Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Artifice by Alex Woolfson

Artifice by Alex Woolfson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked it.
I backed the book for publication through Kickstarter.
The story was good, the robot was handsome and smart. The guy, I don't really like long hair so I liked him better at the end.
I felt that it was a piece of a story rather than a full story, kind of starting and ending in the middle of the action. This being said however I don't really need any more.
I felt like there should have been a comic relief. Some of the reaction images were as subtle as an Archie comic. The story was a little too smart to the point of feeling a little sterile.
I liked it enough.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne

The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book. I expect it to be my favourite book of 2013.

Jonny has it all, the looks, the voice, the clothes, and a self-named haircut, but what does having at all really mean? What are the costs?

The book starts out with Jonny at 11 acting older than his age, thinking older than his age, spitting out lines from his mother/manager and PR people and record producers by rote, hiding the person behind the image.

There's some great lines in this book, occasionally I'd read a paragraph or a page and re-read it, and re-read it again later to friends or anyone who would listen.

"Whenever Jane's studying the career longevity of pop stars, she's like, Thank God you're not black."

Jonny is real, he talks about getting boners, he plays Zenon, he worries about child predators. The insight into branding strategy translated through the mind of an eleven year old boy blew my mind at the author's brilliance.

The reason though this book gets five stars, the reason it's the best of the year, is for what I wasn't expecting. I'm on this roller coaster ride of fun and inventive writing, and then Jonny meets his back up band, and then he gets an email from his father, and somewhere along the way, at some point when I wasn't looking, the emotion came in. I cried at the end, and I wasn't expecting that from a parody of the perils of fame.

I guess that's what a good writer does, hooks you, then reels in the line without you realizing it, all the way drawing you closer and closer to his net.

I'm hooked.

The author takes a book about Justin Bieber and turns it into an essay on what makes us whole, how we get through, and how we move on. Loved it.

RSVP (to my heart)

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Monday, February 25, 2013

The cleaner comes over

Further to my last post about Hula Hoop, that Saturday morning she did come over.

I was woken up at 9:30 by Hula Hoop calling to say she couldn't find my house.  I tried to give her directions as I quickly threw on some clothes and when I stepped out the door she was there.

As soon as she walked in, she's like "I thought you said 2 bedrooms". (It should be noted for the sake of clarity I will be typing in English.  If I typed what she said, it would be more like (loudly) "HOW MANY BEDROOM????"  Me: "Zero, this is it." "I THOUGHT YOU SAY TWO!  WELL, QUI EURIWE QIWUIJF....." I couldn't understand it, but it was loud.)

So $70 was for a 2 bedroom?  I was confident it would take her 3 hours just to do my little place anyway.

Hula steps in and takes off her winter boots and has no shoes or socks on. Bare feet.  She looks up at me and says "YOU HAVE SHOES I CAN WEAR?" (typing like this is more fun) So I went in the closet and managed to find an old pair of flip flops that were about 200 sizes too big on her, and I thought to myself, "This is going well."

Hula starts in the kitchen and sprays the oven cleaner everywhere, and then is like "YOU HAVE GLOVES?" which I didn't.  To me if you need gloves you should bring them, or ask first, or something.  Anyway, I went to the store to get some.

While I was gone, the oven cleaner sat there for 30 minutes or so and when I got back I noticed a spot of it got on my counter top and ate right through:
I went  to the Hardware Store today to ask if there was anything to hide the mark with, they said no.  Great.

Hula continued to clean, I asked her about the fridge and she said it was an extra $20. I said fine but when she said she was finished, I noticed she hadn't actually moved anything.  She kind of cleaned AROUND the stuff already in the fridge, so I took the stuff out and put it on the counter and asked her to clean again, which she did.

As she was cleaning, she would occasionally scream things at me in a not so subtle way.  She said she was from Turkey and I would suggest if she is a spy, they need better training in subtlety. She's cleaning, then stops and comes over to me and is like "WHO YOU VOTE FOR?" I'm like, "What? Excuse me?" and this continued with other bons mots, such as "WHAT RELIGION YOU?"

Usually these questions are accompanied by my silence and a look like I've been punched in the chest, so she would elaborate. For example with religion, she continued "YOU CATHOLIC?" I'm like "No...." "YOU BELIEVE IN GOD THOUGH, RIGHT?" I'm like "No...." and I'm wondering if she's now going to either offer me religious pamphlets or stop cleaning and run out the door. She ended with "YOU ARE A SOCIALIST?" to which I said yes, mainly to get the interrogation to stop, and she's like "AHHHHH. NOW I SEE!"

