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Posts Tagged ‘Canadian’

J and I have been doing a lot of Olympic watching. I’m not much into watching sports normally, but I do like the Olympics.

I have to confess, though, that as I watched Michael Phelps win his gazillionth gold medal, I wondered what it would be like to watch the Olympics if you actually had athletes from your country winning things. Phelps is a bit of an unusual case, because I think he’s just so remarkable that people from all over the world have been rooting for him. But there are other events where we are watching and wondering who to root for – the American? Or maybe the Brit? How about that underdog Croatian?

I started staying that our motto should be “We’re number four!” after Mike Brown missed the bronze in the 200 meter breaststroke by 9/100ths of a second and then the shot put dude, Dylan Armstrong missed out on a bronze by one centimeter. J predicted that when we finally won something, it would be in a sport that, when mentioned, caused people to say, “Really? That’s an Olympic sport?” And sure enough, our first medal was in women’s wrestling.

But we don’t have to worry, because we have a winner right here in our own house. Boo returned from day camp on Friday and told me that they have a race called ‘run and scream,’ the point of which is to run as far as you can while screaming at the top of your lungs. When you run out of scream, you have to stop. Boo won twice and tied once. We are so proud. Not surprised, of course, but very, very proud.

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I’ve gotten in trouble several times in the past couple of weeks by referring to Maya’s ipod as ‘my ipod’. I tell her it is just a verbal shortcut, but she knows that is crap. That thing never leaves my body. In fact, I’ve discovered that if I wear my sweatshirt with a sweater over top (not unusual for me), string the wire down under the sweater and put the ipod in my sweatshirt pocket, no one can see it. I have long, shaggy hair and it beautifully hides the ear buds.

Occasionally, I make a show of handing it over to her, like when we return from school. I say, “I had your ipod while I walked the dog. Here it is.” She takes it and hides it somewhere, but I watch surreptitiously and retrieve it at the first opportunity. I should probably just buy my own, but it seems like such a waste of money, given that Maya is at school all day and, in truth, rarely listens to it when she is not.

I’m hooked on This American Life, an NPR radio show I’ve known about for a while, but never had decent access to. I am a huge fan of both David Rakoff* and David Sedaris, who are regular contributors. I have now become a huge fan of Ira Glass, the host.

The current shows download to my (Maya’s!) ipod for free, but that is too slow for me, and there are years worth to be had. They cost just under a buck per show at itunes, which is a great deal for an hour’s worth of quality entertainment. But since there are hundreds of old shows, this is going to get expensive. I’ve been picking and choosing particularly interesting topics.

When I run out of This American Life shows already downloaded, I still have tons of CBC (Canadian public radio) shows to fall back on and a lot of them are really good too. I’ve also downloaded two books so far. I wish I had an ipod since I was a kid. I used to walk slowly home from school, reading as I went. I developed really great peripheral vision. I try to read while cooking, knitting, folding laundry – anything, really. The ipod has basically given me that ability.

The other day, up at the cottage, I cleared our skating rink on the lake, shoveling for over an hour, while listening to a fascinating This American Life on the concept of sissies. The show was so interesting that I cleared the rink exceptionally well, since it wasn’t over and I didn’t want to go inside and not hear the end of it. The idea of me managing to stay shoveling for an hour pre-ipod is pretty much unimaginable, since I have an extremely low boredom threshold and, trapped alone with my own thoughts, would have snapped after about 15 minutes.

The only downside is that I sometimes fail to fully pay attention to my own children. I fake it as they ramble on, secretly listening to David Rakoff describe how badly he hated chicken-catching on kibbutz when he was a teenage and trying not to laugh inappropriately.

Yesterday, I kept listening in the car after I picked up the kids, pretending to pay attention as Maya sang me a long Hebrew song she had learned. She complained that she had to answer lame questions about the song for homework. The equivalent in English would be: “In Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” where is the Little Star?” Granted, the questions and answers were in Hebrew, but it is still simple, make-work nonsense for grade 6.

She then told me that they will soon be singing it at the home for the aged next door to the school. I managed to follow both this and the discussion on the ipod, but both badly. To demonstrate I was listening, I asked her why, if they just learned the song to sing to the old people, did she have to answer pointless questions on it?

She stared at me for a moment, then said, “Because we have to answer questions on everything.” That struck me as a really profound description of grade school and I laughed for a long time. And turned the ipod off. Turns out, my kids can be just as entertaining. (but it stayed in my pocket, as backup.)

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* I have a odd David Rakoff story. I am distantly related to him by marriage and knew him from family events like brises and weddings before knowing he was a writer. I knew he lived in New York and wanted to be a writer, but that was it. When his first book, Fraud, was published, I bought it out of some vague sense of familial loyalty, expecting it to be crap. Really, crap. Because, in my utterly Canadian way, I assumed that no one I actually knew, much less was related to – however distantly – could actually be really good. The book would sell 500 copies and sink like a stone, but I’d do my bit.

Of course, having bought the thing, I had to read it.

I loved it. I laughed out loud, sometimes to the point of helplessness, tears rolling down my face. Now, having read that and his second book, Don’t Get to Comfortable, plus heard a good number of his NRP essays, I am nothing short of a goggle-eyed fan, which makes casual conversations with him at those family events a bit awkward, because I am far to cool and Canadian to suddenly gush, “I’m just a huge fan. I love your work! You are so funny!” One, that ain’t me. Two, he’d die. So he has no idea. I feel kind of stalker-ish.

The biggest irony is that the title of his first book – Fraud – refers to his own feelings of not really being a real writer, that he’s faking that, among other things. It seems that he too, had some expectation that his book would sell 500 copies and disappear. Ah, the joys of being Canadian.

Anyway, he is a brilliant and funny writer. Go buy his books.

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