Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 Year end wrap-up

Phew!  A record-breaking year for book-reading here at Olman Central.  I am quite pleased to have continued to maintain and even increase the new-found energy I found for reading at the second half of last year.  Even better, I was really quite consistent about it.  I made a huge dent in my deficit and where I had planned to take 3 to 4 years to get my average back to 50 books a year, it is now conceivable that I could achieve that by the end of 2020. 

More than the numbers, though, are the benefits of so much reading.  First and foremost, I get to read so many great books!  Really if you are reading this, I don't need to say much more than that.  Some may argue that reading in such quantity diminishes the experience, as if I am rushing through books.  It is the opposite, as I am not reading any faster than usual but just reading instead of doing other things.  As I have said in the past, those other things were usually wasting time anyways, like futzing around on the now totally-polluted World Wide Web (so advertising did destroy the internet, just like everybody said it would back in the day, who would have thought?).  I am also barely watching any television or movies these days, except some sports while cooking.  This is not so bad except that it was one area that my wife and I liked to do regularly together.  I still would like to do that but all these prestige shows coming out seem so similar to me that there is nothing that grabs my attention more than the book I am reading. 

The other big advantage of reading so much is that I can vary the kinds of books I read.  I have been branching out more into non-fiction and even picking up hard to read books every now and then.  I am toying with the idea of reading some big classic next year when I am ahead of my goals, as I will have the extra time.

Finally, I find that steady reading becomes an anchor in my life for other good disciplines.  I believe there is a subtle calming, even meditative, mechanism in reading that counter-acts the psychological frenzy of adult life in the so-called civilized world, especially in today's phone-zombie nightmare we are all living.  It isn't all due to reading, but my sleep schedule is the most consistent it has been for a long time perhaps ever.  Though to be fair, there are certain books that will keep you up either because you can't put them down or because they get you so excited it's hard to go to sleep after.  For my own personal discipline and productivity, 2019 has been a banner year, a real step in a return to my old ass-kicking form.  It would be an exaggeration to say that this is because of all the reading, but that certainly has been an important factor in the mix that sets the foundation for all the rest. 

My reading goals for next year are the same as last.  Read 50 books and if possible whittle away at the average.  If I can keep up any of the consistency of 2019, 59 is a very realistic possibility.  I also hope to read a long series or trilogy one after the other, to stay in the same imaginary space for a longer time rather than jumping all over the place.  I am targeting the Vorkosigan saga and some of these great new what I call "woke" sci-fi or fantasy series, possibly Robin Hobb's Assassin books or the N.K. Jemison trilogy.  I hope to throw in a major classic in there as well.  We shall see!

Now on to the actual books!  It is hard to summarize 2019 with any general theme as I read so many books.  There were several highlights.  As I mentioned above, I read several non-fiction books which I usually resist mightily.  The two books on the history of basketball and the ABA were great, super fun, informative and I tore through them.  I didn't tear through The Hermit of Peking but it was also enjoyable and it refreshed my knowledge of the British colonization of China, which I had studied in college and which indirectly informs so much of the British spy and adventure fiction I read (basically reminding me that despite its outwardly benevolent guise, British Colonialism was at its base motivated by greed and was fundamentally a giant and destructive theft at best).  A bizarre read for me, which ended up being quite rewarding was The Organized Mind, though it did reinforce my belief in the hype around all these organizational self-help books.

Another highlight was that I found and read a lot of authors that have been on my hunting list for years:  Edmund Crispin, Lionel Davidson, Michael Tod, Edgar Pangborn, Dorothy B. Hughes and a few others.  I also finished a few series that I have been working on over the years, including Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising series (disappointing) and Mary Stewart's King Arthur trilogy (solid) and C.J. Cherryh's Chanur series (which was great but really should have been a single massive book or I at least should have read it that way). 

Speaking of female science fiction writers, I also jumped on the wave of all these great new series and books coming out in the new "woke" sci-fi space.  I only read two authors but that was simply because I am pacing myself as so far everything has met the hype and even exceeded my expectations.  Nnedi Okorafor's Binti series was really cool and innovative.  Anne Leckie's Ancillary series was really mind-blowing and awesome, up there on my most favourite books.  I really have had to force myself not to read the third one.

