Book Review

MATTER by Iain M. Banks

So I caved and read another Culture novel. Mr. Banks continues to write the most convoluted science fiction that I've read in a long time. At least this time around he kept things linear. Matter follows a post-post-9/11 mindset where the analysis is no longer about the clash between fundamentalism & secularism but with the notions of stewardship of less advanced civilizations.

To keep things complicated, Banks has four layers of stewardship (Plus another peripheral one) in order to explore the different possibilities of the dynamics, and sources of abuse that can (and inevitably will) arrive when you remove freedom from a society and impose laws that don't evolve through the natural course of a civilizations development.

Plot-wise, it's your typical sword & sorcery dilemma: The king's been murdered and the princes are on the run from the baddie who seized the throne and are looking for justice. This conflict is juxtaposed with crises of an intergalactic scale, balancing out the human emotions with practical issues of a much grander scale while destroying every stereotype of a science fiction/ fantasy novel.

The book meanders and is a lot better in concept than in execution (Which is kind of the point), however the final act is so amazing it's well worth the schlep. Banks officially says a big Fuck you to the expectations of the reader and comes up with one on the biggest downers of an ending that I've read in a while. While it's not a particularly big downer, he deliberately denies the reader catharsis through the final journeys of the main characters, maybe provides a twist that (possibly) forces you to re-think the motivations of main characters and convolutes things so much that you'd better have paid a hell of a lot attention to the whole book to be able to grasp the repercussions of everything that happens.

The moral of the story: You are even less meaningless that you suspect.


T-Minus 1 day

It looks like Henchel thinks he's a joker. This morning was spent with E feeling contractions which died at some point during her afternoon nap. I did my part as the Expectant Father and made a bunch of food (As a means to avoid less desirable Expectant Father chores). Trusty baked Gnocchi and a curry for the week. We're reaching the sad, desperate phase of pregnancy where E is eating spicy food as a means to induce labour.

So after I worked all afternoon making a curry and E had a rest, she decided we should go out for dinner. For a curry. The good news is that Udapi Palace is our new favourite Indian restaurant. Instead of waxing poetic, just imagine all the tick boxes that you have for an Indian restaurant and tick them off. Except for the one involving a 660ml bottle of Cobra because the Palaces only downside is that it's not licensed.

We ordered chili pakoras. E maintains the waiter knew the ulterior motive; I suspect he was amused by white people ordering ridiculously spicy food.


My Life According to Dragons Den

Today we met this lady in her craft booth. She was exactly as she appeared on TV:

And, thanks to Dragon's Den, I found our diaper service:

The CBC continues to influence my day-to-day life in ways I'd never dreamed. It's only a matter of time until I get to flirt with Chantal Hebert on the At Issue Panel.

T-Minus 2 days

Oops! That didn't go so well. So much for 7-days of non-stop blogging excitement!
Next time I will aim much lower - Maybe two entries in the same week?

All told it's been a reasonably uneventful week. With E now done work she's out and about catching up on things and I'm wrapping up work-related things.

Early Wednesday morning E has some contractions that lasted to mid-day but nothing came out of them (Like, a baby, more specifically)

On Thursday it was suggested to me that we put the plastic sheeting over the mattress since once E hits active labour, there's a fairly strong chance that she will want to do other things. This, as it turns out was great advice as we'd bought the wrong kind of pads. The up-side of this is that we're now well stocked in mattress protectors should wither of us become incontinent overnight.

It's Cabbagefest today. With luck, all the excitement will spurn Henchel to want to get out and see what all the excitement is.


T-Minus 7 Days

Or, get a bloody move on!

Labour day was spent being productive. Being laborious, so to speak. Sadly, E did not embrace the double entendre of the day and lay a baby.

The birthing ball is fully inflated, as is the tub. A tarp is laid for spills. The hose is still a problem and heating it to stretch it over the faucet did not yield too much of a success but I'm working on it. I've begun to think that we have the thickest faucet in Canada. The bucket's sterile, though. So now it's just a matter of drumming our fingers and waiting. I'm trying to figure out if we've made a mistake by being so prepared - there's nothing to do!

I cleaned the oven for the first time in a year. Is that news? The bloody thing was oozing more grease than a really greasy thing oozing itself out. I've got nothing.

If Henchel hasn't fully engaged yet, he is well on his way as E's belly is a good 2-3cm lower. I've taken to placing my hand on top of her belly to encourage him to use it as a platform to push off of and swim for the light.


Oh yeah, the blog

I guess life got in the way a little. Mind you, for the last month, things have been fairly quiet as we wrap up our pre-Henchel lives so I've got no excuse whatsoever.

As for the prenatal classes, things only got worse. The 200$ they cost would have been better spent on tacks and bubblegum.

We went to one more class; the 'fun' one where we did massage and partner-supported poses for the labouring woman. Things went to hell early on when pretty much every suggested massage involved applying tremendous direct pressure to the woman's lower back. On top of the general idiocy involved in doing such a thing, E also has lower back pain with made doing such doctor recommended activities even more dangerous.

We skipped out on the baby bath class, assuming that the half dozen or so parenting books we own, combined with the power of the Internets at our finger-tips would provide us with guidance enough. Besides, the way things were going at the TEGH, they would likely have recommended bathing your newborn in turpentine and drying them with 80-grit sandpaper.

In other blog-related news, I read Jonathan Coe's The House of Sleep. If I was doing a review I'd probably write something trite like "Jonathan Coe is the best author you've never read." But I'm not writing a review. I am, however going to write that it is really, really good. Funny, dark, witty, serious, sad, all the things you want. It also avoids getting into his politics (Which all the other novels of his that I've read seem to do.) for good or ill. Since I agree with his politics, I kind of missed them. The most clever thing about the book is how at once it is your irritating well-plotted X connects to Y which in turn is why Z did this with the kind of poetic justice that does not exist in the real world but also has numerous (Generally hilarious) asides which do nothing to move the plot forward (Pointing out the randomness of life) which balances out the Look-at-me-I'm-so-cleverness of the novel.

I haven't watched any new movies because Blockbuster is about to go bankrupt and gouging its customers. I'm too uppity to rent movies from the library. This will change once Henchel is born and E & I are poor (again).

As this is likely to be my last week as a not-father, I will endeavour to post one entry a day until Henchel flops out. Unlikely, I know but it'll be good practise.
For something.
I guess.

Post baby Squabbles

According to the book, we're supposed to baby-proof our marriage by figuring out what our top five post-baby squabbles will be and discuss them.

E's predictions:
  1. Take a break
  2. Where Henchel sleeps
  3. Over/ under stimulation
  4. Who's turn is it to change the diaper?
  5. Appropriate dress (too warm / too cool)
My predictions:
  1. Diet - Meat? Chemicals? How long has it been on the floor?
  2. Appropriate playing - "You're freaking him out!" "No I'm not!"
  3. Who gets to hold/ carry Henchel
  4. Appropriate music - "You're freaking him out!" "No I'm not!"
  5. Stephen, you're not sticking to the structure!