book review: will the real alberta please stand up?

A useful tool for my ongoing attempts to get to know the province I’m living in is the Read Alberta eBooks project. Through my library I can download stuff by Alberta writers and not just lament that the government presiding over me funds horse racing more than the arts. Where did I get that nugget? From Will the Real Alberta Please Stand Up? by Geo Takach, which is an Alberta ebook. That I read. Following the project’s orders.

The book was not great. Part of it comes from being written 10 years ago, so “the present” was very Ralph Klein focused (but Stephen Harper was only mentioned twice). Part of it comes from the writer being a journalist who wasn’t really interested in any kind of rigour. He just talked to a lot of Albertans and non-Albertans about what they thought of Alberta, then assembled those quotes thematically. That led to it being very much a boosterish kind of thing, with loads of sentiment about the land and an almost total absence of indigenous voices. In that vein you’d think that the first nations people were totally a part of Alberta’s prehistory and have nothing to do with its present. Because it’s just white people it’s all about insecurity around being perceived as rednecks and pointing at historical good things that happened here. And the fucking “individual initiative and volunteer spirit that everyone has to exhibit because they don’t want to fund social programs through the state.

Though it was generally off-putting, I did learn about the province through the book. Mostly about history, including some of the basics of the listener-supported radio station CKUA (which is my favourite thing about living here). There was acknowledgement that the tar sands are kind of bad, but that Albertans don’t really care because everything has to be “balanced” against economic development. Which is the same as the rest of Canada I guess.

But as a book, it was an okay primer that repeated itself a lot. I wouldn’t recommend it.

librarians on the radio with irvine welsh promo blurb

Happy Freedom to Read Week (FTRW) all y’all.

To celebrate intellectual freedom, on the next episode of Librarians on the Radio, librarian Jason Kuffler is going to be interviewing Irvine Welsh (of Trainspotting fame) about the writer’s experience of censorship (and he’ll talk about his new book, because, you know, capitalism). We’ll also have a “Banned in Guantanamo Bay” Bookfight and a discussion of whether it’s even possible to talk about Freedom to Read when we’re talking about ebooks. It is going to be so good.

You can listen live February 23 at 11am Pacific time on CHLY’s website (if you happen to be in Nanaimo, CHLY is 101.7 FM). If you miss it live we’ll also be putting the recording up on the Librarians on the Radio archive page (hopefully by Wednesday morning).

If the show isn’t up on the website by the time you check, please check out the Librarians Off the Radio web-exclusive content as kind of a teaser. We had too many librarians who wanted to record stuff for FTRW to fit in the hour we get in the studio, so we made a half-hour episode of pure reading/discussing challenged books.

Making radio/podcasts for this new job is totally my favourite thing I get to do, so I hope you enjoy the stuff we’re making.

A Librarian on the Radio

voices in the aether

One of the best things about moving down to Nanaimo from Campbell River has been getting more involved in our radio show. When I was far from the studio my role was to record booktalks and bookfights and package them up for the producers, fretting all the while about not taking up too much of their airtime. Now I’m here and I get to help host the show. It’s kind of cool.

Last week my co-host (and originator of the show) Jason did the journalisty thing I never could and just called up Scott Bonner to see if he’d be willing to be on our program. He was (mp3 link).

Scott Bonner is the director and sole full-time employee at the public library in Ferguson Missouri. Jason talked with him about the kinds of things Bonner did and what it was like librarianing in a heightened situation, and one where the world was seeing their little library as like the beacon of hope in the middle of turmoil. I think it was a good interview.

My job has been a bit more on the production side of things. I put together and edit the non-live segments (like the bookfights with my Campbell River friend Patrick). This week I recorded a reading of an excellent holiday story just in time for the beginning of Hannukah. And I talked with Maggie, another librarian about Serial from a book club perspective. And I got to go on about how Love Actually sucks.

The previous episode had a lot more of me talking, so even though it was about stuff I find really interesting (RPGs and Lego and writing) and Kaylea was a very knowledgeable guest, I think we levelled up our game for the most recent episode. You can listen to November’s (mp3 link) and compare though.

I’m having fun with this stuff and it kind of tickles that performance itch I left behind with storytimes. And even though I’m not a great journalist, my moderate amount of skill is something that a lot of librarians don’t have, so it’s all about carving an odd little niche. I’ve realized that what I really like is going off somewhere out of contact and returning with treasure (or things for the radio). It’s just hard to do that as a librarian working the desk every day.

There is no point to this story. Except maybe to let you know where I’m coming from if I suddenly become a hardcore podcaster.

book review: freakonomics

I finally read Freakonomics because Holly had a copy and was reading it. I read the chapters all out of order but I doubt it makes much of a difference to the experience.

Yeah, it’s a decent book. There are lots of interesting stories about how things work differently than conventional wisdom would have it. My favourite part (that I hadn’t heard before) was about how the Ku Klux Klan had its knees knocked out by their rituals being made fun of on the Superman radio show. I like it when irreverently telling the truth does some good in the world.