Thursday, August 13, 2020

Thursday, six weeks later


This pandemic takes its toll, it does.

 Meanwhile, apparently my burlesque name is Le Le la Cookie. So there is that...

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Halfway check in

Greetings! For those celebrating, Happy Canada Day!

Today my iTunes records that I have 4,460 (out of 17,552) tracks unplayed. So I guess the lockdown has been good for something.

My reading isn't quite as advanced as my listening, but I've been enjoying lots of poetry lately. Also Miss Fisher mysteries (they were novels first!).

Wishing you happiness today and always. Today is a great day for practising gratitude.

Monday, June 15, 2020

This space left intentionally blank

In shock. Moments ago I learned my graduate supervisor and friend Dr Jerry Kachur died a few hours ago. What the actual.

Another reason 2020 can shove off now.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Listing slightly

Hello! Welcome to May. Much like April, but with more sunlight.

List-based challenges are popular right now, and most of them are uninteresting to me. Then someone started the “30-Day Song Challenge” on Twitter, and that felt like something I could pursue. So here goes ...
A song you like with a colour in the title: “Purple Rain” by Prince and “Bitterblue” by Cat Stevens
A song you like with a number in the title: “17 Days” by Prince
A song that reminds you of summertime: “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful
A song that reminds you of someone you’d rather forget: “Babe” by Styx
A song that needs to be played loud: “Girl Anachronism” by Dresden Dolls
A song that makes you want to dance: “Dance Apocalyptic” by Janelle Monae
A song to drive to: “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas
A song about drugs or alcohol: “Burn It to the Ground” by Nickelback
A song that makes you happy: “Burning Bridge” by Kate Bush
A song that makes you sad: “And So Is Love” by Kate Bush and “Hey Jupiter” by Tori Amos and “Empty Garden” by Elton John and ...
A song you never get tired of: “You’re My Best Friend” by Queen”
A song from your preteen years: “Mickey” by Toni Basil
A song you like from the 70s: “Whenever I Call You Friend” by Kenny Loggins with Stevie Nicks
A song you’d love to be played at your wedding: n/a
A song you like that’s a cover: “Hush” by Deep Purple
A song that’s a classic favourite: “Hey Jude” by the Beatles
A song you’d sing a duet with someone on karaoke: n/a
A song from the year you were born: “Hair” by the Cowsills and “These Eyes” by the Guess Who
A song that makes you think about life: “Suspended in Gaffa” by Kate Bush
A song that has many meanings to you: “Mad World” by Tears for Fears
A song you like with a person’s name in the title: “Marlene on the Wall” by Suzanne Vega
A song that moves you forward: “Never” by Heart
A song you think everybody should listen to: “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel
A song by a band you wish were still together: “This Wheel’s on Fire” by Siouxsie and the Banshees
A song you like by an artist no longer living: “I Got a Name” by Jim Croce
A song that makes you want to fall in love: “Sweet Dreams” by Air Supply
A song that breaks your heart: “Every Time I See Your Picture” by Luba
A song by an artist whose voice you love: “Blue Moon with Heartache” by Rosanne Cash
A song you remember from your childhood: “I’s the B’y”
A song that reminds you of yourself: “Music” by Cat Stevens
What you see here is one version of the challenge. In a different month, I would likely choose different songs. This version seems a little 80s heavy. I do like that many songs could fit into multiple categories.

What would your 30-Day Song Challenge include?

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Not long gone

Grades are due in a week and I'm struggling to get out of bed on any given morning, so what better time to start scanning some old old old scrapbook material? Exactly.

I found the image below in a folder of pages torn out from magazines in the early 1980s — magazines like 16 and Tiger Beat and People. This particular page is from Creem — remember that? Well.

I was trying to imagine where a page like this would be published in 2020. Surely we live in a kinder, less sexist time now. (Seriously! Read those image captions.) But B says no.

Anyway. Whether we're more enlightened or not now, this is an interesting artifact. Maybe I'll post some others. What's turned out to be most amusing about this project is not the pages I saved but their versos — all the ads from the 80s, prices, products, images, styles ... So. Much. Visual. Culture. And I have the soundtrack to support it.


Thursday, April 02, 2020

No fooling

Good morning!

The sun is rising gloriously despite an air temperature of minus twenty, so the world does in fact continue to turn. We will get through this together — although it is a kind of togetherness apart.

Anyway. You might have been waiting breathlessly to know how my music library was faring at the end of the first quarter of this bizarre year. Well, the bizarreness of the year has played to my advantage: I have listened to nearly half the tracks in my iTunes library so far. At midnight on 31 March, 9,861 tracks were unplayed (of 17,465). Listening to music for twelve hours a day means we go through a lot of tracks quickly.

Of course, some of those tracks have been played repeatedly, too, and the music in my Top 25 would surprise no one who has been paying attention over the years. Though maybe the lack of bus commuting and bicycling will eventually change that, too.

