Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Today was much better. It started out with Touch of Evil and proceeded into another lunch at the Red Room with Tony and Eileen. About three quarters of the restaurant was furnished with couches and upholstery. Tony and Eileen both seem like nice people and they're entertaining to listen to. Eileen really reminds me of Esther.

After that I studied up for African-Canadian literature. Nick Walsh (which I just noticed is eerily close to Nitz Walsh) was one of the presenters on Djanet Sears' Harlem Duet. Nick has got to have his eyes on being a professor, as he's one of those people that really goes all out for presentations and discussion. Turns out the guy's brother is the guitarist for Jen Militia.

Sometimes I find it difficult to talk in that class because Professor Clarke speaks from the heart and I feel like my relatively useless observations about Bakhtin's notion of polyphonic textual nature as it relates to Sears' play aren't going to register in quite the same way. I'm also white. Now, granted, 95% of the class is white. But I don't want to feel as though I'm talking in politically correct platitudes just to contribute to a discussion. It wouldn't be fair to the material. Professor Clarke talks at great length about the texts we study, and that's to be expected, but it's hard to deliver a complimentary idea that's more classically theoretical in approach when we're dealing with such emotional subject matter. That said, I'm learning a lot in the class, and the books have all been great reads.

I chatted a bit with Brooke afterwards, about where we're from and such. She mentioned a couple of places she's been to in Ottawa (including this one Russian bar...). It gave me a chance to gush about the city. She's from London, and I told her I'd heard stories...

I made the walk from Keele station again. After I got home I lounged for a bit befoe popping in Death in Venice, which I watched for an hour or so before putting on Orson Welles' broadcast of The War of the Worlds. I laid on the couch and listened to it for the first time, 69 years to the day it was first broadcast, and let its imagery play around inside my head. For those of you who don't know much about the story of the broadcast, it's a really interesting one: read more about it here.

Tomorrow I'm meeting with my Opera group before heading over to Matt's to do up Halloween. Have a happy one.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Today I was waiting for the bus when a car whirled around the corner and pulled over. A lady in the passenger seat asked me if I knew where St. Clair Avenue was. I thought I had an idea, so I started to point, but then I second guessed myself and told her, "No, sorry," in an effort to back away from the responsibility of getting her ass lost. She gave me a look and gesture as if to say, "Then why the hell were you about to tell me?" before the car drove away. Of course, five seconds after she took off I realized that my gut geographical instinct was correct. But that's what happens when I'm put on the spot.

The people I've encountered in Toronto are by action a lot meaner and nastier than folks in Ottawa, though I may be generalizing from a bad mood. I really felt as though I was going through the motions today, not wanting to interact with the world. Nevertheless I got through class and headed home. My Opera class ends at 5 PM, which is right in the middle of rush hour, so the trip home is always intense, especially when you don't want to deal with it at a level of great seething passion.

I was waiting for the bus at Keele Station and I was one of the first on the platform. 15 minutes passed without a bus showing up, and by that time the platform was overflowing with commuters. I spent about five minutes wondering about the mechanics of walking home before I decided to go ahead and try it under the reasoning that it would be good exercise in my typically exerciseless existence. I left the crowd in my dust and hiked up Keele Street.

Honestly, the walk did me a lot of good, mind and body wise. I'm going to make the effort more often. It only took about 40 minutes from station to front door and it gave me the opportunity to grasp a better idea of the area west of my apartment (the bus travels east before heading south. Keele is cut up into two chunks and it's taken me a while to wrap my head around it). After arriving home I ate some dinner, studied a bit, finished off X-Files Season 2 and vegged online.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I felt ahead of the game today, given that I finished a couple of film readings early, but I decided to get back to investigating wikis. I signed up for one hosted at Wikispaces but the code control sucked ass, so I added another at PBWiki, which seems to function a bit better. Honestly, though, the WYSIWYG editors at these sites are awful and wiki markup isn't nearly as friendly as HTML. I did manage to create a couple of pages on a free membership. The idea is that if I start paying, I can mess around with the CSS and eliminate the need for templates. As for being ahead of the game, I spent a few HOURS messing around with it without realizing how much time was passing. It always happens that way when I'm designing. It's probably why I don't remember much about college, all that time spent in front of a computer screen flying by as fast as it did.

I did manage to finish the majority of my readings. The plan is to go in a bit early tomorrow and work on Death in Venice-related research for my group meeting on Wednesday.

I heard back about an email I sent to the Canadian Council for the Arts, who told me that I couldn't apply for the grant I had my eye on. There is still one option I have if I apply as a collective, so I'm going to give it a shot. Thankfully, the application isn't due until the end of next month. I bought a phone card online that will allow me to call Andrea on her birthday and watched Night of the Living Dead, which made me think back to past Zombiethons with Ottawa folk. Ash was kind enough to catch me up on some of the action from this year's installment.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

(WARNING: Major spoilers to The Shining ahead)

"...there is no way, within the film, to be sure with any confidence exactly what happens, or precisely how, or really why."

Roger Ebert wrote that about The Shining in one of his "Great Movies" reviews. He meant it in a positive context, taking into account that the film is about madness. I watched it for the first time in a couple of years tonight. I had it primed to go on that list of horror films I mentioned yesterday.

