August 25th, 2013

Cellphone report

Regular readers may be aware that I got my first cellphone in March, with great trepidation. I enjoyed being one of the last holdouts on the new technology, and didn’t want to be a slave to yet another form of communication–I already love too many of them. But I was also tired of not being included in last-minute fun, and not getting the message when plans went awry. The last straw was when my friend and I spent 45 minutes waiting for each other at 2 different GO stations. Enough was enough.

I’m pleased to say that no such incident has occurred since the acquistion of my new smartphone. Moreover, I am able to send word when I’m running late, picking up schwarma, or lost–this is helpful. I can check email when I’m paranoically panicking for having left work early to go to the dentist and I have discovered the lovely vice of texting.

I use texts like most people, to communicate the aforementioend useful information and to say a lot of useless things too. Such is the nature of the medium. And of course, the more communication there is the more potential for miscommunication–things go wrong via text that never would’ve happened in the first place via say, email or phone.

But on the whole, my little yellow phone is a gain and I am happy to have it. But the best possible perk (besides angry birds) is that texts are a new vehicle for hilarity. Witness below, possibly the best conversation ever had via text. It’s my brother and I making plans to attend an outdoor concert together. Be patient–it’s a slow build, but there’s some of our finest ebanter later on…


RR: What is your plan for Saturday??

BR: Hmmm. How do we get there? Do you know?

RR: No. The park is really big so even once we get there it will still not be obvious where the shoe is.

RR: Show.

BR: If we meet at Downsview Station by the 101 bus for 3, I think we will be OK… Sound goof?

BR: *good

RR: Ok. Check the rules on the website. Are serious. Bring empty water bottle and beach towel. No pot or tiny knife. No food.

BR: I don’t own any of those things. Can I bring a blanket?

RR: WHat do you mean you don’t have a water bottle or a towel???

BR: Hard time, friendo. Hard times, I mean.

RR: Buy a bottle of water. Drink it. Now you have an empty water bottle. I know you own towels because when I see you you aren’t wet.

BR: I air dry. I don’t believe in bottles. They pillage mother earth. I live in a barrel made from platitudes.

RR: Well then you will be thirsty and sitting on the groun at the show. No barrels.

BR: Life is a box of chocolates.

RR: No outside food, even chocolate. And you can’t sit on my towel.

RR: Also no stuffed animals???? Why??

BR: You could hid filled water bottles inside.

RR: Ah. No sharpies but that’s obvious–you could write on someon’s face while they’re sleeping.

BR: I will write on your face with a crayon.

BR: Wow, no blankets allowed. Can you bring an extra beach towel?


BR: Not beachy ones. :(

RR: Ok me neither. Towels art towels.

RR: Are

BR: Art

February 3rd, 2013

The Sky Has Always Been Falling

I came to Toronto to work in publishing at the beginning of 2002, just before Stoddart and General Publishing imploded. At the time, I was acquainted with only a very few bookfolk, but all were startled and scared about their jobs and the industry at large–they predicted that things were going to change a lot, for the worse, right away.

The sky was falling, and it’s been falling ever since.

Eventually, in my 10 years in the world of books–mainly publishing with brief forays into libraries, book stores, and the classroom–I’ve met more people, lots more people, in this world. And I discovered that publishing folks are uncomfortable without a catastrophe. It’s a hard job, making books for people who have so many shinier, easier forms of entertainment available for their leisure hours, and we–yeah, “we,” I’m in it–like it better when there is at least a focus for our frustrations, a suitable scapegoat for everything that makes delivering literature to readers so hard. Over the years it’s been everything from Dan Brown to Amazon to American dollars at par to ass-grabbing executives to Heather Reisman. I suppose this could be true of any industry–I’ve never worked in another one, come to think of it.

I started writing this post during the Douglas and McIntyre bankruptcy, lost interest as the news cycle wound down, and now I’m back because of the Globe and Mail books editor reshuffle. It’s always something! But every time is like the first time for most of us: I keep feeling like most of the conversation is all, “now we’re *really* doomed” with occasional breaks for nostalgizing how much better it was before this new bad thing happened. Which is fine, I guess, in small doses–cathartic, anyway. Bad things really have happened, we’ve got to get it out of our systems, and kvetching is sorta fun.

BUT–I feel like every literary article in the mainstream press that isn’t a straightup review lately is an end-of-days whinefest. We’re actually losing column inches across the board, but why are we squandering what we have saying over and over how it all is sucktastic?

And who knows, maybe it *is* that bad and my perspective is just clouded–see the name of this blog. But how is it going to get any better when our focus is so backwards facing, so sad about everything that has gone before that we’re unable to think of the future.

