Tag Archives: Books

Periodic Tales – and an intro to the Toronto Public Library 2019 Reading Challenge

In February I stumbled across this page on the Library’s website: 2019 Reading Challenge. I thought it sounded like so much fun! It would definitely make me choose some books I probably wouldn’t otherwise have picked. Or at least pay attention to who writes the books, where the book (and the author) are from etc.

So of course, it’s me, I made a spreadsheet. Some books can easily go into different categories! For example – one of the advance challenge categories is “a book from The List: Great Reads for Youth”. So I scrolled through the list. And stumbled across this:

Yep – that’s Robin‘s name on that book 🙂 So it obviously goes in the Great Reads for Youth category but it could also go into the “a book by a LGBTQ+ author” or “a book by a Canadian award winning author.” Also if there was a “book written by a family member” that would work too lol

Most recently I finished Periodic Tales by Hugh Aldersey-Williams for the “a book that’s related to the periodic table of elements” advanced category. And yes, I am almost always this literal 😉

I learned an awful lot and I like how Aldersey-Williams comes across as a very smart, very friendly person just sharing his own little obsession with the world.

I loved reading the very elementary (hahaha) explanation behind the choice of gold, silver and lead chests in the Merchant of Venice – something I’m sure I just glossed over in high school. Oh and I enjoyed learning new words (hoicks for example) and loved the description of Eugène-Anatole Demarçay as “a gaunt, severe-looking man whose chief glory was his florid moustache.” My dad’s mustache is awesome so I had to go look up Demarçay’s!

From Demarçay’s wikipedia entry

There are lots of references to movies, to cars, to art, to architecture and so on. In fact, I was drawn so much to a passage on artists’ colours and the art supply store L. Cornelissen & Son that I went and looked it up – it still exists in London and Q has agreed that we should go check it out when we visit in August! You can do a tour online here. How cool is that?

So, what are you reading?

February – B

Well, the alphabet continues 🙂

No movies were watched actually, for the very good reason that I have a HUGE winter Olympics obsession.

from the CBC

We’re pretty multi-cultural in our house – well, mostly within Europe in any event. While Q and I were born in Canada, Toby and his dad were born in Great Britain, my mother-in-law is from Denmark, my maternal grandmother was born in Poland and my maternal grandfather was born in Latvia. Heck, there was even a Maltese skier this time! Also, that’s a HECK of a lot of red and white (and some purple and some blue):

There was some reading though: Bellweather Rhapsody (mostly thanks to reading a months’ old NYT book review Dear Match Book article) and also the Big Sleep – the first Philip Marlowe book by Raymond Chandler; which would have been a great movie to try and watch but such was not to be.  And a translation of Beowulf (which I wrote about a bit here).

And of course, there was some LEGO: Buckingham Palace, and Berlin and the Brick Bank! Lots more pictures will be posted here: [insert February LEGO post] but first I have to take them!

And beer! First, trying something completely new and out of my comfort zone, I bought four bottles of a barrel aged kriek beer from Big Rock brewery. And was introduced to another Brewery closer to home: Muddy York Brewing. You can read more about the beer part here.

 

 

 

Beowulf, or that time I was proven right by Anglo-Saxon poetry

One of the books I read starting with B for February was Beowulf. It was suggested by my boss. It turns out the Toronto Public Library has a bilingual edition: Anglo-Saxon to modern English. The introduction was fascinating. It set out how Seamus Heaney approached the task of translating this ages-old poem. Which lead me to some unexpected support…

One of the things I have always done that apparently drives Toby a little batty is change topics of conversation, either immediately or after a lull, by using the interjection “so.” Toby considers “so” as more a conclusion indicator word as opposed to a new topic indicator. This has bothered him for some time. 😉

What does this have to do with Beowulf? Well, Mr. Heaney writes about the voice of some “relatives of my father’s, people whom I had once described in a poem as “big voiced Scullions.” He explains they were big-voiced as everything they said came out more like a declaration as opposed to a statement. “A simple sentence such as “we cut the cord to-day” took on immense dignity when one of the Scullions spoke it.” and that was how he wanted Beowulf to sound.

The first lines read:

Usually, hwaet is translated in a literary fashion as “lo” or “hark” or “behold.” But in “Scullionspeak, the particle “so” came naturally to the rescue, because in that idiom, “so” operates as an expression which obliterates all previous discourse and narrative, and at the same time functions as an exclamation calling for immediate attention. So, “so” it was.”

Two letters. Occasional snarky remarks. All put to rest by a thousand-year-old poem.

“A” is for… January?

I’m almost 45 years old and there are a few things I know about myself with absolute certainty:

  • I prefer my coffee black.
  • I love Toby and Q <3

My guys

Where was I? Oh right, things I am sure of:

  • I like hoppy beer. I’m not fond of stouts.
  • Whisky is good. So is bacon.
  • I work best with a plan – no matter how weird or loosey goosey.

Sometime in December it occurred to me what my next “plan” would be – I’d follow the alphabet! So January = A, February = B, March = C and so on. And yes, I know it’s weird. And January has been fun.

I had somehow got it in my head to read All the President’s Men. That was amazing. And my big takeaway was basically plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose! I also got the movie but as of today (January 31 no less) I still haven’t watched it. Maybe on the weekend.

I watched Apocalypse Now. I don’t remember watching it before and it’s one of the “greatest movies ever” according to a bunch of lists so I watched it. Weird doesn’t begin to cut it. And the making of it was possibly even weirder! (grave robbing, an overweight Brando, a drunk Sheen…)

Toby also got me to finally watch The Accountant, which a friend described as a “total nerdgasm with eye candy” lol. And my big lesson from this is that I should listen to Toby more often when he says he has a movie I might like (the last one was John Wick!) Violence, math and a mystery! Woohoo!

One of our new friends Andy, who himself could be an A for January but for the fact that we met on Christmas Eve, suggested this awesome song to listen to: Flatbush Waltz – by another Andy (Statman).

And I thought I was done…I was hoping to squeeze in a quick Agatha Christie read (And Then There Were None if you’re curious) but none of the local library branches had it in. Instead I found The Alienist. I’m only about 80 pages in so there’s no way I’m finishing it in January but so far it’s awesome. I had no idea it was also a new show. Hmmm It’s going to have to wait! I’m out of time.

Oh and of course there was LEGO: at a stretch the Apollo Saturn V (as opposed to having to wait until July 2019)

there’s a quarter in there for scale

What’s next? Why B of course. My boss suggested Beowulf. And it turns out the Toronto Public Library has an English-to-English translation of the Anglo-Saxon epic! And a couple of friends have suggested movies: Brave and Brigadoon, neither of which I’ve seen so I’m starting there. Let me know if you have any other ideas!