Sunday, August 30, 2015


The Eden Mills Writers’ Festival has a great track record of bringing in your favourite authors. This year they’ve got the likes of Naomi Klein, Lawrence Hill, Elizabeth Hay, and Ann-Marie McDonald. But as much as Eden Mills is a place to see your tried and true favs, it’s always been where you discover new favourite authors. Here’s a certainly small, incomplete list of writers that we, in our humble opinion, think you should make a point of checking out at this year’s festival.

Craig Davidson (AKA Nick Cutter)

After cutting his teeth and knuckles on a decade’s worth of gritty realism (The Fighter, Rust and Bone, Cataract City), Craig Davidson, writing as Nick Cutter, has in the past year published some of the most visceral, tactile, and flat-out fun genre fiction I’ve read in a while. The Troop was hailed by Stephen King as “old school horror at its best”, The Deep was wonderfully claustrophobic and twisted, and his most recent, The Acolyte, drops James Ellroy into a dystopian future of religious fanaticism. Of course there’s no shortage of deft genre writers, but hopefully Davidson’s pedigree as a writer of so-called “serious” literature will hold the hands of readers reluctant to return to the sort of crackerjack fare that, if we’re being honest, turned most of us into readers in the first place.

- Andrew

Madhur Anand

There is a reason that we have asked Madhur Anand to facilitate the evening of November 25th which features Margaret Atwood. She has just been chosen by the CBC as one of the 16 writers to watch this year for her first book of poetry New Index For Predicting Catastrophes. Madhur is a professor in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of Guelph. Like Atwood, she is a true renaissance woman and navigates emotional realms with the language of the sciences and the world of science with an ironic blend of skepticism and wonder. Her grand vocabulary will open up your boundaries!

- Barb

Plum Johnson

Plum Johnson was a 68 year old first time writer when she won the prestigious RBC Charles Taylor Prize for They Left Us Everything. The book had received very good reviews in the fall and had sold moderately well for someone most readers had never heard of. But after she won the prize, the book took off like a rocket with her in it. I’m sure that it has been a splendid but wild media ride as she seemed to be everywhere at once. One of the reasons for the book's popularity is the subject matter. She helped care for her elderly, quirky parents for twenty years and then after their death she and her siblings had to declutter a home that had accumulating history for 50 years. This is an inevitable human experience and she gives us a sweet and touching glimpse of our own futures. My guess is that her reading will be packed!

- Barb

Norah McClintock

Norah McClintock's newest book, My Life Before Me, is her third contribution to the enormously popular Seven Series; a well-written, gripping read set during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Before Me is a tautly-paced murder mystery, featuring an intelligent and courageous heroine who is equal parts Nancy Drew and Hermione Granger. Following a devastating fire at the orphanage where she has grown up, Cady Andrews is given a mysterious envelope containing a single clue about her origins. An aspiring reporter and natural skeptic, Cady decides to view the contents of the envelope as a journalistic opportunity, but it isn't long before her personal world and professional ambitions overlap in surprising and terrifying ways. Highly recommended.

- Steph

Check out the panoply of great authors descending on Eden Mills this year at See you September 10 - 13th!

Sunday, August 23, 2015


You like to stay in and sip herbal tea, to eat a strong variety of chips and play dancing games of Twister on Friday nights with a few grounded pals. Who doesn’t? But you’re motivated and seriously plugged into the thrilling grid of the upward corporate world as well. You’re not stingy with your business acumen. You portion it out like a suddenly relocated bag of late get-together salty vins. Your strategies are tangy yet full of deeply crystallized grit. Who is going to give the mild party PowerPoint presentation, if you don’t, you always expertly syngerject? Who is going to keep our soiree in line with our long-term business goals, you tell us all on the sunken crumb couch of capitalistic repose.