I haven't read the King novel, but I love the film. It gets better with every viewing. You put more and more pieces together but always wind up with a puzzle that doesn't look like a sane conception. There are parts of The Shining I just don't get, but any indication of success in trying makes the film a pure experience. That's what I appreciate about a great horror film. To me, the real horror in any situation is having my world turned sideways and made uncanny. I was online today, reading reviews for Saw IV which has just hit theatres. I saw the first Saw movie and thought it was a neat idea poorly executed on important levels. I didn't see any of the sequels, but curiosity drove me to read about them. The descriptions portray the films simply as sequences of torture in which people are mutilated in the most sadistic, barbarous ways imaginable. I understand the visceral thrill of that kind of film - who doesn't remember being a kid and talking about the gory details of the latest slasher flick to hit video, especially if you hadn't seen it? But even given the extreme violence of films like those in the Saw series, I don't find movies of that ilk scary. Disgusting, sure. Gory and brutal, yes, but not scary.

To me, that's why The Shining is so brilliant. It has moments of extreme violence, but they're buried in piercing tensions and a psychologically draining narrative. When Jack suddenly jumps out and kills Halloran with an axe blow to the heart, it's more horrifying than two hours filled with the same footage. This time I was really into how frighteningly Nicholson plays his role. He makes the transition from an eloquent, polite speaker at the beginning of the film to an animal shouting in agonizing frustration in the hedge maze at the end. When he pursues Wendy slowly up the staircase, threatening her, telling her he's going to "bash her brains in, bash 'em right the fuck in," no matter how many times you've seen the film there's a look in his eye that convinces you he might just do it this time:

The film works on so many levels, really, that you can pick one and enjoy it apart from the rest, which might be sound advice if you're trying to make sense of it on the whole.

I also watched Wild Strawberries. I can't communicate how wonderfully affected I am by Bergman's films. His dialogue is always so rich and passionate and full of existential longing. Wild Strawberries plays a lot with surrealist elements - I remembered seeing a clip of one of the more nightmarish bits played in an undergraduate film class. The film is about an elderly professor coming to terms with old age, remembering back to moments of past happiness and sadness, ultimately realizing that he hasn't yet ceased learning and instructing at 78. Bergman constantly describes his character as "growing cold," hardened to life, jaded in the midst of a life weighed down by thought. On a road trip he offers a ride to young people squabbling (even fighting physically) over the existence of God. They ask him his opinion and he comes to his own self-realization - that life isn't about proving God's existence or absence one way or the other. In times of sadness, rather than grow too despondent over present remedies, it benefits one more to think back on times of past joy.

I read a few film articles today, including a couple by Bazin. I still have a few more to go. I watched some X-Files over chicken soup - my cough is turning resolutely into a cold. I downloaded a new version of Internet Explorer because some websites like weren't properly formatted in the version I was using. I also had a conversation with Andrea today about her troubles with a public journal that her employer found, and it intimidated me into making this journal private. On the bright side I can probably start using a lot more profanity and being completely honest about people I dislike. None of those people belong to my cherished, valuable readership of course.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Reading Landow and discussing him in class prompted me to look a little further at wiki technology today. I went online and messed around with editing and attachments at I could see myself really becoming absorbed in it.

I tried making a list of my ten favorite horror films, but I couldn't count off more than six. I don't watch as much horror as I used to (yet another indication that I'm mellowing, perhaps). That said I watched Nosferatu for the first time tonight and found Max Schreck's performance utterly creepy. Take a look at the moment he rises from the coffin in the hold of the ship. Tell me that didn't make people completely WET themselves in 1922.

I also watched Schindler's List, which is an obviously heartwrenching movie, but I didn't feel truly affected until Schindler breaks down towards the end. It's a triumph of Liam Neeson's to allow his character to shift the way he does, and I can't recall the last time I've seen such a realistic flow of character development in a film. That scene MAKES the film, because you see a man who has spent the last three hours onscreen slowly changing his mind about Jewish inferiority without blinking finally pour his life at the feet of the people he ultimately tries to protect.

I've got a copy of Bergman's Wild Strawberries to watch. It's going to be a dour weekend.

I spent some time in the library searching out work by Barthes to no avail, though I did nab a copy of Foucault's Archaeology of Knowledge. I also sent off some mail and listened to SModcast. My cough has still not gone away, so it might be time to hit the IDA.

Friday, October 26, 2007

I read a fascinating article by George P. Landow today on the implications of hypertext on electronic publishing - a refreshing change after slogging through Kristeva and Greene. It seems to me that the difference between the reader of a physical text and the reader of a virtual one is activity - to use Landow's language, the hypertext reader is active. He/she is able to engage with the text on levels that far surpass in interactivity their engagement with a physical text, via numerous practices of linking. However, it's up to the reader to take advantage of these practices.

Vannevar Bush came up with the idea for the Memex system and predicted the existence of Wikipedia over sixty years ago: "wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready-made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified." I find the idea of the dynamic online text very interesting. When I ask people about reading books on their computers, the answer is always similar: they'd rather hold a book in their hands. I think what they're really talking about is more associative. People spend hours at their computers every day: reading, making trails, absorbing information. But when it comes to the idea of reading a novel, they dissociate it from the computer, itself a signifier of open-ended information, a wellspring far too large and seemingly infinite to comprehend actually finishing a text. When we read online, we do so to learn, which is a continual process. We don't regard a novel in such a way. A novel is physically finite and armed with a beginning that proceeds to an end, regardless of our poststructural interpretations.

I have a feeling that this society will evolve to become increasingly active in their engagement with texts of all sorts. Landow makes the argument that books presented the same kind of technological impact when the printing press made documents available on a mass scale, and hypertext is no different. Eventually we're going to see texts existing in a completely dynamic state. There will be no such thing as a novel without visual and theoretical aid, without the option to access parallel studies, contexts and critical opinions including those of our own. We'll be able to build bridges between all texts and immerse literature so far into the intertextual that the notion of authority will completely break apart. The implications are astounding. It's just a matter of how it will be marketed.

