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

Hello!
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.

Anyway.

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

Howdy!

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,
L

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.

Hey,

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 ...

Ahem.

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!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Reading weather

On Thursday night I attended a book launch at Blue Lamp Books, which is a mystery bookstore in Edmonton. What a sweet place! I will be back.

The event was the Edmonton launch of Garry Ryan's newest novel, Matanzas. Also appearing was Janice MacDonald, who read from her new memoir, Confederation Drive (she's also a mystery writer, responsible for the Randy Craig series).




It was a special night, and I had a chance to talk with many people. So glad I went!



Friday, October 27, 2017

Shakespeare, who was in love a month ago

Argh. One may have taken on too much when one's catch-up post is a month behind. Sigh.

Anyway.

Back on September 26, we went to see Shakespeare in Love at the Citadel. It was quite good —  similar to the film in some respects, but with appropriate adjustments for live theatre. I didn't care for the acting of the actor who played Viola, but the other actors were more nuanced and the ensemble worked well together. I recommended it to a few people and was pleased to see the play well reviewed in most media.

It's been a few years since we went to the Citadel, and we've trimmed our budget for live entertainment generally, but here's a photo from the half, just to uphold tradition.



Here's hoping the world is a little calmer in November.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Badges I'll earn soon

Such a long time. But you know I've been writing elsewhere, right?

And reading. And thanks to the Lumberjanes (learn more here), I have new goals for sailing: badges! Here are two of the badges Lumberjanes can earn:

• I Had the Maritime of My Life
• Seas the Day

That is all.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The windmills of my mind


Last night as I was trying to fall asleep, I started thinking about a book I read when I was young. Then it became a distorted thing, like this.

A Child’s Treasury of Versus

“Good vs. Evil”
“Left vs. Right”
“Evolution vs. Creationism”
“Man vs. Woman”
“Man vs. Mouse”
“Protagonist vs. Nature”
“Dogs vs. Cats”
“Godzilla vs. King Kong”
“Rocky vs. Apollo Creed” ...

Well. I’m sure you see the pattern. And so I went off to dreamland.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Wrongfully Convicted

Well, hey. “I know it's out of fashion / And a trifle uncool” to persist in my Sixties ideals, but I do. And so today’s so-called Outrage Culture is really getting me down.

More and more often I find myself shutting down because the texts around me are actually baited traps, about which there can be little reasonable discourse. Those who speak know they are unarguably right; there is no need to listen to another perspective. There is no contingency; there is no provisionalism. So many of us just want to be offended; and so many others just want to offend.

This line of thinking reminded me of a now-trite Sixties concept, epitomized (mockingly) in Hair. Perhaps you remember these lines from the introduction to “My Conviction”:

I wish every mother and father
Would make a speech to their teenagers
And say, “Kids, be free, no guilt.
Be whoever you are, do whatever you want to do,
Just as long as you don't hurt anybody, right? Right.”

Our understanding of “don’t hurt anybody” is considerably more nuanced than it was back in 1968. I think most of us recognize today that many of our freedoms depend on someone else’s lack of freedoms, and fifty years ago the main beneficiaries of this ideal were white middle-class men. But still. We have learned something since then. Or have we?

Without becoming an apologist for anyone but myself, I really wish we could roll our attitudes back to an easier time. Because I am exhausted by outrage, and my compassion is beyond fatigued.

So this. Do what you want, and don’t hurt anyone else intentionally. Own what’s yours to own, and apologize when you make a mistake. As Desiderata, another text popular in the 1960s and 1970s, reminds us: “Strive to be happy.” Yeah. Just that.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Rediscovering my spine


I have a friend who sends me dozens of links each week. Most of them relate to women and feminism, books and libraries, or social progress. This week, as part of a bundle of International Women’s Day-related links, she sent me an article about a bookstore that, as a form of awareness raising, turned all man-authored titles spine in, leaving only woman-authored titles spine out. The description of the result is memorable: the shelves were “bleached into anonymity.” (You can read the article here.)

I remarked to Pat that, had I done the same thing, my shelves wouldn’t change very drastically because I read so much writing by women; and further, I predict that if she did the same thing, her shelves would be like mine. I don’t say this to be smug or superior; in fact, in my pursuit of graduate education, my reading habits have often worked against me — which I feel underscores the point of the bookstore’s action.

