C’est l’halloween!

October 31, 2006

Halloween pics are making their way up. It was of course a great party, with the most disturbing costume being a simple horsehead (I didn’t get a shot of it, but one’s up on the host’s blog). I went as a trashy undergrad, which was a surprisingly easy costume to put together at the last minute (just tuck some baggy jogging pants into some ugly boots and you’re halfway there) and was immediately identified by everyone, which says something about the uniformity of the McGill ghetto girls. I know they look different parading their wares along the Main on a Saturday night, but I don’t have the boots for that look. And yes, I made sure that a skinny black thong was clearly visible above the rolled-down waistband (that photo probably won’t make an appearance). More thoughts on undergrads later – they’ve been on my mind as I’ve been putting my two courses together for the winter. If you’d like a preview, I’m lecturing about the Canadian film industry for CANS 200 on November 13th. Further inter-related thoughts on costuming/identity, teaching, and Canada later…

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Snap-tacular

October 27, 2006

To celebrate my camera’s return to good health, and to assuage (or perhaps provoke) my roommate’s homesickness I took some pictures of the fall colours in Parc Lafontaine late this afternoon. I wasn’t alone – I spotted seven other people snapping away, no doubt as glad as I was to finally have some sunshine. Some have already made it up on my neglected flickr account, and I think when I’ve got more money next semester I’m going to upgrade to their Pro account, if for no other reason than to be able to endlessly categorize my photos (how I do love to organize). I felt a wee bit embarrassed taking these shots; growing up my family used to dread fall as our road would be overrun with slow drivers taking in the (admittedly breathtaking) escarpment scenery, and relatives would make weekend trips to sit bundled up on the back porch and marvel at the display. And today I became one of them. Sidenote: my hometown was mentioned on the Colbert Report last week – you can check it out here. Playing in the sunshine all day (shopping for the first of many birthday presents, as I seem to make friends almost exclusively with Scorpios) means that tonight I need to sit down and write something other than this. Thankfully the coffeemaker has a ‘strong’ setting. Coming soon: illustrated tales of tomorrow night’s inevitably fantastic Halloween party.

Eleven down

October 25, 2006

I find chick dick fiction a satisfying, if sometimes fleeting, form of therapy. Some reach for chocolate, I reach for a Janet Evanovich novel. This evening I made it through all of Evanovich’s Eleven On Top. No need to reiterate how much I enjoy my research, and because the grad student in me doesn’t always know how to stop, was thinking the entire time of why I keep coming back to these novels (I’m not the only one pondering this question; hordes of intrigued academics aside, check out this article in the McGill Tribune). While I could hypothesize for ages (or write a dissertation on it, even), some of it is that unlike many other serial writers, Evanovich manages to hang onto the stuff that keeps chick dick fiction interesting, for me at least: the mystery. It never takes a backseat to the angst of lust and life, and their intrusions often ring true for me, such as the momentary and consuming diversions of sugary treats, pretty shoes, or giving in to a sexy hand reaching up your shirt even when you know it’s going to lead to a capital-R Regret. Reading a lot of formula fiction, as I do, things start to jump out at you, this time the phrases “he cut his eyes to the man standing…” and “he angled out of the car.” These expressions stay vivid for me precisely because of their overuse – they’ve become a cliché of pump-it-out-fast writing and in other circumstances tend to grate. But here they remind me of what these kinds of novels are trying to do – straddle competing generic worlds, get the mass-market fiction audience, convey an image with the efficiently of the familiar. I feel better, or at least distracted, now. And I can fall asleep without wondering whodunit.

Things I’ve discovered today:
1. How awful orange juice tastes after you’ve brushed your teeth. This one’s actually a re-discovery, since I’ve started dosing myself with juice to stave off the inevitable fall cold that I can feel lurking in my glands. The body is its own best barometer – I can always feel in my knees when it’s going to rain, thanks to a high school sports injury. If you connect the dots of acne they point to my period, although this one’s kind of misleading, since they also gang up on me as a warning that my parents are imminent, but then it’s easy to confuse cramps with a gut reaction to mothering. Hopefully it’s my period and not my mother that shows up tomorrow.

