Saturday, October 27, 2012

Closed Circuit 

Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton, image via

What's that thing our brain does instinctively, when we obsessively seek to identify patterns? Thinking? Is that it? Associative intelligence? "…the ability to think in non-sequential associations – similarities, differences, resonances, meanings, relationships, etc. –and to create (and appreciate) totally new patterns and meanings out of old ones." Whatever it is, it haunts me.

Last night I had a moment when all these coincidences coalesced around a single theme: swimming.

In August, Andy sent me a link to a book review in the New Yorker about a Canadian artist and writer, Leanne Shapton's Swimming Studies. It is a contemplation of her experiences as a competitive and recreational swimmer which are temporal, ethereal, meditative, personal and insightful (why else write a book about it). I enjoyed the review and added it to my cerebral Pinterest board (which apparently is nowhere near as reliable as my actual Pinterest board), filed it away, not to be thought of again.

This month I received an e-mail from a bookstore promoting a book launch for The Native Trees of Canada by Leanne Shapton. The name seemed familiar. Oh right, she's the same author of Swimming Studies. Later, while perusing the schedule for the International Festival of Authors I noticed that Seth (one of my favourite cartoonists) was interviewing Shapton. I decided that was enough signs that I should get a ticket for the event and what the hell, purchase the book (though purchasing something that you immediately store on a shelf is becoming increasingly difficult to justify). End of story right?

Nope. Friday night, while doing the dishes, I listened to one of my favourite podcasts, You Look Nice Today.
You Look Nice Today - “Poolside” on Huffduffer
Warning: NSFW and explicit language.

It is by any definition, the most innocuous and inane thing imaginable. It makes "Seinfeld", the show about nothing, seem about something. This podcast consists of three friends talking about topics that are so much less than nothing, you'd need a team of physicists and the Large Hadron Collider to confirm that any topic exists at all. Yet a large portion of this podcast did have a topic and was dedicated to poolside etiquette and the insecurities of being in or around a pool when your youth, looks and overall fitness are in conflict with the very vulnerability and exposure of being at a public pool. It is absolutely hilarious and I recommend listening to the entire thing. Unless you like hot coffee spraying from your nose, I suggest not drinking hot coffee while listening.

Image by Benoit Van Innis, via

The water theme continued when I began to read a neglected issue of the New Yorker from July. As it was a summer issue, there was at least one depiction of a reader floating in a pool. Funny coincidence, I thought as I was about to leave to hear Leanne Shapton read from her book about swimming. Then I found the review of that very book in the short reviews section of the magazine. I had just randomly picked up, from a pile of a dozen unread magazines, the one that included the review that Andy had e-mailed to me in August. The review was of the book whose author I was about to go see read from that same book. Neural meme synaptic circuit complete.

Update: The reading and interview was great. For whatever reason, Seth is a natural interviewer. Got absolutely soaked biking there. Harbourfront Centre is just in that kind of location where it's actually easier to walk or bike to than say drive or take the TTC. Wind. Cold. Wet. There was a time I could withstand any two of those things at once, but now, in my dotage, I'm down to just one. Today had all three. Brutal day to be out on a bike.

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