I bought a copy of Beetlejuice at the grocery store today and watched it along with some X-Files over dinner. I'm almost finished with Season 2 and it's featured half of the members of Hard Core Logo in roles (half the fun of watching a US series filmed up north are the familiar faces that pop up). I also finished putting together Andrea's present, but given that she reads this page I won't divulge its contents (patience cookie).

Bywords sent me a check for a poem of mine they published in their Quarterly Journal. It's the first time I've ever made money off of my writing. $5. I'm thinking I might frame it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I was able to take care of a few errands today, though the Canadian Opera Company hasn't started selling show seats for next year, so I couldn't pick up tickets and thereby knock a Christmas present off my list. I did apply for that government job after embellishing my resume a bit. I need to start back on applying for another couple of grants, though I may not qualify for the one I had my eye on through the CCA because I'm not a non-profit organization. There's a separate one for artists due in February, but I'm not really an ARTIST either. So it looks like I'll have to phone them.

I made some vegetarian chili and watched The Naked Jungle in which Heston plays a virgin (YEAH RIGHT) facing off against billions of killer ants. Heston flails around as if the ants are punching him in the body. It was about as ridiculous as it sounds but it made me laugh.

Speaking of nudity, I listened to Oni's Bedside Booty Book and blushed. Well, not really. She has a great voice on her that sounds even better over jazz rhythms. Tomorrow night I might hit up The Boat to see Eileen's band play. It would be nice to try out my camera at a show. And to get out of the house.

Here's a picture I took of myself:


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dietrich is out of my life for now. The presentation went fine but the morning seemed mired in technical difficulties and, and always, too much to say in too short a time period. After class I had lunch at Tik Tok Café with a couple of new folks, Eileen and Tony. Eileen lent me a Charlton Heston movie called The Naked Jungle that I thought looked hilarious based on her presentation on the Man (yeah, that's right, I capitalized "Man"). African-Canadian Lit was status quo and I conversed briefly with Brooke about the presentations we're doing on Oni next month. Should work out nicely.

The weather was miserable today and my socks were quite soaked through for hours. I long for the days of duck boots. Though it was raining I did take a few minutes before my latter class to explore the Trinity College chapel and courtyard. I'm still bowled over by the beauty of certain spots on campus.

I came home to a few DVDs I'd ordered - 24 Hour Party People, Halloween II and Talk Radio, which is an underrated Oliver Stone film I've always liked starring Eric Bogosian in a completely riveting performance as a radio talk show host. I watched that and some X-Files over dinner and capped the flick for film_stills.

Tomorrow I have a list of little things I have to take care of, including finally applying for that job. I've decided to go ahead and give it a shot. If they like me for a position, and I end up not enjoying it, I can always leave. Unless there's a clause I overlook that necessitates the breaking of my legs upon breach of contract. I'll just remind myself to read the fine print.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My passport is now firmly in my possession, faux male supermodel posed picture and all. Everything looks set for my New Year travels. Andrea sent me a bit of an itinerary and man am I excited. Lots to see and do, lots of pictures to be taken.

I felt tired most of the day and took a nap before finishing off the Dietrich presentation, and not a moment too soon because I'm starting to have dreams in which she tells me I'm the cream in her coffee (and the salt in her stew). Speaking of food, I picked up a box of Reese Puffs at the grocery store. Heaven. God bless General Mills for shoving chocolate and peanut butter into a cereal bowl and calling it breakfast.

The presentations in Opera class are becoming more elaborate - costumes, media projections, piano stylings and the like. It seems everyone's a born actor. I have a good feeling about my group, however, and that we'll pull off something awesome. Anything that allows me the opportunity to wear an outrageously false moustache is something I can get behind (see the pics of my Beastie Boys gala event outfit for proof).

I finally got my new health card in the mail, so I'll feel a lot better about contracting potential sicknesses and injury. I'm still coughing and despite my first-ever foray into Buckley's cough medication (an experience akin to swallowing a nuclear explosion), it's a persistent bugger.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I'm getting kind of Dietrich'd out, and I think I'm doing a little too much research for a 15 minute presentation, but it should be ready to go on Tuesday.

I got to talk with Andrea for the first time in over a week today. I really miss her terribly. Tomorrow I'm picking up my passport, and that will bring me one step closer to Germany. Time seems to be passing slowly for me this month. I've only been in school for six weeks or so, but it feels like a hell of a lot more time has passed.

I went out to pick up some clothes today. It was gorgeous outside. The sun was shining and I didn't need a hoodie. I bought a nice suit jacket and shirt, plus a new pair of pants and a tie. I left most of my ties in Peterborough during the move. I haven't worn a suit in weeks and when you wear one at least once every couple of weeks for two years you get to feeling like kind of a slob. Hopefully I'll get some use out of this one.

I wrote more of that story I'm working on for In/Words. I should be able to finish it in one more sitting. It will feel good to have a piece of prose done.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

It's been awhile since I've stayed up late for the sole purpose of listening to music. The blood rushes in a slightly different way at this time of day.

Of course, this happened because I had a hankering to watch a couple episodes of Undergrads, which brought me back to my life five years ago. A few songs filled in the blanks of old narratives. If I really wanted to get deep into it, I'd read some old journal entries. But I don't. I just want skim the surface of memory and apply it to the present in positive and useful ways. Seems rather unlike the person I was five years ago.

I read a lot about Marlene Dietrich today, and watched her in The Devil is a Woman. She bent the minds of so many men in half, but she seemed rather lonely and affected. I started designing a website that I'm going to use for my presentation that will talk about her films with von Sternberg, her USO tours, the Dietrich persona and her role in Touch of Evil. I miss creating websites. Putting jigsaw pieces into place.

