Year 1, Week 26: Some book reviews


Although without medical significance, have now passed the year and a half mark, so still something to celebrate.

This week, I had been fighting, unsuccessfully, a cold. Never fully developed, but had a slight fever, so had to cancel most of my planned activities, as I cannot afford to be unwell for next week’s hernia operation. In pre-cancer days, I would have soldiered through, post-cancer, I know my limits better and behave accordingly. Was a bit stir crazy through most of the week, but am largely through it now and back to walks (and shovelling snow this weekend!).

The one event that I did make was a ceremony at my hospital to mark the 100th stem cell courier run by the Bruce Denniston Bone Marrow Society (one of their key activities is providing volunteers to act as couriers for time sensitive and fragile stem cell donations – my stem cell transplant was but one example).  Many couriers were there (a large number former police officers given that Bruce Denniston was a Mountie who died of leukaemia). Apart from all the tributes and speeches, nice to see so many of the people that make the system work there to receive this thanks in person.

I also had a chance to catch up with many members of my medical team. My book came up. While most had not read it yet (one doctor is saving it up for the long flight to Australia in a few months!), the hematologist who first welcomed me into the ward way back in summer 2009 had read it. Starting off by saying he normally didn’t like patient accounts, he found mine balanced and helpful in his teaching of the next generation. He also mentioned the graphics as particularly useful; not only was I  relieved that I had captured the process and details correctly, it was satisfying to watch him call it up on his iPad and show me how he was using it..

Over the past week, have been reading Gilles Paquet’s Moderato cantabile (moderately and melodiously): Toward principle governance for Canada’s immigration regime. Much is familiar terrain as per my earlier comments on Deep Cultural Diversity: A Governance Challenge.

moderatoUnfortunately, the polemical and ideological language distracts from the valid policy discussion on immigration levels, absorptive capacity, the balance between facilitating citizenship and making it meaningful, and equally the balance between integration and accommodation in multiculturalism (or ‘rules of hospitality’ and ‘fair play’ in his terms).

I am always surprised when sophisticated thinkers like Paquet resort to polemic language, as it tends to ‘preach to the converted’ rather than making more dispassionate – and likely more effective – arguments. And attacking other views as ‘ideological’ can only invite similar charges.

A more interesting approach would be a more open discussion of what citizenship means in today’s more globalized world, where travel is cheap, communications free, ethnic programming universal, and whether  ‘moral contract’ approaches can be meaningful, implementable,  and apply to all groups, established and newcomer, historic and new faith communities, Canadians living in Canada or living abroad, and Canadian expatriates, whether born in Canada or not. We can’t turn the clock back on globalization and how it is easier for people to cross time and space and thus all governments struggle to find balance between making citizenship more meaningful in such a world, while accommodating the realities of a more mobile citizenry, and more complex and layered identities.

1982On a lighter note, I have been reading Jian Gomeshi’s (well-known Canadian radio host and wonderful interviewer for non-Canadian readers) 1982, his memoirs as a teenager in a suburb of Toronto. While he is a wonderful radio host, as a writer, not so. Maybe he was trying to write as a teenager. Maybe he really is as obsessed over his teenage years. Maybe he thinks this period was really interesting and were his ‘glory days’. Maybe each discovery of a new rock or new wave group was unique and amazing. Maybe his Adidas bag was truly iconic. Maybe he dictated his book rather than writing more thoughtfully. And maybe he had nothing more profound to say. And maybe he likes to write in short sentences like this. I really don’t know.

And to use one of his stylistic ‘gimmicks’, here is a list I made about things I didn’t like about 1982:

  • self-indulgent
  • repetitive
  • shallow
  • uninteresting (even if you like 80’s music)
  • condescending (e.g., all references to 1980s technology)

Maybe he didn’t have a good editor, maybe I just don’t find teenage angst all that interesting, or maybe I just don’t get it!

ai weiweiIn terms of movies this week, we saw the documentary about Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, the Chinese installation artist and political activist. His international profile protects him somewhat, and he has an interesting combination of determination and humour as he goes about ‘bugging’ the authorities. And while I am not a great fan of installation art, some of his work is brilliant, my favourite being the use of backpacks in a German show to commemorate the children who lost their lives during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake due to faulty school construction.

On a lighter note, our favourite Louis de Funès movie, La grande vadrouille, his World War II escape picture, with all his trademark gags and slapstick. While the dialogue is not as clever as the Marx Brothers, some of the gags and scenes are incredibly funny. We used to watch his films with our kids when they we in primary school, as there is something about the timeless comic classics (Keaton, Chaplin, Marx Brothers and de Funès) that appeal to the child in all of us.

For my Chinese readers, best wishes for the  Year of the Snake, with happiness, health and prosperity for the coming year.

Next week we are off to Toronto for my hernia operation. Not sure whether I will be up to my ‘articles of the week’ post but will likely have some observations on yet another healthcare experience, my first with a private hospital (but paid by medicare).


2 thoughts on “Year 1, Week 26: Some book reviews

  1. Thank you for the book review. As someone with a deep interest in the topic (American emigrant to France with one child in Canada and another on the way to Montreal next year) I’m often frustrated by what I read.

    As you so rightly point out globalization has changed things. It is far easier to maintain contact with the home country. It is not always interesting or desirable to become a citizen in the host country (I wrote a post once which gave all sorts of reasons why a legal resident might not want to and that surprised quite a few people – it just hadn’t occurred to them that there are sometimes very good reasons NOT to become a citizen). Countries that have diasporas (or proto-diasporas) need to negotiate the relationship with its “Domestic Abroad’ so that everyone knows what the home country expects of its overseas citizens and what those citizens are willing to offer in return. And all that is just the tip of the iceberg….

    Two books that I greatly enjoyed and thought were above and beyond the usual “preaching to the choir” are Peter Spiro’s (he also writes for Opinio Juris) Beyond Citizenship and Gabriel Sheffer’s Diaspora Politics.

  2. I think one of the great paradoxes of our time is that technology has enabled us to be much more independent of time and space than ever before, with some embracing that freedom to develop new and more varied identities, and others using it to become more ‘enfermé’ in their own particular group identities, whether national, ethnic or political (etc).
    I am always amused by those who argue against dual nationality, comparing to marriage vows and fidelity (not DSK). Our lives are simply too complex, the considerations too varied, and mobility too entrenched to make that realistic – even countries that do ‘not allow’ dual nationality in practice turn a blind eye to it. We have to live in the world as it is, and realized some of the limits of the policy levers.
    Thanks for the book recommendations.

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