Thursday, January 31, 2008

Grad school is hard. I got a B+ on my Race and Cinema report and presentation. Apparently there wasn't enough of "me" in it, but as far as I'm concerned I can't put much of "me" into a 3-5 page paper that's supposed to "report" on an article. I've never put a thesis into a report. That's what makes it a REPORT. Journalists don't typically put themselves into their REPORT on changing oil prices. Semantics.

I walked home from Keele Station and got shoved by a prick who wouldn't give me enough room on the sidewalk. No way I was going around him. I had "dinner" at McDonald's and thought the cashier short-changed me, but she was probably right.

Wednesdays are starting to tick me off.

I watched the Eels video collection yesterday. Their video for Rags to Rags is hilarious. It's a parody of America's Funniest Home Videos and features a bunch of segments in which Butch gets hit in the balls in a number of ways. You can't argue with funny.

Always felt like giving in
To the feeling I can't win
But I took it on the chin
Now I'm finally cashing in
Meeting every day with the rising sun
Looking up, it's looking like my losing streak is done

Thanks E.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I woke up to the Eels collections I ordered from Amazon sitting on the kitchen counter: "Meet the Eels: Essential Eels Volume 1 (1996-2006)" and "Useless Trinkets: B-Sides, Soundtracks, Rarities and Unreleased (1996-2006)". As the names suggest, the CDs contain the band's more well-known material as well as pretty much all of their b-sides PLUS most of their videos, footage of their 2006 Lollapalooza performance, and booklets of pictures with E's written musings on the songs. This is what all CD releases should aspire toward. I'm excited!

Presentations in Tragedy started rolling yesterday, and Quayson completely tore into the girl who was presenting. I've seriously never seen a presentation derailed like this. First of all, she had prepared about 20 minutes more than she had to, so he told her to condense it. Then, she read for about two minutes, talking about metaphors and phallic symbols in the play, and Quayson interrupted with, "What makes this play tragic?" From there on in the presentation was pretty much out the window as the girl tried to connect the threads of her material to what he wanted her to talk about.

Glad I didn't go first.

Avant-Garde was terrific as always, and I've decided to write my essay on technology's effect on art. The bibliography is due in two weeks, so I'm going to dig into some Perloff, McLuhan, Barthes, and Landow to see what I can come up with. After class I had lunch with Amanda at Tim Hortons and got a bit of reading done before heading to the Ontario Archives. After being given the tour we were able to go through some fonds of information. I had a look at things belonging to the Gregg family of Toronto around the turn of the 19th century - papers, diaries (the actual, physical books), letters, recipes, photos, greeting cards, prayer journals... really fascinating stuff. This is where all of the random stuff I've saved over the years is going to end up, I know it. 100 years from now some U of T grad student is going to be rifling through my collection of movie ticket stubs, wondering why in the world I kept them.

After I got home I watched Nanook of the North and The Daily Show, went to bed and tossed and turned until around 2:30. I have a couple of things to read before Race and Cinema tonight. Right after I rip this Eels stuff.

I love the Eels.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

My Tragedy work is done despite taking time out to watch the State of the Union address, Bush's last, which focused on the stimulus package he wants approved plus the war that no matter what anyone says is going to keep troops in Iraq for decades. At this point it's too early to tell who's going to succeed Bush in the White House, but I doubt the Republican party has a chance of claiming the Presidency for a third term. At this point it's more interesting to think about who will be on the final Democratic ticket.

I need coffee. Yesterday I received a compilation in the mail from Emily and I'm looking forward to checking it out. I rejoined although it doesn't seem to be scrobbling correctly. I watched some X-Files and Flight of the Conchords, plus The Cable Guy which always has more now-famous comedic actors in it than I remember (Jim Carrey, Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Janeane Garofalo, Andy Dick). It's an underrated film and Carrey is really fantastic in it, even if the script is just downright weird sometimes.

I'm going to the Ontario Archives tonight as part of an introduction to archival research methods. Field trip!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Damn it, I'm falling back into my old sleeping pattern. I need to discipline myself more. If I had a coffee machine, I wouldn't have a problem. I would get out of bed at 9, jolt my system awake with caffeine and then sail until the end of the day. That's how I got through all of those early 8 AM shifts at Chapters. If my room was attached to a Starbucks I'd be set. Clearly, what I need is a drug dependency.

