Alyx Dellamonica

Cafe Writers Unite (Toronto day 578)

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Posted on December 16, 2014 by

Something I did in October when I was in Vancouver was to tell everyone I know that I’d be at Caffe Calabria in the mornings, writing if I had the place to myself, and socializing if anyone cared to show. I met Barb there. Badger came, as did Emily from our old condo. I figured I’d see some of the cafe regulars, but it turned out there are a shocking number of them: I saw both Toms, for example, the alternate-energy physicist and the religious studies professor. An aspiring YA author, Jenny, was there both mornings. I caught Adita and Harry, the snowbirds whose daughter is a poet, on their last day in Canada. Oscar was there (what I know about Oscar is TMI for the Internet), and Yespat the engineer. I even exchanged friendly hellos with a trio of people I think of (not that this reflects well on me, but their voices carry and all they do is bitch bitch bitch some more) as the Friday Snark Club.

The sheer number of people I had a “Hey, how are ya?” relationship with and the delight that came with seeing them made me realize how many connections I’d built up just by going to work at dawn in the same place, 6-7 days a week, 2 hours a day. It drove home that I hadn’t even begun to do that particular kind of in-community root-growing here.

This lack of effort was no accident–in fact, I had it scheduled for November. I didn’t put much effort into a cafe hunt in May when we first moved to our new building. I knew there’d be guests coming and then travel and more guests and more travel, and the publicity push for Child of a Hidden Sea and then the film festival and more travel atop that. It was a thoroughly awesome summer and autumn, but I wasn’t keeping to the sort of schedule that makes it possible for me to settle into a routine.

Of course it was impossible I’d score another place quite as perfect as Calabria. It was 300 meters from my door, it opened at six in the morning, and Frank Murdocco’s eclectic curation of 20th century music is uniquely delightful, irreplaceable.

But! Now that October and all those trips are in the rearview, I’ve been going to a recently opened cafe called Portland Variety. The coffee is excellent, the atmosphere is right, the staff is lovely, tables are plentiful and the music leans to jazz (which is easier to tune out than pop, satellite radio’s litest hits or the go-to choice at Jimmy’s Cafe, the Doors.) I’m comfortable working here for hours on end, and there are starting to be other morning regulars. It’s not obscenely close to home, but the route back to the condo leads past the grocery, and that’s a significant plus.

It’s promising, in other words. I have high hopes that at last I’ve found this particular piece of my workaday puzzle.

Telewitterings, meta version with an app review

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Posted on December 8, 2014 by

photo by Kelly Robson

photo by Kelly Robson

Over a quarter century ago, I had the fortune to be in a relationship with someone who would, every Friday, remove the TV Guide from the newspaper, go through it with a blue highlighter, and mark very neatly all the things he might wish to see in the coming seven days.

This represented an excellent division of resources from my point of view, as he had the paper, the guide, the highlighter, the TV, a cable package and time set aside for a meticulous clerical task on Friday nights, whereas what I was bringing to the table was a desire to watch Dr. Who and Star Trek: TNG.

After I married Kelly, it turned out the VCR could perform much the same function, though only for 8 shows at a time, and only reliably if you left it a five minute margin of error on either side of the hour. The technology improved as we wore out and replaced gadgets. Then for awhile there was a DVR and it recorded everything, happily, only to fill up with unwatched hours of content when we hit that sad couple of years when the best things on were, like, Bones and The Mentalist. And why were we bothering with cable again? So then we weren’t.

Nowadays what I want seems to be the thing that tells me when the things I like are airing new episodes… And happy day, there is an app for that! It’s name is TV Forecast, and all it does is provide the info I want:

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It doesn’t ask me if I watched the stuff, or if I liked it. It just gives dates, or says TBA, or admits the thing is cancelled.

I am sharing all of this with you in case you also just need an app that tells you when your favorite shows are returning. And also in case you know if there’s one of these for bands. If I could have a list like this saying exactly when my fave bands’ next albums were being released, no muss, no fuss, but here’s the day… let’s just say that certain media empires might make dozens more Canadian dollars per year.

Are there any apps in your life, small or large, famous or unknown, that make your life better?

Color of Paradox review, plus cinemancy

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Posted on December 5, 2014 by

imageThere’s a nice, short review here at Exploring Worlds for my story “The Color of Paradox,” which is a time travel story set in 1920s Seattle. You can read the story for free at Tor.com.

