“Brexit, Trump and the Search for a Canadian Monkey Wrench”

brexit-canada-1024x576One of the best analyses of the contemporary political train wreck, is Glenn Greenwald’s “Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit” (www.theintercept.com). Anyone who’s been watching the news and scratching their head, or been “shocked” by Trump’s victory, would do themselves a favor by reading it along with the documents it links to. Here are Greenwald’s two most relevant paragraphs:

“The indisputable fact is that prevailing institutions of authority in the West, for decades, have relentlessly and with complete indifference stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. While elite circles gorged themselves on globalism, free trade, Wall Street casino gambling, and endless wars (wars that enriched the perpetrators and sent the poorest and most marginalized to bear all their burdens), they completely ignored the victims of their gluttony, except when those victims piped up a bit too much — when they caused a ruckus — and were then scornfully condemned as troglodytes who were the deserved losers in the glorious, global game of meritocracy.

“That message was heard loud and clear. The institutions and elite factions that have spent years mocking, maligning, and pillaging large portions of the population — all while compiling their own long record of failure and corruption and destruction — are now shocked that their dictates and decrees go unheeded. But human beings are not going to follow and obey the exact people they most blame for their suffering. They’re going to do exactly the opposite: purposely defy them and try to impose punishment in retaliation. Their instruments for retaliation are Brexit and Trump. Those are their agents, dispatched on a mission of destruction: aimed at a system and culture they regard — not without reason — as rife with corruption and, above all else, contempt for them and their welfare.”

In summary, what working class Britons saw in Brexit is what working class Americans saw in Trump: a monkey wrench —one they could throw contemptuously into a corrupt system that had, for over a generation, been working against them. This article represents my search to proactively indentify the Canadian monkey wrench.

Here we reach the litmus test. If at this point you hear yourself smugly proclaiming, “Not here! Never here! We don’t have a corrupt system in Canada! We don’t have an elite that has been exploiting our masses!” then you’re probably either (1) a member of this elite yourself, (2) utterly clueless, or (3) both.

On the other hand, if you feel yourself quietly sympathizing with the frustrations of working class Britons and Americans (and maybe even feeling a little guilty about it), you’re probably doing what I am, searching for a monkey wrench.

For years my monkey wrench of choice has been voting for the Green Party. And I must say, even though I didn’t get to vote for her directly, it has done my heart good to see Elizabeth May raising hell in the House of Commons these last five years. But I can appreciate that those of us without the environmentalism bent might not find satisfaction there —those folks likely tried voting Conservative or NDP to see what would happen. Of course eventually it became obvious that Stephen Harper was only concerned about, well, Stephen Harper. And the NDP, it seems (tragically), always shy away from authoring any policies of truly monkey wrench magnitude.

Recently, many of us cast our vote for a well-coiffed monkey wrench in the form of Justin Trudeau —some simply angry at Harper for turning out to be a corporate elitist, some for the nostalgia conjured by Trudeau’s name, and some because of one interesting monkey wrench that he held out to us: electoral reform.

The one truly original plank in the last Liberal platform (original for them, at least) was electoral reform. This idea that every vote cast should be counted and represented in Parliament for a change. Now for us this is something quietly revolutionary, a potential for Canada to renew our democracy —a monkey wrench that wouldn’t be thrown into the system with the intent to destroy it, but rather to fix it.

And yet, instead of genuinely pursuing this revolutionary aim, the party in power seems committed to ensuring it happens in a way that benefits them or that it doesn’t happen at all. Presently it looks like we’re headed toward a referendum on the issue. Those of us who paid attention to similar referenda in the past have a good idea how this might turn out. First-past-the-post may very well end up on the ballot as an option because at least one party on the committee will insist it be there. Then, once the issue is in the media, there will be so much misinformation that our overworked (yet consummately reasonable) electorate won’t know what to think and status quo will be seen as the safest option.

If this issue goes to referendum, it is vitally important that first-past-the-post is not an option. This bears repeating. If the issue of electoral reform goes to a referendum, it is vitally important that the status quo, first-past-the-post, is not an option!

Why employ such forceful language? Because Canadians, I fear, are reaching a point where any monkey wrench will do. It would be better for all concerned if that monkey wrench came in the form of a new electoral system than a Canadian Trump.