I finished my Avant-Garde work yesterday. Today I'm working on my Tragedy homework and taking some time out to watch Nanook of the North. I also need to buy a new black print cartridge.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Last night I went out dancing with Ehch and a friend of hers at Funhaus. It was a lot of fun (so the name of the place was appropriate), especially since I hadn't been out to a club since I moved to Toronto. I still have the moves, though I had to break them back in gradually. Time flew and it became too late to grab the subway home, so Ehch was kind enough to give me a ride. Oddly, I kept looking around and thinking I was seeing Ottawa folks, but the illusion would shatter quickly.

I had to psyche myself up for the night out, so I watched 24 Hour Party People, an amazing film about the early 80's Manchester scene and Tony Wilson's role in it. The film is incredibly funny and intertextual, though it doesn't give me any sort of appreciation for the Happy Mondays. The band just isn't that good and Sean Ryder is portrayed as the biggest douchebag walking the earth.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I find it suspicious that the earlier I go to bed, the more time my body decides it needs for sleep. 11 hours? Baffling.

I finished my Avant-Garde readings yesterday, so I'm doing pretty well on the workload. Perloff is an interesting read. Part of her thesis is that dissemination of "the image" in advertising and via media outlets has influenced trends in poetry, altering it greatly at the levels of form and syntax.

I might take it easy today. Tonight I'm checking out Panic at Funhaus with Ehch - good music, plus MOZFEST, a whole room apparently devoted to the Smiths and Morrissey. Should be cool. Yesterday I watched The Matrix Revolutions, which still has some of the most amazing special effects I've ever seen. The film gets trashed mercilessly but it looks incredible. I'm about a third of the way through X-Files Season Three and the episodes are getting quite good, even the ones that aren't part of the mytharc.

Andrea and I spent a couple of hours online last night trading music back and forth. I learned a thing or two about her.

Friday, January 25, 2008

For the last fourteen years, half of my life, I've been haunted by the ghost of Kurt Cobain. This feeling was not counteracted by hearing his disembodied voice pour over landscapes and streets and stages he had seen with his own eyes (and some he never will). At the moment of Kurt's death I had no real conception of what was happening in his personal life. I suppose I'd heard about his drug overdose in Rome, because I'd seen a picture of Courtney in the ambulance in a magazine. But it never registered how far into turmoil the band had spun, and how close to the end Cobain was coming.

I suppose if I learned anything new from Kurt Cobain About a Son, it's how much Kurt truly despised journalists for picking apart his life. He felt that he couldn't defend himself in either business or from personal attacks on his family. It puts a new spin on his artwork and obsession with invisible man models, organs and skeletons - he was fascinated with the way a person could be dissected. There are chilling moments when he reveals how much his parents' divorce and abuse fucked up his perception - chilling because despite his chastisement of their actions, he would abandon his own daughter and wife a year later. There are touching moments such as his revelation that he thought of himself as a funny, happy person a lot of the time, but that people always took it for granted that he was depressed or angry. And there are funny moments as he describes the band's various interactions with record companies. He was an ambitious guy who was also lazy. And he hated feeling intruded upon.

I've always had a hard time coming to terms with learning more about Kurt, because he was so vocal about his life not being anyone's business. It's for this reason that I won't read the personal journals that were released a few years ago. But in this film, I got the sense that he was giving these interviews to tell a more complete story of himself, one that wasn't slanted to hell by the media that constantly called him a worthless junkie and a bad father. It fleshes him out more as a person, without making it feel as if he's being violated, which is very important to me on a certain level. As a whole, the film is very good. The use of imagery is mostly cogent, but at times it seems as if it serves as no great companion.

I watched Jurassic Park III (better than Lost World, not as good as the original) yesterday before heading to campus. I read Wole Soyinka's "Death and the King's Horseman" and Sophocles' "Philoctetes," which is fantastic. I also started into Marjorie Perloff's "Radical Artifice," which I think I'm going to enjoy as it relates a lot to technology's effect on art and the attitude of decadence enforced by postmodernism.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Interdisciplinary Approaches to Opera: A-
African-Canadian Literature: A-
Text, Context, Intertext: The Touch of Evil Project: A
Bibliography: A-

I felt kind of depressed yesterday, but I did lay down the Race and Cinema presentation. I guess it went okay, though I was asked a question about Louis Althusser that made me realize I don't really know shit about him.

