Friday, November 30, 2007

I crawled out of bed after noon and watched The Deer Hunter, which is widely considered a classic, though I found it pretty average and even overlong. De Niro and Christopher Walken play a couple of friend who leave their jobs as steel workers to fight in Vietnam, where they're confronted with completely horrific circumstances that ensure the loss of their old lives. It has incredibly intense, powerful moments, but they don't resonate correctly throughout the last third of the movie. I think it's because that while the characters are given a chance to develop, we don't find out that much about them aside from the fact that they start out relatively sane and are then pushed to lose (or make desparate attempts to hold on to) their sanity. I much preferred Platoon as far as 'Nam movies go, though I will admit that I have yet to see Apocalypse Now.

I went to Adam's and got ahold of the footage I'll need for my final Touch of Evil project. Thank goodness. I walked to his apartment and back, so I definitely fulfilled my exercise quotient of the day. It's getting colder outside and I've been less inclined to walk home lately. After I got back, I finished off a Bibliography assignment. It feels as though this semester has been over for a week, but the actual schedule hasn't caught up with it.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I met with the Opera folks for the presentation table-read today. The material should go over well on Monday. I'm looking forward to having it done and out of the way. Tomorrow night I'm going to Adam's place to try transferring my Touch of Evil VHS to some kind of digital format that I can use for my presentation. I hope it works. At this point, I'm kind of counting on it to work.

I watched the Republican YouTube debate while throwing some vegetarian chili together. A couple of them seem like all right people but I had to shake my head at certain outlooks they bring to the table. In the audience was a retired gay officer who serve din the army for years, and the candidates actually had the nerve to feed him the lines "Thank you for your service, but," essentially, your lifestyle is immoral and damaging to the notion of America's military unit.

Fuck, America has it so astoundingly backwards sometimes that it cripples common sense. There are segments in The War devoted to how Japanese and African-Americans were treated during the Second World War, condemning America's use of detainment camps and troop segregation, yet people still believe that homosexuals can't serve as if it's a lesser breed of discrimination. They don't fit the profile. What, exactly, isn't completely fascist about that outlook? How is it any different from the principles behind a regime? Thousands of coalition force members have been killed in the last few years, not to mention the untold civilian casualties, and the American military insists on barring a solider based on sexual orientation? That's a pretty messed up rationale. God forbid democracy is brought to Iraq on the backs of homosexuals.

Anyway. Computer's still running slow, and I've downloaded yet ANOTHER virus scanner (which apparently wants me to register for its use. No chance). Guh.
Nothing like a little Facebook profile trolling to pass the time. I'm trying to grab the rest of Ken Andrews' solo album off the net, as well as some Of Montreal. My computer is still running a little slow and stuttering despite defragging it a couple of times and running virus scanners to knock out malware. Hopefully it will stay the course well enough to get me through my presentation in Touch of Evil next week.

I had that class today. The title of my presentation is going to be "Memo-rizing Touch of Evil: The Execution and Effect of Orson Welles' Intentions." I signed a book of Walter Murch (who was responsible for the re-edit) and Michael Ondaatje (who just pulled off yet another GG win for the amazing Divisadero) interviews out from the Innis library, which bring the total number of libraries to which I owe books to three. Innis isn't really much of a library, though. It's two floor of stacks along a single wall. Really, it barely warrants the staircase leading to its "computer lab" of two terminals. Innis is a strange building.

After class I went for sushi with Eileen and Tony and talked a bit about grad school. I'm starting to think that I should talk with some of my professors about continuing my studies. I think my slipping confidence in academia is influenced by the fact that I'm not really studying anything that echoes the grad proposal I was submitting to universities and organizations a year ago. I thought I'd be knee-deep in positioning Coupland in a natinal canon by now; instead, the closest I'm coming to a Canadian text all year is the story of a young man's role in a Communist war in Ethiopia. Don't get me wrong, I'm enjoying African-Canadian Literature, but it's only a small fraction of where my research interests lie. The ironic thing is I've got two people who are incredibly renowned for their work in the field of Canadian studies, and one of them is teaching me about European Opera and speaking a language of music that I can't comprehend.

The other, of course, is George Elliott Clarke, who presented on his own work today and read some of the poetry in Execution Poems, which was great to see. Clarke is a great poet, there's no doubt about it. I'm not sure if he's a great professor. I don't feel as though the ideas I brought to the table, when I felt brave enough to bring them, were given the kind of feedback I receive in other classes. Clarke is a great man, a nice guy, and a passionate speaker. I learned a lot from the texts, but I felt that there was so much more to get at in the course. I still don't feel as if I can tie Africadian studies into a more general, overarching Canadian context as effectively as I may have wanted to. I wanted to learn as much about Canada as I did about African-Canadians, and I felt that the course didn't achieve that. But the blame for that rests equally on my shoulders. I've always found that courses are in large part what you make them, and I hung on for the ride too often.

I have the class evaluations sitting on my bed because the drop-off office was closed when I went by. I'll drop them off before I meet with the Opera folks for the table-read tomorrow. After I got home I watched episode four of The War, which detailed the events of D-Day, the Allied invasion of France and coverage of the brutal battles with the Japanese on the Mariana Islands which contained some of the most violent footage in the series so far. Hearing the veterans talk about the war is a really emotional experience that fully enriches the documentary. Keith David also does a great job narrating.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I stayed up late last night reading Kevin Smith's account of Jason Mewes' battle with drug addiction in My Boring Ass Life. In addition to being an interesting analysis of how drugs can affect a person's personality and decisions, it's a well-written and fascinating account of what a friendship can put you through. I couldn't put it down.