Those of you who have been paying attention will have noticed that, in terms of political leadership at least, Canada tends to be two steps behind the United States. Mulroney was our Regan, Cretien was our Clinton, Harper was our Bush. And in many ways Trudeau is our Obama —a fresh face able to credibly peddle “change” on behalf of an old, establishment party that doesn’t really want to change anything. So who will be Canada’s Trump?

Here is where we get smug again and cry, “Not here! Never here!” But we do so at our peril. If we’re honest, we know damn well we’ve heard rumblings of discontent in our coffee shops and at our water coolers. The tone is more muted —cooler perhaps than our American neighbours— and maybe laced with a bit of sarcasm, but they are there. I’ll wager not a one of my readers has gone these past several years without hearing a version of one of the following:

“Glad the automotive workers are safe. But where’s my bailout?”

“Immigrants get their cable television paid for!? Wish someone would sponsor me.”

“I wish the housing market would crash. Then maybe I could afford a home.”

And most recently there are the crass lamppost plasterers who crawled out from their basements after Trump’s ersatz victory: “Hey, white person!” et cetera.

It’s only a matter of time before some Trump-ish opportunist latches on to these sentiments and tries to translate them into political capital. Canada’s Trump has yet to emerge from the shadows but rest assured that he (or she) is eagerly waiting there. And our right-wing media is salivating in anticipation. Remember the frenzy they made of Rob Ford? Well, I reckon we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Before I let you go, let’s give ourselves some credit. Historically, Canada has always been ahead of the United States whenever it really counted. We abolished slavery, we established universal healthcare, we stood up to fascism the first time it reared its ugly head. But presently the grim reality is that Canada is the tallest tree still standing in the darkening forest of western democracy. And the rumbling machines of the logging company can already be heard in the distance.

In the months to come, dear reader, there will likely be many campaigns asking for your precious time, energy and money. So my advice to you is this: choose your monkey wrench wisely. But choose quickly.

–Brandon Kidd

What No One Is Saying and Why: A rant on current public policy

shrug[1]Several public policy initiatives have received a lot of attention lately: a $15 an hour minimum wage, a basic livable income, free university tuition for low-income students (this one looks like it might actually happen). These initiatives seem positive; many progressives have applauded them loudly. But I, as usual, find myself in the position of the party-pooper. It seems up to me to say what no other progressive in the province is willing to say: none of these initiatives will address poverty or grow the middle class. Hear me out.

The minimum wage in Ontario has nearly doubled in the last twenty years. Has poverty shrunk significantly? No. Now I’m not suggesting we go back to a minimum wage of $6.85 an hour, certainly not. I’m not even suggesting that raising the minimum wage to $15 is a bad thing, but consider this: $15 an hour at full-time is just $21,000 a year after taxes. After rent, utilities, food, and a modest amount per month for transport that leaves just $4,200 a year —and that’s rent outside Toronto or Vancouver. And it doesn’t take much to chip away at that $4,200. The cost of a prescription or two, some new clothes, and (heaven forbid) a weekend excursion or two should do it. I think you see my point. Raising the minimum wage alone will not help people out of poverty. One look at how much the rent for a decent one-bedroom apartment has increased since the days of $6.85 an hour will show you that most of that increase has gone to line the pockets of landlords, not to helping low-income people build equity and enter the middle class. Raising the minimum wage alone will have very little long-term effect on people’s quality of life.

Consider that about 30% of all employees in Canada are employed in small businesses and small businesses have accounted for the majority of new jobs added to the economy since 2008. Of all sectors in the economy, small businesses struggle the most to response to an increased minimum wage. Sharply raising it would be one sure way to stunt that growth. And at the end of the day, your wage is in the hands of your employer. If they can’t afford to pay you to work 35 hours a week, they’ll cut you back to 24 or less. This, by the way, is why we see so many people working multiple part-time jobs.

What about a basic livable income? For the first few years it will be a real boon for some. Those who haven’t been able to make ends meet suddenly will, those who can only find low-wage part-time jobs will get a breather. But after those first few years, landlords will catch on that their tenants can pay more money. Suddenly a decent one-bedroom apartment doesn’t cost $800 a month, it costs $1000. The price of houses and condos continues to increase as well, making saving anything for a down-payment increasingly unlikely. Then, five to ten years down the road, our basic livable income isn’t livable anymore and we’re right back where we started.

