Friday, December 28, 2007

I'm back in Toronto for the night. My last day in Peterborough was spent checking out I Am Legend with the fam and braving my father's 401 driving skills (everyone arrived in one piece).

Tomorrow is the day. I'm catching a plane at 6:15 PM out of Pearson and at 9:55 AM local time on Saturday I'm scheduled to touch down in Berlin. I get to see and touch and feel Andrea after spending four months apart from her. The idea is exhilarating.

It's been almost ten years since I last took a plane. Tonight I sat down and threw a bunch of songs onto my iPod for the trip, ravaging my CD collection for a lot of stuff I haven't heard in awhile. I'm planning to get into Coupland's latest novel on the flight as well, which should last about eight and a half hours not including the one hour stopover in Amsterdam. I booked my seats for the flights and checked in online, printing out my boarding pass. Everything seems to be in order.

In the Fall of 2001 I decided to start putting money away for a European trip. My original plan was to save gradually for three years and take off when I was 25 for a three-month backpacking expedition. I obsessed over websites detailing people's experiences and worked out a schedule of purchases that I'd have to make in order to be properly prepared. I looked into different hostels and tours and kept money in a shoebox. Then, I decided to go back to school.

I didn't think it would take this long for me to finally see Europe, but I'm certainly glad the opportunity has finally presented itself, and that the circumstances are so terrific. I'm not counting on much sleep tonight.

I may not have access to a computer over the next week, but I'll try to get some photos online if I can. Wish me luck and good weather.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Due to the fact that my sister had to work, we had two Christmas mornings (well, one Christmas afternoon). Sarah and Mike came over around ten to exchange presents before heading to Mike's parents' place in Aurora, and when Holly showed up we finished unwrapping. My family was really generous and I ended up with a mess of new DVDs and clothing.

The relatives showed up soon after for Christmas dinner. We played Guitar Hero III for a bit (I suck) and a little Simpsons Clue. I won two bucks off of a scratch ticket my aunt gave me. The dinner was great and knocked me unconscious for a second holiday in a row. I just know that I'm developing a pattern in which I'll be the old-timer at family gatherings who passes out on the couch right after dinner. My nieces and nephews will poke at me with whatever Nerf toys they opened that morning and I'll pretend not to notice.

When everyone had left I put on The Seventh Seal for my folks, not remembering how depressing it was. As per usual I channel surfed until the wee hours before hitting the sack.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Eve was standard fare, that is, nice time spent with family over lots of food and laughter at movies that used to fascinate us as kids. We had our yearly buffet dinner at the Carousel restaurant and everyone got a little camera happy. I'm sure the evidence will pop online somewhere.

Afterwards we came home and popped in Jeannot Szwarc's Santa Claus: The Movie, which stars Dudley Moore as a pun-happy elf and John Lithgow as an overacting tour-de-force. I hadn't seen it in years and it was good times reliving the memories it brought up.

I waited until much later on in the night to put in Scrooge, which plays more effectively as a thriller if it's watched in sync with the appearances of the ghosts. Sims is amazing in the role, of course, but the version really wrings the gothic elements out of the narrative better than any other. My mother always stays up late to take care of the turker for the Christmas Day dinner, and I rewound the ending so that she could see her favorite part (when Scrooge's cockney housekeeper freaks out).

It took me awhile to get to sleep due to all of the sugar and coffee I'd ingested earlier in the evening. All in all, a status quo Christmas Eve, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Today was a bit better, mood-wise. I managed to get a page of my essay done thereby eliminating some of the stress it's been causing. Jimmy Stewart helped. I had a conversation with my folks about what I was planning to do after Toronto (even though I'm not sure, it helps me to weigh my options out loud). I think it also helps me to make it clear to them that if I do decide to follow through with the teaching thing, I'll have to make myself mobile and go where the jobs are. I've always felt a kind of fear that prevents me from straying too far from home for too long, as if it's going to disappoint my parents if I move too far away. That fear will need to be dispelled in time for my own good.

I watched Home Alone on television later on. Tomorrow night is the traditional family dinner at the Carousel restaurant followed by more movie watching. I used to take walks on Christmas Eve, really late at night. Nobody was ever out on the road and everything felt as close to holy as it ever can. I would deliver letters and compilations to mailboxes in other neighborhoods, walking in the middle of the street, trying to find in the silence the part of me that still acknowledged Santa's speeding presence in the air.

