So. 2009.

January 7, 2009

I have resolutions this year, unlike last year.  Simple ones, like flossing and washing my face before going to bed, rather than just haphazardly swiping with toner.  “Completing the diss” isn’t a resolution, though, as that has to happen regardless, and if it comes to it, I’d prefer to look back and think “Yeah, I still didn’t floss.”  But since 2009 is now in full swing (i.e. I’ve already finished grading and gone back to writing), not much more needs to be said about the new year.  Or about the holidays for that matter – spent some time with R.’s family, he spent some with mine, everybody liked everyone, I ate a ton of shortbread in defiance of the gift certificate I received for The Running Room.

About the grading: my students’ take-home exam was to pitch their own Canadian film or television series, and to justify their creative decisions by referencing relevant class material.  This made things much more interesting for them, they said, and definitely more so for me.  My favourite line was from a pitch for a zombies-in-Montreal thriller, in which the student was discussing the use of hand-held cameras and linking it to Canadian film’s roots in the realist/documentary tradition: “In keeping with this realism, the zombies will be of the ‘sprinter’ variety . . . ”  Excellent.

It’s been snowing continuously all day, which pleases me more than others.  Each time I pop Alice out for a pee she spins herself in excited circles then dashes headlong into the nearest drift.  I’ve kept a pot of coffee warm for hours, decreasing in inverse proportion to the snow delicately building on my porch railing.  I think both are now nearly done, but as this is January in Montreal and as I’m writing my last major chapter, there will be more tomorrow.



September 20, 2008

So Chapter Three isn’t as done as I thought.  In keeping with the spirit of the chapter (on masculinities), some anecdotes:
-Multiple cars full of guys passed as I sat in the backseat of a cab heading home last night.  Most of them were eating – things they could hold in one hand and tear at with decisive, teeth-baring head-shakes.
-R. sometimes falls asleep with his head tucked into that intimate crook between my ear and my shoulder.  I love that.
-I overheard a guy telling his friend about the other night when his drunken girlfriend changed her mind partway through sex, and that he continued anyway because ‘no’ doesn’t count or matter when she’s drunk.  And that she cried after… “bitches, eh?”  I turned around and told him he was a rapist, and got a “Fuck you, you fat cow” in return.
-An ex-boyfriend once told me he could empathize with the ending of Nobody Waved Goodbye. Watching it again with my students last week, I can too.

The last few bits of the last long weekend are ebbing. Tomorrow the fall semester officially starts, which actually means very little – this is the first September in six years that I won’t be teaching. Both of my parents (teachers as well) retired in June; we’re trying to revel but there’s an undertone of trepidation. How do we fill time now? My answer seems so simple – write the diss (it’s not my diss now, but the diss; a crucial distinction, as lately it’s been writing me). But first, snippets of how I spent my summer vacation:
Socializing: Added up, more than a month was spent entertaining visitors. The last (not counting one arriving this week) left yesterday. Having my space back is both appreciated and a little lonely (I might even miss the cat). Such serial visits make one observation unavoidable: my friends are fabulous.
Travelling: Retirement parties, a shower, a wedding, a funeral. Flurries of activity and stockpiley trips to the LCBO.
Biking: Useful and economical – 12:30 is too early to call anything quits, and cabs are financially unfeasible for someone of my proclivities, (un)employment status, and geographical location. I tried so hard to enjoy biking everywhere. But I just don’t. I’m a pedestrian.
Writing: I wrote a decent draft of about a third of the diss. Not as much as I’d have liked, but summers here are notoriously unproductive. I blame Montreal.
Fucking: I slept around a bit. It was fun. And easy (which isn’t the same as uncomplicated, but what’s summer without a little light drama?). I like how thank-you emails are becoming de rigueur.
Running: I hit the 10k mark mid-June, and have been doing that three times a week ever since. I’m toying with the idea of training for a half-marathon, but could just be looking for an opportunity to toss around the word ‘fartlek.’
Preening: I officially if grudgingly accepted that I look good in hot pink.
Listening: Boxer by The National. Writer’s Block by Peter, Bjorn and John. The Reminder by Feist.
My parents will be gleefully sleeping in tomorrow morning. I’ll be up, futzing with the coffeemaker and wondering how to organize my non-semester. I’m not comfortable with unstructured time. Summer is always a needed reprieve, but after four months I’m antsy again. Sans students until January, I’m compiling a list of fall distractions, er, plans. My tentative triangulation: the St. Henri pool, a diner with free refills, and Allez-Up.


