Re-reading childhood favourites: A Tale of Time City

Yes, this is another Diana Wynne Jones book.

You can tell A Tale of Time City was one of my favourite books growing up just by looking my copy of it. The edges of the cover and spine are torn and frayed, there are pages with creases where I dog eared the pages as a child, and the corners are soft and worn. It’s not surprising that this was a favourite, and remains one even now, on re-read. It’s by one of my favourite authors and it involves light science fiction, time travel, and history, some of my favourite things.

9780006755203 - AbeBooks

This book was released in 1987 as a stand-alone novel by Diana Wynne-Jones. It follows a young girl, Vivian Smith, who is being evacuated from London to the countryside in 1939 due to the start of World War 2. She gets whisked away by two boys, Jonathan and Sam, who (incorrectly) believe she is a legendary figure in the history of Time City. Time City is the city where the boys are from; a city that exists outside of history itself in its own patch of time and oversees the course of history, observing but also ensuring it stays on the right path. Although she is not the legendary figure they think she is, she still stays in Time City and helps them figure out what is really going on with the disruptions in history.

Having read this book so many times growing up, I had a pretty clear memory of characters and plot points, especially once I started reading. But there were still some details and moments I had forgotten, and finding them again was really fun. There were moments that still gave me great satisfaction, even though I knew I had read them before. The characters all felt familiar, like old friends, even when they did things I had forgotten about.

I had forgotten how genuinely funny some parts of this book are. As an adult, I still found myself laughing. It’s possible that says more about my sense of humour than anything, but I think Diana Wynne Jones is very witty in her writing in a way that often can be appreciated by readers of all ages. I also found myself really appreciating the creativity of this novel. Obviously, all “history” after the time this book was written had to be invented, and I think she made a lot of really cool and creative choices. I think a lot of them were also very logical choices. Examples include: World War 4, the Revolt of Canada, the Demise of Europe, the Depopulation of Earth, and the Mind Wars. The last one has a larger focus in the book and I think it’s a really cool and interesting and kind of terrifying concept–that these wars were fought by doing damage to peoples minds, not with guns.

Time City itself is also a pretty cool concept, and one of the things I remember really drawing me to the book over and over as a kid. It’s a city outside of time itself, that borrows technology and entertainment and food from all over history, managing to both form a culture of its own while doing this, and appear to have little of its own stuff at all. The book also goes into the problems with the city and what they do, alongside the cool aspects that made it a place a child reading it would want to visit. I still want to visit.

The ending was a bit more abrupt then I remembered it being. As I was doing this re-read, I remember looking at how many pages were left and thinking “that can’t be right” before I remembered. This isn’t to say that it’s an unsatisfying ending or an unhappy ending or even that it didn’t wrap up all the plot points. It was even a satisfying last line! It’s just an interesting choice in terms of where to end it, especially for a book largely written for children.

I’m happy I did this reread. I still love this book and think it’s a really cool, fun, and interesting concept. I’m 29 years old and will still return to this book after this. That said, I think next time I do this, I’ll read a book I either read less or have re-read less often, to see the difference. I know I said that last time…and probably the time before…but I’ll get there eventually I swear.

Even if you’re an adult, if you like time travel and fantasy, pick up a copy of this at a library and give it a read. It’s a good time.

Doing a Quiz: Part 2

The time has come again.

My friend Paul has posted the second iteration of the quiz he is hosting on his blog, and I am back and ready to participate. I did this before in January if you want to check out those answers. But otherwise, on to the questions.

THE 10 QUESTIONS

What is the best hiding spot in your current place of residence?

Oh a good question. I would think maybe somewhere in my basement. I won’t tell you exactly where just in case.

The person walking in front of you drops $20 on the ground and doesn’t notice. What do you do?

I would stop the and say “excuse me, you dropped this.” $20 can be a lot of money for some people, and I would never allow someone to lose it if I can prevent it.

In elementary school, I read a book called, Lost in the Barrens. What is a book you read in school and what do you remember about it?

For some reason the first one that came to my mind was Maniac Magee. It was about an orphan boy, there was a lot of running involved, discussions of racism. I remember liking it but not much about it (I would have been around 12 if not younger), I should re read it.

In Eminem’s song, “Lose Yourself”, he says: “There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti.” Describe, in detail, your ideal pasta meal.

I’m counting lasagna as a pasta so: a good southern Italian style meat lasagna, fresh noodles, layers of sauce and ground meat and mozzarella, tender enough to cut with your fork.

If you and a partner went on The Amazing Race, would you be the driver, or the navigator in the backseat with a map? Explain your choice.

Definitely the navigator in the backseat with the map, because I am unable to drive. For that reason alone I don’t know if I’d be the ideal Amazing Race contestant.