Back to your daily day now. And as John Irving urges us, keep passing the open windows.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Like forty years ago

Hello again,

Still procrastinating. Here's a photo from the very late 1970s, taken in my grandmother's kitchen in St. Albert.

I honestly wonder whether photos from the 1960s and 1970s (and later, I suppose) degrade with age. Or is it simply that my parents were truly terrible photo-takers? This photo lived on my mother's bulletin board in her kitchen for years.

Photographs are taking on an increasingly important place in my life as my memories became fainter and are overwritten by memories of memories and conversations about memories. In this image I can refresh my sense of that house, that era — details that feel scarce after so much time.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Marching forward

Hello again!

Just a quick update re stats because ... well, why not? And I'm procrastinating rather than proofreading.

Thanks to the extra day in February, I listened to a few dozen more songs yesterday and can now report that I have listened to almost one-third of the tracks in my iTunes library. So far I've played through about 5,150 songs. Of those, more than 500 have been played more than once. So, once again, statistically speaking, I am on the path to listening to all of my iTunes library before December. And yet history shows it's unlikely that will happen.

Anyway. The sun is returning and the sky is blue, so let us rejoice while we may.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Theatre Unseen


Last Friday night B and I went to see The Invisible, a play presented by Catalyst Theatre. It is a dramatization of untold stories about women saboteurs in World War Two — as a musical. Here's the set (we had excellent seats!):

I enjoyed this play. Heroism in World War Two tends to be masculinized; representations of women who fought back against the Nazis are exceeding rare. The story is serious but is told with light and localized touches, which made the play feel highly topical. I would see it again and would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in women, the agents of ungentlemanly warfare, or musical theatre — but it closed in Edmonton last weekend.  Still, a lovely night out!

(And if this play's not for you, perhaps consider As You Like It, which is running on the Citadel's main stage right now...)

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Knew you were waiting

So, it's February and we've been through Groundhog's Day and the Superb Owl (lol) already. Whoops.

Well, without further delay, here's the information you've been waiting for: by the end of the January, I had played more than 2,800 songs in iTunes, putting me handily on the way toward listening to all my iTunes tracks by the end of the year. And yet somehow I suspect I won't. (I also added a few dozen songs to my library in January. Eeeks!)

My most-played track in January was "Know Your Rights" by the Clash. As they say, it's never too late to have a happy childhood. 

And incidentally, the duet I reference in the title of today's post is a sweet one. Go listen to it now!


Wednesday, January 01, 2020

With Renewed Clarity: 2019 in Review

Happy New Year! I hope that your final day of 2019 was bright and that you’re looking forward to a better year starting today. I know I am.

And now, without further ado, my annual review of books and music.

The Textual World
Without question, 2019 was the worst year I’ve had in reading since I’ve been keeping track — and possibly ever. If it were not for reading children’s novels for academic purposes, I doubt I would even have cracked one hundred books. As it is, my total is dismal: 116. Here’s the breakdown:

Books by women: 78
Books by men: 35
Mixed/Unstated: 3

For the first four months of the year, most of what I read was middle-grade or YA, in support of the seminar I was teaching. No seminar this term, and the publication I’ve been reviewing for since 2013 has shuttered, so who knows what I’ll read this year.

I read limited poetry but absolutely loved Kath MacLean’s Translating Air and Emilia Danielewska’s Paper Caskets. I continued to read anything John Scalzi published, and through his endorsement read Mary-Robinette Kowal’s Calculating Stars works — immensely satisfying SFF. I stumbled on a quirky cozy mystery series by Leigh Perry: preposterous in its premise, but spot on in its details about the life of contract faculty. The most unusual book I read was Bibliophile by Jane Mount, a book about loving books, embellished by art representing book spines. If you’re a bibliophile, it’s sure to speak to you.

Sadly, my own book was not printed in 2019 but should be available in the first quarter of 2020. Fingers crossed!

The Aural World
Well. After a second year of intentionally listening to music as albums rather than as singles, I can see some changes in my listening habits. All the dance classes I’m taking are also affecting what I listen to — as are sessions on the bike. But comfort listening still dominates my list. Unsurprising, given the year that was — and, more granularly, given my ongoing experience of bus commuting. Here are my top tracks:

“Not About You” - Haiku Hands
“Dance Apocalyptic” - Janelle Monáe
“Golubka” - Vopli Vidopliassova with Amarilyo
“Sueltala” - Jorge Luis Chacin
“You’re My Best Friend” - Queen
“Whenever, Wherever” - Shakira
“Wash and Set” - Leikeli47
“Burning Bridge” - Kate Bush
“I’m So Excited” - Pointer Sisters
“Voicemail for Jill” - Amanda Palmer
“Hot-n-Fun” - N.E.R.D (feat. Nelly Furtado)
“Take a Chance on Me” - ABBA
“Brand New Lover” - Dead or Alive [single edit]
“Sarah” - Sarah Slean
“Summer Night City” - ABBA
“Long Train Runnin’” - The Doobie Brothers
“An Everlasting Love” - Andy Gibb
“Hungry Like the Wolf” - Duran Duran
“Come Alive (War of the Roses)” - Janelle Monáe
“Dreams” - Brandi Carlile
“Samson” - Regina Spektor
“Sky Full of Song” - Florence and the Machine
“Salsa Caliente” - Grupo Bip
“Sweet Dreams” - Air Supply [album edit]
“Moderation” - Florence and the Machine
“Venus Fly” - Grimes with Janelle Monáe
“I’m Your Baby Tonight” - Whitney Houston
“Tiny Thing” - Jenson Interceptor
“Let Go the Line” - Max Webster
“Con Calma” - Daddy Yankee feat. Snow