Opera class had a special-guest, a German theatre director who had some absorbing things to say about how he puts together a production, his likes and dislikes about opera. At one point he made a dramatic gesture and whacked Professor Hutcheon in the face. She had to leave class to tend to her left eye's contact lens. It's hard to recover gracefully from a thing like that.

After class I went to the Varsity to check out Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. I had about an hour to kill, so I browsed a bit at Indigo in the Manulife Centre and ended up breaking the cherry on my Starbucks gift card while reading a paper. I went back to the theatre and noticed that the 6:30 showtime was for the VIP screening - about $15 for a nicer theatre. I didn't really want to pay that much, and the regular showing wasn't for another hour, so I decided to head home.

I listened to Jimmy Eat World's Chase This Light on the way, and though it's more of the same from the group I really dig it by first impression, especially the songs "Always Be" and "Dizzy." After I got home I finished off the Scrubs box set, watched some Mission Hill, and put on Ghost World.

Ghost World is a movie that changes with every viewing as I get older. When I first saw it in theatres back in 2001, it spoke very directly about my initial post-high school years, trying to work out how to be an adult when a part of you is unable. I watched it all the time once I procured it on DVD, falling in love with its acerbic wit and condemnation of what passes for normalcy in a prescribed society. But as I get older, I find myself armed with an increasing tendency to watch it from the perspective of an adult who has already, for better or worse, battled through a lot of the problems Enid and Rebecca face. Seymour becomes less and less of a character whose oddities I can appreciate - he's someone who makes every decision with a weak heart, putting too much trust in the familiar. Enid calls him her hero, but he's things she'll never be: uncreative, unsure, buried in obscurity. Enid is otherworldly, curious despite being angst-ridden, hyper-individualistic. I find her to be one of the rare creatures in movies for whom I have what closely resembles a genuine affection.

It makes my chest heavy, that movie. It ends so poetically, the way it fades out on a view of the impossible road to a possible place the lonely and estranged might belong, indicating that possibility is an end in itself.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I watched Michael Bay's Transformers today for the first time, and was a little non-plussed about it until the last 20 minutes or so. Bay's movies are so easy to spot, containing, as they do: shallow characters, soundtracks packed with infinite trumpets, and of course, people running in slow motion toward the camera. I was watching the film and said to Jay: "you can tell this is a Michael Bay film. All it needs is people running in slow motion." And sure enough, ten minutes later, the last piece of the formula was in place.

Now, I wasn't the biggest fan of Transformers when I was a kid (I actually found the cartoon rather dull). But it was still really cool that they tapped Peter Cullen for the voice of Optimus Prime, and there were some equally cool throwbacks to the era. That said, for the love of god, I want to see transforming robots beating the hell out of each other, not endless scenes cushioned with lame dialogue attempting to bring humanity to characters in a movie about transforming robots. You know what they should have done? They should have done the first half of the movie on Cybertron, and the second half on Earth, dropping all of the inane human backstories. Maybe they'll smarten up for the inevitable sequel.

I also watched Dr. Strangelove with Jay, and worked a bit on my Opera presentation using Google Docs. My group has been using the document manager to hash out a script that we can table-read on Wednesday. So far it's coming together fairly well.

Updated To-Do List:

Friday, November 30th: Bibliographical description exercise - Bibliography
Monday, December 3rd: Presentation on Death in Venice - Opera
Tuesday, December 4th: Presentation on final project - Touch of Evil
Monday, December 10th: Final research paper (max. 15 pages) - Opera
Monday, December 10th: Editorial exercise - Bibliography
Monday, December 10th: Critical reflection paper - Bibliography
Friday, December 14th: Final project - Touch of Evil
Monday, January 7th: Final research paper (max. 14 pages) - African-Canadian Lit

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Today I found out that I didn't get that government position in the policy leader program, whatever that is. After yesterday's obsession with after-school career plans it made me panic and do superficial searches for jobs, browse college programs and think about taking French courses. After awhile I calmed down a bit. My brain is so fucking active sometimes it makes me dizzy. I want to do everything all the time, and while that can be a good thing for creative output, it can also frighten me into not doing anything or doing things poorly.

One thing at a time. School is my priority now. I have, however, decided not to apply for a CCA grant for Ottawa Art Bazaar funding. I don't think my "organization" qualifies anyway, since calling it an artist collective would be a stretch and would require me to seek out detailed member profiles from at least three people (at most the "collective" consists of two - myself and Kat). We're just not grown up enough to count yet.

My goal right now is to get my Master's degree. After that, I'll move back to Ottawa and figure out what I'm getting myself into. I might not stay in the city depending on the kind of work I find or what I become involved in. I do know there are a few things I want to accomplish artistically there, along with people I want to work with and get to know better.

I spent the day in front of the TV. I did write a poem, however, and I think I'm coming to realize why I more or less stopped writing after I finished my undergraduate degree: I don't spend as much time with writers. People who write inspire me to write. The story I wrote last month was prompted only by requests from Cameron and Peter. I need that sort of direction to sustain my output. Otherwise, I grow bored of my ideas and think that they're too dull or meaningless to write out. I need someone there to DEMAND meaning from me, either directly or by virtue of their own work.
I woke up this morning to a package from Amazon sitting on the counter. In my sleepy daze I'd forgotten what I ordered, but it was a gift from Andrea: copies of Paris, je t'aime and Flight of the Conchords Season One. Incredibly generous of her, since I know she can't afford it, and sweet of her because they're a film and show we watched together. I love her.

I brought my camera to campus, but the battery is dead. I was still using the batteries that came with it, so I'll have to find a nice rechargeable or something stronger, especially before I leave for Europe. Class was interesting in that we sat around for most of it talking about the PhD program.