I’m hardly cutting edge, but I think some of my tiny bit of optimism comes from my unique position, which is actually multiple positions. I’ve published two old-fashioned, old-school paper books with a press that is actually still independent, still active, still innovative–somehow Biblioasis manages to keep their authors out in the world, relevant and engaged, while dealing primarily with printed pages.

But I’m also on the other side some of the time–5 days a week, in fact. I work in a publishing environment that is struggling pretty hard to do the new things–books that have no print dimension, or only a small one, but do things print could never do. Have I seen the future? No, I haven’t, but I have seen a lot of possibilities. It’s inspiring what people are coming up with. It’s also really really hard–this sort of work calls on a lot of skills that aren’t really active in most bookfolk. It’s another part of the brain–several other parts–and sometimes it makes me really sad how not-innate this stuff is to me. But I keep trying, because what choice do I have? Publishing *will* keep moving forward, and I would like to go with it as far as I can.

I do find it hard to be terribly pessimistic about the future of literature when I have seen all these great ideas–variations on the old and brand-new alike–that are coming forward. And if you’re more pessimistic than me, fine–there’s room to disagree. But surely the “we’re doomed, we’re doomed” folks must realize that they’re not the best friends a book ever had.

Literature is a vibrant part of culture–it reflects and questions and celebrates and protests what IS in our world, and therefore it has to be part of that world. If it’s hard to innovate right now, individuals and companies and the whole industry do suffer, but that’s the nature of growth. We’re just going to have to work harder. In tough times, well…you know what they say…

If you’re worried about who is going to be the next great books editor, apply for the job. If you think all the publishing houses suck, found a better one. If you don’t think there’s a book that really capitalizes on the new technologies, write one. Or write a book that transcends technology, that’s so good it would be relevant in any age. It’s something to shoot for, anyway.

Or hell, just read a book. Read anything, and engage with the content, and talk about what it is and could be. Even if the sky were truly falling, it would still be worth reading books, and I think it always will be.

July 18th, 2012

Rose-coloured reviews Reading on a electronic reader

I sometimes say that I’m not against new technology, I’m just frightened of it. Some kind friends gave me a Kobo and gently talked me through how to read on it. There are some kinks to be worked out–now that I’ve finished reading my one book, I can’t seem to get anymore–but I did like the experience. And after one novel, of course I’m totally qualified to talk about it.


1. More than one book at once. Sometimes I’ll read two books at once–a “heavy” read for when I’m feeling strong, and a “light” read for when I’m too tired for the heavy one, but not tired enough to sleep. Sometimes I need to bring a second book because I know I’ll finish the first before I get home. Sometimes I wish I could check a fact from the first book in the series while reading the second. I can’t actually lug around all these books (though I do somewhat, in the second case) and the Kobo solves all these problems.

2. Surprisingly durable. I regularly bend back covers and break spines in my reading endeavours, and then I feel terribly guilty, though most books are of the same literary quality with and without a broken spine. The Kobo in it’s little leather cover does not get smushed in my bag and it lays perfectly flat on a table without me breaking anything.

3. Some things are available only in ebook format, like Found Press, the thing I tried to buy last night and was thwarted due to technological incompetence. But now, finally, I can dream of reading the estuff, somehow, someday…


1. Committment. The Kobo I have takes a few minutes to boot up, by which point the subway’s usually already arrived and I’ve wasted all my bench time staring into space. I probably read for 2 hours most days, but a lot of it is in tiny increments. That doesn’t work so well electronically. I like to read in long lines in stores, when my dining companion goes to the restaurant bathroom, all kinds of other little gaps in time. But the boot time makes that not really work. Ditto reading before bed, turning out the light for 5 minutes, realizing I’m not that sleepy, reading for 5 more minutes, then turning the light back off.

2. Fear. Even though I say above that the item is durable, I still get worried about this expensive piece of technology and put it back in its case every time I stand up. This is more my problem than the Kobo’s, but it did limit my reading time. I also can’t fathom how to read it in the bath. Sometimes I get my paper books a little damp, and then the pages are wrinkly, but oh well. I have the feeling the ramifications would be worse here.

3. Inferior quality ebooks. My one eread so far was Don DeLillo’s End Zone, a truly brilliant novel that came out in the 1970s. See where a problem might lie? I don’t know why, but apparently the Penguin folks, or whoever own the ebook rights, *scanned* a copy of the paper book and just made that into an ebook. I can’t explain any other way why there are NO hyphens in the entire book, and constant ligature problems (“Penn State” becomes “Perm State” and other hilarious examples). I regularly had to stop reading to think about what was actually supposed to be written there. I think this would only be a problem with older books, and probably there’s better QC on most, but this was a disappointing aspect of an otherwise wonderful experience.


