Tag Archives: Trevor @ WPL

Late Night Memories

It’s been almost two years since David Letterman retired from television, and I still miss him.

I remember sneaking out of bed when I was in elementary school to watch Dave toss pencils through a window with my parents. There was something about his goofy brand of humour that connected with me, and throughout jr high I would tape his show and use it as incentive to get through my homework when I got home the next day.

I know: I was a weird kid.

Throughout high school, university and beyond, I always looked forward to checking in with Dave. No matter what kind of day you’ve had, you could rely on laughing about something dumb in the monologue, or some  banter between him and his career-long band leader, Paul Shaffer. And if it wasn’t the banter, there was always something fun happening, whether they were dropping stuff off the roof of the Ed Sullivan theatre, or the classic bit about trying to see how many Spidermen they could fit into a Jamba Juice. You could always rely on the nightly “Top Ten Lists” or the more esoteric “Will it Float?” or “Is it Anything?” segments for a sure laugh. About 10 years ago I was on a trip in New York City, and even though we saw a bunch of cool stuff, the biggest highlight for me was getting to sit in on a taping of The Late Show.

I guess you can say I was a life-long fan.

So, you can guess I’m pretty excited to read this new biography on Dave called Letterman, The Last Giant of Late Night by Jason Zinoman. It is touted to be “the definitive story of the life and artistic legacy of David Letterman”, so I can’t wait to get into it.

Letterman The Last Giant of Late Night

Paul Shaffer wrote a book a few years ago called We’ll be here for the rest of our lives, and I had high hopes for it. I’m not sure what I was expecting, exactly, but maybe some insight into the “behind the scenes” world of this television icon and the many guests he’s had on his shows over the years, starting at NBC in 1982 and moving to CBS in 1993. The result, however, was a little underwhelming. I had the feeling that Paul Shaffer didn’t want to offend anybody, and so his memoir came off as a luke-warm retread that never really said anything interesting.

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For those who want a little perspective on the so called “Late Night Wars” between Dave and Jay Leno over at The Tonight Show, Bill Carter’s book, The War for Late Night: When Leno went early and television went crazy is worth a look. It also covers Conan O’Brien’s short-lived stint as the host of The Tonight Show. Remember that?

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Even though I haven’t connected with anyone on “late night” the way I did with Dave, there are a couple of other “late night” hosts that have written books.

Trevor Noah, the new host of The Daily Show, has written an engaging memoir of growing up mixed race in the dying days of South Africa’s apartheid era. (Born in 1984, Noah was 6 when Nelson Mandela was released from prison). Even if you don’t watch The Daily Show, I think you’ll find Noah’s story riveting. It’s called Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood.

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Another late night host with connections to The Daily Show is Samantha Bee. She is the only Canadian in the late night world, and more importantly: the only woman. She began her career as a correspondent for The Daily Show and cites David Letterman as one of her comedic influences. In 2016, she launched her own late night satire show, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, which is now in its second season. She recently hosted an alternative “White House Correspondents Dinner” which attracted a crowd of 2600 people. In 2010 she published a book of humorous essays called I know I am, but what are you? which gives you a good overview of the unique way Samantha Bee sees the world.

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We may never see another late night host like David Letterman, but I’m sure that his legacy is secured in knowing that many up-and-coming comedians still hold Dave up as the gold standard for late night humour, and his presence will be felt for many years to come.

-Trevor

A SPRING in your step

Happy First Day of Spring, everybody! We made it! (Well, actually that was yesterday, but we’re librarians not climatologists).

I don’t know about you, but when the ol’ equinox rolls around, I like to start thinking about baseball.

The teams have been doing their spring training, uh, training for the past few weeks and we are just days away from the start of a new season.

There’s no better time than now to check out some of the newer baseball related items the library has to offer.