I realized something, sitting there, listening to everyone's questions and comments - I'm not in the headspace I was in while I was doing my undergrad. For those four years I was intent on seeing my education straight through to my doctorate and then going on to teach at the University level. Then I took a year off and forgot what school was like, always thinking that the passion I'd felt for it would return once I went back. I still enjoy school, but my passion to teach isn't what it used to be. Professor Robins gave this advice: do it because you love it. If you don't love it, don't do it, because you'll be spending years doing it.

The thing is, I'm not sure if I love it. I still enjoy going to school, learning, hitting the books. But I've fallen under the impression that I have to admit something crucial to myself - I don't want to play the game of academia. If I wanted to make a success at being a professor, I would have to leave myself completely open to travel anywhere, to start a frequency of publications, to make contacts on conferencing circuits... and I can't guarantee that I'll want to do any of that in five years. The only reason I want to remain in the academic system is to keep learning. And if I really want to do that, if it's really that important to me, I'll do it on my own time. I'm just someone who really craves structure, I suppose. I like being assigned work, completing it, and being told that I did a good job. I'm a total nerd that way. A browner, as the kids in elementary school used to say.

Plus, it keeps me out of the real world. It's not that bad having an organization throw a bunch of money at you to go away to school and study without worrying about work. I'd like to do my PhD eventually, but at my own leisure. I'll be 30 soon. I want more of a prolonged taste of a career than I've had thus far, to find a job that keeps me living pretty well, that will allow me to pay off my loans and save a bit while providing a structure that won't drive me nuts.

Work has always been something I've felt coming at me like a charging weapon out of the darkness. If I prepare myself enough for the blow, I might be able to grab it and use it to my advantage; if I don't, it will kill me. I want to work and enjoy my life. I'm not really a bohemian character in the least. Give me some convention and I'll defend its attacks on my soul in other ways.

After class I went to the walk-in clinic by my apartment to have my cough checked out, but I was told the doctor wasn't in. I filled out a form and went back at around 4, which is apparently when everyone else was told to come back, because I ended up waiting for a good hour. I hadn't seen a doctor in years. He was a nice guy, took my blood pressure, checked my ears and throat, listened to my back and chest with a stethoscope and told me I had acute bronchitis. He prescribed me azithromycin and told me to come back if it isn't gone in five days. Here's to hoping, because I'm forgetting what it's like to breathe normally.

I watched a lot of Seinfeld and Mission Hill, plus episode three of The War. Andrea signed on and between her drunkenness and my anxiety, bronchitis and WWII atrocity headspace we had a stupid exchange of words. Time to sleep in search of tomorrow.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

My diary-keeping schedule is a bit bananas. I ended up going to sleep last night before midnight because I was so wiped from staying up until 5 AM the previous night. The last entry was written sometime yesterday afternoon, but backlogged to get me back on schedule, but then... whatever. Today I've got two entries in one.

I met with the Death in Venice folks yesterday, who I'm liking more and more, and we started putting our script together for the presentation. I've never "scripted" a presentation before. Nor have I ever donned costumes, wigs and moustaches to talk about Greek gods and psychology. Next weekend is our "dress rehearsal;" I'll have to bring my camera so that I can get across some idea of what we've been working at all semester.

Yesterday I received Visconti's film version of Death in Venice in the mail from Amazon, which I'm going to analyze for my paper. It was accompanied by a box set of Mission Hill episodes. I hadn't seen that show in a few years. I watched the first four episodes and it really took me back. I'd almost forgotten how wickedly funny it is. It's great to be able to keep parts of your life with you by having a movie or show at your disposal to call up memories.

I listened to SModcast and hit the sack early, as I said. This morning I woke up and headed to the Thomas Fisher Rare Book library, hellbent on finishing a bibliographical description assignment for tomorrow. I called up a 2nd edition copy of The Monk by Matthew Lewis dated from 1796 and spent four hours writing about its physical makeup. I found the process insanely interesting, even though I hate reading about it on my own time - it was different to actually have the book in front of me, trying to unlock its mysteries. The hands-on aspect to the assignment really appealed to me. After I finished, I logged on to a computer at Robarts and started typing up my research, when I read an email indicating that the assignment due date has been moved to NEXT Friday, so I'll be able to take a second look at the text before I finish it once and for all. Aces.

After the library I went over to the Varsity to meet Ren, and we chatted for a bit before seeing No Country For Old Men, the new Coen brothers movie. I may not be going to the movies as much as I'd like, but the last few films I've seen in Toronto have all been amazing, including this one. If you're a fan of Fargo, it will impress the hell out of you. I actually thought it was BETTER than Fargo. Javier Bardem plays the most chilling killer I've seen in a movie in years. And Josh Brolin is going to be a full-fledged movie star very, very soon. It's enjoyable as an action flick but also has a more subtle narrative level playing around with ideas of fate, expectations, war, border politics and issues of identity. I wanted to see it again right away after it was over to pay more attention to the subtext.

Now I'm home. My computer's chugging a little, so I'd better back up my files just in case it bites the dust. My next computer is going to be a Mac, as sacrilegious as that sounds.

It snowed today.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I hit the library right after film class to work on my Death in Venice research and finally found a great location to work. There's a desk against a corner window on the 13th floor that essentially makes a nook out of the area by the windowsill. The desk wall blocks out traffic noise, and there's a great view to clear my head. I sat for awhile studying Nietzsche and Freud and taking notes before heading downstairs to start typing, and knocked out a page before heading to African-Canadian Lit.

My presentation on Oni went fine, and was the last of the year. Ama Ede was a guest in the class. I've met Ama a handful of times. He used to be the writer-in-residence at Carleton, and before class started we sat around gossiping about Ottawa, which I will take any opportunity to do. He's a good guy and gave a reading of his material after class.