In short, I am really really enamoured of my new reader, and despite a few flaws and things to get used to, I’m verily looking forward to reading more. As soon as I figure out how to get another book on it!!

September 27th, 2011


Hi again! My story “How to Keep Your Day Job” is on the Storyville App, which means if you subscribe to the app–for iPads and iPhones and perhaps some other things–you get my story as well as many other wonderful-looking ones, for $4.99 for a 6-month subscription. I think short-story apps are wonderful, and quite possibly the way the form will wind up going. Sort of makes me want to get a cellphone of some kind.

December 2nd, 2009

Douglas Adams Invented the Kindle

“…he also had a device that looked rather like a largish electronic calculator. This had about a hundred tiny flat press buttons and a screen about four inches square on which any one of a million “pages” could be summoned at a moment’s notice. It looked insanely complicated, and this was one of the reasons the snug plastic cover it fitted into had the words Don’t Panic printed on it in large friendly letters.”

The Hitchhikers’ Guide the Galaxy1979!! I love this book!

September 1st, 2009

The Haps

1) Joyland Stories will soon be a part of the daily dose of aweomse that is CellStories, a site that sends cell phone and Blackberry (etc.) users a new short story every day (you can also read the stories at the link above). Sounds like a great way to pass a commute, and is probably the second reason on my list of reasons to maybe possibly someday get a cellphone (the first being to receive amusing texts from AMT, and third being in case I am ever accidentally (or on purpose, I guess) locked in a closet.

2) The finalists for Journey Prize 21 will be announced at Ben McNally books on October 1, and I’ll be there to help make the presentation. I’m really looking forward to celebrating such great work.

3) A story of mine called “Dykadelic” will be in the yet-to-be-launched journal *The Milan Review* sometime this fall.

4) I’ll be reading at the Draft Reading Series on October 4 at the Blue Moon Pub. Only new drafty works are to be read there, so who knows what I’ll be presenting.

5) Finally, for those who said it couldn’t be done, I have made it through a week with a left hand mouse and, though I still hate it a lot, this morning when someone *moved my mouse* to the right side of the keyboard (oh, don’t even ask) I *moved it back*. New neural pathways, here I come!

You let me down easy / you let me down hard

August 25th, 2009

Further reading

So we’ve all heard the debate about eBooks, the Amazon Kindle, the Sony reader, the future of print, etc. (at least, I hope we all have, since I am too lazy to provide links). I am largely playing from the sidelines, since the price of entry into the fray is $300, and then you still have to pay almost full price for the books and, unlike the print market, there are no used book stores, libraries, or generous lending friends for eBooks (that I know of??) Any emotions or opinions about this dawning technology that are expressed herein are entirely theoretical.

However, I have been reading on-screen for years–computer screens, of course, but still. I am desperately behind the times in many ways (I have no interest in phones that don’t plug into the wall) but reading on-screen is fine to me. I don’t feel like I miss things, that I have a harder time following the text, or that it’s hard on the eyes. I have read hundreds of books on computer screens, in various formats–some were in DOS.

Most of this reading, of course, has been done for work-related purposes–my various publishing jobs have required a lot of reading. On my own time, I read books in book format, for the reasons stated above and also because I like them. I like pages, I like jacket copy, I like bookmarks and perfect-binding and matte finish covers (oooh, with spot gloss!) My alleged leisure reading often has a semi-professional puropose, though: I probably read more like a student (looking to see how it works) or critic (looking to see if it works) than most. But mainly I read for pleasure. I don’t watch tv, knit, golf, or own a cellphone–reading is what I do for fun. A flawless weekend, to my mind, the one I spent two weeks ago, park-hopping–going to a park, lying in the grass and reading until you get hungry/get thirsty/have to pee, going to cafe to rectify that, and then going to a different park to repeat. On a sunny summer day in good company–bliss.

I think I could do that with an electronic book, if I had to. I won’t know *until* I have to, because of the price threshhold and the fact that I like paper books so much, but I don’t know if it’s going to be a huge big deal for me. As I started writing this post, I was going to say I mainly do my pleasure reading offline, but then I realized I sure do read a lot of blogs. And then I was going to say, oh, but not like literature online. But the truth is, in the past week alone I have had the random impulses to read The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Young Lutheran’s Guide to the Orchestra and The Dead at times when the paper copies of those pieces that I own were inaccessible to me. And yet the interweb made reading happen for me, for which I am grateful. I had read all those items multiple times before on paper, and then last week on the web, and I feel safe hazarding I enjoyed them just as much this time round.

