OC Transpo Kindness

by PenRei

Hello! The holidays aren’t over, but I’ll be damned if I can’t get in one last post before the New Year. Sorry for my incredibly long absence. You all know how crazy the holidays can be.

Nomes has regaled us with tales of the TTC and OC Transpo, so I will add my own chapter to this novella.

This week, I had the pleasure of meeting Douggy Fresh, The Running Man, and Rush-By for lunch at the restaurant Play in downtown Ottawa. It was AWESOME! Sure, Play is a lot more on the priceyer side, but it was worth the money. The idea of the restaurant is that everything in the menu is an appetizer. Remember all those times you went to a restaurant an eyed the appetizer section, but didn’t get anything because you knew you couldn’t eat it on top of your entre? Well that was not the case! We indulged in some excellent food. The most noteworthy ones (to me) were the steak & frites, the braised lamb, and the St-Honore cheese. So delicious! We must return some day. We simply must!

Anyway, this isn’t suppose to be about the amazingness of Play. After food, cupcakes, tea, and many conversations, I had to head home for a Chinese dinner my mom was hosting at our house. As I waited on Mackenzie Kind Bridge, I began to stretch out my dishwashing muscles for the evening. It would be the first time I took the OC Transpo in a couple of months.

Now, since I use OC Transpo so rarely, I usually have outdated tickets. Most drivers will let you use them and then pay the rest of the amount with change, but it’s not a rule, so not all of them do. The bus pulled up and I hopped on. I pulled out my blue bus tickets (I believe the present ones are purple) and asked the bus driver if I could just give him three instead of two to make up the difference. He told me that was nonsense and that on his bus, you only have to put in two tickets, no matter how old they are. I found him to be incredibly generous and told him how grateful I was for his kindness. Also, this whole conversation happened with a polite smile on his face (instead of the impatient frowns from the TTC).

I scooted myself down the bus to take a seat. To my amazement, it was clean! There wasn’t a spilled coffee spreading all over the floor of the bus. There was no hidden gum that you luckily see before putting your hand on a rail. There was no questionnable stain on the seat. There was no unidentifiable smell that you tried to ignore. By golly, public transportation can be clean!

When I take the TTC in Toronto, I generally listen to music since I hate the sound of the screeching streetcar or subway, and because I have no interest in eavesdropping on someone’s innane conversation. On the OC Transpo, I forgot, you don’t have to do that. Nearly everyone around me was having a conversation with another person, but I couldn’t make out a word of their conversation. They were all using their indoor voices. Another noteworthy thing, nobody spoke on their cell phone for more than 5 minutes. Oh how amazing that was!

I was in public transportation without being bombarded by loud conversations, vehicle sounds that could pop your eardrums, or dirtyness. OC Transpo, even if your buses don’t pass as often as the TTC, you remind me every now and then why I love you more.

Another thing that I love about OC Transpo versus TTC are their transfers. Yes, OC Transpo is more expensive per trip, but you pay a fee to use the bus however you like for the next hour and a half. You can run an errand and come back with only one payment. With the TTC, you have to pay for each full trip you make. BS! That means that I have to pay twice to run an errand over my lunchbreak that takes a total 20 minutes travel time. It frustrates me greatly!

Anyway, it was about time I wrote my own public transportation experience in this blog.

Happy New Year everyone! Drink champagne, but not so much that someone has to fish you out of your own vomit. No one wants to ring in a new year with vomit.

Cheers!

Weather Woes, Or why a childhood best friend is the best kind of best friend…

In the true Canadian spirit of weather complaints, here’s one for the Ottawans! So for those who are unfamiliar with Ottawa and its Wily Weather Ways (W.W.W!…. dot giveusabreakottawa dot plz!), let me tell you a leettle about my leettle frrreind: Ah-ooh-tah-vah.

Our lovely nation’s capital is situated in a valley which was once a part of the Champlain Sea; a sea which hung out after the last ice age and, you know, held fish in its bosom. As such it is a known fact (?) that we have some pretty special weather here; a sort of micro-climate of sorts. So in the summer when it’s humid… it’s bloody humid and in the winter when it’s cold… it’s pretty frickin’ cold and it’s a humid kind of cold. SO this all means: WE get to doubly complain about weather AND politics at dinner parties! We win.

How we think we look having a dinner party…

 That being said, the other day it freeze rained,… it rained and froze, …it was freezing rain (THAT’S it.). In short, Mother Nature was pissed so the sidewalks were death planes worthy of a very cold hell. Let me tell you, you just don’t notice a driveway’s “slight slope” down to the road, until you’ve attempted to not be swept away everytime the ground under you isn’t exactly parallel to the planet’s gravity field (?). AND so, last Wednesday, I had been cooped up all day, knowing it was freezing rain, yes, and yet not realizing..really..what was brewing for me outside.

