Saturday, 31 October 2009

A Really Tough Blog

I found a new blog: Delightfully Scattered Thoughts. It's very tough. The topics it deals with are not light reading. What this woman deals with is so entirely out of my realm of experience that I don't know how to react. Some of this stuff is haunting.

I am not encouraging you to read this, especially if you want the protective 'everything's okay' bubble around your life to stay as it is. If you want a challenge, though, perhaps you could read her blog.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Bleg: My Best Blog Posts

OK, so I have 42 double-spaced pages worth of blog posts I just might be able to revise into something readable or even impressive. I need to narrow this down a bit (25 pages maximum), and would like your help. I'll list the post titles on here and set them up as links and, if you are willing, you click on a sampling and either read them or remember them, and tell me some must-includes and some must-not-includes. Or an if-you-include-this-you-must-not-keep-the-last-paragraph or two. Actually, I won't usually be keeping the last paragraph.

I also need to decide how I'm going to edit these. I realized selecting these how entirely my tone and references rely on these being blog posts. Should I try to adjust them so they read like opinion pieces, or leave in the blog qualities?

I realize this is a lot of reading if you were to go through all of them. Since this is a bleg, don't feel like you need to read them all.

Oh, right, criteria: I want to convince professional writers that I am already decent at writing and also have potential to be even better. They are looking for something we my own opinionated voice, not something formal (ie. academic) or journalistic. I hope that my Fiction and Children's Lit sections will already be pretty strong, but this section will be important too.


Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Movie Review
Choosing Certainty over Accuracy
Doing the (un)Desirable
My Campus has Exploded (I'm really unsure about including this one)
On Soundtracks
Zombi Attack!
Being Christian in Public
Feminism: A Rant
Dawkins' Style I: Offensiveness
Moonstone the Skunk
How to Make a Casserole

And if you know of other posts that you think we well-executed and think I ought to include, let me know.

7 Quick Takes (XV)

1. If you read the previous post, you'd know that I've been working on a portfolio, for which I have spent the last five nights in a state of writerly productivity. I produced better than 25 pages of a YA novel. It's a longish story. I can't apply to the UBC Creative Writing program with my first choice fiction and my second choice poetry if I want to get in. I think I told you this. So I'm instead going 1) Chilren's Lit/YA, 2) Creative Non-Fiction, and 3) Fiction. (I might bump fiction up to number 1.) This means I had to write actual Young Adult stuff for my portfolio. Hence my working on a novel. I like this novel, though, and I might just finish it. NaNoWriMo is up-coming, and I might take advantage of that. You know how I like Internet bandwagons! Anyway, because of this, I don't have too much to tell you. I might get 7 nonetheless...

2. It's been snowing on and off; it usually melts within a day or less, and a lot of it has been wet, sloppy stuff. I hear we're getting 10cm this weekend, though. The dog will like it, and I'd prefer white stuff to wet stuff. Always have.

3. When I go to work, it's dark out. The sun rises about 25 minutes into my shift, though I'll have been at my workplace for 45 minutes or more by then. Since dawn (ie. light on the horizon, sun not yet visible) is less than 45 minues before sunrise, I actually walk from the main building to my building in darkness. Fortunately there is a light above the ramp, which can be slippery, and the city itself gives off enough of a glow behind me that the pale faces of the buildings are just visible in the darkness. Daylight savings ends this weekend, so the sun shall rise before my shift for the next month or so.

4. Geez, I don't know if I do have seven.

5. I read City of Ember before beginning my writing project. I had watched the movie made out of it before I read it. The book was similar, though not identical. They movie-ified it.

6. I signed up to be a server at church. The meeting for it is on Sunday.

7. I am on a new used computer. That is, it's new for me, but second-hand. They were going to toss it at work, and I scavanged it. Or, more accurately, I was given it by the person who was going to throw it out, as she was aware I had computer issues.

Well, except for a cheat at #4, I have 7. That's all for now, amigos.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Writing 25 Pages aka I Won't Be On Blogger

I need to write the first 25 pages of a young adults' novel ASAP (I have a plot and everything), so I'm going on a self-imposed Facebook and Blogger ban until I have completed something close to 25 pages.