What about free tuition for students from low-income families? How could I be against that? I, after all, came from a low-income family. Well, I wouldn’t be against it if I thought it would get them anything. The facts are as follows. One, the value of a bachelor’s degree has fallen dramatically over the past twenty years; today it’s worth little more than a high school diploma. Two, many of those low-income students will still need to incur debt in order to attend university; wages from a part-time job generally don’t cover rent, food, books, etc. Do the math and you quickly realize this is not a gift to low-income students, it’s a ruse encouraging them to pursue an education to nowhere so that universities can stem decreasing enrollments as a result of their flagging legitimacy.

Higher minimum wage, basic livable income, free university tuition for low-income students —when you follow the money in each of these cases none of it ends up in the pockets of the poor so they can build equity and better their standing. Ultimately, the vast majority of it ends up in the pockets of landlords and university administrators (who, by the way, get a much bigger portion of the pie than professors). And don’t forget where the money for all this comes from to begin with: us. The province plans to pay for these measures through tax, and not higher tax on the wealthy, not higher tax on corporations, nothing as innovative as a carbon tax or aggregate tax, just general income tax that we all pay. So, in the end, the working poor end up paying for the illusion that deceives them into thinking that their government cares about addressing their plight.  They look at their surroundings, scratch their heads, and wonder why they aren’t getting ahead.

Now why do I feel as though I’m the only progressive pointing out this charade? I think there are three reasons. One, criticisms like these don’t get headlines or fit inside tweets; no one likes putting ink and effort into what isn’t likely to be read. Except me, I’m just weird. Two, after thirty-plus years of unrelenting austerity in this province, progressives will applaud anything that even looks progressive, even if it actually isn’t. They reason that maybe —just maybe— if we take this hit and don’t say anything it will mean something genuinely progressive in the near future. Oh, and if that last point sounds shockingly like an abusive relationship dynamic, that’s because it is. And three, our so-called progressive politicians and political parties in Ontario are ideologically bankrupt.

What do I mean by ideologically bankrupt? Allow me to demonstrate. Below are some progressive measures that actually would combat poverty and grow the middle class. You haven’t heard any of these ideas from our allegedly progressive political parties recently, at least not publically or as part of their platforms. I’ll leave you to guess why. Here they are:

  • Expand OHIP coverage to include an annual amount for basic dental, eye glasses, and prescription medications.
  • Reduce interest on all existing student loans to a 1% annually-compounded rate and allow payments to be as low as $100 a month.
  • Build 250,000 units of quality, public housing all around Ontario, concentrated in areas where the real estate market is the most inaccessible. And finance the developments in ways that will allow the working poor to build equity while they make monthly payments. In addition to solving the homelessness problem this single measure would generate tens of thousands of jobs, improve the quality and price of rental housing, and stabilize the housing market by slowing the rise of house prices but also buffering them against a crash. Then, if needed, build 250,000 more.
  • Reform the Landlord-Tenant Act so that it is less in favor of landlords and include some form of rent control.
  • Repatriate Hydro One and incorporate it as an arm’s-length non-profit entity reporting to the Province. In other words, get our electricity provider out of the profit-making game.
  • Begin meaningful education reform so that students actually get something of value from their primary and secondary educations. Move from a teacher-centered education system to a student-centered one.
  • Establish a contribution-matching, no-risk public pension fund for low and medium income earners in Ontario and make retirement at 60 available with no penalty.
  • Allow income-splitting for couples with one or two children under five years of age so that one parent can stay home and raise the kids, no daycare required.

If the above measures are taken in combination with a higher minimum wage and a basic livable income, then we will see poverty reduced and growth in the middle class. I know what you’re thinking now. How will all this be paid for? Fear not, those solutions are relatively simple as well:

  • Introduce significant carbon and aggregate taxes and dump every penny into making public transit a superior option to owning one’s own car.
  • Raise the corporate tax rate back to something reasonable. Currently, Ontario’s corporate tax rate is the second lowest in North America (the lowest is Texas). We should at least be on par with Quebec and New York State.
  • Cancel all corporate welfare. All of it. If a car company fails, allow it to fail. Instead of being there with bailouts for our corporations, be there with a solid social security net for the employees to help them retrain and pay their bills while they find new jobs in industries that are actually viable.
  • Extend sales tax to stock market transactions. If I have to pay 13% tax on a pair of socks, there’s no reason why an investment bank can’t pay 1% on its stock market transactions. This would also act as a buffer against uncontrolled market speculation.
  • Introduce marginal income tax brackets so that income well above subsistence is taxed at suitably higher rates. Simultaneously, lower the tax rate on the lowest income bracket to 10%.

