Sunday, February 13, 2011

This Blog Has Moved!!

The Foxtail Blog is now located at Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ben Sures Concert at the Hayloft

I first heard Ben Sures when "Used to Have A Raygun" came on the radio. I liked it so much I downloaded a bunch more of his stuff. I knew he was a Canadian artist, but for some reason I figured he was from Ontario. So I was surprised when I found out he's actually from Edmonton, and elated to find out he was playing a "house concert" here in Saskatoon on Jan. 21.

The concert was held at the Hayloft (house concert schedule here) yes, it is someone's house! Carrie Catherine and Curtis Olson set up this lovely place as a venue for small concerts. The first things you see when you walk in the front door are the replicated old barn on your left and a Pool "elevator" on your right.

It is just intoxicating to see the things that are happening in the arts right here in Saskatoon. The Hayloft is across the street and on the opposite corner of the very same block I used to live on, on 27th Street. There are people coming in with energy and ideas, and they're getting things done - it seems like I trip over a new person that's doing something incredibly exciting at least once a week. Cheers to more of that!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Grey Cup 2010

Photography -

Mother Tongue

Indigo (a world-wide design network) has put together an online exhibit called "Mother Tongue," exploring culture and language. Here is my submission to the project:

"Iconicity might be the reason for refraining from translating Hallelujah and Amen in so many languages, as if the sounds of such basic religious notions have to do with the referents themselves – as if by losing the sound, one might lose the meaning." - Ghil'ad Zuckermann

What is the relationship between the meaning of a word and its sound? Does that relationship change when a word is transposed into a different language, when it is put next to rhythms and cadences that are different than its original context?

The traveling of letters and words and their inherent meanings, if any, is something I have always found fascinating. Jewish culture seems to hold an interest in this as well, because of the cultural importance of 'the word.' I am not Jewish myself but many of the most interesting thoughts that I have read on the subject have come from Jewish authors.

This quote by Professor Ghil'ad Zuckermann (used with the author's permission), was found via Wikipedia ("Iconicity" article). Professor Zuckerman is the author of Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew, among other works.

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo: Went to the kick-off, got the bunny.

OK so tonight I went to the NaNoWriMo kick-off party at McNally Robinson. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I was expecting it to be a lot more... formal? This looks in fact like it will be a lot of FUN. I am impressed with the number and lovely kooky variety of people who showed up (I include myself in the kooky bit). Also, I had no idea that there were Regional Representatives (Janna, pictured above) and that Saskatchewan HAS one - in fact, has two now, as they have split Saskatoon and Regina into their own little NaNoWriMo enclaves.

I got my plot-writing bunny. (I had to ask what it was for - something like, once you start writing, plots start multiplying like bunnies. Correct me if I'm wrong. Is this just a Saskatchewan thing or does everybody do it?) I picked a white one and we had to glue our own googly eyes on it, so I picked red eyes in honor of Bunnicula. Apparently we get to dress our bunnies up for a costume competition at the final party, so now I need to find him a little cape and some fangs and perhaps some parsnips to stand in for the 'bloodless' carrots.

I have to confess, however - I'm not technically doing NaNoWriMo. I'm doing some type of mutant offspring of NaNoWriMo and PiBoIdMo and have christened it... GraNoMaMo. Graphic Novel Make Month. (I couldn't decide on a word that encompassed both drawing and writing, so I settled on the all-encompassing "make". I'm open to suggestions if you have better ideas.) I set the bar at 1000 words or one inked page per day (for a total of 30,000 words and/or 30 pages). This may be a low bar but I figure I can always increase it next year. Even though I won't use all of the words I write, I've found that the more you write, the more you force yourself to leave the pre-determined plan and just discover things... and that's when things get interesting. I'm going to do a collection of "short stories", a page each in length, based somewhat loosely on ruminations of autobiographical situations. Or not. Like many novel writers, I'm not entirely sure where this thing is going, but I'm gonna find out by the end of the month I guess. Or die trying.... DUM DUM DUM DUUUUUUMMMMM....

Picture This: The Near-sighted Monkey BookPS - In honor of GraNoMaMo, I've purchased Lynda Barry's latest book, Picture This. Google her name and CBC's Writers & Company to listen to her interview with Eleanor Wachtel (the link seems to keep moving), or see my doodle from her other book, What It Is, here.