Still, on profitable occasion a Friday on the town calls out to you like a spark in a hydrogen-powered dream, like a whirring guitar riff from the old future of rock. Business and pleasure blur like a clean burning fuel of buoyant propulsion. And so you doubly dream. And your dreams get lofty, so lofty that they hover over iconic bodies of water cradling mixed drinks, so efficiently afloat that their merger requires the smooth lift of a summer’s festive blimp to take purchase. You don’t need to land, dear dream-investor. You needn’t reengineer the general thrust of your ambitiously relaxed plans. Just float down to the eBar this Friday at 9pm, after all of your meetings have run long into an industrious dinner of fine chips and table wine. Blimp Rock is raising your dream one well-costed spark after the next with a vinyl/video release in the well-researched name of quiet combustion. Blimp Rock is setting down with their songs of staying-in and cheering up to make some dollars for their dreams.

 - Brad de Roo, who should mention that, stalwart Captain of Industry, Wax Mannequin will join the Blimp Rock crew in having a gas. 

For those unfortunate souls who don't have a bit of blimp in their lives, could you succinctly explain the historical origins, name etymology, musical mythology, aerodynamic specifications, long-term fiscal outlook, PowerPoint fluency, and floating motivations of Blimp Rock?

Thank you so much for that 7 part question! For the sake of avoiding a blimp-sized paragraph, I will break it down.

Historical Origins: Blimp Rock is a band hired to raise money for a music festival in a blimp floating over Lake Ontario through album and merchandise sales. On behalf of parent corporation Blimp Rock Enterprises, we are hoping to raise the $700 000 required for the festival to be fully realized.

Musical Mythology: Blimp Rock writes simple tunes that hearken back to a simpler era – a time when hydrogen was loved and not feared for its combustible properties. Our new album Sophomore Slump features songs about boys who cry during movies, conflict resolution over stolen pizza and a tribute to homebodies called “Let’s All Stay In Tonight.” Essentially, we are trying to capture the odd sides and emotional ends of real life while raising venture capital.

Aerodynamic Specifications: The blimp for Blimp Rock Live (name of the festival) will be quite well rounded. It will feature 1) Wood Paneling 2) Fancy Mix Drinks and 3) The Finest Cover Bands. We are also currently working on a plan to expand the number of fire exits from 0 to 1.

Long Term Fiscal Outlook: Due to unforeseen economic sluggishness in the music industry, Blimp Rock has yet to meet its goal. However, given that we are now only $-2100 in debt to various payday loan companies, it is safe to say that we are closer to our goal than ever before.

PowerPoint Fluency: In today's modern business era, PowerPoint has usurped English as the first language of business, and it is for that reason that our live show is accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation on our marketing plan for the aforementioned festival.

Floating Motivations: Listening to a cover band while sipping on a mix drink and leaning against wood paneling 2500 feet above Lake Ontario. 

You've Blimped the eBar in Guelph before. Would you ever consider taking this metaphor into literal territory and converting the whole Bookshelf complex of bookstore, cinema, bar, and restaurant into a Blimp passenger deck? What movie would you show on your inaugural flight? Where would you dock it? Could so much culture actually take to the Guelph air? 

Thank you for your 4 part question on converting the Bookshelf into a blimp! We would most definitely consider such a project. Though most modern blimps only have a capacity of 14 people and 1000 pounds, I’m guessing the Bookshelf has more than enough extra cash to research how to fit all of its ventures in a 40x40 blimp gondola. As for the film, I think it would have to be “Around The World By Zeppelin” which is the story of the first airship to circum-navigate the globe in 1929. The logical place to dock the blimp would be The Co-operators building at 130 Macdonnell given its stature; and perhaps they would cut us a deal on insurance in exchange for the publicity (their first quote was surprisingly high). And yes, there is already so much culture on Guelph’s ground level, it’s only a matter of time before it wafts upwards. 

The lyrics of your Blimp torch songs (a sentimentally explosive genre to many) are full of absurdist understatement, satire, and whimsical narrative. How much do you employ literary effects or modes in the Office of Blimp? Do any particular lyricists or writers pilot your wordy airship? Often The Blimp Rock Live Experience, as I am contractually obligated to rebrand it, features presentations of Blimp Rock's business savvy M.O.? Do you see lyrics as distinct from presentation notes or scripts or other combinations of words? Or does voice (in the literary sense) have a wide-ranging, genre-hovering flight path? 

