Sunday, December 27, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I got a lovely (and unexpected) note from Greg Kolodziejzyk, who recently read Fatal Tide. Greg knows more than most people about the highs and lows of outdoor adventure, endurance races and the other themes of my book. He is a multiple Ironman finisher (and was at a fatal race I described in the book) who is now on an epic journey to try to pedal-boat across the Pacific Ocean.
I just finished "Fatal Tide", and I just wanted you to know that I really enjoyed it. I kept thinking about my first Ironman which was the inaugural Ironman Utah where John Boland died in the swim due to the freak wind storm. It was pretty brutal. I see you did mention that event - you are VERY thorough! I especially appreciated your summary and background research into hypothermia, kayak safety, and risk with adventure sports. Very thought provoking stuff!Thanks, Greg. And safe travels on your future journeys!
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
"Hi, my name is David, and I'm a magaholic..."
Those are my first words to students in my second-year magazine writing class. It's just a cheeky way of acknowledging my passion for the subject and my hope that some of them will come to share my obsession with magazines by semester's end.
But recently, I've been wondering (and so has my Canada Post deliverywoman, I suspect) if my fondness isn’t more of a sickness. A month ago, I’d been reading Gabor Mate’s In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, a book about addiction, the author’s medical practice in the Downtown Eastside, and—oddly enough—his own “addiction” to buying classical CDs. (He says he is no way equating his Mozart collection, a habit that cost him eight grand one week, with mainlining heroin, but still...)
My love of magazines is the closest I’ve ever come (and hopefully ever will) to an addictive personality trait. I grew up around magazines (my parents both subscribed to several), and began getting my own from as early as I can remember: Chickadee, Owl, The Electric Company, dozens of Marvel comic books. That was followed by magazines to match every strange teenage hobby or interest I developed: Dragon (during my spotty-faced D&D years), Circus (my spotty-faced heavy-metal era), Soldier of Fortune (my, uh, weird obsession with mercenaries phase), Outside (my discovery of outdoor adventure, or at least reading about it).
If I am to admit I’ve got a problem, I’ve got to first come clean about its extent. Herewith, the magazines that enter my house every month.
Magazines I subscribe to:
- Bicycling (see below)
- Harper’s (my longest-running subscription at more than 20 years)
- Maclean’s (Canada’s chattering class may hate Ken Whyte’s politics, but he’s an editorial genius and turned around this once-moribund newsweekly; plus, it runs the hilarious Scott Feschuk)
- The Atlantic (I haven’t got my first issue but was suckered into an impulse sub by a “professional deal”)
- Chatelaine and Today’s Parent (I get these for my wife, and flip through both)
- Maisonneuve (the little mag that could, out of Montreal)
- The New York Times Magazine (the main reason I get the Sunday Times, which was even better when they also published Key and Play magazines)
- National Geographic (how else will my children inherit an attic full of moldy Nat Geos?)
Magazine’s I’m subscribed to (there’s a difference):
- The New Yorker (world’s best birthday present—thanks to my father in law for renewing annually)
- Sports Illustrated (from my sister in law—does that make them both enablers?)
- The Torch (from UVic) and Queen’s Alumni Review
Magazines I get for free as a contributor:
- 2 Magazine
- Financial Post Business
- British Columbia (my wife works there)
Local magazines I pick up for free:
- Monday (sadly, more of a conventional alt-newsweekly than a true magazine after rounds of freelance cutbacks)
- Focus (a strong arts and politics monthly)
- Boulevard (I don’t always grab it but know several of the columnists)
- Wavelength (for kayakers...and I’m not really a kayaker!)
Magazines that my father in law brings for me whenever he visits:
- Toronto Life and The Walrus (which I used to have subs for)
- The Literary Review of Canada (a bit wonkish, but otherwise decent book coverage)
Magazines that fall out of the newspaper and that I flip through:
- Driven, Sharp, Douglas, Western Living, Report on Business
In-flight magazines that I take home when any sane person leaves them in the seat pocket:
- Up! and EnRoute (Canada is lucky to have not one but two in-flight mags that run more than just boring travel bumph)
I’ve likely missed some in there, and I haven’t mentioned the many magazines that I once subscribed to, or my impulse buys of individual issues at grocery stores and airports, or my large collection of obscure, international or regional magazines, or the online-only magazines I browse, or the magazines I think I should subscribe to or wish I could justify, or the books I buy that are about magazines or that anthologize magazine stories...
Of course, there is no way—even if I didn’t have a full-time job and two small kids—that I’d ever have the time to read every issue of every magazine I get. (So, yes, my habit has an environmental cost, too.)
So you tell me: fondness or sickness?
