The Top 10 Books I Read in 2013

In case you missed my previous post, I read 52 books in 2013.

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I know, I’ve been trying to repress it too.

In all seriousness- setting a reading goal was actually good for me. I spent way less time watching reality TV and checking Craigslist Missed Connections. It also gave me something to talk about at cocktail parties, instead of just standing in the corner, mindlessly hoovering canapes and white wine spritzers, counting down the minutes until I could go home.

I also had the pleasure of reading a lot of really fantastic books…so many that I had a hard time narrowing it down to just a few. 

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But alas- despite being a millennial, I recognize that not everyone can win the prize.. so here they are: 

 The Top 10 Books I

Read in 2013 

1. Middlesex

by Jeffrey Eugenides

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I’m not one to make gushy statements, but this multi-generational masterpiece about a Greek-American family in Detroit may be the best book I’ve read not just this year, but EVER. (You can read my initial review here).

I will caveat my glowing recommendation with the fact that it is a bit of a saga. If you’re looking for something a little shorter/less dense, check out Jeffrey Eugenides’ other books, The Marriage Plot and The Virgin Suicides (since adapted into a film by that boyfriend-stealing b*tch Sophia Coppola).

2. The Unbearable Lightness of Being

by Milan Kundera

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This book made me feel a lot of feelings. 

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………. Which is saying a lot, because I sort of pride myself on feeling as few feelings as possible.

A love story set in Eastern Europe during the infamous Prague Spring of 1968, this book is chock-full of romance, tragedy, metaphors and emo-goodness. It made me want to curl up with a fuzzy blanket, a glass of wine and a big-ass box of Kleenex. 

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3. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls

by David Sedaris

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The latest collection of humorous essays by my hero/life model/favourite writer ever David Sedaris did not fail to disappoint. As I mentioned in my initial review,  I was lucky enough to attend a reading of his back in April when the book came out. He responded to fan questions, told funny stories and read from the book aloud.

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What a treat.

Someday I will become his straight, female counterpart…. and no that is not weird.

4. How Should A Person Be?

By Sheila Heti

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If you like artsy shizz and the HBO show Girls, then this book about a young writer struggling trying to find her way in the world is most definitely for you.

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It’s also set in Toronto, which endeared me to it further. Maybe once you read it, you will finally be able to answer the age-old question:

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5. Quiet: The Power of Introverts

By Susan Cain

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Reading this book about how introverts are undervalued in today’s society made me feel empowered and (ironically) less alone in the world.

I even stopped wearing this sweater all the time:

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If you fancy yourself an introvert- even a closet one- do yourself a favour and read this book.  

6. A Hologram For the King 

By Dave Eggers

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This book follows Alan Clay, a middle-aged divorcee who, in a last-ditch effort to turn his luck around ,goes to Saudi Arabia to sell the elusive King Abdullah a new hologram technology.

Think Tupac at Coachella

Think Tupac at Coachella

Although it’s not big on action (most of it takes place in a single room), the raw, effortless writing made it a standout for me.

Aaaand if you’re really lazy, you can always just wait for the film adaptation  starring Tom Hanks. (It’s gotta be better than Saving Mr. Banks.)

7. The Rosie Project  

By Graeme Simsion

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The Rosie Project centers around Don Tillman, a 39-year-old genetics professor who is somewhere on the autism spectrum- he just doesn’t know it yet.

Citing scientific evidence that “married men are happier and live longer”, Don sets out to find the “perfect” wife by creating an extensive, detailed questionnaire. Women who do not score 100% are summarily disqualified.

This book has all the makings of a great, offbeat romantic comedy- and in fact it has already been optioned by Sony Pictures. It would make a great book club pick, or to read on the beach for all you lucky b*tches going on tropical vacations this winter.

8. The Last Girlfriend on Earth

By Simon Rich

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You can check out my initial review of Simon Rich’s hilarious short story collection here. Each piece was incredibly clever, witty and well written- like a Saturday Night Live skit playing out right in front of me on the page. Loved it.  

 9. The Sun Also Rises

By Ernest Hemingway

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I feel like sort of a hipster try-hard doofus listing this as one of my top 10, but I swear that was not my intention. In fact, I initially chose this book because it was under 200 pages.

But as I started to read it, I was captivated by the beauty in Hemingway’s prose as he described a group of artistic expats attending the Running of the Bulls in Spain.

I even found myself quoting lines to friends- before realizing how much of a pretentious dink this made me sound. So instead, I just wrote them down in my journal of lame, private thoughts that are way too embarrassing to post on my blog. You know you want to read that, don’t you? Well you can’t! So go read this book!

 10. The Interestings

By Meg Wolitzer 

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The Interestings centres around a group of 6 friends who first meet as teenagers at a camp for the arts in the 1970′s, and follows them  throughout their decades-long friendship. Lives become complicated, relationships become strained, issues of class, money and power ensue, and in the end everyone is richer for the experience. You should read this book IF:

a) You have ever dreamed of a career in writing/the arts

b) You find New York City impossibly romantic.