Sidebar here: HOW do we always forget what to do with a “new” weather condition? It’s like every time it’s spring Canadians are wide-eyed and lusty for sun ions: the shorts come out when it’s 11 degrees (that’s Celsius, so Fahrenheit is: 51.8!), patios open around 13 degrees C (55.4 F..), people are tanning by 14 C (…57.2 F) and there’s a general giddiness in the air (Spring Fever = people thinking “Wait… what do you mean I am allowed to have sunlight? Really?! SUN?! HEAT?! WHAT IIIIS THIS?!!?!!!!! WAHOO!!! *runs to the still icey beach…naked*) Other examples of our weather memory loss: Every summer heat wave there are Air Conditioner purchases skyrocketing and people not knowing what to do with themselves.. (i.e. forgetting to hydrate and wear sunscreen. Words to the wise: if you think you won’t get burnt: You will. You will. You will.) Every first snowfall of the year, people forget how to drive. Ditto for thunderstorms. And every time it’s freezing rain…… we are very, very, very afraid for our lives, which was exactly my state for the normally 12 minute walk to the bus station, on Wednesday eve.

I was headed downtown to meet up with my childhood bestie, Legs. (Sidebar II: I could write a whole book on Legs and I; how we were the terrors (read: hyperactive, singing, laughing, Ace-Ventura-quoting machines), of our church choirs and summer camps but I just summed it up nicely there. She basically taught me to be funny in English. …. wait that’s not really an exaggeration! Wow.) So now we both live in Toronto but rarely see each other because: Life. Being both in O-town for the holidays, we planned a lovely dinner and catch up session. This was the only night available so I braved the frickin’ sidewalks oh soo slooowly… I fell once. It spat-rained the whole way. My heart stopped a good dozen times. I almost wiped out into a very busy intersection during rush hour. It spat-rained still. I looked like an arthritic elder. My animal instincts kicked in; I started planning every step in advance, using branches and people’s lawns unabashedly. I made friends with two city workers who were throwing salt on the sidewalk at bus stops. They offered sympathy and refused my request to have them follow me and throw salt 1 minute before I walked anywhere, all night. Darn.

BUT I MADE IT! I did.

Downtown wasn’t as icey. The mall was filled with the entire population of North America, however, so buying wine proved to be… like being a puppy waiting to feed from its mother when you’re the runt of the litter; it took a while and was very crowded, and when you got there there wasn’t much left (of mom’s patience or milk: angry cashiers are scary.). BUT I survived even that… phew! First world problems, I tell you!

Then I met up with my lovely Legs, who had been downtown since 3pm before the ice got bad (smart girl), and we shared drinks before heading to a restaurant her friend worked at…in hopes of a discount… We left the warm interior for the now worsened conditions outside: sheets of water poured on our unprotected heads and sorry selves and the previously untreachourous sidewalk was now back to being heart-attack enducing. Also Legs was “in the bag”, if you will; slightly tipsy… So we slipped, slided, swam and laughed our way to the restaurant, daring to hope for a dry seat in her friend’s section and a warm meal. We got there…. and her friend’s section was full. “Fully booked forever”, as a parade of people, (the manager, hostess, Legs’ friend), came over to confirm. So we sighed and cried and had a more frugal “salad” instead of the desired “meat” but hey: at least we made friends with the two gentlemen across from us whom Legs graciously offered to touch the soaked material, on her thigh, of her tights. And that, folks, is just how she says hello! 🙂 She, later still, explained her behaviour to another friend by exclaiming defensively: “I asked him to feel my thigh because it was wet!!!” OOOH how we laughed! Which unfortunately proves that I am victim to the trend.

In any case the rain subsided as we left the restaurant, hours later, having laughed and cried a little about our lives and loves, discussing politics and the weather (obviously!) making our reunion a most adventure-filled and warm (actual weather conditions notwithstanding) time.

One last thing:  I love childhood best friends; they are like family you chose. Because even though our life paths have taken us on very different courses, the fact is that we always find each other and always love each other because through the love and the tears (of laughter and of joy), the thoughts and the drinks and the bathroom breaks shared, there is really only one thing that we haven’t shared: blood. And that’s ok! Je t’aime, Legs!

P.s. to break the complaint trend: It finally snowed for real and I am filled with glee. I am even excited about it being freezing cold! Merry Christmas to some and Happy Holidays to all!