I still had about five pages of Death in Venice research to write, but I was feeling tired so I went home and napped for an hour and a half. I've been having a prolonged series of late nights over the last while, and I figured that as long as I'm inevitably going to stay up until at least 3 AM, I might as well work while I'm doing it. After the nap I ended up picking away at talking points until around 5 before finally hitting the sack.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I skipped yet another Opera class to finish my Oni presentation, which I did and sent out to the masses in hard copy form just before 4 PM. As of 6 PM tomorrow I won't have to worry about it... until I have to reference back to it for my essay.

Andrea and I talked online for a bit today, and she was in a rambunctious mood that made me cheery. I watched some Seinfeld and another episode of The War during which I fell asleep (not for lack of its continued excellence). I managed to polish off half of tomorrow's film class readings, which constitute the last batch of the semester.

I'm starting to tune back into the feeling of relief that comes from finishing work. Oh yeah. That's the stuff.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I wrote up to page 7 for my Oni presentation... over 2000 words. One more point/poem analysis and a conclusion should wrap things up. I'll get it done before I head to Opera class tomorrow. It's been tricky going because I haven't written an essay in about a year and a half and I'm trying to stay in a certain realm of racial sensitivity that doesn't typically milk concerns in my writing style.

Needless to say, lots of Seinfeld today to help me procrastinate appropriately.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Apparently Kyler and Black Hill have parted ways. Still not sure of the particulars.

Today I discovered that I can't spend longer than 3 hours in the library doing research without losing my mind. I've let myself get out of mental shape. However, I did get my core research for the Oni presentation finished, and I even wrote the first page. Tomorrow I'll write the other seven.

I supplemented my day with a lot of Scrubs and Seinfeld, and ordered my first pizza since moving here.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Touch of Evil torrent finally ended its seemingly endless download and... it's in Spanish. Hah. Plus, it's the Murch re-edit version, so it's no good to me on two counts. I'll have to try transferring my VHS copy at Adam's.

I watch a lot of Scrubs and Seinfeld today, plus the flick Contact, stills of which I posted on film_stills. In other film news, Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks have been cast for Kevin Smith's next movie, Zack & Miri Make a Porno. I had just been watching Banks on Scrubs; she played a girl accidentally knocked up by Zach Braff. There's a connection here to be made involving Seth Rogen, Knocked Up, and two guys with variations on the name Zack, but I'm too tired to make it.

Bibliography was kind of neat today, as we had some hands on training on completing bibliographical descriptions of old texts (how they were folded and bound, their measurements, etc.). I'll need the training for an assignment that's due in the class next week. Tomorrow, though, I'm powerhousing through my Oni presentation. I'm going to get all my research done and most of my paper written. I promised Brooke I'd send here a copy before the weekend is out.

Finally got my Eurail pass from FedEx today. One more step towards Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands!

Friday, November 16, 2007

I made it out to Future Shop and exchanged the camera my parents gave me for my birthday for a few DVDs and box sets, including Ken Burns' The War, a 15+ hour documentary on the Second World War. I watched the first disc tonight and it's phenomenal. I had no idea how essentially weak the United States military was when they decided to retaliate on the Japanese for the bombing of Pearl Harbor. They only had about 175,000 troops in place, and it was the draft that brought in the millions they had to train quickly for combat. The first two and half hours of the documentary focuses on battles with the Japanese in the Philippines and the first offensive attack by the Americans mounted at Guadalcanal. Burns uses a lot of old footage and dramatic photographs coupled with modern interviews of surviving members of the military reflecting back on the events. You can see in some of the people interviewed that something inside had been switched off during the war and never switched on again.

I also watched a documentary on the poetry scene in Ottawa, which included recitations and interviews with a few people I know or have met. I forget who says it, but at one point a gentleman says that one has to be willing to approach poets with an open mind, to let themselves be willing for just a moment or two to let in the expression put forward by these people in order to ascertain the value in what they're doing. To be completely honest, I can't shake the feeling that a lot of poets are flakes. On some level, all artists are outcasts looking for an outlet of expression that doesn't exactly match that of anyone else, making their entire life an effort to deviate from a perceived norm in order to exist uniquely. We live under a pioneer mentality, after all.

I see beauty in that. It takes courage. People like George Elliott Clarke, Max Middle, Oni, John Akpata, Melissa Upfold, Stephen Brockwell, Danielle Gregoire and Greg Frankson are all talented people who are also all adorably flaky. They're abnormal miscreants with the souls of angels. Sometimes, admittedly, when I watch a poet, I simply don't GET what they're trying to do. They talk too long or too loud about shit that doesn't interest me. They behave in a smarmy way and act as if a microphone upgrades them to some position in a divine intelligentsia. But the people with a good head for what they do are obvious.

All that said, I'm really absolutely fascinated with anyone who can express themselves outside of a conversation about the weather. You speak to me in tongues or choose to ignore words with the letter u for some arbitrary reason, you'll peak my interest for a few seconds. I'll approach you with an open mind. But for the love of Christ, say something. All true artists are really fucking lonely people in one way or another. How we express that, how we come to terms with it, is what raises us above the pain of it most of the time. It's the creation of our own self-worth in the absence of that which is given to us by others.

Maybe. Just a thought.

I did absolutely no work today.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I went to the seminar on the Synergies project, which is basically a government funded organization that is striving to publish Canadian journals and conferences via its different online systems (it has not yet received its funding). The idea is that it works in coordination with a bunch of Universities across the country in order to keep the systems updated. One fellow was quite adamant about stressing the point that the systems should be bilingual. He honestly wouldn't stop talking about it. In any event, the project is run out of the University's libraries, and I may ask them if I can be of any help in digitizing older documents for web presentation.