Question of the Day:

What was the best book you read in 2013?  

Fancy A Spot of Tea?

I don’t know about you guys, but I love a good tea party.

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As a little girl, I hosted them on the reg. I had a miniature table and chairs in my bedroom solely for that purpose, and had no fewer than 6 different tea sets on rotation at any given moment. I would serve “tea” (Sunny Delight) and “crumpets” (cut up Toaster Strudels) to my distinguished guests; a rotating cast of my favourite toys du jour. Regulars included:

  • my Cabbage Patch doll Celine Ilse (apparently she was French Canadian??);
  • a talking Teddy Ruxpin, that, looking back was completely terrifying;
  • an incredibly sexist Teen Talk Barbie that said things like “Math is hard!” and “Will we ever have enough clothes?”;
  • myriads of My Little Ponies;
  • Quints;

Remember these weirdos?

…and just to add a little masculinity to the mix, several of my brothers’ G.I. Joe figurines.

Yep, it was a real equal opportunity affair. 

Since apparently throwing lavish gatherings for your stuffed animals is no longer “socially acceptable” after the age of 12, I’ve experienced a marked decline in the number of tea parties I attend in my adult life. 

That’s why I was beyond excited when one of my coworkers invited me to an afternoon tea party at her house last weekend. With real live humans!!

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The invitation indicated that the dress code was casual, but that “Fascinators were encouraged”.

Challenge: accepted. 

Somehow, despite being neither British nor fancy, I have managed to accumulate a sizeable collection of obnoxious head pieces over the years. (I don’t know what this says about me as a person. I don’t care to find out.)

I thought about pulling out this one from the tickle trunk:

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But instead opted for this more understated headband variety:

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….paired with a giant (faux) fur vest and a fancy-ass brooch with a horse on it.

What? Don’t be such a neigh-sayer. 

I also upped my accessory game with my new bracelet stack; because nothing screams
class  like 18 lbs of gold-plated joo-ree you bought from the Shopping Channel.

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I arrived,dripping in elegance, to discover that the hostess had prepared an amazing spread of treats:

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Seriously-  it was insani-tea!! (Sorry. I’m done with the puns now).

Besides all of this glorious food, she also brewed some delicious loose leaf tea which she served in these fancy little cups.

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There were seven girls in attendance, and we snuggled up in the living room and spent a few cozy hours munching on macarons and dishing about men. The weather outside was terrible and rainy, but I didn’t really mind, because it sort of made me feel like Carey Mulligan in The Great Gatsby.

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Because I am delusional.

………..And then the Chardonnay came out. And I think my story ends here.

Question of the Day: Have you ever been to a tea party? High Tea?

A Profound Experience Of Art… Or Something Like That

While I won’t delude you into thinking I am a particularly sophisticated woman, every once in a while I do get a whim- a flight of fancy if you will– to get off my couch and do something cultural for a change.

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He knows

One such temporary break in sanity occurred this past weekend, when I attended both Ai WeiWei’s According To What? exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and Nuit Blanche in downtown Toronto on the SAME DAY.

What can I say? I was bored just really love contemporary art.

The first stop on “BreezyK’s Excellent Bougie Adventure” was the AGO. If you haven’t heard of Ai WeiWei, he is a Chinese contemporary artist, famous for designing the “bird’s nest” stadium at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as well as for his activism.

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An outspoken advocate for democracy and human rights in China, Ai has participated in several investigations of government corruption and alleged cover-ups- including the 2008 collapse of government schools resulting in the death of thousands of children following the Sichuan earthquake.  

As a result of his activism, Ai has been unable to leave China since 2012; his passport confiscated by government officials. His studio and home have also been under constant  surveillance, and his daily blog monitored and censored. 

Regardless of your stance on Ai’s political ideals, his work- which includes sculpture, installations, photography, film and architecture- is pretty incredible. I particularly enjoyed his sculptures, which were massive pieces of work requiring tons of manual labour and raw material to create. Like this piece, made from wooden stools fused together using an ancient technique with no nails or glue!

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Or “Straight”- composed of 150 tons of steel rebar recovered from the sites of the collapsed schools in Sichuan- each meticulously straightened by hand.

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It was a pretty cool, and but also extremely emotional experience. Here’s me cutting the tension and showing my instagram followers how artsy I am:

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The exhibit is on until October 27 in Toronto, so check it out if you have the chance!

Stop 2 of the day was Nuit Blanche – the annual contemporary art festival in Toronto where museums and galleries open up their doors for free from dawn till dusk, and over 150 projects are exhibited around the city by more than 500 different artists and curators.

