Saturday, March 27, 2010

March Magazine Mania

Once in a while, perhaps every four months or so, I have an urge to see what's current on the magazine racks in my local independent bookstore. In March, I bought three magazines. I could have read them in the library, but that would have meant waiting until they weren't in demand. This month I bought the Atlantic Magazine, Harper's Magazine and the New Yorker. I didn't buy a Canadian magazine. Maybe I should get a slap on the wrist or something. I do read Macleans magazine every day (Canadian mag.) in the online version, and used to read The Walrus (pretentious Canadian mag.) when I had a gift subscription. So, why choose those three magazines?

My New Yorker habit, which I had to taper down because it's a weekly magazine, started years ago. A friend who had a subscription used to give me her copies after she read them. I was hooked. I couldn't buy a copy every week, but I did buy one or two every month when I was working full time. The New Yorker has changed over the years, but I still like it - a lot. In the March 1st issue there's an article titled The Deflationist which is about the economist, Paul Krugman. His views on the stock market and the economy are the opposite of boring. In the same issue, there's an article about mountain people who live in isolation only 25 miles from New York city. The magazine also publishes wonderful fiction. And, there are cartoons - there are always cartoons in the New Yorker. Sometimes I don't understand one, but then again, I don't live in New York and I'm not young or hip.

I've been a fan of Harper's since I first browsed through one in a bookstore eons ago. Harper's Index, which appears at the front of every issue always has interesting/startling and sometimes downright weird facts to impart. From this month's issue: "Percentage of American men aged 18 to 29 who believe that standing up during sex is an effective form of contraception , 18. Percentage of U.S. public grade-school teachers who say they buy food for hungry students every month, 63." Also in the March issue, an article on "The Guantanamo 'Suicides'" and Mammon from Heaven, which is about the prosperity gospel in recession. Harper's also features readings - very short things first published in other places. For instance, I, Sexbot, which first appeared on the website of I'm sure you want to know that the robot, which will "deliver the ultimate in robot sex" is called Roxxxy.

The Atlantic Magazine, which is one of the oldest magazines still living, is also a favourite of mine. Where else could you find an article on How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America (yes, it's depressing) along with an article on Management Secrets of the Grateful Dead and some thoughts on preserving old video games for the cultural record.

Do you subscribe to any magazines, and if you do why did you choose them?

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Ride with "Johnny Cash" Leads to Food in Fiction

The weather here has been amazingly good and many more people than usual are out and about. I wonder what some of them do in the winter time and whether their foibles cause problems in close quarters. For example, there was a man on the bus with me today who loves Johnny Cash. I'm rather partial to Cash too. I think his music is three-hundred percent more real than almost any 'country' singer I can think of. Although I must admit, I don't think of country singers very often.

In any event, this Johnny Cash fan had a fixation for Ring of Fire. At first, I thought he was listening to it on an ipod or CD player and didn't realize he was singing along but that wasn't the case . His brain was stuck on four lines of the song and he sang them over and over and over. He wasn't loud and he was almost in tune, but now the song is in my brain. It's a good thing the bus rider wasn't singing "We got married in a fever hotter than a pepper pot." I don't think I could have tolerated many repetitions of that line. It makes me think about food

I started contemplating the sensual value of food in fiction again this week. Why? Because my daughter raved about a book so I found it at the library and have read it. The Food of Love, by A. Capella (Isn't that a lovely name for a writer?) has so many sensual descriptions of Italian food that it's overwhelming in places. It's a comedy of errors novel and while I may not remember it forever, I did enjoy it. Also it made me consider how often I use food as a descriptive vehicle in my work. In one of my stories chocolate played a key role but generally, I don't refer to food that often. Maybe I'll use it more often in the future, or maybe I'm revved up after reading about all the fine food, which often led to other delightfully sensual things.

So, here is this week's question. Does the description of meals, or the preparation of them appear in your fiction with any frequency?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

No Dragon Slayer in the House

The federal government's budget was read to the House of Commons today and will be debated tomorrow, and perhaps on other days during this session of parliament. The enormous, vicious fire-breathing deficit dragon was not attacked with any efficient weapons. Instead, the finance minister waved a white flag at it from a distance and assured us that it would shrink to the size of a grasshopper in three or four or five years, or thereabouts. He believes this will happen because: - the economy will keep on improving (I liken this to a faith in financial miracle healing) and because - there won't be any "new" stimulus spending (so the economy will have a good time stimulating itself when the current stimulus money runs out, I assume) - and - some government salaries will be frozen and no new staff will be added. Also, taxes will not be increased and some will be decreased.

I am in favour of controlling the number of people who work in government and ensuring that tax money is used wisely ( the government should listen to Kevin Page). Bureaucracies have a natural tendency to grow into huge fiefdoms given the slightest opportunity. However, I suspect that the areas most affected will be the ones that mean the least to the supporters of socially regressive Conservative party. I believe funding for the arts will decrease more than funding for other sectors since creative people are considered effete and useless. The contribution the artistic community makes to the economy will be downplayed again. Little money will be given to environmental issues because the Conservatives are sure that only wing-nut lefties care about those things and the government wants to encourage more foreign investment and more free trade. (Free trade is not 'free' but that's a subject for another post.)

Unfortunately, the Goods and Services Tax will not be increased although that would be the fairest way to begin to tackle the dragon. And yes, I think we should increase the GST. Even one percentage point would do more to decrease the deficit than anything else that has been proposed and it wouldn't be all that painful.

The government says we are - open for business. Oh goody! I guess we were closed before due to our propensity to tax corporations at a rate that some people think is unacceptable. I would argue that we can never decrease taxes to the levels that some countries offer because a) we are a huge country, b) we have a small population, and c) we need to fund the programs that make us unique. We cannot do this unless we tax adequately. So what does attract business to Canada? Our health and social support programs are a big draw. Do we really need more huge corporations that make demands on local provincial and federal governments in return for possible future success (think of the auto industry bail outs)? Or, are more small and mid-sized businesses a better bet in the long haul? In spite of the recession, new small businesses start-up every day. I'd rather offer a modicum of support to them than to larger enterprises.

All is not lost though, for we will save 1.8 billion each year by decreasing foreign aid. But hey! - it's only those people, so never mind about them and remember - no visible new taxes. So, get out there and buy something.