Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Comments are Welcome!

According to my site meter, people are wandering through here, and I'm pretty sure it's not just me checking to see if anybody's stopped by. Please feel free to leave comments even if you're not in agreement with my opinions.

Coming up, reviews of albums by Audioslave, Wolfmother, and Christina Aguilera. Curious?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ensuring my Reading Habit

Yes, I'm getting lazy. This is the second time in a row that I've glued something here from my other blog. But it's about books and we all love books, don't we?

I should be working on my EQUINE BUSINESS PLAN right now. You see, I am getting my future place of dwelling and career all set up on paper. We're in the Business Plan/Time Management Unit this week. Yes, the two do go together. How can you plan your business if you can't plan your day? Basically this involves two things I struggle with: numbers and organization. I better learn it up real good.

In the meantime, Steve from querencia threw a nice little bit of recognition to me the other day! In the same post he threw to an interesting blog with a meme about books that haven't been read yet. Well. I do that. I cart books home because I am hopelessly addicted to books. I'm fanatical about them. I wash my hands before I pick them up! I'm crazy! I hold them in my hands as if they were made of butterfly wings. I mourn if a page gets bent. I have the most beautiful library and one of these days (when I dust it, haha) I'm going to take a photo of it for you.

I have enough books right now that it'll be years before I run out of reading material.

It's only been in the last two years that I can actually afford books. I used to scour thrift stores looking for that precious hardcover in good shape for a buck. I love books. I love books so much that I am somewhat afraid of bookstores. Except for uppercase books, which I discovered on one of my many travels. It's my favourite store in the world. If I only get there twice a year, it's worth it.

So, before I go log into my correspondence course, let me admit that I'm totally nuts and plan to still pursue a writing career once I get my horse farm happening. I will never have a tidy house. Here's my list of Ten Books That Have Been Brought Home But Not Read Yet.

1) Down Came The Rain by Brooke Shields. I don't usually go in for the famous people written books (although I made an exception for Tommy Lee. I had to.) This book should have come to me ten years ago. I'm looking forward to what she has to say and even though I haven't read it yet, I'm grateful to her for being public about this, and taking away some of the shame.

2) A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews. I shouldn't count this because I didn't buy it; it was given to me because it's about a Mennonite girl, and I'm Mennonite. I avoided this one because from what I hear, this lady did not enjoy her upbringing. I did. I have no bitterness about being raised in this denomination. Is it because I'm Swiss Mennonite in Ontario instead of Russian Mennonite in Manitoba? I have to read it to find out. Also it's apparently extremely well written and that's why I am required to read it. I'm working on a masterpiece about, you guessed it, a couple of teenagers who are Mennonite. I need to see what my competition is.

3) East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I'm ashamed that I haven't read this yet. Just ashamed.

4) Dancing With Your Dark Horse by Chris Irwin. This guy may not be a literary heavyweight but he knows horses. I just finished his first book, Horses Don't Lie, and I loved it. I've been into horse psychology for a long time...they don't think like us, kids. And they won't. We have to understand them. I'm really looking forward to diving into Irwin's study on human behaviour as it relates to equine behaviour.

5) Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman. I love Chuck. He used to write for SPIN magazine and I think he's both brilliant and funny. He's a farm boy and he loves to rock. Plus how can you not love a guy with a name like that.

6) Kinfolk by Pearl S Buck. I've heard that this is a classic. I found it in a thrift store. It's a very old hardcover. It's on my "Vintage" shelf. Yes, I have a shelf for Vintage books. I know. Obsessive. I know.

7) The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields. Critics rave about this Canadian author. I need to know why.

8) Airs Above the Ground by Mary Stewart. It's about Lipizzan stallions, and written by the author of The Wicked Day and The Merlin Trilogy. I gotta know. Also picked up in a thrift store, this hardcover looks like it's never even been opened. Weird. Imagine buying a brand new book and then not even opening it. Ummmm.....yeah.

9) Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. Again, embarrassed. I just want you all to know that I have read A Tale Of Two Cities. When I was 13. And I got it. So there.

10) Writing Life: Celebrated Canadian and International Authors on Writing and Life, edited by Constance Rooke. This is my latest acquisition. I should probably read this one first.

Then there are the other twenty or so that I haven't gotten to yet, not to mention that I must reread Jonathan Strange.

It's a good feeling, this library of mine. It was one of my dreams as a kid and I've made it come true. Now, on to the next one!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

2006 MTV Video Music Awards (from a hick perspective)

Thursday night, my one fuzzy channel tuned in on my TV...WHA HAPPEN???

Jack Black-whom I love- claimed that this show had been layin down farts for 20 years and he was gonna light the match.

I waited breathlessly for the blue flames. All we got was a lot of methane.

Personally I think the only thing that could save this party would be to hike it up to Toronto, set up the stage on Queen Street, and....oh wait. That's the Muchmusic Video Awards. Maybe MTV should do this thing like we do the Juno Awards and truck it around to a new city every year. A good show is guaranteed; every city will bust a hump to outdo the one before. Like, I avoid cities and I know this.