I met with the Opera kids and we talked about our presentation, which is shaping up to be something quite neat. When you boil it down, we'll each be talking for about 15 minutes, and that will require about 6 or 7 pages of written material (double-spaced). A piece of cake given how much there is to talk about. I'm to have the research done for next Wednesday.

I walked home from Keele station and ate while watching Scrubs (I'm becoming addicted). I was also in the mood for some 90's caliber, pre-9/11 action movie goodness, so I popped in Arlington Road, a movie my sister gave me a few years ago but that I hadn't seen since theatres. It was about as good as I recall, which is, to say, not very. It proceeds at a decent dramatic clip until about the last 30-45 minutes, when the movie dips further and further into the implausible. It was as if the filmmakers' only concern was to build to a chase scene in which they could bury the fact that they had no idea how to wrap up the narrative. Still, it was kind of interesting watching a movie about terrorism in America only a couple of years prior to the hijackings.

I ordered a copy of Visconti's Death in Venice for my essay. Tomorrow I'm hitting up Future Shop and hopefully starting work on my Oni presentation.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I boarded the bus for class this morning but traffic on Keele Street was completely gridlocked. We sat for nearly an hour and had only moved a couple of blocks. I know there was construction work going on, and that must have been coupled with an accident or fire (a fire truck did speed by, sirens blaring). At one point the driver of a Go bus behind us approached the driver of our bus about his mirror, prompting our driver to put the bus in park and GET OUT to check it out. That's when I decided to hike it home.

I took a nap during which FedEx showed up with what I'm assuming is my Eurail pass. What are the chances they'll come back tomorrow before 11 AM? I have a feeling I'll be asking Jay for a lift to their offices. The remainder of my university bursary appeared in the mail a bit later.

I did return to campus later on for African-Canadian Lit. We watched a film called Rude, which had an involving story and was great in that Canadian production kind of way. Afterwards I tried doing some research on Death in Venice at Robarts, but I couldn't concentrate, so I headed home after about 45 minutes. I used to be able to get a lot of work done at the library at Carleton, but I find Robarts a kind of tricky place to study. The desks are always too open to traffic, and the cleaning staff often decides to buffer the floor with this loud machine right in the middle of the day. I need to find a better study hole.

I walked home from Keele station, poked a bit at some more stuff on Thomas Mann and watched a few episodes of Scrubs (I really dig Zach Braff). Tomorrow I'm meeting with the Death in Venice group for a bit. Before that I'm attending a seminar on making Canadian journals available for online research. More on that after I find out exactly what it entails.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

To-Due List:

Tuesday, November 20th: Presentation on Ghettostocracy - African-Canadian Lit
Friday, November 23rd: Bibliographical description exercise - Bibliography
Tuesday, November 27th: Presentation on final project - Touch of Evil
Friday, November 30th: CCA grant proposal
Monday, December 3rd: Presentation on Death in Venice - Opera
Monday, December 10th: Final research paper (max. 15 pages) - Opera
Monday, December 10th: Editorial exercise - Bibliography
Monday, December 10th: Critical reflection paper - Bibliography
Friday, December 14th: Final project - Touch of Evil
Monday, January 7th: Final research paper (max. 14 pages) - African-Canadian Lit

It makes me feel a bit better laying it all out like that. I've been feeling a little overwhelmed tonight.

After Opera class I walked home from Keele station and watched a making-of featurette on The Sound of Music while eating dinner. I almost finished my film readings, taking a break to crack open Scrubs Season 6. Lots of material on castration anxiety, fetishistic scopophilia and the female lack (in the readings, not on Scrubs). Tomorrow I'll be working on all things Thomas Mann.

I'm missing Ottawa today. Winter is coming. I love those deep winter nights when the sky is pitch black and the streets are lit up with lamps reflecting off freshly fallen snow. The world is enveloped in near silence as no one is out braving the roads. You breathe in and the air is so cold it forms a taste in the back of your throat and hurls itself down into your lungs. You take a step and the ground tightens. The feeling overcomes you that miles away there is something running in your direction, but it will never catch up, and you will never look it in the eye. There is only the quiet and the clouds that exit your mouth and hang for a moment before disappearing completely.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I watched a bit of a sermon on television this morning given by Joel Osten, who my dad is apparently into nowadays. Televangelists have always interested me in a perverse way, ever since I researched some for an essay I wrote on Chaucer's Pardoner. This pastor Osten's church is an old arena in Houston that draws over 40,000 people a week. Barbara Walters called him one of the ten most interesting people of last year, between Jolie/Pitt and Jay-Z. I read a couple of news articles on him, and apparently his deal is that he doesn't talk about sin or the afterlife really at all. He describes himself as more of a motivational speaker, and though he does quote the Bible and such during his sermons, it's to illustrate the point that God wants us to be happy on earth. A lot of other preachers deride Osten, calling his sermons "Christian Lite" because he doesn't mention eternal life in Christ and the possibility of damnation.

I like that positivity vibe, but TV preachers make me uneasy. It's obvious this guy is rich and out to sell books and what have you. The whole idea of God equalling financial abundance reeks of Christian capitalist propaganda. Whether or not Osten really believes what he's saying is up to anyone. It does make me wonder about the thinness of that line between living positively and living religiously. There might be a lot of people out there who have adopted regimens to give them the mental, emotional and spritual strength to get through each day. Is that really any different from a recognized faith?

I think a lot of folks just want to be told that everything's going to be okay. If you're fortunate enough, your parents are there to reassure you for those first few years. After that some of us have to pay for that reassurance.

