple tv, Netflix, and can update my iPod but honestly that's about the breadth of my technical know-how.

C2, on the other hand, is always on the bleeding edge of everything.  I guess it helps that he engineers some of the most forward-thrusting technology in the resource sector but does that necessarily translate to the comforts of home?  I mean, my dad, bless his heart, was a senior electrical engineer with Hydro Quebec for years but never did our toilet flush properly or the entry door close without some jerry-rigged solution.

Meanwhile, our little Australian house is uber-wired.  We watch Madmen via iTunes on our iPad in bed, watch Harry Potter wirelessly from iTunes through our Apple tv onto our bigscreen tv, and Seinfeld and Saturday Night Live reruns courtesy of Netflix either on our iPad or our tv from our Apple tv.  For the most part, it all works beautifully, just don't ask me how, but C2 knows!

A couple of years ago, we bought a Bose docking station for our iPod to compensate for our stereo which didn't work so well in Switzerland thanks to differing frequency...something about a 50hz cycle C2 informed me.  Anyhow, the Bose allowed us to access our collection of CDs on our iPods with fantastic sound and fidelity.

But, frankly, all of this pales in comparison to the best thing C2 has introduced to our home entertainment suite EVER; a little app called Pandora.  Imagine creating a genius playlist based on a favorite song from your own iPod's musical library, but now imagine instead a genius playlist based on a favorite song from almost ALL music in the known universe.  Pandora allows us to legally access this music and therefore has offered us far-reaching exposure to amazing music that we might not otherwise have heard, invested in, or benefited from.

Now, I must admit, I love my Canadian music, nothing makes me happier than singing mightily along to Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, K.D. Lang, Tom Cochrane, Blue Rodeo, Jann Arden, Alanis Morissette, but I admit sheepishly, I've never been much of a Neil Young fan.  I had minimal knowledge of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and pretty much nothing outside of "Heart of Gold".  It all seemed kind of like 'boys drinking beer and toking in front of a bonfire' kind of music.

Well no more, my friend, thanks to Pandora, I have discovered the brilliance, the complexity, the story-weaving of "Ohio", "Long May You Run", "Old Man", "Helpless", "Southern Man", and "Only Love Can Break Your Heart".  Add in a little CSN&Y's "Just a Song Before I Go", and "Woodstock", and holy cow, have I been missing out on some fantastic music for the last 40-something years.

Now if you'll excuse me, C2 and I are about to watch Scorcese's "The Last Waltz" which we just found on iTunes.  By the way can anyone recommend any other artists about whom they are passionate, and no, Jeff, I don't mean Metallica!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Harry Potter, A Bad Cold, and a Travelling Husband

What do the above three things have in common you ask?  What is the common link here, think, think, think....

Well let's start with Harry Potter.  It was around 10 years, two international assignments, and several thousand kilometers ago, that my youngest nephew Jordan and I (OMG, he was like 7 at the time, younger than J is now), started going to see the Harry Potter movies.  It was a thing we did every 18 months or so, dinner at Eastside Mario's and Harry Potter.  The two of us, plus his older brother Justin, also devoured the books and shared them in turn. All three of us, addicts for 10 years.  I personally think that J.K. Rowling is a freaking genius with the most fertile of imaginations that I stand in utter in awe of, a Tolkien for a different generation...but I digress.  Good so far?

Over the course of the last six months or so, on the odd occasion that C2 is in town, he is reading the Harry Potter series to J whose fascination with all things Hogwarts is beginning to rival his cousins' and my own.  They've finished the first two and we watched the associated movies in rapid succession.

OK, next.  I don't fall sick very often, in fact, I don't think I have been downed by a cold since a nasty one morphed into an unhappy sinus infection about four years ago.  But 4 days ago? Whammo!  Add to this merry mixture, my currently continent-hopping husband whose frequent absences have at times occasioned casual dinners in front of the tv, and you have all the makings of a movie-watching marathon. Getting the picture yet?

OK, let me spell it out in more detail.  A week ago, I picked the final Harry Potter book "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" out from my bookshelf.  Over the next three or so days, I reread it with fierce focus.  As my ill-health began to intensify, and I started resting more, I began re-watching the Harry Potter movies from where C2, J and I had left off; that is numbers 3, 4, 5, 6, and the first half of 7.  It's so easy to buy movies on iTunes!!!  By the time, I had finished number 7, aka Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I, I was in a sort of wizarding frenzy desperate to see the concluding chapter.

So yesterday, I packed my red-nosed and hacking self off to the movie theatre at mid-day alone to join a throng of similarly child-free adults with equally wild imaginations for the best two-and-a-half hours I've spent in a movie theatre in quite a while.

I've never been quite so grateful for a cold before...or a travelling husband but that's just between you and me!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Stream of Consciousness

I miss my mum.  She returned to Canada this week after spending 3 months with us.  It was great and now I'm bummed.  I'll get over it and life will return to the rhythm of just us but at the moment I'm sad.  Having her around was like having a sidekick who permanently saw the sunny side of life; she is an eternal optimist and the best Grandma I could have hoped for J.  He will miss her enormously.  We are very blessed with a close family who actually take great joy from being with each other.  Maybe if we didn't live so far apart we wouldn't.  Maybe distances are a disguised blessing which allow us to live in the moment with each other and really cherish it.  I'm sure there are many Grandmas who wouldn't spend the small fortune and 24+ hours on an airplane to come hang with us down under and sing "Would you like to swing on a star" every night to an 8-year old; we're really lucky.

A couple of days before her departure, we spent an afternoon walking on Brighton Beach, a Melbourne landmark because of its' charming multi-hued beach cabanas.  It being winter, Murphy hadn't been on a beach in quite a while.  She's paying the price of racing up and down the water's edge chasing balls, sticks, or anything that moved.  In the bigger scheme of things, I think it was worth the sore legs.

Speaking of Murphy and winter, you have presumably heard of Paunxsutawney Phil, who every February 2 emerges to predict more winter or early Spring?  Well, permit me to introduce you to Melbourne Murphy who in early August in Australia (more or less the equivalent of early February in the southern hemisphere) began to blow her coat to announce the imminent arrival of Spring.  She is shedding on every carpet and soft surface in the house, all over my car, and on every piece of clothing we own.  She even managed to shed on to C2's brand new suit while he was trying it on at the shop and she was at home - don't ask me how; she is talented that girl!

I walked her early Tuesday morning in the Hedgley Dean gardens adjacent to our house.  Usually in the early morning, I am running with all ambient noise drowned out by my iPod; today, however, I stopped and listened to the amazing amount of birdsong.  I've never really heard anything like the amount of birdsong we witness in Melbourne.  The Lorikeets, Parakeets, Cockatoos, Wattlebirds, Turtledoves, and Australian Magpies joined in a choral cacophony, a symphony of song which soared and swooped all around me.  It was a bewitching almost mystical moment.

J's French-side Grade 2 class had a school presentation this week.  They had been reading and learning about New Zealand and Maori culture, so each kid presented a small section about something they had learned.  They followed this up with a fair dinkum (old Aussie expression meaning 'genuine') demonstration of the Haka - how cool is that?  Even cooler was watching him up on stage singing the Australian national anthem "Advance Australia Fair".  Guess he's forgotten the words to "Cé qu'è l'ainô", the Genevois anthem whose haunting melody never failed to bring me to tears.  I really love watching him be culturally curious and think the gift of insight and empathy into other cultures is and will continue to be one of the greatest benefits of this expat experience of ours.