Smart Baseball by Keith Law

If you’ve seen the movie or read the book Moneyball, you’ll know that there is a tension in baseball between the traditional methods of evaluating players and the newer statistical methods collectively known as “sabermetrics”. In this book, veteran ESPN writer and statistical analyst Keith Law covers a lot of the same ground and demonstrates why the old ways don’t really yield meaningful results. Despite this, baseball is filled with superstition and many of the old criteria, like favouring a player who has “the good face” still pops up now and again. He also does a good job at explaining and demystifying some of the newer stats that have become such a big part of today’s game.

Offspeed: Baseball, Pitching and the Art of Deception by Terry McDermott

Baseball is complicated, but one thing is certain: you need solid pitching to win games, or at least to not lose games. Is that the same thing? Who’s to say? Terry McDermott frames his book around 9 chapters, with each one looking at the history of a different type of pitch. Mr. McDermott, like Keith Law, recognizes that baseball relies just as much on folk wisdom as it does on modern statistics, and he does a good job here in using both kinds of knowledge in his research. And even those this book may only really appeal to die-hard baseball fans, you gotta love a non-fiction baseball book that begins with a Field of Dreams reference.

Lou by Lou Piniella

It was only a matter of time before Lou Piniella wrote a book about baseball. The guy has been involved with the game for over 50 years, first as an outfielder in the 1970’s with the New York Yankees, then later as a manager of 5 major league teams. He’s even done some time in the broadcast booth. He’ll probably be best remembered as a guy who liked to yell and scream at umpires though, and I’m pretty sure his nickname, “Sweet Lou”, was ironic. I wonder if his memoir is written in ALL CAPS? If you don’t believe me, have a look at this short video clip highlighting some of the debates in which he took part over his illustrious career. Some of those debates were with a second base, apparently.

Baseball Life Advice by Stacey May Fowles

I think we need a palette cleanser after that, and luckily Stacey May Fowles provides the perfect alternative. Of all the baseball books coming out this Spring, I am most looking forward to reading hers. Currently a columnist with The Globe and Mail, Stacey May Fowles has also written a couple of novels Infidelity and Be Good. In Baseball Life Advice, Ms. Fowles writes from the perspective of a unabashed baseball fan, and all the thrills and simple joys that come with visiting a ballpark and following a favourite team. Already a fan of her prose, I have a feeling that her baseball book will be something special. Early reviews suggest that even if you are not a baseball fan, you’d do well to pick up this memoir. If your eyes glaze over with stats talk (like mine do), and if you can only take a little bit of yelling, (sorry Lou!), then I think Ms. Fowles will speak to that part of the fan that cannot be quantified: the baseball lover’s spirit.

 

The Queen of Crime

Very few of us are what we seem.” Agatha Christie

Before your James Pattersons and your Patricia Cornwells, your M.C. Beatons and your Gillian Flynns, there was Agatha Christie.

Agatha Christie wrote what we would call today “Cozy Mysteries”. She wrote them before the term even existed. She pretty much invented and popularized the genre. The elements of a “cozy” mystery remain popular today: Not much “on page” violence or sex, the setting: a small quaint village, preferably seaside, or someplace exotic, like a train or Egypt, and the most important element: an amateur sleuth. Maybe we could call her books “proto-cozy”?

Agatha Christie is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling author of all time, and ranks third in the world for the most widely published books, behind The Bible and Shakespeare.

Agatha Christie, surrounded by some of her 80-plus crime novels.

Her 1926 novel, “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” was voted “best crime novel ever” by the 600 members of the Crime Writers Association in 2013, and her novels “And Then There Were None” and “Murder on the Orient Express” remain favourites to this day.

There has been a sudden surge of interest in Ms. Christie’s writings again. As this recent Globe and Mail article points out, the BBC has greenlit seven new television productions over the next 4 years, Kenneth Branagh is remaking “Murder on the Orient Express” with himself as Poirot, “Twin Peaks” co-creator Mark Frost is developing a new Miss Marple series, and “Downton Abbey” creator Julian Fellowes is working on “Crooked House”. That’s a pretty decent resumé for someone who passed away over 40 years ago.