In Home Alone 2, Kevin (a 10-year-old boy) ended up in New York by himself, while his entire family was in Florida. What is something you did when you were 10-years-old, that “kids these days” wouldn’t understand?

I used to go on this website that was just pages of lyrics to various famous songs, and then sometimes would have the audio to the songs as well, and I’d play the songs (sometimes even with just the instrumental) and sing along to the lyrics. Sometimes I would make up dances (and not film them).

Is Tic-Tac-Toe a fair game?

No because the first person always has an advantage.

Velma, from the Scooby-Doo series, is known for losing her glasses. If you were a character in a TV show, what would you be known for?

I feel like I should be asking a friend that question lol. I’m cold a lot so maybe for being wrapped in blankets and sweaters all the time.

What causes you to lose your temper?

People trying to control me or speak over me or doing something I’ve specifically asked them not to do.

How many contacts in your phone have you not communicated with in the last three years?

I genuinely went to go check because I knew it would be a higher number than I wish it was but: 32.

THE BONUS QUESTIONS

Think about items you might find in a Lost & Found. Now, draw as many of those items as you can in 60 seconds. Share your picture.

No description available.

Text someone, “I can’t find my phone.” What is their reply?

“So how are you texting me?” I can’t fool anyone these days.

You are alone in a city you’ve never been to, and have $500 to spend. What city are you in? What places do you go to? What do you spend your money on?

I’m in Rome. I visit the Colosseum. I visit the crypts and Roman catacombs. I visit the Sistine Chapel and the famous fountains. I get a light lunch between attractions and a fancy dinner later on. That should eat up most of my money.

The history of a woman

March is Women’s History Month. So this is a little piece of the history of a woman.

When she was 32 years old, my grandmother got a hysterectomy without her knowledge or consent.

She had already had three children–my dad and his two siblings. She had been experiencing some issues like pain and leakage, so she went into surgery to fix things up. She was told beforehand she should only have to stay in the hospital to recover for four days. She ended up staying for ten.

In the following months, she realized she wasn’t getting her period, and went to her doctor to check it out. He checked her paperwork, and told her that she had undergone a full hysterectomy. My grandmother was confused as to what that meant–she was an immigrant from Italy, and didn’t speak much English–and when it was explained to her, she was shocked.

During the surgery, they had realized there was too much damage, and so elected to remove the entire uterus. At no point beforehand was my grandmother informed that this was a possibility. At no point during the ten days she was in the hospital recovering was she informed that this had happened. At no point in the time since had she been informed that this had happened. The doctors had decided that since she already had three children, they could not only make the decision for her to perform a full hysterectomy, but not even tell her that it had happened.

For a few months afterwards, my grandmother experienced a depression. While no longer in physical pain, this major surgery had been done without her consent, and that was hard to process. When she told her doctor, he told her to go meet her friends and take a walk and get a coffee. She’d be fine.

When my grandmother and my grandfather went to a lawyer to see if they could press charges, he told them they didn’t have enough money to do so. They were recent immigrants, who didn’t speak much English and had working class jobs. They didn’t have the money, so nothing could be done.

My grandmother is still alive and kicking. She’s relatively healthy for her age. She has her three grown children and four grandchildren. She remained married to my grandfather until his death in 2019. But that doesn’t erase the fact that what was done to her should never had happened.

I’m 29 years old, and I turn 30 in September. I have not given birth to any children, and I do not plan to (I would prefer to adopt or take in children in the future). But if this happened to me without my knowledge or consent, I would still be horrified. And on the flipside, I know that there are people with uteruses who ask their doctor for years to get a hysterectomy, due to either health problems or pain or due to transition, but get denied because they’re young, because they might want kids later, because they might change their mind.

What happened to my grandmother happened in 1971, and it’s easy to say that this was a product of its time, and would never happen now. Or that at least if it happens now, its rare, and would blow up social media if shared. But if it happened to my grandmother, how many women could this have happened to? How many Canadians, how many immigrants, how many women all over the world could tell a similar story, right down to the fact that they could do nothing about it in the end?

March is Women’s History Month. And this is a little piece of the history of a woman.

I watched the Grammys 2021

I may have mentioned before that despite everything, I love watching awards shows. So of course, when the Grammys were on last night, I sat myself down and watched the entire thing.

I was especially interested to see how they would do the Grammys in the age of COVID. Most awards shows have been very zoom heavy, including varying levels of sound, video quality, and formality from the nominees. Those with performances have taken a variety of approaches, from not being held at all, to using at home performances, to being a combination of at home and performances filmed in other venues and countries.

When it came down to making the show feel like an actual awards show, I think the Grammys have been the most successful (so far) in terms of shows with performances. All the performers were in the same venue–including some performances that were pre-taped in that same venue earlier in the week–and they circled in performers to be each others audiences. This meant that several performances were held in the same space, with their fellow artists watching and enjoying. The stages weren’t massive for these performances, but it didn’t seem to matter. The covid precautions weren’t perfect–there was rather a lot of hugging considering people were in masks and sitting spaced out, for example, but I think the quality of performances were really high overall and it made for a more enjoyable awards show.

