Current Distractions, August 2013 Edition

Believe it or not, all I could think about while driving through the Rocky mountains were how much they reminded me of Minecraft and how much I missed the unobstructed view of the horizon
If it's even possible, I feel like my life has simultaneously gotten worse and better over the course of the month of August. The trip I took didn't cure all of my ills, and I didn't have a chance to read as much as I'd planned. But I did take a lot of pictures with a camera that is way too fancy for me.

Also milk and cookies apparently make an excellent road trip snack


I decided to watch Orange is the New Black after everyone ended up thinking it was really good. I agreed with the general consensus. You don't realize how much you want to see a show full of ladies until you get one. Other than that I haven't watched much lately, besides diving back into Breaking Bad with my sister. We can't watch too much at one time because we both hate "Hal," so we're on I think the fourth season right now after quite a long break.


I've started listening to the Dead Authors podcast, which is somewhat relevant to this blog. H.G. Wells goes back in time (using a time machine he "found") and brings authors from the past into our time to chat about things. Some episodes are definitely better than others.


Different Seasons by Stephen King, at last. Stephen King is basically my favourite summer reading. The first book of his that I ever read was Firestarter, and I read that one at the lake some time before I graduated from high school.


So here's a little political rant that I couldn't put anywhere else, but need to get off my chest. Justin Trudeau has been in the news recently for admitting that he has smoked pot, including once since he became an MP. I unfortunately haven't had time to read all of the editorials on this, so I can't figure out what to link you to. But I have some thoughts about it.

Point 1: I am pro-decriminalization/legalization in a big way.

Point 2: Justin Trudeau really rubs me the wrong way for some reason.

With those two biases admitted, I'll say I have a huge problem with the fact that Trudeau has used illegal drugs since becoming an MP. I have no major issues with any prior drug use on his part, given that I know a lot of productive members of society who have used drugs that are currently illegal.

So what's my problem? When I discussed this with my sister, she was quick to point out that people break the law all the time. For example, the vast majority of people who have driven cars have sped. That's definitely a false comparison, though. Unless you are speeding chronically or speed through a school zone and mow down five children, you aren't going to lose your job or go to jail for speeding. You aren't going to get a criminal record. However, Canadians who aren't Trudeau, including his own brother apparently, face major penalties all the time for possessing and using marijuana.

Disagreeing with this country's laws is one thing, but just because you disagree with a law doesn't mean you don't have to follow it, especially as an elected representative who is empowered to change said law, or at least more empowered that the average citizen. What other laws does Trudeau feel comfortable breaking while sitting as an MP? If he really feels strongly about the issue, why not try to introduce a private member's bill? Of course I realize that it's nowhere near that simple, but I really don't think Trudeau should be getting a free pass on breaking the law just because so many of us agree with his views on this issue.


But to end this post on a cheerful note...

At my cousin's baby shower this month, her mom, aka my auntie, told what is basically the most insane birth story that is not at all surprising if you know my auntie. Apparently she woke up in the wee hours of the morning, knowing she was starting labour with her first baby, and then proceeded to:

  • Let my uncle sleep until he normally woke up to leave for work
  • Let him leave for work
  • Called her office (my cousin was a little early so my auntie wasn't off work for maternity leave yet) to offer to come in to work that day—they told her she absolutely should not
  • Sewed an outfit to bring the baby home in
  • Presumably cooked supper
  • Gave birth approximately 29 hours after this all started
I admire this woman like nobody's business already, so I barely needed to hear that story. Same with the fact my grama revealed at the same baby shower—that her first baby was potty-trained by the time her second baby was born slightly less than a year later.

Moms are just amazing.

R30. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Year Published: 1999
Pages: 576
First Sentence: As the bus entered the prefectural capital of Takamatsu, garden suburbs transformed into city streets of multicolored neon, headlights of oncoming cars, and the checkered lights of office buildings.

Like most people who are familiar with Battle Royale, I heard of the movie first. I finally got around to watching it about three or four years ago and enjoyed it quite a bit. It's easy to forget, though, that until last year, the movie had never actually been released in North America, and so a lot of people haven't heard of it at all. Anyway, I came across the book in a bookstore a couple of years ago and recommended it to my brother, and now here we are.

Battle Royale is the story of a middle school class of 42 (42!) students that becomes one of fifty classes chosen to participate in the so-called Republic of Greater East Asia's Program, a "battle simulation" where the students are given one random weapon each and forced to fight to the death. Each student has an electronic collar that can be remotely detonated if they try to escape or otherwise not comply with the rules. The students all deal with this situation in different ways. Some comply with gusto, while others try to band together and escape, and still others just commit suicide.

Although, shall we say, sizeable, this book zips by very fast. There are very few establishing details about what kind of place the Republic is (it's clear that it contains Japan, but not exactly what else), although some are filled in as the book proceeds. There are some memorable set pieces that seem to have been copied straight into the movie, and general brutality abounds. It's a fun read, although a little clunky in places where the translation fails to capture linguistic or cultural stuff. (Yuji Oniki does a good translation as far as I'm concerned. I've only read one other Japanese novel in translation, Haruki Murakami's Dance Dance Dance, and the translation of that one was better, but it's not as if this one is unreadable.)

Pretty much every single one of the 42 classmates is given an opportunity in the spotlight, and they mostly have distinctive personalities (while still basically conforming to types: otaku, slut, jock, ditz, clown, etc.) and some of these moments are very touching. The overall tone of the book tends to satire, though, poking fun at the concerns of middle-schoolers and probably also the Japanese, although I'm not going to pretend I know a whole lot about that.

Also, somewhat randomly, I'm pretty sure that bulletproof vests don't work the way that Takami thinks that they do.

If you've seen the movie, you'll probably be surprised by how faithful it is to certain parts of the book (the lighthouse scene survives mostly intact as far as I can remember), while diverging widely from others. It's definitely worth a read if you enjoyed the movie, or if you found The Hunger Games too bloodless.