Two shoutouts here: the glorious Janelle Monáe and the incomparable Amanda Palmer. You may recall that my birthday present last year was a pair of tickets to see AFP in concert while I was in Vancouver for Congress. I went with my research assistant and friend, Rebecca; it was a staggeringly impressive concert. I discovered Janelle Monáe in a more roundabout way but quickly embraced her — I played the Dirty Computer album all the way through twenty-six times. Expect to see more from both performers on future lists.

Meanwhile, in my ongoing quest toward completeness, I managed to play about 15,000 of some 17,250 tracks in my library, including every track tagged “Holiday” (meaning the household was subjected to A LOT of Christmas music this year). Just over 1900 tracks received at least five plays.

So that’s me. What caught your ears and eyes in 2019?

Once again, I wish you a brilliant, joy-seeking new year — and new decade. And here’s to fun with math!

Saturday, December 28, 2019

1980s Victoriana

Greetings! It's nearly time for my annual state of text consumption post, but before we get to that, here's a quick retrospectacle of me in Victoria.

1. Dallas Road/Strait of Juan de Fuca, August 1987

2. Tofino, August 1989 (with bonus sand cat!)

3. Beacon Hill Park, probably 1987

I'm looking at photos frequently lately. Maudlin? Not exactly. I prefer proactive.
More soon!

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Turning around

Last night B and I went to see Revolt, She Said. Revolt Again. A play by Alice Birch, it presents a series of vignettes about the way women experience the world of emotional labour, constant sexualization, gendered violence, and shaming. It was strikingly presented by Studio Theatre at the University of Alberta.

This image was taken as the lights came down at the opening. There was no intermission. The wings are open and, as you can see, there were no curtains. The actors could be seen in the wings changing costumes between one scene and the next, and as the audience was filing in, the actors were speaking, singing, chanting, and shouting. Quite avant-garde and provocative. I loved it! (And two of the set-change songs were by Amanda Palmer/Dresden Dolls — extra fun for me!)

It was not my intention to see this play on the thirtieth anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, but there it is. A fitting tribute to a day of remembrance. I'm so glad to have seen this play, and I hope many, many more people see it, talk about it, think about it — and act on those thoughts.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Time to roll this one out

When I defended my dissertation, I included a long quotation that I eventually began to regret including because it felt excessive. After the last few days, however, I think maybe it's not so excessive after all. Here it is:

[Alberta is] the noisiest province in English-speaking Canada. It is the tempestuous — and slightly smaller — brother or sister who is not going to be hushed, thank you very much. It has money in its pockets and it's going to make its opinions heard. If it loses the money, it's probably your fault. And it will get it back, and more, and you'll probably want some when that happens. Significantly, it will share its good fortune. It is headstrong but generous, and it does care about others in the family. And remember, it will pipe up, uninvited and unrepresentative though its message may be, so take with a grain of salt its claim to represent the entire West. (Gerald Friesen, "Defining the Prairies," 22)

Exceptionalism, huh. I love my province but not its cultural ideas.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Images of a simpler time

Canada has survived its election more or less intact. So there's that to be grateful for.

Meanwhile, here are some images of a simpler time.

The first is my grade three class photo. It's amusing how little I've changed.

The second was taken by my cousin Wendy. She took many pictures of my brother and me while she was doing a post-secondary credential in photography. I remember Wendy explaining why she preferred to take pictures of the snow after the school kids had walked, run, and played all over it.

The world was likely no more desperate then than it is now, but life through the eyes of a child was simpler. Perhaps I can hold on to some childlike gentleness today.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Looking around

Because I’ve been meaning to do so for a while, today I finally pulled out my cards. A classic spread without a question card. Beautifully balanced and absolutely fascinating.

1 (Querent): Queen of Swords: Cleverness. A woman of sadness. Happiness and great unhappiness.

2 (Immediate influences): 3 of Cups: Resolution. Comfort. Satisfaction.

3 (Goal/Desire): Ace of Wands: Adventure. A new experience. Creation.

4 (Foundation): 2 of Swords: Balance. Agreement. Harmony.

5 (Recent past): 5 of Wands: Struggle. Strife. Conflict.

6 (Future influence): Death: Drastic change. An ending or a new beginning. Abrupt departure.

7 (Attitude of questioner): King of Cups: Opportunity. Advancement. Aspiration to a new 
objective or challenge.