From Wikipedia: Louis Pierre Althusser (Pronunciation: altuˡseʁ) (October 16, 1918 – October 22, 1990) was a Marxist philosopher. He was born in Algeria and studied at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, where he eventually became Professor of Philosophy. Althusser was a lifelong member and sometimes strong critic of the French Communist Party. His arguments and theses were set against the threats that he saw attacking the theoretical foundations of Marxism. These included both the influence of empiricism on Marxist theory, and humanist and reformist socialist orientations which manifested as divisions in the European Communist Parties, as well as the problem of the 'cult of personality' and of ideology itself. Althusser is commonly referred to as a Structural Marxist, although his relationship to other schools of French structuralism is not a simple affiliation and he is critical of many aspects of structuralism.

Although Althusser's theories were born of an attempt to defend what some saw as Communist orthodoxy, his manner of presenting Marxism reflected a move away from the intellectual isolation of the Stalinist era - Althusser argued strongly for what he called a left-wing rather than liberal or reformist critique of Stalinism - and furthermore was symptomatic both of Marxism's growing academic respectability and of a push towards emphasising Marx's legacy as a philosopher rather than as an economist.

Althusser has had broad influence in the areas of Marxist philosophy and post-structuralism: Interpellation has been popularised and adapted by the feminist philosopher and critic Judith Butler; the concept of Ideological State Apparatuses has been of interest to Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek; the attempt to view history as a process without a subject garnered sympathy from Jacques Derrida; historical materialism was defended as a coherent doctrine from the standpoint of analytic philosophy by G. A. Cohen; the interest in structure and agency sparked by Althusser was to play a role in Anthony Giddens's theory of structuration; Althusser was vehemently attacked by British historian E. P. Thompson in his book The Poverty of Theory.

Anyway, if you ever need an explanation of Jacques Lacan's mirror stage theory, especially how it applies to cinema studies, I've worked out a handy diagram that I drew on the board before my presentation.

Good old Wikipedia: The mirror test is a measure of self-awareness developed by Gordon Gallup Jr. in 1970. The test gauges self-awareness by determining whether an animal can recognize its own reflection in a mirror as an image of itself. Animals that have passed the mirror test are all of the great apes (humans, bonobos, chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas), Bottlenose dolphins, elephants, rats, octopuses, and rhesus monkeys. Initially, it was thought that gorillas do not pass the test, but there are now several well-documented reports (such as one gorilla, Koko) of gorillas passing the test. Human children tend to fail this test until they are at least 1.5 to 2 years old (mirror stage). Dogs, cats and 1 year old children, for example, usually react to a mirror in fear or curiosity, or simply ignore it, while birds often attack their own reflections. Capuchin monkeys react to their reflection either with hostility or affection but there is no conclusive evidence that they recognize themselves in the mirror as opposed to believing their reflection is another capuchin monkey.

Speaking of animals, I made a lolcat:

I hope we learned something today.

Today I'm putting together a list of work to do on my five-day weekend, and then I'll start chipping away. I'm seeing Kurt Cobain About a Son at 9 with Dru. Really looking forward to it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I'm really hoping Wednesday isn't going to turn into a day on which I comment on the deaths of talented young actors. Heath Ledger was found dead in his home yesterday, and toxicology reports have yet to be processed to determine whether or not it was due to a drug overdose. That guy was destined to become one of the biggest actors on the planet. He's still to star as the Joker in The Dark Knight this summer, which is going to be completely disturbing to watch. I've been obsessed with the trailer for that film and looking forward to it intently, mostly due to Ledger's performance. If you haven't seen it, check it out:


I've got a seminar presentation to make in Race and Cinema today. I need to catch up with the other readings beforehand. I'm really enjoying the Tragedy course so far despite the enormous work load. Marks are starting to come in, but only in the two courses I knew about: A- grades in both Opera and African-Canadian Lit. And I might be interviewing Coupland in a few days depending on Professor Sullivan's interactions with his agent.

Yesterday I watched D. W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms, which was meant as a response to the criticisms that Birth of a Nation was racist in its portrayal of African-Americans. It flirts with a love story between a Chinese shopkeeper and a destitute, abused white girl but can't bring them together in convention. At least he tries, I suppose.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Big school day. I think I'm generally caught up on work. I got sidetracked a bit last night thanks to the Democratic debate in South Carolina running on I love watching debates. The older I get, the more interested I become in politics, which I suppose makes sense when one comes to inherit the world. Now if I could only give more of a damn about what's happening locally.

I finished Native Son. It's a difficult, heavy book to process (though it reads easily) but I'd recommend it to anyone. I'll be very interested to see what comes up in discussion this morning.

I also watched The Cheat and read a very interesting article on it by Sumiko Higashi, who basically argues that poststructuralism is crap for reading ethnicity in films. Go Higashi!

