Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Conservative MP and parliamentary secretary to the Dear Leader, Dean Del Mastro, on CBC’s The Current this morning, rapidly spins his way through three lines of defense in trying to rationalize the robocalls scandal. First line, he takes the high road: the Conservative party was simply providing a public service by redirecting their voters to changed polling stations. Second line, he counterattacks: the Liberals were guilty of equally heinous crimes, e.g. stealing candidates’ signs. And in the third line, he becomes downright threatening: he’s surprised, he says, that the “public broadcaster” is repeating these unsubstantiated allegations. Well, the CBC already knows it’s in the Dear Leader’s cross-hairs.
Coincidentally, I’ve just been reading Elizabeth May’s 2009 lament for the nation, Losing Confidence: Power, Politics and the Crisis in Canadian Democracy. Seems she may soon have material for another chapter.
This from The Onion last week, under the heading, “Area Man Relieved Friend’s Short Story Sucks”:
BOSTON-After reading the final draft Saturday morning, local man, Chris Peters, 27, was relieved to discover the short story written by his friend Mark Carter, 26, was absolutely terrible. “When Mark first mentioned he’d written a short story, I was terrified that maybe he had some sort of creative side I’d never seen before, so it was comforting to see that it really, really sucked,” said Peters, explaining he took solace in the fact that Carter’s poorly crafted story reflected no sign of blossoming talent. “Now I can totally support Mark without worrying about him actually being good at this, or standing out in any way that would make him seem more significant than myself. What a load off.” As of press time, Peters was urging Carter to turn his short story into a feature-length screenplany.
What with Adam Gopnik’s bemused ruminations in the first installment of his Massey lectures, Winter, and stories I have been reading lately of the torment endured by the brave, crazed adventurers in the great age of Arctic exploration, I started digging through old pictures I had found while researching what was to have been yet another book about the Franklin expedition and the several sorties that set off to discover its fate. Many of these images are striking and beautiful.
A naval officer, Commander Walter W. May, made more realistic drawings when he accompanied another expedition in pursuit of Franklin and his crew. By this time, explorers had adjusted to the idea that their ships could become ice-bound and made preparations accordingly. There’s still something heroic about the way May represents their work. These images are taken from the portfolio “A Series of Fourteen Sketches Made During the Voyage Up the Wellington Channel in Search of Sir John Franklin, K.C.H….” (1855), courtesy of the Royal Ontario Museum. Read the rest of this entry »
And the winner of the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, announced earlier this week, is Patrick DeWitt for his deadpan Western odyssey The Sisters Brothers. There’s a possibility of a trifecta, DeWitt having been nominated for both the Giller and the GG as well.
The coolest place in town to launch a book? (Or is that the Dora Keogh?)
Michael Tomasky, writing about the more extreme fringe of the American Republican party in a recent issue of the New York Review of Books, notes that among its milder violations of honest criticism is a tendency to fudge obvious distinctions. A case in point: the distinction between reporting and editorializing. He notes that Ann Coulter in her recent book, Demonic, implies that liberal writers such as Tomasky frequently insinuate their opinions into their journalism. Tomasky writes a column, which is a vehicle for opinion: it’s understood that the views he expresses are his own. The implied charge that the news pages of the paper he writes for (principally the Guardian) are polluted by liberal propaganda is unfounded – and, in this context, ludicrous.
Such fudging is hardly new, however. Peter Braestrup does the same thing in Big Story, his book about press coverage of the Tet Offensive (see earlier posts). In his impressive collection of press clippings he mixes freely news dispatches from Saigon and commentary taken from Stateside newspapers. There’s no question that columnists such as James Reston and Walter Lippmann were skeptical of the war by 1968 – just as others, such as Joseph Alsop, remained hawkish. But it’s not necessarily case – and usually definitely not the case – that the men and women writing their reports from South Vietnam were deliberately sifting their remarks through some kind of liberal filter.
Both Coulter and Braestrup understand (or understood) the difference between reporting and editorializing. It simply suits their purpose to forget.
