Saturday, December 29, 2007

GnR vs. Miles Davis

Hello Blogosphere,

How're things? I know. It's been a while. I've been busy and, when I haven't been busy, I haven't had much to say. Lots of half-baked ideas that never get cooked because the oven seems to be on the fritz.

Anyways, it's a grey Saturday morning and I'm listening to Davis' Kind of Blue for the first time in a year, year and a half. I keep forgetting what a great album it is. I go in spurts with my jazz listening so it was not until last night that I finally put some choice albums on my ipod - Kind of Blue, Nefertiti, Coltrane's Blue Train and My Favourite Things, Mingus Ah Um, Brubeck's Time Out - the greatest hits, as it were. That, and a little more Shostakovich, and I do believe my ipod is ready for tomorrow's run to Sarnia (train trips go better with good music).

The last time I really listened to Kind of Blue, I was in Sarnia. I was hanging out with a friend on his roof-top back patio. There was this watery quality to the light, as if fall had finally sapped most of the sun's strength and all that was left was this pale white disc. We hung out and talked - nothing important - but it was just a cool afternoon. Sometimes the music really does make the scene, I guess, and that's what I'm thinking of right now while Miles does his thing.

But let's get to the really important question. What have I been reading? I know. You're dying to know. Anyways, I've gone for the guilty pleasure. I've tried to be good. I'm still working on the Canadian book project. Heck, I even picked up Augustine's Confessions yesterday. But what has taken up my precious reading time lately is Slash's autobiography.

I am a mostly unrepentant Guns N Roses fan. I love their stuff. Now, I don't get weird about - I have no compulsion to mimic Axl's cornrows or wander around with a bandanna hanging out of my back pocket - I just go through phases where I spend a lot of time listening to Appetite for Destruction or Use Your Illusions. Then I put it away. So, while I tried to resist, a Slash autobiography quickly became part of my reading list.

So far, it's been fun. It's definitely not great literature. It definitely will not get put up on my bookshelf beside Nabokov's Speak, Memory or Jim Harrison's Off to the Side, but that's fine. We all need a little trash now and again. For some, it might be the occasional Harlequin. For others, a Mack Bolan. I'd recommend against the Da Vinci Code as a guilty pleasure (I still feel dirty for having read such a dreadful book) but it's too late for that. For me, it's a ghost written biography of a hard rock guitarist.

Well, I must be off. I'm celebrating New Year's for the first time in a decade and I really don't have a thing to wear. And I'm too old for togas. Besides, it's (probably) not that sort of party.

So long for now.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Canadian Book Challenge Eh? Take One

I've finished my first book in the Canadian Book Challenge (Eh?) and it was quite the beginning. Corey Redekop's Shelf Monkey is a book for book obsessives, an in-joke that does not fall flat. In fact, there are enough twists and turns to satisfy even the less obsessive book lover.

It's hard to objectively deal with a novel like this because I am the target audience, a book obsessive in good standing. I rarely go anywhere without a book. I prefer commuting by transit because I never got good at reading while driving. The mental map I have of the city I live in is laid out not in terms of neighbourhoods, but in terms of where the bookstores are. So liking a novel like this is almost a forgone conclusion.

That said, I do not feel the need to be objective. How often do we book lovers get a novel written about us? How often do we get to see our quirks and obsessions in print? Not that it really goes a long way to making me feel more normal. I mean, finding out you are not the only inmate at the asylum does not mean they made a mistake by committing you. But that's okay, because the library is good and I have good company.

Next up, I'm going to finish up Dry Lips Oughta Move To Kapuskasing. Then it's either on to Farley Mowat or, more likely right now, Phyllis Brett Young's The Torontonians. I'm intrigued by the notion of an international bestseller about Toronto that was written in the very late fifties.

Toronto? International? 1950s? It seems so improbable now. The impression we normally get is that 1950s Toronto was a kind of. . . I guess I can't say dark ages, considering the fact that everything was supposedly so white. We are taught that Toronto was originally some boring, uptight town where the week's excitement consisted of going to church on Sunday. (Come to think of it, lots of people still have that impression today, minus the church going part.) We are taught to believe that nothing happened in Toronto until at some magic point in the late 60's/early 70's a switch was thrown and Toronto suddenly became the cosmopolitan, multicultural hub we like to think it is today.

So, The Torontonians has squeezed its way onto my ever-growing CanCon reading list. At some point, I'm also going to have to get around to reading Andrew Daley's Tell Your Sister. I bought it from the author that the last Small Press Book Fair and I just haven't got around to cracking it open yet.

Anyways, the morning is slipping away and I really should finish my Christmas shopping before I head into work.

So long for now.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Something we all should read,,2223780,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=10

It's Doris Lessing's Nobel Prize acceptance speech. Anyone who loves reading should take the time to read this.

I'm impressed. . .

As is usual when I take up something new, I've been somewhat compulsively going through the links of other participants in the Canadian Book Challenge, checking out what they are reading and how they are tackling the challenge.

What has surprised me is how many Americans there are taking up the challenge. It's impressive and probably more surprising than it should be.

That is the cool thing about this whole interweb thingamabob - it really can connect people. Just look at this challenge - it was started by someone from Iqaluit but has participants from all over the continent.