People vs Machines: Which One Is More Problematic?

by PenRei

About 3 weeks ago, I changed positions in the television company I work for from production coordinator to control room technician. It was a switch that surprised a lot of people, and it seems to still surprise them. The truth is, I have a very strong background in both the technical and production side of film and television. I am one of those employees you can just switch back and forth. The present company was so happy that I left my coordinating position because I was quite good at it. Reasons why I made the switch? The technician position is a full-time permanent job with benefits and vacantion pay. The coordinating job was only until beginning February and there was no guarantee of renewal. Spending the last 4 years jumping from one contract to the next, too freaked out to ever turn down a job (therefor never getting a break), I was on the verge of a burnout and needed to stop. The last time I had any timeoff that was longer than a 4 day weekend was 6 years ago. Enough was enough!

Anyway, I should probably get on with what I was actually planning to write about.

The biggest change between going from a production coordinnator to an in studio technician is that you no longer have to deal with people, but with machines. The question is, which one is better to deal with?

 People can be incredibly annoying to coordinnate because they can be stubborn, inconsiderate, and occasionally unpredictable. They’ll want something and they’ll want it now, despite the fact that you are not their top priority. However, people can be reasoned with, and when you’re working in a good team, everyone should be doing what they can so everything can go as smoothly as possible. There’s a certain give and take when it comes to people which can be really nice.

Machines are idiot boxes. They only do what you tell them to do, so if something goes wrong, generally it’s because YOU did something wrong. This can result in one of three reactions:
1) Relief, because you know how to fix the problem
2) Excitement, because you’re a huge nerd who loves to solve computer problems
3) Immense frustration because you can’t figure it out and somehow it’s your fault
You can’t reason with a machine. A machine only does what you tell it to do while it sits there saying “me so stupid”. However, a computer won’t talk back and give you shit, because a computer doesn’t get frustrating.

On that note, people can be helpful in that they tell you what’s wrong. You can brainstorm with them how to fix it. However, some people will just yell at you to get it done, without any flexibility that will allow you to finish the job. Computers don’t always tell you what’s wrong with them. They can crash, freeze, not respond, or many other things and you’ll have to figure it out for yourself. You can’t ask the computer what’s wrong with it, because then you’ll just get another blank stare of “me so stupid”.

After having coordinate peopled for the last 3 years, some of them stubborn without patience and flexibility, I welcome the problems machines can bring. Sure they’re annoying, but there is a certain rage inside towards a inconsiderate person that is gone. And I can’t get mad at an inconsiderate machine, because machines can’t be inconsiderate, just stupid.

The idea for this post came from the fact that last Thursday, our main server and archiving system crashed here and we all became sitting ducks. It took the whole day to fix, and a week later, we’re still fixing bugs. I was hoping to post this a few days ago, but life happened and such. I feel that the momentum I was building for the post fizzled away in the last 3 days. Still, I felt like it was worth posting this.

Panda’s Playing In the Snow

by PenRei

This weekend, Nanshan Park in the Eastern Shandong province in China received a beautiful blanket of snow. I don’t know how the human population felt, but two giant pandas, Hua’ao (pron: Hua-aw) and Qingfeng (pron: Ching-feng), were ecstatic to see it come down. They turned their zoo habitat into their own winter wonderland as they played for hours with the layer of white.

Click here to see the full article and video from Thomson Reuters. You’ll get to see happy pandas summersault all over the place.

Cereal For Children

by PenRei

Lately, I’ve been on a real kick with visiting cereals that are dedicated to children. Don’t ask me why! Maybe it has something to do with me refusing to admit that I am an adult with adult responsibilities and an adult lifestyle (I kind of had an emotional breakdown about this a month ago). I’m really not sure, but there appears to be a kid in me who wants to eat cereal that isn’t healthy muesli or bran buds.

Mini-Wheats

Mini-Wheats, Original Frosted

It all started with Mini Wheats. I remember having Mini Wheats back when I was a kid and I DID NOT LIKE THEM. I would get upset with my chunks of cereal as they soaked up all the mild and became soggy bran squares. Yuck! Now, I’ve been eating them every morning for two weeks straight and it really does feel like a great way to start the morning. I am loving this cereal more than I should. I actually get upset if I wake up and my box is empty. Sad! Luckily, it’s a pretty healthy cereal choice! It’s high in dietary fiber, iron, and manganese.

Uh… what’s manganese? I know what magnesium is, but manganese? Honestly, I never really thought about it. Let’s have a look shall we!