On a grey day, the grey aluminum siding blends right in with the pavement and the sky. Add a bit of fog and, with luck, it might be invisible.
“Irishmen don’t share their feelings,” said Eoin Colfer. “We communicate emotion through headlocks and kidney punches.”
He was explaining his agitation at a time when he was contemplating messing with a modern classic, Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He had accepted a commission from Adams’s family to complete the unfinished manuscript of a sequel Adams had left behind. But then he had decided to tamper with a beloved character. Colfer felt that Zaphod Beeblebrox, given two heads by Adams, was a distraction. He proposed to reduce the head count to one. Would Adams’s fans rise up in wrath and destroy him? Finally, he told his wife what was worrying him. She looked at him calmly and then said, “I have to pick up the kids from school.”
In other words, get a life.
It wasn’t exactly stand-up comedy. Colfer remained comfortably seated throughout the one-hour interview. Nevertheless, he managed to develop a pretty good riff from just about every verbal artefact tossed his way. His interviewer, actor and writer Lesley Livingston, alternately mugged and gushed but nothing more was required of her. All he needed was a key word or two.
The Bram and Bluma Appel Salon at the Toronto Reference Library was full on Wednesday night. The audience was mainly young, naturally: Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series of YA novels has been a monster hit, and may yet get more gargantuan. Not only has the series been optioned to Disney, a director also has been engaged. Colfer is careful not to get too excited: the film business is skittish and may yet shy away. But he has enjoyed the time spent in a pub refining the manuscript with the director. Well, that’s what he told his wife they were doing.
His latest book, Plugged, is a thriller intended for adults. The hero, Daniel, is persuaded by a dodgy surgeon that he needs a hair transplant. The operation is to be conducted in two phases. After the first phase, one side of Daniel’s cranium has been festooned with thriving follicles. And then the surgeon disappears. Daniel goes after him…
It’s not stand-up, but close.
Skipping over books that were read to me, and skipping over (though I might come back to them) books by Enid Blyton and her imitators, the first I remember that held my attention was People in History.
It was in the library at Rottingdean, the prep school I attended for all of a couple of years in the late 1950s. The library was large and welcoming, dominated by a full-size billiard table, filled with old, semi-broken-down leather chairs and illuminated by a big bay window with a built-in upholstered bench beneath the sill. There were bookshelves, too, but not an enormous number. (There were more, now that I think of it, in the headmaster’s office.) I expect most or all of the books on those shelves had been gifts.
People in History was quite a fat book, the most formidable I had taken on to that point, but its heft was misleading. It consisted of short chapters, each probably half-a-dozen pages, and it was illustrated with line drawings as well. Each chapter was devoted to the life and accomplishments of one or another of the pantheon of British achievers, starting with Boedicea and King Arthur (and his cakes), moving on briskly to Elizabeth I and Sir Walter Raleigh, thence to Stanley and Livingston, and ending somewhere in the vicinity of Sir Alexander Fleming. I don’t think Winston Churchill made the cut. Too recent. (Or if he did, it was to describe his adventures in the Boer War.)
Given what I now know of academic history, the research that goes into it, the kinds of tests and filters to which that research is subjected, I realize that People in History was not history. Or rather, it was a different kind of history, the kind often joined to the word “pageant.” This was a glorious parade of gaudily dressed characters all marching purposefully toward the same destination: the glory of modern Britain. The book was a repository of stirring, inspiring myths. It made you proud to be a part of it all, albeit, in my case, a lesser, colonial part.
The book had another purpose too. It was, for a child, a kind of catalogue. It gave you the chance to identify with a variety of different figures. What would you like to be? The book’s subjects were all more or less heroic, so there was no shame in picking one over another. They were warriors, scientists, explorers, humanitarians. The selection omitted sportsmen and film stars, but then, in those days, neither was regarded as a fit occupation for a well-brought-up child. A gentleman might engage in sports as a pastime, of course, but it was not a respectable profession. And acting was part of a different world. As it still is.