I have a memory of one Christmas morning. The sun hadn't yet fully risen and my siblings and I were all wide awake. My dad dressed up as Santa and doled out our gifts, laughing loudly before leaving through the front door and disappearing. Minutes later he showed up and none of us made the connection. My parents stood by the back door in the kitchen claiming they could see Santa taking off from the house and heading into the air. They waved through the window. My siblings and I tried to sneak a look, but they wouldn't let us. Something incredibly magical stayed only slightly out of reach.

You get back on the latest flight to paradise
I found out from a note taped to the door
I think I saw your airplane in the sky tonight
Through my window, lying on the kitchen floor

It's a strange correlation, I know. But it's one I make. Especially when I'll be on a plane in five days.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

It does my heart good that Offbeat Cinema is still on television. It being so close to the holiday, they're running Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Really campy stuff, to say the least.

I haven't been feeling that great over the last couple of days. I'm usually a real Christmas Spirit kind of guy. It's a combination of a few things that have been weighing on me or getting on my nerves. Hopefully I'll be able to snap out of it. A little Jimmy Stewart action should cure what ails me.

I went to Lansdowne Place to finish my Christmas shopping and picked up a nice jewelry box for my mom. The Music World in the mall is going out of business, which is kind of sad because I bought quite a lot of records there when I was younger and have a few memories of hanging out in the store. I also very briefly dated a girl whose mother and stepfather owned the place. They're having a huge sale before they close the doors. Most of the stuff had been picked over but I was able to pick up the complete series of Twitch City for $15.

I watched White Christmas for the first time, which kind of underwhelmed me, but that may be attributed to the aforementioned mood. I dug the performances and the musical routines but it's barely a Christmas movie and the plot is paper-thin. Not Curtiz' best by a mile.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Another eventful day. I did manage to leave the house on a couple of occasions, to pick up Sarah's present (some plum-related Body Shop stuff) and go glow-in-the-dark mini putting with Sarah, Mike, Holly, and Steve. The course was jungle-themed and almost totally vacant, so we took some liberties with how hard we took our shots. Afterwards, we sat for awhile in the nearby Country Style donut shop. The girl behind the counter gave us a bunch of free donuts to take home, as they were about to be tossed.

I want to pick up one more thing for my mom. She deserves something extra.

Friday, December 21, 2007

I decided not to leave the house today. Steve made a fantastic breakfast (at lunchtime) and I spent most of the day on the couch flipping channels. Tomorrow I'll finish my shopping.

I mentioned to my aunt that I was going to pick up a money belt for my trip to Europe. My mom overheard and picked one up for me while she was out shopping. I can't believe I'm leaving in a week's time.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I was sitting next to some guy on the Greyhound on the way here, and this woman behind us sneezed. The guy next to me was so surprised that he let out a tiny shriek. He actually shrieked. I've never heard a guy seriously do that before. After he did it he he rubbed his eyes and muttered "Fuck," probably wishing he could take it back.

The traffic in Peterborough was bad due to the weather and the fact that snowplows have apparently ceased to exist in Southern Ontario. My sister picked me up and drove me back to my parents' place, where I promptly settled into a groove on the couch for some quality time with cable TV. On January 8th, CBC is running a miniseries based on Coupland's jPod novel. Alan Thicke is in it. Okay. I'll have to bug Matt to watch it at his place since I haven't had cable in about half a year.

My folks put up an artificial Christmas tree, marking the end of an era. It does look nice, however. They strung it with new lights that lead less of an assault on the eye and scaled back on the tinsel and icicles. There are few more comforting places on earth than my family's living room at Christmas. The season just doesn't feel as though it's started until I can sit down in that room and soak it in.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I went to campus to hand in my Bibliography assignment to Professor Robins, which went off without a hitch. After dropping off some library books and trying to seek out secondary sources for my last paper (easier said than done), I picked up some Euro currency and went home. Jay had a couple of people over and we watched the Simpsons movie after they made dinner. After that, professional student that I am, I immersed myself in some Legend of Zelda and collected three Triforce pieces before calling it quits.

I do think that I have a good idea for my paper, it's just a matter of doing the work over the holidays and finally writing the thing in the two-day window I have when I get back to Canada.

Tomorrow I'm Peterborough bound. I really should try to get to the terminal early on in the day because holiday traffic is always ridiculous.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I put on the iPod and trekked through the unplowed sidewalks to Future Shop today, where I grabbed some more items on my Christmas shopping list: Evan Almighty for Adam, gift certificates for Mike and Jay. Only a couple more to grab.