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The pieces ranged from “Forever Bicycles” (pictured above) by my BFF Ai WeiWei, a sculpture of over 3,000 bicycles suspended in air, to smaller projects like Parallax, a light fixture of sorts composed of horizontally stacked tubes of different sizes.

020… Not gonna lie, it kind of reminded me of a Lite Brite. 

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The other pieces ran the gamut; from “Ferris Wheel” designed to evoke “joy and delight”:

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To “Music Box”, a jack-in-the-box like collection of instruments that feed off each other and produce one random symphony:

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…to whatever the hell this is:

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Something about “childlike innocence”?

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As I walked the streets, watching others marvel at the pieces before them, I thought of a passage in a book I read recently called Leaving The Atocha Station by Ben Lerner. The book is about a young American poet named Adam Gordon on a prestigious fellowship in Madrid. One day, Adam witnesses a man openly weeping in front of a painting at an art gallery, and begins to worry that he himself has never been moved to such a level by art:

“Was he, I wondered, just facing the wall to hide his face as he dealt with whatever grief he’d brought into the museum? Or was he having “a profound experience of art”? I had long worried that I was incapable of having a profound experience of art and I had trouble believing that anyone had, at least anyone I knew. I was intensely suspicious of people who claimed a poem or painting or piece of music ‘changed their life’ especially since I had often known these people before and after their experience and could register no change. [...] The closest I’d come to having a profound experience of art was probably the experience of this distance, a profound experience of the absence of profundity.”

I could sort of relate. While I appreciated some of the pieces; others (like that scary giant insect) were just completely incomprehensible to me. I wondered if this was because these pieces didn’t  especially “speak” to me, or because I straight-up didn’t “get” it.

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In any event, I’ll have some time to think about it, as I’ve now fulfilled my entire culture quota for 2013 and can happily go back to rotting my brain with as much reality TV as humanly possible (which, let’s be honest, was really the goal of this entire exercise.)

Question of the Day: Have you had a “profound experience of art”? Do you believe in it?

10 Second Book Reviews – Stuff I’ve Read Lately

Remember when I said I was going to read 52 books in 2013?

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Bet you thought I quit that noise, didn’t you? Tossed my lofty stack of paperbacks to the side, and said “the hell with it”! – content to do nothing but eat peanut M&M’s and watch Teen Mom in a ball of shame and self-loathing for the rest of my life;

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…..all the while wiping away my tears and spilled wine droplets with pages of my abandoned Infinite Jest.

Well guess what fools? You’re WRONG. Or at least partially wrong. The Teen Mom and chocolate are still happening, I’m just reading books too! (and they’re MILK chocolate M&Ms, so take that haters!!)

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I’m currently on book 36, and since I haven’t done any reviews in a while, I thought I’d catch you all up to speed on some of what I’ve been reading lately- in 10 seconds or less! Kind of like that Nicholas Cage movie…

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……….except nothing like that Nicholas Cage movie.

Iris Has Free Time

by Iris Smyles

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I think a more apt title for this book would have been “Iris is annoying”. (Good one, Breezyk!) Billed by reviewers as “for fans of HBO’s Girls”, the book- which is basically a collection of thinly-veiled semi-autobiographical essays – follows 20-something “Iris” (wonder where she came up with that one), a recent college grad with dreams of becoming a writer, as she gets drunk navigates New York City.

While some of the stories were charming and even funny, I had a hard time relating to Iris. I found her privileged, self-absorbed and desperately seeking attention (not that I would know anything about that).

Listen, I’m all for writing your own memoir as a 20-something who has done nothing remarkable in her life (hellooo.. this blog); but at the very least, find something relevant or funny to talk about besides just your “pink-outs” (which Iris calls being black-out drunk, “because she’s a girl”. Ugh.).

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I give it: 1.5/5  Intellectual Dachshunds

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A Hologram For the King

by Dave Eggers

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After Finishing Iris, this book was a breath of fresh- albeit slightly melancholic- air. The novel follows Alan Clay, a middle-aged divorcee who has been straight up bum-rushed by the recession and can’t afford to put his daughter through college. In a last-ditch attempt to turn his luck around and finally “do something great”, he goes to Saudi Arabia to make a presentation to the elusive King Abdullah in the hope of selling him hologram technology.

 [Insert 2Pac reference here].

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It’s a book where not much happens, but a lot happens at the same time.. which probably makes no sense, but just know that it’s pretty great. Dave Eggers’ writing style is extremely readable, and I was hooked from the very first page. I  also learned that the book is being made into a film starring Tom Hanks, which I’m excited about.  This book would be great to read over the fall, or to give as a gift- particularly for the men in your life. (So I’m giving it to no one). 

I give it: 4/5 Intellectual Dachshunds

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One Last Thing Before I Go

by Jonathan Tropper

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In a word? Meh. I had read his book “This Is Where I Leave You” before and thought it was just so-so, but I thought I’d give him another shot. 

