I’ll be trying to be more healthy, and spend less, but I don’t know that I can make those resolutions. MizB has come up with a challenge I can handle: reading 12 books from one’s TBR (to be read) list in 12 months. One is allowed to add another list of 12 as back-up…I’ve been interested enough in these books for long enough that I hope I won’t need it, and just have 13 because I miscounted and now I can’t decide which one to drop :p

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer. I’ve been hearing about him for a long time but this will be my first read.

American Bloomsbury, a profile of those nor’eastern US Transcendental folks and “Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work”, a Christmas present from G., written by Susan Cheever.

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder.

The Prince, Machiavelli.

The Englishman’s Boy, Guy Vanderhaeghe.

Failure is not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond, Gene Kranz.

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, a short story collection by ZZ Packer.

All The Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy.

Four Major Plays (Oxford ed.), Ibsen.

The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger.

Whispering Pines: The Northern Roots of American Music, from Hank Snow to The Band, Jason Schneider.

And the only one I’ve actually tried to read before and stopped, D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow. I was really enjoying it, I don’t know why I stopped. And yes, I know it’s shameful that I haven’t yet read some of the things on the list. But that’s the point of next year.

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Al Gore’s choice

December 16, 2009

I’m in the midst of reading Al Gore’s recent book, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis. I like books like this, that demonstrate real solutions to big problems, and make me feel slightly less cynical in the process. I’d also like to share a joke that I think was Jon Stewart’s, about the climate change email ‘scandal’:

“And so, Al Gore’s lifelong cause will be destroyed by the very internet he invented.”

: )

My Christmas present from my husband this year was going to see Chantal Kreviazuk, in support of her new album Plain Jane, at Massey Hall.

First, the album. Her last two albums, What if it All Means Something and Ghost Stories, were immediately enjoyable to me. I felt like I loved some of the songs with the very first listen (we used “In This Life” as our first dance at our wedding). Plain Jane didn’t catch me that way, at least not at first. But having listened to it a few more times, I began to appreciate the musical development it demonstrated, especially with its jazz tendencies.

So I was excited to see the show at Massey Hall. I’ve never been there before, although of course I’ve known about the space. And her husband, Raine Maida, was going to be Kreviazuk’s opening act, which was thrilling as a long-time Our Lady Peace fan and someone who enjoyed The Hunter’s Lullaby. It was also a treat as they apparently don’t do concerts together very often.

Dala was the very opening act. They’re a female duo from Scarborough. I went home and downloaded the album right away. What wonderful voices, what wonderful songs. From fun (“Levi Blues”) to heart-wrenching (“Horses”, a song that still has only failed to make me cry once).

Maida’s set was really good. I feel like concerts are always too loud to be able to hear musical complexity, and I regret that deeply, but most of it still came across here. Amazing what can be done with voice, piano, guitar, drums, cello, and violin. Not the typical rock set up, but Maida proved his rock star credentials by climbing up on his wife’s grand piano in the final song. An excellent, acoustic, slowed-down version of “Innocent” from the OLP album Gravity, which isn’t one of my favourite songs, but this changed my mind some.

It’s hard to describe what a warm feeling the whole concert gave me. Part of it was probably the space, part of it the type of music, part of it the Canadian-ness, part of it the family-ness of the event. And going at the beginning of the Christmas season. But during Maida’s set, and continuing through Kreviazuk’s, it really felt like a very warm, sharing performance. Not in a mushy way…Maida told a story about Kreviazuk calling his mother to come deal with a newlywed squabble.

Just in a very normal, happy family sort of way. Kreviazuk shared stories about personal tragedies that have led to the writing of some of the songs, including a song written just a few weeks ago for a friend. She chatted with their sons, all offstage, and with friends in the crowd. She sang Bruce Springsteen’s “My Hometown”, which she said she always sings in her hometown of Winnipeg and now feels like she can also sing in Toronto. One of the videos played in the background during a song was home video of their sons.

And she didn’t discourage them from the stage. The oldest, Rowan, is almost 6 and ran out in the middle of the concert to talk to her. “He’s asking me how much longer I’ll be,” she said to the audience, “because he’s so into it,” sarcastically. Finally, during the last curtain call, he came out again and introduced his younger brother, Lucca, who’s 4. With Mom at the piano, and the other musicians playing along, he sang all of the opening track from Plain Jane, “Invincible”.  It was one of those moments that’s so beautiful it’s heartbreaking. He accepted our applause and then ran off to give Dad a hug on the side of the stage. And then she did, as she put it, “her version”, and finished the night.

We drove back into some blowing snow, but it was such an incredibly warm evening. What a wonderful gift.

little brother

December 14, 2009

I just read Ted Kennedy’s memoir True Compass. It’s long, but really interesting, and he describes everything from his childhood to his last year. In a way it reminded me of Romeo Dallaire’s Shake Hands With the Devil, in that it’s clear that the author is trying to be very honest but just can’t have a broad enough perspective to tell the whole story. Not that I know more than either TK or RD, but that the writing demonstrates the necessity for both public and personal narratives.