Thank you for your 5 part question of the intersection of literary devices and corporate strategy! Literary effects I often use include rhyme, irony and hiding sentimental messages under a safety blanket of jokes. A literary mode I’ve recently been into is contradiction. Sophomore Slump opens up with a song called “Will It Ever?” that questions whether you can ever live up to profound first time experiences. The next track “Sophomore Slump” is a line-by-line contradiction of that song that champions trying things again. In reality, I think both songs have elements of truth to them and neither is correct. Too many lyricists pilot my ship to list here, however, my current favourite lyrics go to Richard Laviolette’s song “Snailhouse” from the Community Theatre album. And yes! In full embrace of the First Rule Of Business, our show opens with a PowerPoint on our blimp festival, however it only works its way into 2 of our songs (“Blimp Rock Live” and “Blimp Rock Live 2”), so if blimps aren’t your thing, we’ll sing about other stuff too. I think lyrics are distinct from presentation notes and scripts in the sense that it is hard to work graphs and economic analysis into poetry (though we are working on it) however, there can be overlap in areas such as writing choruses and slogans and joke timing.

How important is storytelling to good Blimp-positive music and culture? 

Storytelling is massively important to Blimp-positive culture. We believe that we have been living in a Blimp-negative culture for much too long, as blimps are often being dismissed as unsafe, irrelevant or even a bad idea. We are trying to shift (or ‘spin’ as we say at the office) that conversation in a direction that redefines blimps in an exclusively positive way. Here’s a story for you: Did you know that blimp travel has become much safer since the days of the blimp that shall not be named? In fact, in the last 70 years, there have been just 17 blimp-related accidents, and only one exploded.

Since I balloon on about books all day at a bookstore, I am obliged to enter into a sudden multipart book-melee of questions. Luckily, I think of books as compact blimps of the mind, so moving through the barrage should not be too disaster-connotative for you. Here goes: 

a) If you could bring 5 books (excluding blimp manuals) onto a blimp during a free-float or a super-long circle to land, what would they be? 

- One! Hundred! Demons! by Lynda Barry

- Festival Man by Geoff Berner

- Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

- Just Kids by Patti Smith

- Buzz Marketing with Blogs for Dummies by Susannah Gardner

b) You’ve toured around a bit in Europe and Canada. What are your thoughts on travelogues, travel guides, and tour diaries? Have you ever considered penning any of the above? Do you have any favourites in the travel book catchall?

I am a fan of all three. I am interested in writing travelogues on some of Ontario’s overlooked hamlets. Places that may be suburban, small, isolated and trying to find out what people do for a good time. Recently we played in a small town called Maynooth and there’s a great hostel that hosts live bands. There was also a little bakery that exclusively sold different varieties of butter tarts and they were delicious. I was told people also like to hang out at the Legion there, which often hosts cover bands. Perhaps I could also pen a travelogue on seeking Ontario’s finest cover bands. No favourites in the catchall, though the Burning Hell song “Travel Writers” is a stand-out tune on the subject.

c) What are your thoughts on music writing? Do you enjoy music criticism and journalism? Do interviews irk or awe you? Are there any music-themed books you would kick out of your Blimp? 

Music writers have been very kind to me, though I don't anticipate that trend to continue. There's so much good music out there, it's slightly terrifying, and probably impossible for it to get the attention it deserves, which is a sad thing. I can understand the perspective of the music publications that only write about established bands as well as the bands that don't get written about. I like publications that put at least some priority on the former. I like interviewers like I like my people: weird and friendly. I don’t think I’ve read a music book I didn’t enjoy, but for the record, Festival Man by Geoff Berner would be wearing a seatbelt to ensure its place on board.

Maynooth tarts
This upcoming show is with Wax Mannequin. Here’s a guy who’s known to burn candles on his head and release many balloons into the air in a reckless fashion. Is he someone you’d permit to play your Blimp Festival or is a safety risk taken in the name of song? Do you have any dream headliners for your festival?

