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  Monday, May 06, 2013
reading listening watching 

icicle-cousins
Time for another brainfood dump, accompanied (as always) by a random assortment of completely unrelated abstract photos I've taken recently.

My Reading

  • Wonderstruck -- not as good as The Invention of Hugo Cabret, but still beautifully done
  • The Underwater Welder -- another incredible graphic novel from Jeff Lemire
  • Maus is an amazing graphic novel series about the Holocaust
  • The Cello Suites: J. S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece was a wonderful read, best experienced while listening to the suites corresponding to each section of the book.
  • wet-grass
  • I forgot to include Pinboy in my last post -- George Bowering's coming-of-age-in-the-Okanagan memoir. I got a great kick out it.
  • The Antidote:  Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking
  • The World Until Yesterday -- heavy-duty anthropology, very engaging.

Reading With the Girls

    spring-willow
  • Greyhound of a Girl -- fascinating ghost story, beautifully written
  • The Humming Room -- Ella and I loved this one; very off-kilter and rich.
  • Ruby's Holler -- Yet another orphan story, but this one felt different. Not great, but nice.
  • Winterling-- We probably should have given up on this one. Clunky, clunky, clunky.
  • Ghost Knight -- Another ghost story that was a bit gory for bedtime reading, but also a lot of fun, with a nice almost-romantic sub-plot that was just right for the girls.
  • Princess Academy-- I pitched this one based on it having the absolute worst cover and title of any book we've seen. It couldn't possibly be as bad as it looks, and our first session was promising.

reaching-grasses
Reading With Ezra
  • I'm still doing occasional picture books with Ez, but we're mostly blending chapter books with him reading his early-reader books to me (Sunshine Books, Tadpole Books)
  • We dug into the Lighthouse Family series gain when the newest one (The Octopus) finally came into the library -- wonderful, warm, fun books.
  • Revisited favourite Far-Flung Adventures Fergus Crane and Corby Flood
  • The girls always enjoyed The Dragon of Lonely Island, so it was fun to introduce Ezra to it over the last couple of weeks.

new-grassheads
Listening

  • It's always nice with SxSW rolls around, because suddenly there are hundreds of mp3s from bands floating around.
  • Japandroids remind me why I still love rock
  • We probably burned out on the new Tegan & Sara a bit
  • I've been geeking out on Scandanavian folk music, courtesy of an obscure compilation album I found at the library called Nordic Roots
  • Sarah Neufeld Hero Brother
  • A mashup of Call Me Maybe and Head Like a Hole should be terrible, but I loved this: Call Me a Hole  And then someone did the inverse, which is fascinating, if not quite as well done:
  • Call You a Hole
  • babys-breath-drops
  • This live video from Winnipeg band Imaginary Cities is pretty astounding. High-end performance -- not many bands can pull of their sound live like that.
  • Federal Lights -- I See Love  -- My old friend Jean Guy is making some great music -- looking forward to the album.
  • I'm not a hip-hop fan, but every since If Rap Gets Jealous I've followed K'naan and enjoyed some of it. Really enjoyed this confessional article from him, about the difficulty of staying true to himself:
  • Censoring Myself for Success

Watching

  • grass-needs-hug
    Lost in Translation -- I guess I had heard of Scarlett Johansson before, but had never seen a movie with her in it. Like Liv Tyler in Stealing Beauty, I found her mesmerizing -- every half-smile and averted gaze was amazing somehow. And Bill Murray is unreal. I think I this was recommended by Angelo years ago, and somehow I came across the positive Rotten Tomatoes page that prompted me to finally pick it up.
  • Brave -- we hit this one at the second-run theater and I liked it more than I should have.
  • Ponyo -- I was super disappointed the first time I saw this, but enjoyed it more the second time around.
  • Porco Rosso and The Cat Returns -- I had forgotten how excellent these less-popular Miyazaki films are.
  • Moonrise Kingdom -- Ivy joined me for this movie as a double-daddy-daughter date with Hannah and Andrew -- thumbs up from the dads, thumbs down from the daughters.
  • Kung Fu Panda 1 & 2 -- I love these disproportionately
  • The Hobbit -- wow, crappy movie. I was pretty excited to see it, but...jeez, just stick to the bloody story already.
  • Samsara-- amazing cinematography, very similar to previous films.

new-leaves waxwing

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  Sunday, December 30, 2012
reading listening watching 

two-trees
Reading

In a rare fit of seeking out grown-up fiction, I dove into two novels by David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green. Everyone has probably heard of the former, and I loved it. Thanks to Linsey for the recommendation! The movie doesn't look as enjoyable, but just opened in the second-run theater, so I should probably give it a go. Black Swan Green was more personal, and probably somewhat autobiographical -- a classic young-boy-coming-of-age story that had me laughing out loud at times and cringing at others.

