31 January 2007
He talked a lot about things from his book, A Short History of Progress. He also talked a bit about utopian and dystopian fiction. He mentioned some specific books, many of which I’ve read, but he mentioned others that I haven’t heard of and I wish I’d brought something to write with because I’ve forgotten them now. He said that authors of dystopias run the risk of having their fantastic imaginings come true. How awful that must be, to write a book about what you consider to be an impossibly bad fate for humanity to suffer, only to see it realized 20 years later.
The thing I love about Ronald Wright, the thing that attracted me to his writing, is what an obviously intelligent man he is. He’s so well-read and remembers the things he’s read. He takes ideas from different people, different cultures and times and synthesizes them. He doesn’t necessarily have new ideas, but he’s got a great way of looking at the old ones from a new angle.
He signed books afterwards. I got my copy of A Short History of Progress signed. He didn’t really remember me, but he remembered my mom, or at least he was polite and said he did. What a nice man.
30 January 2007
Later on, I was playing with a large scab that covered my entire left palm. It wasn’t painful, but it was large, crusty and hard. As I worked away part of it, I saw tiny, shiny, white balls and I thought (with revulsion even now) that they were eggs. Frantically I pulled the rest of the scab off and revealed a palm-full of tiny, tiny amphipods. There were far more than there should have been. I had apparently been brooding them in my palm. I can’t explain how gross this is. The more I think about it, the sicker I get. In the dream I wiped them all off my hand and they left behind a series of burrow tracks just below the skin of my palm. As if they had been crawling around under my skin and left little tunnels. I’m shuddering now, this is so disgusting. Freshwater amphipods aren’t parasitic, but in my dream I had become infected with them and they had laid their young in my hand and I had unwittingly raised them. Ew. Oh, ew. Damn, that is so awful.
23 January 2007
22 January 2007
I was alone in my office, so luckily there are no witness to my girly squee and hand fluttering. But I told everyone I saw after that and no one had heard of Ronald Wright or his books, so I had to explain that he’s the author of many great books, including what just may be my favourite book: A Scientific Romance. He writes primarily non fiction, though, and his most recent work was A Short History of Progress. I met him once in 2002. I wrote about it in my blog at the time, but I’m going to reproduce that entry here, rather than give you a link to the original posting.
At the time Ronald Wright lived in Port Hope, a town close to the hamlet where my parents live. I was home for Christmas and my mom was trying to reach him (she did a phone interview with him once) to get him to sign a book for me. He called the house on Christmas Eve and mom wasn't there, so my brother Mike took a message. When we got home that day, the following exchange took place:
Mike: Mom, Ronald Wright called, he left a number for you to call.
Me: Ronald Wright?!
Me: [high pitched, slightly hysterical] Ronald Wright! Ronald Wright called here??
Mike: No. Mom, Donald White called.
So, mom called back "Ron," as she called him, and he invited us to his house so he could sign my book. On Boxing Day, mom and I drove out to Port Hope and were invited into the beautiful kitchen of the beautiful home of the perfectly amiable and non-pretentious Ronald Wright.
I didn't know what he'd be like, but he was very nice, and he signed my copy of Henderson's Spear and a copy of Cut Stones and Crossroads, which I had gotten Mike for Christmas (as he was about to travel to Peru). The edition I bought had a mistake in it, and he corrected it! After the books were signed, he and mom talked local politics for about ten minutes.
That is my Ronald Wright story. He has since left Port Hope and moved to BC. And now there’s only one week left until his talk!
17 January 2007
I recently read the book Areas of My Expertise by John Hodge. It’s a book of fake knowledge by a guy who contributes to The Daily Show, among other things. I was really looking forward to this book, I thought it would be clever and interesting. It was boring! It wasn’t hilarious, funny, clever, or even amusing. It was a waste of paper and time. I hate when books are disappointing.
Last week I watched this movie with my UofA peeps. It was about legless reptiles on an aircraft. It did nothing to cure me of my dislike for animals lacking appendages. There’s something inherently creepy and worthy of distrust in their smugly effective mobility. All the other animals need legs, wings, fins. What makes snakes and the like so damn special? The movie was graphic and caused me to peek through my fingers for a lot of it. I think the primary take-home message in this movie was, when traveling by air, avoid women who wear high heels. I mean, the snakes? Pretty much unavoidable. But the heels? Just stay away from them (or at the very least make sure you’re behind them in the frantic charge to escape the snakes).
I watched all four hours of the 24 two-night season premiere. 24 is one of those shows that I like when I watch, but if I miss it I don’t care. I think it’s probably the most daring show on TV, in that no one is safe. I know a lot of shows claim that any character could die at any time (and Lost has certainly killed a lot of people) but I think 24 is the most ruthless, and depressing. I’d rather live on the Lost island(s) than in 24’s America. And Jack Bauer’s character! The poor bastard! I mean, just “today” in the course of four hours he was released (after almost 2 years) from a Chinese prison, tortured by terrorists, and forced to kill what was probably the closest thing he had to a best friend. No wonder he was crying. (Sorry if I gave anything away). Another cool thing about 24 is the above average number of Canadians it employs. I loved that they cast Shaun Majumder (a comedian from Newfoundland) as a nuclear physicist.
Before I go, I would like to offer some advice to my friends and readers out there. You should all belatedly resolve to post more comments on this page. The comments are fun! I doesn’t matter to me if they’re on topic or non-sequitorial. Just make the effort, you’ll feel better about yourself.
05 January 2007
The show also had a seemingly random panel of commentators ranging from Margaret Atwood to Buck 65 to some kid from Degrassi. The best commentator was Ronald Wright (wee!), one of my favourite authors. I’m not clear if all the commentators were Canadians (Debbie Travis? Steve Nash?), but going by the show’s lax definition of Canadian, they probably fit in somewhere. Insulin won out as the Greatest Canadian Invention. It’s worth noting that 5-pin bowling ranked higher than basketball which is just so….Canadian.
02 January 2007
Now, being back in my office, it’s like I never left. I don’t really want to go into the whole thing too much. I hate to dwell on Holidays after they’re over, especially since I’m currently trying to psyche myself up for extensive lab work. I will say that the highlight was my niece, with seeing my friends from Dal a close second. My only regret is not staying in town longer so I could see Joel Plaskett play at the Marquee (though I could have gone to the New Year’s Eve Eve show if I’d known about it). It was wonderful getting back to Halifax. It is still my favourite city, and even though I love it, I somehow forgot some things while I was away that I thought I’d share.
Things I forgot about Halifax after being away for 20 months:
- The smell. You get off the bus on Spring Garden and it hits you: salt water, grease, and car exhaust. It’s not unpleasant as much as it is distinct.
- How awesome J.W. Doull and The Freak Lunchbox are. They may be my two favourite stores in all of creation.
- The sound of the toilets in the Life Science Center on Dal campus: it sounds like someone torturing a cow.
- How claustrophobically small the hallways in the Market are, and how long the Mary’s Breadbasket line can get. I had to go without a cinnamon bun.
- The Dawg Father on campus. I didn’t see him this trip, but I had managed to forget him.
- When I wake up at 7:30am, the sun is still over 80 minutes away from rising.