Sapiens seemed fitting to follow Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (except for the hurry part), not to mention that they both go by three names. Astrophysics talks about how we got here, and then Sapiens talks about what we’ve done since we got here. Which is basically just ruin everything. It’s not a happy book, in spite of the (rather failed) attempt to inject a happiness principle into the work in the second last chapter while at the same time attempting an argument that history should be concerned with happiness. I was not convinced. This book started great and then went steadily downhill. I appreciate that he labels capitalism a religion, less so his praise of it. The author’s abject cynicism builds throughout the book, culminating with his trepidation around genetic engineering and AI. I get that humans are awful but I don’t think I needed the last three-quarters of this book’s (rarely substantiated) opinion to get me to awfuller.
Pacific Road Runners First Half half marathon week. It started out pretty great. Physiotherapist suggested I stick to the trails for a bit. I opted for some hill work on the Avison Trail, and on Wednesday in the rain at the trail peak where it crosses the Causeway I found a $100 bill dropped no doubt by some poor well-heeled (oxymorons ftw) tourist. Friday and a 13.5 KM round-trip to Forerunners on Main to pick up my race package. My legs felt great. Saturday morning, my cold still above neck I went for a short shake out. My recovering right knee and left shin both felt great. Race morning I jogged down to the start line at the Roundhouse in Yaletown, checked my bag and made my way to the start corral with 10 minutes until gun. The corral was crowded as to be expected, when dude next to me pulls his shorts to the side and takes a piss on the ground then casually moves a few feet forward. Gross dude. Humans are awful. Guy behind me says, “Been racing for 40 years I’ve never seen that before.” (Waiting for race photos to be posted; if I can find him and I’m sure it’s him some shaming may ensue.)
My training has been weak with these two injuries and I was expecting this to be a slow race. I really wanted to be around 1:45 but was prepared to be close to 1:50. What I hadn’t considered, and really should have known considering the hours and KMs I’ve put on the segments, is that this is a very fast course, and the weather was perfect for a race. I’d written on my arm some somewhat ambitious distance times and was pretty happy to reach 10 KM about 30 second ahead of pace. Then disaster. Into 14 KM just past Siwash Rock, I still don’t know what happened but I had a little stumble. It felt like the inside of my knee gave out, or I twisted it, or I don’t know what. But it hurt a lot. I kept going. I don’t know if I would have if it had been just another day on the Seawall; I wanted to finish the race. I fought through the pain and kept going the last 7 KM with a sprint to the finish and crossed the line at 1:43:04 chip time.
Within minutes of finishing I could barely walk. Now 24 hours later and it’s still pretty bad. The pain kept me up all night and no amount of ice pack, heat pack, Advil, or Voltaren seems to do much. My physiotherapist said no running this week after the race. That’s fine because I can’t. I’m signed up for the West Van 10 KM in three weeks, and now 12 weeks out from the BMO Marathon. I think both are in serious jeopardy.
This book showed up on both the Globe and Mail‘s and CBC’s “anticipated books of the first half of 2018,” which I don’t recall seeing from either of them for any other year or portion thereof but it could just be that I missed all the other ones though if indeed it is the first such list for both what layers of coincidence. I managed to wrangle myself a advanced/review copy (thanks Simon & Schuster!), which is a first for this blog…now in its third year…send me your books and I’ll maybe read and write some nonsense about them…. This is Nathan Ripley’s debut novel, whose real name is Naben Ruthnum and is certainly not his debut. Doppelganger debut. Anticipated though? I think this was originally titled Scrapbook and if that’s the case then I guess waiting since at least 2013 around when Ruthnum won the Journey Prize makes it anticipated. Anyway, Ripley creates this character Martin whom is so unlikeable that in the moments of suspense, or at least what I thought were meant to be suspenseful, I found myself hoping that the implied terrible things about to happen to Martin happened. The story is rather unique and I cannot write much about it here without giving stuff away, but there are some fantastic elements that even for one (like me) who is comfortable and capable of suspending reality may find rather far-fetched. The dialogue between Martin and his partner Ellen is at times pretty unbelievable. It’s nearly as bad as Martin’s internal monologue. Maybe because it’s in (Martin) first person? The book oscillates between Martin’s PoV and third-person narrative and it’s these the third-person parts that are the best of the book, especially the work and personal relationship between the two detectives Sandra and Chris. They’re so much more interesting than Martin. I could really go for more Sandra and Chris. The novel is fine. It’s a pretty quick and entertaining read. If there’s a sequel, I really hope its focus is Sandra and Chris.