I watched some of the Ottawa Remembrance Day footage on CBC and it made me homesick. I also watched The Sound of Music (MAN I love that flick) and had dinner before getting on a bus for Toronto. I despise taking the bus. Nothing makes me testier than waiting with a crowd to board a bus, city or otherwise. I give the glare of death to people who cut in line or shift to get closer to the curb. In Peterborough it's even worse because the lineups are never clear and the terminal never makes announcements about where and when to board. Honestly, it's one of the very few things that gets me really pissed off - the lack of order and courtesy in a bus queue. I really should be driving a car.

On my return I did a few readings and sent in some presentation info to Professor Columpar for the class blog. Tomorrow I have Opera class, in which I've lost a lot of interest in general. I have a feeling I'll be logging a lot of hours in the library over the next little while.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My birthday is officially over (at 5 days it's pretty well stretched to the limit). I had dinner with the family tonight, opened some cards and presents, ate some cake and ice cream. My family always gets me gifts even when all I'm good for the rest of the year is a phonecall or email. I should change that. The gift that was going to make me "friggen crap" turned out to be a camera, and I unfortunately purchased a camera recently, so I'm returning it to Future Shop and going on a bit of a spree. Sarah and Mike gave me a copy of Douglas Coupland's The Gum Thief (I'll be reading that on the plane to Berlin). Holly gave me a copy of The Sound of Music, and Adam gave me the sixth season of Scrubs. Aunt Nancy picked me up a Starbucks card - THAT I'll use on campus, for sure.

I put on Touch of Evil after dinner and tried to explain to my folks a bit of what I'm doing at university. My mom really digs Orson Welles and said that she's had Citizen Kane in her head ever since she watched it last night. Watching old movies has become sort of a new thing for my parents and I. It's nice to be able to share a pastime with them.

I picked up a Eurail pass online with a little help from Brenda Thorne. We'll be detouring through Brussels and Amsterdam while I'm overseas. It's been a lazy weekend overall and I haven't done any readings. I'm heading back to Toronto tomorrow after I get my cough checked out by a doctor in town. After I'm back my semester is really going to shift into its last phase. The end is in sight. I have work to do.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Today I used a printing press to press text into a quarto. Tristan seemed pissed about the trouble he had with the assignment, and Eileen seemed pissed that he was pissed, but if I cared any less about any of that trouble I'd fall asleep out of sheer boredom.

"Keep a positive attitude," my old man says, "or negativity will consume you." Good advice, that. My dad told me some old stories about being a kid and spending time on his great-grandfather's farm. He really does have an incredible way of describing things.

snow apples
earth beaten red
and pure, white,
the taste of one
after the

Oni got back to me with answers already and even suggested she attend a lecture. This has the potential to be the greatest presentation I've ever done.

I watched Citizen Kane with my folks and sister, none of whom knew what Rosebud referred to. What a rare treat that was. Tomorrow I'll be blowing out candles and scarfing down cake.

Friday, November 9, 2007

As I briefly mentioned rather drunkenly in last night's post, I went to C'est What with Adam, Ren and Matt, ate the shepherd's pie, had four pints and shot some pool. A fine night out with some fine folks. Matt and Ren are probably the two people in my life that I can most naturally and freely converse with, and hanging out with them together is always twice the good time. I called my mother when I got home, as she'd left a message on my machine, and an email that said:

"I hope you had a great birthday. My thoughts and all my love are yours. WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE YOUR PRESENT!!!!!!! YOU WILL FRIGGEN CRAP!!"

Must be some gift. I hope it's a new pair of pants.

I'm heading home for the weekend tomorrow after class. I finished my annotation work and gave it to Tristan, who put himself in charge of getting everything assembled, but he sent out an email late in the evening sounding very stressed out over losing internet access, having to travel to campus and work on a seminar at the same time. He sounded pissed because Eileen didn't hand over her annotations until pretty late in the day. We'll see what shit goes down tomorrow.

I watched a movie I'd been curious about for awhile entitled Picnic at Hanging Rock, which was apparently a huge hit for Australia in the 1970's. Spoiler Alert: It's about these students of an all-girl school who go on a field trip of sorts to the forests around a formerly active volcano called Hanging Rock. Four of the girls explore the mountain. Only one of them comes back, and one of the supervising teachers goes missing. A week later, one of the girls is found but has no memory of what happened. The movie is famous for two things: it's incredibly atmospheric and surrealistically creepy, and there is no resolution to the narrative's events. I quite enjoyed the first 3/4 of the film, and I was willing to accept that I wouldn't find out what happened to the girls. But what is a narrative supposed to do if it can't close itself? It's left to simply hang there, passing time until an end is finally imposed upon it. And that's a feeling not incredibly akin to quality. Still, I think I'd like to watch it again, because I get the impression there's a level to the film that I don't think one can grasp in a single sitting.

I also watched Fellini's 8 1/2, which was enormously enjoyable even though I couldn't get through it in one piece. Some amazing visual work, really some of the more inventive concepts I've seen, and very self-referential without being arrogant. It's a great movie about directors, and relationships for that matter.

I read Oni's Ghettostocracy and sent off some questions for her perusal. I really have to get started on my final papers and presentations as soon as I get back to Toronto. I applied for a job as a TA for a course in Canadian Short Stories, which would be up my alley and pay well if they find me qualified. I also signed up for a seminar on publishing Canadian journals online; it's taking place at Robarts next Wednesday.

I talked to Andrea yesterday. She's coming home in January. It was a hard decision for her to make. She put together a swell package for me that I received in the mail today, and it contained some great words about simple things she misses about being with me. I miss them, too.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

I'm a little drunk thanks to Adam, Ren and Matt, who were gracious enough to cover my dinner and drinks at C'est What. Good guys.