We are currently in negotiations with Wax and The Co-operators to figure out a way of making this work. There are a lot of logistics to sort out such as whether or not the Wax’s chrysalis (which the balloons are stored in) can fit on board, and how far Wax should play away from it to ensure that it doesn’t catch on fire. We are actually having a meeting on the 28th that should finalize the safety plan for a “Flaming Chrysalis Scenario”. As for a dream headliner, I think it goes without saying that re-uniting Sheezer 2500 ft. above Lake Ontario would be well worth the $700K.

Wax Mannequin
You’ll be coming to this show with some new vinyl and a video reel. Is there anything we should know about these corporate missives?

Yes, more details on both! The vinyl includes a fancy insert of the lyrics, and FAQ on our blimp festival and a download code. The video is for the song “My Mind Is A Shark” and it was animated by Parker Bryant who also made “Lake Ontario Lifeguards.” We’ll be screening the video right before we play.

Would you ever consider crowdsourcing or a TVO Can-rock telethon to get Blimp Rock Live off the ground? 

We would not consider crowdsourcing as we are highly confident in our current plan, however a TVO telethon would pique our interest. Perhaps I could also go on The Agenda and cross-promote my upcoming travelogue entitled “Requesting 'Bobcaygeon' in Bobcaygeon: The Cover Bands of Southern Ontario.”

If you were forced to depart your perceptual blimp to refuel, what questions would you ask yourself? 

1. How did we convince so many people to come to the eBar Aug. 28 that we were able to launch our blimp festival 45 years sooner than anticipated!?

2. How did we Wax the Co-operators to allow that paper-mache chrysalis on board?

Sunday, August 16, 2015


This August we had a wild and wonderful five day kayaking trip along the coast of Georgian Bay’s Franklin Island and then onward to the more remote McCoy’s. Two grandparents, two parents, two boys, nine and 11. Paddling over six hours a day allowed my mind to wander and I often found myself thinking that I was seeing the same sky, water, and rock that paddlers had seen 300 years ago. This made me, a floating fleck in the universe, feel a bit more immersed in the steady stream of history.

The day after I returned home I read an article featuring Joseph Boyden talking about the wonders of a book called Picturing the Americas: Landscape Painting from Tierra de Fuego to the Arctic. He was the guest lecturer of this show’s opening exhibit at the AGO. He described the book as a “bold and massive undertaking to cover two continents of art. Its breadth is phenomenal.” The exhibit encompasses the early nineteenth century to the early 20th – before the takeover of the wilderness by cottagers, companies, and other owners of the landscape. I knew that I had to have a copy.

A major aim of the exhibit was to show how the Americas are so connected. One of the earliest champions of South American art was the Prussian explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. He was struck by how landscape artists in both North and South America were interested in protecting nature and able to push US Congress to create the National Park system. This was a huge influence in the creation of Parks Canada. In the era way before Instagram, paintings were brought in to Congress to impress on law makers the importance of preserving the earth’s beauty.

The chosen paintings are both stunning and interesting. They capture both the quality of light and the rituals and routines of daily life. The sections are not themed geographically but philosophically and each artist has an excellent introduction by someone immersed in the art. Of course Cornelius Krieghoff, Georgia O’Keeffe, Emily Carr, and David Milne are represented but so are many other artists that I have never heard of. I was particularly taken by the Uruguayan artists, Pedro Figari, José Cuneo Perinetti and Pedro Blanes Viale. Their work is definitely as compelling as any Monet or Van Gogh’s that I have seen in books or galleries.

This gathering of artists has inspired me to desire three things: go to the AGO exhibit, which runs until September 20; start planning our next kayaking trip, which next year will include another parent and grandchild; and who knows, maybe even think about taking a trip to Uruguay!

- Barb

Monday, August 10, 2015


Werner Herzog's legacy always seems to run the risk of being reduced to anecdote. Will he be better remembered for his work, or for the stories behind it? Herzog is famous for hypnotizing his cast, cooking and eating his own shoe on a bet with first-time documentarian Errol Morris, threatening to kill his lead actor, and pulling a boat over a mountain. But are these stories more interesting than the films that bred them? It's the difference between idea and deed; the former can be popped as easy as a pill, the latter makes for broader meal. To know Herzog mostly through rumour is to miss the deep edification of his filmmaking, the gutsy, borderless, vast interests that have produced so many tellable tidbits.