I decided to make the shopping strategy for my dad a little self-serving this year. Every year I buy him something that just sits around or gets buried somewhere: box sets, books, etc. It's through no fault of my own - my dad is just one of those people who doesn't really use anything. He'll buy himself items all the time because he gets a deal on them only to store them away somewhere. He has an extensive collection of movies that he never watches. Some of them aren't even open. So this year, I decided to get him a box set of great old films I've never seen: 12 Angry Men, A Bridge Too Far, Judgment at Nuremberg, and Paths of Glory. Lately when I've gone home to visit, my folks and I take to watching old movies to spend time together. Now I can suggest whipping out the box set. It's win-win.

I finished my critical reflection paper for Bibliography, even working in an old entry I'd written in the blog back in October for its second half (so in a way, I got quite the early start on that one). Tomorrow I'll head to campus to hand it in and hopefully grab research material for the one thing I have left to do. I should also investigate grabbing some Euros at Calforex on Bloor.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The weather in Toronto exploded today. There is snow everywhere with plenty of wind spreading it around. I left the house once to pick up some groceries and that was more than enough.

I did walk home from Matt's place last night, which wasn't that bad, and even nice at some points - stepping into newly fallen snow at 3 o'clock in the morning. It was a fun night in celebration of Adam's 30th birthday spent at a bar called Raq n' Waq on Queen Street for some pool, then over to the Laugh Resort for some stand-up comedy. One of the guys in the group I was hanging with was a comedian and called ahead to do the first set of the night. The headliner was Tim Steeves, a former writer on This Hour Has 22 Minutes and one of the current writers for the Rick Mercer Report. There was a group in the crowd that was part of a guy's bachelor party, and one loud scarf-wearing arse in particular who the comedians ripped on all night. Really funny stuff with four acts in all. After that, a bunch of us headed back to Matt and Kim's apartment for beers and food where we sat around shooting the shit. I'd hung out with most of the people before and they're all older and funny, especially after sipping a little weed. I've learned my lesson about weed and booze, however, and chose not to partake. At the end of the night, Adam, Matt and I faced off with some Mario Party on the Wii until Matt abruptly passed on the couch. I beat the guy senseless with a pillow but he wouldn't wake up. After enough prodding, though, he sent us on our way.

Not being much of a drinker these days, I woke up with a hangover, aggravated in part due to one of the two idiots on this floor who blare techno at full volume at 1 PM when I assume most people are still in bed. Jay ended up sticking around this weekend, so I spent most of the day in my room doing nothing. I downloaded the original Legend of Zelda and played around with it for a bit. And watched the new Dark Knight trailer, which looks AWESOME.

Tomorrow I'll finish my last Bibliography assignment and get over to Future Shop to pick up some more gifts. On Tuesday I'll head to campus to collect some research materials for my African-Canadian essay. I've resolved that I'm heading back to Peterborough on Wednesday at all costs. I needed a deadline in place, if not for my own sake then for everyone who keeps asking for one.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

There are moments, walking drunkenly through fresh drifts of snow, when I acutely feel the past eating me alive.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I got out of bed this morning and put the finishing touches on my final project for Touch of Evil before heading to campus. I made an appointment with Dru to record some commentary audio for a track he's putting together. I met him at Innis and a few girls from the class eventually showed as well.

You know, I don't think I've ever mentioned what the movie is about.

Touch of Evil was screenwritten and directed by Orson Welles in 1958. It stars Charlton Heston as a Mexican narcotics officer named Miguel "Mike" Vargas who has just sent a prominent drug lord from the Grandi family to prison on a trafficking rap. Janet Leigh stars as Suzie, Vargas' new wife. The two are on their honeymoon and are passing through the American bordertown of Los Robles when a car coming from the Mexican side of the border explodes just after exiting customs, killing American industrialist tycoon Rudy Linnekar and a stripper from one of the local joints. Vargas involves himself in the murder investigation which is led by American police captain Hank Quinlan, who is played by Welles. Quinlan, obsessed with his own reputation and the death of his wife at the hands of a "half-breed," is racist against Mexicans and plants evidence to frame a Mexican named Sanchez who is romantically involved with Linnekar's daughter. Vargas figures out that Quinlan is crooked and spends the rest of the movie tying to prove it. Meanwhile, Suzie finds herself terrorized by the Grandi family (including Uncle Joe Grandi, played by Akim Tamiroff), who prominently reside and operate businesses in Los Robles, as a means of gaining revenge on her husband.

