Saturday, May 26, 2007

You can never have too many books

So I was switching purses the other day and found a booklet of coupons for Chapters (a Canadian version of Barnes & Noble or Borders). One of the coupons was for $5 Off any online purchase over $35. Egad! The expiry was in a few days.

So, like any sensible, budget-conscious booklover, I signed into my online Chapters account to see how I could make use of the coupon.

I keep an ongoing wishlist of desired and interesting titles and watch for them to go on sale or clearance (I almost never buy books at full retail anymore, which I'm sure doesn't make publishers very happy). I get a further discount by using my Chapters' loyalty card. When my budget allows, I send in an order of just over $39 (to take advantage of the "Free Shipping over $39"). An additional $5 off was just too irresistible.

Oh, and I almost forgot. I still had an unused gift card balance on my account (imagine me jumping up and down with glee).

What I got today for an out-of-pocket grand total of $13.75:

Vancouver Stories: West Coast Fiction From Canada's Best Writers – (introduction by Douglas Coupland)
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This is a compilation of short fiction by Canadian authors. The stories are either set in or about Vancouver. I first saw this book in a hotel I was staying at for a weekend conference. I didn't have time to read all the stories, but knew it was something I wanted to get.

Some of the authors: Alice Munro, Ethel Wilson, Malcolm Lowry, William Gibson, Timothy Taylor, Zsuzsi Gartner and Madeline Thien.

The Birth House – Ami Mackay
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A book recommended to me by a good friend and fellow nurse.

The Road – Cormac McCarthy
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It's post-apocalyptic and Cormac McCarthy. Need I say more?

Coraline – Neil Gaiman
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This book has been on my wishlist forever. A good, young adult fantasy story that I intend to take on vacation or to the beach. I've enjoyed Gaiman's other books and have heard good things about this attempt at younger fiction.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

How I ended up at LACMA, Amoeba and the Duck Pond

My husband's side of the family lives in the US. Most of them are in and around Los Angeles. He's the only one who ended up in Canada (long story), so it's always been expected that we visit them. The logic being that it's easier for our compact family of four to travel than an extended family of twenty-odd.

When our sons were young, we made yearly visits. We wanted them to grow up knowing their grandparents, aunts, uncles and two first cousins who were almost exactly the same age as our two. The LA cousins tried to get our boys interested in basketball and baseball; and our guys introduced the cousins to hockey and inline skating.

As a young family, we made the rounds of Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Knott's Berry Farm. Sometimes we went with our relatives, sometimes we went on our own. No matter what we did, we had a blast. During our many visits, I also discovered that there are more shopping malls in Southern California within a half hour driving radius than I could have ever imagined.

I want to make this clear. I do not like malls.

With the exception of buying shoes and books, I do not like shopping. Unless it's for a specific purpose – as in 'the fridge is bare and we're down to the last can of beans in the cupboard and there's no one around I can delegate this to' – I avoid shopping and shopping malls, in particular. There's something about the fluorescent, fake-ceilinged, skylighted, Muzak-infused, how are you doing, that's lovely dear atmosphere of the average mega-mall that makes me grit my teeth and gives me a migraine.

So, you can imagine my dismay when I discovered that the LA cousins and their mom loved shopping. Their idea of a fun outing was to go to the nearest mall and spend the entire afternoon, working their way, tier by galleria tier, from end to end to end to end (they all seem to have four wings in SoCal), occasionally stopping for a fast-food snack or slurpie.

My sister-in-law is the type of person who can't go shopping and return home empty-handed. If she doesn't make at least one purchase, she thinks she's wasted her time and that on her next shopping trip, she'd better stay twice as long to make up for her previous lack of production. Naturally, she conveyed this shopping ethos to her sons, the LA cousins; and they, in turn, shared their enthusiasm for this form of entertainment with my boys.

Despite my best efforts at dissuasion, my sons (aged 10 and 13 at the time) got sucked into the kaleidoscope of 'wow, isn't this cool/awesome' consumer merchandizing.

I took a deep breath.

I repeated my parent-mantra, 'this too, shall pass, this too, shall pass, ohhmmm'. I let them go shopping with their cousins. I limited their funds (which didn't really help because their seldom-visited California relatives always gave them red envelopes of cash). I limited their time (2 hours that usually stretched to 3). I let my husband go with them (also not such a good idea because he likes to 'browse'). If I went with them, I found myself a nice bench, bought a coffee and read a book. Luckily, their mega-shopping trips were confined to our visits to LA.

Fast-forward to present day.

My sons haven't travelled with us in a number of years. They're no longer enamoured by shopping malls. Limited funds and a dose of social consciousness have curtailed any rampant consumerism. Independent lives, other priorities and commitments have prevented them from going to LA with us in more than four years.

We didn't think much of this - it's the nature of the beast for children to grow up and go their own way - until we found out their grandma in LA is suffering dementia/early-onset Alzheimer's. We thought it would be a good idea for them to visit her while she's still able to recognize them, appreciate their visit and vice versa. So when everyone's schedules could be worked out, we planned a short visit.

Since our time was limited, we got together to plan our visit. The only things (other than seeing family) they were interested in doing were getting tickets to the Anaheim Ducks vs. Vancouver Canucks Game 5, and visits to Amoeba Music in Hollywood and Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Happy to say, we managed to do all three. We went to Game 5 of the Ducks vs. Canucks. Unfortunately, the Canucks lost in OT. We went to Amoeba Music where the guys could easily have spent the entire day browsing, listening and buying music. Which brings me to LACMA. We took lots and lots of photos.

(No mention of shopping malls.)

Anaheim Ducks vs. Vancouver Canucks:
Tied 1-1 in 3rd Period

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Taking a break outside LACMA
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Hollywood: Can you tell?
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Monday, May 14, 2007

My visit to LACMA

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

I could have spent days here, but only had a few hours.

These are mostly architectural details I found interesting, rather than the displays themselves (any art book will do a better job at reproductions than me).

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And terribly meta:
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From the Asian Arts building:

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