Sunday, August 31, 2014

Book Review: Nobody Cries at BINGO

August was humour month for our genre book club. I was already a few chapters in (yeah ok, so I sort of cheated!) to a hilarious autobiography, which pretty much influenced the picking of this month's genre. And thank goodness, because it was a great book! I guess it's not traditional humour (as far as the genre goes) but it make me smile and laugh constantly so it counts.

August 2014: Humour

Nobody Cries at BINGO
By Dawn Dumont
298 pages

The author (a trained lawyer and actress/comedian) presents each chapter as a short vignette about her childhood growing up on a reserve in Saskatchewan. The stories flow chronologically and revolve around her family, friends and the mundane, yet exciting, details about their daily lives. Dumont's language is simple, yet she deftly portrays reserve life to those who aren't familiar with it (and I suspect to those who are).

And it was hilarious, in a completely dry, sarcastic and self deprecating way. Dumont turns all those little stereotypical details into comical moments, but not in a "laughing at you way", always in a "laughing with you" way. It was a joy to read! My only complaint is that it ended abruptly, but I guess that's the way vignettes are. I definitely wanted her to keep going, as the book ends with her in law school, because I wanted to hear more about her crazy family antics! Who knew a story about crying over Cheezies at BINGO could be so funny!

Read this if you want to learn more about what living on a reserve is like (from someone with first hand experience). Read this if you want to smile after every paragraph. I think I'll try read her new book too, as I really got her style of humour. Or maybe I'll just read this one again!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Music < Tarp Family: Folk Fest 2014 Wrap Up

It's taken me a long time to write this post because mostly I couldn't think of how to fill out my top 5 for the Edmonton Folk Fest 2014. This was not a stellar year on the hill for music for me. I've previously acknowledged that I've pigeon holed myself so much musically that I enjoy less and less these days. And this year, I'm a bit burnt out and didn't really want to deal with the early mornings and the lines. I was only going to go for one day to see Michael Franti, but ended up being talked into getting a weekend pass.

And it was a good thing I went for the whole festival.

View of the city is always stunning from the hill.

Here's my Folk Fest 2014 top 5:

1. My Tarp Family - Even though the music was not awesome for me this year, my tarp family sure was. This is the second (or third, we can't remember) year I've hung out at the top of the hill with my (relatively new) usual music crew. And over the years I've really come to love spending time with them all. One is a colleague and good friend who I see frequently and the others are her family and friends, people who I see infrequently but who have become my family and friends anyways. There was a discussion in the beer tent about how I'm the little sister who was in with the family and 100% welcome back on the tarp next year and that was a super fantastic warm fuzzy. Also they let me mooch all their popcorn. The memories of hanging out with my tarp family will sustain me for the year like memories of the music used to. I can't wait to see them again (hopefully before the annual Christmas Eve party which I'm totally inviting myself to!).

It was wet, it was cold, then it was hot, but it was always fun.

2. Blue Rodeo - Yes, I did just see them in January but as if these guys can put on a bad show?! They closed the festival, and ended up being the best act for me. The first song was '5 Days in May', and then Greg said "The organizers have asked us to do the entire '5 Days in July' album in order..." and so they did. I've never seen an artist do an entire album in order before and it was kind of awesome! It made it that much more special to hear the same good ol' tunes in person on the hill. The twitter rumour that day was that Kathleen Edwards was in town to sing with them and sure enough, she came out to join them! Awesome, because despite not usually liking female singers, I am a fan of hers. And then, the best part of the whole set, the brief moment that made the entire weekend of music worth it, happened during 'Dark Angel'. It's a slow duet between Greg and Sarah McLachlan on the cd I have, but Kathleen did a good job of filling in. Greg must've looked at her funny or said something (not like we could see much from the top of the hill), so Kathleen playfully punched him in the shoulder during a emotiony ballady part. High-larious. Icing on the cake. They did some other hits after the album songs and we went home happy.

3. Best Session: Friday night, during the rain (in which I discovered my rain jacket is no longer waterproof), the first session of the festival I saw a Ukrainian band DakhaBrakha join African bands Mokoomba and Alpha Yaya Diallo. The African bands jammed, and the Ukrainian girls added in some great harmonized vocals. It's a good thing the music was good because it was cold and wet. Apparently the DakhaBrakha concert was a-maz-ing according to a colleague, but alas, I missed it, instead choosing to listen to disappointing Irish celtic music instead (for some reason the Irish bands really didn't do it for me this year, although their Sunday afternoon session was good, that might've been because I had a good spot in the shade...)

DakhaBrakha, Mokoomba, Alpha Yaya Diallo

I quite enjoyed Mokoomba on main stage too. Take a listen.