See you then.

Friday, 23 October 2009

7 Quick Takes (XIV)

1. My computer is infected. This was not equivalent to fun times.

I was researching something--I think it was Aristophanes--and went to a website. Apparently, going to unfamiliar websites can be a bad idea. Suddenly, antivirus software bubbles were popping up telling me that my computer was being attacked by a virus, a worm, by Trojan horses. It seemed as though the digital version of Isengard had opened and was descending upon my computer, which was still about a day's march from the Hornburg. (For those who don't understand Tolkein references, go out and watch the movies. I refuse to translate.) I could click here to try and remove it. I did a fair amount of clicking here. And then it occured to me that I had never installed this particual antivirus software, called SoftCop, onto my computer. Why was it trying to protect me? Well, it wanted me to pay $80 by credit card if I wanted to counteract these viruses, but I wasn't doing that. Why would it suddenly descend upon my computer, at the very moment I was in crisis, and say, "Hey, if you register this product and pay $80, we'll protect you from these nasties."? It was almost as though it was in collusion with the viruses...

So I Googled it. This took some time and navigation, as my Web browser was suspiciously hesitant to go anywhere but the SoftCop registration page. For a little while it tried to tell me that I shouldn't go to sites because I was unprotected. Then it re-directed me to the SoftCop page even when I had typed into the address bar. Meanwhile, new windows kept opening up to explain that some worm-ridden virus riding a Trojan horse was trampling through my hard drive or something like that. Eventually I managed to google the thing, and, lo and behold, it's what they call a "rogue antivirus program." That is to say, it's a package of viruses disguised as an antivirus. None of the viruses it told me about existed. At the very least, they were harmless programs made to look like viruses that SoftCop put there itself. While I was trying to get rid of these pseudo-viruses, SoftCop was installing Trojan horses and backdoors, hidden in all sorts of little corners and never-inspected subroutines in my computer. These were designed to send my private information to its nefarious maker while performing acts of sabotage on my machine. I'm glad I didn't register or pay for the thing, but neither of those were necessary. It did not need my permission to install itself and its party of bugs onto my hard drive.

I spent all of whatever evening that was trying to dig it out of my system. I read on-line tutorials on how to do it, and by the time I was done, there were no more warnings, no more windows, nothing. The tutorials did warn, though, that if I missed just one little piece of programing it had put on, that program could download all of SoftCop again the next time I booted up and connected to the Internet. And sure enough, the next day, SoftCop was back in action. So I did the last thing that binary twit expected. I unplugged the Internet. Just like that. Shut her down. All the backdoors in the world cannot be opened if my computer doesn't have an ethernet cable anymore. Let's see it try to send my information out now!

Of course, my computer doesn't have the Internet now and is still crawling with viruses. I'm afraid to connect my hdd to it, since I don't know if SoftCop is capable of putting viruses on there and spreading it to whatever other computers I use to read it. I read that this thing can destroy your hard drive if you let it run full course, so I don't know what to do. I want to get some files off of it, but in the meantime I'm not turning it on.

I'm writing on my folks' computer now, of course.

Figures. Just when I get a computer of my own...

2. Good news: I figured out how to access my old hard drive. I mentioned I had some trouble with it. Well, after a number of tutorials, a few frustrations, and at least one "duh!" moment, I got on. I can now read four years' worth of my creative and academic writing. Yay!

3. My OGS (Ontario Graduate Scholarship) stuff got to where it was supposed to go on time. It is now out of my hands and my worries.

4. I am applying for a Creative Writing program in BC. It requires that you select three genres, ranked. You will focus in the first with a significant courseload in the second and some courses in the third. I spoke to my Creative Writing prof from uni, and she told me that so many people apply to this program with a straight fiction + poetry preference that it is nigh on impossible to get in with this as your preference. Rather, you ought to have something like Screenplay or Script or Lyric and Libretto or Radio Drama as your first two choices, and then fiction or poetry as your seconds. I think I will go for Children's Literature (which includes Young Adult, which I've read a lot of this summer) and Creative Non-Fiction (in which I might take some of my better blog posts and spruce them up), with Fiction as a third. If you have suggestions on better blog posts, let me know. I think I will include my semi-colon rant, but that won't nearly fulfil my word count specs.
I have some writing to do.