In addition to being a novelist, Agatha Christie wrote 19 plays, which may be one of the reasons she was chosen for the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s “Master Playwright Festival” in 2017. Running from February 8-26, there are a number of interesting productions and showings around the city related to Agatha Christie and her life and work.

You can see the whole line-up at RMTC’s website.

The Millennium Library is hosting three free movies related to Agatha Christie during the Festival.

You can start things off by watching the PBS documentary “The Mystery of Agatha Christie”, hosted by David Suchet on February 14.

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Then you can check out a Miss Marple mystery, “Murder She Said” on Wednesday, February 15th.

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On the following Tuesday, February 21, you can see the late great Sir Peter Ustinov as Hercules Poirot in “Death on the Nile”.

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All movies start at 6:30 pm and are in the Carol Shields Auditorium of the Millennium Library downtown.

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Fair Isle Felonies

My wife and a friend get together for supper and knitting on a regular basis. I’m usually around too, but often get outvoted on what to stick on the TV when the knitting starts. I’m happy to report that we’ve found a series on which we can all agree. It’s called Shetland and is produced by the BBC.

The first 3 seasons are available through Netflix, and WPL has a DVD of Seasons 1 and 2, if you are interested.

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It is a police procedural centered on Detective Jimmy Perez, who works on the remote Shetland islands off the coast of Scotland. (His Spanish sounding surname is explained by the fact that his ancestor was a shipwrecked survivor of the Spanish Armada way back in 1588, although you’d be hard pressed to see the resemblance in actor Douglas Henshall’s blonde hair and fair complexion.)

Each story (in the first couple of seasons anyway) takes two full episodes to tell, so the writers really give the characters time to breathe and develop. There are many moody, atmospheric shots of the Shetland Islands throughout, and knitting enthusiasts will love to check out all the woolly knitwear sported by the locals (if you’re into that kind of thing).

The series is based on the award winning novels written by Ann Cleeves, and you can borrow many of them from WPL. Ann Cleeves never intended her Shetland books to be a series when she wrote her first one, Raven Black. After all, how many murders can you expect on these quiet peaceful islands? Well, the success of her first one meant that sequels were on the way, so she decided to write one for each season of the year and call them her “Shetland Quartet” and be done with it. The fact that her most recent Shetland novel, Cold Earth, is her 7th in the series, just shows that you might want to consider life insurance if you ever decide to take a trip there. So many murders!

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The latest Shetland novel.

 

If you are a knitter and want to attempt your own “Shetland cosplay”, WPL has a great looking book called Northern Knits: designs inspired by the knitting traditions of Scandinavia, Iceland and the Shetland Islands.

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If you are looking for a group of like-minded knitters who meet regularly and offer support to one another, why not consider joining WPL’s Knitting Book Club, which meets on the first Tuesday of every month at the Louis Riel Library? Call 204-986-4573 to register.

Trevor

Top Spooky Picks of 2016

“I could make you scared, if you want me to.” The Tragically Hip

Halloween is just around the corner, so maybe you’re in the mood for something a little creepy or spooky to curl up with this evening?

Here are some of the most popular HORROR novels published in 2016.

READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay

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You know you’ve made it as a horror novelist when Stephen King says your book “scared the living hell” out of him. Even though this book’s title sounds like it belongs in the Hardy Boys series, it is a dark tale about the disappearance of 13 year old Tommy Sanderson and the ensuing search to find him. Steeped in the history and lore of New England, this book would satisfy those of us who binge-watched Stranger Things on Netflix over the summer and tide us over until season 2 of that series is released.

the-fireman[1]The Fireman by Joe Hill

I already wrote a separate blog post about this great thriller back in June, so I won’t say too much more here. If a post-apocalyptic world resulting from an epidemic of spontaneous combustion is your thing, I highly recommend this read. Also, it’s written by Stephen King’s son, who is rapidly emerging as a force of nature in his own right.