8 (Environment/Energies): Knight of Wands: Flight. Travel. Movement. Change of residence.

9 (Hopes and fears): 2 of Pentacles: Difficulty in new areas. Worry. Embarrassment.

10 (Outcome): 7 of Pentacles: Growth. Progress. Attainment (especially material).

Certainly lots here for me to think about. Later!


Saturday, July 06, 2019

Almost bookends

Hello again! Here are more artifacts from the recent purging in the garage. I am very, very happy to have them. I also found a piece of paper I've been missing, and worried was gone for good, for almost a decade. So I'm grateful for (infrequent) cleaning, purging, and consolidating.

These two photos form an almost bookending of my elementary school experience.

Photo one is of my grade two class. The teacher, Mrs. Campbell, was also half-time my teacher in grade one (and beginning when I was in grade three, our school's teacher librarian). The principal of my school didn't believe in letting students skip a grade, but acknowledged that I was a troublesome presence in grade one, with its focus on learning letters and reading. So I spent mornings with the grade twos, then returned to grade one for afternoons. In retrospect, it would have been better if I'd been allowed to skip completely into grade two, because being in grade two Language Arts a second time amplified my "troublesome" issues with "distracting other students." But at that point we had a different principal, one who was firmly against skipping (and lots of other things, as I discovered later). Still, I was OK with this, because Mrs. Campbell was my favourite teacher to that point. She let me write stories and poems and read A LOT when I was finished my seat work.

Fast forward to 1980....

Photo two is of my grade six class. The teacher, Mr. Beechey, was also part-time my teacher in grade five: he taught social studies and phys ed (and spent the rest of his time that year teaching grade two — we were the first class that was entirely his). I was still a trouble-maker and we still had the anti-skipping principal, and at this point I had basically given up any interest in learning, but school was still much better than home, so I made the best of it. (Not so much in grade seven: I skipped A LOT in grades eight and nine.)

I like the continuity between these photos, as well as the obvious (and the subtle) changes. With the exception of one person, I do not know where any of the other grade sixes ended up (but have heard numerous rumours).

As for me ... well, the less said ...

Thursday, July 04, 2019

One night in Vancouver

At the beginning of June, at the end of the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, I had the absolute pleasure of attending an Amanda Palmer concert at the Chan Centre on the UBC campus. The tickets were "the best birthday present ever" and I have to say they lived up to their billing.

The concert started a few minutes after 7:30 and continued (with a short intermission) until 11:30. I was spellbound for all of it. She could have played for another hour or longer (except the venue wouldn't permit that). Wow! AFP delivers performance as art.

Amanda's current tour is organized the experience of abortion. As she explores this topic from a deeply personal perspective, she tells numerous stories about her life. One of the themes that emerges from her stories is radical empathy, or radical compassion. At one point she talked about the idea that there are people for whom our society argues we should not feel empathy or compassion. This point has resonated for me. I think our society is experiencing a crisis of empathy. And since we know how a loss of empathy can play out, from any number of events of the twentieth century, we need to take this crisis serious — or even just acknowledge that it's a crisis.

This concert impressed me on so many levels. I am grateful to have had the chance to attend it (and with my research assistant, Rebecca, as a bonus!). Amanda is not for everyone — but she is for me, and I am for her.

(Oh yeah, I tried to take actual photos of AFP, but with my phone they all turned out fuzzy. Ah well ...)

Monday, June 24, 2019

Photographic evidence

Hello again!

Another photographic post today, this one from almost forty years ago.

You likely know that my current academic research project involves exploring the adult lives of gifted girls. One of the dismaying findings in the research (and in the work of earlier researchers) is that most of our participants disavow their giftedness as adults. The reasons for this, in the research literature, at least, are complicated; but the sentiment itself makes me very sad.

Here, however, is a photograph of some gifted kids in late 1980. This was the enrichment class I attended one day a week. The year this photo was taken, the class was the largest it had ever been. Happily, I re-met a few of the students after junior high, although we lost touch again after high school (with the exception of Mark, who is now a Facebook friend). I particularly miss Jodie, whose education was supposed to end when she left high school; I hope that wasn't how things turned out for her, though.

Note that the class is fairly gender balanced and not completely white (although Edmonton overall was very, very white in 1980). There are also less visible markers of difference and inclusion in this group, which might contradict what earlier researchers have found about enrichment programming at large. Funding for this kind of education was eliminated in Alberta a few years later, and I am still grateful to have had several years of it. It made a positive difference for me.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Outtake from the Ship of Fools documentary

Hello again,

It seems I have more to say in the summer. Huh.

For all kinds of reasons, I feel particularly happy about finding this picture, which wasn't exactly misplaced but was effectively forgotten. This is my dad and me (with hair henna'd by Body Shop — I really miss those packets!) at Cox Bay, near Tofino, BC, in August 1989.

Please put good thoughts into the universe today.

