Friday, July 11, 2008

Witnessing a different world

I've blogged before about The Mole People. Last week, we watched a documentary called Dark Days. Focused on an underground community in the Amtrak tunnels, it documents not only the basics of how they live, but also covers an attack on one community member that forces change. The people talk a bit about their past, and the stories are not pleasant.

Towards the close of the film, Amtrak declares that all tunnel occupants are evicted and will be forced out into shelters. The ACLU intervenes and manages to get the residents into a federal housing program where they get their own, real apartments. The last we see of the former tunnel dwellers, they are settling into their new homes, and dreaming big.
A bit of a spoiler that, perhaps - but I needed to tell you that in order to make sure you watch the "postscript" feature in the special features list - sorry I don't remember exactly what it was called - it gives vignettes of life after the tunnel for the key subjects of the documentary.

Striking, all told.

Book #13 - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon. Yes, the description of what happens to the dog is a bit nasty. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed this. Narrated by an autistic teen who is determined to write a detective story and, through his discoveries, forced to experience more of life than might be expected, this is incredibly well done. I feel like I got a great glimpse into the mind of an autistic person. And I discovered some logic that seems to explain some of my, well, issues - ones that probably afflict many of us to some degree.

Book #14 - The White by Deborah Larsen. I have to say, I was a bit disappointed in this. A novelization of the story of Mary Jemison - the "white woman of the Genesee" - kidnapped as a teen, who passed up several opportunities to have her freedom redeemed to remain with the Seneca (I believe) family she became a part of, to me it failed on the "novelization" side. Mary told her story to a doctor in her later years, and this book reads like I believe that would. Not that I don't like the style and cadence, the sparseness of the prose, etc., but I expected more. For what I got, I would rather have read the doctor's edition of the tale and bypassed a modern interpreter. I thought I'd get more depth.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Whistler, Vancouver, and more books

There are bears in them thar hills.
I was in Whistler and Vancouver last week - such great country, there! I could go on and on, but to give just a few highlights.
- Crowds walking near wilderness paths quickly fade from your attention - you can be solitary even in a tourist rush.
- Lift is still an awesome restaurant (we went there on our honeymoon, too)
- People in Vancouver are nice, fit, and very environmentally friendly.
- Cranberry rosemary gelato tastes like eating a rosemary plant. Figs and chocolate shavings is yummy.

I've never been super skilled at chatting it up with strangers. Cab drivers, bus drivers and passengers, people on planes. This trip, though, I actually did strike up a few chats. I think social media playing has helped this. I can throw out 140 characters pretty easily.

View from Lift
Breakfast on the water near the Vancouver airport, first morning there. The kitchen has issued orders to push the meat, it seems. I've never been probed specifically on meat-based sides before. A macho party guy tells of winning at Neil Diamond trivia - interesting contrast there. Only after he brags of it does he back off, a bit embarrassed. Real maple syrup is the default - something I like to see.

Whistler's library has a green roof - very cool!

I read 3 books on the trip and shortly after - up to 15 read this year. Here's the catchup from before that...
Book #11 - I Shudder at Your Touch , an anthology edited by Michele Slung. This was a reread from that Alien Sex lit class I took in college (yep, vampires, aliens, robots, the whole shebang). It's subtitle is "22 Tales of Sex and Horror". What is it with this Horror thing? Some of the tales were odd, some were gross, but I found none horrific - none made me wary of sleeping in a hotel alone without a light on. Overall, it was just ... odd.

Book #12 - Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. This book is big, but has incredible pull. I couldn't stop reading it and was very unproductive the last few days, especially. A great romp, immersive and realistic while still giving a great fantasy tale. Norrell is so uptight you'd like to smack him around. Strange is compelled and it takes him to incredible places that no one ever expected he'd reach. Very cool. Now I need to get her second, The Ladies of Grace Adieu.