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I Remember Sunnyside: The Rise and Fall of a Magical Era – Mike Filey

sunnysideupFirst published in 1982, I Remember Sunnyside is a mine of golden memories, bringing back to life an earlier Toronto, only hints of which remain today.

Like the city itself, Sunnyside was an ever-changing landscape from its heady opening days in the early 1920s to its final sad demolition in the 1950s. The book captures the spirit of the best of times a magical era which can only be recaptured in memory and photographs. It also presents the reality of a newer Toronto where change, although necessary, is sometimes regrettable.

In a bid to further inspire me to words, Resa recommended this book  which had already grabbed my imagination before it even arrived and although it didn’t pull me in quite as much as I had convinced myself it would, it was nonetheless still a quirky, interesting, immersive and speedy read.

Mostly my pre-reading thoughts were inspired by such literary mainstays as Joseph Heller’s thoughts on Coney Island, Stephen King’s Joyland as well as, to a lesser extent the feeling of exploring Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. Films such as The Lost Boys and The Warriors played a part with their atmospheres as well.

Establishing a fundamentally, albeit mostly American idea of what to expect, I feel the fond imagery of these amusement parks is established in the romantic landscape these days as something of a golden age. It is hard to imagine people speaking so eloquently today about their experiences at Alton Towers or Disneyland as this:

…as I thought of the days of Sunnyside when all things seemed possible and the late afternoon sun lit up the summits of the rollercoaster and you felt you were somehow at the source of things, a warm and tattered tent of life, convinced that something wonderful was going to happen within the next few minutes…

It’s a fond feeling of nostalgia to those who lived it and a love transmitted down to those readers who never got to experience such times and instead got the sanitised parks of later years.  It’s an evocative adventure to put ourselves back there, a place of charm and excitement, it makes me think of those long ago nostalgic days of rides and shows sadly gone in this modern age of queueing for hours to get 30 seconds of ‘thrill’. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 28/09/2016 in History, Memoir, Photography

 

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Crabs on the Rampage – Guy N. Smith

CrabsWi'MonkOnThey had come back

One man only saw them and him they killed, hunted him down through the dense reed bed, trapped him, drove him mad with terror before they pulled him to pieces and ate every bloodied shred of his body.

And then it was quiet again for a little while.

Until they came ashore again, in their hundreds, their bodies reeking with a malignant cancerous disease that was within them.  The disease that was driving them mad with pain, mad to kill, t wipe out every living thing in their path.

On that beach were hundreds of men, women and children. Food.

The awkwardness of the blurb both grammatically and in decency is just part of the charm of this series and I have missed getting my fix of those cunning crustaceans that are as big as sheep, cows or horses depending on which book you happen to be face deep in.

My hankering for the resilient sea life started whilst watching Independence Day: Resurgence, which was a terrible sequel.  Adding to that a conversation about a lot of film series having their fourth installments set in space like Critters, Hellraiser and Leprechaun (all of which I enjoyed coincidentally), it was in vain anticipation that I turned to Crabs on the Rampage which I hoped would be (however implausably) set in the infinite black depths.

Being a pulpy horror, it is perhaps not such an outlandish hope but sadly it came to be set in 1980’s Britain where it seems everybody is pretty mean-spirited or downtrodden or wanting sex for the most part.  To this setting, the crabs come to put people out of their misery with gory and somewhat repetitious disembowelling revenge, a lot is repeated from other books of the series but newcomers need not be put off as this installment works well by itself.

The over the top first chapter – which is pretty much the blurb – says it all really and this is the level of profundity you can expect from the rest of the book as well.  If you enjoy character development this is not the book for you, with the huge body count it puts Game of Thrones to shame for wiping people out, although these deaths are all predictable and set up to be so.  Not that returning characters get to develop either, plot is king in this book. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 26/09/2016 in Horror

 

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Of Love and Other Sicknesses

Found at Pixabay.com

Found at Pixabay.com

 

Free forming words

rhythm and rhyme

Tone dark/mood light…

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Creative strychnine

Save

Save

Save

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Posted by on 24/09/2016 in My Writings, Poetry

 

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Maps for Lost Lovers – Nadeem Aslam

ordinancesurveyIn an unnamed English town, Jugnu and his lover Chanda have disappeared. Rumours abound in the close-knit Pakistani community and then, on a snow-covered January morning, Chanda’s brothers are arrested for murder. Telling the story of the next twelve months, Maps for Lost Lovers opens the heart of a family at the crossroads of culture, community, nationality and religion.