L xo

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Outstanding in our field

My blog is more or less a collection of excuses for not writing. That's weirdly meta — but only inconsistently so.


The guys have been cleaning the garage in the process of building work spaces and storage. Many, many strange artifacts have been (re)discovered. This one is a picture of us in June or July 1998 in the Holes' garden in St. Albert.

Summer nights like this make winter in Alberta bearable. Looking forward to more of these soon — happy first full day of summer!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Rapid-fire Q&A

Howdy! In a magazine I encountered a rapid-fire interview format that I really liked. It could work as an icebreaker in adult education settings — if the participants are all women! Here are the questions, with my answers (in case they're not self-evident).

1. Walking or yoga? walking

2. Cats or dogs? cats, obvs

3. Coffee or cocktails? cocktails

4. Lipstick or smoky eye? smoky eye (but why not both?)

5. Jeans or dresses? dresses

These are a little too casual for a job interview, but could be pulled out in a crunch if you find yourself alone at a social event and dread making small talk. I'll have to try to remember this tactic myself!

What do you think? What questions would you replace, and with what alternatives?

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Hosanna Superstar

Greetings from Vancouver, where I am attending the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. My association's conference is over now, but I'm not leaving campus until tomorrow. That means I'll likely spend a good chunk of today at the book fair — and then tonight ... the Best Birthday Present!

But in the meantime, here's a picture from the play I attended the other night: Hosanna by Michel Tremblay. Although I've read several of Tremblay's other plays, I had not read this one. It's the story of Hosanna, aka Claude, who has been gravely socially embarrassed and who must confront the validity of his relationships and sense of self. The play is set in Montréal in the early 1970s and represents gay men's lives at the time.

This is a big script — although it's a two-hander, most of the work is done by Hosanna— and was well acted overall. I also liked the lighting and the spare set (which took advantage of the backstage and the audience space). Stephen Heatley, formerly of Edmonton, was the director: he has been the department head of Theatre and Film at UBC since 2015.

In brief, I'm happy I saw the play. And kudos to UBC and Congress for making admission free for Congress attendees.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

As May Day approaches

My estranged grandmother attempted to re-enter my life when I was about sixteen. At that time I was also very politically active, as was she, so we collided somewhat awkwardly at the May Day rally in 1987.

Unfortunately, almost every photo my grandmother ever took of me was awful, as the one below is. But still, I think it's time to post this one, because the issue of abortion is becoming central once again and I have not changed my stance. If anything, I am more radical in my views around reproductive freedom than I was then.

And so, here is a picture of me at seventeen that you have never seen. Today I am older, perhaps wiser, but also much readier to fight for these beliefs.

(Does this have anything to do with the last week of campaigning before the provincial election? Entirely everything.)

I wish had talked with my grandmother about her life, her politics, her involvement in the Slavic community — but we never overcame our estrangement. I am the poorer for it.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Quarterly check-in


Well, the term is almost finished, and the election campaign is underway, and the world continues to turn. In just a few weeks we'll be sailing—definitely an incentive to keep trudging.

In the meantime, here are the stats you've been waiting for.

As of the end of March, I have listened to approximately 37 percent of the music I currently own: of roughly 16,650 songs, only 10,500 are unplayed. That's pretty considerable, actually, because I have been buying music again lately, especially Latin-flavoured music.

Reading is not faring quite as well. As of the end of March, I have read only 32 books. That puts me on a trajectory to read more this year than I did last year, but still nowhere near my goals.

Spring has arrived, however, and there's more light in the sky every day. So I remain optimistic.

Until the next time,

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Culture of gender

Howdy! On Friday we went to MacEwan University's Triffo Theatre to watch Guys and Dolls. What a great performance it was! (Not that you can tell from this image of the closed curtains during intermission.)

Student theatre can be variable in its quality. This musical was notably good: well-rehearsed dancing, overall strong singing, only a couple of truly weak actors, and a couple of real stars. The set was eye-poppingly gorgeous, and the costumes were nicely executed. As a bonus, the actors were supported by live music — what a treat!

Looks like students and faculty are getting comfortable in their new home in Allard Hall. I'm looking forward to future shows!

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

It was the year that was: 2018

Oh hai! So we just lived through that. Wow. I don’t even want to speculate what 2019 is going to throw at us. Instead, let’s look back at music and books and stuff.