4. Basia Bulat - Again, shocking if you know me, but here's another female singer I am a fan of. And she pulled off a high energy show full of great vocals. Quite enjoyable. Here's my favourite song:

5. I don't know what goes in the 5th spot. Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite were great together, fantastic harmonica! 100 Mile House was a cute local find and I'd see them again. Michael Franti, who should've been #1 He sounded off anyways. I've seen him be super awesome and I've seen him be great. Saturday night he was just good. Good energy, good interaction with the crowd, good new songs I hadn't heard before. But, just...good. Maybe I was expecting too much. Bear's Den was good also (although that could've been my cool shady spot too) and Holly Williams didn't sing a bad song the two times I saw her. I wish I'd seen more of Sharon Shannon, but by the time her concert came around I was choosing music by their location to shade.

100 Mile House. Like I said. Cute.

Holly Williams. Check out her pedigree.

Now that's harmonica!

Ah well, maybe next year the music will be better for me. I had decided this would be my last year at Folk Fest, but I don't think I'm ready to give up the atmosphere and the company. I hear they're trying to get Oysterband for next year, who I love love love love love, so that'll be worth the price of admission. And I'll also never turned down a chance to hang out with my tarp family!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Wrap Up of Interstellar Rodeo 2014

Interstellar Rodeo is quickly becoming my favourite summer music festival! Proper chairs, shade, protection from rain, food trucks, short lineups, no early mornings or late nights and la creme de la creme: indoor bathrooms with proper plumbing! Oh yeah, and a pretty good line up of music as well!

Here's my Top 3 from this year's festival:

1. The Strumbellas
I thought I liked this band, but the remind me of Mumford & Sons and Mumford & Sons remind me of an ex, heartbreak, and I avoided listening to The Strumbellas. But they were good live, very good, and I thoroughly enjoyed their set. One of my music crew bought me their new CD, saying that "We are making new memories this weekend. Now when you listen to them you'll remember us and the fun we had." Touche. Now Strumbellas CDs are on repeat in my car. 

2. The Lone Bellow
Never heard of this band, but they put on a high energy performance that we all got into. More memories made!

3. Wagons
I remember really liking them in 2012, and they didn't disappoint this year either. Henry Wagons is the Australian Gord Downie - quite the entertainer. Fun times.

Biggest disappointment:
Gord Downie and The Sadies
I love The Hip and I love The Sadies but this combo didn't work for me at all. The only saving grace was watching two of my music crew, who had never seen Gord perform live before, react to his craziness!

Runner Up
They cancelled Friday due to weather and added a concert on Monday. But alas, I have a meeting to attend and can't attend Monday. Sad face.

Book Review: Anything Boys Can Do

July book club genre was short story, on the premise that it's summer and short stories are shorter and easier and more fun to read (?). I'm not a short story fan for the same reason I don't like watching movies - I'd rather get into a novel or a TV show and really get to know the characters, setting and story progression. Short stories, and movies, always leave me...dissatisfied.

July 2014: Short Stories

Anything Boys Can Do
By Angie Abdou
183 pages

I picked this up after a recommendation on Facebook, and since I'd read The Bone Cage by Abdou and liked it, I thought this collection of short stories would be ok. The premise sounded good: it was meant to be a collection of likeable women dealing with life and romance in a man's world.

In actuality, almost every story is about a woman who has an affair that does/does not ruin her marriage. Oh and the last story is about amateur wrestling.

Blah. Read something else.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Book Review: The Cure for Everything

No idea how I happened upon this book, but as I'm currently trying to "get healthier", it seemed like a timely read!

The Cure for Everything: Untangling Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness, and Happiness
By Timothy Caulfield
234 pages

Timothy Caulfield is a health junkie (and academic), who like all of us I'm sure, is tired of all the commercial and media bullshi*t surrounding fitness, diet, and health fads. His book covers four areas of healthy living: fitness, diet, genetics and alternative medicine. In each chapter, Caulfield tests out a claim and researches the facts behind what "works" and what doesn't.

I thoroughly enjoyed the chapters on exercise and dieting. Fitness wise I learned the best ways to exercise are intensity or interval training and resistance training. Targeting specific areas doesn't work. And, exercise isn't the best weight loss method (that would be diet) but does help you get fitter and healthier, and being fit and healthy is more important than being skinny (so I keep telling myself as I try to learn to run using my C25K app).

The diet chapter was interesting as well. To lose weight (or maintain a healthy weight) you have to eat small portions, cut out junk food, and ensure 50% of your diet is fruits and vegetables (easier said than done). That means water, not juice or pop too. Cauldfield follows a diet put together by the authors of the Pure Prairie Eating Plan, which I bought at our local independent bookstore. It's a decent recipe book that advocates for simple, healthy meals made from ingredients available locally. I reckon it was worth my money.