Wrapped in some gorgeous prose, Maps for Lost lovers demands discussion.  It’s a daring book, one that attempts to make Muslims as well as migrants in general more human than they are often portrayed by the media.  Not only does Aslam tackle the unpalatable parts of Islam but also shows a community’s response to an all too real tragedy.

The central theme of the book is the disgusting practise of so-called ‘honour killings’ and how they impact on a close knit group, yet there is so much more to this melancholy story, exploring love, desperation, loneliness, seclusion and loss in everyday life, far from their homeland and extended family.

The meeting of modern thinking against the traditional, all to the backdrop of an alien cultural experience is; for both the characters and for readers thought-provoking.  Such ideas in close proximity should be brought to the fore and as the world is getting smaller and the time for debate and understanding of each other is immediate.

The chosen isolation of some Muslim groups is troubling, insularity leads to misunderstanding, fear and control over the uneducated.  The characters motivations for coming to England are explored and with well-rounded personalities with plenty of depth, even the least likeable of the main players have their moments.  Each is seen showing doubt over aspects of their beliefs (be they religious or ethical), especially those which are blatantly biased in favour of men and relegate women to being merely property.

The unease felt by the immigrants and their defensiveness and willingness to see the bad in their neighbouring cultures is a neat mirror imaging of the local inhabitants of the northern town they reside in. The closely isolated society is as racist as the local whites people can be, in a neat balancing act this is shown by the woman whose son feels he can walk to the mosque alone so she phones up all the people she knows on the way to keep an eye on him because ‘every day you hear about depraved white men doing unspeakable things to little children’.  Yet a similar fate awaits many young girls as an accepted part of their own belief system. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 21/09/2016 in Fiction, Philosophy, Politics

 

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UnCommon Origins: A Collection of Gods, Monster, Nature and Science

notsocommonUnCommon Origins presents 22 depictions of moments on the precipice, beginnings both beautiful and tragic. Fantastical stories of Creation, Feral Children, Gods and Goddesses (both holy and horrific), and possibilities you never dared imagine come to life. Including stories from some of the most talented Speculative Fiction and Magical Realism authors around, UnCommon Origins will revisit the oldest questions in the universe: Where did we come from? and What comes next?

anthologies are uncommon on my bookshelf, due mainly to the up and down nature of the stories and my usual preference for singular stories in the books I read.  Breaking new ground, I found I not only enjoyed  the variety of ideas but was also impressed by the quality of the writing on show.

This Sci-Fi offering contains a lot of good stories, possibly from some very twisted minds.  I wasn’t expected to be pulled in so quickly but from the initial story – The Hanging Gardens of Brooklyn – a story about kindness to strangers, foreigners and so much more, it became clear that it was going to be a lot of fun.

Some stories took a little longer to get to the reward but even the less satisfying stories – for this reader, that is – always had the seeds of something interesting to speculate on.  There are a few authors I would be interested in reading more of, which is the pleasure of this book and the curse of the bank balance.

It was rewarding and quite exhilarating to dabble in a bunch of writers whom I have no prior knowledge of, not knowing what will come my way next.  This inventive melding of genres and imagination in a plethora of writing styles ensures that there is something for everybody here and I look forward to rereading some of them again when the fancy takes me.

This collection was brought to my attention through a barrage of emails and latterly my letterbox by perennial blog favourite Jess Harpley and her featured story includes her trademark action packed, high body count style.  As ever though there is so much more behind the action, in this story of slavery, family,  the balance of power and a decision that ultimately leaves everything in the balance. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 19/09/2016 in Sci Fi

 

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The Wire: The Thin Line Between Heaven and Here.