I was underwhelmed. In fact, I actually forgot I even read it when compiling this list. The story surrounds washed-up musician Drew Silver, who after suddenly falling ill, is told that without brain surgery, he might die. Rather than go through with it, he instead takes a long-ass time to “think things over”- and in the meantime we are treated to a heavy dose of his middle-aged malaise and baby mama drama.  I thought when reading it that it could easily become a second-rate romantic comedy- and lo and behold, I find out it IS  going to become a second-rate romantic comedy…. so we can all look forward to that. 

2/5 Intellectual Dachshunds

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Middlesex

by Jeffrey Eugenides

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A.Maz.Ing. One of the top 5 books I’ve ever read. (Which I guess makes sense, since it won the Pulitzer and all). Although it’s really about a lot of things, the book at its center is about a rare genetic mutation as it moves from one generation to the next of a Greek-American immigrant family. I won’t spoil the surprise- because it’s worth discovering on your own.

Although it was long, and a bit of a saga at times (took me over a month to get through) it was well worth it. The word “masterpiece” literally comes to mind when I think about this book. Ok I will stop gushing now and pretending I know anything about literature.. but seriously, Go and read it!

4.5/5 Intellectual Dachshunds

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Question of the Day: What Great Book Have You Read Lately?

My Life Through Instagram Vol. 2

What up, homies? I know my blog has been about as active as a Giant Panda on Valium lately, and for that I apologize.

Side note: did you know Giant Pandas spend approximately 16 hours a day eating?? 

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We have so much in common.

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Anyway, it’s been a busy few weeks for your girl BreezyK here: weddings, parties, cottage weekends, and most importantly- a new job!

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(Do I get points for the timely Shoppers Drug Mart gif? No? Ok.)

It’s still in law, but no longer in private practice… so I expect the quality of my life to improve drastically to have more regular hours and thus more free time for blogging. (When my busy schedule of grooming and beauty related appointments permits, of course.)

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Those pictures were completely gratuitous.

Anyway, I know I owe you guys a real post (and to read and comment on some of the great stuff you’ve been writing), but as mentioned above, I’m in panda-mode. So in the meantime, I thought I’d give a little update on my life through my favourite fleetingly popular social media platform: instagram.

(You can see my first installment of My Life Through Instagram here.)

If you don’t follow me on Instagram, then you definitely should: @BreezyK1. I am extremely self-absorbed and post a lot of pictures of my manicures. Who doesn’t like that in their newsfeed??

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1.    Someone’s been making mixtapes!

2.    See, I told you. (Hey, when it takes as long as this did, it deserves to be instagrammed) 

3.    Summer BBQs. If you can believe it, there was actually way more food unpictured.

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4.    We clean up aiight 

5.    Sunset over Sugar Lake

6.    Wine and Cheese with a view.. oh you fancy huh  

7.    This album has been getting me through a lot of tough runs lately. Kanye- you may be a crazed egomaniac with questionable child-naming skills, but your beats are solid and your lyrics genius. So thank you for that.  

8.    Champagne celebrations

9.    I challenge you to name me a treat more delicious than s’mores

You just peed in your pants a little, didn't you?

You just peed in your pants a little, didn’t you?

10.  So I joined a softball league this summer- considering the ability to play softball entirely irrelevant. The only thing worse than my batting average is my attendance- but I do contribute to the team by taking glorious, sunset candid shots like this one.. so I think I’m pulling my weight.

11.  My lovely friend Danielle looking fierce at her wedding

12.  Cottage Adventures

13.  Do you… canoe? (Ok that was lame. Forgive me guys, I’ve been out of the game for a while) 

14.  Little father’s day tribute to my pops.. (and some inadvertent product placement. Mmm. Veggie Thins) 

15.  Delicious Sangria by the pool… I am just noticing now how many of these pics involve alcohol.

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16.  A lifesize “The Claw” arcade game set up in the financial district as part of Toronto’s Luminato festival for the arts and creativity. There was actually a dude inside who, when you put money into the machine, tried to retrieve a toy for you with oversize claw-like implements. Everyone cheered when he got one, and when he missed they played the sad fail music from the Price is Right. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ytCEuuW2_A

Umm this Youtube video has had over 3 million views. I don’t know why, but that’s awesome.

Question of the Day: What has been the highlight of your summer thus far?

Mine’s probably a tossup between drinking that Sangria and watching the new season of Big Brother.. but I expect that to change when I head to Nova Scotia this weekend!

Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris

What do a 10 lb box of condoms, a taxidermy owl and a life-size model of a human throat all have in common?

…………….No, not that, you filthy animals. 

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Well, maybe that. But also this: They are all the subject of hilarious essays in David Sedaris’ new book, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls.