It's cold and dry outside. I need moisturizer.

Monday, January 21, 2008

I have about 90 pages left to go in Native Son and another page to write for the report. Today I'm focusing on the presentation I have to do for my Race and Cinema class on Wednesday, especially since I just found out I have to provide a summary of it by tomorrow.

I watched The Lost World: Jurassic Park last night, which I hadn't seen in full since 1997. It's not as good as the first one and it feels like Spielberg was just phoning it in most of the time. There are a couple of good action sequences, though, and Pete Postlewaithe's character is pretty awesome (though apparently it was originally supposed to be Bob Peck reprising his role as Muldoon, which would have been ten times as cool). And if you ever want to see Vince Vaughn play an alpha-male environmentalist, there's your chance.

I have to mail a cheque to my old friend Mike. He lent me a considerable sum of money to go back to school over five years ago and I can finally afford to pay him the rest of what I owe him. Although technically I suppose I now owe it to someone more faceless and demanding. At least I'm thinning out the herd of debtors.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I spent a portion of yesterday reading Native Son by Richard Wright, which is one of the most amazing books I've read in quite awhile. I want to look it up on the Internet to see what other people have thought about it, but I'm only halfway through (it's a long one - 430 pages) and I don't want the ending spoiled. I'm almost glad I'm going to have two copies because I can now give one away as a present and say "this is some fucked up, awesome shit." To put it vaguely and eloquently.

The building's fire alarms went off at around 9 AM and wouldn't stop for another half hour in various parts of the building. It's probably not a good thing that I chose sleep over staying alive. My decision was mostly based on the fact that the building's alarms have gone off before, for whatever reason, and there's never been a problem. One time I looked out the window to check for flames eating away at the side of the structure and stayed put because there were none. Maybe I'm just expecting a firefighter to rescue me if the building ever did go up. They'd probably get to me in time. No sense putting clothes on.

I watched Jurassic Park yesterday, plus a documentary on how it was made. I certainly loved that film when I was a teenager. I read both of the novels. Some of the screenplay is kind of over the top in the second half (Crichton co-wrote it), but it's a great effects film.

Andrea called me first thing in the morning yesterday just to say hi. It was a great way to wake up.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Yesterday was library-tastic as I spent a few hours reading Peter Burger's Theory of the Avant-Garde and making notes. I took one break to pick up my Race and Cinema course reader and a copy of Native Son by Richard Wright, which I ordered from a bookseller in the States despite the fact that there was no way it was going to get here in time. So I'll have two copies. They can play together.

I got two of my papers back, from Opera and African-Canadian Lit, and I did... okay. I've guaranteed A- grades in both courses. I wanted to do a bit better on my Death in Venice paper for Hutcheon, since I'd really like her to write me a letter of reference. But the problems with my paper had more to do with my lack of knowledge of music theory (I didn't bring it up whatsoever) and my argument that Tadzio is an Apollonian figure (which I voiced in the final class and stick by). I'm sure she'll help me out with my proposal either way.

So it looks like so far I'm doing okay. I walked home from Keele Station and watched Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, which is unquestionably awesome. It's the darkest and most violent of all of the Star Wars movies and resuscitates that feeling of tragedy that the original trilogy had in spades. The scene where Obi-Wan Kenobi leaves Vader burning to death on the bank of the Mustafar lava river is absolutely iconic. As far as I'm concerned Lucas did everything right with that movie.

Kurt Cobain About a Son just opened in town. I'd really like to see it. Today, though, more work.

Friday, January 18, 2008

I can't get "The Laws Have Changed" by The New Pornographers out of my head. Help.

I finished Sisters in the Wilderness yesterday. It was really all I felt like doing. This morning I'm going to campus to pick up my papers, take care of some errands related to course readings and do my Avant-Garde reading for next week.

Last night I phoned the parents and watched Tommy Boy.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I woke up to email demands from MyFax (for money) and my mother (for a phone call). The former irritates me because I shouldn't owe them squat and it sounds as if they might be sending me to collections for the sake of $11 US. I emailed them something to the effect of "Say what?" As for my mom, I'll call her tonight.

I'm on my five day break from classes with a new workload albeit one that's a bit smaller than last week's. I'm supposed to have Richard Wright's "Native Son" read for Tragedy, and I've ordered it from a bookseller in the States who to my knowledge has not yet sent it. I should really stop paying for things over the Internet altogether at this point. However, I did order the new Eels CDs from trustworthy Amazon. Really looking forward to those.