Finally, I discovered or found several Animal adventure books (I really need a term for the sub-genre where the animal is the protagonist).  The Silver Tide about squirrels in england had been on my list for ever.  Maneater was an awesome random find, as was Black Fox Running.  I still haven't found a single Colin Dann book used but did discover a beautiful reprint of The Animals of Farthing Wood and loved it.

Specific books that stood out for me were the quiet and gentle and almost simple The Long Way Home by Margot Benary-Isbert.  The super nasty and intense No Orchids for Miss Blanding which since I have read it keeps popping up everywhere (a character is reading it on the train in Crispin's The Gilded Fly mystery).  Wake in Fright, as well as being satisfying as a great find (Penguin paperback for $3 off a sidewalk garage sale) stayed with me like the heat of the Australian outback it portrays.

I really could go on and on. I probably missed something.  However, now it is time to move on to the next decade of reading.  Happy new year and happy reading in the Double Twenties everyone!

Sunday, December 29, 2019

104. Catch-As-Catch-Can by Charlotte Armstrong

I have been looking for Charlotte Armstrong for quite a while and found one here in Berkeley at Moe's and then found four more at Walden Pond books in Oakland!  It was almost too much and in the end I decided to take them all.  It turns out my mother was a big fan of Charlotte Armstrong from back in the day and was happy to have them back in her life.  She picked one at random (her memory is that she often had good stories with children and she remembers specifically one with a child in an airport).  I started with this one as it is was roughly in the middle of the publishing dates (1952) in the logic that she would be in her prime.

The story begins a little falteringly for my tastes.  I didn't find all the characters and their motivations totally convincing. Dee Alison's favourite and adventurous uncle returns home with a strange long-lost 18-year old daughter who is bizarrely naive.  He dies shortly thereafter, leaving her a fortune.  She speaks french and english fluently but could barely write, knows how to order at a fancy restaurant but doesn't know what phones or hospitals are.  I couldn't really understand where she was supposed to be from.  In any case, she is the driving force in the plot as she becomes enamoured with Dee's fiancé who starts to reciprocate, despite himself.  The uncle dies and becomes the ward of Dee.  Things are really thrown into chaos when the girl runs away and we learn belatedly that she ate some canned beans with botulism and needs to get treatment in 24 hours or will die.

The second half of the book actually got quite thrilling and exciting as various people, all with different motivations try to find or deliberately not find the girl.  There is another stupid, scheming cousin in particular who wants her to die so he can inherit her wealth; a well-meaning but unrealistic old mystic friend of the uncle who wants to protect the girl from evil and various other selfish people.  It becomes an exciting chase around LA with all kinds of crazy complications that cumulated up into a truly thrilling ending despite some of the original characters not being so well-founded.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

103. The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispin

It's actually the Moving Toyshop that I have had on my list for quite some time, however after months of fruitless searching, I will take any Edmund Crispin and that is what I did.  I found that at Half-Price Books in Berkeley.  It took me a long time to read and I was much distracted, only partly because of the book itself.  It is the holiday season and I was at the family seat, surrounded by rambunctious children, interrupting relatives and tempting sweets.  The book itself, though, was not a natural page-turner.  It starts out great, with a passage about how annoying the ending of the train trip from London to Oxford is.  In doing so, it also lays out all the players who will be participating in the murder and in the play that they have all come up to Oxford to perform.

It actually takes a while for the murder to happen.  We spend a lot of time with the characters and learn more about their relationships and tensions, mostly centered around a sexy but not so beautiful secondary actress named Ysuet whom everybody hates.  We also meet Gervase Fen, professor of classics at Oxford and amateur detective.  He is a funny character, oblivious and unthinkingly ill-mannered, but also brilliant and caring.  Once Ysuet is murdered, I started to lose steam.  It is a true whodunnit where I guess we are supposed to be able to deduce it as a reader (this is what Gervase Fen keeps telling all the other characters, as he has figured it out right from the beginning but for various reasons won't tell), but I found it all kind of tiring.  The investigation seems to go on and on and I just wanted to find out who did it.  There were two other weird things that kind of bothered me as well: 1) the story takes place in 1940 and none of the males are in the war.  Was this a function of class?  2) the way people get married at the drop of a hat here.  They start going out and then one of them says they want to get married and the other agrees and it is all done in a weirdly casual way.  I know part of it is being droll and British but when it is 4 sets of characters, it all seemed a but unreal.

