Posts Tagged ‘Literature’

Amazing Stories, Well Not Really

July 11, 2009

Blogging is an interesting medium.  I have been extremely distracted the last few days, preparing my music for live performance, recruiting musicians, dealing with some release related issues, on top of my usual school work and other responsibilities.  Thus the blog has been deadly silent.  Yet thanks to the many, many posts I have done, people have continued to visit.  Rest assured the blog has not “died” in any way.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of Canadian short stories.  This particular collection is organized thematically, and the editor has been quite clever in his selections.  The section entitled “violence” the stories range from murder to a crop destroying hail storm.  The loss of their entire wheat crop devastates the family in that latter story.  It’s hard to fully grasp the precariousness of life in the past and in places where subsistence agriculture is the norm. Over time people all over the world have become disconnected from their food, and their food security has increased.  In southern Ontario there is an ongoing battle over the conversion of agricultural land into suburbia.  The various governments claim to be clamping down on sprawl.  So far that seems to be the case, and it bodes well for the future of agriculture in this province.

A great deal has been written on this idea, and the story I’m refering to is Sinclair Ross’s A Field of Wheat.

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A Potter Of Plans

May 29, 2009

Every good song must come to an end
Even as I beg for the notes to carry on
It’s only the sound of your voice
That keeps me moving forward from day to day
When the music settles
As snow on the porch
I stumble backwards into my head
And the senseless shame
With layers of sorrow
Crowd me again as if I am alone
I walk to the record player
Slide the needle back
So I can listen again to my love
Spinning your words and rhymes

Peter Snow

The Notes

Today is an exciting day at The Alder Fork.  My first publication, Potter of Plans Poems About Canada, has just arrived in hard copy form.  If you would like a copy drop me a line at thealderfork@gmail.com, or you can get it at blurb.com by clicking the link on the sidebar.  At the link you will also find a 15 page preview of the book so you can get a sense of it before buying.  Very shortly I will be launching a store at thealderfork.esty.com to sell the books and my albums.  Once again the book is $10 plus shipping if you don’t  live within drop off distance.

After Many Years

May 19, 2009

Your eyes do not deceive you, there is indeed a link to my new book over on the sidebar.  Potter of Plans: Poems About Canada is a collection of my poems about this country. Some have appeared on this very blog in recent weeks, and there are many more in the book. You can order it through that link, or if you know me I can get you a copy when the first ones arrive in a couple of weeks.

I have long wanted to do this, and The Alder Fork has given me the confidence and ability to do so.  The collection represents the sum of my poetry from the last 6 months.  Obviously, I have rejected some of my output in order to put the best material in the book.  I have been quite pleased with what my imagination has come up with lately.

In honour of this auspicious occasion I offer you yet one more poem from this collection:

Short Note of Thanksgiving

Blue
It’s the colour I remember most
You used it
In all of the paintings you sold me
I wish
I wish I could buy more
But money
Is always tight around here
My fault?
Not with this economy
But really
The paintings were lovely
Thank you

A Short Piece

April 28, 2009

A poem from an upcoming collection:

Mail Order Surprise

They say I bribed the shopkeeper
To sell it to me at half the price
“There’s no way, you could buy it
Not on your salary”
I said, “How do you know
What I make in a month
And quality is worth it”
Why would I tell them my secret?
That the Italians had it
On special
Because they don’t know the value
Of a space heater
In Pickle Lake
In January

I Suppose I Must See Who It Is

April 15, 2009

‘Cannot you see, cannot all you lecturers see, that it is we that are dying, and that down here the only thing that really lives is the Machine? We created the Machine, to do our will, but we cannot make it do our will now. It has robbed us of the sense of space and of the sense of touch, it has blurred every human relation and narrowed down love to a carnal act, it has paralysed our bodies and our wills, and now it compels us to worship it. The Machine develops – but not on our lies. The Machine proceeds – but not to our goal. We only exist as the blood corpuscles that course through its arteries, and if it could work without us, it would let us die. Oh, I have no remedy – or, at least, only one – to tell men again and again that I have seen the hills of Wessex as Ælfrid saw them when he overthrew the Danes.

E.M. Forster

The Machine Stops

I had a thoroughly interesting conversation today about the state of what is known in some circles as the “blogosphere.”  This bizarre world is inhabited by all sorts of frustrated journalists, fanatics, hobbyists, and bored people.  There are some fantastic sites out there, and some which are a complete waste of time.  I hope The Alder Fork lies closer to the former, but ultimately I can’t decide if that’s true.  The friend I was talking to works in television and has seen the evolution of that medium in the last few years up close.  For whatever reason people have been drawn to reality television and shows that provide caricatures of real people in ridiculous situations.  On top of that we have the internet, a place where a person can create an image for themselves that conforms to their vision, and not necessarily reality. This is hardly a new observation but is one that will likely be more apt as our “real life” identities become indistinguishable from what we do online.

That thought launches me off towards a story I read as a high school student, in the days when the internet was just becoming a popular consumer product (think 1997 or so).  Most of my friends and I were familiar with the concept of the internet but few of us had it in our homes.  High speed was definitely still a far off dream for us, and our school computers gave us access to a slow but fascinating world.  The story in question is E.M. Forster’s The Machine Stops.  This delightful piece of early Twentieth Century science fiction more or less predicted the internet, video conferencing, and I would argue Facebook/Twitter or social networking programs in general.  Forster paints a picture of a desperate future where people rarely leave their home pods to have physical contact with others.  Procreation is accomplished mechanically and the outside is a scary and supposedly poisonous place.  In typical dystopian fashion the entire world turns out to be backwards and salvation could only be found elsewhere for the protagonist. You can read the complete story (it’s not that long) here.