Thanks for reading this far, I’ll make this my last post of The Wire, with what I judge to be have been a reasonably in depth look at the show without going too overboard on the whole topic.  Summing up this show with all its depth would take up more blog space than I am prepared to give on account of books piling up but with such a wide range of things to mention I will venture to add a few more, just to make the show more enticing in case I have failed thus far.

AllIn'tGame

The directors and writers are of a high calibre such as well-known authors like Dennis Lehane and George Pellecanos, David Simon and Ed Burns have the experience of being a journalist and homicide detective respectively.  It is worth noting that Simon wrote Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and with Ed Burns, The Corner:  A Year in the Life of an Inner City Neighbourhood which are both excellent reads, adding more to the real life inspirations behind the show.  There is an experienced excellence to all this work which demands more of an audience and from an audience in thought .

The lack of soundtrack means all those everyday noises are more distinctive and this adds to the realism allowing the actors to take centre stage rather than having their performances enhanced with emotive music.  It’s a case of showing how powerfully an actor can influence the viewer’s feelings without the crutch of any outside influence moving us, highlighting once again the exemplary ensemble cast.  There is music but it is part of the natural order, tunes blasting out from a car or on the radio and so on, the regular soundtrack to life.

Season One does not put a foot wrong, its impact not only on the TV landscape but on the audience has changed the way that police procedurals are viewed, not that The Wire sits easily in any genre, it transcends  the need for being pigeonholed by being all things effortlessly at once.  By the end of the first season it is easy to think that although it will continue to be a challenging watch it’ll also have an established pattern.  Simon is one for changing up his themes though and giving us something new to explore constantly.. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 17/09/2016 in Crime, Journalism, Politics, True Crime, TV

 

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The Wire: The Dickensian Aspect

thewiresteasonthefourthSeason four is my favourite season purely because with all the other elements of previous seasons still vital to the storyline, education is introduced and central to that is the lives of a group of boys whose lives diverge dramatically throughout the school year.

The life of children in inner city schools can be brutal, that they have grown up with so much violence surrounding them, it is understandable that they see mortality as a very real thing, some not expecting to live past their mid 20’s.  Added to this is the cynical way that the education system is run and how it further entwines with the themes of previous seasons, showing how the problems are systemic and can’t be fixed by anything but radical moves by those whom we elect as our officials.

As with real life, we don’t get introductions and establishing shots of these characters, finding out who they are and there motivations are about straight away. The characters names and personalities become clear after an initial confusing overload but it’s that feeling of not being spoken down to that becomes one of the most appealing factors. It’s intelligent and assumes its viewers will be too.

The show demands that you pay attention and don’t leap to snap judgements because people are complex with often hidden motivations and a sense of morality based on their own internal rules. It’s this depth of character that really impresses and often, it is a small thing that elicits a change of response from the audience to how they respond to a character.

As I mentioned previously, I’m embarking on the story – for it is all one story with a different aspect shown in each series – for the sixth time and rewatching the series makes the stories more powerful and hard-hitting in my opinion.   Watching what seems now inevitable unfold has a greater impact as you watch the  ascent and descent of so many character arcs.  It’s a mosaic of richness that rewards over and over as newer aspects not previously considered come to light, showing the planning of scripts to be a work of majestic artistry.  You can focus on the nuances that inevitably get lost on the first watch in a programme with such ambitious intricacy.

It would be remiss as a book lover not to mention the episode in which a journalist is told his work is not Dickensian enough because that is how the news needs to be, there has to be a human aspect we can sympathise with, otherwise why the readers people care?  The streets of Baltimore and the characters who, through brilliant storytelling face both brutal lives but also have their comedic moments does feel very Dickens-ish, however his need to tie things up, for resolution was often furnished with a handy plot twist to sort things out.  This perhaps diminishes the overall power of the message of social inequality but Dickens for all his flaws was a genius writer and The Wire will stand up to comparison of that man’s name for the 21st century.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 14/09/2016 in Crime, Politics, True Crime, TV

 

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