Books of Impact!

August 31, 2009

This is a response to something I did on Facebook. My friend Hume suggested that I (and many others) select fifteen books I’ve read that will always stick with you. Choose the first fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. In no particular order with further annotations:

  1. The Bible, edited by Jehovah – Okay, I don’t live by it, but I kind of agree with Northrop Frye that it is the template for most of Western Literature.
  2. The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis – Too Christian for me now, but I loved these stories at one time.
  3. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner – his crisp prose and mix of fiction and non-fiction showed me a different way of writing.
  4. Memory of Fire by Eduardo Galeano – this is what Pierre Berton could have done if he thought “continental.”
  5. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. leGuin – beautiful story about “making choices.”
  6. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick – the basis for Blade Runner.
  7. Class by Paul Fussell – this book made me laugh at myself and secretly hope that I can return to my working-class ancestral roots.
  8. Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut – an ode to the art of illustration in a roundabout way.
  9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – more prescient than 1984, assuming that both books are supposed to be prophecies.
  10. The Star Rover by Jack London – nice reincarnation story.
  11. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow – words to live by: “a educated man with a business is a king.”
  12. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – I can’t believe I did it!
  13. East of Eden by John Steinbeck – pretty Biblical in its plot and themes, but makes you want to move to California.
  14. Content by Cory Doctorow – opened my mind to different ways of viewing content “ownership.”
  15. Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman – his mass media criticsm may seem quaint now, but he still makes some good points.

One person listed a series of magazines as one their “influential books.” This is a good line of thought to pursue. Why shouldn’t periodicals have as much influence on us as a book?


Mid-August Movie Madness!

August 21, 2009

With some extra time on my hands, I’ve been watching more movies (not cinema) this week. Here’s some quick reviews if you are looking for some weekend watching:

  • The Children – S and I spent Tuesday night at this After Dark Film Festival showing at the Bloor Cinema. It’s a cautionary tale of the dangers of children. Apparently, contemporary super-flus can turn them into sociopathic killers. More mortifying than actually scary, it’s a good rental for couples that have not yet handed their lives over to the next generation.
  • Confessions of a Shopaholic – Oh, my God! Isla Fisher = hilarious! The rest of the movie – run like hell!
  • Kundun – this Scorcese film has been unjustly ignored. It might have something to do with the fact that the Chinese government hated it. While the acting and pace is a bit langorous, the cinematography and art direction is worth a look. Personally, I love the Philip Glass score.
  • Logan’s Run – Cheesy? Not at all! This study in Malthusian hedonism actually stands up as plausible. The auteur behind this piece had the foresight to predict GPS tracking and laser surgery, among other things. I love the “futuristic” 1970s architecture, too. The sets look like virtually any Canadian University that was built in the 1960s and 1970s (e.g. Carleton, Waterloo.)
  • Nights in Rodanthe –  Nicholas Sparks is tough enough to handle at the best of times. I think that I’ve got his “system” nailed after enduring a few of his opuses. Take an attractive mid-to-late life couple, have them solve their personal emotional problems through one hot weekend together and then kill one of them off in the final act. I don’t care if I’m spoiling, in this case. On the plus side, Diane Lane still looks gorgeous.

Some of these titles are on Rogers On Demand. For the hard-to-find items, S and I always head to Film Fest DVD Rentals on Duplex Avenue.

Geek Effusion after Sunday Brunch!

August 16, 2009

Susie and I went out to the Bedford Academy for brunch last Sunday and whom do we see there but Robert Wisdom (aka Major Howard “Bunny” Colvin of HBO’s The Wire.) At first, we let him enjoy his shrimp and pad thai in peace. As he went to leave, I guess that he decided to acknowledge my bashful smirking and girlish giggling. Mr. Wisdom came on over and just said, “Yeah, it’s me.”

He’s in town for the upcoming ABC series, “Happy Town.” He shook our hands (twice!) and thanked us for our effusive praise of his work in the most Dickensian of TV series. Another bystander told him that she fully supported his work in the Western District (look it up.) If you see him around town, here’s a tip – he does photos but demurs at autographs.