2. The Weather Network has a “fall colour report,” a guide to how the leaves are changing across the country. So you can best plan your slow Sunday drive, I guess. Yet one more reason to have the site bookmarked.

3. I have no idea how one goes about starting to write a dissertation. Staring into the face of this huge project, I’m realizing that distilling it down into a 50-page proposal wasn’t as helpful as it would seem, rather it actually makes the project feel more intimidating. A related re-discovery: I still need a basic pen and paper to brainstorm. There’s something about the tactile quality and the movement of thoughts and hand that stimulates my brain, like being able to draw arrows between things. I also like having a record of ideas that on the first round of thinking seemed useless but can trigger bigger, better thoughts further into the process. I’ve become more adept at writing on the computer, it creates a tighter finished draft, but I still need labyrinthine handwritten notes to get me to that point.

4. I’ve grown accustomed to and generally miss having a roommate (who’s globe-trotting off to Spain to visit the original roommate until the first week of November). I like hollering questions down the hall, or ignoring the phone and knowing that it’ll get answered anyway. And yes, I admit it, being a lazy suck and having coffee refills delivered by hand to my office door.

I’d also like to say that I’m enamoured of Kraft’s peanut butter-chocolate spread. I’m testing a theory that it, rather than time, heals all wounds. Scientific method being adjusted at whim, of course.

Everywhere I turn this week climate change is on the agenda. This is not a complaint. It came up in class this week, which surprised me. The professor segued from a discussion of regionalism in Canada into slideshow (not as good as Gore’s) about Canada’s poor performance in reducing emissions. I was pleasantly surprised – from my experience in Canadian Studies, and not just at McGill, there’s been a tendency to shy away from casting the country in a bad light, and to spin the less laudable aspects (like the Historica Minutes approach to history). Then there’s the upcoming symposium at U de M on Friday. And more coverage of Schwarzenegger’s big plans for California (though I still have a hard time taking him seriously as a politician). I like this trend. I admit to not knowing as much about these issues as I should, but I’m trying, and it’s great to see that I’m not the only one getting my consciousness raised.

I dreamt about Lucien Bouchard the other night. It was sexy. He was in a very tiny parade going past my house, looked in my office window, waved, and snuck out of the parade to lean against my windowsill and chat (flanked by an entourage of men in dark grey suits and oversized black sunglasses). I don’t remember perfectly, but I think we just talked about everyday stuff – he asked how my work was going, I commented on his manifesto, offered him a homemade cookie (oatmeal raisin, he seemed to enjoy it), and we promised to keep in better touch. Then he paraded away. I’ve been suffering through a stretch of not remembering my dreams – I wake up assuming I’ve had some, but haven’t been able to recollect anything until this past week. They’re still just snippets, sensations, often triggered by moments in conversation when I start to say something and it hits me that I’m about to make reference to a dream and not waking life. I really enjoyed this one; Quebec has always been this magical place in my mental landscape, created through my parents’ frequent trips here when I was younger and their enthusiastic stories. I had a conversation awhile ago with someone who insisted that to him places don’t have a feel, but even on daytrips years ago Montreal has always somehow felt like home. Writing about place and identity, Gillian Rose talks about home as “a place in which you feel comfortable . . . because part of how you define yourself is symbolized by certain qualities of that place.” Swapping baking tips with Bouchard on a sunny fall afternoon – how much more homey can you get?

ABD, baby!

October 13, 2006

I defended my dissertation proposal today, and despite last night’s crushing doubts of “Oh crap I’m not ready to do this, I’m not nearly as smart as I like to think I am,” it went off without a hitch. Woohoo! I was apprehensive about having an English prof on my examination committee, not specific to her but a reaction to my incredibly confrontational M.A. defense a few years ago with another English department examiner. Silly fears – she paid me the most amazing compliment I’ve ever received in school: that she thought my work was fantastic and wished she had come up with it so she could do it. All of the questions tended toward “This idea is neat, can you talk about it some more.” Boy could I. So now I’m ABD (all but dissertation), which is only a hop, skip, and a couple hundred pages away from the holy grail. I love loving what I do, obscene debt be damned. And I’m excited – to finally be able to start writing, but first to go out and celebrate this evening. Once more, for good measure: woohoo!