She kept going on, telling me different stories.  She said she usually doesn't clean men's houses as they all put the moves on her. This being despite the fact that I'm a man and she came with no questions asked, so whatever.  Who knows, maybe she did ask questions.  I couldn't understand half of what she said.

So she's telling me these times that she was cleaning and a guy took off all his clothes, or another time when she had to tell someone she was going to call the police if he phoned her again.  I said she should clean for gay men.  She's like "YAH, YAH..." Then she moves over and is actually dusting my oil panting of a nude man, and as she cleans the penis area, she's like "YOU ARE GAY?" and I said I was.  She was shocked to the core.  Apparently they didn't include this in the Soviet training manual. I would say she was shocked for like 5 minutes, repeating "YOU ARE GAY?!?!?"  Now at this point she'd already been in my house for 2 hours and as I mentioned, was cleaning a nude man, so I don't know how any of this wasn't apparent earlier.

She eventually left, agreeing to come back in two weeks for two hours for $55 and another $10 next time for the windows, inside and outside.

There were little things when she left, like her ad said "We even clean the kitty litter!" but she hadn't touched the kitty littler. Also she cleaned by whole bathroom but the framed pictures I have in there, she didn't clean the glass.  It was full of toothpaste marks.  So I spent maybe 30 minutes or so tidying up things after she left and it was done.

It was really nice to have a clean house, but I told her next time she comes I'd leave a key, I don't need to be there.

I like the clean, but some of the other stuff, a bit less so.

My cat pants like a dog (videos)

Saturday at the AGO

Had a great time on Saturday celebrating my dad’s birthday. My dad made the best lasagna I have ever had EVER!
With his little dog, too, a jug named Buster, who I am going to steal.
We started off at the AGO and their new Patti Smith gallery, which was crap, and their new Josef Sudek gallery which was amazing.
Sudek had one arm, and did things like make panoramic film himself.  He also looked like hell, and he did amazing work, documenting Prague in photography better than anyone else.
A plaque at the exhibition contained a quote from a 1933 reviewer: "[Sudek's] greatest efforts are achieved when he 'sculpts' with light and shadow... These works have a purpose and are proof of his enormous love of photography."
This shot from 1948 is called "Leading to the Lair of the Cunning Little Vixen".
I love how he's so unafraid of shadow.
This shot called "In the Magic Garden (Hat on Bench)" I found so inviting, I wanted to take a book and read under the huge canopy.
This one from 1930 shows again his mastery of shadow.
The exhibit was quite, quite large. A career retrospective really, and almost all of it worth checking out.

It was nice to have Linda there, my dad's partner, as she volunteers at the AGO.  When we got to the amazing "The Academy" by Kent Monkman, she was able to give us a little history around it.
I couldn't find a better photo on the net than the one I took:
The piece was commissioned by the AGO and uses some of their art in it, including one of my favourites, "After the Bath" by Paul Peel. Monkman says:
Immediately to the right of the West figure sits two children in front of a small fire reference Paul Peel’s After the Bath (1890). Within The Academy, they are depicted as putti and grouped with a coyote that is representative of the Cree trickster figure, Weeseegachak. This arrangement visualizes an intersection between European and Aboriginal mythologies. Putti, in classic times, were often depicted participating in bacchic/pagan rites.
Some of the other works are located around the painting, but many are not. Two very close are "Portrait of William Henry Boulton" by George Theodore Berthon:
And "Portrait of Mrs. William Henry Berthon (Harriette)", both from 1846. Apparently Boulton founded the AGO.
Of these Monkman says:
My alter ego, Miss Chief, is pictured in the drag of Harriette Dixon Bouton, represented in The Academy in a double portrait of the Grange matriarch and her husband, Mr. William Henry Boulton. As a Bostonian, Harriette played the role of outsider and principal witness to much of The Grange’s history; Miss Chief reprises this role in The Academy, while continuing her exploration of the European male. Miss Chief is positioned in the figuration of Monsiau’s rendering of Zeuxis, as she is seen extending a circular braid of sweetgrass towards the European male models whom she draws inspiration for a pictographic image, chalked out on her canvas. The chalk outlines refer to the chalk drawing of an Aboriginal Dandy that Catlin began but could not finish, leaving the Aboriginal Dandies doomed forever to obscurity.