It's about as complicated as it sounds. Needless to say, it warrants repeat viewings and is pretty ripe for theoretical discourse, especially given the circumstances of its production and release. But I'll spare those details.

I handed in the webpage on CD, recorded the stuff and made arrangements with Dru and Alicia to see Juno at the Varsity later on. After returning some books at Robarts and sending an email to Professor Columpar about possibly continuing work on the project next semester, I walked to the Cumberland Plaza and did some Christmas shopping to kill time before the movie. I picked up some gift certificates at Indigo for Steve and my Aunt, as well as some CD's for Holly and my mom. That covers about half my list.

Juno is an amazing film, one of those rare combinations of witty writing, exceptional acting and a quirky quality that wins your heart. I quite enjoy films that take a skewed look at a very simple topic while leaving the emotional fabric intact. Ellen Page, by the way, is incredible. This was the third film I've seen her in and I'm constantly blown away by her fierce ability to play characters who are confident yet not at all self-aware - she completely drains all traces of irony out of her roles, and that's what makes her amazing. Her character in Juno uses elaborate dialogue yet delivers it youthfully while at no point paying any attention to how intelligent she is. I wish she'd been in every teen movie ever produced.

It was nice to hang out with folks. After the movie I walked home from Keele station and had dinner while watching The Simpsons before heading online and looking over some old pictures of Mod Clubs gone by. Tomorrow is Adam's 30th birthday party, an affair I'm joining halfway through for dinner, some stand-up comedy, and of course, beer.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The project is done.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

I finished rendering all of the video I need for the project, plus I started filling in information on how and why the edits were executed. Should be able to finish it all off in good time if I don't slack off too much. But I know I will.

I watched The Empire Strikes Back today, which is my favorite Star Wars film. I love Star Wars, but obviously not as much as some folks. After I see one of the movies I always end up online dipping my toe into the massive amounts of information about the Star Wars universe. It's all so meticulously constructed and chronicled and not much of it makes sense to me. I love stumbling across arguments between fans. It's such a welcome break from the kind of bile that people on the imdb boards typically hurl at each other.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Thanks to all who commented on the last entry. Thanks for the support and kudos and for just letting me know that you're reading.

I've been editing video all day for my Touch of Evil project, which has take longer than I expected, and I'm still not finished. I did, however, complete some more work on the website. Hopefully over the next couple of days I'll be able to pack it with some nice theoretical research.

Jay and I watched the first episode of the latest season of The Office tonight, which took me back to... September. I'm nostalgic about a period that occurred three months ago.

Kids today getting old too fast
they can’t wait to grow up so they can kiss some ass
They get nostalgic about the last ten years
before the last ten years have passed

- Ben Folds, "Bastard"

To be fair, it was a pretty great week, that one.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

On the last day of classes for the fall semester of my Master's degree program, having stayed up all night working on a paper and presentation for subjects in which I never thought I'd find myself involved, something in me switched on.

Over the course of the semester I've been growing more and more apprehensive about my decision to enroll in grad school. I spent half of the time wondering why I bothered with classes at all. It's not that I didn't feel engaged on a certain level with the material. I liked my classes, but consistently felt puzzled as to why I was spending so much time analyzing how a book was made 200 years ago, how tonal combinations indicate an opera character's motivations, what a young boy's experiences in Communist Ethiopia had to do with Canadian identity, and the syntagmatic paradigms of filmic narrative language.

This wasn't what I was expecting. Last fall I sat down in my apartment on O'Connor Street in Ottawa and wrote to organizations and universities about why they should accept me and pay me money to keep studying. I wouldn't set foot in a library for months to come, but I was able to articulate my ambitions based on lingering ideas left over from theses I wrote, arguments that were born from things I felt passionate about in everyday life. Literature. Canadian writing. Film. Multidisciplinary approaches to art and instruction.

Since my first year of University I had my heart and mind set on becoming a professor. It was my plan over the entirety of my undergraduate career, and it was derailed in the year I spent apart from a classroom. I lost the feeling in being away from it. I began to see the potential in other opportunities and even as I accepted U of T's offer and moved to Toronto to continue my education there was a part of me that doubted the direction I had established for myself. Most of the time I engaged only superficially with the material, rarely speaking in class, sharing only brief pleasantries with the people I began seeing on a regular basis because I knew that in a few months time I'd be back in Ottawa, working, doing something else unrelated to the realm of education. In the meantime I would repeatedly stress over what I was actually going to be able to accomplish once I'd achieved my degree and no longer had to think about it. I hadn't fully discounted the idea of going for my PhD, but with my interest in all things academia flagging I didn't see it as something I'd likely pursue in the near future.

