Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Monday, August 14, 2017

"The politest crash"/ "A Q&A with Adam Sternbergh"

Oct. 12, 2015 "The politest crash": I cut out this article by Michael Hingston in the National Post on Dec. 1, 2012.  Hingston writes for the Edmonton Journal and he mentions NDP premier Rachel Notley before she became the premier.  Here's the article:

Into the Abyss By Carol Shaben
Random House Canada
311 pp; $29.95

In the evening of October 19, 1984, a small Piper Navajo plane crashed in the frozen wilderness outside of High Prairie, Alta. Six of its passengers died in the wreckage, including long-time Alberta NDP opposition leader Grant Notley. The four survivors, meanwhile, spent 15 hours huddled around a small fire in sub-zero temperatures before finally being rescued; among them was Larry Shaben, the province’s housing minister.

Those few details were enough to get the story picked up in newspapers around the world — including the Jerusalem Post, where Shaben’s 22-year-old daughter, Carol, came across a tiny, 50-word story. By that time, the crash had happened a full two days earlier. “We were going to call,” her mother tells her, “but it’s been crazy and, well … we didn’t want to worry you.”

The younger Shaben’s initial shock of discovery kicked off a fascination with the tragedy that has culminated in Into the Abyss, an account of the crash and its aftermath.

There’s certainly a lot of historical significance tangled up in the event. Larry Shaben was Canada’s first Muslim cabinet minister, and later became a leading voice for civility and interfaith dialogue in the wake of 9/11. Notley’s daughter Rachel is now also an MLA for the Alberta NDP (I used to live in her district). And the crash itself would later help set a legal precedent, as the first time citizens successfully sued the federal government for negligence of its regulatory duties.

The circumstances of the crash, too, are undeniably compelling. The identities of the four survivors are divided along stereotypical lines almost too good to be true: a pilot (Erik Vogel), a politician (Larry Shaben), a cop (Scott Deschamps) and the prisoner he was escorting into custody (Paul Archambault). And it’s Archambault alone who’s in good enough shape to build and sustain the fire that would keep them all alive — by a stroke of sheer luck, he’d convinced Deschamps to go against RCMP protocol and remove his handcuffs during the flight.

But then, surprisingly, nothing much happens. The crash doesn’t break down social barriers and let these men see one another for who they really are, as you might expect, because the stereotypes don’t line up. Larry Shaben was never a hoity-toity, out-of-touch aristocrat; Deschamps and Archambault already saw eye to eye with one another before they boarded the plane. All four men are uniformly polite and supportive — wonderfully Canadian traits that nonetheless seldom make for gripping drama. Nobody even gets mad at Vogel when he eventually admits he was behind the wheel, exhausted and overworked; they’re all instantly assuaged with promises of chocolate chip cookies from his flight bag.

To make up for this essential lack of tension between her protagonists, Shaben pads the narrative with a whole lot of peripheral bombast. Epigraphs from Seneca, Da Vinci and Joseph Campbell appear alongside single-word chapter titles like “Buried,” “Missing” and “Abort.” A quick glance at Part IV — home to “Hero,” “Fate,” “Atonement” and “Return,” among others — may have you wondering whether you’ve stumbled into a how-to manual for aspiring screenwriters by mistake. The Jon Krakauer-esque title is also no accident.

The tone of Into the Abyss is similarly overreaching. When Larry speaks, his voice is “deep with emotion.” Erik doesn’t just try to remember something: “a wisp of something forgotten feathered the edge of his consciousness.” Earlier, we’re told he “was banking flying hours like bonus points in a pinball game.” What this means, I have no idea. Quickly? Cumulatively? Is there an Addams Family theme, somehow?

Sometimes, this method even distorts the facts of the case. When the military’s air search-and-rescue team joins the search, for instance, Shaben writes that they had “the colossal task of covering more than 10 million square kilometres of land, as well as the world’s longest coastal waters extending offshore to the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.” Well, OK, but presumably they weren’t sending planes up to Baffin Island, or out to New Brunswick, for this particular mission. In fact, the very next page pinpoints the crash site to “between 30 and 40 kilometres south of High Prairie.” Such misleading does the book no favours, and diminishes the real scope of the tragedy.

My biggest complaint, though, is more of a missed opportunity. As Larry’s daughter, Shaben has a unique perspective on the crash that gets hinted at, but never put to proper use. The author has said she didn’t want the book to become a memoir, but by far the most interesting part of the book is the introduction, where Shaben touches on her relationship with her father and how difficult it was to assemble the material, including getting her hands on a handwritten manuscript that Archambault wrote before his untimely death in 1991. (Larry died of cancer in 2008, during the book’s early stages.)

In fact, by not fully embracing her subjectivity, Shaben’s proximity to her subject matter starts to look more like bias. There’s a long section on Larry’s life and accomplishments post-crash that feels almost suspiciously celebratory — especially compared to the realistically checkered portraits she paints of the other three men.

So sometimes Shaben slips into the first person, and Larry becomes “Dad.” Mostly she keeps her distance. Not only is this flip-flopping confusing, but at one point it also leads to an identity crisis, as Shaben has to awkwardly treat herself as just another character. At one point she writes: “Carol, [Larry’s] second-born, [was] working as a journalist in the Middle East.”