Mr. Boulton is found seated behind Miss Chief, playfully kicking up her over-skirt and crinoline. Unable to see her face, perhaps he is unaware that it is a Berdashe masquerading as his wife. Resting closely near Mr. Boulton’s other foot is an intricately decorated clay pot. The implication of the clay pot invokes a historical New Mexican tribe member -We’wha (1849-1896). A Zuni Indian, an Ihamana (man/woman or Berdashe), We’wha was a prominent figure of the tribe and worked as both a potter and priest and achieved high-ranking status through religious ceremonies.
Then on to less good paintings and home!
Great day!

My shoes arrived!

Fabulous news, my shoes arrived!

I'm coordinating my outift for my cruise, it should be ready for July!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Hungry Ghosts by Shyam Selvadurai

The Hungry Ghosts by Shyam Selvadurai
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A real whirlwind of a novel, the latest from Canadian author Shyam Selvadurai packs in a lot of emotion, while moving finely over the course of the life of an immigrant, caught between the land he grew up in and the world in which he lives.

The novel starts in Sri Lanka and soon vividly portrays the 1983 conflict between the Tamils and the majority Sinhalese, leaving the narrator, Shivan, and his family desperate for escape. They immigrate to Canada, but soon find life is not all it could be there, either. The internal struggle of the immigrant is portrayed well, feeling homesick for a place that is no longer home.

In one vivid scene, Shivan walks with his mother to buy groceries on the weekend, a cold fifteen minute walk in suburbia to the local Bridlewood Mall. Who among us cannot relate to the sterile coldness of the impoverished Bridlewood Mall?

Shivan finds refuge in the eclectic Toronto neighbourhood of Queen West and in the city’s burgeoning gay movement. One of his first contacts is a counselor who tells him not to go to the gay village that it’s full of bitter queens with only one thing on their minds, and who then in turn seduces him. Hypocrisy, Canadian style.

Finding his life in Canada intolerable, Shivan travels back to Sri Lanka with devastating consequences that really set the book in motion. From this point on, I couldn’t put it down. As a friend of Shivan’s tells him “You wanted poor old Sri Lanka to love and accept the person you became in Canada. But it cannot.”

These demons haunt Shivan, forcing him to relive old mistakes. The novel centres a lot on reincarnation and cycles of life, and Shivan is living his own cycle, one he will grow to find not all that different from that of his ancestors.

After talking about his struggles with a partner, Shivan talks of his mother:
"I... I don't want you to think my mother is some truly horrid person," I said, wanting to distance myself now from my impulsive confession. "She has come around to accepting who I am."
"No, no, Shivan," he assured me, "she's just human."

This is the message of this book, vividly told. We’re all human, we all have perspectives, we all make mistakes. The book is interwoven with fantastic old Buddhist stories, like the one in the title about the hungry ghosts. Greedy in this life, they are doomed in the next, with big bellies for food but mouths the size of the eye of a needle, cursed to forever be in want.

The message in many of these stories is forgiveness; that we need to forgive others, that we need to forgive ourselves most of all. I was a little disappointed that Shivan’s journey to peace did not come full circle before the end of the book, but perhaps that’s part of life too. That there is no happy ending, or closing of the circle. Rather there’s motions we make to set things right, and the trust that we will get through.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Hula Hoop

My home is a disaster as I hate cleaning.

Saint Quentin Crisp once famously said that after the third year the dust doesn’t get any worse, and I’m getting to that kind of level.

I wanted to hire a cleaner but was scared of big companies. I had heard they had to send two ladies at once for safety, that you had to pay both, we’re talking $150 to clean my bachelor apartment, which seems like a lot.

I found an ad for a cleaner in my local gay paper and called the man who I set an appointment with. The ad said “Tony loves to clean!” One thing Tony apparently doesn’t like doing is keeping his commitments as he never showed.

Unsure of where to turn, I headed over to Craigslist. See, one other reason I’m scared of who I hire is I don’t want some old lady who’s going to be put off by the sight of homosexual pornography or Justin Bieber blow-up dolls. So I went to Craigslist, where you get a real mixed bag of people. One of the first ads I saw:

Mid-Thirties Dude ISO part-time maid for tumblr-porn curating, some cleaning, and watching online kinky sex. Must have non-squidy labia, know how to make coffee, and an appetite for sex. Also must have good grammar and spelling.

Now I do have good grammar and spelling, but I’m not sure about the labia portion.

I found another ad that said “Gay male cleaner” and wondered if it was the same guy from before who never wrote me back. It very well may have been, as I never heard from him either.

I found an ad that said $16/hour and called her. Screw politeness or good fit, at this point I just want someone to show up. My cat is hidden under a trash heap.

