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The Cellar Boy Returns In Time for Rosh Hashanah

The title of this post is especially ridiculous because I’m not Jewish and I don’t celebrate any of the holidays or observe any of Judaism. The reason I bring it up is because I spent this evening at my dad’s friends’ house, where Rosh Hashanah happened to be going on – the Jewish new year. I find it funny how I just stumble into these things by chance and am happily accepted. Like the Chinese new year a little while ago at my friend’s house. Chinese? No. Part of the family? No. Guest? Yes!  Anyway, I’d heard of Hanukkah and Passover, but never of this one; I wasn’t entirely sure what it was going in, so I tried to look like I knew how to conduct myself. Luckily for me, the family aren’t exactly orthodox. Basically, I observed all the general rules of propriety, such as don’t double dip in the honey bowl and only take an apple slice when you’re signaled to do so, not before it’s served and while everyone’s still talking. I think I did fairly well. The family consists of Dr. Jen and her wife, who is a writer originally from South Africa, and is possibly the nicest person in the universe. Correction, they both are. They had an ensemble of interesting characters over for dinner, who I kind of delighted in listening to. I couldn’t do them justice here, but it was a bit like a scene from an indie comedy, if you can picture it better now. My dad and I, I realized as I sat there, are incredibly similar. We even sit the same way, with our arms resting on the table, and when either of us was addressed we’d look at the other for help. At one point, the man across from us (in his forties, with a shaved head and a long nose, a vest and tie) said, addressing my dad, “So what kind of music do you make?” (At this point it had been established that both my dad and I were musicians.) At his question, my dad looked at me. I said, after a moment, “Well, you make it, not me.” It went on like that pretty much all night.

The kids (there were four of them, including my little sister) were missing for pretty much all of dinner and dessert, playing outside and upstairs while the adults (and me – I’m an adult. Weird, isn’t it?) sat at the table and talked. Initially it was apparently thought that I was a lot younger than I am. There were two kids my age there, an outgoing, round girl with glasses who let us know in an ironic way that she was allergic to pretty much everything, and her boyfriend, an obnoxious fellow with big arms and a silver watch whose comments were outrageous and rude, who everyone took like he was just talking about the weather. Oddly, perhaps only due to everyone else’s treatment of him, I was all right with what he said. Within the family circle it seemed accepted. He made fun of his mom’s dreadlocks (she sat across from me, a small French woman with glasses), and he made fun of who I assume was his sister, a girl a few years younger than me who sat to my side, wrapped up in a big grey sweater.

Dr. Jen’s wife, the writer (a tall, thin brown-skinned woman with long hair), told us a story about how she’d watched the interview of a serial killer and how fascinating she found it. It would’ve been weird if she wasn’t so clearly nice. I was mostly quiet, but I liked it that way. I was happy to listen to the conversation (and form opinions on the people. It was also kind of entertaining to try and infer their relationships to each other). There were no formal introductions, and so my brain organized them by either their features or their personalities. I’m not sure I could translate that into English; it’s just the feel you get from people. I found it interesting, anyway.

The food was good, dessert especially. It was an interesting mix of things – honey and apple for the beginning (and the breaking of the bread), followed by dahl and lentils for the main course, red and yellow beets in sweet vinegar sauce (that’s a very French Canadian thing too, by the way), with some vegetables, two salads, and then a peach upside-down cake with brownies and ice cream. There was no running theme through the whole meal, which I liked. I figured it was the Jewish, South African, and French influences of those involved at the gathering that had gone into what we were eating, rather than any particularly orthodox Jewish tradition. (My dad brought bagels from Kettleman’s for the occasion. Very Anglo-European-Canadian of us).  Besides the honey and apple and the bread, of course. Dr. Jen said some prayers or chants in Hebrew before we ate at the beginning, and my grandpa described what that was like best: it was like singing happy birthday while you bring out the cake. We don’t do it because we’re supposed to, we do it because we always have and we like to. That’s the sense I got from Dr. Jen as she spoke – it wasn’t overly serious, it was more of a comfort thing, though we all went quiet and listened. Her son Motsumi was impatient to get to the honey and apple but he also seemed intent to make sure the ritual was done, and he wanted to be a part of it. He touched the bread as his mom spoke, and he also inquired about if they would hide presents like in Passover. Once hearing that they wouldn’t, he promptly disappeared to play with the other kids. I thought for sure they would show up at some point for the food but I guess playing took precedent – weird. When I was that age it was food first, play later. Also I ate like a garbage disposal service, but you know. (I’m happy to announce it never made me unhealthy, or even that chubby. Notice how I say “that”. All that method of eating really made me feel was bloated, to tell the truth. And then I grew out of it. Sort of).

It was nice and I’m glad I got to go. I’m glad it wasn’t too formal, or too orthodox for that matter, because I’m not sure how ultra-orthodox Jews feel about atheist transgender people being at their holidays. There’s a world of difference between ultra-orthodoxy and a lax practicing of a religion. I like the lax people the best. The extreme ones make me feel a bit nervous to be quite honest.