Meanwhile I’ve been previewing – having a look at what might be in the theaters during the holiday season, trying to figure out if there are any upcoming film releases that won’t give Kelly and me hives and a bad case of cineloathing (that special feeling of self-hatred you get after sitting through a terrible movie, especially if you kinda suspected it’d be bad). To that end I’ve watched previews for A Most Violent Year and Unbroken. Both looked tedious, unpleasant and predictable. Into the Woods might be a possibility if someone we trust tells us it’s not too bad. I’m interested in the U.S. Civil Rights movement, so Selma‘s a possibility for me. Big Eyes sounds interesting, but  Tim Burton has made soooooooo many disappointing films.

Mr. Turner looks great, though, and I may see Rosewater with my sister. Maybe Two Days, One Night?

What have you seen lately that was worth the time?

Toronto, day 565

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Posted on December 3, 2014 by

imageAccording to my handy-dandy day-counting app, we’ve been here for 565 days now. I’m poking my nose into my second Ontario winter, and am curious to see how I feel about it now that the cold and snow lack, a bit, for novelty.

What’s far more significant to most of us about this time of year is less the dig for coats and toques packed away months before, and more the monolithic rah-rah-Christmasness of it all. December has come again, bringing with it three stat holidays configured, this time ’round, into one four day weekend and a Thursday off the following week.

Needless to say, this probably won’t be the most sentimental Alyx and Kelly Christmas ever. We’re never very sentimental, are we? There will be firsts: our first holiday with CinZo (and sans Rumble), the first in the new apartment… ah, that may be it.

The plan, such as it is, is to eat a couple nice meals out and see if we can find several amazing movies to see. Got any candidates? Anyone here a fan of doing a matinee on the 25th?

CinCin practices pinup poses on her plinth.

CinZo have gotten their present already: having failed numerous times to make the $3 cheapo versions work–and straining my hand in the process–I ordered a pricey and thoroughly awesome laser pointer that doubles as an LED flashlight and a UV flash too. (What does one do with a UV flash, exactly?) It debuted yesterday and we ran the kids up and down the apartment, up and down the cat tree and in circles until they were heaving with exhaustion.

There will, inevitably, be footage of this as soon as the right lighting comes my way.

Super Science Stuff for your Brain!

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Posted on December 2, 2014 by

bookzombieThe guest editor for this year’s Best American Science and Nature Writing was Deborah Blum and her picks were outstanding. I particularly loved Barbara Kingsolver’s “Where it Begins,” which is about knitting and the turn of the seasons and many other lovely things. I had some great conversations sparked by Maryn McKenna’s “Imagining the Post-Antibiotics Future.”

TV as Birth Control,” by Fred Pearce blew my mind… but, really, so did most of Blum’s choices. It’s an outstanding collection. Here’s the table of contents.

As the links show, a lot of the articles can be found online. If you’re feeling inclined to sample, go for it.

Science reporters are close cousins to SF writers. Both professions involve looking at the state of the world today and extrapolating, from the data, to where we may be headed. This is an anthology about ocean rise and plagues of fire ants, about genetically engineered oranges, about our right to die with dignity,  whether we’re entitled to privacy protection from potential genetic relatives who may find us using commercially available DNA tests,  and what we lose and gain by reading on screens instead of paper.

Inspiration for stories, cause for alarm and the seeds of intense, chewy discussions fair jump off every single page. Pick it up – you won’t be sorry.

Cinewitterings: Force Majeure / Turist

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Posted on December 1, 2014 by

Force Majeure (or Turist), from Sweden, 2014 (natch) directed by Ruben Östlund –

Cast: Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren, Vincent Wettergren

Kelly and I have been in foreign film withdrawal since the festival, and so when the Lightbox got this movie, we checked out the preview, and then beetled down John Street with all haste to see it.

I’ll start with the downside: this thing moves slowly. If you’re even slightly in the mood for action, this is not going to be the film for you. They come, they ski, they argue. There’s an avalanche, and you’ll be on the edge of your seat more than once, but it’s no thrill-ride.

What it captures is a nuclear family in the middle of an unlooked-for, necessary, and unattractive power struggle, wrapped in a version of that oft-told real life situation where a vacation that everyone expects to be be perfect–that they need to be perfect–goes irretrievably wrong.

Finally, I’ll note that could be argued that the overall message doesn’t offer any great compliment to men. (Which reminds me – we should talk about Scott and Bailey sometime.)