I need to hit Value Village and pick up some new duds. I'll try and do that tomorrow if I can wake up early enough.

Lately I've been reading Kevin Smith's My Boring Ass Life before I hit the sack. It makes for great bedtime reading. I listened to SModcast today and he spent the hour talking about how his post-high school/pre-film career years were the best of his life. I wonder what I'll consider the best years of my life to be when I'm pushing 40. I don't think I've had them yet, and they seem to keep getting better.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I woke up dead tired today, but made it to class where I learned the act of folio folding and leafed through a 1797 second edition copy of Radcliffe's The Italian, a book on which I'd written an essay in fourth year.

After class I picked up Patton and The Trial from Media Commons. I put on Patton when I got home, but I had to pause it halfway through because I was too exhausted to stay awake. I took a nap on the couch and finished it off afterwards. I always enjoy seeing George C. Scott in a movie, and he completely commands the screen in every scene. The film is just gorgeous to look at. I'm starting to build a taste for war movies, and this one did pretty much everything right, portraying Patton as slightly mad yet strangely admirable. The famous opening segment in which he stands in front of a giant American flag telling his men what to expect in war is great to watch even by itself.

The Trial is based on the Kafka story and directed by Orson Welles. It was his personal favorite of all of his films, and it's the most aggressively stylized of the ones I've seen, even more so than Kane and Lady From Shanghai. The movie is nightmarishly constructed from beginning to end and never dull. Anthony Perkins stars in the lead just a couple of years after making Psycho and plays the part of a man accused of an unidentified crime note perfect as he runs through jaggedly lit corridors, up spiral staircases and across enormous rooms and landscapes with a determined panic. A lot of the rhetoric is a bit blinding, but my only real qualm with the movie is the notorious job done with the dialogue overdubbing. Actually, that seems to often be the main problem with Welles' films - it's just downright distracting trying to pay attention to actors when their words don't line up with the movements of their mouths. Still, thematically, The Trial is disturbing and energetic, and unlike any movie I've seen.

I got an email today from SSHRC telling me about some recruitment program the government is running for "policy leaders;" it's geared towards honour students. I worked on an application and polished my resume, but I don't know if I'll apply. I'm still not really sure what I'd be doing. The description of the "program" is vague but it seems to indicate that upon graduation I'd be put into the public service field at an above-entry level, "taking on significant responsibilities in shaping Canadian policies" that match my field of expertise. Okay.

Lots of work to do this weekend. I'd better get a good night's sleep.

Friday, October 19, 2007

I watched The Blue Angel today, and had the idea to show a clip in class of a Dietrich performing live in her sixties, making references to how she began her film career. The movie itself isn't the best of von Sternberg's, but after watching a bunch of his films in a row one starts to get a sense of how Dietrich really twisted at his heart and soul.

I also watched Breathless, which I found strangely coherent for Godard. The elements of Hollywood crime film influence are well placed. Though I despised the male lead, the screenplay is pretty fantastic. Poetic and true.

I baked some penne paste with sausage tonight while Jay played around with a new electric drum kit he just picked up off of Ebay. Readings are caught up for now. I was thinking of hitting a show this weekend but I have a lot of prep to do for next week and I'm already feeling incredibly lazy.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wicked. The Q&A went down tonight. I asked Wes and Jason about the occupations of a couple of characters in The Darjeeling Limited. Wes mentioned that Owen Wilson's character was the owner of a fledgling electronics company. Jason said that there were a lot of ideas and bits for back story floating around while they were writing the script, and although those elements didn't make it into the film itself, it dictated the way the characters acted and responded to one another. Wes told him that was more of a response than an answer. I flipped Jason the thumbs up and got one back. Wicked.

After the Q&A the two hung around for a bit. I was too shy to ask Jason for a photo, but I was able to snap the shot above. He was really nice about signing autographs and joked with everyone. All in all a very cool experience.

I sat beside a guy who wrote for IGN FilmForce. We chatted a bit about Orson Welles and he told me about trying to make his way into the television industry. Seemed like a nice enough dude.

I talked with Professor Columpar about my Dietrich presentation next week, so I now have a better idea of what to focus on. I'm a third of the way through Dietrich's biography, Blue Angel. Man oh man, did she sleep with a lot of folks. Scandalous. Tomorrow I'll watch her in The Blue Angel and take care of my Bibliography readings. I also rented a copy of Godard's Breathless, which for some ungodly reason I haven't yet seen; I need some inspiration for a piece I'm sending off to In/Words. One of the characters is a French New Wave anachronism who believes the only way to truly appreciate art is to despise most of it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I'm officially dubbing this Marlene Dietrich week, as I will pretty much be obsessed with all things her for my Touch of Evil presentation next week. Tonight I watched Morocco, the film that granted her an Academy Award nomination, and I preferred it to Blonde Venus. The final shot of Dietrich following the man she loves into the desert as it swallows her up is fantastic. I should make it to campus tomorrow to read a bit of her biography and watch The Blue Angel before catching the Wes Anderson/Jason Schwartzman Q&A.