I will still keep the Moving Toyshop on my list but not sure about looking too hard for any Edmund Crispin in the future.

Friday, December 20, 2019

102. Condominium by John D. MacDonald

I was a bit wary going into this one.  I was worried about having read too many JDMs this year, having scored a nice set of his non-Travis McGee books in Vancouver over the summer.  John D. Macdonald can get a bit indulgent with his philosophizing about the world and his weird mid-twentieth century sexual mores, so it is best to take a break from time to time.  Still, this tome seemed a perfect book for the holidays.  I love this paperback version with the big gold embossed title over the great cracked sunglasses with the condo in the reflection image.

I was not disappointed as right away I saw Condominium was going to spend most of its time on characters, story and situation with a nice sprinkling of life philosophy.  I was particularly happy when we got early on a great JDM type of strong man character, in this case a retired engineer whose body still retains the hardness of a lifetime on international construction projects (take a moment to read the first two pages of the chapter below where he is introduced).  I was even happier when I figured out the setup.  The good guys are a mixed bag of retirees living in their brand new luxury condo that we soon realize is a con job, from the disrespectful manager, to the hidden fees, to the disappearing management company and as we learn the shoddy construction.  The bad guys are the developers (boo, hiss!) and the structure of greed, corruption and general moral weakness that surrounds and props them up.

There are a lot of characters and a lot of seemingly accurate details about the financial shenanigans used by developers to finance these condo projects and get them built.  Some of the money stuff, I glossed over though it seemed all too realistic (and sadly probably not that different than techniques being used today).  I got lost with a few of the characters, but as you move forward you realize that not only is this book an underdog story but also a disaster story, as a hurricane with the potential to expose the shoddy construction, starts developing in the Pacific about halfway through the book (around the time the engineer has brought in an old colleague to do an assessment whose conclusion is that these condos could not stand a major hurricane).

When the shit hits the fan, it is pretty damned enjoyable.  I ended up staying up two and a half hours past my bedtime finishing this book.  What the hell, I'm on vacation.  If you like epic 70s disaster stories in sleazy Florida with some John D. MacDonald musings on where we went wrong plus lots of torrid affairs, this book is for you.

This is where John D. MacDonald is the master

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

101. Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association by Terry Pluto

As big of a basketball fan I am, I actually am not very well-versed in its history.  This book made me realize that and helped fulfill a big gap.  I knew a bit about the ABA from Basketball: A Love Story, enough to want to read this one (lent to me by the same friend who gave me Basketball: A Love Story).  Loose Balls is also an oral history, but goes into much greater depth with anecdotes and details from all the major players (both on the court and in the offices) who created and made this league run for its nine seasons spanning 1967 to 1976.  Actually now looking at those years, I realize that it basically ran for the peak years of what we consider today "The 60s".  It's funny, because when you read about the counter-culture of that time, the politics, the societal upheaval in America, basketball isn't mentioned at all, not even as a backdrop.  Likewise, in this book, while there are references to racial issues, the narrative is almost entirely apolitical.  Was that because sports was considered the establishment during that time?  I did wonder while reading Loose Balls why there was so little discussion of race.

The theme here is that the ABA is the plucky, creative, talented little guy playing in the shadow of the more boring and powerful NBA.  The ABA played a faster, looser game, had cool red, white and blue balls, invented the all-star game and the slam dunk contest, had Dr. J and all kinds of other great players.  All these things were brought to the NBA in the merger/"expansion" when the ABA finally died and many of them are the reasons it is such a successful beast today.  This is very well described in Loose Balls and quite fun to read.  There are many crazy stories of excess and really tough basketball (like literally fistfights were a fairly common affair), but also incredibly gratifying stories of players reaching and achieving their potential and teams bonding together.  It's a super-satisfying read for a basketball junkie like me.  So many names that I know of as broadcasters, NBA execs or old ex-coaches were huge stars in the ABA and now I have a much deeper appreciation of their history.

