Friday, October 14, 2011

Testing tech

This is a small post from my iPad. It is a test to see if it will let me blog "the go"--which in theory would increase the regularity of my posting. At the very least remove one more excuse.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Living in the not too distant future

As a book lover, and despite my best efforts, the digital format has become a larger item of thought than I would prefer. One should always strive for content in reading, but recently I find myself pondering the medium rather than the message so to speak. In my defense it is the statements of others that prompted this thinking rather than any ruminations of my own.

It all really circles around the mantra/comment of many readers that "they like the feel of a book". It has been repeated so often to me I find myself wondering if this isn't a knee jerk reaction and doesn't express their true thoughts on the matter. As a result, I'm trying to move beyond my own knee jerk reaction.

Yes, I enjoy the pleasure of getting through a thick tome, but otherwise my satisfaction is mostly from the content (as my enjoyment of online essays attest to). The main pleasure of paper books  appears to be not in their reading, but rather their place on my bookshelves. There is something about being surrounded by stacks of books that is comforting to the soul. The book as an item of decor doesn't sit well with me, I don't like the idea of being the book fool of the Ship of Fools.

The one distinct pleasure that digital has offered me--as the portability and storage has not been a selling factor for me (I live near a library and have a backlog of books. I am never wont for reading materials)--is that it feels like something out of Star Trek. Most e-readers look very close to the Pads used by the Federation as they mill about their Spartan quarters. All the data of humankind stored at their fingertips. It is a reassuring thought that the physical world will be less cluttered in the future.

The Star Trek metaphor is a short step from the SF metaphor of Star Trek vs. Star Wars, which I will conclude this simple thought. Star Wars is about what has been lost (the old republic, the Jedi, freedom) whereas Star Trek is about what will gained in a brighter future. If one must choose how the book universe will unfold, I think I will go with Star Trek. A future where one can still find and read the great books of history, although in a different format, is better than losing it.

Now I just need a device to give me more time to read.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Takeaway of the day: Fighting Back

    It is probably not a surprise to people that know me, but the past couple of elections have been rather depressing for me, not only did the outcome not meet my expectations, the election campaigns were sickening to watch. I'm not alone in my electoral sadness, and recently had a friend of mine describe their personal reaction and their attempt to "fight back" through writing. I must confess that my initial reaction was doubt, I'm a bit of an old school thinker when it comes to political change (I share Malcolm Gladwell's doubt of the need to bring "awareness" to an issue) and feel that you have to get your hands dirty to make stuff happen.

    So I left a wonderful party, my friend's words in my mind. After a day of thought, her particular phrase "My way of fighting back" came back to me. It made me wonder how one "fights back" when they are not a millionaire (or walking the corridors of power). So far I have come up with the following:

  1. Living well; I believe Oscar Wilde said that living well is the best revenge
  2. Enjoy what one has and the happiness of other; this weekend was a perfect example of that (Great news RR!!)
  3. Participate where you can; write letters with your questions to your councilor, MPP, or MP. If it is well written, it might give them pause for thought. You never know how a good idea travels. Volunteer because sometimes you just need to be in the room and there is a shortage of people (See here for details)
  4. Get ready for next time; nothing is eternal and things change. Stay informed, do #1-3 when you can

They are hard small steps, but they are steps and are more proactive that sitting around getting angry at opinion pages.

If you are interested in going beyond letter writing, The City of Toronto is looking for feedback on the services they provided (what is a priority and what should be cut/expanded). You can give your feedback through their website. It's easy to do and your voice is heard.

Election number three this fall; Hoping for the best (until I volunteer <smile>).

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Go to the Birds

I realize now that for one that doesn't really have any ornithological skills, I have been to four bird aviaries in the past two years. On top of that, three were in other countries; apparently I'm willing to go out of one's way to see bird sanctuaries. The oddest fact is that I don't think I know any more about birds than I did before touring these places. My identification skills are next to nil and I don't possess any vocabulary to discuss birds--apart from the obvious differences of size, colour, and outlandish beaks. As someone who loves trivia. They are like nosily,  tropical shrines to my ignorance.

That said, I have always liked birds, particularly observing them.. It's like people watching, only they let you take pictures.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Or rather in pursuit of it.

If there is any lesson I feel I should walk away with from this past month is that there is a lot to fill my life when I don't pay attention. I remind myself that writing needs to make it on the daily task list, but somehow that got away from me in March..