This line of thinking led to a disappointment in myself that I didn't immediately recognize - I had decided on some level to abandon what I'd been working so hard at accomplishing for the past few years. My experiences at U of T existed as nothing more than formalities. More than that, they led to a doubt I began to foster in myself about my own abilities, thinking that everyone around me was far more brilliant, more self-assured, and more prepared to see their education through. Without realizing it, I lost faith in myself, and though I've been completing my assignments I haven't been expecting them to garner results that are of any importance to me.

Recently I made the decision to sit down and talk with two people about this problem while I still had the time and my status as one of their students. Last week I talked with George Elliott Clarke about all things CanLit, an opportunity I haven't taken with anyone since I started back at school. Today I sat down with Linda Hutcheon and told her that the Master's program really wasn't what I had been expecting. I told her that I had been a Canadianist and took her course because of the importance of her work in the field. For the first time all semester I was able to hear her talk about CanLit. I asked her about the ramifications of becoming a professor, and whether she had ever experienced doubts. She told me that she'd had doubts right up until she'd actually started the job, and that the job market for professors is going to be very lucrative over the next few years for those who are willing to go where the work takes them.

She assured me that I would get to make the most of my interests at the PhD level. I told her about the declaration of interest and thesis proposal I'd written to get funding for the program, and she told me to bring it in with me after the break so that we could talk about it, outside of the context of a classroom.

Now, I had a feeling she'd say these things. Professor Hutcheon has routinely been a nice woman and great teacher (and I hope this will translate to the pity she takes on the paper I polished off at 6:30 AM). But after I left the office, I had felt that things were different, that I was starting to make my experience at University something personal again. I had started reaffirming my faith in myself. For the first time in months I held the honest opinion that there are real, attainable possibilities in front of me rather than a smattering of vague interests I won't ultimately pursue. I still haven't decided about continuing grad school, but I'm now under the impression that if I ultimately do it won't be out of the desire to retreat to some old pattern of thinking from which I've been disconnected. I'll do it because I've rediscovered that I really want to.

Time will tell. Right now I feel as though I can do anything I set my mind to. I can go anywhere and do anything. It's going to make my next semester so much more rewarding. And when my time in Toronto comes to a close I know I'll have picked my next step carefully and correctly.

As I mentioned, today was the last day of classes. Paul and I knocked our editorial presentation out of the park during a four-hour Bibliography seminar. I spoke up at length in Opera class after a semester of relative silence. My group ended up with a split grade of A/A+ on our presentation. After the meeting with Professor Hutcheon, I returned some books and walked home from Keele station deep in thought.

Updated To-Do List:

Friday, December 14th: Final project - Touch of Evil
Friday, December 21st: Critical reflection paper - Bibliography
Monday, January 7th: Final research paper (max. 14 pages) - African-Canadian Lit

Christmas is only TWO WEEKS away. I need to get to a shopping mall.

Monday, December 10, 2007

This is my first official all-nighter of the school year, and my first in quite some time otherwise. The final word count on my Death in Venice essay is 4780 words, adding up to just over 14 pages in length. I also have my material ready for a Bibliography presentation I have to give in three hours or so (barring the photocopies I have to make at Robarts first).

The shitty part about this is that I'm not going to be home for another 11 hours.

I spent the day working on the essay in chunks, watching box sets and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin is always drunk and violent). At one point I took a nap because I knew I'd be up late.

Pray that coffee is readily available for me today.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

My brain ended up all jazzed after watching The Snowball Effect, a documentary on the making of Clerks and the launch of Kevin Smith's film career (I'm obsessed with the guy, it's true). That documentary makes you think that you can leave the house right this minute and make a film or do whatever other project you're creatively inclined to do. So of course, I end up sitting at my computer, chatting with Peter, thinking about Mike's current job dilemma, wondering what I'm going to focus on when I get back to Ottawa. I tell Peter that I'll be happy if I can get back to the city and find a job that pays me at least $10/hour full-time, leaving me to do what I want on the side. And I want to do a lot.

Here are some ideas that have jogged through my head in the past couple of months (some more developed than others): Organize next Ottawa Art Bazaar. Start a new small press. Assemble a team for a new chapbook publication with a unifying theme. Turn into an online zine featuring columns on Ottawa art, recruiting columnists from volunteer pool of journalism students at Carleton. Interview and profile artists for Ottawa art wiki. Re-learn French. Take a college certificate course. Apply for PhD programs.