So what’s the deal with manganese? Trace minerals of manganese can be found in the bones, the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. It helps the body create connective tissue, bones, and hormones and fights blood clotting factors, as well as regulates sugar levels in your blood and absorb calcium. It would also be important to add that manganese is necessary for the brain and the nervous system. Wow! Talk about a multi-purpose power mineral. Other places to find manganese are in various nuts. Good thing I’m an almond fiend, in both the nut and the milk form. (R)

Cinnamon Toast CrunchAnother cereal that I’ve been fawning over is Cinnamon Toast Crunch. The really weird part is that I’ve never had any until October this year when I stole a few pieces from Josie at work. There is absolutely not association to it from my childhood, but the few squares I had back in October awakened a happiness in me that could only be explained by childish joy. Considering that you can tell this cereal is loaded with sugar just by the taste, I decided to refrain from ingesting this one every morning and keep it more so as an occasional snack at work or desert after supper.

Perhaps the reason it appeals to me so much is that the mix of sugar and cinnamon reminds me so much of Beavertails. Oh, what a love of Beavertails I have! There isn’t anyone from Ottawa who can deny the deliciousness and amazingness of beavertails. It’s turned into our local food mascot. If you want a beavertail, go to Ottawa. The only one I’ve found in Toronto is at Toronto Place, but you have to pay to get in. Ugh! A few winters ago, they had a beavertail stand in front of City Hall. I was so excited! Beavertails are a special treat. I decided to call up Douggy Fresh so we could go the next day and share in the nostalgic taste of many evenings spent in the Byward Market. But, to our horror, the next day, the Beavertail stand was gone. We were SO UPSET! You can’t just give us hope like that and take it away. Not cool!

Clearly, I have demonstrated my love for beavertails, hence potentially the appeal of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. On a downside, it is very high in sugar. On the plus side, it very high in iron (who knew!), niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, and vitamin B6. Huh! And here I thought it was just fluff cereal for breakfast. Now, I just named a lot of things I don’t really understand, particularly riboflavin. What is that? (R)

Riboflavin, also known as Vitamin B2 helps us get energy from carbohydrates. It’s important in the production of red blood cells, which are quite necessary to the general functionality of any vertebrae organism on this planet of ours. (R)

My quest for childhood cereals isn’t over. I have very fond memories of Fruit Loops. I especially loved that when you were done the cereal, the milk tasted like a really sweet fruity milk, therefor more appealing to polish off at the end. Mmmm! So tasty! I’m thinking I might want to tackle a box of that this weekend.

Another cereal that I want try is Count Chocula. I’ve never had any, but I really want to give it a shot. I mean, it’s cereal plus chocolate. Sounds like a dynamo combination to me!

Lastly, there is one cereal that I will forever remember fondly, but presently feel like it is best kept as a good memory in the past: Honeycomb Cereal. It was the sweetest cereal my parents allowed me to eat when I was a kid and I devoured them. So much tastiness was happening there, but perhaps the memory of it is better than a possible re-enactment. Therefor, Honeycombs, you will remain on the shelf in my head.

Have a great weekend! (I can’t believe I wrote an entire post about cereal. Apparently there is nothing interesting happening in my life.) Having found that YouTube video with a retro commercial made me nostalgic. Here’s a compilation of a few from 1992. Unfortunately, it cuts out at the end just when MC Hammer makes an appearance. Sigh. They just don’t make commercials like they used it.

Update from Nomes: First of all, so much to learn about cereal! Second of all, BEAVERTAILSZOHMYGOD! I’m making that happen this week… yay Ottawa! Third of all, so much to say about the commercials from our youuuth! The most important, I think, is the literal songs: where they basically say everything that’s happening as it’s happening: You can grate cheese, and put mushrooms on it and make a cake with a little bow on it and blow out the fake candle TOOOOOO …CAUSE PLAY-DOH LOVES YOU MORE THAN YOUR PARENTS DO APPARENTLY, SEE YOUR PARENTS DON’T EVEN MAKE YOU A CAKE!… oh no wait… that’s my interpretation and thus does not belong in “literal commercial song”. It’s for kids. It’s magic by its simplicity. OOOH AND ANOTHER NOTE: in the Mighty Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Rock Band (?) commercial at the beginning…one of them has a Flava Flave clock hanging on his neck!!!

Party. Defined.

THIS is the Flava of the 90s!

Nomes-out.

Update by PenRei:
Wow Nomes! If your interpretation of those commercials goes to how much parents apparently don’t love their kids enough, I am deeply afraid to know what you think of commercials these days. Also, loving the Flava Flave clock necklace. Thanks for the still!