I still can't help feeling that some of the history is missing here.  This book was written in 1990 where racial issues in America were kind of subtly being suppressed in the Clinton-era or maybe improving, but in any case were not talked about the way we are today in the post-Obama backlash.  Was race really not an issue in the ABA? 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

100. The Animals of Farthing Wood by Colin Dann

Colin Dann is my white whale of used book hunting.  I found a later book of his King of the Vagabonds and grabbed it as it fell under my reading area of interest: animal adventure subgenre.  I have looked high and low (well at least in dozens of used bookstores in many major cities in the US and Canada and even a few in Europe) for the last 15 years and have not found a single copy of his books. My guess is that they were not published in large quantities in North America, or that they are in some in-between age category that has since been swept up in the resurgence of YA fiction post-Hunger Games.  This copy that I read was not some great find.  Rather, it has been reprinted as a classic and I found a new edition at Kidsbooks on Broadway in Vancouver.  I believe it was imported from the UK.  So I continue to seek his other works.  Maybe one day a trip to Great Britain will reveal the mother lode.

And thus it is fitting that this should be my 100th book of the year.  I am in a mild state of disbelief about this and I don't want to go on too much about except to record how I got here.   My goal for the last three years, since the crash of 2016 (when I read only 18 books) has been to get my average back up to 50 books a year.  I recognized that with such a significant deficit, this was going to take several years of more than 50 books.  I pushed myself then to read at least 5 books a month, with at least once a week.  Somehow, I caught fire this year and the reading just kept flowing.  There were only a few times when I flagged a bit, but the momentum I had built carried me forward.  There were several changes in my life that allowed this to happen.  I had very little videogame playing, with no game that is really grabbing me.  My daughter started going to elementary school and became a bit more independent (though still wants to play constantly when we are together).  My job has a lot of flexibility and a lot of satisfaction, which I think helped me to cut waaaaay back on useless social media scrolling.  I still go to Twitter almost daily but for minutes now instead of the hours that it had been in the past.  I guess there is a good side to advertising ruining the internet.  Since it sucks, I'd rather be reading!  Anyhow, I am happy with this achievement, but even happier with all the great books I have read.  I'll get into that at my end of year post.

The Animals of Farthing Wood was very straightforward, a little bit too simple for me to really get into.  Despite that, by the end, I was quite moved and felt a real sense of triumph at the completion of the adventure.  The stakes don't feel that high, though in the narrative animals do die and the threat of human destruction and cruelty is very real and depressing.  This was Dann's first book and judging by my memory of King of the Vagabonds, I suspect his work increases in subtlety. 

The story here is about the animals of Farthing Wood, a badger, a fox, an adder, an owl, a kestrel, a toad, a mole and families of hares, rabbits, hedgehogs, mice and voles.  The books starts in a drought and quite soon after the animals discover that their precious pond has been filled in by developers.  (Fucking developers, I hate them already but just typing this and thinking about the emotions this early part of the book brought up gets me stirred up.)  They realize they need to do something and they band together to try and find a solution.  At that point, Toad who had disappeared shows up.  Turns out he had been snatched by some kid and put in a jar and then released quite far to the north.  He made his way home which took four mating seasons.  Learning what happened to his pond (where had been born and raised), he tells the animals that he had discovered a nature reserve and could probably find his way back there.  The animals decided, after some debate, that escape to this place may be there only choice.  Their decision is confirmed the next day when the bulldozers show up.

It is a true adventure journey.  They battle weather, forest fire, nasty farmers, big agriculture, the hunt, predators and traffic.  Every episode is cool and tense, though as I said before, you always feel there is a certain benevolence to the narrative.  This does get undermined once or twice, which made me think I would wait a few more years before reading this to my daughter.  The travail with the fox hunters was particularly thrilling and satisfying.  A great book and a deserved classic.  I hope more kids in North America read it.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

99. Courtroom U.S.A. 2 by Rupert Frumeaux

I was planning on following up the Canadian dog book double rock block with another animal-themed book, but Fifteen Dogs saddened me enough that I need a little break.  What better than to jump into these odd, informative and sometimes entertaining trial books put out by Penguin.  I can imagine in my mind the editors and writers at Penguin coming up with this idea, figuring out they would make a few quid and saying something like "let's give Rupert a swing at this."  Each essay is in some ways like a Wikipedia page on the subject, but more artfully written and structured chronologically.

