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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mini book reviews (the reviews are mini, the books vary in size)

As noted earlier, I read a stack of books in Mexico. I even ran out of books at one point, and worried that I'd be left to read the contents of my wallet or newspapers that I couldn't understand. Not reading is not an option. I need it to go to sleep, to relax, to be on the beach, to eat alone, even for some acts of biological necessity. Some of you will understand. Then I found a little room with English books for sale - a charity store, open a few hours at a time. For very few pesos I had Franny and Zooey (Salinger), a Borges novel and one noted below (the Llosa).

Here are some samples, briefly reviewed:

Something Serious Fiction: The World Without US by Alan Weisman

As mentioned in an earlier post, Susan gave me this book. Weisman offers a new way to think about our impact on the planet - by envisioning earth without us. From the floods in New York's subways (day 1) to how cities and homes will crumble to what will happen to the poor cockroach, which contrary to popular wisdom will perish without us - to examining places already devoid of humans, he covers it all. This is done drawing on the expertise of an interesting array of experts, religious leaders and oddballs. It's a highly readable roller coaster of information and insight, which ends with unpredictable suggestions for avoiding this demise (I won't tell).

Something Serious Non-Fiction: Blindness by Jose Saramago

Not one to sink into depression through thinking about human stupidity, greed, ignorance and struggle (see above book) - I plowed on to read a fictional tale, by a Nobel prize winner, with the themes of human stupidity, greed, ignorance and struggle. (I also danced salsa that day.)

Saramago describes a city hit by an epidemic of 'white blindness' which seems to spare no one. The early victims are confined in an empty mental hospital and left isolated, struggling to create a society that works. It doesn't. There is a woman who has her sight, but keeps it a secret. See how well this is set up as a metaphor for all human nature? It's a compelling, stark story and certainly has touches of love, humanity and hope, as well as some rather bleak looks into our souls and behaviour. It's coming out this year as a film apparently. I couldn't let it go - I still carry it in my mind day to day.

Something Fiction and Canadian: Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay

This book won the Giller Prize in Canada last year (prestigious prize and comes with dough - these things matter here in the cold white north). It's a good read, set in the far north in Yellowknife. It revolves around the lives of some very quirky characters who work at the radio station. Is it a character piece? Is it a romantic story? Is it a tragedy, with massive foreshadowing? Is it a woman's book? Is it a call to the wild? Is it for everyone? Yes X 6.

Something Not Serious and Originally Written in Spanish: Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa

This is a novel with terrific energy, alarming creativity, innumerable characters (with Spanish names of course) and it put a smile on my face many times. I chortled, chuckled and laughed loudly in public places. The story takes place in Lima and follows Mario, an 18 year old law student and radio news-editor, who falls in love with Aunt Julia, the 32 year old divorced wife of a cousin.

Their affair is progressively nutso and the telling of their story is interspersed with episodes from a series of radio soap operas written by his eccentric Bolivian friend Pedro. I have read more serious novels by Llosa and was surprised and delighted to be taken on a ride like this. I read some chapters by candlelight, a few feet from the surf, while sipping tequila in a closed cafe...

There are other books too, but you now have a taste of my reading meals while on vacation. If anyone wants to borrow one of these books, just ask.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Some now-I'm-home-ramblings...

Early Beginner Spanish class in La Manzanilla (me in black shirt, a gift from PT - you know who you are...)

One kilometre from town - camera in hand...

I'm back home now, followed a logging truck into town, as you can see...

I was only in Mexico for a few weeks but it was enough to enjoy it and to reflect a little on life as I know it day to day here. Let's put it this way, when one of my clients let me know this week that they won't use my work the next few months, I was delighted. I think I need to look for ways to swim upstream against the current of busy-ness and pressure that exists even here in alternative and slightly stoned Nelson. There! Maybe next year a couple of months in Mexico.

I've begun making the blog rounds today and feel like I'm popping in on friends for tea (okay maybe ale at one house in St. Louis and maybe whisky with that sculpter in New York). Anyhow, I don't like the pressure I sometimes impose on myself to blog, but do enjoy the connections.

