Category Archives: Books

Imperfect

My heart, it keens.

While on vacation with Danica in early August, I picked up The Book of Speculation on a whim. The book promised me mystery, circuses, mermaids and libraries, and the price was right, so I grabbed it, and… well, it wasn’t perfect. But holy shit, was it perfect for me.

The main thrust of the story concerns itself with a young man holding onto the past while the world begs for him to get the fuck on with things. As his life begins to crumble around him in both literal and figurative ways, he is given countless opportunities for change. He instead tries to let things wash over and away. Interwoven in this narrative is the idea of a curse or a coincidence that plagues a family. It’s a story about letting go of the things that hurt you, and loving the potential of what can be. It is also clunky and unsubtle as hell in such a way that made it beautiful.

Everyone is so god damn concerned with perfection these days. Things that are air tight, that exist without fault, platonic ideals manifest in prose or film or paper or whatever. This book… this book isn’t a classic. It has flaws and in this case, flaws built perfectly for me. The lilt of the prose slowly sunk its hooks into my skin. The story itself built in my guts and helped me transition into sleep and dream on many nights in the best of ways. It has a heart and it beats, and it filled me up for two weeks or so.

I loved it.

Have you ever had a book that did this to you? Or a TV show, or comic or anything? Has anything walked up to you at the perfect time, flawed though it might be, and spoke to you quite directly? Let us know. The comments are open, and we’re all over social media. I’m interested in hearing what you have to say.

 

Whatever Became of the Douglas Adams Project

Time to come clean regarding an old promise.

In February of last year, I set myself a challenge: read all of the Douglas Adams penned Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books in 2016. Five books in twelve months. Easy right? Right?

Well, I couldn’t manage it. Didn’t even make it close, really.

As it stands, I’m part of the way through the third book in the series which I think means I accomplished a little under half of my goal. There were a lot of reasons for this, which can fairly easily be gleaned from reading some of the posts on this site from the past year. I also became a little weary of pushing onwards with the series after a friend of mine privately noted that Douglas Adams himself hit a bit of a depression during the course of writing the series, and that it might not be a good idea to press on too far into the books considering where my mind was at this year. So… I didn’t. But… I will continue onwards.

I’m… trying to be better with goats this year. Part of that involves actually completing more of them, and the other part involves not beating myself up if I don’t cross the finish line – especially when it comes to matters of pop culture consumption. Anyway, I really did enjoy what I’ve read so far from the series, and I want to continue to explore that world, at least through to the end of what Adams wrote. Afterwards, I might attempt what I called “stretch goals” from the original challenge, such as digging into the Dirk Gently series and then hitting up some other bits and bobs like the sixth Hitchhiker’s book (And Another Thing…), The Salmon of Doubt, and the novelization of Adams’ unproduced Doctor Who script Shana. It’s more than likely I’ll struggle to get done the original five, let alone any of the others, but… hey, whatever. All in good time, right? I’ll keep you updated on how things are going.

Oh, and keep an eye out for our thoughts on the Dirk Gently television series, which will be popping up here when we finish watching those episodes.

What a strange, strange show.

Brandon Schatz // Twitter // Facebook 

Submetropolitan is powered by Variant Edition Comics + Culture – Edmonton’s best source for comics, used books + mindful pop culture.
Variant Edition // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram

Sub-Pop // In A Mirror, Darkly

This year, more to prove to myself that I can do it rather than saying anything of great importance, I’m taking the opportunity to write about our experiences in pop culture. The hope is to get a little better and pull more ideas out of my head – all the while hopefully helping those around us discuss or discover great corners of pop culture along the way.

IN A MIRROR, DARKLY

To wrap 2016 on a very appropriate note, Danica and I took the opportunity to finally watch some episodes of Black Mirror, which so many people had told us to watch. It was often described to me as The Twilight Zone by way of modern technology which… I’ll admit was a reference that was pretty much lost on me. I have yet to see an episode of The Twilight Zone beyond the opening credits which is something I might remedy this year (any suggestions as to episodes to watch or forms of access?).

Anyway, specific pop culture touch points aside, Black Mirror is a show that has a whole lot to say with our reliance on public opinion and social media. It’s also a show that I think will continue to become more and more relevant (if not outright prescient) as the years go by. The show uses the anthology format well to explore different end-points to our fascination with the opinions of a large cloud, so to speak, some edging towards an hour’s worth of fast moving thrill, while others act like putting a frog in water that you’re slowly moving to a boil. Each ask you to confront your attachments to various ideas. It’s a well done show, and while we’ve only made our way through to the first episode of the third season (we’ve been told San Junipero is a particularly strong episode that’s on our horizon), I doubt we’ll be let down by anything to come.