May 1, 2007

I have it now. No lectures to prep, no essays to grade, no student emails to return. Unstructured time! The novelty will wear off shortly but for now I’m enjoying the aimlessness. I haven’t switched gears into dissertation mode yet, so for inspiration I’ve come up with my summer resolutions:
1. Write. And write. And write some more – drafts of two chapters by the end of August, and a journal article to shop around for publication.
2. Migrate the blog, and then update it more regularly.
3. Drop another pant size. I’ve shed four since August, and while I’m coming to terms with the hereditary belly I’m not convinced it’s a lost cause.
4. Read at least one book a week (fiction).
5. Take a tiny trip. Quebec City for a weekend, perhaps. Something that fits my financial straits but also gets me off the island.
Crap. That’s a lot to do. I’ll start tomorrow.

They’re waiting. Perched on the edge of my desk. Silent, complacent, knowing I can’t avoid them forever. Student essays. Sigh.

Back to life, back to reality

February 26, 2007

Everyone is telling me to update this more often. And I’d like to post more regularly, I really would. I just don’t know what to say – with two classes three times a week I have a hard time finding space in my head for much else, or even switching off my teaching voice (my roommate is now reluctant to watch Canadian or crime television with me – I’m a few didactic outbursts away from being insufferable). This first day back after the break was a refresher in how unwaveringly routine and segmented each week is: Monday, Wednesday and Friday: teach, office hours, gym, office hours, teach, dinner, prep, bed (coffee breaks are implied). Tuesday and Thursday: run, write, domestic errands (such as buying more coffee), dinner, prep, bed. Repeat two days later. My planner breaks weekdays down by the hour, and I actually have to use that section. I mildly enjoy all this structure. I always know exactly what I’m doing next, and my days are a series of small tasks continually being accomplished. Full and satisfying. Like lasagne.
Today’s tasty tidbit: I taught a few of Poe’s short stories early in the term, and as a larf started one lecture with The Alan Parsons Project’s “The Raven.” Since then a bunch of students have emailed me other musical interpretations of Poe, and after class today one approached*, earphones in hand, to have me listen to an Iron Maiden version of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Rock on! I’ve now got nearly enough for a very macabre mixed tape.

*the same student who, in a discussion about the eroticism of violence and the violence of eroticism, mentioned that it’s easy to meet a chick you want to fuck, or a chick you want to kill, but never one you want to marry because that goes on forever. Maybe romance really is dead.

One down

February 13, 2007

Round one (of four) of marking is done. I like grading papers. Really. Particularly because it reminds me of the things language can do. Once you hit a certain point academically your writing style solidifies – you can learn new minor rhetorical flourishes (which you then promptly overuse) but your voice is pretty much established. So it’s refreshing to read undergraduate essays for glimpses of other ways words can be put together – creative, enthusiastic, proud sentences. My two faves from this round:
1. (From a paper on the development of Canadian film): “Then Grierson emerged.” I like this because it makes me think of Swamp Thing: John Grierson rising impressively out of the muck in a dated suit, flabby arms flailing, spouting gibberish about how narrative film degenerates the mind.
2. (On the detective’s trademark wit): “He wields his snark and disdain like a flaming sword.” Awesome: a) the use of ‘snark’ in an academic paper; b) “flaming sword.” That’s a weapon.
And my vote for sexiest sentence: “What Canada’s taste for American film style suggests, then, is that we imagine ourselves as a bland shadow of a borrowed cinema.”
With this done, reading week seems so tantalizing close – sleeping in, wine on a weeknight, a book without a bibliography. Soon.

