felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
'Tis been a quiet day - which will likely become an increasing rarity in the months ahead, and so all the more precious. The busy season started early at work.

Anyway, in my continuing struggle to get all these to-review books off my pile, here's another from the Non-Fiction pile - The Armageddon Factor by Marci McDonald, an exposé of the religious right in Canada and their power within the Harper government.

Review continues - is there even such a thing as a non-fiction spoiler...? )
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
As usual, poking my head up for a rare update.

The death of Jack has been the big unhappy event lately. I didn't know him well - I had the pleasure of working with him a handful of times briefly, and I really admired his work.

Jack Layton really was as nice in real life as he was on camera. He only saw me a handful of times across the years, but - in spite of the thousands he met - he always remembered me, and remembered I was bad with crowds. Four months before he was dead, he was checking up on me. Funny, isn't it?

They used to say that Robert Stanfield was the best prime minister Canada never had. That title's been officially ceded.

Other than that, my own life has been going quite well. I increased my writing input, and I'm prepping myself mentally for a massive send-out to pretty much any Canadian publishing house I think might accept. That'll likely happen in October.

I've had a social life lately, too. Most recently at [profile] jenjoou's wonderful party on Saturday.

A lot of friends have been going through bad times, but because my own life's been going well I think I've been able to be there for most of them.

Anyway, for today's review, The King Must Die by Mary Renault.

Review continues, with some spoilers )
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Happy (belated) Midsummer/Solstice/Litha to those who celebrate it, and happy first day of summer to those who don't.

I did my usual high-speed catch-up on LJ. Which is why some of you have spammed inboxes today :)

I keep meaning to review books I have in an ever-growing stack on my desk. One that really deserves more than the short shrift it's going to get is Douglas Coupland's Generation A. I believe this to be his best book. In fact it pretty much gathers together the best of his other work in one delicious, richly-written piece, and leaves the dross. So if you only ever read one Coupland, this is it.

It's a short, simple novel of a likely dystopian future - one where "Colony Collapse Disorder" has wiped out the bee population. Most flowers are dead. Most kinds of fruit are rare delicacies. As the novel progresses, the dystopia deepens, and even worse horrors are in the offing.

In the midst of this, five strangers are stung by the supposedly-extinct bee. They're isolated, studied, and strangely become friends. They wind up on Haida Gwaii, where they start to piece together the mystery of what happened to them, to figure out how they got there and where they're going.

After years of mid-quality and poor-quality efforts, Coupland's more than back in form with this one. He restricts his obsession with ripping plotlines from the headlines to just the bee extinction, so it doesn't feel like he's just cribbing Yahoo News to flesh out his books. The iciness and callousness of his later work isn't here. This one is sensitive, intelligent, and the themes and plot and character are all rich and engaging.

More than that I couldn't say without giving too much away. Except that it's highly recommended.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Quiet weeks. Lots of work, lots of writing. There is an election going on, but I've been working on it a lot less than I expected.

(There's only so much a person with problems with strangers and crowds can do for an election campaign. I've hung a few signs, done a little data entry, vacuumed a campaign office - and that's it so far.)

We're once again going to the polls to see if we can dislodge he worst prime minister we've ever had. The polling stats for the different parties are roughly where they were last time, though there are so many close races that a few numbers one way or the other can make a lot of difference.

I'm really hoping that non-voters will get more engaged, or that Harper will make some misstep that finally defeats them - though given all he's already done, it's hard to imagine what that would be.

In other election news, a CBC show this morning discussed scientific evidence that people vote more based on a politician's looks than their ideas. Anyone who thinks that applies to Canada has never seen photos of our leaders.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Writing

So I got back my novel, and the response was...confusing. I got not one but two letters from two different editors. One was an encouraging, the same a before. She was encouraging, but had problems with it still - some I agreed with, some I didn't - and didn't think my style was mature enough yet. She also thought it wasssThe other was a standard rejection letter.

Neither wanted to see it again. But I feel like I've been written two dissenting opinions by a supreme court.

So now begins the great re-edit. I already have my next publishing house picked out, and I've begun my outline. I'll save the heavy work on it for after I finish novel number three, which is a lot of fun and a nice break from heavier work of the main novel.

Nope. Not getting discouraged. I won't let myself. Not until I've been rejected by as many houses as rejected Harry Potter :)

Politics

So it was a huge day for human rights in Canada yesterday - the biggest hurdle in the fight for adding trans folk to the Canadian Human Rights act. Now, it hasn't passed yet. There are still hurdles - our evil leader could still find a Machiavellian means to kill the bill, as he did with our big climate change bill. Our democratic mechanisms are rusting closed in this country.

