Despite being woefully late to this dance I wanted to take a moment and reflect on the last 10 days or so; as this blogging absence has not been the typical ‘busy and distracted’ absence. As I’m sure we all know, last Monday, there was a terror attack in Boston at their annual Marathon. The week that unfolded, as three people died in the initial attack, a police officer was later killed, and a 24-hour+, city wide manhunt resulting in gunfire and explosives Thursday/Friday kept the city, the nation, and the world riveted, frightened, and confused. You could not write a week like Boston just had. And I wanted to write about it – to write about anything else would seem trite and inappropriate – but I had absolutely nothing novel or creative or original to offer. How awful? What monsters? This is surreal? A warning against condemning all Muslims, to not jump to conclusions and assumptions? Lamenting the woefully inaccurate coverage on CNN? It had all been written.

It is now ten days later; it turns out two self-radicalized brothers were the perpetrators. The eldest is dead, the youngest in serious condition but in police custody and answering questions. Memorials and moments of silence have been observed. For all intents and purposes, the nightmare is over, and I have been silent. Here, anyway – as anyone in contact with me on Facebook knows, I have offered thoughts, prayers, condolences, and shared practical advice offered by others for help in a crisis. But nothing of substance here, out of some self-conscious, self-absorbed desire to produce something smart, pithy, emotional, ‘right on’. And now it feels like it would have been better to add even unoriginal words to the chorus, than to have said nothing.

On the other hand, perhaps I can put my tardiness here to good use. As so often happens, there is also the risk now that ‘The Story’ is over that people will go back to their lives while there were still – as of Monday – at least 50 victims of the bombing still in hospital. And more to the point, even as Boston recovers, there are others all over who are ill, injured, organizations which do good work, help that can be given. So I think at this point, I want to offer the following:

  • Let’s not forget the victims mentioned above, and whether or not there might be tangible things we can do to help. Donations to the American Red Cross, donations of blood, etc. are all worthy causes. ‘Thank yous’ to the men and women who kept Boston safe I’m sure would also be appreciated. Just because a week has past and the news cycle is (or shortly will be) moving on, doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there whose lives will be changed forever; they still deserve a place in our thoughts and prayers and – where appropriate – actions. And remember, there is always a glut of donations, both monetary and in terms of volunteer time, blood etc. – to organizations like the Red Cross in the process and immediate aftermath of tragedies; it is often times like this, where there are still people in need but the rest of us are moving on – that it’s most critical to donate. So please give what you can in that regard.
  • While I will by no means and in no way get on any kind of sympathy trip for the perpetrators of this crime, I am thankful that justice seems to have worked out here, that a day in court will be had. In the meantime though I want to express my condolences to the Chechnyan community in particular and the Muslim community in general who I fear might be in for a renewed hard time in light of recent events; I want to praise the many I saw on Twitter in light of this incident reminding us all not to demonize the Islamic community, and I want as well to pray for healing for those in the Tsarnaev family who were innocent – in particular Tamerlan’s 2-year-old-daughter whose life has been changed so much at such a young age by her father’s despicable choices.
  • Let’s not forget the lessons all events like this teach us – the lessons that life can change in a heartbeat, to pursue our dreams and goals, to hold our loved ones close, to spread compassion and to help one another in times of need – Boston exemplified all these things beautifully over the last ten days and have set an example for us all as a city which handled a horrible situation with class, grace and justice. Let’s all strive to be Boston Strong!

Be well. XOXO

{April 15, 2013}   More Reading List Progress

So yes it’s been awhile – the good news is last week was largely taken up with finally shaking that 6 week illness that had ahold of me and I’m feeling far, far better now than I have in almost two months … but it does mean that I barely had the time or energy to keep up with the ‘must-dos’ in life – teaching days, housework, parenting, doctor’s visits … with yes, some downtime but very little energy to do anything productive like blogging with it. I did, through that, manage to kill a couple of books on my reading list though so I thought that might be a good re-entry point to blogging! πŸ™‚ Off my list now are “The Last Week”, Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan’s take on Holy Week, and “The Manticore”, the second book in Robertson Davies’ Deptford trilogy.

