Books I Read Recently

Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip by Nevin Martell 7 out of 10 stars (7/10)
This is a well-written biography of Bill Watterson, the author of the best comic strip ever, Calvin and Hobbes. The author writes about Watterson’s reclusiveness a lot, describing how few interviews are given. Martell interviews lots of friends and people who know Watterson, and provides an interesting portrait, although you don’t learn a lot if you’ve read all of the Calvin and Hobbes books; however, I do recommend this if you’re interested in the man behind the comic.

A Midnight Clear by William Wharton 9 out of 10 stars (9/10)
This is a semi-autobiographical story about an American squad on a mission around Christmas in 1944 – World War II. It’s a powerful tale about war and humanity – a classic. Highly recommended. The movie is worth watching, too. The author, William Wharton, writes touching, readable, poignant stories and non-fiction. We’ve posted a lot about William Wharton.

The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment by A. J. Jacobs 7 out of 10 stars (7/10)
This is fun non-fiction about a guy who does social experiments with himself as the main subject: impersonating a movie star; saying whatever is on your mind; pretending to be a woman… he doesn’t come across as narcissistic, although he makes fun about that. His self-deprecation and awareness of his reputation as one who does odd things in the name of journalism is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. I did get tired of his experiments towards the end, but he has enlightening observations about his experiences. A good read.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski 7 out of 10 stars (7/10)
This is a wonderful story about a boy, his family, and the dogs he grows up with. The boy is mute: he can’t talk, but he can hear and speak sign-language. Their family breeds dogs, dogs you wish you could own. The story has sections that are better than others – it seemed the author threw more variety in the tale to keep himself and the readers entertained – it seems deliberate. I found myself not caring about some of the story and then engaged in others. “Dog people” may enjoy this more than authors: there’s a lot about breeding, training, and dog behavior, which was fun to read. Not a great book, but good.

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins 9 out of 10 stars (9/10)
This is non-fiction about the science of evolution. It’s a thorough but fascinating explanation of the facts behind evolution and what it is. There are some chapters that are heavy into scientific description, which you may have to read twice; the author warns about those chapters, too; but one needs them to get a complete picture of the complexity of evolution. Highly recommended.

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama 7 out of 10 stars (7/10)
An autobiography of Barack Obama written before he become President of the United States, it describes how he was raised, worked hard, went to university after various jobs, then slowly became involved in politics – how his work experience and mentors influenced him. Obama is a wonderful writer and he makes his story interesting, although I grew bored when he went on about his extended family in Africa – too many damn names to remember.

King Leary by Paul Quarrington 6 out of 10 stars (6/10)
This amusing novel is about hockey, which may turn you off right there and I thought the same – but it won the CBC Canada Reads competition in 2008, which compelled me to try it. It’s about a former famous hockey player hired to advertise ginger ale. I laughed a lot at times, but I also found it dragged often too. It’s well-written and amusing, but I grew tired of the characters half way through.

H1N1 Vaccine Jab

TERMINATOR 2 SYRINGEAnyone get the H1N1 vaccine yet?

I normally don’t get vaccines, but I said what the hell. Getting the H1N1 vaccine is all the rage these days, and I’m always one to jump on the latest trend.

So I got jabbed yesterday. Nothing to it. From the time I got in line to the time I got the injection, it was probably less than 15 minutes.

The side effects so far: It feels like someone punched me in the shoulder. If anything else happens, I’ll report it here (in the comments).

Anyone else get jabbed?

Wes Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox”

I saw Fantastic Mr. Fox last night. It’s a stop-motion movie based on the book by Roald Dahl and directed by Wes Anderson and is therefore appropriately weird and difficult to pin down.

Anderson’s attention to detail is too much to take in. A second viewing might be necessary to fully appreciate what the hell’s going on. I recently re-watched Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Royal Tenenbaums and enjoyed them more the second time around, especially The Royal Tenenbaums. His movies seem designed for multiple viewings. I plan to watch Rushmore and The Dargeeling Limited this weekend.

Anyone familiar with his movies?

Peter’s Cracked Foundation: A Love Story

The following story was written one sentence, or one Steel White Table comment, at a time by… too many people to list. It began in August 2008 and was finished in September 2008. I just noticed it a few minutes ago under Random Posts.

The house was built on a cracked foundation. A young man named Peter Wilson lived in the basement with that cracked foundation. Any kind of precipitation, hail, rain or snow, required he lift his shoes and books off the floor where they would otherwise get wet overnight. CRACKED FOUNDATIONThe water seeping through the foundation at times became audible, the sound of a trickling brook. Inevitably Peter would make several trips to the bathroom. A rug by the side of his bed had to be rolled up and stuffed onto a shelf in his closet. He would have damp feet all night.

Peter lay in bed, tossing and turning because the pervasive dampness made it hard to get warm enough to fall asleep. He imagined the water rising, floating him and his bed out the door as he slept, down the street to the harbour. The harbour, once a place of personal enchantment, joy and laughter, now haunted his dreams. And these slushy, muddy, never-dry dreams, in turn, haunted his waking days, days that he (and his dog Muckmuck) would have rather spent working on his thesis with the ponderous but undoubtedly accurate and important working title, “The Adult-Tiger Relationship in Calvin and Hobbes: A Jungian Archetype or an Adlerian Neurosis?”

One morning, while standing in Home Depot reading the labels of sealers and epoxies, he realized that the long drying times needed for epoxy would enable him to work on the thesis and stop the seepage at the same time, thus breaking the strangle-hold of lethargy and lighting his creative and restorative juices simultaneously. Thus a new sense of optimism prevailed and Peter, with renewed vigour (and dry feet), felt it was time for the fieldwork on his thesis to commence — bring on the tiger!
Continue reading Peter’s Cracked Foundation: A Love Story