It was not unproductive: clutter was dealt with, a hefty book was finally finished (more on that later), people were moved, paperwork was done, and present shopping was partially executed. There is probably more that I don't mind being on the Internet but it elude me right now. That's that; let's move on.

Back to the start, I have been thinking about Eunoia when I sat down to write today. The word means "beautiful thinking" in Greek (not sure if it's ancient or modern) and it has come into my thoughts while worrying about the fracturing of the media sphere (that we are living in a cocoon world where we only hear what will re-enforce what we already believe) and with my perpetual paranoid feelings that I have intellectual blind spots.

I desire Eunoia, a perfect way of thinking that focuses my mind and gives me the tools to venture out boldly rather than passive consuming the product of the day. To be able to see bias, but more importantly see the world as it is. Perhaps elections bring such feelings to the forefront or that I have been doing a droning, driving commute that lacks the people watching of the subway or walking. The desire finds its way into my thoughts often.

Unfortunately, I have not found a clear guide or path to Eunoia. So this return blog post will be a rather rambling it has turned out to be. Well, I back. Room for improvement-- which I suppose is the opposite of Eunoia; not sure if the Greeks had a word for that.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

And the Oscar goes to...

I'm not sure which one of us came up with the idea, but my wife and I have been going through the 2011 Oscar nominated movies. Just before the long weekend we finished the last movie currently available on DVD which brought our total to 6 of the 10 movies nominated. Here's the breakdown:

Inception: I really enjoyed this one, S was a bit more luke warm about it. To me it was pure plot slick. A maze of a movie which captured you as only an intricate, and possibly pointless, machine can. That said, I wish we could get more science fiction movies that were not about virtual reality.
The Kid's are all right: It was a twist on a conventional comedy of a couple at middle age. The twist (lesbians)  gave the plot some novelty and I found myself attached to the characters (well some of them).
Winter's Bone: A very unconventional movie in the sense it follows a thriller from the standpoint of someone pretty detached from the action. The atmosphere was well done (a poverty stricken Ozark community), but the pacing was brutal and a lot of the dialogue was eye rolling. It's beauty gave when to the banal, similar to a walk in the woods, eventually the trees blur together if your course is too long.
The Social Network I really enjoyed the dialogue in this movie, quick and fun (it was written by the West Wing guy; Sorkin), but there were major plot problems for me. The motivation of the main character seemed very contrived (particularly as it is a major distortion of reality, his girlfriend was completely written out). It also feel back a jock vs. nerd dynamic which felt outdated to me. Still, it was enjoyable.
Toy Story 3  A fun movie, but I'm not sure why it got nominated, I mean Toy Story 1 would have made sense as it was something new, but the 3 movie is a children series? Seems odd to me. Still, I enjoyed the movie for what it was; a predictable kids movie with pretty graphic and some winks to the adults in the audience.
True Grit A western, but a well done western. It's a remake and one I prefer to its original. I enjoyed the wordy western dialogue (No "like" or "you go girl" for a hundred years). Similar to some of the other movies about, the plot didn't really throw me for too much of a loop, with dialogue and character carrying the day.

Which one should win? Out of the lot I have seen, I'm leaning towards Inception or The Kids are All Right. Social Network is up there too because despite its many flaws, it was a well made movie (reminded me of Citizen Kane).

We still have four movies to see, which will be difficult as they are only in theatres. Our current plan will allow us to see Black Swan and The King's Speech. So unfortunately the Oscars will happen before we can see The Fighter or 127 Hours. Still, at the end of the day, we got to see 8 well made movies. What more can you really ask for?

Happy viewing.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Reading Challenges Revisited

Steph recently commented that although I tend to avoid formal reading challenges, preferring to focus on positive metrics of my reading instead (i.e. 50% fiction, more Canadian or women author's), I do setup reading challenges that are annoying in their own fashion when not completed. She had two examples handy.

The first, and one that prompted her comment in the first place, was my bedside table. The small ikea fake pine table is buried under a pile of books that I plan to read shortly. Currently, if success, I will read the following if I actually clear the table this year.

