Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Oryx and Crake – The Novel

dys⋅to⋅pi⋅a –noun
1. a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding

ars longa vita brevis

I just finished the novel Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Not being familiar with her I work I had no idea she delved into the world of science fiction. Unlike my post about Ursula K. LeGuin’s form of science-fiction writing, Margaret Atwood actually takes the genre as most do, not using it as a vehicle to take you on the journey, but using the genre to propel you into the future to show how the wrongs that we are committing today will effect us tomorrow.

In the story Jimmy aka Snowman leads us through the tale of civilizations ultimate collapse from a society obsessed with beauty and youth that will do anything to obtain it. Gene splicing, Internet addiction and mass media are some of the common themes related to humanities utter demise. Jimmy is obsessed with learning old words that he discovers in archaic paper bound books that have yet to be replaced with digital copies from the Universities library. Throughout the novel these words, which he repeats like a mantra, give Jimmy a form solace of being the only remaining human alive.

Archaic or not, I did not recognize some of Jimmy’s words so have developed the following list: Next book on the list: A Place I've Never Been, written by David Leavitt

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Things I'm Not Going To Do

jinx –verb
1. to bring bad luck to; place a jinx on
2. to destroy the point of Without fail, whenever I mention something that I am planning to do in the near future, whether it is in the next few hours, days, weeks, months or even a year, it never comes to fruition.

I am becoming superstitious to a point where I no longer want to talk about any upcoming plans. Case in point, the last two weekends I mentioned my plans to someone, they fell apart. The only time things ever seem to happen is when the discussion occurs only with the group that is involved.

Here are some recent things that I have talked about doing, which if the trend is correct, should never come to fruition:
  • Apply for a yearlong holiday work visa for Australia

  • Volunteering for the 2010 Olympic games in Vancouver

  • Going to Portland, Oregon for a two-week vacation

  • Visiting Iceland

  • Travelling around Newfoundland & Labrador this summer

Anytime something falls apart I become very despondent. It’s a feeling of never being able to win. As if some greater force wants to ruin anything I set out to do. But I think I have finally figured it out. The greater force only becomes informed when I start talking about my plans to people. So therefore, logically all I have to do is stop talking about my plans, and everything should fall into place.

Well I’m up early, so today I’m going to… oh wait a minute, nevermind.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Earth Hour

for⋅get –verb
1. to cease or fail to remember; be unable to recall

Yesterday was a whirlwind of activities, from getting lost in the woods, having drinks on the roof of a high-rise and sitting around a fire cooking sausages and hotdogs. Amongst many beverages I completely forgot about Earth Hour. I guess there is always next year...

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Friday, March 27, 2009

You Win

de⋅ject⋅ed –adjective
1. depressed in spirits; disheartened; low-spirited

I give up.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Free Movies To Watch In Ottawa

1. without cost, payment, or charge

The NCC and the Genie Awards are providing Ottawa moviegoers a chance to see some great Genie nominee films for free! Starting this Saturday, March 28th and going on until Friday, April 3rd in celebration of Genie week, you can see the following films:

Sunday, March 29 - 8 pm to 10 pm - Canada Aviation Museum, 11 Aviation Parkway, Ottawa
Monday, March 30 - 7 pm to 10 pm - Centrepointe Theatre, Ben Franklin Place, 101 Centrepointe Drive, Ottawa

Ce qu’il faut pour vivre
Wednesday, April 1 - 7 pm to 9 pm - Canadian Museum of Civilization, 100 Laurier Street, Gatineau

Free Lunch Time Shorts
Every weekday from noon to 1:30 pm (except Thursday) - Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa

Infiniment Québec
Sunday, March 29 - 8 pm to 10 pm - Café Aux 4 Jeudis, 44 Laval Street, Gatineau

My Winnipeg
Monday, March 30 - 7 pm to 10 pm - Canada Science & Technology Museum, 1867 St Laurent Blvd, Ottawa

Monday, March 30 - 7 pm to 8:30 pm - Centrepointe Theatre, Ben Franklin Place, 101 Centrepointe Drive, Ottawa
Wednesday, April 1 - 7 pm to 10 pm - Arts Court, 2 Daly Avenue, Ottawa (TBC)

Necessities of Life
Thursday, April 2 - 5 pm to 9 pm - National Gallery of Canada, 380 Sussex Drive, Ottawa

Saturday, March 28 - 1 pm to 4 pm - Canadian War Museum, 1 Vimy Place, Ottawa
Friday, April 3 - 7 pm to 10 pm - The Diefenbunker, Canada’s Cold War Museum, 3911 Carp Road, Carp, Ontario