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In this, his 7th collection of autobiographical essays and short stories, America’s greatest humorist (IMHO) takes us on a journey from a suburban Costco, to his childhood in Raleigh, North Carolina, to feeding Kookaburas in the Australian bush- all with the cunning wit and sharp observations of a perpetual outsider.

owls2 A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Sedaris do a reading of this book here in Toronto. It was a bit of a surreal experience for me, because having read all of his books, I sort of felt like I knew him already. I could tell you intimate details about his family, his childhood, even about his days as a meth-addicted starving artist. I had the urge to blurt out “How’s Amy?” (his famous sister) at one point, but then I remembered that I don’t actually know her at all, and wisely refrained.   

Although I do think we could be besties.. don't you?

Although I do think we would be besties if given the chance.

He spoke for over an hour, reading several pieces from the book, as well as sharing anecdotes from his tour thus far. He was witty, sharp, and incredibly gracious and welcoming of his fans – except for the fact that he had a very strict no picture policy. Luckily, I am a master sweet-talker who no man (even a gay one) can say no to, so I was able to superimpose my head onto some random man’s body convince him to take this one with me:

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I think it’s a framer.

Anywhoo- back to the review.

Longtime fans of Sedaris might find Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls a bit of a departure from his earlier works. Whereas Naked and Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim focused primarily on his childhood and coming of age tales; this collection delves more into his current, adult life and day-to-day encounters. If you’re open to it, this can be a refreshing change. We learn a lot more about his relationship with his partner Hugh in this collection, as well as receive an unexpected glimpse into his writing process with an essay on the diary he has kept since 1977. He also shares hilarious, cutting observations of the people in line with him at the Airport and Starbucks that are laugh-out-loud funny, and make you wish he was your best friend in real life.

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Throughout it all, you get a sense of what makes him tick; a behind the scenes look at the grown-up David Sedaris. 

Interspersed throughout the book are several pieces of short fiction, which Sedaris explains were written to be recited by teenagers at forensics competitions. Some are comic monologues; others are biting satires of right-wing ideals. I have to admit, these pieces were not my favourite. I found them too far afield from his regular style, and a bit too political for my liking.

That being said, overall, I still thought this book was great- perfect for a plane ride, a Friday night in, or a weekend at the cottage.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants a good laugh, and has felt like an outsider once or twice in their life.

On that note, the winner of my David Sedaris book giveaway IS: (drumroll please, assistant:)

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Ross!  E-mail me at thecamellife@gmail.com with your address to claim your prize!

(And just to be clear, anyone else is free to e-mail me at that address too. You know, if you wanna like, talk about the new season of Arrested Development, or who Desiree should pick on The Bachelorette. Whatever really. I’m basically just very lonely. )

Question of the Day: Who, in your opinion, is the funniest writer? 

Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking

Do you often let calls go through to voicemail? Enjoy one-on-one conversations as opposed to group activities? Dislike conflict? Prefer working alone rather than in a team? 

If you answered yes to the majority of these questions, then you my friend, are probably an introvert.

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The good news is, you’re not alone. According to Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, at least 1/3 of the people we know are introverts.

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Including me.

Yes- I know it  may come as a surprise, given how hilarious, effervescent and engaging  I am on my blog- but don’t let that purple wig fool you. On the inside, I’m just a scared little panda. 

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I prefer listening to talking, find it easier to express myself in writing, and to the disappointment of my throngs of friends and admirers, often prefer to stay home, read a book and be by myself on a Saturday night.

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Cain’s book explores the idea that in today’s society, introverts are chronically undervalued. By praising extroversion above almost all else, we fail to capitalize on the special and unique skills introverts possess, like focus, innovation, creativity, work ethic, thoughtfulness, and observation. 

Cain explains how over the past 100 years, Western culture has become obsessed with the idea of personality. “The Extrovert Ideal” now permeates almost everything we do: from offices designed in open concepts to inspire “Groupthink” and “brainstorming sessions”, to classrooms arranged in “pods”,  to the success of such books as “How to Win Friends and Influence People” .

If only all open concept offices had Don Draper in them.

If only all open concept offices had Don Draper in them.

Introversion has become a form of pathology – a personality trait that needs to be “fixed”. We encourage children who are introverted to “come out of their shells”, rather than focusing on what they can bring to the table. Cain points to evidence that our “extrovert ideal” can actually be harmful in business, and lobbies for change.

I decided to read this book after a friend showed me Cain’s 2012 TED Talk on the same subject. It received over 4 million YouTube hits and helped start what is now known as “The Quiet Revolution”.

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The book is exhaustively researched: Cain spent almost 7 years wading through literature and scientific studies, as well as conducting her own “field research”. She went to a Tony Robbins leadership conference, spent a week at Harvard Business School, shadowed Asian American high school students, interviewed psychologists and prominent business people, attended a retreat for the highly sensitive and observed an Evangelical Christian leadership conference. 