MEANWHILE…

If you’ve completed Black Mirror, or are the kind of person who doesn’t feel comfortable exploring the ideas of The Terrifying Future through the medium of television, I’d like to suggest the novel Normal by Warren Ellis.

Ellis has always been fascinated by The Future, so much so that the bulk of his production focuses squarely on the constant, distant humming of the world that is to come. Normal is no acceptation. The story follows a Futurist who has been deposited at a remote site where broken Futurists go to hopefully cure themselves after gazing into the abyss for too long. Ellis essentially posits the idea that we’re already doomed due to our actions, and the people who this affects the most are those who can already see or are paid to discover the curve of what’s to come. He combines this with a locked room mystery that… well that pays off almost exactly as it should.

Both of these suggestions won’t exactly make you feel good, but they sure will make you feel something. I know they’ve (briefly) caused me to stop mindlessly scrolling through my various feeds as often, with an eye towards producing more content, helpful or otherwise.

Here’s the the terrifying squall of what’s to come.

Happy New Year.

Brandon Schatz // Twitter // Facebook

Submetropolitan is powered by Variant Edition Comics + Culture – Edmonton’s best source for comics, used books + mindful pop culture.
Variant Edition // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram

Quick updates on life

Haven’t written in a while. Currently working two jobs, the second one ending at 10pm – not much time for writing. Or rest. But some money is coming in, so the next couple weeks should feel a bit better, financially.

My student loan is around $300. I put $15 in this morning, and have been pretty good about keeping that habit up. Another $200 will go out about 10 days from now, and then I’ll pay off what’s left with part of my latest paycheque. After that, I’m setting aside a bit of fun money (may be more like $100, rather then $200) and spend a bit on myself in June. Then back to crushing my credit card debt. I’m hoping to start saving a bit every month as well, because that would be smart and I should have been doing it all along, but whatever! Life sucks, but I will start saving money for when it gets better at some point. 

So, two jobs. My agency called me last week because a call centre had been set up to answer Fort McMurray fire related questions, so I’m there until the end of the month. Again, tired, but it’s not a bad job. People are nice, and I can read when the phones are slow. 

Speaking of reading! In the last week or so, I’ve finished “Black Widow: Forever Red” by Margaret Stohl, “Dead Girls Don’t” by Mags Storey – both amazing YA mysteries. Would highly recommend you seek them out. 

March Madness (or) A Prelude

Wow, so I guess March is over? That is ridiculous. This is ridiculous. Though regardless, I think it’s time for a general progress report on how things have gone over the past month.

++ SHOP TALK

March was a very energizing month at Variant Edition. Not only did we head out to our first comics-related show, but we had a table at this year’s Edmonton Cat Show, as put on by the Edmonton Cat Fanciers, and both were rousing successes. At the Pop Culture Fair, we connected with folks within the comics community who didn’t know about the shop, and at the cat show, we helped people discover a love of comics they never knew they had through the power of cats. Turns out, cats are amazing and they can do anything. Except listen to direct instructions, I think. Anyway.

We were also featured on CBC Radio One twice – first during Edmonton AM’s trip to the Telus World of Science last Thursday where Danica and I talked about the shop and it’s everyone-friendly environment – and then on Monday, the Calgary morning show broadcast my sweet, sweet voice talking about how Gundams were primed to destroy our fair city. That… was a little surreal, and resulted in another batch of people discovering our store (and in some cases, rediscovering the wonders of comics!)

All of that has us charged up for the next round of things, which begins shortly. I don’t want to be too much a shill in this post, so if you want to know what’s coming up next, you can head over to the store’s event page for more info.

++ THE DOUGLAS ADAMS PROJECT

After a strong start of blowing through The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Restaurant at the End of the Universe in two months, I stalled out at the start of the third book. I can’t remember why, exactly, because the second book ends on a bit of a dour cliffhanger, and I really want to see how that resolves itself. And yet.

When I was talking to a customer about this project a few weeks back, I had just finished up with book two, and he noted that I would definitely finish getting through all five books in the Adam’s penned Hitchhiker’s trilogy, but I warned him that my brain gets easily sidetracked – especially when amazing comics keep arriving at the shop each and every week, interrupting the reading flow. The trick will always be getting back on track. My aim is to get through book three by the end of April to give myself a good lead on the rest of the year.

Yes, I guess one of my problems right now is “having to read books that I know I will enjoy”. You probably feel absolutely terrible for me.

++ BUT UH… REALLY. HOW ARE YOU DOING

Of course I front loaded this with the good bits. Of course.

As many of you know, I have been dealing with some heavy lows as of late and I promised you all updates. So.