 

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

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This is the English language debut of the best-selling Dutch novelist, Thomas Olde Heuvelt. Here’s the premise: a picturesque town in the Hudson Valley, Black Spring, is ACTUALLY HAUNTED by the Black Rock Witch, a 17th century woman who has her eyes and mouth sewn shut. The witch moves among the townspeople, and has become almost accepted as a part of life there. The power of the hex is that no one is ever allowed to leave the town, and legend has it if the stitches are ever cut open, everyone in the town will die. The town elders have quarantined the town to prevent the spread of the hex, but some teens are starting to question the legend. It’s a great mix of the supernatural intermingled with every day small town life.

End of Watch by Stephen King

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Okay, so technically this one isn’t a HORROR novel, but it’s Stephen King so I felt like I should include it. It’s actually the third book in a trilogy with retired police detective Bill Hodges, so if I were you I’d go back and read the first two, Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, before tackling this one. And yes, elements of the supernatural weave their way into this third book so I feel okay recommending it.

Happy reading and Happy Halloween, everybody!

Trevor

Artisanal Audiobooks: Adult Storytime

When was the last time someone read you a story? You were probably a kid, right? Maybe it was a teacher in elementary school doing a group read of a classic. Or maybe it was your Mom or Dad (or Grandparent) reading you a familiar favourite at bedtime. Whenever it was, I am guessing it was probably a long time ago.

Studies have shown that reading (and being read to) is beneficial to children and adults alike. Not only do stories provide mental stimulation, improve memory, ignite curiosity, expand vocabulary and help develop analytical skill,  being read to in a group setting also results in a shared experience and creates community. Also, it’s really, really fun.

What would you say if I told you that you could come and hear some library people read you stories AS ADULTS and that it is completely free? Would you come? I hope so, because WPL is holding its third “Tales at Night” Adult Story Time at The Good Will Social Club (625 Portage Ave) on Wednesday, August 24th at 7:30 pm.

Since we are holding our adult story time at a licensed Social Club, you can even grab a beer and a slice of pizza while you are listening to the stories. So, even if you don’t enjoy the stories (but why wouldn’t you?), there will be pizza and beer. I should also mention that, as a bonus, we will be treated to some comedy improv towards the end of our program featuring our very own newly appointed Manager of Library Services, Ed Cuddy. Now who would want to miss that? We will also have a “Pop Up Library” there, where you can sign up for a library card, and find out about all the other programs and collections WPL has to offer.

If you want to get an idea of some of the stuff we’ve read in the past and may read again, please check out the following titles.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls  by David Sedaris

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We’ve read a David Sedaris short story or essay at each of the “Tales at Night” so far, so why would we stop now? We have a “summer themed” story picked out that we think you will enjoy.

 

 

Poetry and Short Stories of Dorothy Parker

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At our February Tales at Night, we opened and closed the event with a couple of wonderfully funny and clever Dorothy Parker short stories. She is a joy to read (and to hear out loud).

 

 

Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales by Ray Bradbury

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Ray Bradbury is one of our all time favourite short story writers, and we are really excited to read one of his this time around. It’s funny and scary and weird and nostalgic and I’VE SAID TOO MUCH. Hope you can come!

 

 

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Trevor

 

 

Feel the Burn: Joe Hill’s The Fireman

“It was a pleasure to burn.” Ray Bradbury

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Joe Hill’s latest novel, The Fireman, is my recommendation for your backyard read this summer. Any book that has the nerve to open with a Ray Bradbury quote (see above) saddles itself with a high expectations, and Joe Hill really delivers the goods.

The world is tormented by a killer spore, nicknamed “Dragonscale”, that infects the human race. You know you’ve got it when your skin suddenly gets covered with elaborate black and gold flecked lines, like a glowing, burning henna tattoo. The next (and final) stage of the infection is spontaneous combustion. Yes, you read that right. You just burn up, without any warning. It’s a tough diagnosis.

The novel tells Harper Grayson’s story. She’s a nurse who finds herself infected with the Dragonscale right around the same time that she discovers she’s pregnant. (Isn’t that always the way?) In her experience with treating infected patients, she’s seen cases of infected mothers who give birth to healthy children, and she is determined to live long enough to give birth to her child.