  1. Starship Titanic by Terry Jones
  2. Thieves and Kings volume one by Mark Oakely (reread)
  3. Ratios by Michael Ruhlman
  4. The Golden Mean by annybel Lynn
  5. The Anatomy of Keys by Steven Price
  6. Once by Rebecca Rosenblum (reread)
  7. Road Trips by Rebecca Rosenblum (reread)
  8. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel by Susanna Clarke
  9. The Odyssey by Homer
  10. The Promise by Jonathan Alter
  11. Leviathan by Scott Westerfield
  12. Fifteen Days by Christie Blatchford
  13. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
  14. Typhoon by Charles Cumming
  15. Mage the Ascension

Daunting, but would give me much in the way of domestic karma points to read these and return the borrowed one's to their original owner.

My second unintentional reading challenge is my random library acquisitions. I seem to collect library books at an alarming pace as I find myself suddenly under the gun to get a bunch read in a short period of time. As of right now I have the following:

  1. Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod
  2. Rings of Saturn by W G Sebald
  3. It's a Don's Life by Mary Beard
  4. Norweigan Wood by Haruki Murakami
  5. Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
  6. The Story of Art by E H Gromich

I main problem is that I really want to read this books, which is why they are close by, yet I seem to be distracted by other book piles in my home. Although Steph can't do much about the first list, she has threatened to take my library card away (for my own good).

On the upside, there is a lot of good read in these lists. I will update as I get through them. I guess I do conduct reading challenges in my own fashion.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Should famous people be reading my books?

I must confess that I have traditionally been a big fan of Canada Reads. My shelves are lined with the books selected in previous years (most to be read, as is the case with most of my Canadian fiction—I am a horrible patriot), and I have absorbed the podcast radio archives of the biggest Canadian book debate when I'm looking for easy listening. It was corny and light. If one honest you really could just get the reading list and work your way through them without all the drama. Still is scratched that hard to reach Canadian itch.

Today was the first day of the 2011 Canada Reads that was filmed for television. I don't know if this transition was the cause but the show really seems pretty flat so far and the conclusion of the first day of voting was quite disappointing (voting down a graphic novel for some really lame reasons). The panelists are remarkably conservative and didn't hide the fact their minds were already made up prior to appear on television. It doesn't really feel like a serious book discussion with any hope of insight. It felt very rushed. The audience was a bit of a surprise and I'm not convinced that improved the show.

Maybe people are right when they say that more articulate people (in the sense of discussing books) need to be on the show. The cliques were quite thick this time around. I also hate the "kid's don't read". I would argue the old don't read and when they do, it is comfortable reading.

I will wait to see what happens, but I think we are going to end up with a typical older generation Canadian novel this year. No upset. I bit disappointing.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Dealings with Logic

    I had mentioned in my earlier quick post (a bloguick? I qblog?) the cause of my lack of writing stemmed from an urgency to complete the Prince by Machiavelli for my book club (the 250 pages or less club, the only club I have been in to last more than two books). This isn't completely true as anyone familiar with the book will recall it isn't very long. As with all things, there were many tasks that needed to be done this week that can't be tossed aside for the consumption of a book; writing time gave way to the Prince.

    It was a good book club pick and I won't go into what discussion it created over Italian food here. I will pick up on one thread as it ties into the movie I watched afterwards. The Prince is a guidebook of questionable morals for rulers. Peeling back the political analysis and morality of the piece, the writing is an exercise in logic. You almost feel you can hear the Machiavelli's mind gearing up to explain his case, a pride in the many examples carefully researched to support the premises discovered in his years of experience. The argument is laid out for the reader to consider and decide. One of the lures of non-fiction for me is the forthrightness of intention. You approach non-fiction ready for an urgent in your face discussion about a particular question; like Jeopardy, you know don't know the details yet but you have been given the categories of answers being given.

This isn't say that logic is only dealt with in non-fiction. Fictional logic is fun for a completely different reason. Oddly enough, when you are allowed to make up things the constraints of logic are greater. You often hear it called "suspension of disbelief", "sound or good writing", but it really boils down to logic—does the story logically hold together? The cool factor for fiction is that you don't have to be upfront about anything. The reader's mental back doors, open windows, and secret passages are available to the fiction writer, whereas the non-fiction writer has to use the front door (I realize that creative non-fiction is a hybrid that can challenge this assumption, my reply would be that the reader is usually presented the central argument on the back of a non-fiction book, regardless of how around the bush the prose turns out to be). A movie about aliens can contain a position against racism, a coming of age story display the alienating condition of modern civilization, etc.