Taken together these measures may actually generate a surplus of revenue.

You may notice at this point that none of my suggestions involve herding more people through colleges and universities. Why? Because at the end of the day we still want people to pour our coffee, clean our floors, organize our department stores, landscape our cities, cook our food, and a whole host of other tasks that aren’t glamorous but are still important. Why shouldn’t the people doing this good, honest work be able to own their own homes and leave something for their children? Forty years ago, they could. There’s no good reason why that can’t be the case again. It’s certainly a better option for our young people than forcing them to spent four-plus years at university when they don’t want or need to be there.

Let post-secondary enrollment decline. It’s been too high for years. Only 1 in 5 jobs in our economy actually requires a post-secondary degree and yet 1 in 3 students who graduate high school in this province go on to pursue one. Allowing post-secondary enrollment to fall to where it naturally should be will only mean smaller class sizes for those who genuinely need to be there and less money for administrative paper-pushers and nonsense programs (degree in Outdoor Recreation, anyone?).

I hope I’ve been able to demonstrate an important but simple point here. Fighting poverty is less about how much money people have coming in and more about how much they have left once their basic needs are met. Any policy that leaves the average, single, working class person with little or no money left at the end of the month doesn’t combat the growth of the working poor, it sustains and encourages it.

And there’s the sucker punch at the end of the story —the reason why no one in power is talking about anything in this article: the working poor are not supposed to get ahead. They’re supposed to keep counting their blessings, going to work, and running on their hamster wheels while their landlords buy up more property and rent it back to them at ever inflating prices, the dream of ever owning their own homes and raising a family always just out of reach. And that is the way it shall be. Unless, of course, we change it.

Canadian Translation Revives Classic Myths

Reblogged from: https://gplfortheloveofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/08/17/canadian-translation-revives-classic-myths/

Norse myths enjoy a resurgence of interest these days. Contemporary films featuring the legendary hero Thor are box office blockbusters. The world of Middle-Earth featured in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is heavily influenced by the stories found in The Edda and readers will discover many familiar names. Those eager to explore the origins of these stories will not be disappointed this new translation of The Poetic Edda by Canadian poet Jeramy Dodds.

The Edda is a jewel in the treasure chest of human culture. As a collection of Scandinavian mythology and folklore largely uninfluenced by Christianity, it offers a glimpse into the popular imagination of Northern Europe from a bygone era. However, like the “long-gone gods” themselves, the imagery of these tales still echoes in the soul and influences culture today. The imagery of runes, magical hammers, frost monsters, dwarves, and rainbow bridges to different realms of existence once again have currency among audiences of all ages.

Jeramy Dodds is an award-winning Canadian poet with an extensive background and education in Norse Mythology. His translation of The Edda begins with “The Volva’s Prophecy” and the very first stanza is guaranteed to hook you and keep you reading long into the dark hours of the night:

Shush now, you sacred ones,
all creeds of Heimdall’s sons.
Cadaver Father, I’ll try to retell tales
of the ancients and the long-gone gods.

In addition to the mythical stories, you will also find a collection of The High One’s Sayings which, like the words of Confucius from the Far East, have a decidedly practical feel to them. Included is this passage which I found particularly resonant:

Even if it’s tiny, one’s own home
is best. Everyone’s a hero in his
own home. One’s heart bloodies
if he has to beg to eat at each meal.

Looking for a collection of bedtime stories to read with a Thor fan at home? Take a trip to the Children’s Library and find D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire. The D’Aulaire book contains over two dozen tales told in simple prose alongside dozens of youthful and highly traceable pencil drawings. It narrates a range of old Norse myths from the birth of the first gods and giants to Ragnarokk, the Norse Armageddon where the gods die and humans inherit the Earth. Although written with children in mind, this book is an excellent introduction to Norse Mythology for readers of any age.

Bottom Line: If you’re looking to explore the classic epics behind the comic book blockbusters, look no further than the GPL!