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I found this book fascinating, and it really resonated with me on a lot of levels. Before becoming a writer, Cain was a corporate lawyer on Wall Street, and discusses the difficulty of being an introvert in a profession dominated by big personalities. As a young lawyer, I can relate. I am constantly attending business development and networking seminars where we are encouraged to hand out business cards like Halloween candy.

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“Follow up with everyone you meet!” they say. “Introduce yourself to the Managing partner in the elevator!”. As an introvert, this can feel overwhelming. You worry you will be left behind by all of your gregarious, outgoing contemporaries who fluently speak the language of schmooze.

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Cain, however, explains how she put her skills as an introvert to work for her. By being the most prepared person in the room and using her skills of listening and observation, she became a highly successful negotiator, eventually founding her own consulting business. 

Another point Cain explored that I found interesting was the “internet paradox”: introverts are much more likely to express intimate details about themselves on the internet, to total strangers- often things their friends or family would be surprised to learn about them. 

This definitely rings true with me. As cheesy as it is to say, I feel like when I started blogging, I found my voice. It was like suddenly, my personality was more tangible to those around me. I felt understood. 

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This is overly dramatic but you catch my drift.

You should definitely read this book if you are an introvert, or have introverts in your life. (if you’re curious whether you are an introvert, you can take Cain’s quiz here) .I will say, the book can be a little heavy on the scientific mumbo jumbo- so if you don’t want to deal with all that independent/dependent variable noise, then you can always just watch the TED Talk instead.

I give it: 4.2/5 Intellectual Dachshunds 

“I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

“I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

Question of the Day: Are You An Introvert, or an Extrovert?

6 Things Everyone Should Know About Las Vegas

So good news everybody: I survived my whirlwind long weekend in Las Vegas!

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The bad news? I am once again freezing my tuckus off in a subarctic Canadian climate. Also, the Easter bunny seems to have forgotten about me completely. I wonder if this has anything to do with the epic diss I gave him in my last post?

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I still blame him for being so creepy.

So I must admit, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about Vegas at first. As my friend Jane so eloquently put it, “I didn’t think Vegas was leftist enough for you“.

I take her point,

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But I still really enjoyed it. As Steve Wynn, owner of half the Las Vegas strip (and that creepy voice inside all the cabs) once famously said:  “Las Vegas is sort of like how God would do it if he had money.”

I have a feeling God might have made a few changes- but if his son`s tweets are any indication, a Las Vegas run by the holy family would still be a pretty fun place to be:

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Since I promised my fellow bachelorette-goers I wouldn’t get into too much of the nitty-gritty of our trip, I’m tailoring my Vegas recap to a few things I learned about the city in general. So here goes:

6 Things Everyone Should Know About Las Vegas

1. There’s Something For Everyone 

Based on my limited knowledge of Vegas, I expected the crowd to be mainly party-goers, eloping couples and Kim Kardashian.

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Au contraire bonjour! Apparently everyone goes to Vegas! Families, couples, grandparents, these guys:

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Is that a flamingo on your shirt? Or are you just happy to see me?

At first I was confused by all the little kids running around,

………..And then I saw this roller coaster:

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It’s also way less glamorous than I expected. I thought people would be dressed to the nines everywhere I went- but let’s just say….. they weren’t. (Hey, I’m practicing cutting people some slack here!)

2. You Can Literally Do Whatever You Want. Except Bring Gum Inside Wet Republic.

My first thought about Las Vegas was that there were no rules whatsoever. Everywhere I looked people were walking around with alcoholic drinks, wearing bikinis, smoking INSIDE.

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I even saw one guy drinking his walktail (<– see what I did there) out of a full-sized plastic guitar. It was awesome.

Like this guy, but not this guy.

My perception shifted, however, after my first visit  to MGM’s famously raucous party pool Wet Republic.

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With security so thick it rivaled Bieber’s entourage, guards double-checked your ID and vigorously inspected the contents of your purse at the entrance- removing any prohibited or nefarious looking items. Advil? No bueno. Bottled water? Fuhhhgettabout it.  I even had my pack of Dentyne Ice confiscated. I still don’t know why. Maybe they thought I was some sort of gum weilding assassin?? Or maybe they just didn’t want me to get it stuck in my own hair. That makes sense.

3. It’s In The Desert, Yo!!

I know what you`re thinking, and yes, I have seen a map before. But it was in that movie National Treasure and I couldn’t make it out very well.

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Anyway, I kinda had an inkling that Vegas was in the middle of the desert, but I guess I didn’t fully appreciate this until my skin started shrivelling up like a California Raisin.

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My hair quickly followed suit, leaving me resembling one of those sad “before” girls from hair commercials.

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Ladies: 3 words: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
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4. If You Move There, You Will Gain 300lbs.