What is a Print? -- gorgeous book outlining the different types of printmaking, with beautiful examples of each and a simple, concise writing style.

I thoroughly enjoyed An Okanagan History: The Diaries of Roger John Sugars, and my mom's review captures many of the reasons why. I dug into a couple of other local history books over the holidays as well.

apple-bobbles-close
My Aunt Carol's Cover Letter Queen is quite an accomplishment for a first-time author. Although I enjoyed it partly because it's fun to read stuff written by people you know, the quality of this book transcends the personal connection -- it's funny and smart, with zippy pacing and a strong voice.

Back Roads by Ted Ferguson was fascinating -- a guy who uproots his family and moves to the boonies of northern Alberta for a sort of modern pioneering experiment.

A book titled 7 Laws of Magical Thinking wouldn't usually be my cup of tea, but the subtitle is more accurate: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy and Sane. I thought the author did a better job of outlining our irrational beliefs than he did in addressing the potential positives of those cognitive biases -- to me they still mostly seemed negative.

three-ridges
Thinking Fast and Slow -- this was round three for me on this book, and I keep thinking about it after each read. Tour de force on the subject of how we think, make decisions and where it all goes wrong.

The Amulet series has been a huge hit around here for years already, but I finally read right through it beginning to end (well, as far as it has gone at this point). Wonderful stuff, fun and smart.

We finally finished books 2 and 3 in Anne Ursu's Cronus Chronicles: The Siren's Song and The Immortal Fire -- the girls really dug it, probably nearly as much as the similar Percy Jackson series we read together last year.

We all waited patiently for the library's glacially slow copy of A Hero for WondLa to arrive months after it was available in stores -- as good as the original, with amazing illustration and a compelling story.

lake-rocks-raindrops
I had heard good things about Wildwood, but the amazing cover art and inside illustrations could not sustain my interest. We all agreed to give up on it after about 200 pages, which is rare for us.

I'm in awe of the Mouse Guard series and read them right through: Fall 1152, Winter 1152, and Legends of Mouse Guard. Incredible art. Ezra can sit looking at these graphic novels for hours.

Sweet Tooth Book 4 -- I'm totally hooked on this post-apocalyptic comic series, and can't wait for the next one.

Inside Out and Back Again blew my mind and had me weeping at several points. It's a kids' book told entirely in sparse verse, describing a child's experience of escaping from Vietnam near the end of the war, and trying to adapt to life in the deep south of the U.S...amazing book.

winter-branches
Ezra and I have been getting back into picture books, although we also blew through two favourite dragon series again: Dragons of Wayward Crescent and My Father's Dragon. We're also doing Narnia, skipping The Magician's Nephew and then working through the series in order -- currently on Voyage of the Dawn Treader, just before Eustace becomes a dragon (to go with the theme...)  

Listening

I bought The Bright Motion by composer Michael Mizrahi -- wonderful ambient piano compositions, beautiful and fresh.

Janine Jansen performing Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor -- incredible piece of music, so full of energy that it just explodes out of the headphones.

robin-mountain-ash
I was listening to Metric's Synthetica in preparation for seeing them in Kelowna -- although our tickets fell through at the last minute, I'm liking the album.

The Tragically Hip's Now for Plan A is better than I expected. I really like about half the tracks.

Seeing Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony performed live by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra got me into this masterwork. Unreal.

NPR had REWORK Philip Glass Remixed streaming for a few weeks, and I really got into it -- innovative project with standout tracks from Amon Tobin, Dan Deacon, and Beck's ridiculous attempt to weave 20 Glass songs into one continuous track. Also found a cool interview with Glass and Beck.

ice-shards
Glass Chamber Works with Philip Glass and Tim Fain, especially the third duet, which blew my mind...thanks to Andrew for the pointer.

Trent Reznor's side project with his wife is called How to Destroy Angels -- I'm been streaming their new EP, and it sounds good. Definitely veers into self-indulgence with a sort of Lennon-Yoko Ono experimental approach at times.  