I'm 28. Goodnight!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

I'm old. Well, older.

The less said about adventures in film semiotics, the better. I finished Notes from the Hyena's Belly, and interestingly enough, it was largely criticized in class. Professor Clarke was trying to think of the name of a Mexican magic realist prose writer whom Mezlekia resembled (it was Laura Esquivel), and a few folks shouted out names. I hazarded a guess with Octavio Paz, who was really the first magic realist writer I ever encountered, and got kind of a weird reaction - laughs, and the assertion that Paz was a poet. I felt kind of silly, until just now, after doing a little research. Paz was definitely Mexican, definitely a magic realist, and definitely a short story writer (I've read "My Life with the Wave") in addition to being a poet. My guess was completely acceptable. And I was feeling disappointed in myself for making it.

Yannick Marshall was a special guest in class today, and he read from the book he just co-authored with Yemi Aganga entitled "Old Friend, We Made This for You." His stuff really blew me away. One of his favorite images seems to be the celestial body, and I asked him why that struck him in particular. He explained that the Toronto skies are grey and imprisoning with pollution in comparison to the night skies of Africa and what he calls in one of his poems "the Diaspora of stars." That's such an amazing way of looking at the night sky, and admitting the power we put in the hands of whatever lingers above our heads. I picked up a copy of his book, which he autographed for me. Very cool.

I walked home from Keele station, made some dinner and watched the Ghostbusters commentary track and the deleted footage on the special edition of Mallrats. Tomorrow I'm meeting with my Bibliography group and going to dinner with some chums for the ol' b-day celebration.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Homework is overrated. At least, that's what I apparently think.

I skipped Opera class today, originally because I wanted to catch a screening of F for Fake, but then I didn't even bother going out at all (I did hit the grocery store for some bread and ice cream cones). I managed to read about 150 pages of Notes from the Hyena's Belly and type up my project proposal for Touch of Evil. I abandoned all hope of finishing the film readings and just decided to sit, listening to the new Buck 65 album, taking swigs of cough syrup every six hours, refilling my water bottle from time to time.

I got a letter in the mail today informing me that I'm receiving a grant under the University of Toronto Advance Planning for Students program; the amount will go towards my tuition and I'll receive a cheque for the remainder. Sure enough, I logged in to ROSI and my tuition has been cleared to a balance of $0.

Having a lot of money worries me. It makes me think I'm doing something very, very wrong. Be that as it may, and that I was more or less raised Protestant and therefore am armed on a subconscious level with their work ethic, I'd better work hard for it. Today was just... well, a bout of general laziness.

Tomorrow I'm 27 for one more day.
I watched Sleepy Hollow today. That film is probably in the top five of films I've built up a hype around seeing for myself, preceded as it was by its amazing teaser trailer. It opens with the impression that a couple and their son are being brutally murdered by a man brandishing an axe before the screen goes black; then, "A Tim Burton Film" lurks forward in smoky text out of the darkness, and Johnny Depp enters the frame, being warned by the people of a town about the legend of the Headless Horseman. If that isn't enough, Christina Ricci makes more than one appearance, and the rest is a montage of Burton-esque goodness before the title burns its way onto the screen: Sleepy Hollow. I LOST it when I first saw the trailer in theatres, as I loved the story of the headless horseman when I was a kid. I was dating Jen at the time, who was a huge Tim Burton fan, and got to see the trailer again with her when she was out visiting. She lost it, too. Here's a random fact: I saw the movie for the first time on November 19, 1999. I remember this, because I'd read in the paper that the numeric abbreviation of the date - 11/19/1999 - would be the last entirely odd-numbered date abbreviation that we'll have until 1/1/3111.

Anyway, the movie is never as good as I remember it. It's GOOD, but it has its flaws. The sets, costumes and art design are all fantastic, and Depp is great, but despite its intended jocular treatment of the situations the screenplay feels too contrived when it isn't trying to be and a lot of the roles feel miscast including Ricci's.

I also watched the commentary for The Wizard of Oz, which was a neat assemblage of old and new interview material and historical factoids. I read some material today including one film article that felt like a complete chore. I've never been interested in semiotics and I'd almost rather hurl myself out of a tree than have another theorist who can't write worth a damn tell me about signifiers while indulging in his own particular neologisms.

Speaking of neologisms and the opaque writings of semioticians, I ran across a nifty word the other day courtesy of J. A. Cuddon, compiler of the Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory:

Verbocrap - "A type of jargon language commonly used by verbocrats, and thus dear to bureaucrats and semi-literate officials of all kinds. It is marked by polysyllabic circumlocutions, crude syntax, faulty grammar and a self-important, orotund tone."

Basically, words written by people who think dizzying readers is the same as impressing them with an argument.

Back to school tomorrow.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

My girlfriend is awesome.

I thought it was way past my bedtime, but the clock has fallen back an hour, so now it's only moderately past my bedtime.

Today I went to the movies. I accidentally bought a ticket for Cronenberg's Eastern Promises and didn't realize it until the title popped up on the screen (I was eased into it a little by the preliminary Telefilm Canada co-production credit). For a minute I thought, "well, okay, I like Cronenberg. Maybe I'll just stay and see it," but five minutes into the film I was presented with bloody vaginal discharge and the most realistic throat-slashing I've ever seen on film. I really wasn't in the mood, especially since I hadn't intended to see THAT film, so I theatre-hopped over to see Gone Baby Gone - Ben Affleck's directorial debut with his brother Casey in the lead. What a fantastic movie. The performances are all top notch, especially Affleck and Amy Ryan, who plays a neglectful Bostonian mother with a mouth like a racist sailor with such centred effect that you'd swear the casting director just picked her up off the street. It's a really intense thriller and one of those great neo-noirs of late that I've been really excited about.