Did I write that I won a canoe in an SPCA raffle? Got the call just before Christmas. When I went to the shelter to get my coupon I damn near came home with Hamish, an eldery, long, black dog with three inch legs and a little beard. He was grieving for a dead mistress and looked like he could use some scratching ... maybe a canoe ride too.

Look, I did title this 'ramblings' - check somone else's blog if I'm boring you.

Political: The US election is interesting. Don't be fooled into thinking they're all alike. Do you think Al Gore would have given us what George Bush did? Pick wisely and maybe the sanity-pendulum will swing north. Canadians have been polled and would pick any of the Democrats over any of the Republicans - 4 to 1!

Canada: Our government won't ask the US to close the Guantanamo Bay Gulag, even though France is demanding justice for the one Canadian prisoner there, who was 15 when captured. Good old Stevie Harper - let's hope he goes down as the above-noted pendulum swings. We might have an election this spring.

I read 8 books on my trip - just ask if you want to know more.

I'm still rambling...

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I can't take it anymore!

A piece of the La Manzanilla beach just before sunset

Two nights ago, coming back from a nearby town (Melaque) by cab through the mountains, two cool things happened. First the driver, who didn't speak English, slow driving, or road-watching - almost slammed into the back of a parked (on the road) semi-truck. (That particular driver didn't speak lights of any kind.) We both laughed of course, in a manly-machismo sort of way. And I didn't even soil my pants, in that gringo-pansy sort of way.

The next thing was cooler. Out of the jungle came a huge cat, which ran across the road just in front of us. This was cat in that way that the driver called, "TIGRE!!, TIGRE!!! TIGRE!! I would have said small panther or something. Anyhow, it was cool.

Yesterday while swimming, I heard the whales call my name. Well, at least I heard the humpbacks in the bay sound like a herd of cattle at dusk, with some chirping and parroting tossed in for harmony. Then later while watching the sunset with some amigos, we watched 2 or 3 humpbacks spash, breech and slap around the water. Nice.

Okay, no photos available from any of those experiences, but I'll throw one on anyhow. This is my beach - or at least I think of it as mine, but do share it with others.

Hasta luego muchachos

Friday, January 11, 2008

Time flies like an arrow - fruit flies like bananas... and papayas too

Sunrise in our garden...

Pardon her language, but the bug was THAT big... (click to see larger)

The girls have flown home - I watched them climb the steps to the plane. Then I realized I had no money and the aeroporto bank machine was broken. How to get 40 miles back to the village? I hitched a ride to another village, found a bank machine, then using buses and a cab - home! I deserved a large tequila and lime after than - so had one (or more).

I'm following news a little on the internet, but mostly out of time. I'm working a little too much, but it lets me stay longer.

I'm reading and have made it to the 5th of my 6 books. I may be wandering the streets looking for a trade soon.

Susan sent me The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman, which I thought might be too much of a bummer to read while enjoying the world with us so much. On the contrary! Thank you Susan for a terrific, well-researched, excellently written book. (Okay the chapters on plastic and rubber and oil did bum me out, but it will be so nice 50,000 years from now....without us.)

Hasta luego!

Saturday, January 05, 2008


My office (and my bony feet extending beyond laptop to prove it)

My daughter and yesterday's sunset - another tonight apparently!

Okay, I've been busy, very busy. There are beaches to walk, beers to drink, siestas to take, novels to devour, interesting senoritas to glimple from under by sombrero (or baseball cap, whatever...)

Other than my daughter getting sick for the first two days (vomit/fever/neverland sick), it's been wonderful. For those of you in heat-challenged climates, you'd appreciate 84F in the day and 65F at night.

I actually am getting some work done too. (See above.) Our landlady has a wireless connection that I can pick up if I sit on her rooftop. No desk, but I'm getting by.

Oh yeah, interesting that Iowa primary - maybe a race in the making. Gotta love those evangelicals getting the vote out for their man - if there is ever a President Huckabee, I will open an immigration service for those of you who need it. Now President Huckleberry Hound I could live with...

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