Update from Nomes:

What I think of modern commercials… oh what I think of modern commercials. The horror…the horror…

When Dog Shit Became a Conversation Opener

by PenRei

Monday night, after another full day of work, I walked the 20 minutes it takes me to get back home as usual. I was really tired and just wanted to get back home to enjoy prosciutto whilst watching the latest episode of American Horror Story and then attempting to write some more.

On my way back home, I saw a man letting his dog shit in the street. Despite it being dark, the scene was somehow lit properly so I could see everything. Oh backlighting from headlights! It was a runny kind of poo and was steamy, freshly hot in the cold almost-winter air. I think that’s enough for the description. Now, if you remember from my previous post, I hate people who don’t pick up their dog’s shit. Clearly, I was not impressed and shot this guy a dirty look.

He was ragged with clothes that were old and overly baggy, a hat over his matted brown hair, and this crooked look in his eye. I can’t describe it any better; there was just something off in his eyes. Perhaps he actually saw my disapproving look, because soon he feels like he has to explain himself to me.

He goes on to tell me how his dog had the runs and is recovering. I understand that the runs are gross and very uncomfortable for the dog. I still don’t think it’s a legitimate reason to leave it where people are either walking or cyclists are going by. The least you could do would make the dog do his business on a patch of grass/dirt under a tree, or do what one of my cousins do: have a newspaper ready and put it under the dog as soon as it happens, then throw the thing out.

Anyway, back to my story. I tell this guy that I’m sorry his dog has the runs, look away, and start walking faster to try and pass him. As if this was an invitation of some kind, he picks up his pace to catch up with me and tells me that his dog will be okay. I only give minimal monosyllabic responses out of politeness and walk even faster. He picks up the pace again. Uh… most people who start talking to me on the street take that as a sign of “no, I don’t really want to talk to you”. He then starts telling me about himself, including saying that he’s Irish, despite the fact that there is nothing about his appearance, Canadian accent, or mannerism that would make me believe he’s Irish. I block out most of the conversation, but he starts walking closer to me until I get knocked into a tree.

Finally, I see a street that I can turn onto and end the conversation with a “Have a goodnight!”. He says so as well and acts like we will see each other again some time on another almost-winter night when his dog is shitting and he’s not courteous enough to pick it up.

I have never been in a situation with a complete stranger where they started a conversation with me about their dog’s shit. It especially bothers me since he didn’t even bother to get his dog’s shit out of people’s way. Gross! May I never see him or his dog ever again.

T.O. Sightings, Holiday Special: The Ottawa Edition! (Part 1: Trip to the past)

Being back in Ottawa for the Holiday Season, I am pleased to be back at work, and back in the old swing of things: that is to say not home 2 hours and I’m off to the library followed by dinner with my sister’s friends. Waahooo!

What can I say? I can’t change my stripes, being a zebra and all (or my patches…as I’m playing an imaginary cow in the upcoming play… but more on that intriguing bit of information later!…maybe.) So this way of life, needless to say, leads me to roam the streets of downtown [insert name of city here], a lot. Now I’m prone to strange encounters on a good day in Toronto, as we all know, but I guess I had forgotten about the ones I’ve had in Ottawa.

Some of my first ones I recall as if they were yesterday:

My first few weeks of downtown roaming, I had just started grade 9 at my downtown artsy high school, and was just arriving at the bus stop, walking just outside the doors into the shelter(in the mall, more specifically), when a man falls into step with me.

14 year old me: *sketchy eyes*

Bearded man (sincerely and somewhat fervently): I’m the Heavenly Father. And you’re Catherine West.

Me:  ..Yeeeeeeesss. *dodges inside the waiting area with the slickness of a feline*

-end scene-

Moment numéro deux & 2.5:

Sitting on a bench outside, at the same aforementioned bus stop. When a young teenage boy, wearing a kippah (traditional Jewish cap) sits down next to me. Noting the kippah makes sense later. So he sits, turns to me and makes a comment about my math book I have on my lap (you know the ones.. the heavy hard-cover ones that are really painful to have to carry in your backpack so you carry it in your arms, making you look nerdy, awkward and… apparently approachable!). We exchange an awkward few words, I am polite yet wary (good for me), and as there are lots of people around, I don’t worry. Then some person walks by, handing out mini flyers about Christ and Christmas and possibly lyrics to a Christmas song (it must have been late November). He hands it to me and I refuse. He hands it to my new friend and he grabs one and then promptly crushes it in his fist, throws it on the ground, whilst looking at me and smiling and he says something like: “This is crap.” or “Don’t you hate this stuff.”… the exact words, I don’t recall, but I do remember that smile… something of an accomplice’s look. Maybe he thought I was Jewish too? …*sigh*… Maybe it was lame of me to assume his rage was because the flyer had to do with Christianity, in fact it was probably due to the fact that it’s a frickin flyer! In any case I smiled awkwardly and turned to face forward, willing him to go away. Being an, at the time, practisting Protestant, I felt both embarassed and a little shocked… not offended just… Why are you sharing your potentially religiously-fuelled anger with a stranger? A 14 year old female stranger? … Possible he was trying to impress me by showing he was rebellious, I mean, God love him, he was a teenage boy after all. Minutes of uncomfortable silence later he saw his bus and waved goodbye…AND LITERALLY 2 MINUTES AFTER HE WAS GONE, a slightly older young man walks up to me, leans against the window that’s behind us and asks me if I was studying for an test, pointing to my math book. WHAT IS IT WITH THIS FRICKIN’ MATH BOOK!? Me: “Oh… no… just… homework.” …He smiles crookedly and smells of cigarette and alcohol. I note that it’s not quite 3pm. Nice, buddy.

And that was the beginning of a long line of Ottawa connections.

Maybe it’s my aura which attracts these strange occurances and persons, maybe it’s just  my eye that catches them or maybe these do happen to everyone… and I just happen to find them extremely entertaining and feel the need to share.  In any case, already since I’ve been back…3 days, I have a few gems to share with y’all, but that’ll be one for tomorrow… gotta pace myself…so many stories to tell…so  little attention span.

Nomes-out

AWDS – Another Wedding Disaster Story

by PenRei

Due to the response I got from my previous post of on Tony who broke up with Rebecca by inviting her to his wedding, I felt that maybe some of you out there would find entertainment in A.W.D.S. = Another Wedding Disaster Story.

This story was told to me by Blondie, a bartender at The Imperial that I met at a house party. As a bartender, she hears/witnesses many interesting and ridiculous stories that sound like scenes from a movie, but she swears that they really did happen. This story, should you choose to believe it, is the best wedding revenge story I have ever heard, therefor, worth sharing with the rest of you. She didn’t tell me the names of all the parties involved, so I’ll improvise as usual with some made-up names.

The groom, Jack, was engaged to the woman of his dreams, Bonnie. He loved her so much, but wasn’t a very well-off gentleman. Since Bonnie’s parents were loaded and very traditional, they offered to pay for the wedding, giving their daughter the best present they could think of: the wedding of her dreams. The in-laws didn’t really like Jack, but he seemed to make their daughter happy, so they gave the happy couple their blessing. It was an expensive and elaborate wedding, which made Bonnie very happy, which in turn made Jack very happy. Having already his best man in mind, Jack asked his best friend Wade to be his best man. Wade gladly accepted.

Things seemed to be going really well for the first couple of months of the engagement. While they weren’t working, Jack and Bonnie planned their wedding just the way they wanted it. Unfortunately, four months before the big day, Bonnie was pulling away from Jack and he was getting worried. She told him that she was really stressed out over the wedding because she wanted everything to be perfect. She still really wanted to marry Jack and couldn’t wait to start their lives together. Jack couldn’t let go of his worries, but decided to go through with the wedding.

The day finally came and they had a beautiful ceremony followed by a very expensive reception. Everyone was sitting down, eating their food and listening to all of the beautiful speeches. The best man gave an especially beautiful one about true love and finding the perfect match in the world we live in. Finally, it was time for the groom to give his speech. He started with: “I would like to thank you all for taking the time to come out and celebrate this special day with us. We are so grateful to have people like you in our lives. I’d especially like to thank my mom and dad, Bonnie’s parents for this beautiful wedding, Wade for fucking my wife, my sister for her support…” ect.

People weren’t sure if he really did just say that. Did Jack just thank his best man for fucking his wife? The best man and the bride shot Jack a nervous look as he continued his speech as if nothing strange was said. Finally Jack ended with the following “As a final thank you to everyone, I will invite everyone to look under their seats and open the envelops taped at the bottom. They’re a wedding favour from us to you.” Everyone looked under their seats, including the bride and best man. Everyone pulled out a manilla envelop. As if it happened all at once, everyone opened the envelops and found pictures of the best man and bride having sex in a hotel room, in several different days. Both the bride and best man were mortified.

Turns out that Jack was suspicious of his bride’s behaviour prior to the wedding, so he hired a private investigator to follow her around. The idea that she was cheating on him had crossed his mind, but he didn’t believe she could do it until he saw the pictures.