My Top 25 Plays on iTunes
  • Haiku Hands, “Not About You
  • N.E.R.D., “Hot-n-Fun”
  • Leikeli47, “Wash & Set”
  • Janelle Monáe, Dance Apocalyptic”
  • Shakira, “Whenever, Wherever”
  • The Pointer Sisters, “I’m So Excited”
  • Sarah Slean, “Sarah”
  • Florence + the Machine, “Sky Full of Song”
  • Andy Gibb, “Everlasting Love”
  • ABBA, “Take a Chance on Me”
  • Kate Bush, “Burning Bridge”
  • The Killers, “The Man”
  • RuPaul, “Call Me Mother”
  • Duran Duran, “Hungry Like the Wolf”
  • Grimes (feat. Janelle Monáe), “Venus Fly”
  • Queen, “Killer Queen”
  • Dead or Alive, “Brand New Lover” [single mix]
  • Queen, “You’re My Best Friend”
  • Prince, “17 Days”
  • The Doobie Brothers, “Long Train Runnin’”
  • LP, “Someday”
  • Rosanne Cash, “Seven Year Ache”
  • Electric Light Orchestra (feat. Olivia Newton John), “Xanadu”
  • Jenson Interceptor, “Tiny Thing”
  • Klaatu, “The Love of a Woman”
Honourable (?) mentions
  • Prince, “Extraloveable”
  • One to One, “Love Child”
  • Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs, “Run to Me”
  • Kim Carnes, “More Love”
  • Joni Mitchell, “Talk to Me”
According to the iTunes count (which is a little suspect), I have approximately 16,400 tracks in my library today. At the end of yesterday, 13 percent of those tracks were unplayed (approximately 2,140). On the other hand, more than 20 percent of those tracks had been played at least five times.

Once again, I bought relatively little music in 2018, and very few current releases. One of my favourite purchases was MassEducation, St Vincent’s version of a remix album. It’s an acoustic reworking of 2017’s Masseduction. I also really enjoyed Florence + the Machine’s release High as Hope (and Florence’s cover of “Tiny Dancer” on the Revamp Elton John tribute was charming). I’m still getting to know Rosanne Cash’s She Remembers Everything, and Brandi Carlile’s By the Way, I Forgive You still hasn’t grabbed me. Most of my other purchases were old releases and singles.

As for my top 25: lots of churn in this year’s list. This list is the result of hours spent cycling in the summer and my use of playlists for bus commuting. Lots of the familiar, but also a few high-energy tracks.

Given the gong show that was 2018, it’s difficult to predict what I’ll be listening to this year, but I’ve started with Janelle Monáe’s Electric Lady, which is absolutely fine.

Books and Reading
Well, here’s what some people have been awaiting: the great reveal. The short answer is that 2018 was a TERRIBLE year for my reading, as I finished only 128 books.

Once again, I would point out that my reading is always in competition with my editing and writing, and there are a couple of books coming out in 2019 that I edited, along with (I hope) one that I wrote. But still. Ugh. Though it’s slightly better than 2017’s tally, I can only hope for better in the year ahead.

Of these books, 72 were by women, 50 were by men, and 6 were jointly written/edited. Once again, I read a respectable amount of poetry — but then in the late part of the year succumbed to the Amanda Lovelace titles (a mistake I won’t repeat). I continued to read some series, notably Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos novels and Martha Wells’s Murderbot novellas (which are getting longer and longer).

Here are my top five notable books last year:
  • Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere 
  • Christopher Paul Curtis, The Journey of Little Charlie (middle grade) 
  • Thomas King, The Inconvenient Indian (illustrated edition)
  • Gabrielle Zevin, Young Jane Young 
  • Robin Stevenson, My Body My Choice (forthcoming January 2019)
I should also note my favourite picture books (which I DO NOT include in my book tally):
  • Sara O’Leary and Jacob Grant (illus.), Owls Are Good at Keeping Secrets 
  • Karlie George and Genevieve Godbout (illus.), Goodnight, Anne
  • Linda Bailey and Julia Sarda (illus.), Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein 
  • Kyo Maclear and Julie Morstad (illus.), Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designer Elsa Schiaparelli
And that’s that! Here’s to more books and music in the months ahead. Happy new year, one and all!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Hallowe'en et al.


Yeah, I know. I know. I know. I can't even.

But for the record, we had 171 trick-or-treaters at our door on Hallowe'en. Here's what it looked at (the door, I mean, not the number of visitors).

And now it's November. More in December, I suspect.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Not just because it's April Fool's Day

Here at the Department of Unnecessary Stats, we pride ourselves on bringing you the freshest unvital data. So it should be no surprise that today, marking the first day of the second quarter of the year, we have some new bits to add to the figure storm of that there interweb ...


Anyway. As of March 31, I have played through not quite half of my iTunes library. The library currently sits at 15,966 items; of these, 8,255 items were unplayed as of midnight last night, meaning that I have listened to roughly 48 percent of the tracks I currently own (making some allowance for the imperfections of the iTunes library, which has some ... let's say curious ... idiosyncrasies).

So that's a solid start to the year. And much more than I can say for my reading so far.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled browsing. And Happy Easter!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Mad Dada

Last night we were at Concordia University to see The Dada Play by Mieko Ouchi. I was so excited to see this play: a play! about my subject area! in a new theatre! near our hood!

(Actually, this wasn't at the half: it was at the conclusion. But not there's not that much difference.)

The Dada Play has a solid script and the actors gave it a good effort. There were some brilliant, brilliant moments (I'm still snickering about the Equity break called at the pinnacle of V.I. Lenin's speech to the workers), and the costuming was gorgeous. The lighting was a little uneven, though, and some of the speeches needed a little more projection and pacing. But still, an enjoyable, thought-provoking experience. We discussed the themes and their contemporary significance all the way home.