Somewhere Over The Rainbow…

Guelph, 26 July 2015

***For Immediate Release***

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Guelph’s LGBTQ Library Finds New Home”

What’s the sound of a community institution being reborn? Imagine eight hands simultaneously whooshing into the air. That’s what happened when Amy Ellard-Gray asked the board of Out On The Shelf for a motion to partner with 10 Carden Street and reopen their LGBTQ library and resource centre.

“It was an amazing moment,” Ellard-Gray notes. “Everyone was so excited. We had to draw lots to see who got to officially make the motion and who got to second!”

In response to an article printed in the Guelph Mercury last month, describing Out On The Shelf’s situation, 10 Carden Street contacted Out On The Shelf (OOTS) with a plan to house the organization starting in August.

“We have plans to further develop OOTS in concert with the folks at 10 Carden Street,” comments Brandon Kidd, OOTS Library Chair. “We’re looking to expand in 2016, but starting this September OOTS will be able to circulate 60-70% of its collection from 10 Carden Street. That’s not ideal, but it’s 60-70% more than now.”

The move will also allow OOTS to launch two anticipated interlibrary loan systems, one with the Guelph Public Library and one with the McLaughlin Library at the University of Guelph. Having a physical space for OOTS will also allow for expansion of programming, events, youth support, Guelph Pride, outreach, and every other aspect of the organization, says Ellard-Gray.

“It feels like the start of a renaissance for the Guelph queer community,” says Matthew Schinwald, OOTS Marketing Chair. “We’re even talking about new logos and rebranding.” So, for now OOTS has a home, but they’re still looking for some “gold” at the end of the rainbow.

“In order to expand in 2016, we need more funding partners,” says Fundraising Chair Sara Wilmshurst. “We’re currently reaching out to various departments at the University, youth and student organizations, and other communities within Guelph that benefit directly or indirectly from the resources and services OOTS provides. And we always need volunteers.”

If you’re looking for a way to help OOTS right now, a successful crowdsourcing campaign is underway. For details or to volunteer visit their website at www.outontheshelf.ca.

-30-

Contacts:

Amy Ellard-Gray

Chair of the Board of Directors, Out On The Shelf

a.gray@psy.uoguelph.ca | 519-546-8415

Brandon Kidd

Library Chair, Out On The Shelf

library.outontheshelf@gmail.com | 519-830-6793

References:

Out on the Shelf is running out of time. Guelph Mercury, 25 Jun 2015: http://www.guelphmercury.com/news-story/5693982-out-on-the-shelf-is-running-out-of-time/

Modern Classic Graphica: The Alchemist

Reblogged from: https://gplfortheloveofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/modern-classic-graphica-the-alchemist/

I’m not one to seek out graphic novels. I don’t have something against them, they’re just not something I’m used to reading. Even as a kid, I never sought out comic books and I was “forced” to read my first graphic novel as part of a course (it was Watchmen by Alan Moore and I enjoyed it). But when I saw agraphica version of The Alchemist on the GPL’s shelves, I was apprehensive.

The Alchemist is a book I’ve read several times. I had such a clear picture in my mind of the characters before encountering the graphica version that I expected to feel a certain amount of resistance to the artist’s interpretation of the story.

The story itself is elegant and simple. A shepherd boy named Santiago receives an omen promising fortune. He leaves his home in Andalusia and crosses the Sahara desert in search of the legendary Alchemist who can turn base metals into gold. Based on a tale from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, the story is heavily spiritual but with broad appeal and guides the reader through universal themes of faith, struggle, and value. The original novel was a sleeper success eventually selling over 65 million copies worldwide. I didn’t grab the graphica version as soon as it hit our shelves, and when I got around to reading it I was prepared to be disappointed. I wasn’t, but found myself appreciating it from an unexpected angle.

Paulo Coelho, author of “The Alchemist” and many other books.

Santiago is a teenager and once upon a time I triedteaching this book to a class of thirteen year old boys (note the emphasis on “tried”). The students enjoyed my reading the story to them; they found it adventurous and could easily identify with the main character. However, they found the language of the novel too advanced to read it themselves. I wish I’d had the graphica version of The Alchemist back then. Not only does it make the language and the story more accessible to younger readers, the graphics are reminiscent of an X-Men or Green Lantern comic. The heroes have muscles, the girls are sexy, and the narrative moves along at the pace of an action movie. Now, this isn’t a version of The Alchemist I would have sought out for myself, or immediately recommend to adult readers, but I could see myself buying a dozen copies of it for my former class of Year Nines.

