About the Author

Glen Dresser is a novelist whose first book, Correction Road, was released in 2007 and shortlisted for the W.O. Mitchell City of Calgary book prize. He has also worked as a technical writer, information designer and web developer. He is currently focusing his efforts on his second novel and his first-born son, while assisting with UPPERCASE Magazine

Categorical Index

"Gumball Machines" for UPPERCASE Magazine

Musings on the history of the gumball machine - UPPERCASE Magazine Issue #4

It's amazing that we've become so accepting of the idea of making a transaction with a machine. And yet a century of vending machines has brought us along in little steps to this point. One can imagine first the dubiousness and then the sense of novelty that much have greeted the first automated postcard vending machines in the streets of London in the 1880s. And while those early designs -- and the candy dispensers that came to North America a decade later -- are like crude golems in comparison to the sophisticated automated transactions of today, they were a significant step. A transaction requires two participants, and up until those first vending machines, this meant two people. 

This was a really fun piece, but one that took a while to write. Janine asked me to do a little piece with musings gumball machines, and I struggled for a bit to find the right angle for the piece. In the end, I'm really happy with how this little essay turned out; it's one of my favorites that I've done for UPPERCASE, touching on golems, the Turing test, and random number generators. 


Prairie Fire Review

Donna Gamache, writing for Prairie Fire Review of Books, has done a review of Correction Road. 



High and Low

Last night I went to a screening of Kurosawa's High & Low at the Plaza theatre in Calgary, put on by Calgary Cinematheque. It's the first Cinematheque event that I've been to, and I'm looking forward to future events.


High and Low is a story about two men: Gondo, a shoe factory manager who's involved in a bitter power-struggle with the traditionalist company owner and three profit-over-quality executives; the second man is a mysterious figure who attempts to kidnap Gondo's son to extract ransom, but instead kidnaps the son of Gondo's chaffeur.

The first and most visually arresting movement of the movie takes place almost entirely within Gondo's dramatic hilltop home, where Gondo's wife, his chaffeur, his son, and even the police encourage him to pay the ransom that will surely ruin him given the context of the factory power struggle, while Gondo rails against them, claiming his own right to preserve his self. Even when he's being selfish, it's with an honesty and forthrightness that still makes him a sympathetic character. He eventually agrees to pay the ransom, but only after he convinces all around him that he has no obligation to do so. I love the way that part of the story played out: that despite the fact that Gondo is an essentially good character, he needed to silence all of the external voices before he could listen to his conscience. 

Figures are grouped dramatically in Gondo's stylish home, lit by gaps in the curtain that are generally kept closed to block the view of the watching kidnapper. It's a mesmerizing scene, but the film then shifts rather suddenly from a moral drama to more of a police thriller: the kidnapper outsmarts the police at the exchange, gets away, and sets off an extensive police investigation. I wasn't able to keep track of how many different officers were introduced as being involved in the investigation, but the movie follows up numerous leads, some dead ends, others valid. But what's most interesting is the enthusiasm and emotional investment the police have for recovering the money that belongs to Gondo, who has now become a heroic figure not only in the eyes of the audience, but also in the eyes of every other character in the film. 

A third and final movement of the film follows the chief suspect as the police tail him, and, where, clad with mirrored sunglasses, he leads them into seedy dance parlours and a drug alley. This is the Low to the High of Gondo's hilltop home, and the shots of the police here can be contrasted with those in Gondo's home: there are no beautiful groupings of figures, no wonderful light: everything is rugged and grotesquely flawed. Gondo never goes into this world, and the kidnapper never enters Gondo's. So much of this film is about the police, and the way they connect and move between the highs and lows, functioning in very different ways in each. 


The Artful Sentence

A friend was recently asking me for recommendations about books on writing, and while I don't read many books on the subject, I have one absolute favorite, which I consider mastful in its scope, subject, and writing (it's shocking how often books on writing often suffer from poor writing themselves). 

The book is The Artful Sentence: Syntax as Style by Virginia Tufte. Anyone interested in information design might recognise the name: Virginia Tufte is mother to Edward Tufte, who's volumes on information design are the most informative and beautiful out there. Virginia's book is equally well-crafted, and published by her son's press. It's also a handsome tome, and I always keep it in a prominent location on my desk, inviting queries and discussion from anyone who notices it. 

Tufte starts with a very simple but powerful concept -- the short sentence -- and moves through increasingly complex syntactical devices: propositions, appositive phrases, parellelism, cohesion and many more. In each case, she cites examples from an impressive range of literature. When one focuses on the examples, the book really becomes a library of excellent little pieces of writing. But equally impressive is Tufte's own writing, which is not only clear, but also as elegant and stylish as the examples she uses, and she probes language at a deeper level than simply explaining the rules of language. As an example, in the first chapter she outlines four different styles of  short sentences, and then goes beyond that to explain how short sentences function syntactically within a paragraph to provide a change of pace; can provide a simple and clear beginning; can add a touch of finality to the ending. 

There are a lot of books out there offering general inspirational advice about being a writer, or suggesting activities to jump-start your creative process. And while all of that is fine, it's equally important for a young writer to submerge one's self in the power and beauty of language. That's what this book is about. 


Glen & Percy on CBC

Percy and I had a brief spot on Living Calgary, in which I was asked to talk about a favorite area or element of Calgary. So I picked our neighbourhood of Sunnyside. If it sounds like I'm out of breath, it's because Percy was pulling on the leash through all six takes. Whenever the camera was off, he'd walk along beside me, and as soon as we'd start a take, he'd try to run. He's just a ham for any camera!

I'm happy that I was able to subtly work in a theme from Correction Road: borders that are formed by geographic and natural features, vs. those that are man-made boundaries.

Living Calgary
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