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to the Grammys. I watched the entire red carpet (which was strangely quiet) and I do have some scattered fashion opinions. There are the awards themselves; I won’t go step by step but I will say I’m generally happy for everyone who won! There has also been some controversy and discourse surrounding the awards themselves that you may have heard about. If not, I will direct you to this YouTube video here (its forty minutes long, so you may want to come back to that later). But the part I was most looking forward to? The performances. I love music of all kinds, I love pop, I love dancing, I love spectacle. Often even if I don’t listen to an artist regularly, I will enjoy a solid live performance. There were a lot of solid live performances last night, and a lot of interesting choices.

And so, the Grammys performances in order:

“Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles: I’m not even going to pretend to not be biased here. I’ve been a big fan of Harry for a long time, so I was never going to dislike this performance. It was on the more minimal end of the night stage set-up wise, but still a great way to open the show. His vocals were fantastic, his outfit was great, the backing musicians were super talented. He’s generally a very charismatic performer who clearly has fun and loves what he’s doing, and it’s so much fun to watch as an audience member.

“Everything I Wanted” by Billie Eilish: Another song and artist I already know and love. I’m glad she kept this performance very close to the original recording, because the music and minimal production paired with her vocals is what gives this song such a beautiful, haunting feeling. She performed this on a car submerged in fog–a reference to the music video–with low lighting, matching the tone of the song perfectly. Sometimes that kind of simplicity is all you need. Loved it.

“The Steps” by HAIM: You know it’s a good performance when it makes you want to listen more to an artist you don’t listen to very often. This was another simpler performance, just three sisters jamming out on their instruments in the middle of the room. And it worked. I felt, in the best way, like I was in a small indie music venue in the late nineties. I need to listen to more HAIM and so do you, probably.

“Colors” by Black Pumas: After this performance, I saw so many tweets from people saying “I need to look up Black Pumas now” and I get it. I had never heard of them before the Grammy nominations came out, but they absolutely delivered during this performance. Another simple set up, but the performance was so impassioned and soulful and the song was fantastic. I was really into this and will definitely be looking up more of their music.

“Rockstar” by Dababy and Roddy Rich: This is an example of when a performance can elevate a song for me. I don’t dislike this song; I’ll keep it on when it’s on or starts playing, but I don’t make an active effort to listen to it. However, for this live performance, they added violins. They added a gospel choir. I love both of those things, and they meshed perfectly with this rap song. I also really enjoyed Dababy as a performer, from his amazing bedazzled outfit to his commitment and intensity. Very good.

“Dakiti” by Bad Bunny and Jhay Cortez: There was nothing inherently wrong with this performance. I thought the lighting in the shape of an eye was cool, I think both performers are obviously talented. But I didn’t connect to the song enough to connect to the performance. If this is a style of music you really enjoy you would probably like it, but it didn’t really hold my interest.

“Levitating/Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa ft DaBaby: More songs I already love! Dua Lipa is always committed to spectacle in her performances and I love that. Her album was disco pop, how could she not marry those songs with over the top performances?? There were costume changes!! There was choreography!! There were sets!! What’s not to love? This was one of those performances I kind of wished I was in, which is always fun.

“Leave The Door Open” by Bruno Mars and Anderson.Paak as Silk Sonic: I missed Bruno Mars. He always makes bops and his awards show performances are always fun and cheeky and flawless. This was no exception! I had already heard this song that he has out with Anderson.Paak–like I said, I missed Bruno Mars–and the performance was perfectly suited. I love that they took the 70s lounge energy of the song and leaned all the way into it. They didn’t take themselves too seriously but that doesn’t mean they didn’t perform well. Worth a watch!!

“Cardigan/August/Willow” by Taylor Swift ft. Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff: I loved both of Taylor’s albums last year so yet again, no surprise that I enjoyed this performance. This was likely one of the pre-taped performances, with an elaborate whimsical forest cottage set. The set was really beautiful, and I was happy to hear Taylor sing these songs live, since her vocals really shine through on the songs on these records. A very good and also aesthetically pleasing performance.

In Memoriam Tributes by Bruno Mars ft. Anderson.Paak, Lionel Richie, Brandi Carlile, and Brittany Howard ft. Chris Martin: The in memoriam tribute was longer than I have ever seen it before, which just feels appropriate after a year like 2020. All of these performances were excellent. Not only are each of these artists strong vocalists (definitely recommend Brandi Carlile’s “The Joke” if you have never heard it), but you could tell that each of them had a connection to the song and artist they were honoring. Unsurprisingly, my favourite was Bruno Mars’ tribute to Little Richard. He had the perfect energy for it and it was so much fun.