Right off the bat, this guy, Justin Timberlake announced that he was going to bring Sexy back.
Reeeeally. I had no idea Sexy left.

Being a metal loving hick, I have to admit that I don’t get hip hop. I like 5 seconds of it. Then, bored. This only makes sense. It’s “urban” music. I’m “rural.” We just can’t stay in love.

Generally I didn’t understand most of what went on. For example:


-How does one eat when one’s teeth are encrusted in fake jewels?

-Kanye’s pants didn’t fit right. It looked like he took an old guy’s easy chair and stapled it up into an outfit. I hope I’m not supposed to think it’s sexy.

-Nobody could read the teleprompter! Was it out of focus? Scrolling too slow? Were they already drunk???

-wtf with these Pussycat Dolls? I mean, ten years ago there were Spice Girls, and they may not have all been stellar vocalists, but at least they all held microphones which they expelled noises into.

-Who are all these girls? I can’t tell all those chick singers apart!

-Wha the heh happen to Beyonce??? In that trench coat act, being dramatically hauled around by guys in uniforms, I thought for sure I was watching Lil Kim. (Who by the way, had most of her skin covered.)

Apparently B lost weight. I’m glad she still has her magnificent thighs. But her face looks...the same as every other beautiful brown skinned diva singer. Thank god her amazing voice didn’t lose any weight.

Beyonce looks suspiciously like Lil Kim only taller, prettier, and less incarcerated.

-Shakira. Oh dear. Watch her with the sound off. Dance. No sing.

-Madonna and Christina: three nominations each, no awards. People, Madonna made MTV what it is. Okay? And Christina? She is the now and the future. Duh.

Plus she’s fun-crazy. She is. Look at her.
Thankfully they let her sing.

-Those little moonman things kept falling apart. Did they buy them at the dollar store?

-Why you should buy their record: If they don’t sell records they can’t afford cases and cases of black eyeliner, which would then put the manufacturers of black eyeliner outta business and therefore crash the economy of the cosmetics industry and if that goes, it all goes. See, I may be a hick, but I have a clue about the way things work. (By the way, I don't love them.)

-The Raconteurs. We all know that I love them. Heidi the Hick loves the Raconteurs. They are one of the bands I want to see very badly. They were kind of a house band and while it was great to get a steady dose of them throughout the boring three hour show, I was irritated. I wanted more. More of Jack White’s whiny voice. More of Brendan Benson’s scruffiness. More of Patrick Keelor’s head-down-sticks-up drumming. More of Little Jack’s slightly lost looking bass wrangling. Want more.

They were punching it hard, like in a “this show sucks and we’re irritated” kind of way. Jack is playing some beautiful guitars.

-These guys are chic hicks. Look at those suits.
Little Jack's hair is lovely against his suit, and his tie? Takes guts, young fella.
Jack's tone-on-tone black ensemble is perfect. Goes well with the fresh black dye job in his hair.
Patrick- how cute are you Patrick???-wearing a leather vest. With white buttons. To go with the shirt. Yes.
Brendon, scruffy as ever, is first of all sporting a rather Grand Ole Opryish jacket with white piping. And a plaid tie.

Hey, Raconteurs, if you’re reading this, I want to thank you personally for bringing Plaid to MTV. Not that I ever watch MTV, and from what I hear they hardly even play music videos anymore...but thanks!

By the way their Lou Reed pair up was cool. The Billy Gibbons pair up was heavenly.

-OKGo doing their treadmill routine was pure rich perfection. I could watch that for half an hour and not get bored.

-I love AFI and admit that I have not seen the video for which they won an award. I’ve heard that it’s mind blowing and from what I saw in the clip, it appears to be. However...have you seen the video for Dani California by Red Hot Chili Peppers? It is, simply, one of the Best Videos EVER. Doesn't matter;RHCP weren't there. AFI did a great acceptance speech in which a white clad Davey Havok spoke in a perfect Rock Voice. ( Rock Voice: constrict throat, drawl, drag out all vowels. As in, I'm in a baaaand man.)

-Speaking of which...Davey Havok, Lou Reed. Lou Reed...backing away slowly from guy with sculpted eyebrows and blue eyeshadow. Brilliant awkward unscripted moment.

-DID YOU KNOW that Al Gore, yes, that Al Gore, the guy who Almost Was The President of the USA, is a rock star? He is! He had people cheering ecstatically! Global Warming is HOT!

-SHE is crazy. Pink parodied the ditzy blonde thing perfectly on stage. Honestly she’s nuts. If she ever decides to, she’ll take over. She just doesn’t care.

-speaking of crazy...have I mentioned that I love Jack White? Look at this guy. There are some eyeballs going in two different directions. It bothers me, being an outdoorsy kind of girl, that Jack looks like he hasn’t seen the sun in a year. But I am quite aware that most recording studios have no exterior windows. I know this because Jethro has a similar studio tan to Jack’s.

But I see something else here... oh I feel another Hick Chic Photo Comparison coming on...oh yeah.....
(Yes this is the second time I've done a Photo Comparison with these two guys.)

(Plus I take any opportunity to sneak a Johnny pic in anywhere.)