As one last act of defiance, Jack turned to the best man, raised his middle finger and yelled “FUCK YOU!”. Then he turned to Bonnie and said “I want an annulment bitch.” As he left the room, he sent a satisfactory grin to the in-laws, glad that he got them to spend an incredible amount of cash on an annulled wedding after all of the snide remarks they gave him.

And there you have it folks! The best wedding revenge story I have ever heard. Special thanks to Blondie for sharing this with me, and for Jack (whoever you really are) for sharing with Blondie.

Update Wednesday 1:12am
I have been informed by my friend The Brick that this story is an urban legend. Not too surprising since I heard it from a bartender I met at a party who heard it from a customer. Talk about a game of telephone! I had my doubts, but oh well! It’s still a fun story to tell. Here’s a website he referred to me about urban legends and such.
http://snopes.com/ 

Mockingjay: Book Review

by PenRei

(for more book reviews, visit my personal site at www.aireidt.com.)

Warning: This review will contain minor spoilers, although I will try to divulge as less as possible for anyone who hasn’t read it yet.

Sunday night has come and gone and so has Mockingjay. The third and last installment in The Hunger Games series ended in the evening. I must admit, reading the third book felt incredibly different than the others, and not in a way that I found promising. It was uneven and anti-climactic. Just like last time, let’s look at the official summary before we continue.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins


Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that 
she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins’s groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.
(R)

Now let’s begin!

To my great disappointment, I found Mockingjay to contain more flaws than strengths. What strengths were left in the story could not make up for the many problems I had with it. Throughout the third quarter, I was struggling to get to the end of the book. I thought that it would go on forever. That being said, obviously I had problems with the narrative form and the pacing.

Pacing and Narrative Style
My biggest issue with this book was that it felt rushed when Collins should have taken her time, and incredibly slow when I didn’t really care about what was happening. It was completely unbalanced. I was so disappointed! A part of me was hoping that she would return to her amazing sense of pacing from the first book, but instead it went in the complete opposite direction. What made the first book so enjoyable and addictive was that you didn’t feel like a reader or a spectator. You felt like you were there, in the arena, with Katniss as she fought for her survival. You were so close to her and understood every thought that went through her mind that you weren’t even an observer during the most private of moments.

There wasn’t a single moment in the third book where I felt this way. Instead, I was under the impression that I wasn’t fighting next to Katniss, but sitting on a sofa listening to her talk about that period of time in her life. And it felt colloquial and rushed with many scenes overlooked or incomplete. There was a real lack of intimacy between the Katniss and the reader; we were no longer with her, we were just listening to her.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this is a bad way to write. I am simply saying that it goes against any continuity Collins had previously establishing, hence why I am against this form of narration for this book.

In the last third of the book, I was getting occasionally frustrated by the fact that most scenes involving characters and their exchange of dialogue were incomplete. Collins instead just has 4-6 lines of exchanged dialogue and then has Katniss narrates the rest in a mundane and unimportant tone. Why did this bother me so much? We weren’t watching the characters develop anymore. We were being told in a very obvious way how they were developing. There was no mystery, just Katniss pointing her finger to each character and saying “Now so-and-so is just a hateful and angry character, while so-and-so is confused, and so-and-so is actually a really nice person”. There were no character discoveries to be had from the reader’s perspective.

Uh… Video Game?!
This is technically an extension of the narrative style, but I found it to be so jarring that it deserved its own segment. There was an entire section of the book where Katniss and a band of fellow rebels were on a mission to accomplish a task that will remain nameless to save spoilers. For those of you who read it, perhaps you know of what I am talking about. The greater part of this mission felt like a video game. Really! I had never “read” a video game before, but this would be the closest thing. Scenes were simply narrated by what was seen instead of what was felt. Traps and maps were reminiscent of a first player game where you have to figure things out as you go, but stay on target. It was like fighting your way through a level to get to the boss at the end. It was so strange to read that it was hard to get through. The end of this section lead to the climax, which felt very anti-climactic and frustrated me greatly.

Characters
This time around, there are a lot more characters you need to remember and follow. However, I wanted to get in Katniss’ skin so bad that some characters felt like mere distractions. Some would even appear in the first couple of chapters and then BAM, they appear at the end and they’ve become important. As much as Collins focussed a lot on Katniss and Gale, there weren’t enough intimate moments between them.

Now, in neither of my second reviews have I spoken about Gale. He is Katniss’ best friend from the last six years in which their friendship changes drastically since the first book. I loved his character so much, but he was starting to feel a little two dimensional by the third book. All of the things I loved about him were still present, but they fell into the narrative realm of things unsaid or skimmed over. This is especially disappointing since you feel that book 3 gives him a real chance to grow and blossom to full development, but he always falls a little short.