Tout est Parfait
Monday, March 30 - 8 pm to 10 pm - Pavillon Lucien-Brault, Université du Québec en Outaouais, 101, Saint-Jean-Bosco Street, Gatineau

Up the Yangtze
Thursday, April 2 - 7 pm to 10 pm - Canadian Museum of Nature, 240 McLeod Street, Ottawa

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Me Talk Pretty One Day – The Novel

u⋅ni⋅lin⋅gual –adjective
1. using only one language
From trying to overcome a lisp as a child to struggling to learn French in his early 40’s, David Sedaris takes you on an amusing ride with his book of memoirs, entitled Me Talk Pretty One Day. Sedaris, an American humour novelist who is also a regular contributor to a public radio program called This American Life, moved to Paris and decided to take up learning the local language. This novel is what emerged, with many of the stories recounted from his time in France. It’s a great read, and at points laugh-out-loud funny.

It has inspired me, as many things easily do, to pick up my old dusty book of French verbs and try to reacquaint myself with the language. Currently residing in Capital City I have unlimited opportunities to practice my skills, but like many things on the to do list, have yet to do anything about it.

As I had mentioned in a previous post, my Papa is known for his great advice, my problem has always been following it.

When I was in grade school he was very impressed that the school system was teaching us all French. In his time I think they taught Latin. Although he never came out and said it, I feel that it was his hope that one day I would be proficient enough in the language to teach him. What he always instilled in me was to keep up on my French skills, as one day I may need it. This is something pretty heavy to lie on an eight year old. He kept at it through the years and so did I. I in fact took French until my OAC year in highschool, but unfortunately retained none of it. Throughout my 10 years of learning the French language in school, my Papa repeated his advice, and I kept thinking ‘why, I’m never going to move to Quebec anyway’.

And yet here I find myself years later still unilingual, approximately 600km’s away from home, living in the government town of government towns, in bilingual Capital City, thinking once again that I should have heeded my Papa’s advice.

Next book on the list: Oryx and Crake, written by Margaret Atwood

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Liar Liar – The Life

hab⋅it –noun
1. an acquired behaviour pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary

Can the liars of the world really be blamed for their character? From the time we are able to speak we are taught how to lie. From Santa Claus to the Easter Bunny and every other silly thing that adults like to tell children, like the stork, the tooth fairy and maybe even God, we are led to believe in something in our most impressionable years and then are cruelly told, usually by an older sibling or a childhood pal in the schoolyard, that everything we have ever believed in, everything that the most trusted adults in our life had assured us is real, is in fact a lie.

You’re taught right from wrong, good from bad, so if Mom and Dad told you a lie about Santa Claus, then lying must be okay right? Is there a line when it comes to good and bad lies? And if so when do you cross it?

Are there good lies, and if so what are they?

  • lying to save someone from hurt feelings

  • lying to get a job, keep a job, leave a job

  • lying to get into a relationship, keep a relationship, leave a relationship

  • lying to a child about a mythical being who gives presents

Are any of these expectable lies?

My Papa is a wise man and has handed down many sage pieces of advice over the years – one that I have yet to follow is this:

“If you never tell a lie you will never have to remember anything.”

I have lived a lie many times throughout my life, usually for employment but sometimes for survival. In fact as a writer the only way I get paid is to lie. So where do I fall on the lie scale?

The Lie Scale*

The Occasional Liar
This category pretty much covers all of us, from the person who lies about why they are late for dinner to the parent who tells their children that a rabbit hides chocolate eggs around the house once a year. Most people don’t like to lie and are not very good at it, but they’ll do it to avoid an unpleasant situation or because they don’t want to admit to doing something embarrassing. Think 'You'.

The Frequent Liar
Frequent liars know lying is wrong, but it doesn’t make them as uncomfortable as the Occasional Liar. For this reason, they are more likely to lie regularly and are less likely to reveal lies through their appearance. Think 'Player'.

The Habitual Liar
Habitual liars are fairly uncommon. These are people who have difficulty separating fact from fiction and who say whatever comes to their minds no matter how exaggerated, ridiculous, illogical or untruthful it may be. Habitual liars lie so frequently that they never show physical discomfort, but they are so sloppy with content that they are easy to catch. Think 'The One-Upper'.

The Professional Liar
Professional liars have thought their lies through and know exactly what they’re going to say and when. Because the lie has been practiced so often, it will not be revealed by the liar’s voice, body language or appearance. Think 'Salesman' or 'Writer'.