I feel like I'm working on something really worthwhile in that class. At times I wish I were taking it the whole eight hours a week. Our prof started an online message board to continue class discussions, and I hope it picks up, because two hours a week just isn't enough to hurl ideas around. I want to make something really sweet for my final project; I could envision working on this even after I'm through with the class. An Orson Welles multimedia piece has the potential to be of great use to the worldwide academic community. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I took some pictures around campus, but not enough to warrant posting them. African-Canadian Lit is progressing all right, but at times it feels as if I can't get into it as much as I initially wanted to. At least the readings are great. Things should pick up once I start researching my presentation. I received a couple of Ottawa slam poetry CDs in the mail today that I'm planning to incorporate. I dig this multimedia approach.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I hung out with Ren tonight. It was good to see him, since I haven't seen anyone from Ottawa in going on two months. He's in town working for Henry's and they've outfitted him with a hotel room and such. He's going to be moving to Toronto in a couple of weeks to take advantage of a more corporate full-time position with the company. We had a chat over pub food at a place called Hemingway's near the campus and then went to check out The Darjeeling Limited, which I really enjoyed. Wes Anderson and Jason Schwartzman are delivering a Q&A at the same theatre on Wednesday, so I bought a ticket. I still can't get over how many opportunities Toronto gives to see famous people in person.

I enjoy walking downtown. The buildings are enormous, often tiered to multiple businesses and restaurants, and the streets are always busy with people. It's hard to not feel connected with everything when so much is going on around you. I wish I lived a bit closer, but it's probably for the best as far as studying is concerned. I can't forget that I'm on a mission with the time I'm given here.

I'm caught up on my readings for tomorrow. I have a four hour break that I'd like to use to take some pictures. Ren and I talked about the value of keeping records; he's far more hesitant than I am to do so. I suppose I like the idea that images and words have the opportunity to be left in my wake. Indications of how I felt about the world, where I experienced it, what struck me as important. You can't take them with you, but you can keep them until it's time to go, and pass them on as a testament that you were alive and realized it.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Griffith's The Birth of a Nation is presented in two parts - the first concerns the Civil War, the defeat of the South and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and is filmed with a powerful sense of scope and subject matter. It is easy to marvel at Griffith's abilities and to call him the greatest filmmaker working in 1915; he was a man who could not only compose a grand idea but execute it in ways that other directors couldn't via camera movements, transitions, intercutting and an general eye for action. When the North and the South finally end their battle, when the images of the bodies have faded from the screen, it looks as though a war has actually been waged on the field, and Griffith's camera had been sitting atop a high ledge capturing the entire struggle.

Unfortunately, the movie's second part dealing with the Reconstruction of the post-Lincoln South is some of the most flagrantly racist, poorly staged material I've ever seen on film. White actors portray ignorant blacks eating chicken in legislature, turning into unhinged sexual predators and generally lumbering around like dolts until they form a fascist group that terrorizes the "poor white minority" (that's a quotation from one of the title cards). The Ku Klux Klan are portrayed as heroes pushed to the breaking point by a proclamation that did more harm than good in unifying the South as they ultimately hunt down and murder African-Americans, forcibly prevent them from voting and demonizing the notion of interracial coupling. The final act is a long, clumsy and ugly finale to a movie that had initially kept me captivated, and it's one of the strangest examples of a film with a dual nature that I can remember.

So what can I make of it? Is it great? Perhaps some films should simply be regarded as significant by virtue of their own conflicted nature. Birth of a Nation is significant because it shows exceptional innovation in its execution and staging (Roger Ebert's review of the film mentions that audiences wouldn't have been able to focus entirely on the film's plot, given that they would have been awestruck by the intercutting process). But its racist stance - a stance that Griffith spent the rest of his career apologizing for - begs it to be disregarded as "great" and more fundamentally "American." It seems to be one of those (first) cases where style is in direct contrast with substance. Ultimately, it was the first instance of a film shaming its own media while giving everything of which it was capable in the effort.

I read an article of James Naremore's on film noir as a genre, and he calls for the need of a "genre-function" discourse very similar to that of Foucault's, which suits the author. I wonder why art causes us to panic the way it does. We're always attempting to come up with concrete definitions for human expression - both the need for it and the end result - and track periodical trends. Poststructuralism should have made things easier but all it really seems to do is offer a much bigger table on which more critics can toss their two cents. It keeps things fun, I suppose.

I wrote a poem today. The Independent Festival of Authors is coming up. I wouldn't mind checking out Elizabeth Hay, Rudy Wiebe and Will Ferguson. I'm always so lackadaisical and awkward when it comes to festivals, concerts, art shows. Part of me thinks the sole reason I want to publicize them for a living is so that I'm properly able to psyche myself into attending them.

I'm listening to Radiohead's new record at a rate of one song per day. Today's was the fantastic "All I Need." I'm really enjoying the album so far, and keeping it out of reach.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Most of my group met today to watch a video of a Death in Venice performance, and we tossed around some ideas about the material we're going to present. After talking with them I'm starting to look forward to it. I have some ideas about looking at writer psychology, tying it in to Thomas Mann's work and the character Aschenbach. Looks positive so far.

I watched Faust and it's incredible. I LOVE Murnau's work. Nosferatu is probably the one he's most known for, but he also directed the amazing Sunrise: A Tale of Two Lovers that choked me up when I saw it. He's probably the greatest of the silent film directors (I say this on the eve before watching Griffith's most well-known work). Murnau's effects are overall great even by today's standards. I posted some stills over at the film_stills LiveJournal community.

Andrea and I had a conversation about outer space, prompted by the news that astronomers discovered methane rain on Titan. We started talking about other worlds and how little humanity still knows about them. Andrea sent me a documentary on supermassive black holes that I watched in amazement. But then that prompted investigation into how scientists think the world is going to end. One thing seems to be certain: regardless of anything we do, the Earth will not exist in 6 billion years (based on solar evolution, the sun will have become a "red giant" by that time). Humanity will have disappeared even sooner than that, because the oceans will have evaporated 5 billion years earlier, followed by the atmosphere. Venus will have melted entirely.