I called her and asked the woman her name. English didn’t appear to be her first, or second, or third language, and I think she said it was Hula Hoop.

The woman was very eager and said she wanted to come over right away. Seeing as it was noon on a Thursday, not that great for me, so I had to postpone her.

Hula Hoop said it was now $70 per visit, and when I asked her why she said something I didn’t understand one word of. So I said yes and we made an appointment for 5:30 this evening, Friday night.

Hula just called and said she can’t come until tomorrow and will now be showing up at 10 am tomorrow morning, Saturday.

What the hell is it with these people? I’m giving like $25 an hour tax free with breaks and providing all the supplies and I live right downtown, very central, and I still can’t get anyone to show up.

Where can I find a good hula hoop???

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Bi-Curious George: An Unauthorized Parody by Andrew Simonian

Bi-Curious George: An Unauthorized Parody by Andrew Simonian
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hop on the SS Cher for a gay cruise with the man with the yellow Miata!

I agree with the previous reviewer, the book just ends, but it's so much fun along the way. You'll be laughing out loud.

There's mild adult humour, I would say ages 12 and up are fine.

Get in on the hot monkey love!

Also note on the cover it says "An Unauthorized Parody", but on the spine it's "An Authorized Parody". Whoops!

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A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved this book.
This book is what literature can be. It is the reason people read, the reason books are published, so we can get a glimpse of a life and see the ins and outs, and in the end relate it back to the circle of humanity that defines us all.

I would call this book fiction for men and place it at the top of that category. I believe the in-depth military workings and the details of war and death and torture will be too heavy for many women, although not being a woman, I'm not sure.

The book is funny, heartbreaking, wonderful. The world it conjures is so three-dimensional as to almost be a diorama. Wonderful complex characters and a slice of war-torn life told over five amazing days reiterate what it means to feel, to love, to be human. In a world with no black and white, we see the colour of humanity that lives in us all in this amazing enchanting book.

This will be at the top of the best of 2013 books, pick it up early.

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Friday, February 1, 2013

Lake on the Mountain: A Dan Sharp Mystery by Jeffrey Round

Lake on the Mountain: A Dan Sharp Mystery by Jeffrey Round
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

More please!
The next book in the series comes out spring 2014. How the hell can I wait that long???? More and faster please!

Loved this book. A good mystery, set in Toronto in places I recognize with a likeable and flawed hero. Fantastic, far reaching story. It maybe even reached a little too far sometimes in scope, it was a lot to tie back together at the end. I was expecting it to be more simple and was pleasantly surprised at the depth of the book.

Another thing I enjoyed is that the author had a couple of recaps. I wasn't able to sit and read this book in one or two sittings, life got in the way, and it took me a couple of weeks. It was nice when Dan would say, 'okay I'm going to the psychologist, let's see what I want to tell him. This happened, then this happened', and I'd be like, oh yeah, thanks for reminding me!

I liked the son, the best friend, the main character, all good.

Not saying the book was perfect but nothing glaring jumps out at me, and for what it was it was way better than I expected it to be, can't wait to read the next book in the series!

Oh, yeah, sorry, I remembered a couple things.  The book could have been less down about Toronto.  Also I dislike gays that criticize the gay village, it seems like who would want to be in any club that would have them as a member.  My hopes for the next one are that it stays in Toronto and these couple things are toned down.

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Quit Me

I've quit smoking for 2 or 3 weeks now.  I'm not really keeping track of days as I don't see the point.  If it's something you want to continue for the rest of your life, what's the point of counting 2 weeks?

I find talking with other people about it helps.  After work is hard, the main effect of the drug nicotine is to artifically build tension in your body that is then released with a fix.  During the day at work the tension builds and then when I get home I could really use a release, artifical or not.  It's helping talking to my phsiotherapist at the end of the work day, getting time to vent and de-stress.

Another thing that's helping is talking to others, different people give different insight, some helpful, some not. One friend said I should cross the days of a calendar with a red marker so I can see how far I've come. Not really my thing.

Another friend I was talking to and said the thing that's getting me through right now is seeing it as a drug addication. He said that unlike other drug addications, there's no payoff.  Other drugs might get you high, whereas the only benefit from smoking is that it releives the craving from smoking.  There's no plus.  That made a lot of sense.

A lot of people ask me how I'm doing and I don't really know.  I'm not smoking.  Certain situations are still difficult.  I went to the archives for the first time since quitting and nearly killed every one in the place, for example.  But being home is mostly tolerable now.  I'm doing.