The Anne of Green Gables/Anne of Avonlea mini-series were the first Canadian productions to truly excite me as Canadian productions. Books I had loved, had literally read to death (the books’ death, not mine), were onscreen. MyCanada was on screen. Not that I’d been to Prince Edward Island — that would come in the 1990s, when I included a pilgrimage to Green Gables and Lucy Maud Montgomery’s grave — but the world of my childhood was onscreen, and my county was named and pictured.
That was before I cared about the state of the Canadian industry or gave a thought to why it was important to have our own stories in the mix along with Hollywood productions. But I knew it was special to see something so personal to me finally appear on my TV. I can thank Anne for many things, first for offering me a kindred spirit in my childhood and finally for opening my eyes to the power of having my own culture reflected back at me.
This weekend I got to interview Quinn Cummings; the archive of our talk is below. I first “met” Quinn via Twitter where she expanded my vocabulary and exposed herself as a fellow cat magnet and admitter of awkward acts. She also happens to be an Oscar-nominated actress (for her role in The Goodbye Girl when she was 9 years old) and now an author with three funny — and occasionally poignant and educational — books to her name.
A lot of books (and movies and TV shows) have changed my perspective in small and big ways, but Dan Ariely‘s Predictably Irrational has probably had the most profound impact in changing the way I view how people behave the way we do. The title says it all: rather than perfectly rational creatures, in many ways we are irrational, but in predictable ways. Ariely’s point is that if we understand these ways we are irrational, we can use them to overcome the limitations of that irrationality, and his book gives practical and humorous examples and suggestions.
He’s a behavioural economist (yeah, I didn’t know there was such a thing either) so his research focuses on consumer and business choices – from purchasing decisions, retirement planning, health care, executive bonuses – but that covers a wide area, and there’s a lot to be learned about human behaviour in general.
I first read Predictably Irrational a couple of years ago and have annoyed friends since by quoting it in appropriate (to me) circumstances. I am finishing up his follow-up, The Upside of Irrationality, now. When I had the opportunity to meet one of my favourite authors, Yann Martel (Life of Pi), at the Vancouver writers festival, I babbled to him about Ariely’s research as it applied to Martel’s Beatrice & Virgil … because I was a volunteer writer escort who had to wait until he was done a book signing to escort him back, so I was reading on my iPhone, and on the way back we talked about the impossibility of signing an e-book which is how I bought B&V, which made him comment on me reading a book on my iPhone, which happened to be The Upside of Irrationality and happened to be a chapter that touched on themes of Martel’s talk and quoted Stalin in the same way Martel had just quoted: “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of a million is a statistic.” He at least pretended to be interested.
Anyway, below is a taste of Dan Ariely’s humour and insight while giving a TED talk. You really have to read this book though.
Here’s my interview with author, word nerd, and Oscar nominee Quinn Cummings:
Interview: Author Quinn Cummings of Notes From The Underwire “I suspect – I hope – we’re coming into a more modest, more realistic age, where the goal of life won’t be to get the Bentley you drive to the Hamptons. Aspiring to that much fabulousness is exhausting. Sometimes I can practically hear the exhalations of relief when someone writes in to admit that they, too, are just trying to get through a day without falling up a flight of stairs.” Read more.
Loving new music purchases TV on the Radio, Deerhunter, Mates of State. Mostly discover music via TV shows and popcandy. Me=unhip.
Been watching Gavin & Stacey so if it’s remade by a US network I can be smug and say it’s not as good as the original. Love it so far.
Neighbour gave me Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Like Harry Potter for adults. Not my usual read but I’m enjoying.
Bakugan makes no sense to me [it’s a tv show like Pokemon or Yu-gi-oh, but also a game I was “taught” over the holidays]. Doomed to feel intellectually inferior to friend’s 8 year old. But I’m totally smarter than the toddler.
Book gifts I received – The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way, and Troublesome Words. Is it possible I’m a nerd? Nah.
No energy to write year review so Twitter version: TV sucked, best movie, Slumdog MillionairePredictably Irrational most interesting book.
So I can’t get away with just saying TV sucked? Fine. Writers strike hurt 2 seasons. Bit disappointed in fave shows, no new shows to love.
It’s been an eclectic week or so in entertainment for me, so it’s killing me that I haven’t had time to ramble about each diversion that lit up my days. This will be the speed dating version of actual posts, on just a few of my favourite things … this week.
Sex and the City. It’s not a great movie, to tell the truth, but it was so much fun to have a movie event to look forward to that was so unabashedly girly. I mean, I’ve stood in line for enough Lord of the Rings films, thank you very much. If you like the HBO show, it’s 2 1/2 hours of that, and a mostly satisfying way to catch up with the gang.
Bard on the Beach. Every major city I’ve lived in has a version of this, but Vancouver’s has the most beautiful setting, overlooking the water and mountains. This particular version of Twelfth Night was the goofiest Shakespeare I’ve ever seen – it’s not often I’m reminded of Spamalot when watching the Bard – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m looking forward to CBC’s version of Othello too. I don’t think my Shakespeare nerddom has made an appearance on this blog yet, but there you go. That F.M. Salter Award in Shakespeare Studies hasn’t gone to waste. Much.
Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind. I’d love to do a review of this book, but I have other reviews piling up and who am I kidding? But it’s an entertaining book about the brain. How improbable is that? It’s a far more convincing argument for evolution over creation than anything Richard Dawkins dreamed of writing, and had me nodding about the infuriating ways our minds work – a kluge is an inelegant, cobbled-together solution. Author Gary Marcus actually gives tips on how to overcome the liminations of our minds, too – common sense stuff that’s not so common, like considering other alternatives, not making important decisions when tired or distracted, to consciously weigh benefits against costs, and to be rational. The tips may not be funny or ground-breaking, but they offer some hope of outwitting our inner kluge at the end of a book that is both funny and ground-breaking.