The subtle is possible in fiction (or more malleable perhaps), yet it is weaker in structure and more easily blown over. A non-fiction can shrug its shoulder and say "listen that's what happened, here's the reference" when the reader's expresses doubts—it is what it is. What defense does a novelist have? They can't even say "This happens in real life" as the reader shakes their head and says "but it doesn't make sense here".

This brings me to the second exercise in logic yesterday. After book club, some people remained behind and watched Inception. I had been late to seeing the movie, but loved it. It's an old school "mess with your head" science fiction story. Admittedly, it is another "what is reality sort of story", but unlike the Matrix or Scanner Darkly, it seemed to be more engaged with the argument of "what makes what you experience real? The meeting place of dream logic and reality" and aesthetically, it was just slick. The movie is a maze of dreams with dreams, where the viewer if left wondering what had just happened and the eerie feeling that the movie is a labyrinth with many false exits—you just hope they are multiple real ones. Why go through all this? Sense of accomplishment and the simple fact that many ideas are inherently complex and you must work through them.

The end result was that my head was spinning from all the questions which will challenge my mind for the next couple of weeks (I believe I have to walk Inception again). Fortunately in cases of too much logic, one needs only set up a Victorian lamppost in their back wood lot and all sorts of happy nonsense will occur. The link is explained, if one believes nonsense can be explained, here.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Notes from the Underground

Okay, not exactly, but I need to get through the Prince over the next couple of days, so I won't be at the blog. Don't have a lot of spare time, so I will be using it to get this book done for book club.  Thankfully its a short book.

Blogs to come later in the week.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Voices in My Head

There are a number of vices that have plagued humanity from the beginning. Sung in tales and sagas since music was invented in the night of history—Macbeth’s ambition, Othello’s mistrust, Jack Sheppard’s obsession to fix everything but himself—that allowed stories to unfold and audiences to be moved and entertained. If I were to convert myself into the dramatic, I would have to give myself a flaw along the lines of Frankenstein, Nemo, or Faust, who possessed a desire for knowledge that fuels a self-destruction if unchecked. I hope that fictional me would be more like a Batman or Doc Savage, able to use that drive for good while keeping the self-destruction in check. Elijah Snow would be ideal, a man whose curiosity worked for the greater good. The real me’s flaw is much more minor, wanting to know more than I have time to consume.

As mentioned before I discovered that in 2010 I was infected with Anglophilism (?) And as any good imaginary medical doctor, I went off to investigate this flaw/ailment. After some unmedically sound thinking, I have come to conclude that the source of my unconscious desire for paper products of the Enchanted Isles of Britain are the podcasts I listen to.

If the Internet has provided anything to me is giving me on demand radio. There is much to be said for video/movies/television, but to get one’s head wrapped around something, nothing fits the bill more than a group of people chatting around a table somewhere, recording it and posting in on the web so they can be reheard via my headphone in a different time and space. My only exception would be a well written book.

Over the past year I have followed a number of podcasts on ideas. What I have found that the podcasts that engage me are American (Ted, Big Think, NPR, CSPAN, Entitled Opinions), Australian (ABC Radio, Clive James, Natalie Tran), and largely British (Guardian, BBC). The result is that most of the books I hear about are British (or ancient Europeans). So when I go looking for something read I end up reading Robbie Burns or some other bloke from the limey islands.

My lack of Canuck is sad, but I really have only two programs from Canada about books that I listen to— Writers and Company (which is really about international books anyways) and The Next Chapter (which I don’t really like the format). I also enjoy Allan Gregg and company, but it seems to have a short season as I go through them very quickly and find myself waiting for episodes. Also, there are British people on W&C and AG&C which sort of stops the flow of Canuck really.

There must be more than just the CBC, CPAC, and TVO doing long format radio discussions in Canada. I have attempted to Google and Bing for such topics. The problem is that I find one shots or very poor quality discussions. Any suggestions on where I can find Canadian idea/book talk content?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dinner Rolls with Gender

    While imparting recipes for pudding with rice in it—which I assume was invented by the British except I'm not sure where they would have gotten the rice from historically…a search through Google has advised me that they got it from the Moors in Spain around the 10th century. My universe makes sense again—my friend Becky lightly touched on a topic of gender. The main topic of discussion, if I understand her post, was that the smallness in "the context of domestic and quotidian detail" is more regularly associated with the feminine. In addition there were some comments from female commentators on Becky's post about the praise men receive for writing the domestic versus the expectation for women to comment on such things.