It’s a grim premise, but I felt compelled to see how it all turned out. Joe Hill’s prose smolders along and then suddenly erupts in number of literary “set pieces” that caused me to have a couple of late nights where I stayed up well past my bedtime to see what happened next.

Along the way, Harper meets up with the titular “Fireman”, an almost mythical character who, despite being infected with the ‘scale, has somehow survived it and can control and harness the power of the spore to his own benefit. Harper is a huge Mary Poppins fan, and there are many nods to that classic story peppered throughout The Fireman. For example, there’s more than a passing resemblance between “The Fireman” and a certain chimney-sweep named Bert, and one of the most moving scenes in the novel involves a group sing-along to Just a Spoon Full of Sugar. To say anything more would be a SPOILER, so let’s leave it at that.

The novel is clearly influenced by Joe Hill’s love of classic sci-fi writers like Ray Bradbury and John Wyndham, (the summer camp in the novel is called Camp Wyndham, for example), but it also could easily stand beside Stephen King’s The Stand as an example of an epic post-apocalypse story. It’s not surprising, as some of you may know that Joe Hill is actually Stephen King’s son.

It’s difficult to read a Joe Hill novel and not compare him to his famous father. I’ve been guilty of doing that very thing in the past, but I can honestly say that The Fireman stands on its own merits and showcases Joe Hill as a major creative force, period. Regardless of his DNA. From the first page you get the sense you’re in the capable hands of a master storyteller who has finally come into his own.

I love the dedication in the front of the book, which reads in part:

“Inspiration: Ray Bradbury, from whom I stole my title. My father, from whom I stole all the rest”.

If you enjoy The Fireman, you might enjoy some of these other related titles (and their cool vintage covers!) -Trevor

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

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Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

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-Trevor

Young, Scrappy and Hungry: The Hamilton Phenom

“How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten part of the Caribbean by Providence, impoverished, in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?”

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These are the opening lines of the new Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway musical, Hamilton. The musical tells the life story of Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s “founding fathers”. Hamilton is best remembered as creating America’s Treasury department and being the architect of the new country’s financial system. He also died in a duel against his life-long rival, Aaron Burr. In the musical, Burr acts as the narrator.

Lin Manuel-Miranda, who wrote the words and music, also currently plays the lead role of Hamilton on Broadway. He famously picked up Ron Chernow’s biography on Alexander Hamilton at an airport before going on vacation, and began to see possibilities in turning his story into a musical. It’s a great read all on its own and its fun to pick out little bits and pieces of the real story that get turned into songs.

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Now, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. I mean, a musical about some American founding father doesn’t exactly sound like the most exciting thing you’ll ever see, but after listening to the soundtrack earlier this year, I was immediately hooked. Manuel-Miranda fuses classic Broadway styles with modern hip-hop and rap, and the result is a 2 hour “mix-tape” that hasn’t stopped playing in my car, or through my ear buds, or at home. I feel like I am becoming insufferable around my friends, family and coworkers talking about it all the time. (And now I am using the Reader’s Salon Blog as a platform to get the word out further. I’m the WORST.)

Let me just say: give it a listen and let us know what you think! You can borrow the CD from WPL, or get the album on Hoopla.

For a start, you can see what the opening number looks like in this link, as they performed it for the 2016 Grammy Awards just before winning the Grammy for best musical theatre album. Surely more awards await this musical at the Tony Awards in June?

Lin Manuel-Miranda has recently published a book called “Hamilton: The Revolution”. It focuses on the process of making the musical, and it’s filled with tons of photos of the production, cast profiles, and lots of interesting bits of trivia. A must-read for any Hamilton fan. It’s currently only playing on Broadway, but a run is planned for Chicago this fall, and surely touring productions after that. Road trip, anyone?

