Notes from a summer without twitter

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It was a summer, and it was not a complete success, in terms of the goals set out previously. I did not find a new thing to do with my time or my mind while waiting in the line at the Shoppers Drug Mart; if smartphones have completely rewired our brains in this regard, then the rewiring is either permanent or requires a much more drastic measure on my part to undo. Nonetheless, here were the reactions and observations from my summer without twitter and Facebook:

Other venues went up. The first thing that happened when I went off twitter and Facebook (and Vine) is that my use of Tumblr and Instagram spiked by something like 300%, which for the most part rendered the whole experiment moot. (Oh: and Letterboxd. I started Letterboxding like a fiend.) Whatever part of my brain was looking to express itself in the online world just went there, albeit under vastly more constrained circumstances. Nonetheless, it was a pretty instructional experience, especially on Tumblr, where I started putting a little more time and thought into the content - and more specifically, into the flow / “story” of the content on a daily and weekly basis. You probably wouldn’t be able to detect it externally, but there was a method and meaning to the connection between the posts day by day, rather than just outright randomness. This, at least, was part of what I was trying to get to (with twitter at least), as it feeds into what I’m doing with social communication at my day job. I’m not sure if it’ll have any impacts for my personal content, but if I were to write a next-gen social media strategy for myself in September 2014, it would include this idea of longer-term content narratives and communications flows. Like the professional social media buffoon I am!

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Destroy All Monsters: The Fault In Our Reading

In which I enter the Young Adult fiction fracas and wonder aloud (well, written down) about complexity vs. archetype and basic human needs. Read more

My favourite quotes from this wonderful essay about THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, and then a link to the essay

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Because boy, more than just about anything I’ve read this year, this is about me:

"There is something in these stories that children need, want: an imaginative trial of independence, a way out of life as they know it. For some children, though, they are more than that: They are life preservers."

"I write as someone who was left behind, as anyone who has read and loved a magical book is, marooned in the world we tried so hard to escape. We are Narnians bereft of Narnia, witches without wands, children who have grown old. I do not mourn for my lost childhood: let me be clear. Adulthood is another, maybe equally profound, form of escape, and one I relish."

There is something about the stories we read as children that get at the root of a person, that have access to the rawest nerves. And when these books are as aggressively enchanting, and as full of hard, cruel things, as the Chronicles are — ambivalence can be violent.”

This is a profound betrayal of Susan, and of the story itself. AuthorNeil Gaiman and fan-fiction writer E. Jade Lomax have both memorably taken up this question, in part because it’s the sort of egregious wound that demands stitching up.”

This is all to say that none of this makes sense. It is all exception and no rule, a world where all your favorite stories coexist without continuity errors. Even in heaven, in those last horrible/tortuous/beautiful pages of The Last Battle, Professor Kirke, now “the Lord Digory,” murmurs under his breath (maybe because he knows how sacrilegious it is), that the afterlife is “all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me.” This is an Oxford don having his cake and eating it too.”

Anyone who has read the Chronicles of Narnia before first trying Turkish delight is doomed to disappointment. This would be true regardless of what she offered Edmund: chocolate, ice cream, fruit. Nothing would taste right.

"…There are few writers who capture the joy of food so viscerally. (‘There’s nothing to beat good freshwater fish if you eat it when it has been alive half an hour ago and has come out of the pan half a minute ago.’) I love and still think about the ocean of fresh, sweet water, carpeted by flowers, that lies at the edge of the world."

"The other great heartbreaker of the Chronicles is Calormen: a textbook Orientalist empire boiled down from The Arabian Nights, Lewis’ fear of strong flavors, and a smug sense of Celtic superiority.”

Lewis softens this blow by rejiggering the requirements for salvation. Though it feels small, simple, logical — that a good man like Emeth gets to go to heaven — it’s a profound shift from Christian dogma, where the recognition in life of the savior (in this case a giant, if magnificent, cat) is absolutely necessary for salvation. Miller agrees: ‘[T]he Christianity in Narnia has been substantially, rather than just superficially, transformed — to the point of being much less Christian, perhaps, than Lewis intended.’”

