Time Suck Recomendations

Almost everyone I know has been talking about -- and linking to -- Garfield Minus Garfield. What's just as interesting as the project itself, are people's reactions to it. For some it's just hilarious, while to others, it's poignant and sad. I fall into the latter group, but I suppose I took the author's write up (artist statement?) (too much?) to heart:
Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolor [sic] disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against lonliness [sic] and methamphetamine addiction in a quiet American suburb.

I was just introduced to Stuff White People Like today, and I can kiss my productivity goodbye.
White women all consider John Stewart to be the most perfect man on the planet. This is not a debate, it is law.
It's like he knows me!

Finally, Spacing Toronto is a fantastic read. For someone like me who's fascinated by architecture, design, and urban planning, yet doesn't have any real clue about what goes into it, Spacing Toronto is an excellent resource. I'm sure it appeals to those with more of a background in such things as well. Yesterday, their post on the Moorish Revival style gave me answers to the questions that always float in my head when I see this style, and wonder where the heck it came from. Now I can say with authority "Oh, yes, that's Moorish Revival," like I know something about anything. I'll fool them all! Of course, I'll probably wind up saying that about buildings that aren't. I'm awesome that way.

All the above are also now in the "Links! Links! Links!" sidebar.

Two of the three links are CanCon, so the CRTC should be happy.

Thematic: Star Wars Edition

I have a massive case of the February "Go Fuck Off and Die Already"s.
I want to eat an entire chocolate cake, and I don't even like cake.
I have spent entirely too much time on Youtube today.
So I bring you a theme post.
The image to the left there, is something I made years ago, learning how to use Photoshop. I have no idea why I thought it would be funny to make Ackbar wash socks, and even less idea why it still cracks me up.

Star Wars According to a Three-Year Old

Eddie Izzard: Death Star Cafeteria

Chad Vader, Day Shift Manager

Bonus! Chad Vader sings "Chocolate Rain"

Best of Bootie 2007: Galvanize the Empire (Click to play with Quicktime, or right click and save as).

Han Solo Desk.

Think Geek used to have bookends that were Han and Greedo aiming at each other, but they don't seem to have them anymore. SAD! I always coveted those greatly.

Okay, I'm done. Back to your business, people.

The Deck

I finished The Devil, the Lovers, and Me: My Life in Tarot a couple weeks back. I couldn't help comparing it to Eat, Pray, Love, with all the new age-y reflections on life, and how one can go about improving one's future.

Kimberlee Auerbach is more down-to-earth than Elizabeth Gilbert, and thus, easier to identify with. The stories in her book weren't funded by a large publisher advance (though she likely got one), and she's not wealthy in the book (even though she comes from, and probably had more money than I do, it doesn't come across that way). Auerbach doesn't go around the world to find herself, she does it in the New York apartment of a tarot card reader*. Her family is messed up, like most families are, and she's not afraid to talk about it. She's not fabulous, she's an everywoman. And she's deeply funny, and incredibly thoughtful. All this makes Auerbach far more likeable than Gilbert, and makes the book a fast, interesting, and ultimately joyful read.

And yet... Gilbert is the superior writer. Reading The Devil, the Lovers, and Me is like having coffee with a great friend. Eat, Pray, Love transports the reader to exotic locales, where possibilities are open and endless. This, of course, is why Eat, Pray, Love is so successful, both in its writing and in its sales. Gilbert knows how to manipulate the reader, to force you to root for her, to join her on the crazy voyage. Gilbert's character isn't someone I'd easily get behind, in fiction or in life, but it speaks to the excellence of her writing that I did, in each and every page. I fear The Devil... won't have the same success, because it's more mundane.

I have no complaints about Auerbach's writing; I did enjoy the book thoroughly. I think she's got a lot of talent, and further books -- I do hope for more -- should hone that talent into something more magical. That thing that Gilbert has in spades.