I found this one to be more engaging than Famous Trials 4.  It focused more on the actual story of the crime and wasted little time on the esoteric contortions of legal theory.  Unfortunately, I still have Famous Trials 5 to read instead of another Courtroom USA.  I actually found this one good enough that I will seek out the first one and any following editions.

There are 4 trials documented here, as you can see on the cover.  All of them were quite famous at the time (the theme of the role of the media in these trials is a constant sub-text).  Only Leopold and Loeb and Alger Hiss I had known roughly about.  The Leopold and Loeb story is really dark.  Several movies and plays were based on it and it is seen as the harbinger of a new kind of crime, a manifestation of the sins of the 20th century:  the crime for crime's sake by an immoral youth.

The Alger Hiss story is also fascinating to read in light of today's new cold war with Russia using cultural disruption tactics on the internet.  Even today, the truth behind the Alger Hiss accusations is unfound and being argued.  He was accused of having been a communist by a pretty sketchy character with super sketchy evidence, yet because it was the height of the cold war, the accusations had to be addressed.  The accuser, Whitaker Chambers, who seemed if not a traitor and liar than at least insane.  And yet after the trial, he ended up becoming a luminary of the American right wing, with Reagan considering him an important mentor.  To my mind, the whole thing felt like the kind of dirty tricks that Nixon did and the fake news strategy of the Republican party today.  Say something until it sticks, even if you are actually destabilizing the country and building up Russia's strategic power.

The Hoffman trial was interesting, though slight compared to the other three.  A projectionist is accused of murdering a woman as he fits the description seen of the man who gave her a ride.  Because he was Jewish, he panicked and tried to make up an alibi and get rid of his gun, which made him seem even guiltier.  He took the risk of appealing his sentence and pleading not guilty and ended up being exonerated by the excellent work of his lawyer, Samuel Leibowitz.  I felt the anti-semitism was underplayed in the telling here, as well as the side fact that the most obvious culprit was the brother of a local Republican official.  I would love to know the rest of the story.

It was the story of Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray that really got to me.  As I was reading it, I suspected that it had been the basis of Double Indemnity and it turned out to be correct (also possibly The Postman Always Rings Twice).  Ruth Snyder married an older, succesful man and they moved to a house in the nice part of Queens.  He became quite domestic and she became quite bored.  She ended up meeting Judd Gray, a lingerie salesman, who was actually quite milquetoast.  They had a torrid affair and she convinced him to kill her husband.  It was an argument in the trial, whether he had been the instigator or she, but it really does seem like she pushed him to it.  It's a crazy, nasty murder, messy and amateurish and altogether pathetic.  They collapsed and gave each other up as soon as the slight pressure was put on them.  Both ended up getting the chair.  Her execution was famous because of the hype of the trial, because she was the first woman executed in a long time and finally because a report for the NY Post snuck an ankle camera into the execution chamber and took a picture of her at the moment of death that they blasted on the cover (and probably made a killing, pun somewhat intended).

Nice work, Rupert

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

98. Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis

It's a Canadian dog story double rock block!  Fifteen Dogs is written 63 years after The Wild Dog of Edmonton, which was my previous read.  I think that a detailed analysis and comparison of the two would probably yield fruitful knowledge about the state of literature and dogs in Canada.  However, I do not have the time nor the inclination to do more than scratch the surface of this rich topic.

Fifteen Dogs is a winner of a bunch of Canadian awards and was a contestant (and maybe even the winner?) of Canada Reads.  These awards tend to bias me against a book, as I can only guess at the maze of politics and cronyism the author must make his or her way through to get here as well as the even more precarious balance of interesting yet safe content the book itself must contain.  For instance, the blurb on the back calls it "meditative and devastating".  Devastating alone would have been too risky.  And even worse, "Fifteen Dogs shows you can teach an old genre new tricks."  You can almost hear the anxiety of the editor, "make it super clear that this isn't a genre book!"

So yeah, many strikes against it before I even cracked the cover.  On the positive side, it was recommended by a friend whose opinion I respect and it was printed on acid-free paper from second growth forests here in Quebec.  I do like Canadian things and will support the Canadian book industry.  I just wish it would stop being so insecure and pretentious!

The story here is really clever.  It's basically a greek myth.  Apollo and Hermes are drinking in a brewpub in Toronto (this scene is quite funny: the Gods and Canadian beer) and make a bet that if they give dogs intelligence will they die happy or sad?  They choose fifteen dogs who happen to be staying overnight at a vet near the brewpub and bless them with intelligence.  The dogs quickly escape and most of the rest of the book is about what happens to them.