1. Deadlocked – Charlaine Harris

2. The Last Week – Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan
3. Speaking Christian – Why Christian Words Have Lost their Meaning – Marcus J. Borg
4. The Spiral Staircase – Karen Armstrong
5. A History of God – Karen Armstrong
6. jPod – Douglas Coupland
7. Beloved – Toni Morrison
8. β€˜Tis – Frank McCourt
9. We Need to Talk about Kevin – Lionel Shriver
10. The Constant Princess – Phillipa Gregory
11. Wicked – Gregory Maguire
12. The SixΒ WivesΒ of Henry the 8th – Alison Weir
13. Eleanor of Aquitaine – Alison Weir
14. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling
15. The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien
16. The Two Towers – J.R.R. Tolkien
17. The Return of the King – J.R.R. Tolkien
18. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J.K. Rowling
19. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling
20. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling
21. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J.K. Rowling
<s>22. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling
23. Dracula – Bram Stoker
24. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J.K. Rowling
25. The Inferno – Dante
26. Towelhead – Alicia Erian
27. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
28. The Way the Crow Flies – Ann-Marie MacDonald
29. The Robber Bride – Margaret Atwood
30. 1066 and All That; A Memorable History of England – W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman
31. Have a Little Faith – Mitch Albom
32. Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman
33. American Gods – Neil Gaiman
34. Stardust – Neil Gaiman
35. Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
36. The Holy Bible – Various
37. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
38. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
39. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
40. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
41. Deception Point – Dan Brown
42. Digital Fortress – Dan Brown
43. The Five Love Languages – Gary Chapman
44. Lolita – Vladimir Nobokov
45. Atonement – Ian McEwan
46. All the King’s Men – Robert Penn Warren
47. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
48. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
49. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
50. Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
51. A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
52. Scarlett – Alexandra Ripley
53. White Noise – Don De Litto
54. Their Eyes were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
55. Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins
56. The Help – Kathryn Stockett
57. Ragtime – E.L. Doctorow
58. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
59. The Trial – Franz Kafka
60. Fast Food Nation – Eric Schlasser
61. The Man Who Made Us – Richard Gwyn
62. Memoirs – Pierre Trudeau
63. Shake Hands with the Devil – Romeo d’Allaire
64. Team of Rivals – Doris Kearns Goodwin
65. Nation Maker – Richard Gwyn
66. The United Church of Canada: A History – Don Schweitzer (ed.)
67. Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
68. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
69. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe – Douglas Adams
70. Life, the Universe and Everything – Douglas Adams
71. So Long and Thanks for All the Fish – Douglas Adams
72. Mostly Harmless – Douglas Adams
73. Committed – Elizabeth Gilbert
74. The Manticore – Robertson Davies
75. World of Wonders – Robertson Davies
76. The Donnellys – James Reaney
77. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
78. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
79. Farenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
80. Not Wanted on the Voyage – Timothy Findlay
81. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
82. Coraline – Neil Gaiman
83. The Crucible – Arthur Miller
84. Mirror Mirror – Gregory Maguire
85. Eats, Shoots & Leaves – Lynne Truss
86. Sorbonne Confidential – Laurel Zuckerman
87. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
88. The Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick
89. Hey Nostradamus! – Douglas Coupland
90. The Girl who Played with Fire – Stieg Larsson
91. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
92. The 5 People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
93. The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
94. Interview with the Vampire – Ann Rice
95. The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank
96. The Bonfire of the Vanities – Tom Wolfe
97. Guys and Dolls – Damon Runyon
98. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – Stieg Larsson
99. He’s Just Not that Into You – Greg Behrendt, Liz Tuccillo, Lauren Monchik
100. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer
101. Jesus for the Non-Religious – John Shelby Spong

Starting with THE LAST WEEK, this was a really good and accessible, readable book on the last week of Jesus’ life, from his ‘Triumphal Entry’ into Jerusalem through his Good Friday crucifixion, and the mystery of his resurrection on Easter Sunday morning. It’s a good entry into the use of parable in the bible, and the different points of view of the 4 Gospels on Jesus’ life and – in this case particularly – his death, albeit particularly looking at this story through the lens of the Gospel of Mark, the earliest (in terms of when it was written) and shortest of the Gospels. A really good read that is informative and educational without being overly dry or academic, Borg and Crossan strive to bring difficult theological concepts to the general laity, and do so well; you don’t need an M.Divinity to understand their perspective, and they provide a fresh take on the importance of the death and ‘sacrifice’ concept of Jesus’ execution.

The MANTICORE is the sequel, of a sort, to Roberston Davies’ FIFTH BUSINESS, which I read and reviewed during my last reading list on the old blog (archives can be found here) – and yet sequel isn’t quite the word as it recounts some of the same events and timeline, simply from a different perspective; while FIFTH BUSINESS was told from the point of view of Dunstan Ramsay, this story is told from the point of view of David Staunton, the son of Dunstan’s best ‘frenemy’, Boy Staunton. Upon the (murder? suicide?) death of Boy, David seeks counselling with Johanna Heller in Switzerland, where he also runs into Ramsay, as well as Ramsay’s friends Liesl, and Magnus Eisengrim (a fellow Deptfordian-turned-world-famous-Magician, Paul Dempster, who has his own perspective on the passing of David’s father). It is an interesting followup to the first book, a book that outlines some important growth on David’s part, and I look forward to the third book in the trilogy, WORLD OF WONDER, told from the perspective of Magnus Eisengrim/Paul Dempster. A unique piece of Canadiana, it should be an interesting read.

{April 4, 2013}   The Balcony is Closed

Roger Ebert, who passed away today at the age of 70, along with longtime partner in film criticism Gene Siskel.

Today the world of movie criticism lost arguably one of its brightest lights as Roger Ebert passed away after a long fight with cancer. Throughout, despite losing part of his jaw and his ability to eat, he remained visible, graceful, and lived fully, interacting via his website, blog, Twitter, etc., producing the ‘At the Movies’ show he loved so dearly, giving his trademark thumbs up at awards shows even days after painful surgery. I remember very vividly a blog he wrote in which, rather than lamenting the fact he could no longer enjoy the food he so loved upon losing his ability to eat, he was grateful and appreciative for having had the ability to eat in the past, and the ability to remember the joy of eating. His last year as a critic was one of his most prolific, and, he argued, one of the best movie years he’d seen in a very long time, if ever. Perhaps a high note to go out on, after all.

But to suggest Roger Ebert was ‘just’ a film critic – even perhaps the most famous and successful one of all time – is to do this renaissance man an injustice. He dabbled in movie making, book-writing, was an adopter of all things tech (an early investor in Google, an avid Tweeter, and a prodigious blogger). He was up-to-date on everything from New York Times caption contests to the latest in politics, to movies and everything else. You could find an ‘in’ with Ebert on just about anything if you looked hard enough. Erudite, well-written, and appreciative of high art without being pretentious – accessible yet intellectual Β all at the same time.

This Pulitzer Prize winner – the first amongst film critics – will be missed. Rest in Peace, Roger. Reserve us all an aisle seat.

et cetera