Peeta’s character undergoes a drastic change. I am not opposed to this change, but his slow and progressive transition back into his real persona is forced. Yes, he has to get back to who he used to be, but it could have been done better. Perhaps if Collins continued writing in full scenes like her first novel I would feel differently, but a lack of exchanged dialogue and intimate moments made his rehabilitation staged. I had trouble buying it as a natural change. On top of that, Peeta remains just as dependent on everyone else as ever. Even with his drastic personality change, he still relies on others to keep him alive and take care of him.

Finally, onto Katniss. Even after being rescued from the Quarter Quell and becoming a refugee in District 13, things aren’t wonderful for her. In fact, consistent manipulation and fear has made her a sort of prisoner to another leader. No wonder her character falls into a slow deterioration without hope for a bright and shiny future. I was so happy that Collins took this route! Rarely do we get to see our main character deteriorate instead of grow stronger. This is one area where Collins did not get lazy. She could have taken the easy route and made Katniss feel stronger and freer to take down the Capitol with the rebels. Instead, she feels just as weak and a piece in a game as she did under President Snow. This play of conflict was ideal for Katniss and provided the perfect setting to watch her deteriorate and become a person filled with doubt and hostility. It was different, believable, and refreshing. Points to Collins! My only question: did Katniss have to pass out THAT much?! I lost count after 5.

Sentence Fragments
Still had a problem with them and it was the same as the 2nd book. I won’t repeat it all, so for any of you who didn’t read my previous review, click here.

The Ending
First off, I will attempt to write this with minimal spoilers. Although the question of whether Katniss lives or dies at the end will be answered here. If you’d rather not know (and it’s always better as a surprise), please scroll down to the next section.

I was asked by a few people if I thought the ending was happy or sad. In fact, I thought it was neither. It was incredibly bittersweet, but leaning more towards bitter than sweet. Her choice between Peeta and Gale makes sense for her, even if it can be left to questioning. Personally, I thought she was in no shape to have ended up with either, but this isn’t my book and I can agree with the choice Collins made. She had to please her female readers!

The truth is that it is a generally happy ending for the inhabitants of Panem, but not for Katniss. With everything that she has gone through, there is no possibility for a happy ending. The events she lived in the three books would haunt anyone for the rest of their lives, causing a type of permanent post-traumatic stress disorder. She can only do the best that she can with the life she has and the nightmares that will never go away. In a way, the Capitol has won and she will never be free of its tyranny.

Themes
***END OF SPOILERS***
In today’s world, I enjoyed Collins using media that we are familiar with on a daily basis as the main conduit for one of her main themes of propaganda. She has successfully shown us what it is and how people use it; often to reach a personal goal. Propaganda can be filled with lies to manipulate a mass population into believing something for a cause deemed as just. There is nothing noble about it, especially in times of war. It is just another form of manipulation. The aspect of manipulation is obvious and well shown in Mockingjay from its beginnings up to the results it can create.

Her depiction of war in a young adult series fairs well. This is probably due to her father being a Vietnam War veteran. There is nothing honourable, glamorous, or glorious about it. War is a horrible thing where many people die. Sometimes you will spend your time waiting, trying not to be devoured by revisiting the images you have just seen. Other times you will just run as fast as you can, relying only on an instinct to survive. This continuous state of rush and wait that I have heard from other people’s war stories rings true. Luckily, Collins knows when to pull back since this is a young adult series, not an adult one.

I only wish that her personal voice wasn’t so present. Collins is clearly telling us “War is bad! War is evil!” (especially with Peeta), but we know from history that some wars are either unavoidable, or have to be fought. Not everyone in this world can be as peace loving and understanding as Ghandi. If we look back at our history, so much of it is built on wars. Entire countries have been united by war to become stronger, like China. I’m not saying wars are good, and I pray that I will never have to know the consequences of one firsthand. I simply wish that Collins would have given the readers enough room to make an opinion for themselves.

This review has now gone long enough.

As a conclusion, I was disappointed with Mockingjay. Many of the strong points from the first book, The Hunger Games, disappeared, leaving me to feel like I was reading a book from a very different series. The lack of continuity in tone and narrative style was jarring and unnecessary. Despite my reservations with this one, I’m still glad I read it. The series couldn’t have ended any other way; I just wish Collins found a better way to get there.

The first book remains my favourite and I know that I will be reading it again and again in years to come. As for the second and third book, I’ll get there when it happens.