I keep forgetting I have this ESSAY to finish for Monday. I'm about 1800 words in with 2425 to go. I'm writing it fairly quickly; I've just been taking huge breaks in between finished arguments to watch The Chipmunk Adventure, Simpsons episodes and the aforementioned documentary.

Tomorrow, though, will be The Day Before. My favorite day to work on papers. It's been awhile since I've seen one.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

I met with Paul at the Kelly Library cafe and we discussed our presentation, which should be no big whoop. Apparently he had spent last year teaching in Germany and really wants to go back to the hamlet in the north part of the country where he was living. I went to Robarts afterward to grab some material on Visconti when I ran into Jonathan Abresch, a guy I went to Carleton with who migrated to Toronto for the same reason I did. It was only the first time I'd seen him on campus since the very beginning of the semester, so we chatted for a bit.

After picking up Professor Hutcheon book on adaptation at the University bookstore, I went home and fell asleep in front of some Simpsons episodes. After I woke up I watched I Shot Andy Warhol, which was the basis for one of the first essays I wrote at University over five years ago. Lili Taylor and Jared Harris are both really good in it. Hell, so is Stephen Dorff. I get a kick out of all things Warhol anyhow.

I broke down my Death in Venice essay into word counts for each section. I find it helps me write with more consistency at greater lengths when I know exactly where to stop and start arguments. I'm 553 words into a 4225 word paper. It shouldn't be too difficult. The trickiest part is going to be sourcing the opera-related material. I still don't even have a copy of the damned libretto.

But I do have peanut butter cups.

Friday, December 7, 2007

I'm elevating laziness to new, heretofore unreachable plateaus. I spent a good portion of the day on the couch watching episode six of The War, Punch-Drunk Love (which I hadn't seen in awhile but still have a strong affection for), episodes of Seinfeld and The Simpsons. I DID manage to come up with a few notes for the Bibliography presentation I'm making on Red Badge of Courage with this guy Paul on Monday. I'm meeting with him tomorrow to shoot the shit about what we're going to talk about in class. We only have five minutes each to talk, so I have the thing pretty much halfway written anyhow.

I bought a package of mini powdered donuts. I'm going to try very hard to never buy them again.

Tomorrow: essay.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Welcome to post #100. I think I hear trumpets blaring.

Today I watched the Visconti film version of Death in Venice, which looks great and has an interesting take on certain scenes that should work well with arguments in my paper.

After the film I went downtown for my meeting with the man, George Elliott Clarke. We sat in the bar of the Intercontinental Hotel and talked about the course before moving onto all things Ottawa. He spent five years living there and makes a visit at least once a month for various reasons. He said that it's a city that's very closed off from other Canadian cities and operates differently with respect to its arts. I asked him what he thought of the arts in Ottawa, and he told me the following anecdote:

In 1989 a sculpture of two children sitting on a bench was dropped off out front of the Library and Archives Canada building by its artist, Lea Vivot. The bench sculpture stayed in front of the building for a year before someone in the government realized that it hadn't been given official permission to be there. So, Vivot was forced to remove it. In 1994, it was replaced by a casting with inscriptions of various people across Canada (including Clarke) related to the importance of reading.

Now, that's Clarke's version of the story, but Vivot definitely said this in an Ottawa Citizen interview: "The building needed something and I don't feel that artists have the time to go through the bureaucratic approach. In the same amount of time that it would take to go through all this (bureaucracy) I can cast another sculpture and enhance another space."

That word "bureaucracy" is one that Clarke kept using when describing the state of the arts in Ottawa. I don't know much about bureaucracy. I've always had a difficult time figuring out how a dominating political climate can affect a city's artistic output. But the anecdote he used points towards the idea that the art that doesn't receive any kind of direct government support to place it into public consciousness is ignored entirely at a federal level. Artists are left to fend for themselves after the offices and galleries shut down for the day.

Now, perhaps that's not so bad for a community - finding a little wherewithal. But this leads to Clarke's second point. In the artistic sphere, Canada is markedly different from the United States; whereas the States operate as a republic that encourages the growth of populist art, Canada still operates under monarchical influence that encourages a gravity towards classical forms. That's why the country has no Bob Dylan.

