Several years ago we had a little brown bat who set up residence inside our patio umbrella. Our old cat, the ferocious Sputnik, used to sit on the patio table staring up inside the folded up umbrella for hours at a time. Evidently though, our little umbrella dweller wasn't too bothered by that, as he returned again the next summer. We named him Dewey.
Tonight, on the most miserable night of the year, which has already seen 60 mm of cold driving rain, and with the wind picking up and the temperature dropping, I am headed to an island in the middle of the Bow River to count bat species. If Dewey is among them, I am appealing to him now, as his former landlord (who never once mentioned rent, I might add) to round up all his fellow bats to be counted in very quick procession. I would really really appreciate keeping this event on the short side.
With festival season just up the road and almost within hollering distance, it's time to start indulging in a few dreams of summer. No need dig the wineskin out of the attic and brush the cobwebs off the festival chair just yet. But it's never too soon to indulge in a little festival reading.
In the current issue of BC Musician Magazine - the Ultimate Summer Festival Guide - you'll find my article about that longtime mainstay of the folk festival - protest music.
Douglas Coupland has an uncanny ability to capture the zeitgeist. He did, after all, popularize the terms Generation X and McJob.
Increasingly, Coupland uses an ever-expanding toolkit, beyond the traditional novel form, to hold the mirror up to current culture. Over the years he has branched further into non-fiction, essays, screenplays, furniture design, and the visual arts. With Player One, Coupland returns to the novel form, but with a twist - it was originally presented as a novel in five parts for the 2010 CBC Massey Lectures.
Divided into five chapters (hours), Player One tells the story of a small group of people trapped inside an airport cocktail lounge during a global catastrophe. The narration shifts among the five main characters - Karen, who has just traveled across the country to meet her online date; Rick, the recovering alcoholic bartender who is ready to take an expensive leap of faith; Luke, a pastor who has just absconded with the parish coffers; Rachel, a disassociated beauty whose limbic system anomalies make her incapable of true human contact; and Player One, a disembodied voice who functions somewhat like a Greek chorus inside a video game. When global gas prices suddenly skyrocket to hundreds of dollars per barrel, the world explodes, and those trapped inside the cocktail lounge are forced to come to terms with the new world reality.
Coupland uses this clever premise to explore themes of time, identity, and the fragility of social structures. Player One, though, is so much more than just a clever premise; it's a compelling and highly readable story. Douglas Coupland has an unerring ability to synthesize postmodern reality, by taking people in instantly identifiable situations and digging into the mundane in a way that makes us really take note of that which we take for granted. With this slim novel, he once again succeeds mightily.
Coupland wraps up Player One on an interesting note, with a glossary of terms (entitled Future Legend) that we will need in order to take us through our new phase of post-human existence. Terms like "time snack" (often annoying moments of pseudo-leisure created by computers when they stop responding in order to save a file, to search for software updates or, most likely, for no apparent reason) and "ikeasis" (the desire in both daily and consumer life to cling to generically designed objects; this need for clear, unconfusing forms is a means of simplifying life amid an onslaught of information) made me nod in instant recognition. As I often do when I read a Douglas Coupland novel.
I have a confession to make. I love quitting. Severing the festering ties of a relationship that no longer works, throwing off the toxic shackles, and moving on, unencumbered - there is real joy and a sense of rebirth in that. I'm a sucker for a fresh start.
I do a fair bit of volunteering, much of it writing, but some of it actual physical work. In general, I find it really quite rewarding. It certainly doesn't hurt that the organizations I volunteer with are really great at showing their appreciation for their armies of volunteers. From volunteer appreciations events to free tickets to chocolates and cookies, they go all out to show their appreciation, even when all we really want is a simple thank you.
Today, though, I quit organization x, for whom I have been writing two articles a month for about a year and a half. It wasn't so much that they were making money from the contributions of their writers (although I did find that a little sketchy) or that they were paying some of their writers but not others (okay to be honest, that was really shabby). It was the lack of appreciation that finally forced me to quit. I kept waiting for some love, but aside from mentioning my name a once or twice (but usually not) when they tweeted my articles, I got no acknowledgement.
I'm not sure why I waited so long to finally quit. Maybe I kept waiting for that elusive thank you. Eventually the completely ignored National Volunteer Week last week finally made me take action. I am sure going to love all this new-found free time.
Tell me about your volunteer experiences. Have you had any really bad (or really great) ones?
With the release of The Black and Wretched Blue, Emma Hill finds herself physically back on familiar turf, in her home state of Alaska, but there are some sonic touches on the album that conjure up a distinctly more southerly territory. It's a fitting dichotomy for an album that resonates with wanderlust and longing for home.
Hill's honey-smoked voice takes on a soulful growl in many of the numbers, and combined with the horns that periodically kick in to accompany the familiar guitar, banjo and pedal steel, it imparts a bit of a New Orleans vibe to many of the songs. There is still plenty of rootsy sensibility to Emma Hill's music, but it is tinged with a soupcon of jazz.
From the sultry swing of Crushin' to the sweet sadness of The Arrow is Sharp, from the affectionate playfulness of Fallin' For a Girl to the aching lilting cry of A Hundred Homes, Emma Hill shows a maturation that sees her stretching her wings into new musical territory. The Black and Wretched Blue is a nicely nuanced album, full of heartache and joy, that satisfies on many levels.