* * *

Bookslut makes me laugh:
My favorite of [Penguin’s Great Loves] series is The Eaten Heart: Unlikely Tales of Love by Boccaccio. Boccaccio was an influence on Chaucer. That tells you how smart I feel when I drop Boccaccio’s name in casual conversation. It goes a little like this:
Stranger: Hey, lady, you’re parked in two spots! You suck!
Me: I’m reading Boccaccio! He was an influence on Chaucer!
Stranger: Move your damn car.

Callie Miller at Counterbalance has a post on a chair and ottoman, that also hold your books**. I guess it's that kind of week.

**Auerbach admits in her end papers that the tarot reader, and reading, in her book is a composite of tarot readers and readings she's had over the years. No surprise, since it's not likely you'd recount your entire life story over the course of one evening. Makes for an easy transition to screenplay though (oh, I'm such a cynic).

Random Nostalgia

Spacing Montreal has a post on legal postering spaces in Montreal, and a comparison with Calgary's spaces. Interesting stuff, but the part that caught me was the last photo: it's my old C-Train station!

To class, and back home. Downtown. Crossing those tracks to go to the Safeway, or Second Cup, or on my way home from hanging out with that odd little Goth guy at 3 a.m. That photo sent a little shockwave of homesickness through me. Everyday I spend in Toronto -- and every sad trip back to a place that's turning more into everything I ran from -- fills the holes that my past carved in my chest, when I left. Yet there are still things, like random photos of a place that was part of my everyday life, found while link-jumping, that tear those wounds open again. Smaller every time. Some day, it won't hurt at all.

Just Some Cool Stuff

I've always dreamt of living in a space with 12, 15-foot bookshelves, with a ladder on wheels to roll between them. There's a loft in Kensington Market that has such a thing (sorry for peeking in your windows all the time, lofters!). Though this just might replace the classic library in my dreams. It's a bookshelf staircase*! I think my heart stopped.

The Book Inscriptions Project is another one of those things I really wish I'd thought of (like Seen Reading). I think I've already mentioned how much I love used books for the notes I'll sometimes find in the margins. I'll write notes back, often, to the mystery author. I'll wonder if they used the book for a course, or were simply the sort of reader that has to respond to the text in the text. The Book Inscription Project also engages with these mystery writers, through the notes they leave for the recipient of the book. It's addictive reading, for me at any rate.
From the "about" section:
We collect personal messages written in ink (or pen or marker or crayon or grape jelly) inside books.
Pictures count. So do poems. So do notes on paper found in a book. The more heartfelt the better. [...] For whatever reason, I happened to open the book and saw the message from Mark to Joey.
Something about that note, handwritten by an unknown to an unknown of whose whereabouts,
gender and relationship I was unaware, struck me as both tragic and powerful. Since then I’ve been searching for more inscriptions and, after poring through thousands of books at garage sales, libraries and book sales, I now have a large and ever-growing collection.

Books That Make You Dumb correlates the favorite books of respondents, and their SAT scores**. Here's how they did it:
1[...]download, using Facebook, the ten most frequent "favorite books" at every college (manually -- as not to violate Facebook's ToS). These ten books are indicative of the overall intellectual milieu of that college.
2. Download the average SAT/ACT score (from CollegeBoard) for students attending every college.
3. Presto! We have a correlation between books and dumbitude (smartitude too)!

Books <=> Colleges <=> Average SAT Scores

4. Plot the average SAT of each book, discarding books with too few samples to have a reliable average.
5. Post the results on your website, pondering what the Internet will think of it.

My favourite book doesn't even make the list. I'm not sure what that says about me, so I'll assume it means my genius is off the charts. Heh.

*via Bookninja
**So, yes, it's based on U.S. info.

The Queen Street Fire

My life is often one big love letter to Toronto, so you can imagine I'm pretty down today.

CBC: Toronto blaze guts row of historic buildings

Toronto Star: Fire on Queen West

CityNews:Six-Alarm Blaze Tears Through Stretch Of Queen West

Interesting that a city block, containing heritage buildings, burns down, when that block is right next door to a new -- though not yet built -- condo development, housing yuppies and big box stores. The news is saying "meth lab." I'm more cynical.