Ummm.. HOLY PORTION SIZES BATMAN. The American “bigger is better” philosophy was really drilled home to me during my several trips to McDonalds and In-and-Out Burger. Did you know a standard McNugget meal in the U.S.is 10 McNuggets, while in Canada, it`s only 6??

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And as if that weren’t enough, my hotel also had the world-famous Jean Phillippe Bakery right downstairs. Nutella brioche??almond croissants? CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN? Heart… Beating… Faster.

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You guys, it was a bad scene for BreezyK. Think Homer Simpson in the land of chocolate,

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But worse. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

5. There is always a “List”-  And you need to be on it.

For girls, this basically means just leaving your hotel room. For guys, it means putting on your best Burberry knockoff and spending hours in line haggling with some glorified bouncer to let you and your buddies spend a grand  on a bottle of Grey Goose. Which you will then ultimately give to a group of cute 20-somethings, who will drink every last drop before running off to find the next table of suckers. The b*tches probably won’t even say goodbye.

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And they say life isn’t fair  ;)

6. There`s a Good Chance It Was All Just A Mirage

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I mean, it was in the middle of the desert. And the whole thing did sort of feel like a dream. The only evidence I have of even being there are a few instagram pics and a quick-fading tan. But that doesn’t prove anything. I could have just been abducted by aliens with a penchant for vitamin D and social media.

………If I ever made any sense, I have clearly ceased to do so.

Lets get to the winner of my East-Vegas giveaway! Congratulations (drumroll pleaaaaase):

Whinybaby! 

E-mail me at thecamellife@gmail.com with your address!

Question of the Day: Have you Ever been to Vegas?

No Coincidence, No Story

A coincidence, by definition, is a striking occurrence of two or more events at one time, apparently by mere chance.

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Most of us encounter coincidences regularly in our day-to-day lives: we run into a friend having dinner at the  same restaurant, meet someone who shares the same birthday, or read a word in a magazine only to hear it on TV seconds later. But is “chance”, i.e. just dumb luck, really the culprit?

Some people believe that coincidences aren’t really “random” at all, but can be mathematically traced back to some sort of underlying probability.

Others, like Deepak Chopra, believe that coincidences are not mere happenstance, but clues from the universe that hold some sort of sign or underlying message.

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While I don’t consider myself a particularly spiritual or religious person, the romantic in me is sort of inclined to agree with the latter. I’ve always been a big believer in fate; serendipity and sliding doors and all that. Every time I miss the subway, I wonder whether it has altered the path of my life forever. Had I not stopped to check my curling iron was unplugged for the 15th time, perhaps I would have met the love of my life on that train. We might have bonded over the fact that we were both listening to the same song on our iPods, and before long, I’d be cutting my hair, dyeing it blond and carrying his baby.

………..Ok, so that’s sort of the plot to the actual movie Sliding Doors. But hey, it’s my fantasy here.

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Given my preoccupation with coincidences, I was excited to discover that this week’s podcast of This American Life was all about that very topic.

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Have you noticed that I am macking all of my blog post ideas from podcasts lately? I should really channel this energy into creating financial derivatives. That sh*t would be far more lucrative.

Anyway, the title of the podcast is based on an old Chinese maxim: No Coincidence, No story. In other words, if there were no coincidences, there would be no stories.The episode featured some of the best coincidence stories sent in by This American Life listeners: from an engaged couple who discovered that their respective parents had nearly gotten engaged years earlier; to a girl’s chance encounter with her biological father at a bus station. ( I won’t spoil the surprise for you in case you want to listen yourself- which I highly recommend you do!)

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All of this got me thinking about the coincidences that have occurred in my own life. I racked my brain and came up with the following list:

  • My niece Lola and I are both adopted and both left-handed (the only ones in our family who are)
  • I ran into a girl I went to elementary school with here in Toronto recently. This was surprising for a number of reasons:
  • We grew up in a small town of 5,000 people over 3,000 km away from here;
  •  I don’t know a single other person from my hometown who lives in Toronto;
  • Where we met was nowhere near where either of us live. We both just happened to be walking there at the same time. I found it crazy that in a city this big we somehow ran into each other.
  • The day before I flew to Toronto for my job interview, I was anxious and on edge. I didn’t know if moving to Toronto was the right thing for me, and was feeling insecure about my qualifications. So I went for a run in Point Pleasant Park in Halifax to blow off some steam. Just as I was turning a corner, a blue jay flew directly in my path. I had never seen a blue jay in that park before, and given its association with TO, I took this as a sign that all would work out and I was meant to be here.

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Admittedly, these “coincidences” are deeply personal, and probably not very remarkable to anyone else. And that makes sense. Studies have shown that we have an egocentric bias towards our own coincidences: we find stories that happen to us inherently far more interesting than those that happen to other people.

