I gave a presentation about blogging at the Lower Mainland Museum Educators group. I did have a plan of things I was going to say, but then I just went with the moment, responding to comments that people made and dealing with questions. I hope I at least encouraged people to start. This got me thinking about my own blog. Since this has been mostly about cartoons and maybe not even about those things. They say, whoever they are, that you learn something new every day. That could be starting point for me to reboot this blog. Here we go.
Leading writing workshops (in a cartoonish green tie) for groups of 11 to 13 year-old writers at the week-long Vancouver Public Library Book Camp was fun and enlightening. I tried to encourage them to write without fear but also to re-write without mercy. Some were as sharp as very sharp things and I had to be careful not to get pricked by their barbs nor shatter what might be a brittle sense of self. I tweaked the content each day, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. The group dynamics and the individual needs were all so different.
Thanks to the organizers from the Vancouver Children's Literature Roundtable for a thought-provoking, inspiring day of children's writing Titans exploring the theme of Home and Away.
Our latest multimedia post for the Science Borealis web site is up. Lisa Willemse and I wrote about podcasts, in the style of a podcast with imagined sound effects. After deciding on the topic of podcasts, we just emailed back and forth. Unlike a version of exquisite corpse, we read all of what the other had done. We have a new team of editors who were keen to make sure the post actually made sense and they moved some things around. I like the excuse to draw a cartoon and it is fun to see how Science Borealis has evolved.
Emma Bovary is an idiot and the men she deals with are scoundrels, fools or twits. It kind of felt like a reality TV show set in an earlier time. The details of the habits and items of every day life were fascinating as historical images. The trouble Emma gets into because of her unrealistic expectations reminds me of a modern spoiled teenager. Exasperating. And although I would have sympathized with how the chemist disparages the church and proclaims the virtues of science, he comes across as an arrogant buffoon and possibly evil in the extent of his self-absorption.
She likes things laid out.
Other Haruki Murakami stories I have enjoyed contain something profoundly weird in their world. Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki is not like this, though I kept expecting it to be. Also this story seemed more Japanese in its outlook with the yearning to belong to a group and the reluctance to express feelings. It has some odd situations, which I imagined would lead to some bizarre explanation, but instead, they were just left unexplained. This culminated with an abrupt ending. I was especially surprised because I was listening to it as an audiobook so I didn't know when the end was coming.
I had heard of Robinson Crusoe, but it was quite another thing to listen to it on audiobook. Having been written so long ago, it feels like a time capsule, even though I think it was referring to some time before when it was written. The interminable speculations on the meaning of God's intentions is on the one hand tedious and on the other intriguing to look at the world through different perspective lenses, which is what he called a telescope. I also wondered about the actual ecology and anthropology of the Caribbean islands and its reception at the time.
Christopher Moore enthralled me with this funny and yet poignant tale of Christ as told by his unknown best friend Biff. It has funny and crude parts, yet fundamentally seemed sincere in its depiction of the Son of God. For me, it was an entertaining fantasy, connecting the maturation of Joshua, as Jesus is called, on his quest to meet the three wise men who visited him at birth, and through them, learning about Confucius, Kung fu, poison, a demon, Buddhism, the yeti, Hinduism, and angels. The audiobook I borrowed from the library was extra good with the different voices.
I loved this epic personal, cultural, temporal journey of the author and the netsuke, the small Japanese sculptures, he has inherited. Amazing how he connected intimate details of family members to larger historical events. He interweaves his own quest and responses to his exploration in the places where the stories took place, Paris, Vienna, Tokyo, Odessa. As a potter, he also brings his sensibility of art and objects. The hardships, discrimination and forced relocations of his once rich, Jewish ancestors in Europe, resonate with the stories of my Nikkei parents and grandparents I have been thinking about how to capture.
I really enjoyed Ready Player One, which must mean I am more of a geek than I realized. It is a book about an immersive video game filled with references to eighties video games and pop culture. The outsider with a big goal to win the big game, facing an evil empire, a pal and a love interest and cliffhangers at the end of each chapter. It is not subtle but I ate it up. Weird to think of video games as culture and nostalgia for technology. Maybe it is just the misremembered youth associated with all that.
Pajama Press tells me that our book Peach Girl has been selected by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center in Madison, WI, for their best-of-the-year list, “CCBC Choices 2015” under the folklore category. This is an authoritative list in the U.S., so a real coup to be included. I don't know if it's the children who are cooperative or the Book Centre. In any case, thanks to them.
The full list is here: http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/choices.asp