*Source: Adapted from Various Types of Liars

I am a liar. Don’t believe anything I say. I am telling the truth.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Left Hand of Darkness – The Novel

se⋅mi⋅ot⋅ics –noun
1. the study of signs and symbols as elements of communicative behaviour; the analysis of systems of communication, as language, gestures, or clothing
2. a general theory of signs and symbolism, usually divided into the branches of pragmatics, semantics, and syntactics
“I talk about the gods, I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say, I am telling the truth.”

The Left Hand of Darkness is a science fiction novel by Ursula K. LeGuin. Like many good fictional stories from any genre, The Left Hand of Darkness is comprised of fully formed character development and the story is rife with mystery, suspense and deep human emotion. Even if said human emotions stem from androgynous figures known as Gethenians.

On a mission to enlist the Gethen, also referred to as planet Winter, into the federation of 83 planets, alien Genly Ai recounts his time on Gethen as an Envoy for the Ekumen. Mixed with legends of Gethen and also seen through the eyes of Estraven, an exiled politician of Karhide, one of the countries of Gethen, you get a well rounded history of Gethen while following the trials and tribulations of Genly Ai.

Now that last paragraph may just sound like nonsense, but once you get past the science fiction of the novel - after all sci-fi is just the vehicle to tell the story, and it is never what you are riding along in that is the forefront of your memory, but rather it is the journey that is most memorable – it is easy to enjoy the story and feel a connection with the characters, no matter how different they may appear physically.

I was recommended Ursula K. LeGuin one evening after explaining my dream Timequake, and the story I want to write based on it. I enjoyed this book and the writing reminded me of other science fiction works I have read by Iain M. Banks.

Next book on the list: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Suit Up!

leg⋅end⋅ar⋅y –adjective
1. of, pertaining to, or of the nature of a legend
2. celebrated or described in legend
30 days ago the plan was formed, albeit a drunken misinformed plan was cobbled together, but here we are 30 days later and said drunken plan is about to come to fruition. Tonight will be the first of, what I hope are many, Second Saturday Suit Up’s!

The plan is basic, throw on your best suit, or any suit for that matter – for myself I am rocking the highschool graduation suit, my financial situation doesn’t allow for a new suit in the budget, even though as a 30 year old I seriously need a new one or two - and go out on the town, causing trouble and awesomeness wherever you go.

Will tonight be legendary? Will debauchery ensue? We can only hope. Until then, Suit Up!

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Timequake - The Dream

dread –verb
1. to fear greatly; be in extreme apprehension of: to dread death.
2. to be reluctant to do, meet, or experience

I awoke this morning just before 7am from a very odd dream. As I mentioned on twitter, to understand my dream ‘think Timequake, with a me twist, and than you've seen inside my head’.
Timequake is the 19th novel written by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., essentially the plot line goes like this:
  • The universe snaps back from 2001 to 1991

  • Everyone is doomed to repeat the last 10 years on autopilot

  • When time gets back to the point where it snapped back there is chaos, as everyone has to actually start doing things for themselves. After 10 years of being on autopilot you suddenly have to remember how to drive a car – and I mean like right now!

So my dream, Timequake’esque, is this:

I am at my Mom’s house for this big party. Apparently we all know this Timequake occurrence is going to happen and we’ve gathered all our loved ones together to celebrate. What’s different in my dream from the novel is this Timequake is a well-known and predicted global phenomenon where everyone, for a few short hours, is going to decrease in age by 14 years.

I spontaneously revert to a 16yr old kid, my younger 2nd cousin becomes an infant, a new friend of mine from Romania – who is meeting my family for the first time – turns into a very bratty 8yr old, and another cousin – one who shared the same age as me – somehow is transformed into a 2yr old. For some unknown reason he decreases by double the expected amount.

There is some family discussion about age, but after about an hour everyone sort of overlooks the miracle and just goes about the day preparing the meal we will later all feast on. After the couple of hours that we were told the phenomenon would last everyone starts to revert back to their normal ages. I can suddenly feel it happening with the onset of a slight pain in my knees and hips, a pain that I have grown to ignore, but the sudden onset of it is alarming. I run around to members of my family and mention this sudden aging, but no one is concerned, it is as if this is nothing for them. Within a mere 5 minutes everyone begins to age 14 years right before my eyes.

And that’s it.

I woke up.

I never found out what happened to my cousin, the one that decreased in age by 28 years. Did he revert back to a 30yr old, or did he only age until he was a 16yr old?

I thought this dream might make a good story – looking at the after effects of the phenomenon. What happened to people who had lost a limb, or survived a disease? What happened with the dead, pregnant women or children under 14?

Maybe on one of these bored and broke nights alone that I spend inside I will sit down and write the story.

Working title: Lost Children

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