While they are undoubtedly special memories that I will always cherish, I can’t help but feel sort of gipped that in a canvass of my entire life, these were the best coincidences I could come up with. I’ve never dialed the wrong number and ended up with a new best friend, or met a long lost cousin on a train to Uzbekestan. In the words of Drunk Uncle, “That’s not me”.

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I kind of wish it were though. I feel like then my life would be inherently far more interesting.

At the end of the podcast, the host concluded that regardless of what you believe about coincidences, there’s a beauty In even noticing them in the first place. And I kind of agree. At least that’s what I tell myself when I’m standing alone on the subway platform :)

Question of the Day: What is the most interesting coincidence that has happened to you?

Throwback Thursday: Where Are They Now?

I’m a sucker for a good Friends re-run.  Anytime I hear an episode playing, or catch a glimpse of it on TV, I automatically feel compelled to watch it.

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It’s like I’m being pulled by some sort of centrifugal force. Kind of like how Kramer felt about Mary Hart…. only exactly the opposite.

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Anyway, the other day I found myself watching an episode;  and as the iconic theme song filled the room, and my heart with nostalgia, I got to thinking about The Rembrandts.

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Remember them? They had a massive hit back in 1995 with the mind-numbingly awful yet unbelievably catchy ”I’ll Be There For You” , but what have they done since?

A quick Google search informed me that The Rembrandts (otherwise known as Phil Solem and Danny Wilde) had one other hit: the emo slow jam “That’s Just the Way it is (Baby”). Apparently, however, the stress of 2 hit songs was too much for them, and they split up shortly thereafter. Solem wanted to concentrate on his own band Thrush, while Wilde released his own solo album.

Both of these solo efforts met with about as much success as David Schwimmer’s movie career:

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So they eventually got back together in 2000, and have since released about 17 greatest hit(s?) albums. They also  write and produce music for other really current and relevant bands, like The Gin Blossoms. Other than that, I think they’re probably just busy hot oiling their hair, wearing round sunglasses, and cashing in on all their Friends royalties.

Syndication, baby! Ca-Ching! $$

Syndication, baby! Ca-Ching! $$

Incidentally, that episode also guest-starred Jennifer Grey as Barry’s fiance, Mindy. Obviously I needed a little refresher on what Baby was up to as well.

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Well, apparently that nose job wasn’t so “career ending” after all because home girl won Dancing with the Stars in 2010 and is now starring in lifetime movies! Holla!

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Take that, haters!

All of this got me thinking back to some other forgotten has-beens celebrities from my past.. like:

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Canadian ladies of my vintage will undoubtedly remember the hot mess of seashell necklaces, spiky hair and sub-par vocals that was B4-4.

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The band, which consisted of Toronto twins Ryan and Dan Kowarsky and their friend Ohad Einbinder,  hit it big in 2000 with their single “Get Down”:

WARNING: This video contains scenes some viewers might find disturbing. Like Orange and yellow parachute pants.. and Mank Tops.

I never heard much of them after this, but Wikipedia tells me that they went on to become a giant hit in Germany.

David Hasselhoff and B4-4? Germany, I may never understand you.

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They also used their fledgling celebrity status for a good cause by promoting an anti- frosted tips Smoking Campaign for the European Union alongside Moby.

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The band broke up shortly thereafter, and Ryan and Dan decided to branch out on their own and form the inventively named pop/opera duo “RyanDan” .

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I just can’t even.

According to the RyanDan website, they are releasing a new album soon. Get ready ladies!!

And as for Also-ran (I mean, Ohad Einbinder), apparently he works in music production now and developed a pair of headphones that transform into a boombox. Watch out for the film adaptation in 2014 starring Shia Labeouf.

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Natalie Imbruglia

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The Australian sensation had a giant hit here in North America in 1997 with her song “Torn”, which I was legitimately obsessed with back in grade 6.

I made an entire mixtape of it just this song, and listened to it so much that my mom and dad tried to impose a two-times-a-day limit. I also got my hair cut just like hers; failing to consider that the effect might be slightly different on a prepubescent, mildly overweight 12-year-old than on an Australian pop star.

Once I had my haircut, I would put on my matching grey hoodie and Chinese print tee, set my mixtape to “play” and lip sync in front of the mirror for hours. I had all the moves from the video down pat.. which mostly involved flailing my arms around and looking distressed.

This was not a proud time in my life.

So what has she been up to since? Well, apparently she was a judge on Australian X-factor and was married to Daniel Johns from Silverchair, but is now divorced. Currently, she is an  unsigned artist.

I also stumbled across her Instagram the other day, which didn’t tell me much, except that she has long hair now, and really likes Koala Krisp:

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Damn, that b*tch looks good in anything. Off to buy my own box of cereal and mimic this pose.

Question of the Day: Any forgotten celebs you’re wondering about?

(I’ll save you the 30 seconds and Google them for you)