So this is a good sign (and also a sign that writing this blog allows me to think through my positions on things much more fully than simply thinking about them does). I’m scared of the electronic book, of course, as only a person who has never had a cellphone, cable television or a dishwasher can be. But I do think in the end, books being my favourite thing will triumph over my fear of the new. It’ll be like a loved person in an unfamiliar hat.

Of course, my vision of the future seems to involve somebody showing up one day and taking all the paper books away and that’s probably not going happen, at least not in my lifetime. Maybe, in time, my affection for paper books will come to seem as amusing as my love of landlines, and I’ll sit in my corner turning pages, while the rest of the world moves on.

That wouldn’t be bad at all.

Serenity now

August 21st, 2009

First-world problems

I have recently been introduced to the term “first-world problems”, used to describe those problems that sure enough do feel lousy when we have to experience them, but taken in the context of people who struggle for food, safety and clean drinking water, are a little less than earth-tilting. Ie.,

–ice cream melts too fast
–waiter forgets your wine, is rude when reminded
–ugly hotel room
–wallet in other pants
–trying to switch the hand you use your mouse with in order to stave off carpal tunnel syndrom and Altzheimer’s disease makes you grouchy and confused

I’m trying to do that last one and it’s making me very unhappy in a distinctly first-world way. On Wednesday, I did *one hour* of left-handed mousing, and when I got into bed that night and let my body go slack, the mouse-fingers on my left hand immediately started to twitch. Today, I’ve been at it about 3 hours, and I think I might go insane.

Now, I’m a prime target for carpal tunnel, since I’m in front of a computer an incredible number of hours, don’t have an ergonomic setup, plus often use a laptop. There’s nothing I don’t think to be done about the laptop; I’ve been trying to use the touchpad with my left hand, but since it’s right there in the middle, I immediately forget add allow my pushy pushy right hand to take over.

It’s easier on the desktop, since I have an actual mouse that I have moved over to the left side of the keyboard. However, it is a very strange mouse since it the one associated with the drawing pallette I use in my work. Mine’s not that nice, I just wanted a clear picture, but it is a pricey item and clearly it’s not going to be replaced just so I can have a left-handed mouse to go with it, even if there was such a thing (wow, another first-world problem: my expensive technology not quiiiitte as nice as some).

So now I am left-clicking with my *ring-finger*, probably the weakest part of my body besides, like, my hair. Hence the twitching, I guess. I’m trying to feel the new, Alzheimer’s-preventing neural pathways being formed as I do this, but mainly I just feel like I’m working really slowly as it often takes a couple tries to click on what I want. Also my ring-finger is tired. Also, several times when I got really involved with something, I discovered myself 45 degrees pivoted in my chair, gripping the mouse with my right hand through now will of my own. Also, for some reason, my right hand hurts; sympathy pains?

A friend of mine actually successfully made this switch, which is what inspired me to try, but that friend is superhuman in any number of regards, and I’m starting to think this is one of them. Maybe I’ll just learn Suduko??

Why not smile?

July 14th, 2009

Social Networking, So Much

Before the Rose-coloured blog, before the Facebook obsession and the fear of MySpace, before socializing went virtual, there was the Bureau of People We Know. Well, there was insofar as a thing that had no form or substance but simply got talked about a lot (mainly by me) can be said to have existed. In fact, even before that, there was the chorus of the children’s song The More We Get Together, which encouraged you to think of my friends as your friends.

That was really the basis of the BPWK, as I have always wanted to meet my friends’ friends, especially around the time I graduated undergrad, and my little circle exploded into different cities and careers and circles, doing all kinds of fascinating things far away where I couldn’t see them. So whatever city someone ended up in, I’d name them head of that city’s office of the BPWK, their only duty really being to hang out with me when I came to town, maybe introduce me to their other friends, and perhaps hang out with some other friends of mine if they found themselves in the same city.

This was not social networking in the Penelope Trunk sense, where you look for useful people, befriend them and then hope they’ll do things for you. My central goal was for no one to ever be bored or lonely in a strange city and to meet as many cool people as possible (and in those senses, I am personally living the dream, at least).

And for the same reason (well, more the meeting cool people part), I am very fond of blogs and Facebook. I often meet someone once at a party, have a charming conversation, and wonder how I’ll be able to have another charming conversation with that person without seeming a) like I’m hitting on him/her, b) a potential stalker, and c) socially lame. Facebook offered the answer, a way to get to know a *little* about people who seem cool, and to interact a *bit*, to the point where you might be able to “take it live” and have coffee in a real actual place.

