Stuck without a gift? Here is something worth looking into…

The gift that gives twice: charity donations!

2 hens and a rooster a hot gift? Charities enjoy upswing in downturn

Many cash-crunched Canadians are tucking charity pledge cards in stockings this year, with some organizations reporting significant increases despite the economic downturn.

Donations to Yuleanthropy, a charity which funds social programs in Kenya, have doubled this year, according to spokesman Ted Grant.

“I’m really delighted and heartened by the response that we are getting from people,” he said.

Similarly, World Vision Canada also reports its Gift Catalogue — in which consumers can give gifts of livestock, medicine, and school supplies to people in developing countries — is proving to be immensely popular.

“You can buy two hens and a rooster for $55,” said spokesman Dirk Booy. “Although Canadians are tightening their belt right now, they’re not tightwads.”

CBC Toronto’s Sounds of the Season fundraising event for the Daily Bread Food Bank has exceeded previous targets, this year raising $250,000 and about 3,855 kg of food. Last year the event raised $140,000 and 3,175 kg of non-perishable items.

Read the rest of this post here.

The oddity of intelligence: Another Heather Mallick gem

I can feel the excited, giggly fan-girl within me when I type titles such as the one I graced this post with, coming out of the little room I have sequestered it in. It happens, every once in awhile, that something makes her come out with a vengeance – especially when I read something like the latest Viewpoint from Heather Mallick.

David Sedaris and the weirdness of everyday life

Posted on on December 19th 2008

(…) It has come to this. I will pay 50 bucks to sit in a chair for 90 minutes and see a small man in a pool of light on a distant stage talk intelligently about the weirdness of daily life.

I enjoy this; it also causes me pain that intelligent people are now oddities, like bearded ladies in travelling carnivals.

Simultaneous pain and pleasure is what distinguishes a Sedaris audience. I have never before had the sensation of being in a hall where everyone shared my sensibility, that I could be friends with all of them. (…)

After Sedaris read The Santaland Diaries on National Public Radio, people said what they always say about Sedaris — “I just heard that thing again and it still cracks me up” — and now he is a writer and big breadwinner who lives anywhere but the Carolinas where he grew up.

Sedaris is regularly described as an “irreverent” and “wicked” master of observational humour. He is not. In his six books, he simply investigates strangeness and it quickly becomes clear that everyone is strange. (…)

Sedaris quoted Saunders to the audience. “Humour is what happens when we’re told the truth quicker and more directly than we’re used to. The comic is the truth stripped of the habitual, the cushioning, the easy consolation.”

Shut out by the mainstream, good writers like him have snuck in the side door. It is now a Sedaris-welcoming world.

This is a fine thing. The cultural megaphone that Saunders refers to in the title of his latest book is no longer held solely by who he calls the brain-dead but by smart people, young-ish writers and performers.

I try hard to convince writing students that it’s better to use the megaphone truthfully, the way writers like Sedaris do. For one thing, it’s funnier. It worries me that they seem unconvinced.

Why do I like her articles, even if I don’t always agree with her opinion or her choice of words? Because they are well thought out and intelligently presented without attempting to ‘dumb it down'; this is something, like Heather Mallick herself points out, that is unfortunately on its way to extinction. In an era of celibrity-obsessions and fleeting, superficial pleasures, it’s almost shameful to be intelligent. I sometimes am very tempted to make myself a fake cover of Twilight just to hide the titles of the books I am really reading – what can I say, some of the glares I get in the bus are lethal!

But I do have to agree with Mallick that it’s kind of scary how young people today are more interested in mooning over a fictional character that doesn’t exist (Edward Cullen, anyone?), in reading everything they can about their favorite celibrities, however bad their influence might be and however purely commercial their products are (Briney Spears, anyone?) and yet when it comes to reading ‘serious’ books, they develop a sudden case of literatinitis. I wonder if we’ll ever come up with a cure to that.

Review: The Age of Anxiety

Now I have to admit that lately, I have been reading about books a lot more than I have been reading books. This has led to the creation of a little booklet with a list of titles I must one day purchase and read. I have even come up with a little colour-code depending on how soon I wish to read the book.

The review I am sharing with you today isn’t even mine – I have yet to read the book, but it sounds fascinating enough for me to want to share its review with you all. On the one hand, it would be fun for some of you to already have read it by the time I review it (yes, it’s one of those books) and, on the other hand, if someone has already read it and hated it, I can perhaps be forewarned and not waste time, money and muscles (carrying books him, you know) on a book that isn’t worth it.

From The Oprah Magazine (January 2009 issue), here is a review for The Age of Anxiety: A History of America’s Turbulent Affair with Tranquilizers:

Andrea Tone’s thoughtful, timely, and evenhanded narrative (…) locates the vertiginious rise, fall, and reascension of tranquilizers from Miltown to Xanax inside the complex sociohistorical context of the second half of the 20th century. (…) Most importantly, Tone asks the imperative questions: To what extent have pharmaceutical companies pathologized problems that are simply the normal vagaries of life? In the absence of well-placed ads, how many Americans would identify social anxiety as a disorder requiring pharmacology? Are Xanax and its predecessors serving only to keep us from changing situationally unhappy lives? As one physician said, “It takes 30 seconds to write a prescription for Valium but 30 minutes to explain why a patient shouldn’t have it.” Tone’s study suggest that might be time well spent.

This reads like a real-life, scientific, thoughtful and thought-provoking government conspiracy à la X-files. I can’t wait to get my hands on this book, which might make its way a little higher in the pile of readings I have.

Pile which I should really get back to.

Great news!

Congratulations! As you set off this morning to clean off your cars to get last minute shopping done or perhaps to go to work, remember: not only is it Christmas tomorrow, but the days are now getting longer!

Yes, the Winter Solstice was three days ago, and ever since then, the days have been slowly getting longer. It’s only a matter of time before summer is here again! Yay!

For a more in-depth view on the topic, go here. As for me, I’m going to get out my bathing suit in anticipation of the upcoming summer.