Illustrator Daniel Sampere admits in his introduction to the graphic novel that he initially though he was unsuited for illustrating The Alchemist; his background was in illustrating superhero comics. However, in this fan’s opinion, the choice couldn’t have been more perfect.

This graphica version of The Alchemistpresents the perfect stepping stone toward a universe of thoughtful, psychological, emotional adult literature for adolescent boys who may be reluctant readers.

Bottom line: If you’re a Paulo Coelho fan with a reluctant reader at home, consider checking out this “comic book” for him at the GPL and see what happens.

And if you’re a fan of graphic novels in general, you must check out the content available online via the GPL’s Hoopla! streaming service. With the slick new ability to navigate frame-by-frame and expand frames to full-screen size, Hoopla! offers a whole new experience to the graphica lover.

The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Reblogged from: https://gplfortheloveofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/the-further-adventures-of-sherlock-holmes/

I fell in love with Sherlock as a teenager. At a time in my life when nothing made sense, it was reassuring to find someone who always made perfect sense, even if that made others uncomfortable. Sherlock, with his razor-sharp mind and almost supernatural powers of observation, was as much a superhero to me as Batman or Captain America might have been to another kid.

So when I first encountered “The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” Sherlock stories written by authors other than Arthur Conan Doyle, I was apprehensive and doubtful. “Blasphemy!” I thought.

As it turns out, I had passed judgment before having all the facts. Sherlock would have been disappointed.

In The Devil’s Promise Watson convinces Sherlock to take a holiday on the Devonshire coast. But a genteel overture soon bleeds into somber notes when Holmes discovers a body at the bottom of a cliff. He runs to get Watson’s help, but when they return the body is nowhere to be found! As if a disappearing body was not fertile ground enough for mysteries to grow in this quaint coastal village, Holmes and Watson also encounter Enoch and Arabella Blackwood, the only children of an infamous English Devil worshipper who disappeared several years earlier. The vacation quickly comes to an end.

Well-written and distinctly British with a brisk pace, The Devil’s Promise and the other books of the “Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” will delight Sherlock enthusiasts as well as readers of other British murder mysteries.  At a bit over 200 pages long, fans of Inspector Morse, Miss Marple, Inspector Lynley, and others may find these books a bit brief, but perhaps excellent interludes. After all, Sherlock Holmes is the character who started it all.

The GPL also has a full range of Sherlock dramas on DVD from the original films of the 1930s starring Basil Rathbone, to the television mini-series of the 1980s with Jeremy Brett, right up to the brilliant BBC reinterpretations (2010-2014) starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman and the Hollywood films starring Robert Downey Junior and Jude Law.

For the techno-savvy Sherlockians, the GPL’s audio/video streaming service Hoopla! has dozens of films, audiobooks, ebooks, and other content that you won’t find anywhere else available at the click of a button. Imagine, all the Sherlock you need at no charge without ever having to leave the comfort of your favorite armchair!

For Sherlock enthusiasts ready to deepen their experience and knowledge, try typing “Sherlock Holmes” into the GPL’s new federated search tool.

“What’s a federated search tool?” I hear you ask.

UntitledWell, a federated search goes beyond the GPL catalogue and returns results from all resources that the GPL has access to: online magazine reviews, academic journals, electronic databases, and more! Using the federated search tool is easy. It’s right on our home page where the normal catalogue search is. Just click the drop down menu to the left of the search box and select “Resources” before entering your search term.

Happy sleuthing!

e-Romance Confession

Reblogged from: https://gplfortheloveofbooks.wordpress.com/

Hello, my name is Brandon and… I read romance novels. There. I said it. I feel better.

Of course I’m just being dramatic. Enjoying a good romance novel is nothing to be ashamed of. There is, however, the occasional raised eyebrow should one decide to read a romance on the bus, on break at work, or in other social settings. After all, those flashy, airbrushed covers with bare torsos are designed to be eye-catching (see below). But worry no more! Many of the best and newest romances are now available to be downloaded as e-books –free of charge– from the GPL. Now you can enjoy your favourite romances with all the anonymity provided by your e-reader. One such title at the GPL is This Little Whatever by Nicole Forcine.