It's kind of humbling to know that despite our best efforts to cling to life, we're not going to be here forever. 6 billion years from now, if humanity still exists in this or another galaxy (not Andromeda, which will more than likely have melded with our galaxy creating a supermassive black hole that will either slingshot Earth out into space or evaporate it completely), it will probably be a lot different from what it's like today. How far are we going to evolve? Where will we end up? When will we end, if at all?

I picked up some graham wafers at the grocery store. They're sweet and taste like honey. I like to eat a few before I wash them down with cold water.

200 more words today.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

It sure got late in a hurry. Speaking of late, I was almost late for the opera tonight due to my foolishness in thinking I could get from my house to Queen Street in 45 minutes during rush hour. I made it with a couple of minutes to spare, but it would have been embarrassing if I'd been any later. Verdi's Don Carlos was a heretic-burning, Oedipus complex-flaunting, revolution-failing good time, though it was a long show at over 4 hours with two intermissions. I wasn't as familiar with it as I was going into Mozart's and I think that affected my opinion of it. The vocalists were better, but I was expecting more of a spectacle given the subject matter. It was still very good, nonetheless. Tomorrow I'm meeting with my group to start talking Death in Venice.

Today I visited the Toronto Public Library's Osbourne Collection of Early Children's Books, where my class looked at a ton of publications of Robinson Crusoe through the years. It's fascinating the kind of things that were used as propaganda for kids (wartime declarations, stories to prepare children for death). I bet there's a whole slew of Oz books in that building. They're currently featuring an extensive Edward Gorey collection in glass cases.

Between the opera and my Bibliography course, I feel so privileged being able to do what I'm doing here. I've been experiencing literature in a way I never thought possible - I'm actually able to engage with texts touched and signed by the people I read. U of T is extraordinarily surreal in a lot of ways due to its size and history. I should take advantage of what it has to offer while I'm here.

I signed out copies of Griffith's Birth of a Nation and Murnau's Faust to watch over the weekend. The Ontario Arts Council emailed me and told me I collated my grant applications wrong, which doesn't sound right because I took painstaking measures to put them in the right order, but I thanked them for correcting the error without forcing me to resubmit. I finally activated my new VISA and have as of yet not used it. Such restraint. Ren's in town and we're hitting up Darjeeling on Monday.

The air is getting colder. I have a lingering cough but it doesn't feel too serious.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I watched Smiles of a Summer Night today and quite enjoyed it. It's a rare comedic effort by Bergman, but he still manages to stick in moments of existential unrest, characters who despise life because they can't communicate directly with God, which seems even unintentionally funny in itself in this context. You know you're watching a Bergman film when a character suddenly faces the camera and delivers a monologue about their perpetual malaise. For the most part, though, he winks at the audience through the treatment of his characters, trying to stumble into the proper slots for happy relationships.

I also watched Wonder Boys, one of my favorite films, while eating some Oven-Baked Eggplant Parmesan and Spaghetti I whipped up for dinner. This past week I've been getting to know eggplant, trying to find some common ground because I want us to get along, and I think we're one step closer.

I finished my bibliography assignment, but I don't really know if it's what the prof wants - a reading list for a proposed research project along with a 300 word max paragraph talking about the books I've selected. I chose Charlotte Lennox as a subject. The thing is, the assignment mentions proper MLA citations for the paragraph. Why would I be citing ANYTHING directly if I only have 300 words to explain the presence of each and every work on the list? Plus, I put all of the works on from doing net research and taking brief looks at some of the material. I don't really know what's in them, so I can't very well cite them. Doesn't strike me as that kind of assignment.

Whatever. It's done. I'm catching Don Carlos at the opera tomorrow, which looks bombastically frightening. I'd like to get some scary movie time in before Halloween, too. But what I'd like most is to see The Darjeeling Limited this weekend. Is there anyone out there who will take a couple of hours out of their busy lives to accompany a poor Wes Anderson fan to the cinema this weekend?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I think the material I've been reading for classes has had a hand in affecting my disposition lately. One of my courses deals with the failure of an artist to express himself the way he wanted, his talent beaten into the ground until he died a joke, a has-been, virtually creditless in the eyes of the general public. I watched The Lady from Shanghai today and was struck by the intrigue of the scenes in the aquarium, the Chinese theatre, and the hall of mirrors. But I can't watch it and not feel every instance of obvious studio-made cuts and awful overdubbing that could have been avoided if Welles had been allowed a final edit.

Another course gears toward the history of racism in this country, featuring story after story of struggle, senseless violence, loneliness, and persecution. Lately I've been reading short stories by Austin Clarke, stories that take place in the streets of Toronto, places I'm becoming more and more familiar with. While a lot of his work is terrific, it portrays black men and women time and again failing utterly in their attempts to be subjective notions of "Canadian." Often they die or are killed in the process. And I sit in my room in Toronto by myself and the despair gets to me, as it would anyone else with a claim to humanity, I would hope.

The power went out tonight for about half an hour. From my balcony, patches of the city were still lit, but the predominant area around the building was pitch black, even the traffic lights. It looked a bit like the end of the world. Strangely enough, I downloaded the new Radiohead record today. The last time a giant blackout hit Ontario, I was safely in a Montreal hotel on a trip to see Radiohead perform. I'd like to write something here about Radiohead and music in general soon. Music has always been something I've had a strong passion for, and I don't devote it the attention I used to.