“Black Like Me” by Mickey Guyton: I was not familiar with this artist before the awards. She’s a country singer, which is not what I would call my favourite genre. Her voice was really beautiful, and I appreciated the meaning behind the song, but it was not my top performance of the night.

“Bluebird” by Miranda Lambert: This really was the country music portion of the night. I went to get myself a snack halfway through this. Again, no disrespect to Miranda Lambert, but this style of music really is not for me the majority of the time and I was not feeling it.

“Bones” by Maren Morris ft. John Mayer: Now this is a country crossover hit which I actually quite like? It’s a sweet song with a really nice message and Maren has a lovely voice. I wished she could have brought over Hozier, who I ADORE and did a duet version of this song with her previously. Not my number one of the night but a pleasant performance.

Body/Savage/Up/WAP” by Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B: When I heard WAP was going to be performed on TV, my first thought was, “how the hell are they going to do that?” The answer is: in the most over the top way possible so the bleeping out doesn’t even matter. I cannot even start to explain this performance. If you don’t watch any other performances from this night, please watch this one.

“Hollywood’s Bleeding” by Post Malone: I think this is a great song and that Post Malone is another one of those artists who is really good live. He goes all out every single time. Every performance I have seen from him is different and perfectly suited to the venue and the event and to the song itself. This performance was really dark and intense and felt almost claustrophobic. Loved the drama of it.

“The Bigger Picture” by Lil Baby: This was a very intense performance. He brought out actors in order to dramatize the song and make the message he wanted to send clear. It was a very powerful and effective performance.

“Say So” by Doja Cat: I have seen multiple performances of this song by Doja Cat, and none of them have been the same. She chooses a different theme and different genre to blend the song with every single time. I really admire that and love the level of creativity. At another show, she did a performance inspired by “Roxie” from the musical Chicago, which is always going to win in my eyes, but this robot themed performance was also very cool.

“Dynamite” by BTS: BTS has a very fervent fan base, to say the least. I would not call myself a “stan” by any means, but I have enjoyed the songs I have heard and I think they are very talented dancers. I think I have seen better awards show performances by them than this one. It was almost too clean and too slick, and I wanted some more edge to it. But overall it was an enjoyable performance, the song is very catchy, they’re excellent dancers, and I enjoyed their matching suits.

The performances were really solid overall, and it made for a really good Grammys night. I appreciate that they tried to find new and different ways to make this awards show work during the pandemic. If you’re going to hold The Grammys during this time (and there are arguments to be made as to whether they should or not), you might as well use this opportunity to make it fresher and brighter.

One Year

A year ago today, me and one of my close friends went to the Royal Ontario Museum to check out some of the new special exhibits. It was a pretty busy day with lots of people, and we bought tickets to both the special exhibits and took our time going through, even with the crowds. After the museum we headed to eat at a place neither of us had been to yet. We shared pizza and dessert, and vowed to check out the build your own cannoli stand next time we came. We chatted about how work was going and future plans and movies coming out. We hugged goodbye after dinner and headed to our respective homes.

Ten days later, a state of emergency was declared in Toronto due to COVID-19.

Since then, I have yet to return to one of my jobs. The other was on and off during 2020, and then mostly off, so I applied to another one. I haven’t seen the friend I went with in person since our museum trip because she moved to another city with her fiance this summer. I sent her a reminder that it had been a year today, and we texted about how much things had changed and wondered about when we will get to see each other in person again.

This is not the conversation I expected us to be having at this time when we were hugging goodbye a year ago. Even if she had still moved, which I knew she had been thinking about, I would have visited already. We would have been talking about events we had attended together, new work achievements, new gossip. Hopefully a year from now, that’s the conversation we will be having.

It’s been weird spending a year in a global pandemic. I know everyone’s experience has been different. I’ve been very lucky in a lot of ways, since I haven’t been sick myself and no one in my immediate family or friend group has been sick or passed away. I haven’t had to worry about paying for rent. I don’t live alone. I haven’t seen a lot of people, but I have seen one or two friends in person, and most of my immediate family.

It’s been weird because it feels like so much has changed, but also nothing has changed at all. I have written before about how I have felt kind of stuck and I know I am not the only one. It’s hard to make plans for After Pandemic when nothing can move forward but ALSO when you don’t know how things will be done differently. It both gives me time to think about what I went to do next with my life, and frustration because I don’t know how to accomplish what I want in this environment or when I can or should start doing things. It’s a very strange feeling.

I want 2021 to be better than 2020. Obviously, some of that is out of my control. I can’t control government rules or when the vaccines get delivered to me. But I just want to say, by the end of the year, by a year from now, that I’m going where I want to be going. That I got to see my more of my friends in person. That it was still a strange year, but a better strange year.

So here’s to one year, and here’s to 2021.