Canadian literature resides solely in the academic realm. Clarke's concerns seem to lie in revisiting our own literature (mentioning specifically MacLennan and Raddall) rather than in continuing to develop old themes and structures belonging to European nations. He wishes that our literature could find its way out of the forests and into the cities. He sees Quebec as the only part of the country that's producing art with a unique voice because it holds so fast to French-Canadian identity.

Most significantly, I think, is his observation that Canada is hierarchical in nature and prone to memory loss, and this goes beyond the ideas he brought forward regarding African-Canadians in his class. Clarke is worried that people (as a populous, not as academics) are already starting to forget Mordecai Richler, to forget Irving Layton, all the way back to the relevance of Canada's earliest authors. The Canadian attitude has always been to wipe the slate clean and start over in a search for something new, yet they can never seem to cut this invisible umbilical cord from England. Until the populous decides to build from its own recent history, Canada will remain an idea in a university in search of practical fulfillment.

We talked for an hour and a half. I got him to sign a couple of books before I shook his hand and left. I'm not sure I agree with everything he said, but I know I could have sat there for a lot longer sharing ideas with him. I don't get to share as many ideas as I used to. That part of it felt good.

When I got home I watched Die Hard to officially kick off my Christmas season. Tomorrow I should start getting at that Opera paper (though I still have 4 whole days).

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Jay hung a picture of a kitten sitting beside a saxophone in the bathroom. Hmm.

Today was a pretty good one, lack of sleep aside. I powered through a Starbucks coffee as I waited for the final Touch of Evil class to start - I'm pretty much always the first to arrive because of my travel schedule. I got the laptop set up, and it didn't stutter at all during my presentation on my final project. It couldn't have gone better. I apologized for not filling the full 13 minutes I was allotted, but I was assured that it was okay. I think Professor Columpar really digs the idea because it conforms so closely to what she intended for the course as a whole. I got some feedback about putting the site live, which I'd like to do despite the trouble I'd probably get into with Universal (they wouldn't take kindly to me chopping up the movie like that for a non-paying audience to see).

After class I had lunch with Tony and Eileen. I'll miss that about the semester. They're my outlets for getting out concerns about my potential academic career, plus we're all pretty well-versed in movies.

I set up shop in the EJ Pratt library for awhile to send out some emails and grab some material for an essay. I emailed Professor Hutcheon about meeting with her, which I'm going to do after class next week. After that I attended the final African-Canadian Literature class. We watched a film called Another Planet, apparently the first movie to be directed and written by an African-Canadian woman. I received feedback on my Oni presentation, along with a split grade of A-/A. I'm supposed to meet with Professor Clarke tomorrow, but I'm waiting on a final confirmation.

I ran into a couple of other folks from film class in the Bay Street subway station, Drew and Alicia, and ended up talking with Alicia for a bit since we were both heading the same way. After I got back I made dinner and watched Minority Report.

The marks are starting to come in, and the verdict so far is positive. Knock on wood.

Updated To-Do List:

Monday, December 10th: Final research paper (max. 15 pages) - Opera
Monday, December 10th: Editorial exercise - Bibliography
Friday, December 14th: Final project - Touch of Evil
Friday, December 21st: Critical reflection paper - Bibliography
Monday, January 7th: Final research paper (max. 14 pages) - African-Canadian Lit

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Opera presentation is in the can. The presentation itself went pretty well and got some nice compliments afterwards. I felt that I crashed a bit during the Q&A period when I messed up the chronology of the release of the film adaptation vs. the writing of the opera, doubly embarassing since I'm supposed to be writing on the film for my paper (a dead giveaway that I haven't started researching the damn thing). Still, I was able to interject on some other points. Nice to have it over with.

I took a nap after getting home and woke up at 10 to work on my presentation for the Touch of Evil Project, which I knocked out by 4 AM before hitting the sack.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The chief design for my Touch of Evil final project is done, with the first two video clips in place. It actually looks pretty much like I'd envisioned. Tomorrow night I'll come up with some stuff to say about it for the presentation on Tuesday. You can literally, if you time it correctly, play both versions of the opening sequence at the same time, side by side with each other.

There is snow everywhere. I found out that my brother was ALSO in a car accident the other night when a truck hit the cab he was in. He's okay but kind of banged up. My family shouldn't leave the house for the rest of the winter. I'm looking forward to getting home for Christmas. It's just about time to break out some Christmas movies. It's a Wonderful Life, Scrooge, Die Hard...

God, I should be more careful about visiting old journals to double check on information. I always get pulled in and end up reading for an hour. I really used to be a pretty emotionally distraught guy, it would seem. I'm glad I've kept this blog up. Even at only a little over three months and almost 100 entries, it's been the diary I've been the most consistent at keeping, and the tone is certainly worlds different.