 

So that’s Rosh Hashanah. Now should I talk about why I’ve been gone for so long, or why my last post was a negative evaluation of the pointlessness of getting pictures of Pluto? Well, as for the first thing, basically I’ve been gone for three reasons, only one of which is really viable. The first is that I’ve been lazy. The second is that I sort of lost my password. And the third is because I’ve been hellishly, unbelievably busy.

The biggest thing going on right now is that I’m back at school – not only back, but back full-time. This is for the first time in five years. The last time I was going regularly was grade eight – now I’m in the imaginary grade thirteen. I should’ve graduated last June, but you know… going part-time, and then not at all, and then part-time again leaves you a bit behind.

Now I get to wake up at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m and lug my exhausted, unresponsive body out of the house, down a hill, up a hill, into a bus – then keep myself from falling over for half an hour as I hold the bar next to my face, while crushed against other morning commuters – then I stumble out of the bus, and down twenty blocks to my school, by which time I’ll hopefully be awake. Then I fall into a chair and sort of learn for a few hours. Then I take the bus back, and by the time I’m home, I’m ready to curl into a tiny, comforting ball under something, preferably a mound of blankets, and hide. While sleeping. A nice hide-sleep. Unfortunately, I have to stay awake until a little later, or I’ll pop awake at three in the morning like that one time. That one time that didn’t go so well. It’s a tough thing, going from half-days at school (and a whole summer of sleeping in) to getting up when dawn has just broken, and being expected to stay awake for the next sixteen or seventeen hours, most of which are spent needing to focus, of all things. On schoolwork. Of all the fucking things.

It’s a lot. But it turns out I’m doing it – so far. I’ll check back with you in another two months. If I’m not a harried, shivering little ball clutching onto a Macbeth essay sheet covered in drool and scratch marks by then, consider this whole thing a roaring success.

There are more things to say, of course. I have months and months to fill in here – but I did get a lot of that down, just not here on this blog. I keep a journal so all the inane day-to-day things, or some of them anyway, are recorded. In a hundred years, when someone wants to know what the life of an average Canadian transgender autistic musician writer was like, they can check that journal, and they’ll know. However I doubt anyone’d be interested. Fuck usually I’m not even interested, and I’m the one living this shit.

Til next time. And it won’t be that long this time, I hope.

– Brynn

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Fantasy Favourites Read-a-thon: Day 1 Thingies

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Hello and welcome back to the Cellar Boy Read-a-thon Television Show – imagine me standing in front of a board in a blazer with a bowtie, pointing to different pictures and paragraphs while talking in a contrived 1920s radio broadcaster voice. I’ve been asked to take some photographs, which I did, using my fancy pictographmaphone, and this is what I present to you. A warning: my bedroom was recently the site of a hurricane, and I’m only just cleaning things up. Or maybe I’m just messy. But maybe there really was a hurricane.

1. My bookshelf

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As you can see, an assortment of fantasy/sci-fi/anime/steampunky literature. I have another smaller bookshelf, but this is the “serious” one, where all my favorite series are stored. You’ll notice I’ve got most of the Fullmetal Alchemist books (I think I’m missing the very last, and one in between); I have the super fancy special editions of Kenneth Oppel’s “Matt Cruse” series (which I won in a contest! Take that, eleven-year-olds!). Down below my blanket tent where I curl up on cold winter nights is my record player; currently spinning, “Policy” by Will Butler.

3. Where you will be reading this week (I don’t have a TBR pile, sorry! Just one book to be read, which sits sadly on its own on my dresser.)

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This is my bed which is obviously well-made and everything. Practically Buckingham Palace. I have a Doctor Who Van Gogh-exploding-TARDIS poster, next to my Bioshock Infinite one I got at a Comiccon. I’ve had that comforter for ten years or more – it’s Harry Potter, and I won’t let anyone get rid of it. You’ll perhaps notice the corners of the books I’m currently reading on my pillow there.

4. My blogging space

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Here you can really see where the hurricane came through; looks like it left a pop can and a tupperware thing behind, as well as a toilet paper roll. Huh. Only now do I realize that there’s a weird amount of pink surrounding me – what with the dustbin and the peach-colored walls. So, I spend an incredible amount of time sitting on that chair, and I’m sitting there right now, too. I blog, I write stories, I watch lame Youtube videos, and so on, and so on. It’s a living, I suppose.

5. My favorite fantasy book

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It was a close call between “Pawn of Prophecy”, “The Knife of Never Letting Go”, and this, but Kenneth Oppel’s terrifyingly great retelling of Frankenstein won out by a nose in the end. Whether “This Dark Endeavour” is fantasy, dark fiction, adventure, or gothic horror, I’m not sure – I think it could qualify as all of the above. The reason I gave the title of my favorite fantasy book to this one is that I’ve just never had so much fun reading a book before I read this one. I finished it in a whirlwind of several hours on Christmas Day a few years ago, never moving once until I’d gobbled up all of its pages. It left me shivering with the powerful nirvana that comes with reading something that matches up perfectly to your taste, and that you can enjoy with complete thoroughness. I feel like I’ve outgrown it a bit since then, but I’m sure I’ll come back to it again.

