July 9th, 2006

last unicorn

Feist concert recap

So last night I went to see Feist at 'Fest (Officially the Ottawa Bluesfest, but they don't really pretend it's blues-related anymore).

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first: what is it with people going to concerts and then spending the entire time nattering away? It seems to be particularly bad at outdoor events like this one, and it completely confuses me (and ticks me off!). I mean, this is not a cheap event. I paid plenty of money to see this concert (and others). You must have, too. If you just wanted to gab, why wouldn't you have gone somewhere... free? Last night was particularly bad. I seemed cursed. I had staked out a nice spot with my lawn chair, about halfway back from the stage, and it was fine during most of the earlier acts, but then the chatters descended upon me. I finally packed up my lawn chair and moved forward, hoping to get away from the talkers. Instead, a young man and his girlfriend came up behind me. He was fiddling with his cellphone. He was trying to meet up with his buddy, so he kept alternately calling the buddy with long, involved descriptions of where he was, and shouting and waving ("Hey Joe! JOE!") during quiet songs. It only got worse when the buddy finally found him. Because the two of them simply did not shut up. It was terrible. And they say girls talk too much. I shot them a dirty look (way too Canadian and polite to do what I actually wanted to do and tell them to shut up shut up shut up!) and moved again. There was peace and pretty music for about one song, and then... I kid you not... they moved forward too. Aaaaaaaaaaack!

Anyway. The concert itself was really good. Lots of very nice music. The end of the show was particularly amusing, as she announced that they were going to skip the whole leaving stage and coming back thing, in order to save time. She promised "weird b-sides", which got a cheer, and then said, "oh hold on, we have something to get through first" -- and played the hit ("Mushaboom"). 'Twas very cute. The promised weird b-side was also very cute -- it was introduced as follows:
"Remember last night, this time, at this stage? Were any of you here? [Cheeers] Well, I WASN'T!!"
And then launched into a cover of "Lover's Spit".[*]

All in all, a fun concert. It would have been great, had it not been for Other People. But what can you do?

[*] The big single off Broken Social Scene's first album. BSS was, of course, performing Friday night.
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    Feist -- Secret Heart
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I've fallen behind again

Okay, let's get caught up on my book-tracking.

29. The Obesity Myth (Paul Campos)
Let me be honest: this book was preaching to the choir with me. I've long thought that there was something suspicious about BMI charts and the way we, as a society, talk about "fat". The book is a convincing argument that fat is not nearly as unhealthy as we think -- that it may actually be healthier to be somewhat overweight than to be underweight for example -- and an exploration of society's rather deranged attitudes on the subject. The writing is clear and engaging, and I found it convincing. I'm not sure how well it would work on someone without a pre-inclination to agree, though. ****

30. Astonishing X-Men (Joss Whedon and John Cassaday, et al.): Vol. 1
This is the first collection of Joss Whedon's X-Men run (still ongoing, I believe). There are two story arcs here, starting with the discovery of a cure for mutation (just the first of several elements that seemed strangely echoed in the most recent film, although it's not the same story at all). I'm not a long-term reader of X-Men -- I confess, I read this one mostly because it's Joss and I'm in real danger of becoming a fangirl -- but, although there was certainly lots of back story, it wasn't overwhelming or confusing. The first story arc was very well done indeed, while the second succumbed a little to the eternal challenge of superhero comics: the whiz-bang-epic-battle-of-the-week syndrome. Instead of a paced story, it careens off into disaster after disaster, with no time to think about anything. This is something the genre struggles with. The writing was good, with lots of Whedonesque quips throughout. Very nice art, as well. ***

31. Inkheart (Cornelia Funke)
This is a children's book in which characters from books are drawn into the real world when their books are read aloud. It's a lovely story, and I enjoyed it immensely. Because it's a children's book, there is little on-screen violence, and the villain resorts to a fairly complicated trap rather than just killing people (as I would have expected in a more adult book) -- this was a bit unbelievable, but I can forgive it, given the genre. ****

32. Black Water: The Anthology of Fantastic Literature (ed. Alberto Manguel)
This anthology is HUGE. Nearly 1000 pages of short stories. Many of them are lesser-known stories by established "canon" authors, and many of the stories are themselves classroom classics. It's an odd collection, at least from my perspective, because there's very little by genre authors -- most of it is by authors best known for mainstream work. And, indeed, most of the stories are themselves largely mainstream, of the "elements of the unreal in the real world" variety. None of this is intended in any way to suggest problems with the anthology -- it was quite a good compilation of stuff -- but more to say that it's not the anthology I would have assembled (but then, what would be the fun in that?). ***

33. History of Sexuality (Michel Foucault): Vol. 1: An Introduction
Yeah. I'm reading Foucault. Trying to convince myself that I really am smart enough for academia. I'm not sure reading Foucault was the best idea for a confidence-builder. But anyway. Foucault's a smart guy, and there are a lot of big ideas going on here, most of which have been thoroughly absorbed into the academy. But I confess myself a little uncomfortable with the broad declarations about how things were perceived, without any particular evidence. I know, I know... he's writing philosophy, not history. But that doesn't mean you get to make stuff up... does it? ***

34. Darwinia (Robert Charles Wilson)
One day, the entire continent of Europe disappears, replaced by an exotic, alien landscape. It's an insane premise, but a fascinating one. I found myself being drawn into the alternate history of the world, intrigued by the way politics were shifting and history was reacting. I was actually kind of disappointed when we got the explanation. And the aliens. I would really have preferred to stick to the alternate history and skip the epic battle entirely -- but that's not really Wilson's fault. Great characters, transparent writing. Could easily have been a much longer book (it didn't feel exactly rushed, but... things were skipped that didn't need to be). ****

35. The Meaning of Wife (Anne Kingston)
This is a lovely little examination of how our culture engages with the idea of a "wife". The tone is light and amusing, and the subject matter is interesting. I wouldn't characterize it as a great Work of Scholarship, but it was an enjoyable read, and raised a number of important points. Not a lot of terribly new ideas, but well-presented and accessible. ****

36. Fables (Bill Willingham et al) Vol. 7: Arabian Nights (and Days)
Have I mentioned previously that I love this comic? Well, I do. I'm a little squirmy about the Arabian Nights characters, but so far, they seem to be handling them reasonably well. I miss Bigby, though. ****

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    Saint Etienne -- Northwestern
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