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“And yo, I’m just like my country: I’m young, scrappy and hungry, and I’m not throwin’ away my…shot”. Alexander Hamilton

Trevor

 

Spring Training

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It’s not too soon to think about baseball, is it? I mean, the Toronto Blue Jays start their spring training schedule tomorrow (March 2) against the Phillies, and the regular season is only a month away. As a Blue Jays fan, I’ve had a few months now to reflect upon that remarkable run from August to October last year, which included acquiring David Price (albeit briefly), Josh Donaldson winning the MVP, and the triumphant return of Marcus Stroman (fully recovered from a knee injury sustained in spring training). We won’t mention the Pillar/Tulowitzki collision. I’m sure Tulo’s fine, now. Right?

It was the first time the Jays made the post season since their back-to-back World Series wins in 1992/93, and it seemed that everyone was talking about it.

The Jays faced the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship last fall, and the two public library systems of each city got into a bit of a good-natured “twitter war” using book spine titles to create “poems” that trash-talked the other city. You can read an article on it here.

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It’s a whole new season, KC.

 

Although the Jays fell to the Royals in the ALCS, we will never forget those magical few weeks leading up to the post season which culminated in that wacky game five of the American League Divisional Series against the Texas Rangers. Even casual sports fans will remember that iconic image of José Bautista’s famous bat flip.

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The Bat Flip

 

But here we are at the beginning of a new season, where anything can happen. Let’s take a look at a couple of baseball related items to get in the proper mindset.

Ken Burns’ Baseball

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I know this documentary is over 20 years old now, but it is still my favourite piece of pop culture dealing with baseball. Broken into 9 parts (for 9 innings, get it?), it tells the story of baseball from its earliest incarnations right up to the mid 1990s. There is also a lovely companion book to the series, which also tells America’s story for most of the 20th century. I’ve probably watched this documentary five times already, and I’d watch it again in a second. My favourite inning, by the way, is the fifth inning, “Shadow Ball”, which deals primarily with the pre-integration “Negro Leagues” and gives players like  Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige their due. This volume also talks about the early careers of future superstars Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. If you only have time for one “inning”, I recommend the fifth. Ken Burns did a sequel a few years ago, called “The Tenth Inning“, which covers the mid 90s and the 2000’s, but so much of it deals with the steroid era, it’s kind of depressing.

 

Full Count by Jeff Blair

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Sometimes it’s good to take a look back before looking to the future. Jeff Blair, host of the Sports talk show, “The Jeff Blair Show” took a stab at the first four decades of Blue Jays baseball. At just over 250 pages, it covers a lot of ground but does not go into a lot of depth on “behind the scenes” stories. Still, it is a very readable way to get up to speed on the history of “Canada’s Team”, (sorry, Expos fans!), and for a fan it’s fun to relive some of the great moments. I was just about to turn three years old when the Jays played their first game in 1977, so I obviously don’t remember it, but my Mom had the game on at home and my Dad was calling from work every 15 minutes or so for updates. That was back in the day when the Jays played at Exhibition Stadium and it snowed during the first game. Welcome to Canada!

Change Up: How To Make the Great Game of Baseball Even Better by Buck Martinez

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This book won’t even be published for another couple of weeks, but I can’t wait to read it. Buck Martinez was a former Major League catcher, who spent some of his career with the Jays. In fact, I used to have a book written by him called “From Worst to First, the 1985 Toronto Blue Jays” or something like that. That was the year the Jays won their first division title, but went on to lose to the Kansas City Royals. What’s up with these Royals? On July 9th, in a game against Seattle, Buck Martinez was blocking home plate and was on the receiving end of a terrible collision and ended up with a broken leg and a dislocated ankle. Still, he was able to complete one of the craziest double plays I’ve ever seen. You can read more about that play here. After he retired from playing, he made his way to the broadcast booth, and even managed the Blue Jays for a brief time in 2001-02 before eventually becoming the Jays’ play-by-play commentator in 2010. I’m sure his latest book will be full of interesting insights from a guy who has been around baseball his whole life.