6. A book in my bookshelf that includes: aliens, magic, dragons, mythology or is steampunk

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The books you can see here, from left to right: “Such Wicked Intent” by Kenneth Oppel, which is dark fiction and pretty magicky (you could also make a steampunk argument); “The Last Man On Earth”, an anthology of sci-fi short fiction which includes some pretty great stuff; “Airborn”, “Skybreaker”, and “Starclimber”, all by Kenneth Oppel, which are steampunk to the core, complete with blimps and goggles and other weird flying machines; and lastly, you can sort of see Christopher Paolini’s “Eldest”, the sequel to “Eragon”, which I tried valiantly to finish but couldn’t – that one is, of course, full of dragons.

7. Sorry, I already have an order going, and I’m too Asperger’s to mess it up. 😛

8. My reading material for this week

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I plan to read Janet Mock’s autobiography this week.

That’s all for today – there are more prompts, but I want to get this one out before midnight if possible (it’s only eleven now, but I don’t want to push it.) Thanks for taking a look, again! Good luck to everybody else. I will go and take a look at other blog posts right away (I’ve been neglecting my duties.)

~ Brynn

 

 


Cellarboy Presents: Fantasy Favorites Read-a-thon Introduction

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Hey blog readers and wanderers of the internet – been a long time since I’ve acknowledged the existence of my blog, hasn’t it? I really apologise for the long hiatus. However, here I am now coming back in style – I thought I’d participate in this read-a-thon thing because I was invited and what the hell. I read books, I like books. After this at some point I’ll probably throw the usual kind of post at you – you know, the kind where I soliloquize for a long time about my various problems and occasionally make fun of myself. I’m just itching to make fun of myself for being in a fantasy favourites read-a-thon, but I don’t want to offend the people who invited me, because they seem pretty cool.

Okay, so they gave me prompts. Sit still while I throw them in your general direction.

1. Introducing myself

Dressed in polar bear fur and wearing snowshoes I wander the icy wastes of Canada waiting for spring to appear, even as we creep ever closer to April and the weather remains frigid and horrible. I have miraculously made it through seventeen years in this cold and merciless land – with the help of novels I cling to the notion that there are warmer places than here. I’m a boy but not the manliest you’ll ever meet, though my thin, barely-existent sideburns help me prove it to the non-believers; I speak French with hesitant fluency and write a lot of stories.

2. Why did you choose to join the read-a-thon?

I figured it would be fun; a light-hearted sort of thing to get my head out of the gloom of winter and into the hopeful brightness of the spring.

3. What books do you intend to read? What’s your reading goal and how many pages do you actually think you can manage?

I read exactly one book for the read-a-thon – “Un Lun Dun” by China Mieville.

4. What is your current favourite fantasy read?

“The Belgariad” and “The Mallorean” by David Eddings are still probably my favorite high fantasy series. They’re ten books, split into five for each series and following the same set of characters; the dry humor and endlessly sarcastic characters, as well as the clear intelligence of the author, are what sets it apart from other series that I’ve read. No it’s not exactly literature, but I’ve rarely enjoyed anything quite so much. On top of that, “Pawn of Prophecy” was the first novel I ever read, when I was eight, and so it really stuck with me.

5. What is your LEAST favorite fantasy read of all time?

“Eragon” by Christopher Paolini was the only bad fantasy story I actually managed to finish. His age when he wrote it isn’t an excuse – it’s truly a pile of unoriginal, uninspired rubbish.

6. Which fantasy books are you dying to read?

I want to give Jean M. Auel’s “Earth Children” series a try. It looks nice and long, something I could potentially get into for a while. I haven’t read a real time-consuming series since “The Dark Tower”, and I’m missing the feeling of adventuring with characters for a really long time. I don’t know if she’s any good or not, but I like the idea of prehistory and all. Sounds like an interesting take on fantasy to me.

7. What fantasy book would you like to star in?

There are too many to name, but I think anything by Jonathan Stroud would be in the lead. Why wouldn’t I want to live in a world where everyone talks in hilarious, sarcastic one-liners?

8. Suggest three books for other read-a-thon participants.

“Airborn” by Kenneth Oppel, which is a steampunkish adventure with excellent dialogue and characters, as well as beautiful action; “The Gunslinger” by Stephen King, the first of the “Dark Tower” series, which is an interesting and surreal fantasy sci-fi western; and “Wildwood” by The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy, which is a great book to read to your kids and isn’t bad for adults, either.

9. If you could choose any fantasy book character to be chained to during the read-a-thon, whom would you pick and why?

Go ahead and chain Todd from “Chaos Walking” to me – I think we’d get along pretty well. He’s a cool guy.

10. I would tag someone, but I don’t know any other bloggers. Sorry about that.

Well, that’s that, my introductory post. More to come, I hope, and thanks for stopping by.

~ Brynn