-This was fun.Panic! At The Disco. We watched it with the sound off.

-When these guys got up to collect their award, the following convo took place in my den:
ME: I would party with those guys.
JETHRO: Um.....I think your idea of partying with those guys is different from their idea of partying with you...

AND FINALLY...Axl Rose introduced the Killers. Now folks, I don’t know what’s goin on with Axl these days. He’s crawled out from under that rock he spent the last decade under. He looks older now. Well he should. He is. However I’m not sure what’s going on with the red face, yellow eyebrows and suspicious cornrows. I thought he was hot in 1987. Yes I did and I freely admit it. Now I’m confused. I will say this though, and if you’re honest, you’ll agree: he’s still got the swagger. He might still have that scream but they bleeped it.

Couldn’t find a photo of the Killers but I will say that I like their new look. All in black and wearing beards, like wild west outlaws, only with keyboards.

Then I went to bed.

MTV, I have ideas for next year.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susannah Clarke

I have just read the most amazing book. I fully intend to read it again.

“Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell” is about magic. Specifically, the two opposing viewpoints on magic presented by a magician and his pupil. Gilbert Norrell wants to ensure that magic is a refined, scholarly art practised only by gentleman, and in a perfect world, only by him. He is convinced that he is the only person qualified to do the job. He has done the reading. He has studied. He owns all the books; he’s collected and hoarded every book on magic that he can find, and this way made sure that only he can do magic. Nobody else can be trusted.

He wants to bring English Magic back to prominence as the repectable occupation that it should be, not the wild unpredictable dangerous magic that others before him have done.

Jonathan Strange enters his life as his protegee and things go very disorderly after that. I refuse to tell you much about young Strange. I would rather have you discover him on your own as you experience the story.

What you do need to know about Jonathan Strange at this point, is that he will turn Mr Norrell’s world upside down.

These two men are surrounded by a rich cast of characters who I can’t even begin to describe. Each one of them (real and fictional) contributes to the story in surprising ways.

It’s so wrapped up in real history that the entire thing is very believable. It’s set in the early 19th century but written from a point in which many of the characters are still alive. Time has not gone past the mid 1800s.

Footnotes regularly appear to help the reader understand events in history that explain details. Often these footnotes lead us to some of the books on magic that Mr Norrell has hidden away.

A great deal is made of class structure and the business of being a gentleman; the relationship of master and servant is a recurring theme. There are a lot of wealthy, handsome, well dressed, educated, completely idle men in this story.

The plot in this exquisitely written book is mind boggling. The writing is beautiful. Open this book to any page and you’ll find something stunning. I’ve copied some for you but this doesn’t even begin to cover it. I don’t have time to type out a third of the book, and I haven’t even gotten into Stephen Black and the gentleman with the thistledown hair, or Arabella, or the old lady with the cats, or Norrell’s resurrection of Miss Wintertowne, and I haven't even told you about the Raven King....oh just read these excerpts!!!

Bleak: A great old church in the dead of winter is a discouraging place at the best of times; the cold of a hundred winters seems to have been preserved in its stones and to seep out of them.

Gruesome: Next he made a long, deep cut in his arm, and when he had got a good strong spurt of blood, he let it splash over the heads of the corpses, taking care to anoint the eyes, tongue and nostrils of each. After a moment the first corpse roused itself. There was a horrible rasping sound as its dried-out lungs filled with air and its limbs shook in a way that was very dreadful to behold. Then one by one the corpses revived and began to speak in a guttural language which contained a much higher proportions of screams than any language known to the onlookers.

...and a passage that made way too much sense to me: The backs of their heads were hollowed out; their faces were nothing but thin masks at the front. Within each hollow a candle was burning. This was so plain to him now, that he wondered he had never noticed it before. He imagined what would happen if he went down into the street and blew some of the candles out. It made him laught to think of it. He laughed so much that he could no longer stand....

Some of it is beautiful, some is chilling, some is tongue in cheek clever, and some is downright horrifying. Always it is presented in a slightly detached, aristocratic tone.

This novel examines class structure, geography, history, mystery, sadness, magic, murder, boredom, temptation, restlessness, loneliness, intelligence, fate, politics, insanity, and the intense need for a person to find someone else who understands.

Susannah Clarke, according to the scant information, lives in Cambridge England, and this is her first novel. I believe the first part but not the second. You don’t come out of the gate with a masterpiece like this. I have read that it took her ten years to write it. I totally believe that.

It is not an easy read. It’s a brick of a book, there are multiple characters to keep track of, many different locations, and old fashioned language to trip over. But read it. Take a month or more to read it if you have to. It’s worth it.

As I write this, it’s been about two weeks since I finished it, and I am having Novel Withdrawal. Seriously. I did not want it to end, despite the length of time it took to read it, which may or may not have been a month. I wasn’t keeping track. As I went through it, I found myself re-reading parts of it. Sometimes this was for clarification, but usually it was to savour it, and relish it, and soak up the words.

Reading this novel almost made me want to give up and never write another word again because nothing I write will be this good. But it also makes me want to write better than I ever have before.