I spent about six hours in Robarts today, hunching over Bibliography and Touch of Evil readings, taking notes, and checking out the film Kiss Me Deadly - an insane film noir from 1955 that obviously influenced Tarantino, Scorsese and even David Lynch. Towards the end of the original noir era, the films had the tendency to explode out from under themselves. The protagonists would often experience delusion and go crazy. But this film is unparalleled in how it falls apart. It has to be seen to be believed.

I'm in love with Media Commons. They're well stocked in old movies that I can sign out for a couple of days at a time, hence my being able to watch Shanghai and eventually Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night in the comfort of Jay's own home. By the end of the school year I figure I'll be able to attribute about a fifth of my tuition to money otherwise spent on video rentals.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I wasn't feeling quite like myself today. I skipped my African-Canadian Literature class in order to regroup a little bit. I feel like it's time to make a few resolutions.

I'm going to start working a bit harder at school. I'm going to involve myself more with the readings and prepare myself with talking points for classes. Tomorrow I'm going to spend a few hours in the library to work on some readings and assignments.

I also want to start eating better. I feel like my diet is making me lazy, lumpy and tired. I made Tomato Eggplant Mozarella Stacks for dinner tonight (wild).

Finally, I need to pick up my writing. I did about 800 words today. That makes a few thousand since I moved here. A promising start, but I'd like to add many more. If I'm going to sit around, I'm going to sit around doing something.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I thought I was being slick in getting three Touch of Evil readings out of the way over the weekend, but I get back to Toronto and discover there are still 90 pages to go. Jeez. I need to start getting these readings out of the way a lot earlier. It would be a different situation if the class were later in the day, but I can't keep staying up until 2 AM reading if I have to leave the house at just after 9.

Okay, my mini-vacation is over. I have a bibliography assignment due this week, and another opera to attend on Friday.

I will not order more movies from Amazon. I will not order more movies from Amazon. I will not order more movies from Amazon. I will not order more movies from Amazon. I will not order more movies from Amazon. I will not order more movies from Amazon. I will not order more movies from Amazon.

Monday, October 8, 2007

I was fortunate enough to finally hit the fabled Phantom Farm with my sisters tonight. The Phantom Farm is a haunted barn and hayride located on a back road about 20 minutes outside of Peterborough past Fraserville. For the past five years my sisters have regaled me of their experiences at the farm, and I'd listen with great interest. This year I got an eyeful of everything they'd talk about, including the infamous figure Sarah refers to as Top Hat:

The barn was well put together, and though it wasn't busy I was hoping we'd have the opportunity to wait in line longer to be terrorized by the cast of characters on hand. Hidden passageways opened, things dropped from the ceiling, we had a chainsaw waved in our faces - all before actually entering the door. We stepped into a room and were spun around for a good 15 seconds before navigating our way through the crooked hallways, torture chambers, bedrooms, and jail cells populated by the likes of Michael Myers, Leatherface, Freddy, Chuckie, and about 20 others kooks (including a young female zombie in veils, whose human-flesh hungry mouth lit up like a firecracker; I asked her for her number and got a wave of her webbed fingers).

The hayride through the Phantom Forest showed equal invention. Not only were we bombarded with grotesque scenes such as a beheading, a zombie uprising and people pleading with us to save them from oncoming serial killers, but several lunatics jumped in the wagon, stealing shoes and hats, dragging chains on the roof - at one point men wearing camouflaged fatigues shot at the top of the vehicle, prompting a body to fall off into everyone's line of sight.

Not a bad way to wrap up a weekend. It made me excited for Halloween, that's for sure. I'll be heading back next year.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

I don't think I've ever felt so full after eating tonight's Thanksgiving dinner. I had to lie down for about an hour immediately afterwards. That's my idea of a great meal - it just FLOORS you. You have to lie there, waiting for your body to comprehend how much you've eaten so that it can start digesting away, like generals formulating a plan of attack in a war room before dispatching the troops. "I want 50 men and a second brigade on the stuffing. GO DAMMIT."

It rained a lot today, much to the chagrin of the animals that gather to eat at my parents' back door. My folks now have seven cats; they just added a stray, making sure it had its shots and all that. They're breaking him in slowly by keeping him in the back room for about ten days or so before he joins the rest of the kitty crew, including: Big Paul Friendly, Hope, Ashes, Cloud, Tobey, and Oreo. I'm not sure what the new one's name is (or if he has a name), but it will probably have four or five variations in a few months time.

I put aside time for some Touch of Evil readings, and took advantage of my parents' cable subscription to watch SNL (which wasn't very funny). Bedtime for me and my full belly.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

I used to think I was immune to the effects of chopping onions. I was dead wrong.

I'm in Peterborough for Thanksgiving weekend. Jay gave me a ride. We almost got into a mashup on the 401 - Jay had to stop really suddenly and avoided hitting the car in front of us by inches. The car behind us squealed its tires in the effort to follow suit. A close call.

Today I swung by campus early to pick up a textbook I still required (they never seem to end, the required texts). In Bibliography I held a first edition of Tennyson's In Memoriam in my hands, as well as an autographed copy of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's translation of the first seven books of the Odyssey. Talk about surreal. We also talked about Foucault's conception of the author. He seemed to prophesize the age we're living in now, where a free-for-all of meaning and information exists. It's interesting taking a look at property, legality and ownership alongside what we truly believe an author to be - it's popularly defined in both financial and ideological terms, but there are so many more layers to the identity of the author. I think, however, that Foucault sees the free distribution and obtaining of information - sort of a collective conscious - as the ideal state of a world embracing art. He posits that in the future, all questions will fall to this: "what does it matter who is speaking?" (Foucault's essay "What Is An Author?" is also a great read if you're interested in the ideas of both copyright and cults of personality.)