Still, it's made it this far. Props for that go to politicians Bill Siksay, Megan Leslie, and Olivia Chow from my party the NDP. But outside the House of Commons, the one person most responsible for this bill's passage is my dear friend and roommate, [profile] montrealais. He's been a one-activist army, talking to the media, organising actions, setting up a website, writing letters, and getting others to do the same.

If it goes through, now, its effect is limited - protection from discrimination in government agencies (including the military), in airports, in federal housing, and in banks. Next step is the provincial battles, and a Charter challenge court case for the rest. While its scope is limited, though, it's the first time the Canadian government has stated that trans folk are equal citizens. That's worth celebrating.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I have been very absent. I was a zombie immediately after finishing my novel, and just went through two weeks of LJ f-list.

(The new novel continues apace. It's just flowing out of me.)

I've been in BC almost a week, and have slept for nine-tenths of it. The rest has been visiting friends. Which is how I like it. I've also gotten some reading done.

(There's been lots of news in the wider world I could post about, from the good - Bill C-389 got past a crucial vote - and the bad. In the second category, the UN refused to condemn anti-gay murder, and Alberta was still classifying homosexuality as a mental illness until this week. But that's already all old news, and I'm still too foggy with post-novel dizziness to comment cogently on those.)

So anyway. A Happy Belated Solstice to those who celebrate it, and Merry Christmas to those who celebrate that. Maybe there'll be more posts in the coming days, as I get closer to being myself again.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Those who follow me on Facebook know already - the deed is done. Today I sent my novel out again to the editor who liked the premise when I sent it out the first time. I have been revising it for one year and two weeks.

Tomorrow I begin the outline of a (third) second novel. I figure it's good to several on the go. Today I'm vegging in Vana'diel - though I did more than my quota this morning, so I don't feel guilty.

I miss seeing friends, though.

What else? I just finished a scary exposé on the religious right in Canada - The Armageddon Factor by Marci McDonald. I thought I was prepared for it, but I hadn't realised how far they'd gone in taking over our judiciary, in founding a parallel education system so their kids won't be infected by Canadian values like tolerance, and are re-writing the history books so that Canada was always an evangelical nation betrayed by secularism.

And we've always been at war with Oceania. It sounds like conspiracy theory, but her credentials are solid and her sources are sound. And I've seen enough close up that I can believe what I haven't seen.

So I'm a bit more melancholy than I would normally would be on a day when I've gotten one large step closer to achieving my dream.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Sorry for the late lack of communication. I have been immersed in preparing to send my novel out. It looks like I will be sending it out as planned on Tuesday.

There's an astonishing amount of paperwork involved in sending out a novel, none of which I'm good at. A CV of my history as a writer. A biography. A synopsis. A cover letter. A marketing analysis. All documents double-spaced, five-pace indented, titles one-third of the way down the page. All of it to be written out anew even though I'm re-sending a novel to the same publisher, because the information is old, because the editor who liked my work might not be there, and because it looks like phoning it in to re-send the same stuff.

I finished all but the synopsis and about 50% of my edit today, and am now chilling in Vana'diel. I figure I'll be finished tomorrow, but I'd prefer to give myself the extra day anyway to check over everything with fresh eyes.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Pardoner)
Well, after a six-month hiatus, I have finally updated my historical blog. In my defence, I had to research the history of golf in Canada for background. It was painful.

(It will surprise no one that lesbians have been golfing since the 19th century at least, I'm sure. One day they'll unearth a whole other cave-painting complex at Lascaux that's nothing but portraits of lesbian golfers.)

One nice detail is that my website was quoted and referenced in a print book: How To Make Love in a Canoe: Sex in Canada. I've been in contact with the author Jeff Pearce, so I knew it was probably coming, but I got my advance copy the other day. He used my theory that James Barry could have been trans, as well as my reviews of the really bad lit around Barry.

It's only a page and a half, but I was pretty stoked. Along with the attention from mainstream historians and the praising e-mails, it does make me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile with my life :)

Other that that, I'm doing a minimum of thirteen pages a day of editing on the novel. It feels ready, and I'm proud of that, too.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I post this poem every year for Remembrance Day. But I think it's a more honest poem than "In Flanders Fields" - more reflective of what it felt like for a farmboy to be dragged by conscription from his home and everything he knew, and tossed into the meatgrinder of World War I.

I doubt many of them would have been urging from beyond the grave the farmboys who came after the not to "break faith" with the dead, and carry the torch. Certainly not Owen himself, who died in the last days of the war.

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, –
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
The next thing on my to-review pile are the two graphic novels of Jeff Lemire that a friend gave me, The Nobody and Sweet Tooth. Short review: The Nobody is good, and Sweet Tooth is excellent.

Review continues )

Otherwise, little to report. I'm on the sixth minor edit - after three major edits - on the novel. Did another sixteen pages of editing today. My revised deadline is mid-November, and I think I'm going to make it. All the overtime at work made an October deadline impossible :/
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Pardoner)
oday I got word that my sister's cat Mara has died. She was twenty years old, and quite ill. I actually knew her. She was a very sweet animal.