When I read that story in high school I’m not sure I understood it’s contemporary significance.  I no longer view the story as merely a description of the futility of relying on technology to perfect life, a lesson I’m sure humanity has learnt by now.  It probably should’ve been obvious to me then, as it is now, that Forster was concerned about the breakdown of human interaction and relationship.  It’s an issue that’s been discussed in popular magazines and academic literature, particularly in regards to the internet.  Electronic relationships don’t appear to nourish people the same way that flesh and blood ones do.  Never mind that a few years after this story was written World War I created an environment where humanity essentially ceased to exist, and the bonds that tie people together were not only broken but annihilated in muddy trenches.  As much as I rely on this blog, my podcast, and the various ways I promote my music online, to sustain my creative output, I do feel the urge to play live for real people.  The internet is supposed to open up global interaction, allow the sharing of knowledge from pole to pole, and create a worldwide village.  It does these things, but I know that being too attached to my computer is a dangerous way to miss some of the experiences that make life grand.  As someone who is strongly attached to digital media I feel a certain responsibility to not only help push the boundaries of this medium, but also to find ways to relate back to what is most real in life. The Alder Fork Festival is certainly one part of that, and I like to think that by writing about music, art, and film I am encouraging people away from here for a little while to enjoy what’s being created outside of the machine.

This has been a bit of a soapboxy rant on my part, and I apologize. I am not really here to preach, but I think it’s important from time to time to take a break from creating online content to reflect on it’s meaning.  Must be the philosopher in me. I think Gustavo Gutierrez would be proud.

Long Live The King

March 12, 2009

It’s just the only way to reach my home again, the only way I’ll fall and break.

Laura Smith

Break

Come hell or high water there will be a new episode of the podcast tonight. Look for more of my conversation and music by the lovely Laura Smith, who has been featured on the show several times.   I expect to be posting my podcasts more frequently in the next little while because I have a bunch of ideas and plans to hatch. Kern and I touch on some interesting topics and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Exciting news today out of North Korea. The ruling party swept the recent election in which they ran unopposed! Despite my willingness to weigh in on the taboo topic of religion on this blog, I have generally avoided making too many statements abut the economy or politics.  You can search around WordPress to find people who are far more qualified and far more interested in these issues.  Watching political leaders practice the art of the possible while yelling, arguing, and making ridiculous claims generally bores me to death. But one thing that does get me excited is any talk of facism, dictators, and authoritarian government.  It’s just such a fascinating topic.  Often the cult of the leader takes on religious-like qualities, and that is likely the source of my interest (remember I’m also fascinated by “traditional cults” and new religious movements).

I should start by saying there is no redeeming feature  of mass-murder, torture, assassinations, or any of the other absolutely atrocious activities of most dictators. That aside, I’m fascinated by how willing we are to allow ourselves to be dominated by other people.  This isn’t some rant about conformity, claiming we are all “sheep,” but rather an observation that history has shown that people don’t care that much about their leadership if they are happy or feel that they can’t do anything about the situation.  I mention this because I want to recommend a great book: What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder, and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany. This lengthy tome was put together by a sociologist and a historian. They surveyed and interviewed German Jews and other Germans to discover what they knew about the holocaust during the 1930’s and 40’s.  It is absolutely amazing.  One quick caution: the book is written by two academics and contains raw survey data, commentary, and interviews.  It’s style is not that of a popular history because the others are more interested in presenting the facts than jazzing it up. This book is a must read for anyone who is interested in learning about WWII, the holocaust, Nazism, or genocide.

All This? For $2.50?

January 15, 2009

Force, the inertial tugs and pulls a two-dimensional being experiences when he tries to walk a straight line in three-dimensional space.

Bernhard Riemann

Quoted in

A Small Dog Barking and Other Stories

By Robert Strandquist

If you read yesterday’s post about an ecology of peace and are waiting for more, don’t worry it’s coming, just not today.  I promise it will be soon.

I want to divert your attention from serious matters today and talk about something I enjoy, used bookstores and thrift stores.  I should start by saying that I prefer to buy my clothes new, so I’m not usually found among the clothing racks at Value Village.  I do , however, like to get cheap books, records, and even tapes!  Plus I never know when I’ll find a wacky instrument to add to the collection and use on an album.  This is on my mind because of the tapes I mentioned the other day, and my recent visit to the Neighbour to Neighbour Used Bookstore where I picked up several Can Lit classics, by such renowned authors as Robertson Davies and Gabrielle Roy.  When I was in Waterloo I used to frequent Old Goat Books even if the people there kind of scared me. I know I have a loyal readership, and some transients who wander in periodically. I’d love to hear about your favourite little bookshops and thrift stores from coast to coast.

Another random thing happened today. I was flipping channels between periods of the Thrasher-Senators game, and I discoverd Sting singing opera.  A piece from Don Giovanni to be more precise.  He was sharing a duet with Angela Gheorghiu of Là ci darem la mano. What I found most interesting, beisdes the odd choice of having Sting do opera, was the vast difference in the quality of the vocal performance between the two.  Sting sounded good, as he usually does, but as soon as Gheorghiu opened her mouth it was obvious she sings on a different plane.  It’s just a reminder that what is popularly considered as the standard for musical ability generally lacks behind those who are truly the best.  I still recommend checking out the performance here.