"…These other kinds of politics — of class, of nation, of gender, of race — are ones that are intimately felt by the children who inhabit these books, and more especially by the children who read them. The fantasies of childhood, as much as in adulthood, are circumscribed by gender and class and race. What does Lewis ask of his girl readers when he dismisses Susan from paradise? What does Lewis ask of his readers of color when dark skin is equated with squalor and tyranny? It hurts, even (especially) as children, to be shown so clearly you don’t belong.”

But this is the Chronicles’ greatest, redeeming strength: that sowed within are the seeds of their own dogma’s destruction. The machinery, the logic, of Narnia itself resists its author’s heavy-handed lessons.”

And here’s the link. ​

Every day I walk past this on my way to and from the coffee shop, and every day I am an impulse closer to jacking it out of the ground and taking it home with me. It’s called “Circle of Friends” by KE Crain, and its outer edge is scribed with the names of all the books into which I became similarly lost. There is a tabletop version of this out there somewhere, I’m sure. But the life-size one is magic.

Every day I walk past this on my way to and from the coffee shop, and every day I am an impulse closer to jacking it out of the ground and taking it home with me. It’s called “Circle of Friends” by KE Crain, and its outer edge is scribed with the names of all the books into which I became similarly lost. There is a tabletop version of this out there somewhere, I’m sure. But the life-size one is magic.

Champaign

Champaign

The Social Experiment: The West

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On the flight over to Vancouver I finally get some proper reading done. Takeoff is at 6:50 which means waking at an ungodly 4:30 in the morning for reasons best left to the marginalia, but I scorch through the back two thirds of Divisadero as we gallop over the Rockies. It’s a maddening, enthralling read. I don’t twig to the fact that it will be less of a story than a meta-narrative about how narratives reverberate until it’s too late; I’m invested in the lives of Anna, Coop and Claire right up till they land on an unspecified dead end and the novel jumps fifty years backwards in time and recounts the story of a writer in France before and during the war, and – in the style of an Ondaatje story – the single incandescent love of his life, and how he nearly never noticed he had one.

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The Social Experiment: Montreal

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The brief is to travel with our channel forum roadshow, gathering video for use in unspecified later projects, and growing our twitter mindshare across the country. The latter is the sort of thing I should theoretically be able to accomplish, Oracle-like, from a bank of computers at the head office, but the former requires feet on the street, so I’m off to Montreal on the quick hop from Billy Bishop, bright and early on the first Thursday of April. I’m reading Michael Ondaatje’s Divisadero, though I admittedly make a bit of a hash of my reading, given that the plane is already descending by the time it is halfway in the air, and the extraneous ferry ride from Toronto to the Island airport seems longer than the flight itself.

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My favourite place to never spend money

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The Chapters at Richmond & John is closing, and everyone is very sad about it. I am very sad about it. This is a marker of how far we’ve come: when big box book stores like the Chapters at Richmond & John were driving the independent sellers like Pages out of business, we couldn’t stand the fucking places; now that they, too, are falling beneath the swords of the internet age, we’re all unbridled in our fury. Well, here we are.

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"10 books that have stayed with you" - bookporn
From top to bottom Heart of Darkness, The Merchant of Venice, A Christmas Carol, The White Hotel, His Dark Materials, The Chronicles of Narnia (I’m extra cheating here), Easy Riders Raging Bulls, Frankenstein, In the Skin of a Lion, From Hell, and Where the Wild Things Are. That’s actually 19. 19’s my lucky number.

"10 books that have stayed with you" - bookporn

From top to bottom Heart of Darkness, The Merchant of Venice, A Christmas Carol, The White Hotel, His Dark Materials, The Chronicles of Narnia (I’m extra cheating here), Easy Riders Raging Bulls, Frankenstein, In the Skin of a Lion, From Hell, and Where the Wild Things Are. That’s actually 19. 19’s my lucky number.