She was actually a twin. Her identical sister had always been beside her. Most cats hate other cats in the house, and at best tolerate each other. Mara and Laya were best of friends, though. My sister and [profile] infinitecomplex have suffered a loss, but at least they understand. It's going to be harder for Laya, I suspect, with her sister gone for the first time in their twenty years together.

I think I'll light a candle for Laya tonight.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Pardoner)
So as of yesterday I have an altar from IKEA. Not that IKEA advertises it as such - rather, I've redeemed that most fallen of furniture-pieces, the TV table, and repurposed it toward a nobler end than the one it was destined for.

However, I'm quite sure that given the explosive growth of Neo-Paganism in Sweden as elsewhere, IKEA home altars are in the offing.

There is, of course, nothing new about Pagan holy sites that require assembly. Earlier this year, archaeologists uncovered a 6th-century Greek temple with assembly instructions in Italy.

And on Labour Day I was researching ancient Norse temples -- what else does one do on Labour Day, really? -- and was directed toward an article on heathen hofs and stave churches. For anyone who's never seen a picture of a stave church, they really are quite beautiful. Current thinking is that as soon as the Christians had burnt down the Pagan temples, they stole the architectural style. The Vikings had no DRM, so the copyright on their sacred architecture was easily bypassed. Stave temples became stave churches.

Anyway, I bring this up because the steps in building such a temple read suspiciously like the instructions to the Hemnes grey-brown sprucewood altar. Which explains why the Swedish are so good at this - they've been doing since Viking ages. Real Harald Bluetooth technology.

And you can just bet that the Vikings were furious after they waited ages by the warehouse to collect their DIY temples, only to be told that same-day delivery by longship was 85 ounces of hacksilver. Then they would undoubtedly over to collect their kids, who would have been screaming playfully in a small room filled of the skulls of IKEA's enemies.

And one day I'm sure, archaeologists will dig below the postholes and hearth sites and Frankish glass and gold figurines they always find in those buried Norse temple sites, and find the Allen keys. Because you know, once you lose the Allen keys, it will take you a thousand years to find them again.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
My next item up for review is bill bisset's* volume of poetry narrativ enigma / rumours of hurricane. It will be my shortest review ever: It sucked.

Oh, I had high hopes. I actually like Canadian poetry. Back before Indigo eliminated it, I could often be found amidst the tumbleweeds and cobwebs in their Canadian poetry section, and spending more than I could afford on slender volumes of delicious verse. It's always been a joy to me: the rich rhythms of George Elliot Clarke, the bright playfulness of Irving Layton, the wry wisdom of Margaret Atwood, and the prophetic wisdom of Leonard Cohen.

(The novel is making a comeback. Why not poetry? Good poetry is condensed but powerful, so it should be the ideal literary form for a post-attention-span age.)

And I had high hopes for bisset. I've read some of his older stuff from the 1960s. It reads like gay porn in lolcat. Gay porn in lolcat - that's the internet right there, before the internet was. bill bisset invented the internet.

But if narrative enigma is any indication, I haven't been missing much all this time. It is awful. It is worse than awful, it is postmodern.

(See icon.)

It reads like something E.E.Cummings** gave birth to after a tawdry affair with William Carlos Williams in a seedy, bedbug-ridden motel than charged by the hour, after being told that the complete works of Michel Foucault were a reliable form of birth control. "So much depends on a goat-footed balloon man whose identity is socially determined," or something like that.***

There are occasionally pretty lucid moments, but its main redeeming feature is that some of the concrete poems look like Space Invaders.

So, yeah. Hopefully bisset lays off the poetry stuff for awhile, and goes back to his lab to invent the next internet. He'd better hurry, or Al Gore will beat him to it for reals this time.

* Yes, he does do his name like k.d. lang and bell hooks.
** However - contrary to popular belief, E.E. Cummings did not.
*** I loathe E.E. Cummings with a fiery passion. "Goat-footed balloon man" isn't bad, but I really despise "Buffalo Bill," which contains possibly the most insipid line in all of "great" English-language poetry: "how do you like your blue-eyed boy/Mister Death[?]" To which I feel the only good answer is "with some fava beans and a nice chianti."
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So for anyone who's wondering what's been going on with me outside of the book reviews, it's been mostly dull punctuated with occasional fun social events - a couple of great birthdays, a late-night movie viewing, Pride, a trip out west.

Last night was [profile] jenjoou's birthday party. Which is always a wonderful event - not just because she is a wonderful hostess and has a beautiful apartment, but also because all her guests are geeks. It is so nice to go to a party and not have to pretend to be conventional, which is what we geeks wind up doing at most birthday parties.