Now that just won’t do. Even an author can’t exist in two places at once.

Dec. 28, 2015 "This fuzzy- wuzzy hero burrows into your heart": I cut out this article by Katherine Monk in the Edmonton Journal on Jan. 16, 2015.  This is a movie review for the movie Paddington.

I watched the cartoon in 2000.  This may be the show:

Years later, tragic circumstances force Paddington to take up the offer, landing him in the middle of London’s Paddington Station with little more than a suitcase and note around his neck that reads “Please look after this bear. Thank You.”

The image was inspired by the thousands of children who were put on trains to escape the ravages of the Second World War, and as such, it carries an abstract emotional weight, suggesting everything from shared responsibility to universal love, two commodities that seem sadly out of fashion in the era of artificially enhanced avatars and selfie sticks.

Jun. 9, 2016 I was rereading my magazines and I found this website.  It looks good:

"Because originality is at the heart of creativity, to be creative takes courage. As a result, great ideas still have to be fought for and the process of doing so can feel anti-creative – another brief to solve, problem to fix, deadline to meet.

And in the midst of the battle, sometimes it’s easy to forget why you’re doing it at all.

We do it because creativity is a powerful force for business, for change and for good.

Cannes Lions’ mission is to champion creativity, and this year, we invite creative people the world over to join us in saying thank you for the difference it makes.

Not everyone can come to the Festival, and only a few will win a Lion, but the inspirational moments that happen in Cannes can and should be shared. That’s why we’re making some seminars and winning work accessible to anyone and everyone . It’s our way of saying ‘thank you, creativity’. We hope you’ll pass it on."

Jun. 17, 2016 Writer's Chronicle: Have you heard of this magazine?  I got a few issues when I was in Professional Writing college program in 2006.  I have a few issues.  Now I'm going to get rid of them.

"For over four decades, the Writer’s Chronicle has served as a leading source of articles, news, and information for writers, editors, students, and teachers of writing. Published six times during the academic year, the Chronicle provides diverse insights into the art of writing that are accessible, pragmatic, and idealistic. Each issue features in-depth essays on the craft of writing, as well as extensive interviews with accomplished authors. Readers can also find news on publishing trends and literary controversies; a listing of grants, awards, and publication opportunities available to writers; and a list of upcoming conferences for writers, including AWP’s Annual Conference & Bookfair. Our pages are for those who love reading and writing."

Jun. 10, 2017 Book review: Today I found this article by Jade Colbert in the Globe and Mail:

The Old World
By Cary Fagan
House of Anansi/Astoria, 304 pages, $19.95
Cary Fagan’s latest collection, 35 short stories each based on a found black-and-white photo, is a study in storytelling about the past. In the title story, two black children stay inside as a result of some sort of unrest in the street. To placate her kid brother, Kathry tells a story of the “old world”: their family’s rural life before they moved to the city.

In Kathry’s telling, the country becomes a promised land – the desire to turn this past into a paradise saying much about present circumstances. Fagan’s old world – the world of these photographs, the past as a whole – is far from this ideal: surprising, jaunty, colourful, but no Elysium. Bloody Tuesday, a spaghetti western told by a white child, is full of comical misunderstanding until the “Sheriff” reveals he’s learned the lesson of cowboy stories: The white boy’s life is worth more than his Native American friend’s. It’s arguably the most horrific moment in this collection about – not history – but the kinds of stories missing from history: a photo album of the personal monologues that make up the old world.

Jul. 15, 2017 "A Q&A with Adam Sternbergh": Today I found this in the Globe and Mail:

This excerpt introduces readers to the Blinds, a place that seems to be part sanctuary, part prison. What else can you reveal about it?

At its essence, the Blinds is a human experiment built around a simple question: What makes you who you are? Is it the sum of all your past actions – or the product of your next decision? The town’s residents are all either heinous criminals or witnesses to horrible events who’ve been stripped of their worst memories and given a chance to start again. But experience can imprint on you in different ways. Just because something is forgotten doesn’t mean it’s gone.

Fans might have expected a third Spademan novel, but this definitely isn’t it. What motivated you to head out in a new direction?

I’m very keen to write a third Spademan novel, but the idea at the centre of The Blinds got its hooks in me and just wouldn’t let go. Plus, after spending two books in the world of Spademan, which is rooted in a claustrophobic, dystopian New York, I wanted to try something more expansive, in every sense: From the prose style (not nearly so spare) to the POV (third person limited) to the wide-open plains of Texas where The Blinds takes place.

In the same way Shovel Ready and Near Enemy oozed elements of classic noir novels, The Blinds seems to be paying homage to westerns. What do you admire about the genre?

The funny thing is, I hated westerns growing up – because I thought of westerns as being about John Wayne, cowpokes and campfires, and spurs that jingle-jangle-jingle. It took me forever to realize that many of my favourite things – from Star Wars to Cormac McCarthy to the TV series Firefly to a recent film like Hell or High Water – are basically westerns in disguise.