In This Little Whatever, Jonathan Mendoza is a twenty-nine-year-old travelling performer, a professional belly dancer and street smart vagabond. He literally lives out of his duffel bag and parties nightly with a crowd that gets younger every year. He also tries to live up to a promise he made to his sick mother: to change his lifestyle and live sober. This proves to be easier said than done.

Dean Winters is a successful, conservative professional with a secret and tortured past. He is also in his late twenties and trying hard to enrich his anemic social life. Jonathan and Dean’s lifestyles collide, literally and figuratively, when Dean bowls into Jonathan before a performance. Boy meets boy. But will boy keep boy?

Told from Jonathan’s perspective, This Little Whatever is more than a fleshy fantasy. It’s also a tenderly told story about what makes a good friendship, how people recover from trauma, the value of family, the costs and risks of entering a certain social scene (or leaving another one), and balancing responsibilities to others with taking care of oneself.

!cid_image002_png@01D079EEPublished by Dreamspinner Press, This Little Whatever is just one bright star in an ever-expanding galaxy of gay/queer themed romances available through this publisher. They boast a catalogue of well over 2,000 titles written by more than 500 authors from six different continents. They also operate three distinct imprints: Dreamspinner Press, specializing in gay romance; Harmony Ink Press, devoted to LGBTQ+ Young Adult fiction; and DSP Publications, a boutique publisher of speciality genre fiction.

Bottom Line: This Little Whatever is a rollicking read for anyone who loves navigating the twists and turns of a burgeoning out-of-the-box (and out-of-the-closet) romance. Four out of five stars.

Firebird Soars: Adventures in Discardlandia

http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388967916l/176803.jpgTreasures show up in the oddest places. I was culling the fiction collection at my day job last week when this aged volume caught my eye. I greedily snatched it up before placing it on the book sale truck among the other discards (one perk of working at the library).

Mercedes Lackey is one of the brightest stars in the galaxy of fantasy fiction. She was writing years before J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter took the genre mainstream and continues to pen page-turners today. The Firebird is a central figure in Russian folklore and a celebrated symbol of spring. Lackey’s spins the classic fairy tale into a heartfelt and thrilling novel about a young man struggling to find his place in the world.

Ilya Ivanovitch doesn’t have the easy, carefree life that he should as the fourth son of a tsar. His father is a tyrant, his insecure brothers beat him half to death on a regular basis, and his three best friends are a priest, a shaman, and a dairymaid. Then one night his life changes forever. Ilya spies the legendary Firebird stealing cherries from his father’s prized orchard.

The Firebird is a magical, shape-shifting creature: part bird, part woman, part elemental. She sees Ilya as well, flying away quickly but leaving him with the ability to understand the speech of animals. Eventually Ilya escapes his wicked family, journeys across an enchanted Russia, makes new friends, and faces a great and powerful evil in order to win true love.

Like all fairy tales, Firebird is at its heart a moral tale. Through her charming characters Lackey meditates on what makes a good family, the corrupting nature of wealth and power, what it means to be an honourable man, how to treat women, and the many faces of love and desire. Firebird is a particular good read for thoughtful young adults, male or female.

http://img2.imagesbn.com/p/9780765317193_p0_v1_s260x420.JPGLackey’s novel also opens a portal to the lesser-known world of Russian folklore and mythology. The GPL boasts several volumes for all ages on this fascinating topic if you’re interested. Visceral, colourful, and fanciful these tales are guaranteed to delight and enlighten readers of any age.

“But what about Lackey’s novel!?” I hear you asking. “You discarded it! Is it out of print?”

Fear not. I discovered that this 1995 novel has recently been reborn in ebook form. The Firebird soars again!

Hur Jag Lär Svenska or Fluent In Three Months!?

fluent in three monthsReblogged from: https://gplfortheloveofbooks.wordpress.com

Fluent In Three Months by Benny Lewis is a title that caught my eye as it was going out at the circulation desk (one of thousands). My first reaction to the title was probably something like the one you’re having: “Fluent In Three Months!? Impossible! Well, maybe not for a savant, but me!? I took French for years and can’t confidently order café au lait!”