Anyways, my immediate game plan is this - I'm reading Corey Redekop's Shelf Monkey right now. I'm also reading Tomson Highway's Dry Lips Oughta Move To Kapuskasing. I've been meaning to read that play for years.

Next up will probably be Farley Mowat's Lost in the Barrens. I read it as a child and it stuck with me all these years. This challenge is giving me an excuse to revisit a part of my childhood and I cannot pass that up.

Other options - re-reading Hugh MacLennan's The Watch That Ends The Night
- Richler's St. Urbain's Horseman (or maybe just re-reading Barney's Version)
- Sean Dixon's The Girls Who Saw Everything
- Noah Richler's This is my country, what's yours? (a CanCon book about CanCon books would definitely qualify)

(And then maybe I'll tackle something that isn't tied to Montreal)

If anyone is actually reading this and also happens to be looking for a good Canadian book to read, pick up Alayna Munce's When I Was Young and In My Prime.

Well, it's late. The sidewalks are gradually becoming skating rinks outside and inside I can't muster the energy to brew a pot of tea. So it's time for bed, I guess.

So long world.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Canadian Book Challenge Eh?

I've decided to take up the Canadian book challenge. The goal is to read 13 Canadian books by July 1, 2008. You can find out more here -

I wish I had found this earlier as I've been on a bit of a CanCon kick lately. In the past couple of months, I've read Ray Robertson's What Happened Later, Heather O'Neill's Lullabies for Little Criminals and, most recently, Elizabeth Hay's excellent Giller Prize winner Late Nights On Air.

While I would love to add them retroactively, I won't. That means my first one will be Corey Redekop's Shelf Monkey. I figure I will go for variety here. I'll take the chance to read an old favourite or two (like Earle Birney's Turvey or Michael Winter's This All Happened), maybe a play (Tomson Highway's Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing) and some poetry (Purdy or Acorn). I'm not sure if I'll get around to doing the white stripes thing (a book from each province and territory) but I'll try.

I'm off now to do some more Christmas shopping. Joy.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Thing that make you go hmmm. . .

I actually noticed this on Wednesday when I made a trip to MEC. I was looking for a small daypack but I also figured I'd pick up another Nalgene bottle. Surprise, surprise. They were nowhere to be found.

I had an idea of why. There had been rumblings for quite a while that the plastic in the bottles was not entirely safe. Thankfully, they offered a replacement product that is working out pretty well - a stainless steel water bottle.

So far, it's working pretty well. I think I will go back soon and pick up a couple more and swear off the plastic ones at least until there are some conclusive findings.

In other news, it's Friday and I have decided to take the whole weekend off. Usually, I work an extra shift or two on Sundays. This weekend, I'll spend my Sunday catching up on my cleaning. Tomorrow, I'm thinking of going to see Lars and the Real Girl. I like quirky indie fare.

So long for now. . .

Thursday, December 06, 2007

One other thing. . .

If you want to see what life is like with a person with severe disabilities, check out the following report:

He really hits the nail on the head, outlining the sorrow, worry and joy that comes with living with a person with disabilities.

The part about the 'clicking' really struck me. It's amazing how you learn to communicate with people who cannot communicate normally. My foster brother was never able to speak. When you spent enough time with him, though, you realized that, while words would have been nice, they were never essential to the conversation.

Conflicted. . .

Today, Robert Latimer was denied day parole and I really do not know what to make of it. While I was initially in favour of him going to jail when he was convicted, I am not so sure anything is gained by him being there now.

You see, I understand his position. While I do not agree with it, I can understand the reasoning behind what he did. He was faced with a horrible choice - the choice between ending a life or maintaining a life that is hardly a life at all. It's a heartbreaking, horrible decision to have to make. Anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves.

I have worked with and been around people who are not very different from his daughter. People who are alive mainly because of the wonders of modern medicine, but wind up suffering the profound silence of the profoundly disabled. Lives of pain that can only be guessed at and feelings that can only be divined through close attention and hope. You find yourself looking for the smallest gesture, the faintest expression, grasping for a connection that you have to believe is there.

But 'there' is a hard place to pinpoint when dealing with such severe disabilities. And at times, you have to have doubts. You have to wonder sometimes if you are doing the best thing for these people by continuing the struggle.

For me, the answer is always yes. Why? Because there are breakthroughs, however fleeting. Because a hard won smile or even a glance is worth so much effort and struggle. Because these are people whose lives are far from normal but who are people nonetheless.

I believe that, mercy or not, Robert Latimer committed an act of murder. I am glad that he was convicted and punished for what he did. Mercy can only cover so much, especially when dealing with crimes against those who are without a voice. What has me conflicted is the punishment. What are we gaining by keeping him in jail? Do we really believe we are protecting the public by keeping him behind bars? How do we justify keeping him behind bars for as long or longer than people who have murdered for profit or out of anger.

Today, the parole board said he could not be granted parole because he has not exhibited remorse. Like it was that simple. Like it was all some movie where truths come in black or white and never gray. This strikes me as horribly wrong and overly simplistic. I mean, if it was always about remorse, people like Karla Homolka would never see the light of day.

Me? I have no doubt that this act, however wrong, was an act of love, an attempt to alleviate pain and suffering. I have to believe that. As such, I believe we need to treat this case differently than other crimes, mandatory minimums or not.