Every so often someone send me a list like “Have you read the top 100 books of the twentieth century?” or “How many of the world’s best books have you read?” — a complication of  “top books” that invites readers to tick off the titles they’ve read. Something I find illuminating about these lists is that I’ve rarely read more than a third of the books listed, and often significantly fewer than that. That's mainly because 1) I read a great deal of Canadian fiction and 2) I read predominantly female writers. Not exclusively, obviously, but the majority of fiction I read, even if I exclude the children’s and YA reading I’ve been doing lately, is written by women.

My exchange with Pat got me thinking, though. How many other women readers would this be true for? Pat is a little more than a decade older than I am, but she graduated from university the year I started. So I wonder whether she and I managed to study at the right moment so that we read women’s writing in balance with men’s writing, or even more than men’s writing. Will a moment like that ever exist again? Because in canonical literature and in popular publishing, men still dominate: men’s books are reviewed more often than women’s books are, male reviewers dominate the critical landscape, and women writers are still treated as anomalies when they win awards or write important, culture-changing books. They are also routinely dismissed for the topics they write about, for the opinions they hold, and for their readership.

The bookstore’s project was to represent gender inequality visually. But changing that inequality is a gigantic task. How do we even begin? Is it enough just to keep reading? Or is it time to speak out?
 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Arose by another name

Yeah yeah yeah. I know.

...

But I just read a thing in an email from a few weeks ago, in which I discovered all some of my secret names. And you can play too!

Here's my list.

Superhero name: Black Book
Soap opera name: Anne Veterans
Goth name: Black Emily
Rapper name: Lil Cookie

I know, right?

Here's the formula.

Your superhero name is the colour of your shirt plus the item to your right.
Your soap opera name is your middle name and the street you live on.
Your goth name is "Black" plus the name of one of your pets.
Your rapper name is "Lil" plus the last thing you ate.

Oh, the lulz.

Bonus for Earl: your Star Trek name: the first three letters of your last name, first two of your middle name, and the last two letters of your first name. (Oooh, that's an awesome name, Earl!)

Back to skulking ...

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Divinyl

You cannot know how delighted I am to have my 45s back after their many years of wandering in the wilderness.

For the young'uns, this is a picture of coloured vinyl, specifically the domestic limited release of "Purple Rain" (backed with "God") in a picture sleeve:



Now to digitize ...


Sunday, January 01, 2017

2016: The textual roundup


Well, here we are in 2017. Let’s be hopeful for the year to come; it’s likely to be difficult, but remember that humans are resilient and creative, and light will always assert itself against the dark.

As I, and now many friends, too, have made a tradition, here is my roundup of music and books from the last year.

Music: Top 40 Most Played
“Uptown Funk” - Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars
“Brand New Lover” (single edit) - Dead or Alive
“An Everlasting Love” - Andy Gibb
“Hard” - Rihanna feat. Jeezy
“Get Lucky” (Razihel remix) - Razihel
“Run the World (Girls)” (remix) - Beyoncé
“Long Train Runnin’” - The Doobie Brothers
“Tiny Thing” - Jenson Interceptor
“You’re My Best Friend” - Queen
“Let Go the Line” - Max Webster
“Someday” - LP
“Machete” - Amanda Palmer
“Shadow Dancing” - Andy Gibb
“Seven Year Ache” - Rosanne Cash
“The Love of a Woman” - Klaatu
“Kiss You All Over” (album edit) - Exile
“Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” - The Jacksons
“Whenever, Wherever” - Shakira
“Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” - Beyoncé
“Dreams” - Brandi Carlile
“Get Lucky” - Daft Punk
“Killer Queen” - Queen
“Take a Chance on Me” - ABBA
“Summer in the City” - Lovin’ Spoonful
“Love Runs Out” - OneRepublic
“Running Up That Hill” (album version) - Kate Bush
“I Love You” - Climax Blues Band
“Hungry Like the Wolf” - Duran Duran
“Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” - Sophie B. Hawkins
“Run the World (Girls)” (album edit) - Beyoncé
“Samson” - Regina Spektor
“Burning Bridge” - Kate Bush
“Under Pressure” (single edit) - Queen and David Bowie
“Hush” - Deep Purple
“The Sound of Silence” - Disturbed
“Renegades of Funk” - Rage Against the Machine
“Magic Man” - Heart
“Moves Like Jagger” - Maroon 5
“Superstar” - Sonic Youth
“Fell in Love with a Girl” - The White Stripes

As always, many heart songs appear on this list, but also a good number of newer songs. It is impossible for me to keep track of all the new records being released in a year, but I do try to listen to some fairly current music. That said, commuting to work by bus has affected my listening habits. Perhaps next year’s tallies will make this change clearer.