One such anecdote that has proceeded its source finds Werner Herzog trekking from Munich to Paris in the winter of 1974 to "save" the life of film historian Lotte Eisner. Though the reason this particular meal, the travelogue Of Walking in Ice, has been passed over in favour of the pill is because the source has been mostly out of print since it was first published in 1979. Thanks to University of Minnesota Press, the whole story can now be savoured.

Herzog and Eisner

Herzog defined New German Cinema along with the likes of Fassbinder, Wenders, and von Trotta. For this new generation of filmmakers, the grown children of of World War Two, Lotte Eisner was one of the few film critics who recognized the worth of these artists in a post-war global atmosphere still reluctant to praise or celebrate anything produce by Germany. "We, the new generation of filmmakers," Herzog says in his 1982 tribute to Eisner, included in this new edition, "are a fatherless generation. We are orphans. We have only grandfathers–Murnau, Lang, Pabst, the generation of the 1920... [Eisner's] books... all provided us with a bridge to our historical and cultural context. No one else will ever know what this means." When, at the end of 1974, Herzog got word that Eisner was dying, he wrote to tell her not to until he came to see her. Instead of rushing to his champion's side, Herzog set out on foot with only "a jacket, a compass, and a duffel bag with the necessities."

What follows, as it's recounted by Herzog – then 32 years old – reads like a dream. Herzog moves through pastures and villages, breaking into off-season vacation homes, sleeping in barns. At times, the reportage resembles the late fevered trudging in his film from two years earlier, Aguirre, the Wrath of God:
A ladies' bicycle, nearly brand new, was thrown into a brook; it occupied my thoughts for quite some time. A crime? The scene of a fight? Something provincial-sultry-dramatic has taken place here, I suspect. A bench painted red is half-covered with water. A cat has jumped up on the lantern above the front door of a house and doesn't dare move any further, feeling that she is too high above the ground. She gently sways with the lantern in the wind.
To reveal that Eisner lives to receive an exhausted Herzog, three weeks after he set out, won't spoil anything. The thought he delivers to her: "Together, I said, we shall boil fire and stop fish."

Aside from the anecdotes, Herzog is now probably best known in popular culture for the many impressions of his staid, severe Teutonic (Bavarian, to be specific) delivery. To a certain extent, the ribbing's deserved. Purple earnestness like Herzog's doesn't really exist anymore. His sometimes dour, hyperbolic view of the world – "Civilization is like a thin layer of ice upon a deep ocean of chaos..." – is easy to poke fun at. However, I'd argue that Herzog is as optimistic as he can sometimes seem risibly caustic. For Herzog, there seems to be as much magic as there is chaos in the world – though I suppose he might term that magic "ecstasy". As he has said, "In the fine arts, in music, literature, and cinema, it is possible to reach a deeper stratum of truth—a poetic, ecstatic truth, which is mysterious and can only be grasped with effort; one attains it through vision, style, and craft." 

Herzog, like many of his characters or subjects, seems to engage with the world in a way that foists his vision and will on it, with the purpose of actually altering it. It's this sort of optimistic temerity that breeds tall-seeming tales. "We would not permit her death," he says at the outset of his visit to Eisner, and his three week ramble feels like his process of damming that course. 

- Andrew

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


1. The Stanley Cup.

2. Reading all of Margaret Atwood's books back to back.

3. Growing a cherry tomato from nothing to edible glory.

4. The life of a worker bumblebee.

5. Listening to all of Leonard Cohen and Celine Dion's discographies, combined.

6. Ordering a double double from all 3,468 Tim Hortons locations in Canada.

7. How long Stephen King takes to write a novel. No, three novels.

8. Renewing your Canadian passport - by mail.

9. For ingredients to ferment and carbonate into delicious, refreshing beer.

10. Hiking up Mount Everest.

Here's to all of our patience for the 2015 Federal Election.