It's interesting, though I found it much more meditative then devastating.  There is not as much narrative as there is exploration of what intelligence would mean to a dog and what they do with it.  Some embrace it, others reject it and this causes a schism that turns quite nasty.  Alexis does a creative job of imagining how the nature of a dog would mesh with human-level intelligence.  They certainly don't become human.  In the end, as more and more of the dogs die and the bet remains inconclusive, the gods start to meddle.  All the stuff with the gods was really clever and well crafted.  It fit in perfectly with the stories of the Greek gods I loved in D'Aulaire as a child.  It's also kind of a downer.  The book was quite dark and sad for most of it.

Interestingly for such a divergent approach to a dog's life, both Fifteen Dogs and The Wild Dog of Edmonton portray the perspective of the dog on the run in a very similar fashion.  The dogs running around Canadian neighbourhoods, looking for food, shelter and figuring out which humans may provide that while always remaining wary was very consistent across both books. That's as deep as my analysis goes. 

So while I generally avoid "literary fiction", I will give Fifteen Dogs a moderate two thumbs up.  I am not sure if I got anything deep about the human condition from it, but I cared about the dogs and enjoyed the story. 

There is one small yet glaring error.  At the very end, there is a scene in Ralston, Alberta.  It says "It was a late afternoon in Summer. The sun had just begun to cede its ground to darkness."  I don't think Alexis has actually been in Alberta in the summer, because the sun I am pretty sure would be high in the sky in the late afternoon.  Is this not the case across Canada?

Monday, December 02, 2019

97. The Wild Dog of Edmonton by David Grew

I found this at the Value Village southeast of downtown (can't remember the neighbourhood name, rapidly gentrifying) which was packed with people buy Halloween costumes.  It was $7.99 which struck me as a bit pricey.  I also noted that if you are looking for contemporary thrillers, fantasy and sci-fi it had a pretty impressive collection of mainstream stuff.  I should add these to my hunting maps.

The Wild Dog of Edmonton was a great little book. It was written in 1948 for a young adult audience.  There are two protagonists, Dwight the orphan who lives with the hard-working and hard-feeling Brunnels.  They haven't officially adopted him and he is basically there as a farmhand.  Mr. Brunnel is the kind of resentful asshole they are still breeding in rural and suburban Canada, angry in this case because the government is forcing him to send Dwight to School.  Dwight, while tending the barn witnesses the birth of a litter of pups and falls in the love with the first one. He names him Whitepaw and he becomes our second protagonist.  Old Farmer Fuckface Brunnel realizing that the boy loves the dog, does everything he can to force him to get rid of it.  The boy's nice teacher (who also realizes his potential) lets the dog stay with her at least until the end of the school year.  Whitepaws becomes a favourite among the students.

However, when the school year ends, Brunnel, despite the pleas of the nice teacher, reiterates his threat that he will shoot the dog, so Dwight and Whitepaws run away, heading to Edmonton where he hopes to find work.

Thus begins a two-part adventure, first with the two making their way in the winter on a perilous journey and second once in Edmonton, when they get separated and then Whitepaw learns to fend for himself.  Both parts are cool but the book really shone for me when Whitepaws was on his own.  He was a loving, trusting dog, being brought up with nice Dwight, the kindly teacher and all the kids.  Here on the mean streets of Edmonton he learns to sneak, steal and fight.  It's pretty cool stuff.  It moves along at a nice tight pace with nice descriptions of wintery Canada and this strange world from a dog's perspective.

It struck me as reading this that the post-apocalyptic genre and the animal perspective adventure genre share a lot in common.  They both have potential heroes exploring strange lands with whom they have little or no connection or history.  Meaning can only be guessed at, puzzled together by the bits of information they glean from the ruins or Man's world.  Survival is a share theme as well.  Something to ruminate on.

This was a great find.  The fundamental conflict is between the selfish individualism of the farmer, who uses his struggle for resources and labour as an excuse for an ideology of negativity and control versus the liberal spirit of the teacher who recognizes that with education and community everybody can be uplifted.  This conflict is still with us today in Canada.