Higgins @ TheIndependent.ca

I just read a sparkling new column by Jenny Higgins in the recently resurrected-one-more-time Newfoundland newspaper, The Independent. The newspaper is an online publication now: TheIndependent.ca. The banner image doesn’t show up for anyone using an ad-blocker (a polite way of hinting that they really need those advertising dollars?), but otherwise the website seems well designed and easy to read.

The Independent was always a fresh and intelligent alternative to other news publications in Newfoundland. Judging from what I’ve read online so far, it still is. Jenny’s bi-weekly column, Past Tense, focuses on interesting but often overlooked aspects of Newfoundland history, and is a welcomed addition to their already impressive line-up of contributors. I plan to keep reading.

P.S.: This has not been a paid-for advertisement. It’s just I think quite highly of anything Jenny does.

UPDATE (August 25/11): Well, it looked promising in the beginning, but the new Independent ain’t so great anymore. I haven’t read it for months. It’s not even on my radar. I can’t go into details without getting into trouble. I’ll just say TheIndependent.ca has little in common with the former print version.

Book Review: Wake by Robert Sawyer

Wake by Robert J. Sawyer 4 out of 10 stars (4/10)

I’ll read most anything Sawyer writes because his ideas are fascinating and original, but I’m beginning to lose my enthusiasm after reading this.

Sawyer has brilliant, intriguing ideas, and he conveys them well – it’s the main reason I’ll read most anything he publishes. Unfortunately, each new book appears to be pandering to the masses: simple reading level, shallow characters with some gimmick to keep one’s interest, cultural references that are like ad placements… this story felt like filler to a bigger story, maybe detailed in its sequels. I devoured it quickly, but it’ll be forgotten quickly too.

Here’s a summary of the novel from Quill & Quire, which includes an accurate review I think:

Having recently moved with her family from Texas to Waterloo, Ontario, Caitlin is gradually settling into her new life when she is contacted by a Japanese professor with an irresistible offer: he has been working on a computer-based system that might restore her sight. The implant doesn’t allow Caitlin to see the physical world, but plunges her into a surreal universe that she quickly realizes is a visualization of the Internet. She is not, however, alone in this universe: something is coming to life within the Web, building not only awareness and intelligence, but sentience.

I know Sawyer can write brilliantly – many of his short stories (from Iterations and Identity Theft: And Other Stories) are as engaging as his novels, but they’re succinct and tight; and his website has wonderful essays. Maybe the novel-form gives him too much leeway for throwing in unnecessary cliches and cultural references as filler. One has to wonder if he’s paid for the endorsement-like tidbits he includes.

I have little interest in reading the sequels to Wake: WWW: Watch and Wonder (WWW, Book 3). Maybe I’ll pick them up if I see them in the Bargain Bin.

Note: This review has also been posted on amazon.ca.

My Valentine’s Playlist

John Walkenbach is creating a Collaborative Vallentine’s playlist from YouTube videos. My suggestions wouldn’t go through for some reason, so I’m posting them here.

Let the special man or woman in your life know how you feel by telling him or her, “I Want You.” (The Tom Waits cover by Holly Cole.) After dinner you can Turn Your Lights Down Low (Bob Marley), if you know what I mean. Then the two of you can lay there and bask in the purity of your Love (John Lennon). And the next morning while you’re having breakfast, you can read him or her some poetry, maybe “The Song of Wandering Angus” by William Butler Yeats (Jolie Holland). It goes like this:

loveI went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;

And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.