In a bizarre way it's kind of nice to know that I can still walk into an HMV and not find what I'm looking for.

I watched Souvenir of Canada yesterday and threw some stills up on film_stills. I'll probably be watching that film quite a bit in the near future. Research, you understand.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Brad Renfro died, which really is too bad. I'm most familiar with his role in Ghost World, in which he plays an angsty convenience store clerk named Josh who's at the constant mercy of Enid and Rebecca's whims and demands. He was only 25 but had been through pretty rough experiences with drugs and alcohol by the sounds of it.

I had a good day at school yesterday. I spoke up lots in class and involved myself in the material. I also brought up Coupland in my biography class and volunteered to go to Vancouver at some point during the semester if I could secure an interview with him. That would definitely be something.

Amusingly enough, my friend Marco is looking at Atom Egoyan for the course, and I spotted Egoyan on Bloor Street a couple of hours before class. I had to resist the urge to turn around and tackle him, shouting at him for contact information, insisting it wasn't for me personally.

Marks are starting to come in, but I have yet to pick up any papers. I'm nervous. If I didn't do well it might cast a pallor over this semester. Marks won't officially be posted online until a week from today because the people at U of T are sadists.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I went to campus yesterday and to return a DVD and read M. H. Abrams' article on critical artistic theories for my Tragedy course. I've discovered the trick to finding a good location to sit and study in Robarts. On the upper floors there are certain desks wedged in the corners with their chair backs facing windows. It's like cutting yourself off completely from the rest of the library and having a view to boot. The trouble is that others know about the desks, so you have to be crafty and get there early or be patient in the hunt.

I eventually completed the 2-4 page response paper on Abrams and realized that I'd read that Shakespeare play a week early by accident. At least it's out of the way. Today is the day I have stuffed with classes, so I'll be looking forward to getting home.

Last night I watched what used to be my favorite episode of the X-Files, D.P.O. (or as I referred to it, Lightning Boy). Giovanni Ribisi plays a mentally ill redneck teenage kid who can channel lightning. Jack Black plays his friend Zero who works at an arcade. It's interesting to see him young and playing a more dramatic role.

Monday, January 14, 2008

It's a bit of a long road through the bush with that Moodie/Parr Traill book, though it does have some interesting information on what it meant to be a published writer midway through the 19th century. A lot of it was a correspondence game with Britain until print houses starting appearing on Canadian soil, and even then the success of a work was gauged by its reception overseas.

In between chapters I polished off the 30 Rock box set, watched some X-Files and installed Office into my computer. I'm trying to get ahold of Photoshop but the torrent is dragging.

Lots of work to do today.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Yesterday I backed up every file I could think of on disc and basically wiped my laptop's hard drive clean. It seems to have fixed the stuttering problem. Everything's running a lot smoother and faster. It's a bit of a relief because I was considering buying a new machine outright. I'm definitely the kind of guy who likes to start from scratch completely rather than salvage what's broken (though I'd like to think I've matured when the philosophy is applied to relationships).

Ren and I went to Burgundy's to eat and drink before the flick, but when we got to the box office we discovered it had sold out, so we decided to see Sweeney Todd at the Cumberland instead. We waited over a drink at Hemingway's for the film to start. One of the TV's was playing Ottawa vs. Detroit. They were tied in the third period, and Ren's a big Sens fan. Ottawa appeared to score with a couple of minutes remaining but at the split second the shot went in someone changed the channel. It was funny to see how horrified Ren got before grumbling that he hated this city and that it was the worst thing that's ever happened to him. Sweeney Todd was bizarre. I liked it just for the sheer oddness of it, though it's really not much of a story. I might have liked it more if I were comparing it with other adaptations.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Andrea's flight was delayed, but she eventually made her weary way back to Canada and onto a shuttle to London. We spent about 15 minutes together. Totally worth it.

I spent a few hours in the library yesterday reading Renato Poggioli's The Theory of the Avant-Garde, which is a fascinating read and feels contemporary even though it's 45 years old. He quotes a great line from Umberto Saba in his section on Agonism and Futurism (the destruction of the past and the sacrifice of the present for the betterment of the future): "The twentieth century seems to have one desire only, to get to the twenty-first as soon as possible." I have my response done. Hell, here it is:

English critic and poet Matthew Arnold observed in the latter half of the 19th century that his society sat between epochs with regard to approaching social, political and cultural utopia. In Jung’s terms, modernists operated in a state of “transition” that welcomed an oncoming epoch, preparing the way ideologically for future generations (Poggioli 74).

