Sun, Nov
23
2014

The Machine Stops

Maybe it’s kismet, but as I write The Curator of Forgotten Things, I’ve been encountering more and more references to E.M. Forster’s Edwardian science fiction novella, The Machine Stops. This story, written in 1909 (and in the public domain; the text can be read here), is rightfully lauded for anticipating how automation and easy long-distance communication could result in humans drawing back within themselves, becoming ironically more isolated than ever before.

I’d heard of the tale before, of course, albeit through a more indirect manner. Back in my high school and university days, when being a Doctor Who fan wasn’t cool, I was an avid reader of the British magazine Dream Watch Bulletin (formerly the Doctor Who Bulletin), which branched out from covering Doctor Who and highlighted the other gems of British science fiction in film and television. An article covered an adaptation a series called Out of the Unknown (a British version of The Outer Limits) did of Forster’s work. It must have been a well written review, because I remember it to this day, decades later.

Anyway, the recent mentions sent me looking for that movie adaptation, and I ended up discovering it, and a second one.

The movie short below was produced in 2009 “a thesis project at the School of Visual Arts, NYC by twin brothers, Nathan & Adam Freise”. It’s an impressive piece of production, though I would say that the acting leaves something to be desired. At nine minutes, it doesn’t take much of your time, but barely gives the material coverage. Still, it does show these brothers have talent. Look for their names in the film industry in the future.

At the other end of the spectrum is the Out of the Unknown adaptation of The Machine Stops. E.M. Foster is credited as the story’s writer, with Kenneth Cavander and Clive Donner as mere dramatists, but it shows the reverence that Cavander and Donner treats the material. The adaptation has much better actors, and a budget possibly equal to that of the 2009 short. It is also over 50 minutes long, but surprisingly watchable through that length, largely due to some interesting directorial choices. I think it’s worth your time, if you’ve got 50 minutes of it.

Mon, Nov
17
2014

Blessings in Disguise

Winter has hit full force, and I’m sorry to say that I’ve been caught unprepared. It’s something of a victory that my kids have snowpants and mittens, and we still have to find their winter boots (fortunately, their rain boots keep them dry). However, I probably would not yet have snow tires on my car were it not for a small disaster that hit late last week.

After returning home from driving the kids to school, I’m driving Erin up to work when my car immediately starts pulling to the right. I’ve felt this before, the last time we had a flat tire. Fortunately, the flat appears to have hit right outside the Dettmer Tire and Auto Centre in Belmont Village. Pulling in, we see that, yes, the front right tire is flat to the rim.

Given how busy we’ve been buying and selling a home, this is the last thing we need, but the folks at Dettmer are sympathetic (and, no, they did not spread nails on the road to drum up business). However, it appears that my tire has picked the absolute worst day to spring a leak: Dettmer is full up with people changing their three-season tires to snow tires. Indeed, they’re booking for next week. But they’re willing to fill up my tire with air for a temporary fix (though they’re somewhat dubious that the tire will hold anything), and they don’t charge me a cent. After calling a taxi to take Erin to work, I strike out for my home garage, Fowler Tire for a fix, with strict instructions not to drive on the highway.

Calling Fowler to see if they can replace my current tires for the snow tires I have stored with them, I learn that they’re having the same problem: because this is snow tire installation season, they’re booking slots for two weeks in advance. But this is an emergency, I say: without a tire, I can’t drive my car. However, the proprietor is kind enough to tell me to leave my car with them, and they’ll try to fit me in when they can. So, that’s what I do.

Two hours later, I get a call to tell me that my car is ready. It has my snow tires on it.

Both these establishments are crewed by some of the best people in the world. It certainly made what promised to be a harrowing day go a lot easier to get their help. And, were it not for my flat tire, I might not have been able to get snow tires on my car for another two weeks. That is something to be thankful for today given the slopping driving conditions.

Strangely enough, the right front tire had nothing wrong with it. No leaks or anything. The only theory we have is that it may have popped off the rim and released its air quickly. But it turns out it’s a blessing in disguise.

Wed, Nov
12
2014

Winter is Coming

There’s a nip in the air. Are you ready? To get you in the mood, here’s a video of people who had to deal with some real snow…

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It’s amazing to think that nine years have passed since my eldest daughter came into this world. As I’m sure I’ve said before, it feels just like yesterday when I saw her born, and it also feels like she’s been here forever.

And she’s reaching a point where I can tell that further changes are afoot. She’s engaging with the world, now, and listening to the news. On more than one occasion, I’ve had to explain why certain things happened, and what certain things are, and I wasn’t entirely ready to do that. Time to suck it up, I guess. Her perception, and her ability to listen in on conversations, isn’t going to go away. And much as I her father want to shield her from some things in this world, my responsibility as a parent is to get her ready to meet it. Whatever speed she picks, it will be faster than I’m comfortable with, but as fast as it needs to be.

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As you can tell, it’s been a while since I last updated this blog. I suspect I’m going to have to rethink how I address my blog, since most of my social media interaction has been on Facebook and Twitter, and blogs seem passe in this day and age. But this is still my writing journal, if nothing else. I miss not writing with pen and ink into my old writing journal. I think I’ll be keeping this blog along so it will always be around if the mood strikes me.

It has also been very difficulty to put a block of time together to update this blog. For the most part, this is good news, because though I’m not writing here, I am writing elsewhere. I’m at the tail end of two non-fiction writing assignments that have collectively asked me to draft manuscripts for four educational books for kids. My column with the Kitchener Post continues, and I’ve done some work on Transit Toronto. In fact, here’s some of what I’ve published this past month.

Another thing that is happening is we’re looking to move. We’re working on putting in an offer for a place that’s closer to where we need to be, and larger to boot, but before we can do that, we need to get our current house ready to sell. So it’s been a frantic ten days or so cleaning and purging and purging and cleaning, and signing papers, and opening our home to agents and stress, stress, stress.

None of this would have been possible without the unwavering support of my folks and my in-laws, for babysitting, and loading and shifting and cleaning, not to mention Rosemarie’s eye for detail and her experience in how to stage a house to make it sell quickly. Fingers crossed, she will work her magic once again. Still, any and all good vibes you can send our way would be greatly appreciated. It would be nice to land the house we want. It would also be nice to get through this disruptive time as quickly as possible.

So, all this means slow posting on this blog, yet again. But it’s worth it. All of this is because Erin and I are making a living as writers, and that is everything that we could have asked.

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