Friday, May 29, 2009

One more post before bed

You start off on land and then splash into the glacial lagoon for a tour.

Iceberg with the Jokulsarlon glacier in the background.


This seal paced me as I walked along the shore.

The Blue Lagoon. Geothermally heated. Wonderfully relaxing.

Pics! From Iceland! With eclamation points!

Gulfoss Waterfall.

Pingvellir - where Europe and North America meet. Traditional meeting place for all the Icelanders.

Skogarfoss waterfall.

Iceland has it's own breed of horses.

Geyser fun.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Tip of the Iceberg (as it were)

Needed a break from organizing my photos. Here are a few from my first day in Reykjavik:

Back with a blast!

This is why I keep a cheap point and shoot Nikon in my camera bag - for shaky videos of cool things I see.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Holy Crap, I'm Going to Iceland Today!!!!!!

And it looks like my sister and father solved the plush toy dilemma for me. I'll be taking along a plus loon with the intention of making another book for my niece. Now I just need to narrow down the list of books I plan to lug along.

I finally figured out why some artists weren't showing up as artists on my ipod. It was really starting to annoy me. For some reason, if an album is checked off as a compilation, the individual artists don't show on the artist list. Now I can find Luther Wright and the Wrongs' Rebuild the Wall with minimal effort. If you haven't listened to that album, you must. It's a bluegrass version of Pink Floyd's The Wall done by a bunch of Canucks and it is even cooler and stranger than it sounds.

Well, there is still much prep and packing to do, so I shall leave it at that for now.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Canuck Book 13 - The Poor Bastard by Joe Matt

I finished last year's challenge with a graphic novel and I'm doing the same this year.

Joe Matt's The Poor Bastard is a compilation of the earliest of his Peepshow comic books. The story follows Matt while he hangs out with friends, falls in and out of lust with a number of women, collects old viewfinder reels and spends an inordinate amount of time. . . uh. . . enjoying his own company, shall we say. Yup he's poor ( or maybe just really cheap) and yup he's a bit of a bastard. He's also quite funny.

The story starts with him finally deep-sixing his relationship with his girlfriend. Of course, the grass isn't always greener on the other side as Matt has a hard time finding another woman that meets his exacting standards. From freckles to thick calves, Matt finds a way to be turned off by any number of women. The fact that a balding, cheap, comic loving misanthrope might not be most women's concept of a catch doesn't register at all.

Overall, the book is a lot of fun. While Matt is definitely not a loveable character, he is fun and interesting in a watching a train wreck sort of way.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Canuck Book 12 - Overqualified by Joey Comeau

This is the second truly nontraditional novel I've read for the challenge. Where Important Artifacts. . . by Leanne Shapton was a novel in the form of an auction catalogue, Overqualifed is an epistolary novel with a twist - all the letters are cover letters where the narrator (named, oddly enough, Joey Comeau) seeks employment for a variety of jobs.

This book was a little slow to grow on me. At first, it seemed like little more than a clever stunt - preposterous cover letters written by someone who seems more interested in unloading than impressing. I didn't really see where it was going. Slowly, though, the narrative slipped through and I really started to like it.

The story is actually a lot darker than one would expect - there is far more loss and longing than there are laughs (though there are laughs, as well). And unlike the Shapton book, this is a book I would have liked to see go a little longer.

The bees disease

More fun news on how big business agriculture is killing bees.

If you haven't already, you really should go out and read Rowan Jacobson's Fruitless Fall. Not only will you learn a lot about these incredible creatures, you will also begin to realize why the disappearance of bees is a very bad thing for anyone who enjoys food. It had me wishing I could keep some bees of my own. Alas, the owners of my apartment building were not so enthusiastic. . .

In other news, I'm 2 days from Iceland. I'd do backflips but I've never really been good at doing anything more than 1/2 backflips (which, much like doing 1/2 eskimo rolls in kayaks, are just not that much fun).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

3 Things I've Been Mulling Over Lately. . .

I must swear off American news on both the tv and the net. I really must.

1. Gay marriage - with all the horrible things happening in the world, it amazes me how much energy people are willing to waste on keeping one group of consenting adults from doing the same thing that other consenting adults are allowed to do.

2. Banning gay soldiers or preventing female soldiers from engaging in combat roles - or all animals are created equal but some animals are more equal than others. The Canadian army has allowed both to serve in all functions of the military for years and the world hasn't stopped turning nor has the sky fallen.

3. The ads on American television trying to scare Americans away from universal health care by telling them how 'broken' our system is - I had illnesses growing up - appendectomy, tonsilectomy, some broken bones, etc. For the most part, though, I made it into my late 20's in fairly good health.

Then I had a minor stroke which was caused by a large aneurysm. I had a number of MRIs and other scans. I had brain surgery. Then I returned to work and normal life.

Last spring, I changed companies. For 90 days, I was without benefits. Halfway into the 90 days, I had a series of major seizures. More hospital time, more tests, more doctors and even a couple of unwelcome diagnoses. At the end of it, I left the hospital and returned to work.

Being without benefits hurt. I spent three weeks without an income and no drug plan to pay for the pills I'd been prescribed. That's as close as I've ever come to what life must be like for those south of the border who have no coverage and it was pretty bad. I couldn't imagine what I would have done if I had come out with a hospital bill as well.

The Canadian system is not perfect. I'm sure pretty much every Canadian would agree with me on that. I'm also sure the majority of them would agree that it's still better than the for profit system they have south of the border. The last thing a person should have to worry about when they fall ill is how can they afford to get better. This is the 21'st century, after all. I'd like to think we've made progress for all, not just for the rich.

Canuck Book 11 - Girls Fall Down by Maggie Helwig

Well, this was an odd one. I bounced back and forth between liking the story and thinking it might be a little too contrived, too writerly. In the end, the story won out. It's a strange dark tale with a narrative that can be disorienting at times but I wound up liking it a lot.

A photographer who is going blind. An old flame with a very sick brother. A city succumbing to fear and panic. This is not exactly an uplifting tale.

It is, however, an interesting portrait of a Toronto both familiar and alien. A city of sad souls and faded dreams, fractured surfaces and subterranean realities. Definitely a worthwhile read.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Canuck Book 10 - Not Yet by Wayson Choy

Hello out there. Remember me? I haven't slipped off the edge of the world just yet. I've just been busy with one thing or another.

Anyways, I've finished my 10'th Canuck book. Wayson Choy is a writer I've been meaning to read for a long time. The Jade Peony still collects dust on my bookshelves. For one reason or another I haven't gotten around to it. While that book is not yet in the on deck circle, I will be reading it soon.

I first read an extract from Not Yet a little while ago. While the material - Choy's two brushes with death in less than 5 years and his thoughts on family and mortality - is not exactly cheerful, I was struck by both his candour and grace. I knew I had to go out and get the book.

My first impressions were not wrong. This book quickly became THE book I was reading, bumping aside a couple of others I'd been working my way through. On subways and buses, in restaurants and in bed, this book captured me. This book is a memoir done right by a natural storyteller. Even in the darkest moments, Choy does not wallow or indulge in self-pity and that makes a big difference. It's a book I was sad to finish.