Anyway, that’s how we spend our Sunday afternoons…with the greatest actors of contemporary television.

P.S. Please also go see “District 9.” Truly, it’s one of the better sci-fi films I’ve seen in recent memory. Like the best of the genre, it provides sharp commentary on human failings and current issues (in this case, racism, militarism and treatment of refugees.) If you’re not cheering for Christopher Johnson and son by the end, then you’re on the wrong side. Here’s hoping that “District 10” is already in pre-production!

Customer Request – Bachelorette Analysis

July 28, 2009

My comments on the Bachelorette finale are filtered through the prism of Class by Paul Fussell, a great book that should be read by all.

Essentially, Jillian made the best choice, really the only choice for her. To have a successful relationship, Ed was her only hope.

First, they are from the same high proletarian social backgrounds. Jillian’s Dad wears trucker hats and talks like a real Canadian. Ed’s Dad thinks that he is nuts to risk his job to go on a big TV vacation and sounds like a charter member of Bill Swerkski’s Super Fans. You can see them bonding over monster truck matches, rodeos and football.

Second there’s the ethnic thing. Jillian’s Ukrainian. Ed’s Polish. They can have their 80,000 wedding guests gorge themselves on borscht, perogies, cabbage rolls and goulash. Kiptyn would have demanded cucumber sandwiches and vanilla ice cream.

Third, there are the Moms to consider. Kiptyn’s Mom was a typical snooty upper-middle-class ice queen, casting withering looks at the poor little Cinderella who presumed herself adequate to serve as her son’s bride. Ed’s Mom just wanted to know if Jillian would be their fourth in a round of cards. Relieved that Jillian is a true player, she gave her blessing. Aloha!

There were only three things missing from the finale, in my opinion:

  1. Juan should have had the chance to redeem his honour in a duel with Dave. After customarily slapping Dave in the face with a leather glove, the two should have taken up swords and battled in the halls and stairwells of the Bachelor house until one victor stood above the corpse of the other. Blood feuds are the ultimate arbiter of “man code.”
  2. Jake should have offered Wes a free, one-way ticket to Chihuahua, Mexico. As his plane nears the city, Jake could parachute out, offering Wes a chance to cement his fame the Buddy Holly way.
  3. Chris Harrison should have announced a new reality show starring Tanner P on a desert island with thirty gorgeous foot models. Instead of roses, each episode would climax (literally?) with Tanner putting glass slippers on the lucky contestants. Working Title: The Bachelor – If the Shoe Fits.

Thank God it’s over!

Lone Wolf and Cub – Swashbucklin’ Samurai!

July 28, 2009

Most people associate “manga” with cutesy girls with big eyes fighting vampires or maybe cute little robots or…whatever.

I’m here today to advocate the work of Kazuo Koike. He’s the writer behind Lone Wolf and Cub. Rumoured to be the inspiration for the Road to Perdition, Lone Wolf and Cub is a 28-part series detailing the adventures of Ogami Itto and his son, Daigoro. No mere hobos, Ogami and Daigoro work as assassins-for-hire while wending their way toward an inevitable encounter with their arch-enemies, the politically shrewd Yagyu clan.

Lone Wolf and Cub is perhaps the best of the chanbara genre of swashbuckling Japanese literature, generally set in the Tokugawa era (1603-1868.) Once you’ve made it through the magnum opus, you might also be interested in Samurai Executioner and Path of the Assassin.

The art is beautiful, rendered in black-and-white with the intricacy of Japanese ink painting. The only caveat in this recommendation is the occasional perviness of the some of the content. You learn, for example, that any good samurai can make love to a woman in a room full of bandits because of his samurai fortitude. They show it, big time, in addition to many other interesting scenes throughout the epic. Not for kids!

Work of Genius?

July 24, 2009

Wow! What an amazing new blog!

Re: The Bachelorette

July 21, 2009

What the hell is the “man code” and why don’t I know anything about it?

Dave from Ohio screams stereotypical date rapist. At least he apologized for making her uncomfortable.

P.S. As a non-fan of this dreck, I can’t believe what a circus this show has become. Jillian’s four-way with Reid, Kiptyn (is that even a real name?) and Ed should be a laugher.