    I am always hesitant to get into a discussion of gender or expectations of writers as such discussion completely rub me the wrong way. When someone gives a statement that men behave in such and such way, I bristle. Generalizations of my person are quite annoying, universal rules rarely make sense if one includes the details of an individual's life. Yes, one can predict trends in large groups of people with sufficient hard analysis of statistics, but predicting the individual requires more data tags then their gender (and such exercised enter murky waters). Men comprise of 50% of the population, with a wide range of ages, races, educations, vocabularies, parents, residences, marital statuses, tastes, desires, wishes, and dreams. Even if you can predict behavior, the reason behind it can easily be obscured. The precautionary principle seems a better guide in such discussions.

How would I, as a reader, approach "domestic and quotidian detail?" Well if one holds that everyone is a novel (that one can't be summed up in a page but rather a 300-1000 pages of hard working prose), I would say that the context of the house work would matter. I enjoy history and find domestic matters from bygone eras fascinating for their exotic and arcane natures. This extends to foreign cultures as well. In more familiar waters, such domestic matters need to further the story; provide some insight into the character. If a writer invests page space to a male character's cleaning habits, it should build the story of the man. There are different ways to clean an apartment, build a piece of furniture, or grocery shop. How this is described could help to flesh out a character. I must confess a bit of eye rolling at how many male characters in novels are stereotypes when it comes to how they live alone (or interact) and I find myself generalizing that female author's don't understand men (then I remind myself that such things annoy me). There is always the possibility that the men they describe are based on the only men they have known (I am skeptical).

In the end, once my bristles have been combed down. I find myself agreeing with Becky:

 You have to write about what you care enough to write about, and it's the skill and sensitivity of the writer that makes the text "big" or "small."

I would only add that this applies to reading as well.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Commuting Life –with Cars!!

    I have lived in Toronto almost 12 years now; the actual anniversary would be the end of this month I believe. Living in the spread out quilt of a city requires a commute for both work and pleasure. Even after all these years I find myself entering a fantasy where riding the subway is, somehow, cinematically exotic. My time reading the paper or a book, listening to music, or having a conversation is the material used for segue sequences in the documentary of my life (or rather the imaginary documentary of my life). The more practical element to the TTC is the personal time it gives me to consume books/paper/music etc. and most importantly to think. Also, there are headaches with public transit, but the fact that I don't have to touch any driving controls is a pleasure that never goes away.

    Last year, I won a month of free underground parking at my work. So, this month I have been packing up Z and heading out in the blue Jetta. The result has been the sad realization that when one works in Don Mills and lives Uptown, it is easier to use a car. I have only been late once this month (to Z's daycare and work). I'm generally less exhausted physically as there isn't the mad dash from train to train (which isn't only really a dash due to Z's large amounts of equipment). Once carbon offsets are purchased, my misgivings about the car are wholly selfish. I don't have that personal time from Z's daycare to work and back again. It was only twenty-thirty minutes each way, yet it was my time and I miss the decompression of the limbo only a train can offer. The car has also led to some unfortunate discoveries: That a good radio station is hard to find if it has to have music on it (for Z) as well as regular traffic updates; Many of these stations play the same group of songs and leave one pine for their celestial jukebox (if only an ipod could interject traffic updates); The realization I don't want to be part of an ocean of cars—as I said, completely selfish.

    Someone wise one's said that life is a compromise (or a series of compromises) and no choice is really ever settled, but a series of settling. At the end of the day, or rather each day, I have chosen to drive until the snow is gone (which I have optimistically believe will be the end of March). Then back underground I go. Until then, my quiet moments will have to be found elsewhere.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Essay – Tidying up 2010 Part Two

I seem to recall thinking to myself at the start of 2010 that I was going to break new ground for myself. That I was going to move in a bold new direction. The main thrust of this was to read what I normally don't read. Two main areas of newness was to be female writers and Canadian writers. A third minor resolution was to read more international fiction. Looking at my numbers apparently it was all good intentions:

Total # of books read: 55

By Type; 89% Fiction, 11% Non-Fiction

By Gender, 90% Male, 10% Female

Breakdown by country:

56% UK

16% USA

9% Canada

3% Germany

1% each of Korea, France, Greece, China, Portugal, Sweden

This is not very good really, especially if you add in the fact that I have broken my standing rule of one fiction then one non-fiction when choosing books. I am also quite embarrassed by the fact that my Canadian reading is below the US and for some reason in 2010 I was an Angophile (perhaps I should start drinking tea). The oddest thing is that the UK/US is really all a blur requiring deep thought to recall the volumes consumed, whereas most of the other countries I remember. I don't know if this is the law of statistics (more names are harder to remember than a fewer number of names) or if I have a knack for picking good international fiction.

