Saturday, February 28, 2009

Celebrating a Buried Treasure

If you missed it in the Globe . . .

Buried Treasures / An Arctic adventurer worth remembering
Elisha Kent Kane was a superstar adventurer and writer in the 19th century but is remembered today only by specialists and aficionados

KEN MCGOOGAN
Globe and Mail
February 28, 2009

Back in New York City after spending two years in the High Arctic, explorer Elisha Kent Kane went with friends to dine at the legendary Century Club. After dinner, while the men sat drinking sherry and smoking cigars, someone introduced Dr. Kane to British author William Makepeace Thackeray, already famous for Vanity Fair.

Prompted by others, Kane – who had published one book about northern exploration – began recounting the story of his latest expedition. According to Harper's Monthly Magazine, Thackeray and the other men “listened like schoolboys might listen to Sinbad the sailor.” When Kane was done, the hefty Thackeray rose from his chair, approached the table and asked a mutual acquaintance, “Do you think the Doctor will permit me to stoop down and kiss his boots?”

The 35-year-old Kane, born a storyteller in 1820, had divided his life between adventuring and writing. Before undertaking this latest expedition, he had descended into a volcano in the Philippines, fought pirates on the River Nile, infiltrated slave traders in West Africa and narrowly survived a stab wound in the Sierra Madre while fighting in the Mexican-American war. . . .

To read the rest, simply click on the title of this entry . . .

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ken McGoogan on the Ice

During my 2008 Arctic voyage with Adventure Canada, we visited Beechey Island, site of the first three graves of the lost Franklin expedition of 1845. Elisha Kent Kane, the subject of my book Race to the Polar Sea, was one of the first to discover those three graves. I was trying to locate the precise spot where Kane was standing when a sailor came tumbling over a snow-covered ridge hollering, "Graves! We've found graves!" But as we were making our way towards it, suddenly a polar bear started moving rapidly around a bay in our direction. A polar bear can outrun a race horse, so we beat it back to the zodiacs.




Saturday, February 21, 2009

Say goodbye to John Steinbeck

Say goodbye to John Steinbeck"An unfortunately timeless classic . . .
When a politician tried to ban a book in Alberta, Ken McGoogan wrote a protest song. It's a tune that still needs singing today"

That was the headline at the Globe and Mail Books website, where editor Peter Scowen posted and introduced Say Goodbye to John Steinbeck. He filled in a few blanks as follows . . . .

"What we have here is a YouTube video featuring Ken McGoogan, bestselling author of Race to the Polar Sea, back in his singer-songwriter days in Calgary.

McGoogan wrote this song in the 1990s "after a government MLA stood up in the legislature and brandished a petition calling for the banning of Of Mice and Men, the classic novel by John Steinbeck. I still remember reading about this in a newspaper for the first time, and the way the blood rushed to my head. I was writing and performing songs in those days, and the result was Say Goodbye to John Steinbeck."

McGoogan says others felt the same way and together they managed to stop the politician from banning the book.

McGoogan pulled the video from his archives in time for Freedom to Read week (Feb. 22-28). "Would-be censors, it turns out, are like the living dead in SF movies: you stop some of them, but others just keep coming in waves," he says. "The only good thing about them is that they keep this song timely and relevant."

As for the band, it performed in the mid to late 90s in and around Calgary, and was called Ken McGoogan and the Immoral Minority. Says McGoogan: "On keyboards, you see Frank 'Freeman' Huether, who had played mostly jazz around town; and on drums, 'The Monster' Fred Engel, who had worked professionally as a session man here in Toronto. I was writing a lot of songs in those days, and we did all original tunes. Say Goodbye to John Steinbeck was one of our 'greatest hits.'"

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Say Goodbye to John Steinbeck

On Feb. 27, during Freedom to Read Week, I'll be part of Closer to the Land: Freedom of Expression and the Environment, an extravaganza slated for the Toronto Reference Library. I won't bring my guitar that night, but to mark the occasion, I've ransacked the musical archive and voila: Say Goodbye to John Steinbeck. I wrote this song when I was living in Calgary, after a government MLA stood up in the legislature and brandished a petition calling for the banning of Of Mice and Men, the classic novel by John Steinbeck. I still remember reading about this in a newspaper for the first time, and the way the blood rushed to my head. I was writing and performing songs in those days, and the result was Say Goodbye to John Steinbeck. Turned out lots of people felt the same way I did, and we killed that particular campaign. Would-be censors, it turns out, are like the living dead in SF movies: you stop some of them, but others just keep coming in waves. The only good thing about them is that they keep this song timely and relevant.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Polar Sea video draws on latest voyage

So here it is, my first YouTube video. It's called Polar Sea, which is short for Race to the Polar Sea, and it draws on my latest Arctic voyage with Adventure Canada. We sailed north towards the Pole in the wake of Elisha Kent Kane, but didn't get as far as he did. We didn't encounter anything like the ice that almost killed him, either. Didn't get to attach our ship to a massive iceberg for towing. Like Kane, however, we did enjoy meeting some fun-loving Inuit. If you've got three minutes and forty seconds, check it out!





Thursday, February 12, 2009

Slouching towards a cyber-presence. . .

I have been remiss. I have neglected to post links.
And links, I am told, are the very stuff of a cyber-presence.

So here's me at a Polar Bear Swim. . .


Here's me rambling around Scotland. . .
which adventure contributed to a book (How the Scots Invented Canada).


And here's me SIMULTANEOUSLY in the Boston Globe and the High Arctic.
If you poke around, you might turn up a video called Frozen In Time. I'm wearing what Sheena calls my Junior Glasses, after Junior Soprano, but they've since been retired.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Yo, Peter C. Newman . . .

Yo, Peter, the cheque is in the mail. But seriously, thanks for the hit in today's Globe and Mail. And for those who missed it, voila:

"For a change of pace and mood, I've been devouring Ken McGoogan's magnificent Race to the Polar Sea, published last year and arguably the most evocative of his four volumes on vintage Arctic exploration. One of Sir John Franklin's would-be rescuers, Elisha Kent Kane, sought an open sea at the top of the world and found instead upraised tables of ice 14 feet thick. The most literate of the northern adventurers, Kane left an impressive legacy that McGoogan, who sailed the same waters - now ice-free - explains, expands and makes relevant. This is a memorable book about an unforgettable odyssey."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

John Geiger makes three . . .

This revised line-up just in: On Feb. 17 at Commensal Restaurant, Ken will "read" along with Andrew Pyper and -- wait for it -- John Geiger. John has just published The Third Man Factor: The Secret to Survival in Extreme Environments, which has been drawing raves and has been picked up in 10 countries. Possibly because, on the back jacket, Ken calls it "a prodigious synthesis -- elegant, entertaining, and important." C'mon, it's POSSIBLE, surely?