 

Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Trust, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball by R.A. Dickey

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For a slight change of pace, you may enjoy R.A. Dickey’s memoir. He is currently part of the Jays’ starting rotation, and his journey to becoming Major League Baseball’s only active knuckleball pitcher is quite remarkable. He was originally offered a $810,000 signing bonus from the Texas Rangers as their first round draft pick in 1996, but when it was discovered that he was missing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm (a defect from birth), they reduced their offer to $75,000. He struggled in the early part of his career to remain at the major league level after making his debut in 2001. It wasn’t until 2005 that things started to go his way, when he decided to perfect his knuckleball pitch as a way to stand out from the crowd and extend his career. In 2012, he was selected as an All Star for the very first time, and was the first knuckleballer to ever win the Cy Young award that year. The following year, he signed with the Jays. It’s a very well written memoir, full of humour and optimism, despite his many challenges.

Opening Day isn’t all that far away, and once the season starts: ANYTHING can happen.

-Trevor

 

 

 

Have a Laugh!

You know, it’s okay if you just want to laugh out loud, sometimes, when you sit down to read, right? Sure, you may feel compelled to read the latest “important” book by Malcolm Gladwell, or the latest gut-wrenching tale from Joseph Boyden, or maybe your book club is all about this year’s version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” or “Gone Girl,” or “The Girl from the Train”. And speaking of that, what’s up with all these disturbing thrillers with “Girl” in the title? When I write my great Canadian thriller, it’s going to be called “The Girl in the Library.” Look for it!

Anyway, yeah – I enjoy those kinds of books too, but sometimes you want a good laugh, and if you’re in one of those moods, then why not try one of the following?

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

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For those who don’t know who she is, Mindy Kaling got her start as a writer and minor cast member on the American version of The Office. She has gone on to write and star in her own series, the hilarious “Mindy Project” and is active on Twitter and other social media platforms. This is actually her second memoir so, if you want to start at the beginning, I highly recommend Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? which covers her childhood, her time working the Fringe Festival circuit, and getting her big break in television. The second memoir carries on where she left off in the first and talks about the struggles she’s had keeping her show on the air, all the work that goes into making something great, as well as the ups and downs of being a minor celebrity. As she says: she’s well enough known that she can have lunch with Reese Witherspoon, but not well enough known to have people go through her garbage. Ms. Kaling is a wonderful writer and has excellent comedic sensibilities. I strongly recommend both of her books and look forward to what she has planned next.

Food, A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

Food a Love Story

Jim Gaffigan is one of those guys who pops up in supporting roles on TV and in movies, and you’d recognize his face but maybe not remember his name. I first saw him a few years ago doing stand up on Dave Letterman and took an instant shine to him. His latest book, Food, A Love Story is really just an expansion of his recent comedy tour, transcribed to print, about the weird food traditions he’s experienced all over America and around the world. It’s funny, but it would probably be even funnier to see him perform the material in person. His first book is much better. It is called Dad is Fat, and it is about becoming a father. Not just a father, actually, but a father to five children who all live (with Mr. Gaffigan and his long-suffering wife) in a two bedroom apartment in New York City. It’s a great mixture of humorous parenting stories.

I Must Say: The Life of a Humble Comedian by Martin Short

i must say

Andrea Martin’s Lady Parts

lady parts

I’ll finish off with these two books together. By the Martins. Anyone of a certain age (let’s say over 30), who had access to TV, and who grew up in Canada will remember the wacky wonderfulness of Second City Television (SCTV). For all you too young to remember, it was a sketch comedy show based around a fictional TV network. The humour was often absurd, but distinctly Canadian, and I must have seen every episode multiple times. In addition to Andrea Martin and Martin Short, the show launched the careers of John Candy, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Rick Moranis, Joe Flaherty, Dave Thomas, and Harold Ramis.

It was fun to read these memoirs within a few weeks of each other, to hear different stories about the same time period, and different perspectives of the same events. While I read and enjoyed Andrea Martin’s memoir very much, I may have enjoyed Martin Short’s even more. This was probably because I borrowed the audiobook from the library and listened to it on a road trip. Martin Short reads it himself, and is able to slip into various characters and voices as he tells the stories, which really enhanced my enjoyment.

The old gang.

The old gang.

  • Trevor