And that makes me very happy. It also makes me happy that I can invite these new friends to parties and readings and be invited to theirs, that they can see my other friends and what we’re all up to, and maybe the Bureau of People We Know will enlarge even further.

Social networking websites are not a substitution for personal interaction; they are a method of interacting, albeit in a minor, low-committment way. Which can be a conduit to lots of other things, or just a long-term happy acquaintanceship. Both are good things.

So yay Facebook, yay blog! I never joined MySpace because I thought you needed to have a band, and I never joined Twitter because I thought you needed to have a cellphone… Obviously, I know they’ll let you *on* either platform without guitars or a flipphone, but I figured there’s be no point; I’m not who it’s for. Then a shadowy man told me I could synch my Facebook updates with Twitter, if only I were on Twitter. \

So now I’m on Twitter. Such is my love of FB that the hours in the day when, erm, technical difficulties make updating impossible are sad for me. So now, FB tweeting all the time.

And the bonus, of course, is that I’ll get to see who is on Twitter. Besides Wren and Fred and Mel, of course, who are my friends across all platforms, aside from being original members of the BPWK.

Not sick of me yet? Let’s be Twitter friends! Or you can just scroll way down on the right side of this blog and see my none-too-fascinating tweets.

Sweet Alexis / is eating fingernails for breakfast

May 17th, 2009

Tokyo and Yokohama in Pictures (well, a few)

Just to be clear: I’m not much of a photographer, and my camera’s not much of a camera. But Tokyo and Yokohama are both so amazing that I think it shines through personal and technical ineptitude. And if it *doesn’t* shine through these pictures, I am having a wonderful time and Tokyo and Yokohama are amazing. This photo upload session is a break to wait out the rain before we head to Harajuku to see the sexy punks!! Yay! Oh, and I was right–it *is* easier to upload pictures to Blogger on a PC. Not much, but slightly.

Reunited at last–the JR train from Narita airport into Tokyo. I have been awake for many many hours in this picture, but it does not diminish my happiness.

View of Tokyo tower (like a miniature Eiffel tower) down an unidentified street my first night in Tokyo.

The crowd at the station. My brother told me to stop taking pictures of strangers after this one. Good point.

View from top of a tall building. Sorry, Ben’s gone for a run and I’m useless about the names here. It was downtown and very tall–that’s all I got.

Sushi-conveyor-belt restaurant. Here this is cheap’n’easy fast food, as opposed to a kooky/expensive night out. But it’s still delicious. No, it’s more delicious.

Uh, not everything about Tokyo is perfect. But note UniQlo bagin my hand!!

Ah, pretty pretty park that I don’t remember the name of. But this is right in the middle of the city, a la Central Park. It’s shockingly gorgeous, no? I didn’t bother taking a picture of the crows; actually, I don’t like to slow down near them.

Us in Yokohama, just about to go into the Boats and Ports Museum (wait, it’s better than it sounds).

See! The Boats and Ports Museum has an actual *boat* you can run around and explore. Me, in a cabin, being a goof.

Ben, in the control room, being a goof.

Me, pretending to drive the boat (I am a very safe driver).

What Rosenblums do on a Ferris Wheel.

A bit of Yokohama, as seen from 3/4 up the Ferris Wheel.

We went to a Shinto festival in Akurasa. This is the top of the Shrine there, plus incongruous Lion Club sign. Why?

What the festival was all about was groups of people carrying very heavy portable shrines through the streets and chanting. It was very moving, somehow, when they pushed past us (the streets are very narrow there), all straining and sweating under the weight of the thing, but still so happy and impassioned. A few times, we got exhorted to chant too. Really an amazing feeling to be included in that.

The band (not called that, I’m sure) that came in between some of the shrines in the parade (also possibly not called a parade).

Most delicious food ever. It’s like a ground rice crepe filled with fried cabbage and dried shrimps and a fried egg, all doused with “bbq sauce” that tastes suspiciously like soy. Ok, that actually doesn’t sound good, but it was amazing.

Me, with eyes closed, in front of shockingly pretty bush.

Me, pointing enthusiastically at robot boat. In the end, we went on a normal boat, but at least I saw the one designed by a manga artist. Cool, no?

OK, whoo. That’s a lotta photos. More…at some point. We head for Kyoto tomorrow for a few days, and I think internet is tres cher there, so it may be a while. But I’ll be back!! Hope you guys are holding the west ok for me!

Don’t give me the small talk / give me the big talk

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