PPS - Lo, it only took one small Google search - this has of course been done before and apparently I am a month late. Regardless, we shall press on... I think I like my name better.

Friday, September 24, 2010

What's In The Pantry

This above is a scan from my sketchbook. The cut-n-paste is from the Gaga 2010 issue of Vanity Fair and I was rather surprised – this is a fairly accurate description of my parents' pantry (mine, not so much. OK not at all). Except there's no tonic water or Sanka or sardines or capers and I don't have any idea what Bovril and petit pois are.

It was in an article updating the status of yuppies. I'm pretty sure we're safe from ever being considered a part of that demographic.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

End of Summer

School has started, leaves are turning. It gets dark early.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Three Worst* Books I Ever Read

(* “Worst” being entirely subjective and not meaning “bad writing” but rather, plot lines which left me in a disgusting state of “ennui-slash-frustration-bordering-on-outrage.”)

They're having a small debate on The Guardian book blog about genre vs literary fiction.

“The ongoing, endless war between ‘literary’ fiction and ‘genre’ fiction has well-defined lines in the sand. Genre's foot soldiers think that literary fiction is a collection of meaningless but prettily drawn pictures of the human condition. The literary guard consider genre fiction to be crass, commercial, whizz-bang potboilers. Or so it goes...”

It's easy to pick on bad genre fiction – so easy, in fact, that it's been elevated to an art form in the area of classic “B” movies and trashy pulp novels. “Bad” literary fiction is a bit harder to suss out because, let's face it, one person's dud novel is the darling of at least a hundred if not a thousand critics.

For myself, the division between “good” literary fiction and “bad” literary fiction comes when the main character is so tied down by their own neurosis and/or situation that NOTHING CHANGES. The story rolls along because the main character(s) can't make any choices (or their choices don't have any effect) that would break them out of their pre-determined misery.

Thus, here are the three worst books I've ever read, in no particular order (again, completely subjective and I apologize if any of them are on your Top Ten list): Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, and Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights.

In The Old Man and the Sea, Santiago nobly, resignedly, patiently marches on from the ominous foreshadowing in the beginning of the book, all the way to the depressing end... and you, as a reader, are left with the feeling that it was all inevitable and hopeless. That and Hemingway's short, choppy writing drove me crazy.

In Anna Karenina, by the time she threw herself under a train, my only thought was, Oh thank god that's over with. There was a significant chunk of book left but I'm quite sure I didn't read any farther.

And dear Wuthering Heights. How are we supposed to care that Heathcliff and Cathy screwed up their lives and decided to make everyone around them pay for it? I can't believe nobody offed the miserable bastard - it would have made a much more satisfying story. The only reason I finished the book was to see how he finally died.

I lose patience with “literary” fiction when the author hasn't convinced me that the characters' happiness is out of their control due to extenuating circumstances. I understand the author's right to write such a story. I just don't have the desire to read such a story. And Emily Bronte, I am sure, wrote Wuthering Heights as a huge, infuriating joke on serious readers everywhere.

@frustratedartist made a similar comment about James Joyce's Ulysses, and what I think is a great observation:

I think the thing is that we have a divided brain. The emotional half of our brain hankers after stories: Boy meets girl, there are obstacles, love conquers all. Man gets put in prison for a crime he didn't commit. He eventually escapes and takes revenge on his framers... A man goes out on a long journey. Lots of stuff happens to him. He comes back home and sorts his life out.
The other half of our brain rejects this “1 Present characters. 2 Introduce a problem. 3 Allow problem to worsen. 4 Find satisfying resolution.” approach as being too simplistic. This half demands food for thought: multi-layered complexity, ideas, sentences that only one person in the world could write, scintillating language, a non-linear narrative, maybe. Something to challenge the mind.

I think most readers are, in fact, more forgiving of poor writing than they are of a boring story. Harry Potter, The DaVinci Code, and the Twilight series will bear out proof of this, however much the literati may decry it.

Good books should be allowed to have both a good story and good writing. If the plot can keep you endlessly fascinated, and the writing ranges from solidly invisible to occasionally stunning, then it's a good book and needn't be burdened with a ‘genre’ or ‘literary tag’. Right?