(Then I have to remember what Montreal's sports teams are called, and that's never pretty.)

Other than that, it's been mostly work, cleaning, and heavy novel-editing - I think I tipped the balance toward 30 hours this week on the novel. I finished the mostly gruelling chunk of editing about fifteen minutes ago. Now it's just light edits through September, and sending it out in October.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So for anyone who's wondering what's been going on with me outside of the book reviews, it's been mostly dull punctuated with occasional fun social events - a couple of great birthdays, a late-night movie viewing, Pride, a trip out west.

Last night was [livejournal.com profile] jenjoou's birthday party. Which is always a wonderful event - not just because she is a wonderful hostess and has a beautiful apartment, but also because all her guests are geeks. It is so nice to go to a party and not have to pretend to be conventional, which is what we geeks wind up doing at most birthday parties.

(Then I have to remember what Montreal's sports teams are called, and that's never pretty.)

Other than that, it's been mostly work, cleaning, and heavy novel-editing - I think I tipped the balance toward 30 hours this week on the novel. I finished the mostly gruelling chunk of editing about fifteen minutes ago. Now it's just light edits through September, and sending it out in October.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Among the things on my to-review pile is that latest entry of that exemplar of the Japanese RPG, Final Fantasy XIII.

This is my favourite series, as those who know me well know. I have four major life goals, to which I added a fifth (only half-jokingly) playing every Final Fantasy. I've since amended that to every Final Fantasy in the main, numbered series, after the flowchart of Final Fantasy only became expressible through a fractal equation.

Review continues - moderate spoilers, though no huge ones )

So yeah. Looking over the balance, the good is all character development, story, and theme, and the bad is mostly gameplay and localization. Since I play these games for the stories, I'm definitely recommending it, but there's no reason we shouldn't be able have both. I'd like to see what FF13's cast and writers could do with the programmers and translators of FF12. That would be wonderful.

I've been mostly without video games lately, due to computer failure. Though I did get to try the Scott Pilgrim game last Saturday - which even has a Super Mario-ified version of Toronto for its overhead map. And I got to guide the ever-wonderful [livejournal.com profile] em_fish through her final battle with a dragon-god last Saturday, which is always a lovely way to spend a weekend ^_^
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I also just wanted to say to my Australian friends, "Welcome to the world of hung parliaments!"

Canada has had what you guys call a hung parliament since 2006. And since we're on the Westminster system like you guys, our voting system is equally ill-equipped to handle the reality of multiple parties. Worse, actually, since we have neither preferential ballots nor a system of proportional representation.

And like you, most of us voted farther to the left than the party that won the plurality - your Greens and Labour parties make up 49.5% of the popular vote to 44% for the right-wing Coalition, whereas 63% of Canadians voted farther to the left than the winning Conservatives our last election.

I offer two pieces of advice, as a lefty who's had to watch the worst government in our history dismantle our country with only a mandate of 37% of the popular vote:

  • Do not allow the media to demonize a coalition between your more left-wing parties. They are not sports teams - they are not discreet units that have nothing to do with each other, and it's not "first past the post." They represent positions on a political spectrum, these positions blend in with some parties better than others. When similar parties ally to each other, they better represent the whole of the public than "winner take all."

  • If Abbot does wind up as prime minister, don't let him bully the other parties with a threat of an election. Our prime minister has kept himself in power four years by making everything a confidence motion, and cowing the cash-strapped Liberal Party into voting for everything the Conservatives want.


Gillard lost more votes to the Greens this election than to the Coalition, so it's pretty clear that Australians are more interested in progress than the final seat tally suggests. Don't let Abbot spin this into an undeserved victory.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
On Wednesday, I went to the memorial for Isaac Bonewits. For those who don't know Bonewits, he was a neo-Druid and the founder of Ár nDraíocht Féin - an umbrella organization that supported different Pagan reconstructionist groups - Celtic, Germanic, Hellenic, Roman, Slavic, and Vedic. It's the largest Neo-Pagan organization I know of.

Bonewits' legacy )

Another thing I learnt about Isaac Bonewits is that he was a consummate geek. Not too surprising. And though he'd written many songs himself, he requested the song Annie Lennox had written for Lord of the Rings be played. So here it is:

felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
On Wednesday, I went to the memorial for Isaac Bonewits. For those who don't know Bonewits, he was a neo-Druid and the founder of Ár nDraíocht Féin - an umbrella organization that supported different Pagan reconstructionist groups - Celtic, Germanic, Hellenic, Roman, Slavic, and Vedic. It's the largest Neo-Pagan organization I know of.

Bonewits' legacy )

Another thing I learnt about Isaac Bonewits is that he was a consummate geek. Not too surprising. And though he'd written many songs himself, he requested the song Annie Lennox had written for Lord of the Rings be played. So here it is:

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