Things have been… a lot better. A lot better. There were another couple of really scary periods in the past month that hit me like a motherfucker. I think the worst of it is the fact that this all effects Danica too, who… while diligently making sure I remain all in one piece sometimes ends up neglecting herself. I know how that goes, because… well, we discovered a long time ago that we don’t think too highly of ourselves, but we’ll do absolutely anything for each other, and sometimes we end up being at odds in very strange ways. We’ve often had fights where we argue about which of us should be shouldering the burden of the other which is… far better than some of the alternatives. But we both recognize that we have to work to do internally, and we’re both trying. It’s hard, but we’re trying.

Posting here has helped. Hearing from all of you has been wonderful and uplifting. Without all of you, this road would be a lot harder to walk down and for helping us both move forward, we are forever grateful.

++ PROGRAMMING NOTE

Next week, I have a personal goal of getting up something on this site each and every weekday. If all goes well, you’ll be hearing about the comics activism project in next week’s posts. With any luck, it will piss some people off.

That’s how we’ll know we’re onto something.

My Shopping Ban: Creating a Plan

Since I last wrote about my ban and student loans, I’ve since acquired a job, both dealt with and removed stress from different areas of my life, and am in a better place emotionally.

I spent some time one evening plotting out a payment plan to squash my student loan once and for all. Since I am being paid weekly, I will be taking out $15 of each paycheque and put it towards the debt. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is over and above the $200 I already have going out at the end of the month, so it adds up over time. My final $200 will be taken out of my account at the end of May, and I will pay the remainder (I’m estimating it to be around $100) that week. My personal deadline will be Friday, June 10, to send off my final payment.

It feels unreal to be this close. I grow impatient and want to pay it all LIKE RIGHT NOW, but I don’t have the money like right now. This way, I can pay it off and still grow the cushion back in my main bank account. I’m hoping with this job, I can put a bit into savings as well.

~~~

I’m getting time before the busy season to catch up on some reading in my lunch hours, which has been a nice treat. In the last week, I’ve read Letter 44 Vol 3, Astro City Vol 1, and am currently halfway through Civil War.

Letter 44 has been amazing, and I’m crushed we’re sold out of the single issues in store because I really really want to keep reading, but will *hmph* patiently wait for the next collection.

Astro City is kind of interesting. I may check out volume 2 to see if it’s enough to keep my reading.

And Civil War is making a bunch of stories I know make a bit more sense, so while it’s not great, it’s filling in a bit more of the timeline for me.

Otherwise, I’m reading Watchmen for book club, and it’s to be expected. I find it offensive, and boring, so congrats on doing that, writer dude.

Borrowed The Best Laid Plans (which won Canada Reads a few years back) from my dad, and I’m enjoying it enough.

Generation X is on the bottom of my bedside table book pile. Does that book make sense to anyone else? I’m thinking it didn’t age well.

The Douglas Adams Project

I wrote something about this a little while back, but then completely neglected to share it when I dove down into a deep dark feelings pit. Things often get forgotten in the feelings pit, like the shape of a smile or the sound of genuine laughter. I feel like I’m already getting off track.

Last year, I read a staggeringly small amount of actual prose books. I think the number topped out at around… three and a half, which is terrible. In that time, I know I bought more than three and a half prose books, which becomes problematic when you’re trying to live a fairly minimalistic life.

So, at the start of the year, I came up with several goals, some of which apply here. One was to read more books. Another was to buy less. A third was to look at our already populate shelves when the mood to read prose strikes, which would in turn help with that second goal. These goals ended up colliding with the feelings pit, and a very specific project came about: The Douglas Adams Project.

The idea is simple: over the course of 2016, I’ll be working my way through the works of Douglas Adams, starting with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, and rolling straight into Dirk Gently. If some time remains on the clock after those seven, I’m going to extend the exercise into the sixth Hitchhiker’s book, The Salmon of Doubt, and the novelization of Adams’ unproduced Doctor Who script Shana. I will likely read these books regardless of whether or not I get to them in 2016, but I enjoy the idea of having stretch goals for this challenge. But anyway.

I chose Douglas Adams because when I was starting to fall into the feelings pit at the beginning of the year, my brain started pumping out fond memories of reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide, and that coupled with the thought that I had owned the complete set for ages, but had never gotten around to reading the rest. Reading them all would serve several purposes, and hopefully pull myself out of the doldrums.

At this point in the project, I’ve just wrapped Hitchhiker’s once more, and the experience was as pleasurable as I remember it being the first time around. There’s a small chance that I got a bit more out of it now that I’m a bit older and wiser and can pull out more wonderful story structure things from it, but that’s a post for another day. (Next week, in fact.)

So yes. There it is. A task for 2016, already on its way to completion. I suspect there will be several road blocks to come, including breaks to read other things that tickle my fancy, combined with the general fact that I rarely see projects like this through to the end. Which is actually another goal for 2016: try and actually get things done. I’ll let you know how that goes as well.