What does this say about the period of the postmodern? Given the way it attacks modernist precepts, can it be seen as what Poggioli describes as a term of “decadence” – that is, an end in itself (or art for art’s sake) rather than one with a more futurist outlook? This would eliminate the idea that postmodernism is an avant-garde movement, given that agonism, or the sacrifice of the present for the birth of new social, political and cultural futures, is an avant-garde strain that opposes the cultural Zeitgeist. The implications of the Zeitgeist defined as one conditioned by an entirety of self-awareness should be considered, along with what this says of the current avant-garde.

Perhaps the current avant-garde is wholly reliant on technology for its administration. Poggioli calls creation and experimentation “an impossible synthesis” (137). Is this true, or are methods of experimentation via technological advancements elements of a creative approach punching holes in postmodernism by revealing how little mass culture actually understands of itself? Consider record companies currently scrambling for ways in which they can continue to profit from music distribution. Perhaps this is the result of an avant-garde aesthetic calling for an end to historical precedent.

I received Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Souvenir of Canada (woo!) in the mail yesterday along with a Chinua Achebe novel I need for my Tragedy class. Today it's all about Susanna Moodie and Catherine Parr Traill before I meet up with Ren for dinner and There Will Be Blood. I'm expecting blood.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Andrea arrives back in Canada today, and I'll get to see her briefly when I meet her at the airport and escort her to a shuttle that's taking her home to London. She sent me a Facebook message indicating that she's been setting off alarms at airports, so all that hinges on what security decides to do with her. Regardless, I can't wait to see her.

Yesterday I went to campus and had my best intentions cut in half by the U of T bookstore, which is still out of a book I need, and by forgetting a voided cheque for my OSAP installment. I did manage to read Shakespeare's Coriolanus and Aristotle's Poetics before heading home. As if an entire play and a book of philosophy weren't enough for one class, I still have to read a critical essay and Aeschylus's Prometheus Bound and write a response paper. Today I'm focusing on the Avant-Garde material. I'm starting to realize how lucky I am to have five free days to work on assignments.

I walked home from Keele Station and made some vegetarian chili for dinner before breaking into season three of The X-Files. After writing up some bibliographic annotations for Shakespeare and Aristotle, I watched Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, which unlike my recent reviewing of Episode I was NOT such a pleasing experience. The movie was worse than I remember. It doesn't feel as organic as the first film because it's so entirely digitized. You can practically see the actors moving around on the sound stage, talking to themselves. I don't care that the film is overly political. The romantic scenes are painful to sit through due to the lacklustre dialogue, and Anakin and Padme's relationship feels completely forced. More politics, please.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The biggest news to come out of yesterday is that I redecorated my room on a whim. I couldn't take it any longer. I had no space to move around. Every time I would open my door it would whack my computer chair. I always had to struggle to free my laundry basket from the corner as it was wedged between my desk and Jason's dresser. The dresser's bottom two drawers were blocked by boxes. Plus, the entire room was filthy and cluttered. Now, my desk is nestled neatly into the closet, my bed is turned at a 90 degree angle while the dresser sits across from the door. I have about five square feet of floor space as opposed to a ten by two rectangular strip. This should appease the feng shui dragon.

New semester, new room. It's almost as though I were making myself uncomfortable on purpose.

I picked up some additional course materials at Indigo and the Bob Miller Book Room, and since I was in the neighborhood I brought what was left of my euros back to Calforex. For some reason they wouldn't take change smaller than one euro and couldn't recommend a place that would. Okay. I suppose I can chalk them up to souvenirs.


Race and Cinema is taught by Professor Alice Maurice in the room I had for Touch of Evil Project last semester. A few of the folks from my African-Canadian Lit class are taking it along with a few Masters Film students. It's interesting to see the faceoff between those two groups. It's a good time to be an MA student in Film because the program is brand new. Thus, every MA student has a TA position and a license to gloat over foreknowledge of the course material. Don't get me wrong - I'm envious. But I also like to think I know my way around a film syllabus. I'm presenting on Cecil B. DeMille's The Cheat in a couple of weeks. There's a 3-5 page report tied to the presentation, a 2-4 page analysis, plus a 15-20 page paper.

I'm off to return some library books, pick up my OSAP and hopefully start tearing chunks out of my readings for next week.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Since I returned from Europe I've been waking up under my own power at 7 AM, including today, though I chose to sleep in until 9. I have the feeling I won't be able to sustain this pattern.