This wasn't the toniest block in the world, but it's where I got my nose pierced, bought back issues of Bitch, ate after-bar pizza... It's where the antique store catered to the bizarre and silly, and where Duke's Cycle operated for 90 odd years. And now? It'll probably look like the American Apparel building down the street. And the new residents will have a lot to say about "that element," that makes Queen Street what it is.

Other coverage.

: The first photo on here almost made me cry.
Blog TO:Lots of photos here.

For the non-residents:
Queen West is/was freak central. It's where me and many of my friends have spent far too much time drinking, dancing, shopping, eating, wandering, etc. Though it's becoming more gentrified and homogenized all the time. American Apparel, the Gap, H&M etc have all moved in, and now the condos are coming. Queen West is also designated a historic district, and as such, many of the buildings can't be tampered with by developers, or so they say.

Bonus Content: Best Evar

I've had a few issues with the commenters, and content at Bookninja, but this is the Best Book Ninja Thread, EVAR.

Best Soup EVAR:
Potato, leek, and bacon. Made by BoyMan. You're jealous. Yes, you.

Realism Rears Its Ugly Head

One of my nebulous New Year's resolutions was to blog more. Clearly, that didn't happen. Not that I haven't been reading. Here's a bit of a follow-up to my last post, though it's not nearly as well thought-out. To be honest, A Line of Beauty deserves a lot more space than I give it here, and I probably could have done far, far more with it. However, I'm clearly a lazy blogger, and I'm sure my audience of six isn't waiting with baited breath for the next revolution in critical thinking to show up on this page.

* * *

A friend of mine*, who just happens to be a PhD candidate in Victorian Literature, and I were discussing my last post over email, and he pointed out that the Victorians had a "fetish for Realism." The reason Hardy was singled out, and critisized for his contrivances, was that they were more in the Romantic tradition. Which brings me nicely to The Line of Beauty, a book that also deals with class considerations in heavily class-conscious Thatcherite Britain. Nick, our protagonist, comes from middle-class stock, well outside London. He went onto Oxford and met the sons of the upper class, to whom he'd be attached for several years after. While his class gaffs sometimes set him apart (example: thinking a maid is the lady of the house), and his status as The Lodger (or one who "fills out the numbers at dinner") is never far from the surface, the outsider status really revolves around his homosexuality.

He begins the novel living in the ritzy house of a prominent MP, made possible by the friendship of the MP's son, Toby. Later on, he begins a long-term love affair with an heir to a grocery-chain fortune, Wani, whom he also knew from school. While Nick's sexuality is an open secret, Wani maintains a fiancé, until his AIDs infection progresses so far as so be undeniable.

Line of Beauty takes the opposite tack from Run in dealing with class
mingling, as it lacks Romantic tricks, and sticks firmly in realism. My Vic Lit pal mentioned that we still carry some of that Victorian sensibility with us, and many people feel that "capital 'L' Literature" must still be realistic to be lauded. He also points out that even now, there's still a bit of
lingering misogyny toward women as authors. Realism, as an aesthetic, has its roots in the 18th century when male authors made a case for the literary value of their work over the romances written by women; the novel, as a form, was posited in opposition to feminine, un-literary writing.

It's definitely something for me to chew over, regarding my thesis on class-consciousness in both the contemporary and Victorian novel, but I think there's space for both schools of writing to work within my theoretical framework.

Or I'll just pretend all this never happened.

Look over there!
*shifty eye*

The Line of Beauty won the 2004 Booker Prize.

* * *

I'm editing a manuscript for a friend of mine at the moment**. I forgot how much fun it is to really get into an edit. I'm not an editor, but like 90% of the people who graduated with an English degree, I always wanted to be. It's combination substantive/copy edit, and my brain is working harder than it's had to in a really, really long time. For which I'm very grateful. I'm sure she thinks I'm doing her a favour, but it really is the other way around.

*Hopefully he won't mind me quoting him. He's a smart cookie; I value his opinion, and appreciate his help.
**Like most people, I'm better at noticing others' mistakes.