One week until First Half half marathon and the forecast today calls for rain and maybe snow, but surely not snow like last year. I’ve contented myself with the fact that it’s going to be a long slow day next Sunday; I’m okay with that. But 12 weeks from the BMO Marathon does weigh a bit on my mind. I have started looking at alternative opportunities outside the Lower Mainland in the fall to achieve my 2018 goals. On the Seawall this morning I came upon a Sun Run training group and I got to wondering why trainers don’t bother to start with a little running etiquette 101 that includes stay to the right, pass on the left, and don’t run more than two abreast. That’s not so hard is it?
I read this like the train wreck that it is, and then set it aside because it rekindled the paranoia and/or revulsion I have at the prospect of visiting the United States, all the while planning a short few days relaxing in Palm Springs. I just returned a few hours ago, still aglow no doubt from the full body scan I received for trying to leave the country to return to this one. A ton has been said about Wolff’s book, much of it critical of Wolff’s style of journalism — what I learned was called “back-door” back around journalism school day one. We could have a discussion about rights and multiple wrongs, but that seems boring. Most of the book’s criticism (that isn’t centred on Wolff’s method) seems to stem from readings of the released excerpts rather than an actual reading of the book, and the voracity of those excerpts. Missed in all this is the framing found in Wolff’s Author’s Note at the beginning that I think is paramount to properly understanding the book. He writes:
Many of the accounts of what has happened in the Trump White House are in conflict with one another; many, in Trumpian fashion, are baldly untrue. Those conflicts, and that looseness with the truth, if not with reality itself, are an elemental thread of the book. Sometimes I have let the players offer their versions, in turn allowing the reader to judge them. In other instances I have, through a consistency in accounts and through sources I have come to trust, settled on a version of events I believe to be true.
Many (most?) critics read excerpts, clearly having never read the Author’s Note, and declared all or part of the excerpt untrue and therefore the book as a whole must be rubbish, sufficiently satiating the Trumpian right that was [also] never going to read the book anyway. It’s not great writing and most of the bombshells were excerpted before the release, but it’s entertaining as an insight into what was going on for the first 100 days or so, or at least what those dumb enough to spill on- and off-the-record (PS – off the record doesn’t exist) to Wolff believed was going on. And that’s enough about that.
As you can see from my numbers this week I didn’t have much of running week because my physiotherapist put the fear of breaking my tibia in half and never being able to run again if I insisted on running with this medial tibial stress whatever so I didn’t run a whole lot — just Friday and Sunday in the warm, dry, breezy Palm Springs air i.e., the polar opposite of what’s been going on in Vancouver. The Forerunners First half is two weeks away, and after barely managing a 5 min/km pace for 10 KM this morning rusty doesn’t begin to describe how I’m feeling. My second offically-timed half marathon is my slowest; this February First Half will be my fifth 21.1 and is in contention for that dubious distinction.
We could have a debate about whether or not a graphic novel count as “a book” for the sake of reading 95 or 52 books in a year but there doesn’t seem to be much debate amongst the #95Books crowd whether poetry books count, and I’ve read and “counted” chapbooks that took a lot less time and effort to read than Mercy on Me. I even “read” and counted a collection of concrete poetry (Clean Sails). Though, I did not count Christian Bök’s MCV. I had to draw the line somewhere. And speaking of drawing lines, I really enjoyed Kleist’s visual biography of Nick Cave. I consider myself a Cave fan, though reading Mercy had forced me to confront the fact that I’m rather thin on Birthday Party knowledge, which has piqued my interest to revisit. I’m also now curious about Kleist’s Johnny Cash book (ahem, graphic novel), although I doubt any Cash biography is going to better Cash. Also, and no surprise, I learned that Cave is kind of a dick. I suspected, but don’t think I cared before. I don’t think I care now. I like his music and as a grown up I’m capable of separating his art from his inreallifeness. But I admit that most of what I know and like is contemporary to when I started listening to him i.e., Grinderman and late 2000s Bad Seeds. I went as far back as Murder Ballads because you have to. But aside from the appearance of “Higgs Boson Blues” Kleist’s Cave biography doesn’t cross the millennium. But for me to complain about that would be like complaining that Cash doesn’t focus enough on the American Recordings stuff. But for different reasons.
I went to physiotherapy this week for a check in on my knee and while there I mentioned in passing that I was having a pain in my left shin, which turns out to be medial tibial stress syndrome, which is just the fancy word for shin splints, which apparently if not properly cared for could lead to a stress fracture, which has forced me to reconsider the timeline of some of my 2018 goals. Burn the whiches. Dr. Physio believes that I’ve aggravated my left calf by (consciously or subconsciously) compensating for my right knee, and the treatment is more exercises and less running. Suffice it to say, very frustrating with less than a month until the First Half half marathon. Suffice it to also say, I will not be running a sub 1:30 half marathon on February 11. Also throws a wrench on the sub 3:15 BMO Marathon training plan. Other than that it’s been a great week.