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I don't usually read the "Facts & Arguments" reader-written essay in the Globe & Mail (usually too cute or maudlin), but I was struck by the illustration and the accompanying personal memoir in today's section. Well, struck is definitely the wrong word.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Last week, Russell Smith of the Globe and Mail had an interesting column about the fine art of parody. Like Smith, I've also had writing students do assignments in which they have to parody the prose voice of another writer, with the understanding that they're not mocking the writer's style but trying to channel their literary spirit in a new context. It's a surprisingly difficult exercise, and one that really gets them thinking about the specifics of diction and syntax, and how any one writer establishes a unique way of communicating on the page.
Stephen stood in the gloom of the grand foyer at 24 Sussex and confronted his double. Before the mirror, he had tied the half-Windsor seven times and yet something still felt amiss. The oceanic blue of the Italian silk contained a leitmotif of grief that perfectly complemented his two-buttoned jacket, hand-cut to hug his newly svelte physique. (The kelp diet and Pilates had done wonders). And yet he was gripped by a sartorial uncertainty that he knew Iggy—he of the foreign surname and casual worldliness—could never share, not with a hockey-loving Reach for the Top nerd from Leaside. His RAZR trilled in a pocket—a lambent bar of Donizetti—and he flipped the phone open with immediate regret. “’Sup, S-Man? It’s Stock. The ride’s here and this blow ain’t gonna snort itself!” Stephen glared into the driveway and saw the limousine idling and, emerging from its black steel and smoked glass, the grinning visage of the Okanaganite. Stephen was seized by a Proustian despair, a sense of lost time. The Okanaganite had tried to match a fuchsia Farmer John wetsuit with a pair of tan brogues—after Labour Day! How could he ever conquer the nightclubs of Bytown, let alone bestride the international catwalks of power, Stephen wondered, when he couldn’t keep his own caucus in pleated slacks?
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
I read an odd little front of the book article in a recent National Geographic magazine about the "ecofont"—a software tool that digitally "punches" holes in your existing fonts, so that when you print a document it uses 20% less ink (and, as some skeptics pointed out, gets at least that much less legible).
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
A number of magazines have been using website polls to let readers help to choose an upcoming issue's cover design. Mostly, the cover photos tend to be variations on a theme. Rarely are they as diverse as the three covers offered up for readers' eyes as the next issue of explore. I can't wait to see which cover that readers—and then staff members (and my former colleagues)—pick. I've had a sneak peek at a couple of the "true life tales", and it promises to be a great issue.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
This Sunday's New York Times featured another excellent front page investigation, this one about the thwarted attempts by many states to enact laws against the use of cellphones by car drivers, despite the increasing evidence of the distracting dangers of both handheld and hands-free phones for people who should be paying attention to the road.
"In Europe a truck driver who sees cyclists out training invites them to grab hold of his rig for a tow; Armstrong could recount many times that pick-ups and semis in Texas literally ran him off the road. What made Armstrong different -- what would make him a seven-time winner of the Tour, when you get right down to it -- is that he would flip those truck drivers the bird."
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
- Lance vs. his aging body
- Lance vs. his heir apparent and Astana teammate, Alberto Contador
- Lance vs. his good friend and former teammate, George Hincapie
- Lance vs. the skeptical French media
- sprint demon Mark Cavendish
- stage wins for French cyclists (and long-suffering French fans) on daring breakaways
- plus, the best broadcast tandem in sports, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
After months and even years of training, the riders undergo an intensely transformative experience, both physiologically (in multi-day competitions like this, the body shifts from burning carbohydrates to fat reserves) and psychologically (I once spoke to another Canadian who had completed the RAAM and he described the out-of-body visions that accompanied his final few days of cycling). It's a secular spiritual practice in many ways—a modern version of the ancient ascetics who subjected their bodies to the most exquisite pain in order to bring themselves, however briefly, closer to the ineffable.
