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politics has been a thing with me for almost as long as writing. when i was seven, i literally dealt with conservative crap, as i helped out on a candidate's bid for office by cleaning the toilets in the campaign office. to me, politics was interesting (aside from the toilets). it was really exciting to be allowed to stay up late to watch voter returns coming in. i'm not joking. such are the dangers for a child raised in a hyper-literate family of journalists and political observers.

you'd think that given my interest in both politics and writing, that i might enjoy books that combine these two elements. unfortunately, most political writing leaves me dry.

first of all, most writers who choose politics as a subject are political junkies above all. the writing is just a way to exercise their real passion. there are a lot of novels focused on the world of political intrigue, many of them far more popular than anything i write will ever be, and the ones that i've read are almost uniformly awful. they tend to be books written for other people who get high on politics. to me, if that's what i want, i'd rather have the real thing. (in fact, the only modern-era book on politics that i can think of that i really enjoyed was the "we'll call it fiction so i don't get my ass sued off" primary colours. and even that was outclassed in most respects by the underrated movie mike nichols made of it.)

second of all, even for books that i will acknowledge have great literary merit (george orwell), it's really difficult to actually write about politics without sounding as if you're lecturing someone. novel-writing puts the author in the special position of being able to perfect a political message and deliver it without possibility of interruption or debate. if you're talking politics over the course of a three hundred page book, you are eventually going to sound like that guy at the dinner party who drank too much and who doesn't know when to shut up. ok george, we get it, you're disillusioned with socialism. can we please change the topic? how about those red sox?

at best, i find writing about politics comes out as good reportage. as passionate as people are about political beliefs and as undeniably dramatic as political contests can get, these stories seem to lose something when they're translated into a fictional setting. perhaps it's because the appeal and tension of political drama stems from the belief that it is real (although pretty heavily stage managed) and that there is no one person (we hope) who is dictating the eventual outcome. perhaps it's because the human resonance that great writing has seems more and more at odds with the way politics works.

so as much as i'd like to think that the hours i've been putting into following the increasingly dramatic canadian election campaign will somehow inspire me to write something marvelous, i have the distinct feeling that after january twenty-third, i'm just going to feel like i've fallen a lot farther behind on projects that should have had my full attention. oh well, at least i'm not cleaning the toilets any more.


as long as you're here, why not read more?

mental health mondays :: where even the depressed ones are happy

this past week saw the publication of the annual world happiness report, a look at nations around the world and how people in each of them feel about their lot in life. i started following this a few years ago, and this year it occurred to me that it would be fun to look at how the happy places compared to the crazy places. i mean, what if those countries aren't really all that happy, but just have an extremely high rate of psychotic/ delusional disorders?

so, i set to work putting together a comparison. as it happens, that's a bit trickier than it sounds, because information on any kind of disability is more difficult to come by than you might think. and no type of disability is more controversial than a mental illness, which means that there are even more complications around definitions, seeking treatment, prognoses, record-keeping... it's hard to tell how reliable anything you're looking at is. [not that there aren't some good sources.]

and what sources there …


i keep seeing this ad for tictac candies:

am i the only one who finds the suicide bomber clown at the end a little unnerving? all the nice natural things like the bunny and the [extinct] woolly mammoth and the fruit get devoured by a trying-to-appear-nonthreatening-but-obviously-psychotic clown who then blows himself up. congratulations, tictac, i think this ad has landed you on about a dozen watch lists.

oh and by the way, showing me that your product will somehow cause my stomach to explode in a rainbow of wtf makes me believe that doing consuming tictacs would be a worse dietary decision than the time i ate two raw eggs and a half a bottle of hot sauce on a dare.

making faces :: a lip for all seasons [summer edition]

this may seem like an odd time to think about summer, but not to think about coolness. it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea that summer is considered "cool" in colour analysis terms and, in my opinion, reads as the coolest of the cool, because everything in it is touched with the same chilly grey. winter may have the coldest colours, but its palette is so vivid that it distracts the eye. everything in summer is fresh and misty, like the morning sky before the sun breaks through. in my original post on the season, i compared it to monet's paintings of waterlilies at his garden in giverny and, if i do say so, i think that's an apt characterisation.

finding lip colours touched with summer grey and blue is, as you might expect, kind of tricky. the cosmetic world seems obsessed with bringing warmth, which doesn't recognise that some complexions don't support it well. [also, different complexions support different kinds of warmth, but that's another…