As of today, using iTunes’ somewhat imperfect system, there are 15,131 tracks in my music library. That number was buttressed by the purchase of a few CDs last week. My library has also expanded thanks to Freegal, an online music service that allows me to download five tracks each week. But I definitely bought much less music in 2016 than in years previous.

My play counts have been reset once again, and we'll see what's what 365 days from now.

Books
Once again, I got nowhere near my 200-book goal, but I did reach 158 books. How did I ever read so much back in my pre-sabbatical days?

Some of the books that stood out for me in 2016 were these:

100 Days of Cree by Neal McLeod with Arok Wolvengrey
Avid Reader by Robert Gottlieb
One Child Reading by Margaret Mackey
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Unspeakable Things by Laurie Penny

Much of my reading continues to be YA novels as I continue to grapple with themes of mothers and daughters and the reproduction of ideology. I really don’t know how other academics read and write so much. Just teaching — and teaching much less than I did pre-2011 — is sufficiently exhausting. But I’ll hope that I can keep reviewing for my CV; that adds quite a few books to my totals.

I’m listening to the start of 2017’s play counts as I type this, and I’m eager to get back to the book I’m reading, so I’ll stop here. As always, if there are books or albums you’d suggest I check out, please let me know.

Here's to a happy 2017! Cheers!

 

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Rephrase this, I think ...


Despite that I enjoy more relaxed diction and phrasing in contemporary reporting, as an editor I feel someone should have given this sentence as second look:

On the reports that [Bradley Cooper and Irina Shayk] are expecting their first child, which came after Shayk killed it on the runway for Victoria's Secret Wednesday night.

Yes, I know what the writer meant, but still...

Or maybe it’s just me. I have been marking student writing nonstop for the last week ...

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Standard deviation

Since returning from Victoria, we haven't been attending many performances. No theatre seasons, no dance shows, no symphony, etc. So last night was a big treat (for me, anyway) to hear All(Most) Jazz, a small jazz-based ensemble, performing at the Highlands United Church.


The halves were lovely. Some "winter" songs tucked amid well-known repertoire from musicals and the Great American Songbook. The show wrapped up with "Maybe This Christmas" by Ron Sexsmith and "I'll Be Seeing You," a sweet jazz standard featuring this line: "And when the night is new / I'll be looking at the moon / But I'll be seeing you."

All in all, the performances were fun, playful, and merry. Perfect for a November night that promises (threatens?) to bring winter along one of these days soon.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Vault of lost lyrics, chapter 201

The last few weeks have been tough on people, and even tougher times probably await us. The Pretenders’ Learning to Crawl was the first album I wanted to play last Wednesday, November 9, and this is one of the standout tracks from that still very solid — and angry — record.

**

"Middle of the Road" (Chrissie Hynde) as recorded by The Pretenders

The middle of the road is trying to find me
I'm standing in the middle of life with my plans behind me
Well, I got a smile for everyone I meet
As long as you don't try dragging my bay
Or dropping the bomb on my street

Now come on baby
Get in the road
Oh come on now
In the middle of the road, yeah

In the middle of the road you see the darnedest things
Like fat guys driving 'round in jeeps through the city
Wearing big diamond rings and silk suits
Past corrugated-tin shacks full up with kids
Man, I don't mean a Hampstead nursery
When you own a big chunk of the bloody Third World
The babies just come with the scenery

Oh come on baby
Get in the road
Oh come on now
In the middle of the road, yeah

The middle of the road is no private cul-de-sac
I can't get from the cab to the curb
Without some little jerk on my back
Don't harass me
Can't you tell
I'm going home
I'm tired as hell
I'm not the cat I used to be
I got a kid
I'm thirty-three, baby

Get in the road
Come on now
In the middle of the road
Yeah