But then the book stopped being awesome. I'll be honest, I thought the chapter on genetics was a bit boring. And I just skimmed the alternative health chapter because the message was that alternative remedies, naturopathy, homeopathy etc aren't evidence based thus it don't work. I didn't need to read 50 pages proving the author's point over and over again.

One of the appealing aspects of this book was that the author is local so I cheerily enjoyed the local references. Plus, the University of Alberta is a prominent employer of many of the experts (as well as the author) and having spent 7 years there myself, I enjoyed the name drop.

This book is well researched and includes information from the latest scientific studies, statistics, and expert interviews. Caulfield does a great job of infusing his humour (sarcastic, self deprecating, etc) throughout the text and this made it an enjoyable read. I was super annoyed by his lack of academic citation for the studies/articles/statistics etc mentioned, but Caulfield does include a disclaimer about this, as well as all the citations at the end. Such is the way for popular general health literature I suppose.

I learned stuff about exercise and dieting, thus reading this book was well worth the effort. If you'd like to learn stuff about your health too, give this book a look.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Bike Commuting: #irideYEG

Recently, I bought a new house! It's fantastic and I love it! I also love living where I live - the neighbourhood is safe, close to all amenities and is lined with big old elm trees!

I specifically bought a house in an area that offers me non-driving commuting options. Driving in rush hour makes me angry, and parking/gas costs are ridiculous these days. I purposely bought a house a 2 minute walk away from a bus stop that will get me to work in a reasonable amount of time on a direct bus without a transfer.

But the best part about the location of my new house is that it makes it super easy for me to bike to work! It's a safe, flat, 12km round trip on quiet residential streets and I love it. Riding my bike to work has helped improve my health and fitness, saved me money, and gets me there and back without making me angry! I love it so much that I'm seriously considering becoming a year round bike commuter, which is a daunting task given our Alberta winter's but I think it'll be worth it!

This week I was featured in a post on the YEGBike blog, as part of their #irideYEG series.

I think the blog has been a great initiative used to promote cyclists in Edmonton from a human standpoint - we're not just bikes who weave in and out of traffic while complaining about crappy bike infrastructure - we're actual people who are doing our best to keep our commute eco friendly while staying fit and enjoying the beautiful scenery of our city!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Book Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

June's book club genre was "Book to Movie" - mostly so everyone else could go see The Fault in Our Stars (um no thanks, too depressing). I had a hard time finding a book this month because initially I required the movie to already be on netflix, plus I had to discount all the books and/or movies I'd already seen. I was going to go with a sappy romance (so unlike me!), but then decided on a kids book. I figured this wasn't quite cheating as I'm reading my way through Game of Thrones right now, and that sort of fits with the genre!

June 2014: Book to Movie

Fantastic Mr. Fox
By Roald Dahl
56 pages

Mr. Fox is a professional thief, and the evil farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean are his main targets. One day the farmers decide they've had enough, and set out to find and kill Mr. Fox. In doing so, they destroy the foxes neighbourhood and endanger the lives of all the other burrowing animals who live there. No worries though, clever Mr. Fox devises an ingenious way to feed his family and all the neighbours, while keeping the farmers at bay.

This was a cute and clever book. I've read a lot of Roald Dahl's books but never this one, and I'm glad I did. The familiar illustrations transported me back to my childhood and the Brit speak reminded me of The London Years. Written a long time ago and with a British mentality, it's quite graphic for children, but then again, video games are rotting their minds anyways so I'm sure the murderous text bothered me more than it bothers the wee kiddies.

"How will they kill us, mummy?" asked one of the Small Foxes. His round black eyes were huge with fright. "Will there be dogs?" he said. (p. 18)

"I refuse to let you go up there and face those guns. I'd sooner you stay down here and die in peace." (p. 28)

I read this book via a public library ebook, which isn't quite how I like to read books but at least I could increase the font up to large for my old lady eyes. The whole time I was reading it I was thinking that it would make a good movie and I was looking very forward to seeing the movie adaption...

Fantastic Mr. Fox
Directed by Wes Anderson
87 minutes

...which was...different. Obviously they needed to fill out details to make an entire movie (it's a short kids novel), but everything was...quite different. Not bad different, just different. 

I didn't know the name of the director until the end, and well, that explains everything. In hindsight, it is very much a Wes Anderson movie and as such is quite clever and entertaining. But again, quite different from the book. It's an interestingly visual movie because it was all stop-motion/claymation, which gives it an neat look. It must've taken them for-ever to film!

I enjoyed the movie, but as usual with Book to Movie titles, the book was better. Both are highly recommended for kids and adults alike though!