I finally got down to the passport office and handed in the appropriate documents with little trouble. Apparently I'll be able to pick it up on the 22nd of this month. They'll call me if there are any issues with my application, but it looks like smooth sailing for now. Funnily enough, after applying with my temporary driver's license and worrying that the office wouldn't accept it, I came home to find my new license in the mailbox. Figures.

I watched Topper with my folks, an old Cary Grant screwball comedy in which he and his wife lead reckless lives, die in a car accident, and can't rest their ghosts until they show a tight-assed bank manager how to enjoy life. Really neat effects for the time and some funny moments, but the plot is paperthin and ridiculous. It also stars Billie Burke in a supporting role (she played Glinda in The Wizard of Oz).

Autumn on Spadina

in the blood warmth of
the shrinking sun,
children at chattering play

the precision
of a heart clicking
into place, again,

in front of the mission,
the homeless begin
bundling themselves


I like being home. It feels good to curl my feet up on the couch. Secure.

Friday, October 5, 2007

It's felt as though my head has been on backwards for the better part of today. I couldn't take care of passport issues because I forgot to have Jay sign my photo, so it kind of threw things out of whack. Tomorrow I have to give it another shot while also attending class and making a trip to the bookstore. At the very least, Jay offered me a ride to Peterborough for the weekend, so I don't have to think about bus schedules.

I discovered that I'm not going to be able to apply for one of the grants I had my eye on, but then I found another to take its place. It would be easier to ask for money if I were applying as an incorporated non-profit organization. But I know hardly anything about owning a business. I'd need a board of directors, a lawyer, an accountant. How would I put all of that together without a budget? I don't have that kind of money. And besides, even if I did get a non-profit organization off the ground, how would I be able to make a living at running it?

That seems to be the biggest and baddest thought running through my head these days: how I'm going to make a living once I'm through with school. I want a steady income at a higher-profile job. The money isn't even all that important to me - I just want to be in a position where I feel as though I'm doing something more meaningful than selling a product I don't personally care about. I don't want to keep waking up early every weekday morning with eight hours of a ridiculous bottom line over my head. That's more or less what I've been doing job-wise since I started working. I'm going to have a ton of education under my belt when I'm through at U of T. It has to qualify me for SOMETHING worthwhile. I shouldn't worry about it, I suppose. I've never had a lot of trouble finding work, and I haven't done any research into what's available yet. I used to freak out about a career all the time, always under the idea that it was a FUTURE problem. One step at a time.

Sometimes I get the feeling I'd be a tragic character in some author's work on ambition. That's what happens when you read as much Can Lit as I do. It wouldn't sell very well, as I probably haven't had enough success yet.

I fantasize about what life is going to be like when I move back to Ottawa. My own place, new furniture, my movies and books neatly displayed on a shelf, a filing cabinet for my personal papers, the ability to sit down and write and design without even the slightest thought that someone is around invading my headspace. Erecting a home office setup where I can tackle event organization more effectively. Just me and a cat (and Andrea once in awhile). An adult paradise.

I'm reading Thomas Mann's Death in Venice, which is a pretty intense story about uncomfortable subject matter, equating artistic drive with taboo obsessions (it's about a writer who goes on vacation and becomes transfixed by a ten year old boy). It's short, so I'll probably finish it before going to bed. One more step towards what will happen next.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Hives were exactly what I thought they'd be like - loud, energetic and full of themselves. A really entertaining show at a great price. It was nice to sit down with Matt and have a beer, too. We ate at an Italian place with a pretty extensive beer menu called Caffe Volo. Across the street was a top-floor dance studio and I could periodically see the heads and shoulders of dancers moving back and forth in front of the window.

Matt thinks he's getting old because his hearing is bad and he can't mosh anymore. I guess there does come a time when you have to content yourself with some applause, a few woos and a little head-bobbing. I didn't throw myself around a lot tonight, but I could have. Perhaps I should test my mosh pit endurance every three years or so just to make sure I'm still able.

Quite the contrast to the opera, but still a lot of fun.

Here's something funny:

I'm in this clip from about 5:40-5:25, standing to the right of the guy asking Kevin Smith what type of music he likes. I guess you can take that 15 seconds off my fifteen minutes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

I fell in love tonight. Andrea's going to have to share me with opera.

I caught the first performance of The Marriage of Figaro at the Four Seasons Centre, a beautiful facility with five levels in its main hall:

I was up on the fifth level, and the seats were still pretty damn good. Seeing the opera live drove my appreciation for it up about ten times. Not only was it exciting to watch, but the whole thing was subtitled on a marquis above the stage. It sunk in tonight that opera is a real live big deal. I sat and listened to an orchestra play Mozart for close to three hours, and watched a cast of characters sing in Italian about love and betrayal in fashions both heartrending and incredibly humorous. I feel enlightened and privileged to have experienced it. And I'll be watching another in about two weeks!

It's been a long day, but a sugar-rich coffee after my second class helped get me through (I was pretty dead by that point). Tomorrow: passport shyte and The Hives! Then maybe I'll take a breather.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

I was going to go to campus early today, but I slept in late. I don't know why I'm feeling so tired lately. I've never been much of a morning person but it doesn't make sense that I'd go to bed at 1 and sleep (or want to sleep) until 11 or 12. I'll put it down to a continued recovery from Nuit Blanche for now, but I think it has more to do with a lack of exercise and good food. I should change that.

After I got home I started in on my Touch of Evil readings. I still have two to go; they were really piled on this week, with about 10 chapters in total.

Tomorrow is going to be a rather lengthy day. I have two classes starting at 10 AM, and then the opera at 7:30. I'd better finish these readings and get my ass to bed.