In a more subjective sense, I actually impressed with many of my book choices in 2010. Of the four women writers I read this year, I was impressed with the two Oriental writers— Kyung Ran Jo (writer of the creepy novel TONGUE) and Xialou Guo (writer of the very dreamy TWENTY FRAGMENTS OF A RAVENOUS YOUTH). I might consider reading other works by them. My solo woman writer for non-fiction was Zadie Smith. Her collection of essays CHANGING MY MIND was quite informative and convinced me to give George Elliot a try this year.

In the collection of men from foreign shores again the non-UK/US stick out. I finally read "THE READER" which held up better to the hype then "BRIDA" did. 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA felt like a children's classic I should have read long ago (I also had a proper translation). I have previously discussed my GIRL CRAZY experience and FRUIT was the other big Canadian Read I got into 2010, it was a very small book which threw me (apparently on top of being an Angophile, I'm addicted to epic) I'm still deciding whether it was the best book it could be or not. Probably one of the most enjoyable non-fiction books of the year was A READING DIARY by Alberto Manguel, he convinced me of several books to try as Zadie Smith had—although the INVENTION OF MOREL didn't quite live up to his review.

A couple of re-reads, the Doom Patrol cycle and the completed Planetary run. The Silmarillon was finally completed this year and was surprisingly easier to read then I remember from the last time I failed to read it. The other "finally finished" book this year was James Wood's HOW FICTION WORKS, which unlike Tolkien's tome was never finished due to the circumstances beyond the book's control. It was quite good, if a bit didactic.

I was on a James Bond kick this year, mostly get to them out of my house and returned to a friend of mine. After getting through the boxed set, I was surprised to learn that the books I liked were not the ones he or any of my friends enjoyed. My top favorites were FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and THE SPY WHO LOVED ME. It appears I am drawn to the unconventional in my conventional thrillers. What was striking about the series as a whole is how mundane they seemed. I won't go as far as to say realistic, but there is breathing room in the stories, people have months to heal in some cases and plot move at a slower pace. It is quite a different feeling from the adrenaline superhero thrillers of today. I prefer the novels, but it really isn't a fair comparison as the movies are a completely different beast.

Finally this was the year I started a book club (250 pages or less) and I must say that it has been quite enjoyable and without it I don't think I would have Read THE TURN OF THE SCREW by Henry James. It was a rough experience for me but it was probably one of the best challenges to me this year in my reading. A penultimate book of manipulation making a very creepy ghost story (or psychological horror story if you prefer), it left me with a lot to think about and I find myself thinking about it every so often. Just yesterday I was considering rereading it. I'm a glutton for punishment. J

So what was the biggest surprise this year? THE CITY AND THE CITY by China Mieville. It was an amazing book which would be my number one recommendation. I weird story of two cities that exist in the same place, a book you just have to read. I smiled most of the time while reading it (a similar smile that INVISIBLE CITIES, ON A NIGHT A WINTER TRAVELLER, and ONCE)

Now, 2010 is properly filed, it is time to look forward. Since 2011 began I have seen a number of reader challenge's kicking around. I am horrible at giving myself exact books to read so I will try to stick to general principles.