Watching

Across the Universe -- this was recommended as a musical for people who hate musicals (me), and I found it pretty interesting. Trippy and clever.

burnt-siding
The Nightmare Before Christmas -- a Halloween/Christmas tradition for us.

I've been hitting up the second-run theater in Westbank with the kids, seeing Paranorman, Brave and Rise of the Guardians.

Tannis and I watched our old favourite, The Milagro Beanfield War

I wish we had seen The Secret World of Arrietty in the theater -- Miyazaki does it again.

Our library finally got Akira, a film Steve's been telling me about for years. It didn't grab me as much as I had expected, but definitely worth watching.


autumn-corn


hazelnut-snow

icicle2

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  Thursday, September 20, 2012
Four-Oh 

angelo-circle
Seems like many of my close friends are turning 40 this year, so I'm getting the benefits of frequent celebrations. The first was Angelo, who hosted us at a great party in July with a real neighbourhood vibe, exactly reflecting where he's at in his life right now. Hands-down the best beer selection I've ever seen at any party, delicious food, perfect sunny weather, and a warm, friendly scene that anyone could melt into. I think we all felt honoured to be included, and Tannis and I had the added bonus of staying over and going for breakfast with the Eidses in the morning. Good times!

angelo

boat-scene
Plett could have partied in Manitoba, where it would have been harder for me and Myron to participate, so we were very happy to host him here for his 40th celebrations in August. Thanks to Heather for making that work, complete with making it a surprise. Highlights included an excellent session at Joey's that continued later in our backyard, an epic Dueck boating adventure through most of Saturday that turned into a BBQ at their place, and burgers on the way to airport on Sunday. A quick trip, but full of warmth and fun with an old friend.


We're celebrating Andrew's 40th in Vancouver next weekend, and Myron has a huge bash planned for November, so the fun will continue. I'm starting to stew on my own milestone birthday, which will sneak up on me soon enough.


vso-stage
Update: I think we celebrated Andrew's 40th in style, hitting Vancouver for a fun, quick trip. The Sylvia was a great place to land, Yaletown Brewpub was excellent, the symphony surprised us, and we even got to spend some time with other friends (Lorne and Andrew dropped in on Bill, while I connected with Angelo). Good times!



dancefloor
Update: They just keep coming! On the long weekend, Myron celebrated his 40th with dozens of friends up at his place -- a real bash with a great band, tons of food, and the shed done up in style. Even some friends from Manitoba came out, and Myron's folks too. We've gotten to know some of his friends from Penticton, so it's nice to connect with those people too.

candles
More than anything, these events have made me so thankful for my close friendships -- I feel so lucky to have these excellent people in my life. I've also thought about how each of these celebrations reflected the personality and lifestyle of each birthday boy. Still trying to figure out what approach I'd like to take with mine in a couple of months.

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  Wednesday, September 19, 2012
September Sunshine 


September is usually nice here, but I don't recall ever having such great weather this late. We keep thinking that the beach season is over, putting in huge sessions on what feels like "the last day of summer"...then finding that it just stays nice.

Update Oct.5, 2012: Well, it stayed warm right through until the end of September, and then we had an abrupt correction back to normal temps. However, the Thanksgiving forecast is still pretty great:

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  Sunday, September 02, 2012
reading listening watching 

autumn-gold
Listening
Reading
  • No Road Markings for Miles -- my mom collected and published our journals from the trip to Europe the two of us took together in 1993. My parts are occasionally painful to read, but it's a treasured keepsake and I've been enjoying picking it up these last few weeks.
  •  Souvenir of Canada 2 by Douglas Coupland -- On Canada Day, I poured myself a frosty brew, pulled the lounger into a comfy spot under the mountain ash, and settled in to enjoy this classic slice of Canadiana. Perfect.
  • brown-eyed-susans
  • Chuck Friesen was a guy from Rosenort who wrote some interesting things before he died of cancer last year. Based on his writing, he and I wouldn't share many beliefs, but for some reason I found this good reading to put things in perspective and be thankful for what we've got. I was interested in his take on the "mistakes" people make when visiting someone who is terminally ill, and in reading the push-back from some of the people who supported him through his last weeks and months.
  • Lakeland by Allan Casey -- If I tried to describe this book, it would sound dull, but it was anything but. I started with the chapters covering the lakes I knew best -- Okanagan and Lake of the Woods, Lake Winnipeg -- and just kept reading. I was fascinated by his take on the ice road on Lake Athabasca, the story of Grey Owl, and small-town Quebec culture...actually all of it was great. Beautifully written, highly recommended.