Day one back at U of T is in the can. My first class on Tragedy in African and American Literature under Professor Quayson has a pretty intimidating workload: 2-4 page responses due every week, a presentation, a thesis proposal, a paper, plus a 40-item annotated bibliography. He also made it clear that he can't stand lateness or laziness. I should probably just live at the library like I was originally planning.

The Avant-Garde: Theory and Practice with Professor (call me Tim) Yu sounds amazing. I can already tell his lecture style is comprehensive and that the material is going to be thought-provoking (with even some Canadian content thrown in - Steve McCaffrey's Seven Pages Missing). Five 250-word response papers, presentation, paper, a 5-7 item annotated bibliography, plus a participation mark.

The Pragmatics of Writing Bibliography is helmed by Professor Sullivan, who knows many famous people and their relatives. She's also written biographies for Margaret Atwood, Elizabeth Smart and Gwendolyn MacEwen. It's my smallest course by way of population (eight people) and according to Sullivan will be run like a workshop. Fine by me. Because I was late in registering for the course, I missed the email instructing the students to have a subject picked for a research project to work on. I'd really like to do Coupland in preparation for my PhD but it might be tricky given that we're ideally supposed to choose a subject whose records are kept in Toronto. I'll think on it. The course has a short reading list (four texts) and further requires a project bibliography, a paper and a presentation of research.

In between classes I went to the Varsity and saw Atonement, which blew me away with its technique of telling a story visually before gradually setting it to words. It brought to mind the atmospheric elements of Picnic at Hanging Rock and the brutal scope of Cold Mountain.

Tonight from 6-8 I have my final course in Race and Cinema. After that I'll pack a tent and make my way for Robarts.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Essay done. Let's get at that new semester:


11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

6:00 – 8:00 p.m.


6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Tuesdays seem to have the potential to feel pretty crushing. However, classes are an hour shorter than they are at Carleton. I do recall having one 9-hour day in second year undergrad, though I also recall opting to watch the last three-hour block on TV.

I watched Reality Bites last night, a pretty crazy film in the sense that it features a group of very talented actors screaming and crying about shit that really isn't that important. My early twenties wasn't that long ago. I suppose I was kind of cuckoo in a similar way, and I'm sure if I could go back and watch myself I'd have to suppress the urge to give my younger self a slap. The script is kind of brainless in certain areas but there's something about the movie I have an affection for. I have a memory of watching it on cable really late one night and getting caught up in how it glamourizes slackerhood.

I never really felt a part of Generation X, though I was born at the tail end of its supposed wave. Gen X'ers were always people I kind of looked up to. Now they're all entering or soon to be entering their mid-life crises. I started reading Coupland's latest novel, and it features a character who has definitely reached the point where he realizes that life isn't suddenly going to end at 32. Of course, he's in his early 40's when he makes this discovery. Strange generation.

Speaking of Coupland, I ran into Professor Hutcheon on campus yesterday. She's still open to reading my research proposal. I'll have to use one of these five-day weekends to pull it up and remind myself of what, exactly, I proposed.

To class. I hope I get to read some novels this term.

Monday, January 7, 2008

I ended up writing a page before I went to Robarts. The journal I was looking for wasn't there, only a book shaped hole where it should have been. After bumming around the library for a bit I went to see The Savages, which was absolutely amazing.

I went home and pretty much went straight to bed. My trip to Europe has been playing tricks on my internal clock. I woke up at 8 AM with little trouble and set to work on the last three pages of my paper. I'm currently a conclusion away from finishing it. Then I can start a NEW semester.

I used a portion of my time in the library to work out my schedule. I have three classes on Tuesday and one on Wednesday. I kind of like that arrangement, although I'm sure it will be hell for my procrastinating nature.

I sat down and hand-wrote some prose yesterday. First time in forever I've done that.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Okay. Going to finish that paper today. Yep. I need four more pages of written material on Afua Cooper. A cinch. I've written three times that in one day. I'll write three pages and then leave the house to grab a couple of refenreces from Robarts and see The Savages at the Cumberland at 7 PM. Then I'll come home and finish it off. It's due at 5 PM tomorrow.

No problem.

Yesterday I quite obviously did nothing. I woke up early, showered and settled into some Undergrads, 30 Rock and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. I hadn't see Episode I in full since theatres and it was better than I remembered. I even found Jar-Jar Binks somewhat tolerable and the plot easier to follow. The movie is great enough for the pod race scene and the lightsaber duel between Qui-Gon Jin, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul alone.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Happy New Year. Some notes on Europe (pictures and videos are on my Facebook profile):

I love Andrea. A lot. I missed her immeasurably. Being with her again felt so terrific and so comfortable, like the hand and arm I was holding though the streets of foreign cities were appendages I'd had reattached.