It surprised me to learn that Lewis would have had the same reaction once upon a time. He is not a savant. By the time he was 21 he had “failed” to learn both Gaelic and German (Lewis himself is Irish), but now he is fluent or conversational in over seven languages! Fluent In Three Months isn’t going to teach you any particular language, but it will change your approach to learning any language –and I do mean any language.

Lewis puts a great deal of effort into demystifying language learning and reminding us that language is, quite simply, what humans do –so we shouldn’t be intimidated by it. He stresses speaking your new language from day one, emphasizing that languages are, first and foremost, a means of communication not a subject for study. And he reminds us that native speakers aren’t perfect speakers either, so you shouldn’t expect yourself to be a perfect speaker before beginning your first conversation. Ain’t it the truth!

My goal is to learn Swedish before the fall. Okay, so I’m giving myself six months instead of three, but for me that’s still pretty ambitious. And by “learn” I mean achieve B2 level fluency, an internationally recognized scale which Lewis explains. At level B2 one is capable of spoken and written communication with a native speaker without burdensome strain or effort from either party –and it doesn’t matter if you speak with an accent. I also want to read some of my favorite authors in their native language.

benny lewis pic
Brendan “Benny” Lewis

Lewis’s book will point out helpful tools as well. Have you ever wanted interactive flash cards that you could sort in a second and never spill coffee over? Guess what, there’s an app for that! Lewis’s website takes the book to another level through online forums, etc. But the book itself was more than enough to both kick start my learning and eject the baggage I’d carried around after years of trying to learn French.

Bottom line: a great primer for anyone looking to learn a new language. 4.5 out of 5 stars!

Of course the GPL has no shortage of other language learning materials. Mango Languages can teach you nearly any language in the world step by step –at no charge! There’s plenty of audio-visual material as well. Colloquial Swedish was the first GPL resource I checked out to begin my journey. mango-languagesBy now you’re probably saying to yourself, “Golly! If this guy can learn a language as relatively obscure as Swedish in six months, maybe becoming conversational in French isn’t as out of reach as I thought!” If so, my job is done. Or rather: im så, är mitt jobb gjort.

A five point plan for transit

Re-posted from: http://www.guelphtribune.ca/opinion/a-five-point-plan-for-transit/

I found the latest Guelph Transit survey a bit brief, so consider this an addendum.
I have taken transit in this city for 25 years, seen it go through two “overhauls” already, and discussed it countless times with riders and drivers.
Here is how I would fix Guelph Transit:
1) Lots of relatively short routes leaving transfer points and going directly past major sites of interest on main roads (shopping centres, hospitals, schools, apartment complexes, etc.) which then wind their way back to transfer points through more residential areas.
2) Half a dozen routes which loop the whole breadth of the city, not just part of it: East-West, North-South, and Perimeter. And let passengers transfer at stops along these routes so that people don’t have to go out of their way to get where they’re going.
3) Have predictable, reliable 30-minute service all day every day, with 15-minute service for high traffic routes and/or during peak periods.
Changing the rhythm of the schedule for parts of the day, on some days of the week, is awful! If service isn’t every few minutes, as in Toronto, then travelers need to know when the bus is arriving before they get to their stop to read the posted times. Taking half an hour to work out those times using transit’s website is not a viable option, not even with smartphones.
4) Negotiate Kitchener and Cambridge express routes with Grand River Transit. There’s already a semi-regular, unofficial Guelph-Fergus bus that folks have cobbled together, so why not Kitchener and Cambridge trips?
5) Keep the cost of a monthly pass at $40 or $50 for everyone, but bring in year-long subscriptions. (Gyms do it, why can’t transit?) Keep the price of 10 tickets at $20. Give employers in the city the option of buying en masse subscriptions for their employees at a discount.
Approach the school boards and/or student councils with a similar deal for high school students.
The idea that ridership should support transit is absurd. Many people willingly subsidize private transit infrastructure through their taxes, because it is important and needed and many of them** have cars. Therefore, the taxes of car owners can justly be used to subsidize transit.
If transit is something Guelph values, then it’s time to put money where it will do some good, and that’s not  in the hands of yet more consultants!
So here you have it, a tidy five-point plan that didn’t cost a quarter-million dollars.
Brandon Kidd
Guelph

 

**Here the article should read “and many of them don’t have cars” but was misprinted.