  • dandy
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking -- when I couldn't get this book from the library, I read all the other books they had on the topic of introversion. In some ways, I wish I had waited for this one, which was by far the best of the bunch. Very affirming, and it might even change the world if some extroverts would give it a shot.
  • With the girls, I've been reading Alex and the Ironic Gentleman, which I cannot recommend. On the other hand, we all adored The Shadow Thieves by Anne Ursu and promptly bought (!) the next two books in the series because the library won't have them for a while.

  • pine-sunset
  • Program or Be Programmed by Douglas Rushkoff -- I haven't been doing much reading about technology, but I enjoyed this. Some good cues to either unplug from passive use of the web, or get busy really creating stuff online.
  • What is a Print? -- gorgeous art book, practical and inspiring and awesome.
Watching
  • Princess Mononoke -- I watched it again one night while Tannis and the kids were in Calgary. Still my favourite animated film.

  • woodlot
  • The Hunger Games -- watched with Tannis, who is a fan of the books. Not the best movie, but entertaining enough, and made me want to read the series. 
  • Percy Jackson -- so, so bad. And we loved the books.
  • Ramsay Downholers -- I'm not really sure how to describe this pilot for a TV series about an old-timer's hockey team in Ontario. It was surprisingly compelling, if only because it so accurately depicts the scene I've encountered here as well. Quite funny, but very low-brow.
  • Local singer Nico Boesten made an excellent video talking about the song he wrote after his dad died. Powerful stuff.
  • I'm super excited to see Samsara -- the trailer looks incredible, maybe even better than Baraka
elegant dream-grasses cherries-laden sunflower-drops

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  Thursday, June 28, 2012
reading watching listening 

tree-bw
Reading
  • An Unquiet Mind -- terrifying and wonderful book, outlining the author's descent(s) into madness and how she learned to cope.
  • Why photographs work : 52 great images -- smart format makes it easy to appreciate and understand the excellent images.
  • The Continuum Concept -- I wish I would have read this before we had kids. The author studied the parenting of tribal peoples as a way of understanding our evolutionary history. Sort of like applying the paleo diet to parenting -- matching up strategies with what worked for a few hundred thousand generations. Tough read, clunky at times, but fascinating and mostly convincing.
  • cherry-branch
  • Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman -- I'm not quite halfway through this one, but it's rocking my world. Brilliant researcher, good writer and a theme I'm into -- cognitive biases and  decision making.
  • Blink by Malcolm Gladwell is like the pop-culture version of the book above. Wonderfully entertaining, highly readable and very convincing, yet after reading it I figured out why I had resisted it -- just because people tend to make snap decisions does not mean that it is good strategy to do so. I prefer Kahneman's cautionary tone and his deeper dive into the pitfalls of "Blink" decisions.
  • Closer -- this fourth book in the Tunnels series is the only fiction I read for myself (actually re-read), in anticipation of the fifth book, which has been sitting in cataloging at the ORL forever. This is real guilty-pleasure reading for me, where the fantastical settings, speedy pacing and creepy vibe help me suspend my disbelief and ignore the huge holes in the plots.
  • reeds-reflected
  • The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler -- classic junior novel following a brother and sister who run away and hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. Ivy and I had read it before, but it was a first time for Ella.
  • Breadcrumbs -- more bedtime reading with the girls; this was a very pleasant surprise. Some interesting twists on the usual fairytale conventions.
  • With Ezra, we finally finished the last few books in the Nate the Great series, really enjoyed Kenny and the Dragon, and happily blew through the entire Lighthouse Family series.

Watching
    grass-curls-family
  • Industrial Revolutions --Danny McAskill can do stuff on a bike that nobody should be able to do. This is great sports film-making. 
  • It Might Get Loud --I'm not a fan of Jack White's music, but thought he was so compelling in this documentary.
  • Brazil -- I should know better than to try old cult films. Terrible.
  • Two Towers -- Sometimes when I'm out of energy, an old favourite is just the thing.
  • From the Inside Out -- the Penticton bike club showed this at the college, and Ella and Ezra decided to join me. Good fun, familiar formula for a mountain biking film.

orchard-blossoms
Listening


forest-vertigo

grass-above

logging-zone

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