So, you might ask, what is cool about it? First, it is intricately scripted, in that way that allows one’s writerbrains to endlessly pick apart its pieces. Second, the husband and wife are interesting characters: flawed, believable, and in a situation you’ll absolutely buy. The avalanche invites you to ask: would I rise to the occasion? The film also examines traditional gender roles within marriages with kids. It drags to light a pretence parents in conflict sometimes maintain, for their own sanity–to wit, that their children aren’t aware of and aren’t affected by the fighting.

There’s humor, too. You won’t have a three-minute side-splitting belly laugh watching this one, but you’ll guffaw, more than once.

The avalanche scene and its after-math are filmed in a way that is singularly mind-blowing.

Ultimately, this is a movie about how honesty is hard. The main character has been building up a little pile of (mostly) unimportant lies around himself for years. Then he tries to get away with something bigger, because he’s desperate to cling to a little self-esteem. It doesn’t work, and he tries to brazen it out when it’s obviously not working. As he does, he sledgehammers the foundations of his marriage.

In a U.S. movie, this weaselly alpha-male would be played by Greg Kinnear.

The ski footage and the scenery at the ski hill, in the French Alps, is amazing and there’s lots of attention lavished on how the slopes are groomed–on how the entire ‘natural’ experience is artificially constructed. (The avalanche itself is a controlled fake, triggered by one of the mountains’ safety devices.) This is set against the family’s nightly grooming rituals: brush teeth, wash face, visit toilet. I’m not entirely clear on whether the director was saying that the basic human hygiene is also a construct, and essentially fake. But I am grateful to everyone who practices it, all the same.

Jeepers Peepers and all things Alyx

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Posted on November 21, 2014 by

imageI am in the process of adjusting to new glasses, a shiny new prescription that was probably six months to a year overdue, and just enough of a change that I have to pay close attention whenever I’m in motion. Each time I’ve gotten new lenses, there has been a clumsy moment, and a fall. Since I’ve been working very hard to rehabilitate a sprained foot, I’m extremely keen to not damnwell fall.
(There should be a picture now, I know, but the week has been so packed that neither K or I has had a chance to shoot one. Soon!)
Other true things: I am in the midst of a mountain of marking for one of my UCLA classes, which is why  I haven’t been around much on social media. I busted out the heavy winter coats this week, since it has been five below and a little snowy. So far I’m finding the cool weather invigorating. (We’ll see how I feel when it’s like this in March!) I’m wrestling with a horror story that is meant to be subtle, and I suspect it would much rather not be.
My current fannish obsession is the TV show Gotham. I think it’s incredibly well cast, and decently (though not brilliantly) written, and I am very taken with Sean Pertwee’s Alfred.
Tell me about your fannish obsessions! Tell me if there’s anything you’d like to see a blog post about. Tell me things, things about you!

Alyx and Kelly – Unpaid Extras

Posted on November 18, 2014 by

imageI have been meaning to write a personal-type blog post,updating you all about all the things that aren’t book launches, book festivals, book stuff. But the fact of the matter is, there hasn’t been much.

This isn’t to say it’s been some long drudge of all work and no play. All of these events have been packed with friends new and old. And it is very much starting to be the time of year when you’d rather be indoors, at a pub or whatever, hanging with your chums rather than roaming around out of doors.

It’s officially gotten cold today, really for the first time this winter. It’s ten below, sunny and clear, and we broke out the winter coats. On our first fully-swaddled outing down Simcoe Street, we walked through the Beauty & the Beast crew, shooting a scene on a side-road that had been made over into New York’s Canal Street. Cameras were rolling, and we mingled with actors dressed as NYPD officers as we made our way down toward K’s office.

Why don’t they make us stop walking until they’ve got the shot?

Other random non-worky things: There was a cardinal at my window yesterday, while I was working on grading some UCLA stuff. They still seem novel and extra-delightful to me. And later, when I was walking down Dundas Street, I walked past a restaurant that was having some kind of police incident. It had obviously been evacuated midway through lunch: through the windows, beyond the police tape, was a wholly empty dining room, dozens of tables, each covered in plates full of half-eaten food. A little eerie.

If there’s anything about life that you’re all wondering, let me know. If there’s anything you’d like me to blog about–writing-related, photography-themed, you name it–tell me that too.

More importantly, what’s up with all of you? The holidays are coming–37 sleeps to December 25! What are you doing with the rest of 2014?

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