So yay to Concordia and yay to the playwright! Looking forward to more plays at this venue.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Vault of lost lyrics, chapter 79

A song for a mournful day. Thinking of you today and always.


“Every Time I See Your Picture I Cry”
as recorded by Luba

In my mind
I've got it all figured out
But the head does not always rule the heart
And I try to place him
Out of body and soul
Just when I thought I’d made it
His images start taking their toll on me
I feel his memory haunting me
Time and again
I feel weak because

Every time I see your picture I cry
And I learn to get over you
One more time because
Every time I see your picture I cry
Oh, I cry

There you rest
Inside the walls of a frame
Hurts so bad
I can almost feel your eyes calling out my name
Out of body and soul
You're everywhere I go
Illusion or reality, I don't know
I feel your memory haunting me
Time and again
I feel weak because

Every time I see your picture I cry
And I learn to get over you
One more time because
Every time I see your picture I cry
Oh, I cry...

Sunday, February 04, 2018

The 411

Last night we went to the new Allard Hall to see Love and Information by playwright Caryl Churchill, billed as "22 actors, 100 roles, 57 plays." The play asks us to think about whether humans have free will, given that our DNA is really just chemical data. Each mini-play approaches this question from a different perspective, some of them startling, some disturbing. Here's an image from the pre-show.

This was quite a script, but the actors were top notch. A great evening's entertainment!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Even more unnecessary stats

By the end of Monday, January 15, I had played through 59 complete albums on iTunes — roughly 40 hours of music. But my overall listening for the first two weeks of January had reached 4 days and 12 hours. I listen to a lot of music on Tuesdays and Thursdays and on weekends! Now to attack my reading habits ...

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Dept of Unnecessary Stats

Seven days into the new year, my play count on iTunes was 827 songs. At that rate, I could run through my iTunes library three times in a year — but that's unlikely to happen.

Here's to week two.

Monday, January 01, 2018

The Textual Year That Was 2017

Happy New Year! Look at that: we survived 2017! If anyone had told me in advance what a year it would be — and all the sheer ridiculousness we’d live through as a globe — I could never have believed it. I’m somewhat cheered by the perspective of several people on Twitter: 2016 was the set-up, 2017 is the dark second act, and 2018 will be the happy resolution.

In the meantime, let’s get to the reason you’re here.

My Top 25 Songs on iTunes

“Whenever, Wherever” — Shakira
“An Everlasting Love” — Andy Gibb
“Venus Fly” — Grimes featuring Janelle Monáe
“Call Me Mother” — RuPaul
“Sarah” — Sarah Slean
“Not About You” — Haiku Hands
“Lovergirl” — Teena Marie
“Brand New Lover” (single edit) — Dead or Alive
“Kisses of Fire” — ABBA
“Hush” — Billy Joe Royal
“Someday” — LP
“Hard” — Rihanna featuring Jeezy
“Long Train Runnin’” — The Doobie Brothers
“The Man” — The Killers
“Take a Chance on Me” - ABBA
“Burning Bridge” — Kate Bush
“Let Go the Line” — Max Webster
“Dreams” - Brandi Carlile
“Running Up That Hill” Kate Bush
“You’re My Best Friend” - Queen
“Peace Train” - Cat Stevens
“Summer Night City” - ABBA
“The Boxer” - Simon & Garfunkel
“Kiss You All Over” (album edit) - Exile
“Tiny Thing” - Jenson Interceptor

If there were ever a year for comfort listening, this was it. Strangely, though, that’s not what the larger analysis of my play counts reveals. This list contains several songs that I didn’t own in 2016, and just below the top 25 are several other tracks that were new to me in 2017. So I am still consuming some new music, but old favourites definitely dominate.

In 2017 I deliberately played more albums through iTunes, particularly on my mobile phone, which contains a healthy assortment of albums as playlists. They’re useful during my commute to/from work, which continues to be by bus. Album-oriented listening also raised my overall play counts. Sure, “singles” dominate my top 25 list, but below the top 25 are many albums with multiple complete plays, including Rosanne Cash’s The River and the Thread (which I love love love); Styx’s Paradise Theater; several Simon & Garfunkel records; Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark; Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love; Prince’s Dirty Mind; the Beatles’ Revolver and Rubber Soul; Cat Stevens’ Teaser and the Firecat; and Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (as recorded by Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the Orchestra of St. Luke's). And some ABBA records, of course (blush).

My iTunes library contains approximately 15,825 songs, 3,480 of which were unplayed by year’s end (21.99%). Most of the unplayed tracks are Xmas music, classical music, and free downloads. Even when one makes an intentional effort to play “new” (unplayed) tracks, 15,000+ tracks is a big list — more than 43 full days’ worth of listening. And most days I average about four hours of listening. So that math doesn’t work — especially given that my mobile phone is almost full, so adding more albums will prove a challenge.