While I've got no interest in ever riding the RAAM myself (seven days of the much more manageable TransRockies Challenge brought me close enough to my Maker, thank you very much!), I do find the dedication and efforts of the handful of women and men who race across North America every year truly inspiring. They really emphasize the power of two of the most efficiently designed machines to traverse our planet: the bicycle and the human body. When anybody suggests they can't possibly bike to work a couple days a week because it's too hard or takes too long, I just think: There are other people who cycle across the breadth of our continent in just over eight freaking days! Amazing.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
The final winner will be announced at the M Awards gala on Tuesday, March 31. As I've learned to repeat from several experiences of being a bridesmaid at the National Magazine Awards, "It's an honour just to be nominated." And it is.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Here is a classic reply, written by a reader I like to imagine is nicknamed "The Major" from the sherry-soaked comfort of his Oak Bay mansion:
When I was young (here in Victoria), we had to take a test to ride our bikes on the road. If we passed, we were given a small license plate that hung on the back of our seat. If we didn't have one of these plates, we were not allowed to ride on the road. If the police saw anyone riding a bike on the road without one of these plates, their bike was permanently confiscated. Then sold at a police bike auction. Which is where many of our parents got bikes for us when we were young. Why don't we still do that? Why do we make it so easy for people with no sense or regard for others to enter into traffic on a bike? I'm also a firm believer that bike riders should have to buy insurance to ride in traffic. Then, if they cause an accident, they can pay for it. On a daily basis, I witness bike riders blatantly breaking the rules of the road. Most of them act like they don't believe the rules pertain to them. My biggest beef is WHY DID WE START ALLOWING THEM TO RIDE ACROSS THE JOHNSTON STREET BRIDGE??!! What happened to the days when cyclists had to dismount and walk their bikes across the bridge on the footpath?? Also, what happened to the rule that cyclists had to dismount at an intersection and walk their bikes across in the crosswalk?? I constantly see cyclists ride across while the light is still red!! Why are they allowed to do that?? Cyclists are slower than cars; if they're riding more than two abreast, they are blocking traffic. People become impatient and try to pass. This is what caused this unfortunate accident. It had nothing to do with the fact that an Olympic hopeful was riding in the bunch. I don't know why the TC felt it necessary to make that the headline. Sensasionalism sells papers....so they say. I'm also happy to see that most of the people sticking up for the cyclists seem to have very poor spelling. That demonstrates their level of intelligence; so their opinion can pretty much be disregarded.No wonder our planet is burning up...
Friday, March 6, 2009
The good folks at Ocean River Sports are all over this issue and are coordinating the protests over a dumb, ugly proposal that will attract rich Americans' mega-yachts at the expense of everyone else.
Monday, February 2, 2009
It's been a crazy busy January, so it was a relief to have the excuse (and the sunny afternoon) two weekends ago to go for a bike ride. Richard Pickard, UVic prof and lit blogger, invited me to ride up to his home and bring a copy of Fatal Tide for him to buy (and me to sign). That makes him reader #2 to take up my long-standing offer to ride and sign copies of my tome. Woo-hoo!
Hopefully, Richard and his family aren't too traumatized by the sight of me in my full Spandex pseudo-Lance outfit. (Thanks, Richard!) I had a great ride afterwards and was in such good humour that I stopped by Oak Bay Bikes and picked up a new pair of bike shoes and clipless pedals on sale—which means the $2 I made selling a book vanished beneath the $200 I spent on carbon-fibre shoes. Moral of the story: Don't quit my day job! Either that or curb my velociphilia.
Still, the offer stands, especially as the warmer months approach: You wanna book? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and—if you're in Victoria or Oak Bay—I'll ride to your house and sign one for you for a mere 30 bucks.
Monday, January 12, 2009
When we got back, I was delighted to learn from a friend that Fatal Tide had been mentioned in the Xmas round-up of book picks selected by callers on Rex Murphy's Cross-Country Check-up. You can get the whole list here—mine was one of the few Canadian-authored books picked by Canadian listeners, which suggests some of the many challenges of the domestic publishing industry. It turned out that the caller was one of my students from a few years back, a talented writer named Wayne Potoroka based in the Yukon. But, honest, no money was exchanged or grades inflated for the plug!
The book also made at least one blogging reader's top ten list for the year.
Then, the new issue of Sea Kayaker magazine—the biggest kayaking publication in the world—ran a good review of the book (despite its lack of an American publisher), written by editor Chris Cunningham, no less (but not online). The kayaking community has really embraced the book and the lessons to be take from it about safety preparedness and the perils of cold water.
The adventure racing community? Less enthusiastic.
Finally, this weekend, the Vancouver Sun ran a fun little article by local author Barbara Julian about the ups and downs of self-marketing for Canadian authors. She mentions a couple of low points from my own oddball efforts to drum up interest for my book, which I'd described on this blog. Apparently, the Sun also ran a photo of me, but I've yet to see the article.
One of my vain efforts was the "Ride to the Readers" campaign last summer. So I thought, now that it has been mentioned again in the Sun, I'd resurrect my offer to bike to interested book buyers and sign their copies in person, with a few twists: 1) I'll limit the geographical range (at least until the weather improves) to Victoria, Oak Bay, and parts of Saanich not too far from the university; but 2) and I'll actually bring a copy of the book to your house (while supplies last) and sell it to you for $30- flat fee (a toonie off the list price, and w/o any tax).
Surely, with that kind of CRAZY GOOD offer, I can improve on my statistic of one reader ridden to....