Tuesday, February 28, 2012

You never know what you'll find

From experience I know that second-hand stores are hit-and-miss with great book finds. You could go through the store's book collection once a week for a month or two and find absolutely nothing of value. It's all cookbooks, out-of-date home renovation guides, romance novels, coffee table books, and children's stories. But then, after several months of diligent searching, there is that one book you've been looking for, or, even, that one book you haven't been looking for, that makes your heart jump when you find it.

Last weekend I went to my local second-hand store to find a pair of pants for work. While there I decided to peruse the book section, and found a title I couldn't pass up.

It's a 2001 (now out-of-print) edition of The Oxford English Reference Dictionary. The lower-left corner is slightly bent, but it is otherwise in perfect condition. For me, this is great find because I love words and, therefore, dictionaries.
A particularly interesting feature of the book is the "illustrated factfinder". It includes illustrations of the human body, musical notation, the solar system; playing surfaces of various sports, basic architecture, church architecture; and a glossy 16-page, colour atlas. There are also flow charts that show the structure of the English political system, the US government, the UN, and the history of English Kings and Queens. There is even a "chronology of world events" and many other helpful charts of weights and measures, Prime Ministers and Presidents, planets and astrology, and the periodic table of the elements. I love the "Terms for Groups of Animals, etc." Who knew that a group of larks was called an exaltation? I think my favourite is "a kindle of kittens".
It's also a great find because of what I paid for it --- a mere $4.99. Indigo lists the newer edition at $54.95 new and $30.93 used. But Amazon lists it at (US)$119 new! So, even though it is out of print (and, admittedly, has some out-of-date facts) It's a wonderful find for me. I'm sure I'll be leafing through it frequently.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday Music

If you hate Mondays, here's some music to take you away. I'll start with two bands you should know. The first is South Yorkshire, UK outfit Exit Calm. They've been compared to A Storm in Heaven-era Verve, but I think their sound is heavier and more evocative, not only because of the vastness of the multi-layered, effect-laden guitars, but also because of the raw, ragged vocals.

That guitar that swirls, builds, and explodes from 2:00 - 2:28 gives me goosebumps. I also recommend checking out "We're On Our Own".

Next is London- based SULK. They have a sound that is reminiscent of late-80s britpop bands such as The Stone Roses, Ride, Suede, The Charlatans, etc. You know, great bands that had swagger and talent.

The opening of that song always blows me away. This band should be huge.

Finally, two bands I will be seeing in May, in London, England. Madchester veterans Inspiral Carpets and Happy Mondays.

Don't you just love that Farfisa?

I'm as giddy as a schoolboy to see these two bands. I just hope Ryder and company are sober enough to put on a good show. The last time I saw them was in 1990 at The Diamond in Toronto. They took the stage late, in front of an angry, drunken crowd, and Ryder was so wasted, he could hardly remember the words to the songs; the words he did remember were slurred. He also stumbled all over the stage. At one point, he fell into a stack of speakers and almost knocked them, and himself, over and off the stage. Good times, I guess

Saturday, February 11, 2012

It's about time

Finally, the first real day of winter this winter. We were lightly dusted with 10cm of snow last night, and the temperature is around -9C (-17 with the windchill) --- and I love it. Unfortunately, most Canadians aren't like me. As they become more urbanized and, therefore, less connected to the land that formed them, they spend most of their lives trying to deny its existence and, ironically, complaining about it.

Believe me, from the end of summer to the beginning of spring, my fellow countrymen do nothing but whine and bitch about the cold and the snow and the ice and the slush and the grey skies. I try to convince them that if they just accepted winter as a part of who they are as Canadians; that if they just embraced it; that if they didn't view it as a hostile force bent on limiting their lives they would ski through it memorably year after year. But, I'm never successful. They all want this country to be more like Florida.

Yes, when it comes to winter, Canada is a nation of wimps. The CBC documentary Life Below Zero proves this. It discusses Canadians' relationship to winter as compared to that of Russians and Scandanavians. Now they know how to deal with winter.

A Start

I've started this blog on a whim. Since I don't yet have a real plan for it, I'll begin by posting a photo of a city in which I lived from 1999-2003, Bogota, Colombia.

Photo Credit: Diana Hernandez Brijaldo

I'll post more later.