Notably, I bought very few new CDs in 2017. I really enjoyed Lorde’s Melodrama, which took some effort to find as a physical disc. I ended up buying St. Vincent’s MASSEDUCTION directly from the iTunes store because I couldn’t find it as a physical disc. I did buy the special edition of Prince’s Purple Rain and will be looking for more releases from his estate. Not listening to the radio is really playing havoc with my consumption of new music, and new CDs in particular.

But the decrease in my musical consumption is nothing compared to what happened with me and books, so let’s get on to that. (Meanwhile, I’m resetting my play counts on iTunes to zero: let the counting resume!)

Books read in 2017: 121

By a large margin, this is my worst showing in all the years I’ve been keeping track of the books I’ve read. And I can’t entirely explain why that is so.

I reviewed many books in 2017 — in fact, about a quarter of my reading total comes from books I was asked to review. I also edited a healthy number of books, several of which won’t be published until 2018, when they’ll appear in my “read” count. But still.

Since Earl enjoys these stats, I’ll give a little more detail:

• 76 books by women authors
• 41 books by men authors
• 4 books with mixed authorship or anthologies
• 48 books by Canadian authors
• 166 books added on LibraryThing (for a total of 4633 books catalogued there)

Something I did intentionally this year was to read series. So I read N.K. Jemisin’s novels The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate (as well as a novella I didn’t count) — but haven’t yet read The Stone Sky yet (soon, soon). I read Timothy Zahn’s Night Train to Rigel and its four sequels. I re-read Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park (which I absolutely did not remember) and then read Fangirl and its companion Carry On. I read John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades, but didn’t get to the rest of the series yet (but I will). I tagged two more titles in Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Alice series, but also realized I’m done with that series and doubt I can even write about it academically — where I once saw freshness and liberalism, I now see repetition and conservatism. And I tagged two more titles in the Dear Canada series, but as far as I can tell, that series has ended. Too bad: it’s a great premise.

Something else I did intentionally was to broaden my knowledge of John Scalzi’s work. In addition to the OMW books, I read his collection Miniatures, his blog collections The Mallet of Loving Correction and Don’t Live for Your Obituary (both of which I devoured), his audio-to-print novella The Dispatcher, and his novel Lock In (as well as the documentary-style novella Unlocked, which I didn’t count — hmm, something illogical there). I really enjoy his writing and would strongly recommend Don’t Live for Your Obituary to anyone interested in understanding the practical realities of commercial writing and publishing. So I'll continue to read him (and follow him on Twitter) in 2018.

A further thing I did intentionally was to try to read some of the “it” books of 2017. I couldn’t bring myself to read most of them (yup, still a snob), but I did jump on Turtles All the Way Down (which I enjoyed), La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust) (which I loved), and The Hate U Give (which I found mediocre, but remember I read widely in this genre so didn’t find the book quite as groundbreaking as people who generally ignore YA did). I also read Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey and Lindy West’s Shrill, as well as Jonathan Safran Foer’s Here I Am (which I really admired but most people I know did not).

Here are a dozen books that impressed me this year:

Art Lessons, Katherine Koller
Coyote Blue, Christopher Moore (reminded me of early Tom Robbins, but I doubt it would be published today)
The Goat, Anne Fleming (middle grade)
Hag-Seed, Margaret Atwood
The Handover, Elaine Dewar (probably the most important nonfiction I read in 2017)
Hit the Ground Running, Alison Hughes (YA)
I Am for You, Mieko Ouchi (play)
Kat and Meg Conquer the World, Anna Priemaza (YA — set in Edmonton!)
Scripting the Environment, Geo Takach
Those Who Run in the Sky, Aviaq Johnston (YA)
Uprooted, Naomi Novik
Y Is for Yesterday, Sue Grafton (so sad to read about her passing)

For reasons that are complicated and boring, I tried not to borrow books from the library and tried instead to hew down my To Be Read bookcases. That intention was limitedly successful, but I did tag a few older books that I’ve been meaning to get to. Still, the growth of my library outpaced my reading — but that’s the joy of books, I think.

One more thing I did intentionally this year: read poetry. I re-read Mina Loy’s The Lost Lunar Beadeker and Sylvia Plath’s Ariel, and read a respectable stack of other poets, including a delightful volume by Robert Kroetsch. I will definitely continue this direction in 2018.

I have a stack of books to get through before the end of this week in order to teach successfully this term, so I’ll stop this and get to that now. Here’s to good reading in the year ahead!


Oops! I neglected to mention my favourite kids' book this year (because it was not part of my count): I Yam a Donkey by Cece Bell. Just thinking about it now makes me giggle. It's great! If you like grammar or kids' books, it's a must.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

This is a photograph of me ...

... in London. With other people. Attending a conference.

The speaker is Angus Phillips, giving the opening plenary address at the Books, Publishing, and Libraries conference in July 2017.

I was there. And now I have evidence. Academics are all about evidence. lol.

That is all. Happy Wednesday!