Looking back, it seems clear that I was deeply upset that I wasn't in love. I've had a bunch of relationships over the past ten years or so, but no matter how frequently I was with someone I would always eventually fall under the impression that I was going to be alone. This coincided with my creative side kicking at me, and all I wanted to do was write out the insecurities that kept me awake at night. I wrote more than anyone else I knew, and sometimes that made the isolation even harder to deal with. I wanted my words to stab at people's hearts and minds. I wanted them to break apart formalities and structures that I felt kept me at a distance from other people. What I perceived as bare honesty was my only weapon against being ignored and forgotten by everyone. And if my words didn't provoke a response, I felt that I was unsuccessful at being alive.

Dramatic, I know, but that's the way it was. I can be hot-headed and rash. Sometimes I think back to the period when Andrea and I started dating, and I mark it as one of the early stages in which I experienced great, positive changes in my personality. It was around the time I moved to Centretown. I had a group of friends I enjoyed hanging out with, going to the bars to drink and dance. I was able to live and not really worry too much about the future, because I knew I'd get around to it eventually. Towards the end it felt as if things were starting to fall apart. I'm hoping that when I get back, I'll be able to rediscover all of those things that made me fall for the city, in whatever new contexts they might present themselves.

More to say on that point, but I'm tired. Tomorrow the long-gestating Opera presentation finally sees delivery. I'm nervous, but I'll be glad to see it go.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The snow is really coming down outside. Welcome to December. I picked up Christmas present number one today, for Andrea. My only concern is getting it overseas without damaging it.

The Opera gang and I rehearsed today. The evidence:

I think we're more or less ready for Monday. It should be pretty funny. Unfortunately, I won't really get to SEE it, because I'm in it.

After the rehearsal I caught Before the Devil Knows You're Dead at the Varsity. The flick starts out promising but lost me in its efforts around the halfway point before its unsatisfying conclusion. No one in the film is all that likable, which would be fine if they were at least vile in a compelling way, but they aren't. Besides that, it's really the kind of thriller that's been done before both structurally and thematically, without leaving even a hint of why it should exist in the first place. I've seen a couple of Lumet's Pacino movies, which I liked, but this one felt too dreary, too obvious and too driven by its form.

When I woke up this morning my air mattress had deflated, but I couldn't find any punctures. I tried re-inflating it but it wouldn't work, so I broke out my other air mattress and filled it. Then I figured out what I was doing wrong with the other mattress, so now I have the two mattress piled on top of each other. It's double the bed. I don't know why I didn't think of doing this before.

I ate dinner, watched Dogma and uploaded some pictures. Tomorrow I have to really get a crack at that design for my Touch of Evil presentation.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

I'm still a bit mad about a situation Andrea was put in today. She's okay but she feels even farther away when I can't be there to look out for her when she needs it.

Bibliography went down in the PIMS (Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies) library this morning. As usual, a bunch of material was passed around for examination. I asked Professor Robins about what he considers to be the Holy Grail of undiscovered material, and he said it was signature copies of Chaucer and Shakespeare texts. The most rare book he's ever gone in search of is a notebook belonging to Leonardo da Vinci, which he discovered is locked in a vault in a French bank four stories underground and has only ever been removed twice - once to be put on display as part of an exhibit, and once to make facsimile copies for research. Needless to say, he couldn't get at it, but it gives you an idea of how far research can take you depending on what you study.

After class I signed out a copy of Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage for an assignment along with a couple of DVD's from the Kelly library (the fourth library to which I now owe a return of material). I went around the campus and took some pictures. When I got home I watched Ingmar Bergman's Winter Light, a film about a pastor who loses his faith in God. It has this AMAZING scene in which Ingrid Thulin delivers this nearly 5-minute single-take monologue about loving a religious man in spite of her own atheism. Here's a still:

Great stuff. Bergman has to be my favorite filmmaker.

I also signed out Blade Runner, which I've never seen. I took a nap and then popped it in but the DVD was too damaged to play, so I watched episode five of The War instead. Tomorrow is the dress rehearsal for my Death in Venice presentation. Hopefully I'll be able to take some pictures and finally post some visual proof of my actual everyday life in Toronto (shots of me vegging out on the couch aside).

Holly was in a car accident, but she's okay. She is, however, a bit pissed that the Examiner reported it as damage done to the bridge on which she spun out. Can't say I blame her.