After the flick I grabbed a bagel and coffee and went to Robarts to work on the annotation exercise. My group is looking at the poem "That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection" by Gerard Manley Hopkins. We have to pick out twenty points for annotation, and I'm looking at extratextual elements. It basically involves researching the etymology of certain terms and expressions via dictionaries, guides and other support materials. After about three hours of research I had picked out seven and decided to call it a night.

I walked home from Keele station and watched some Seinfeld while eating dinner, did laundry, read some more of Notes from the Hyena's Belly, and watched a documentary on the making of Halloween (which primarily features a bunch of people sitting around talking about how great it was to get rich). Think I'll use that extra hour to get some additional sleep.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

I've started taking Cold-FX for this cough, based on a recommendation from Kevin Smith in a diary entry he wrote in My Boring-Ass Life. Apparently it's the cold medicine Canadian swear by. It's a three-day process (9 pills the first day, 6 on the second and 3 on the third), so it's just a matter of popping them and waiting.

Bibliography went down in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library today, an intimidating, dimly-lit, closely-monitored tower that forms the head of the Robarts peacock, where we were given a look at incredibly old books and scrolls. I don't find any of it THAT interesting, but it's unequivocally neat to see anything that's been around for such a long time. I found out that the guys in my group for the annotation exercise both play bass, and one of them plays in the band Malfunktion (it seems as though everyone I've met at U of T is in a band). They were talking equipment and I couldn't even remember what make of bass I own (it's a vintage 'M' series Stagg). Honestly, I've never been interested in that side of playing an instrument. I'm much more concerned with the theatrics of any kind of performance than the specificity of the technical side. Guess that doesn't make me much of a musician. I never claimed to be.

After class I went by Media Commons to find out if I could transfer my VHS copy of Touch of Evil to DVD, and they referred me to the media centre after much hmming and hawing and not agreeing with the principle of what I want to do. Right. I'll figure out a way. I've got a torrent downloading very slowly that may provide me with the footage I need. My goal for my final project is to make comparison clips of the previous cut and the re-edit done by Murch to show exactly what changes were made and how dramatic they are. Could be great if I can pull it off.

When I got home I watched The Truman Show and lounged around being unproductive. I listened to a very good SModcast about Bryan Johnson's chemical imbalance and anxiety - a lot of the stuff he said rang true both of the way I act and the way people I've known have acted. It's beyond interesting to me to hear three intelligent guys sit around talking about that sort of subject matter, especially when one of the guys is Kevin Smith. I know I've mentioned the show before. If you're interested in checking it out, go here.

A date has been set for the new X-Files movie: July 25th of next year. I'm going to line up on Monday.

I started reading "Notes from the Hyena's Belly: An Ethiopian Boyhood" by Nega Mezlekia and I'm about 50 pages in, so I suppose today wasn't completely unproductive. I've made a schedule for myself that stretches into next week and lines up what I want/need to accomplish, starting tomorrow. Here's to hoping I can keep up.

Friday, November 2, 2007

I met up with the folks in my Bibliography group to discuss the annotation assignment and had one of those moments in which I felt completely outclassed intelligence wise. The people I go to school with are so smart. It's going to force me to work that much harder, in the long run. Afterwards I swung by HMV to pick up the new Buck 65 album, and while I was there I grabbed The Truman Show and Shaun of the Dead for cheap.

When I got home I dialed up Andrea and we talked on the phone for about three hours. I hadn't heard her voice since September and it made me feel as though a bird were alive in my chest. Conveniently enough she received the package I sent her ON her birthday, so that worked out nicely. Despite the fact that we talk almost everyday there are certain things that need to be said in person when the opportunity is given. 57 days and I'm Berlin-bound.

I watched Spielberg's adaptation of War of the Worlds, which had great visuals but lacked a bit in the arenas of character and plot. Still, it has scenes that are humbling in their realization - mob rule in the streets, a train passing while completely aflame, and the first appearance of the alien crafts in particular. I'd say it's worth checking out.

After the movie I finished off my latest short story (title: "To Become Immortal, and Then Die") and submitted it to the In/Words crew. I tried getting down to business with a reading, but kept getting sucked into this debate with some people on Facebook about racism. I'm considering it good exercise for my African-Canadian Lit class. Grad school involves a whole new level of rationalization when it comes to goofing off.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Happy Halloween. I met up with the Opera folks and went over what we're going to look at until our next meeting in a couple of weeks. I have a few ideas regarding thematic, biographical and linguistic angles that I can bring up on Death in Venice, but I need to do more research. Tomorrow I'm meeting with ANOTHER group to go over an annotation exercise for Bibliography, which sounds pretty intense. The readings and research at this level are constant and voluminous.

I watched the Peanuts Halloween special on YouTube before heading over to Matt's. His new place is in a nice spot but he and Kim have apparently been having their share of problems with the apartment. They've been riding their landlord a bit to take care of them. They made some vegan pitas for supper and Matt and I settled in to watch Halloween I and II. The original Halloween is a suspense classic and a dictionary definition of proper horror execution. I hadn't seen the second in years, but it wasn't as good as I recalled. It has a great elements to it (the ending may be even better than the first), but those elements are intercut with a gore-intent bodycount victimizing people the audience can't possibly care less about. Halloween is scarier because the people who die, though fewer in number, are more or less established personalities. Plus, it's set at a spookier time of day - the first half of the film sees the sun gradually setting behind the red and orange trees of suburbia, and you get the sense that the inevitable is coming with the approaching night.

I'm exhausted. Tomorrow I'll be phoning my girl to wish her a happy birthday. It will be outstanding to hear her voice.