Having a rich inner life, I also have rollicking inner dialogues. I’d been wondering just what kind of announcements I can comfortably make in my classes, and initially was shying away from promoting Al Gore and David Suzuki’s keynote address at the upcoming Summit on Climate Change. For some reason I thought it was slightly wrong of me to promote my own political views to a captive audience. And then I laughed (aloud, actually, thus destroying the inner quality of this dialogue) at my presumption that I check my politics at the classroom door. Leaving aside my contention that the popular is always political, I’m always encouraging my students to politicize their cultural consumption. To think about hardboiled detective fiction as a form of protest and to see feminist detective fiction as a significant incursion into masculinist populism; to question the implicit assumptions about the nation-state that pervade nationalist rhetoric of broadcasting policies and to dismantle the seeming benevolence of multiculturalism as an ideal (try Eva Mackey’s House of Difference – fantastic). The notion that the critical imperative of my courses is distant from my own politics simply because I’ve assigned readings to explain these positions is, well, laughable. My students have multiple occasions to engage with or argue against the perspectives I present – in classroom debates, their response papers, their essays, their weekly seminars. I’ve learned very quickly just how adept they are at articulating dissenting points, or appreciating these arguments on different grounds. All the more reason for me to promote Gore and Suzuki’s talk – to expand the places and ways in which climate change is discussed. I think I might be one of those darned leftist academics. But hey, my teaching was praised as “fresh and entertaining” at an award ceremony this week, so I must be doing something right.

Lonely Boy

January 7, 2007

In my Canadian film and television class this week I’m showing a bit from the NFB’s 1962 Lonely Boy. It’s a brilliant anti-Griersonian documentary, a harbinger of the rockumentary, and chock-full of screaming girls with bouffy hair. Watching it again for the first time in years I had to chuckle – it reminds me in very different ways of two guys I’ve dated. One because he kinda resembles Paul Anka (when Anka was young and boyish, not balding) – similar stature, cuts a dashing figure in a suit, and because I suspect this guy always harboured a dream of being an early ’60s pop idol. Or at the very least being shot exclusively in black and white. The other one because he once met Anka, working security at Casino Niagara a few years ago (pre-Rock Swings). They chatted for awhile in Anka’s dressing room, and during the show Anka dedicated that night’s rendition of “Lonely Boy” to him. All associations aside, I still love the song. Folks just don’t do melody like they used to.

Hot damn!

November 9, 2006

So the topic’s been changed for the lecture I’m giving on Monday. It’s now… wait for it… Canadian television! Woohoo! Sure I can talk about film and make it interesting, but Canadian tv gets me gesturing excitedly. I’ve only got an hour, which isn’t nearly long enough, but I suppose that’s why MISC gave me an entire course next semester. As an added bonus, anything I say could make its way onto the quiz the students have at the end of next week, which is one of the things that still startles me about teaching – seeing my own words spit back in short answer form. The students also have an essay due in two weeks, which means I’m now constantly fielding questions that up the intrigue about the kinds of things they’ll be writing on. So far it looks like I’m getting one on Tim Hortons and one on Canadian Bacon.
My own writing is taking awhile to come together. I haven’t been able to keep my mind focused enough to get more than three or four pages a day. It’s frustrating, knowing I’m coming up on a semester with no time for my own research, and I’m afraid I won’t have a substantive draft of my first chapter before that happens. To try and clear out even a handful of the cobwebs I’m thinking of taking off next weekend for a quick and dirty trip to Hogtown. The liminal space of the train often gives me a greater sense of perspective, not to mention the therapy of a late night out and long lazy morning in with dear old friends. I haven’t left Montreal since last Xmas, and while I love this city I could really use a day or two somewhere ghostless.
What a completely unenlightening post. Blah blah minor and irrelevant excitements, blah blah allusions to emotions, blah blah. I do have thoughts about important things like the midterm elections, like Parc Ave and patrimoine, like the fascinatingly honest Canadian Armed Forces ads on tv lately. But like I said: unfocused brain. It’s spent all day trying to be cogent and will spend all evening catching up on course material for seminars the next morning. It needs a break.