Repo Kempt is a person. His life is complicated. He lives in the Canadian Arctic with his beautiful wife and his cute little dog, Galactus. He wants to complete ten ambitious projects before 2012 is over. Each project has its own category - home, language, music, muse, marathon, writing, books, travel, skills, fitness, and cool people - so people can follow along if they are interested. He wants to publish two books, run a marathon in both the Arctic and Antarctic, record an album and play a music festival, renovate a house with a sauna and wood stove, read 100 books, and much more. Hopefully, it will inspire and entertain you. Thanks! 

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Monday
Aug132012

Fiction #8 (Books) 

This plan is to read 50 fiction books in 2012. I got a bit behind in my posting entries when I went on vacation for a month. However, I will catch up on past reads and I have 5 months left to get a pile of reading done. Before I left on vacation, I finished off Grotesque by Natsuo Karino. The book is basically a crime story that follows a nameless young women in high school whose sister and her friend have been murdered. By reading their diaries, she discovers that her sister (and the friend) are not the people that she thought she knew, but actually fell into the dark world of underage prostitution in Japan.

The novel wasn't my style, but I found it interesting nonetheless. I always feel like these translated novels lose a lot in the conversion from one language to another. I had also read online that the North American version had been heavily edited due to the references to underage prostitution that were 'unacceptable' for our 'delicate sensibilities'. So, it is hard to say what has been lost in translation and editing. As for the style, it is a crime novel without any bite - no tension, no suspense, no satisfying resolution. However, the characters and the setting are quirky and foreign enough to keep the readers interest. Everything is just so matter-of-fact that I couldn't get into it. That, and the narrator is so negative and filled with hate that it wears you out after about 5 chapters.

Wednesday
Jul042012

Non-Fiction #10 (Books)

The goal is to read 50 non-fiction books by 2012. This entry is entitled A Mouthful of Air by Anthony Burgess. The author is perhaps best know for his 1962 dystopian novella A Clockwork Orange which was later adapted into a film by Stanley Kubrick in 1971. That fictional book was written in a Russian-influenced vernacular called 'Nadsat' that Burgess invented for the story. However, Mouthful is a non-fiction work about linguistics, with a focus on English, that he finished in 1992 at the age of 75. He died the following year, shortly after this work was published.

The book takes a easier-than-a-university-class approach to the often daunting study of languages with concise chapters on the mechanics of how humans make vocal sounds; the history of the English language and its dictionaries; the importance of slang in our language; the study of phonetics; how dialects work; and how we learn foreign languages later in life, among other topics. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, but I wouldn't recommend it for people who are not interested in linguistics or at least somewhat familar with the discipline. For those other folks, I would recommend, A Little Book of Language by David Crystal for a fun and easy introduction into linguistics and the evolution of English. It is a great book that talks about texting, the internet, swear words, slang and other modern areas of change in our language!

Wednesday
Jun272012

Alicante, Spain (Travel)

The plan is to travel as much as possible in 2012. Our trip to Spain starts on Friday after short, but fun stops in Greenland and Iceland (see previous travel posts). We hope to land in Alicante from Reykjavik about 10 days from now. Then we get picked up by a nice lady from a nearby town and driven to the apartment we have rented for the month of July. She doesn't speak much English, so this will be a real test for the Spanish cramming I have been doing for the past eight weeks. Screwing up my past, present and future verb tenses when I talk is making me crazy, so it will be good to hear native speakers and get some practice. I am hoping that being in a small town will make it easier to hear and speak Spanish than the tourist-filled coastal city. Espero que tengamos un gran rato!

When most North Americans think of Spain, they automatically jump to the two familiar cities - Barcelona and Madrid. Alicante proper is about the same size as Halifax, Nova Scotia in terms of population with its more populated surrounding municipalities bringing the metropolitan area population up to about 750,000 people. This makes it the eighth-largest city in Spain and also the fastest-growing one. The main feature of the city is the giant Castle of Santa Barbara that rests high above the city on Mount Benacatil, looking down on the gorgeous beach below. Our plan is to use the apartment outside the city as our base and see where each day takes us. We may take the train up North or sail out into the Mediterranean for a trip to the Balearic Islands. Who knows? No plan is always the best plan when traveling abroad as long as you have a place to stay.   

Monday
Jun252012

Non-Fiction #9 (Books)

The goal is to read 50 non-fiction books before the end of the year. This entry is entitiled 'The Forever War' by New York Times reporter, Dexter Filkins (2009). It is a first-hand account of the rise of the Taliban during the 1990s, the aftermath of the September 11th World Trade Centre Disaster, and the subsequent American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq from the perspective of a reporter. According to the book blurb, Filkins is the only American journalist to have reported on all these events.

The book was really captivating and beautifully written, stringing together a series of non-chronological episodes from the author's experiences from his reporting on all these events, including his assignments that involved being embedded deep in war-torn areas. Despite the tension-filled surroundings, the author provides many moments of banality and absurdity that bring the grand scale of the wars down to a microscopic, personal level that we can certainly comprehend and relate to. My interest in non-fiction about war has mostly been centred on the American Civil War to this point, but this book avoided the typical morality lectures and let the experiences speak for themselves. It reads more like a diary that a media report, without the biases and objectives that come with newspaper reporting.

It was a captivating read. I will certainly check out anything he writes in the future. I would also recommend 'Imperial Life in the Emerald City' by Rajiv Chandrasekaran for the complete picture on the Iraq conflicts. I read it last year and it was fantastic!

 

Monday
Jun182012

Fiction #7 (Books)

The plan is to read 50 fiction books in 2012. This entry is 'Foucault's Pendulum' by Umberto Eco. It is the only book so far this year that I am reading for the second time. This book started my love affair with this author. I would not recommend this book to just anyone. It is dense with a capital 'D'. When it was first given to me by a friend in the late 90s, he gave me two warnings: (1) don't give up early on because it is totally worth it, and (2) if you have no idea what he is talking about, look it up. The book went from being a battle with a dictionary and an encyclopedia to an engrossing, and I'd even say, 'life-changing' adventure.

But as I said before, it isn't for everyone. I ended up having to keep a notebook of definitions and historical terms so I could jot them down while I was reading it. After reading a chapter, you feel like you have done 100 push-ups with your brain. The other day someone asked me what a 'tesseract' was and I was able to tell them. I later realized I had looked it up and written it down during my reading of this book. No one ever asked me about the history of the Templars or any of the Hebrew and Latin phrases I struggled with though...

The plot revolves around three friends who work for a vanity publisher of occult books in Milan. Casaubon and his two co-workers met a mysterious visitor who tells them about a code that unveils a secret plan set started by the Knights Templars hundreds of years before to take over the world. The three men develop an elaborate game where they feed pieces of data into a computer to create a complex secret Plan for thier own enjoyment. However, they slowly begin to believe more and more in their own game and the sinister forces of 'They' come looking for their 'secrets' and possibly to end their lives. It is no wonder that people call 'The Da Vinci Code' the 'poor-man's version' of this book. It would be totally unfilmable due to its complexity, but I hear there is a spirited audio version read by Tim Curry out there somewhere. For an idea about what you might be getting into, read this.

Heavy, but a delightfully complex thriller. The paranoia that seeps in through the course of the novel as the Plan unfolds may seep into your life. Be careful!