As a mythology, the western has proved incredibly flexible and resonant – this notion of frontier characters forming an improvised morality in the context of an institutional ethical breakdown. It’s no surprise to me that the western is having another moment. In America right now, it definitely feels like we’ve entered a new and unsettling frontier, where we’re trying to figure out what the rules are, who will follow them, and how exactly we can go forward.

My week:

Aug. 7, 2017 Bubble tea job interview: I went to this interview 2 weeks ago.  The company hasn't opened yet.


1. It was 2 busses to get there.  It was at the north end, but the busses come frequently.

2. I like bubble tea.   I haven't had it in years.  The last time I had one was back in 2006.  I don't really buy drinks like coffee or pop.  I applied at one of their other locations earlier this year.

3. It is day shifts.

4. The pay was min. wage, but it may have some tips.

5. I can do the job like cash and cleaning.  The young woman who interviewed me said that after 3 days of training, I need to be able to make the drinks in 1 min.  

I may be able to do that.  I need to practice though.

Cons: None.

My opinion: I would work there if I got hired.  However, they emailed me and said I wasn't hired.  They did say they will have my resume on file.

"The invisible one": I found this life essay by Vickie Fagan on Aug. 2, 2017 in the Globe and Mail.  It was about a job interview.  

She mentions that in the middle of the interview that the senior marketing position is about going door-to-door sales.  She and the other two interviewees left.

Credit card: I got this offer for the Infinite Visa card.  I decided to call about it because it mentions 6% cash back for everything you buy.

It turns out 6% cash back for the 1st 3 months and then it's 1%.  It's only for gas and groceries.  After the 1st yr, you have to pay $120 annual fee to have the credit card.  I don't travel so no point in getting Aeroplans.

I will stick with my 1% cash back.

Aug. 8, 2017 Work: Last week I got called in to work today.  I thought I was one of two bussers.  Also I thought I was to only work in the morning.  Instead I was the only one and I worked all day. 

I then took a bus home and slept on the bus.  I had a good nap and was energized.  I then put that energy to reading the business section of the newspaper and the news outside.  I then put an hr. into my job search.

Aug. 5, 2017 "Natural- born liars": Today I found this article by Ian Leslie in the Edmonton Journal.  I looked up the article and found my blog post about him:

I can't find the article.  However, here is his book on Amazon:

Aug. 7, 2017 A cop stopped a car for speeding — then pointed a gun at a passenger for more than 9 minutes: 

A video taken during a traffic stop in California is drawing debate over the officer’s decision to keep his gun pointed at the passenger for more than nine minutes.

The stop took place last Wednesday morning along U.S. Route 101, south of San Jose, after an officer noticed a car pass him going 85 mph, according to the Campbell Police Department.

After stopping the car for speeding, the officer requested the driver’s license and additional paperwork. The driver and passenger spent several minutes looking for the paperwork before the officer walked back to his motorcycle to write a citation, police said.
It was at that point their stories diverged. According to police, the passenger began reaching “under his seat.”

“It is not clear why the passenger chose to reach under the seat since the officer was not requesting any other paperwork,” Campbell police said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the passenger’s unexpected movement towards the bottom of the seat, caused the officer to perceive a threat and draw his handgun.”

However, a man sitting in the vehicle’s passenger seat — the target of the officer’s gun — maintained throughout the incident that he had simply been reaching for some papers on the floor to try to find the vehicle’s license and registration, as requested.

A video that apparently was recorded by a woman in the car begins as the male passenger is expressing incredulity that the officer has pulled a gun.

“Wow,” the passenger says in the video, laughing. “We’re looking for the f—ing paperwork, bro. Oh my God.”

Police said they had reviewed footage from the officer’s body cam, which included the beginning and end of the incident not shown in the Facebook video. The department did not release any footage from the officer’s camera and did not immediately respond to an email Sunday.

“We are thankful that this incident resolved itself with no one getting injured and hope that this additional information provides clarification,” police said.

My opinion: I had to click on it to see if the people in the car were black.  I see the driver was a white woman, and the passenger was a black guy.  It's good to record this and show for everybody to see it.  I only watched a little bit so I can see the race.
Then I stopped.  I was getting a little too angry at it.  When I watch and hear something on TV (like the news), it gets me angry.  When I read the news, it doesn't have that much of an effect on me.  I can skim and scan it really fast.

Aug. 8, 2017 Mom left daughter in desert: 

Ashley Denise Attson, 23, took her 17-month-old child to a secluded spot in Navajo Nation – the United States’ largest American Indian reservation – last September.

She then inexplicably left the toddler alone for four days and nights in a buggy before retrieving her body and burying her in an animal hole, the US Attorney’s Office said.

Attson had only just regained custody of the child two months ago after she was taken away because she was found to have methamphetamine in her system when she was born.

My opinion: If you didn't want to have the kid, give the kid up for adoption or foster care. 

Aug. 14, 2017 Rip Curl at West Edmonton Mall is closing down: I was there yesterday and the store sold most of their stuff for 75% off.  It's unisex and sells backpacks too.  I already put this on my Facebook status update.


At August 14, 2017 at 8:50 AM , Blogger WordsPoeticallyWorth said...

An interesting piece.

Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.


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