  1. Read more female writers; let's target 30%
  2. Read more non-fiction; get back to 40-50%
  3. Read more Canadian fiction; 30% again

That said, I do hope to tackle a couple big books this year. WAR AND PEACE, THE BIBLE, THE ODYSSEY and MIDDLEMARCH are under consideration. Mostly I want to work through all the gifts and borrowed books that litter my shelves. Otherwise, I will play it by ear.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Essay: Tidying up 2010 – Part one

    I can't verify that this occurs to everyone, but there is a point in the New Year where one begins to wonder if they have gotten off on the wrong foot. An early goal has been let in already putting you behind, a sense that perhaps your strategy isn't applicable to the situation a hand, or that you have brought the wrong clothes for your holiday. It is perhaps an irrational feeling (as, one could argue, the whole measurement of one's achievement by calendar year or any year is for that matter), but it plagues one all the same. I suppose one could use it as a barometer of your mental state by the proximity to New Year's you get this feeling. Mid-February and the patient gets a pat on the back versus January 3rd gets you a shakes from the heads of a panel of medical experts. This year, the feeling has come quite early; with the caveat that perhaps it was due to circumstances beyond my control. It is a shaky caveat as we live in a century where self-determination is as strong as the belief in fate, as though you have the Stephen Convey in a fist fight with Neil Gaiman's Destiny. The question of the 21st century is whether your state is your fault or the world's fault (as they didn't answer it in the last century).

    December 2010 had considerable promise, but two events conspired against me. The first was illness. There is an irony that for a year where I had been considerably healthy that I should get quite sick when asked by the reverb project (which populated the blog for most of December) what major healing I had done this year. The upshot is that I can discuss what the major healing was (getting for 3 colds in a row-bleck) but it does not seem to weigh up to the down shot. The other event was the lack of Internet access at home. S isn't as concerned about it, but I believe she doesn't have the same relationship with the Interwebs as I do (probably a healthier one, truth be told). The main annoyance with the situation was this blog. I find that writing anything for blog tends to be a nightly affair for me (or put another way, it takes most of the day for me to formulate my thoughts)—so no working modem, no post. Of course one can easily point out that I could have typed by the posts at night and then sneaker network them to work where I could quickly post them, but let's not confuse the issue with facts.

    At the end of this rambling, I sit in my computer chair at home, not sick and with a working modem. Right, the first order of business to wrap up the past year (as I am one of those fool's you mark their achievements on the calendar year). The first is a big of house cleaning; which will be done in the form of a lightning round. The Reverb prompts: (the remaining prompts)

December 19th – Healing: As I have already mentioned, I had 3 colds in a row which is not cool.

December 20th —Beyond Avoidance: A tie between learning how to use my camera and making a web comic. I am taking a digital photography course which I'm really enjoying, so I'm halfway there.

December 21st — Good lord, I hope that my future self would have the sense to provide useful, mundane information like, the toilet is going to break if you don't get it fixed now, or what ailments my family members and friends have than can be prevented if got early enough, what books not to read, what show not to watch etc. I know that present me would be annoyed if future me was all new agey or cryptic (that would go for past me if I was going to meet him. Although past me would be very excited that I'm married and have a kid; hopeless romantic that he is).

December 22nd—Didn't go anywhere but we are planning a couple trips for the end of this year into next year. I think they are mostly to warm destinations, but I do need to get to Japan with my brother at some point.

December 23rd —If Science fiction has taught me anything, I am one of an infinite number of Scott Watsons in the Multi-verse. I wear this name with pride. J

December 24th— The moment when I figure something complicated out. It makes one think that you're smart which almost ties the feeling of being loved. How to incorporate into 2011? Keep learning.

December 25th—Er…due to my tendency not to use my digital camera, I don't think I have one. Most of the pictures taken this year were of or with baby Z. I will have to fix this for next year (see comment on digital course above).

December 26th — I try a lot of new food, as S is a vegetarian and I like to cook. Also, I have a rather empirical view of food. I see it as a craft than an art. So I don't really have a soul food just a lot of experiment experiences.

December 27th — reading a book, listening to an interesting podcast.

December 28th —write a novel/collection of short stories. It would be a freeing accomplishment.

December 29th — I will be busier at work as I get more responsibilities and baby Z will present new challenges as she gets older.

December 30th — Digital photography course and my Kobo reader.

December 31st— There is a lot going on in my head, an ocean of stories (a sea of them perhaps?) and what I would like to do is mix it with the world. Art seems to be the route to do it. I just need to work out the balance of observing the world and observing myself.

There we go. I must confess that I don't think this lightning round is in the spirit of the reverb, but I would also argue that the reverb project of a daily complex question kind of goes against the concept of deep personal thought to begin with. I feel that perhaps a more serious approach (a lengthy mediation, hard reading, etc.) would have brought me closer to the desired result.

Right Part one done, next post will be a wrap up of my reading journal.