The trip was stressful, which is to be expected if you're traveling pretty constantly with a group of people set on doing different things. And aside for a couple of days spent with Nick before he and his girlfriend went their own way, I traveled with 5-6 women over the course of the trip. Now, I love women and have endless respect for them. But such a long period of time without a little testosterone to draw from externally can drive a guy nuts. There were a few moments when I wished that Andrea and I were completely alone. But hey, I'm sure most of the others felt the same way. These things have to be put into perspective.

I will never look at Canadian streets and drivers the same way again. Streets are completely chaotic over there, especially in Amsterdam - if you aren't dodging cars, you're throwing yourself out of the way of trams and the thousands of bicycles and scooters as they fight for spaces much narrower than what we're used to. I can't figure out why anyone would subject themselves to motorized traveling there.

You can still feel the war in Berlin. I only spent a few days there, so I can't relate to Andrea's ability to overcome the culture shock, but there's still a violence hanging in the air. Graffiti graces many available surfaces and every square inch of public transit windows. The entire city smells like meat. Firecrackers periodically explode in the street bringing to mind the ghosts of old gunshots. Buildings still sit unrestored after bombing and firearm attacks, and memorials for victims of fascism sprawl for blocks. That said, there is a lot of beauty in the city's architecture and sculpture. We climbed to the top of the Berliner Dom, saw fish (and octopi) at the Aqua Dom, toured Checkpoint Charlie and of course went nuts in the streets on New Year's Eve. The Filmmuseum was incredible and featured an amazing exhibit on Dietrich that I'd been looking forward to seeing for months - her costumes, letter, home movies, pictures, props, film clips... unbelievable stuff. I was unable to comprehend the mechanics of drinking cheap liquor as freely and out in the open as Berlin citizens do. You can drink beer on the subway after buying it at a McDonald's in the station. The streets looked like an apocalypse had occurred after dawn approached on New Year's Day.

I've never enjoyed an overnight stay more than I did at A Taste of Belgium, a bed and breakfast operated by a family in the north of Brussels, brief though it was. Comfort all the way and run by really nice people. We didn't have a whole lot of time to explore, but our night was interesting nonetheless as we searched out the statues of pissing mannequins, ate Thai food, drank beer and ate chocolate before attempting to find our way home after boarding the last tram of the night.

Amsterdam is everything they say it is. Lots of sex, lots of drugs, lots of stories. After checking in at the Bulldog hostel, we went on a walking tour that gave a history of the city's different ages. It fascinates me how closely intertwined religion and sexuality are in the city. Houses of women of faith are a few steps from a coffeeshop where you can get fucked up. Mostly nude women seduce people from windows a block away from a church erected to ease the consciences of sailors. It was getting cold, so we went back to the hostel to settle in before seeking out cannabis sold in the form of food. We found it at Coffeeshop de Tweede Kamer. Space Cakes for five euros. We scarfed them down, ate dinner at a pancake house, and went back to the Bulldog to trip off our asses. It was like watching a kaleidoscope of a bunch of Smurfs cartoons playing simultaneously. Animations bleeding into one another at an incredible rate. I'd never experience anything like it. We slept for half a day before we could get it together enough to check out. On our last day, we shopped a bit and went to the Andy Warhol multimedia exhibit at the Stedelijk museum. We didn't have much time, but I didn't want to pass up the opportunity of seeing his work firsthand. It was worth it.

Lots of seat-hopping on the Eurail over the course of the trip as we'd often sit in reserved seats by accident. I watched the sun set and rise again over the Belgian countryside.

I'd forgotten what flying was like. Being above the clouds on a grey day and realizing that it's actually sunny if you head high enough. Seeing the lights on the British Isles for the first time blew me away. They looked like orange spiderwebs separated by great gulfs of shadow, the moon casting momentary reflections off the silken material of the water. The nervousness of being airborne had utterly disappeared by the time I touched back down in Toronto.

I had a strange feeling getting back to the city. It felt more like home than it ever has. I felt as if I recognized the streets and no longer felt like an outsider. I don't feel as intimidated by things as I did before I left.

I also feel as if the entirety of last semester has been a dream. I'm sure the essay I have yet to finish will snap me back to reality very soon.