5. At work, I have spent some of my time doing real work: that is, I've been hammering nails in boards. I am not the best at this, and I had to spend some time on scaffolding. This was less than fun for me. I am afraid of heights. There are no two ways about it. My hands shake, my feet crawl, and my sense of balance becomes hyperactive. I can do it. I did do it. But it is rough. Also, I am used to being able to swing my hammer somewhat straight. All my hammering was on an angle, above my head (think inside of a pitched roof).
I also have to be careful about how much time I do work that is not in my job description. I have sense of how long what is left will take so cannot say for certain that I am behind, but I do need to be working more on my actual project. I need to balance being helpful and friendly and pitching in where need truly be with getting my own responsibilities accounted for.
The take-home fact is that I now have a satisfactory number of cuts and scrapes on my hands. I can say that I did some actual work.

6. The dog is hyper and strange. The last one isn't news.

7. Obligatory book take. I have been giving some goes at Heart of Darkness. I have returned to The Cost of Discipleship. That one is a thinker. It's tough. (A non-Christian would not find it tough because they would not take it as something they might have to follow. A Christian must 1) determine whether or not they agree with Bonhoeffer and 2) try to figure out how they'll implement these difficult concepts.) I finished The Faerie Queene's Booke Three. I have scratched the surface of Book Four. I am playing with the idea of reading some Shakespeare. Maybe Timon of Athens or Midsummer's Nights Dream or The Tempest or A Winter's Tale. There are some books in my workplace's library that I wish I could take home. (Our check-out policy is that you can't.) One is a historical one about a little-known early surveyor who mapped out a lot of Canada. Another is a Kangiryuarmiutun-English dictionary. Inuit languages have such a fascinating linguistic structure. I should have taken linguistics courses. Anyway, while I see limitations to this particular language, it is very efficient within its scope. It is also beautiful.
I think that's all the books I'm reading. Tonight I will finish Psalms and so tomorrow night I will begin Proverbs.

Remember to visit the Quick Takes Queen.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Stupid, Stupid Computer Virus


Sunday, 18 October 2009

Stressful Life Stuff

I didn't, as you can tell, write 7 Quick Takes. I don't know whether anyone noticed or not, as I don't know how anxiously you all await my Friday tell-all. I had been too tired and stressed to complete it; in the end I didn't have time.

This post will not be organized into 7 coherent points, sadly. Instead I'm going to give you the basic idea of what went on.
Work was a little stressful. The building I am working in--formerly the Gift Shop, now the Presbyterian Church/the programs-collections building--was overhauled this week. We did lots of cleaning, furniture was moved all over the place, and boxes of stuff were relocated or trashed/recycled. Not only do I find that stressful in and of itself, there has also been tension between some co-workers. I am not involved in any of that tension, but I do have to hear about it and deal with people who are unhappy or grumpy as a result. I also have to watch myself, that I don't get accidentally caught up in any of these conflicts. In the end I try to do my job as well as I can, avoid breaking rules, and deal with any potential conflicts in a timely manner. That doesn't always work, but it might.
To compound this stress, I have been trying to deal with confusing and bureaucratic application system for the OGS (Ontario Grant Scholarship). I hate paperwork, and it's even worse when you have to spend lots of money mailing it from Fort McNowhere Alberta. Yesterday I did get the last of the application submitted on-line and put in the mail, but even afterwards I felt only stress when relief or celebration or at least calm would have been in order.
All of this is made worse by being lonely and chronically tired. My knees still hurt, as does the knuckle of my right index finger. For a few days my tailbone hurt because I wiped out on the icy/slushy boardwalk at work. I wouldn't say I'm entirely miserable, but this week has been stressful and depressing.

And all of this is made worse by the fact that I am at least daily aware that most of the world has a life far worse than mine, that I have been given many things, most of which I am probably ignorant of. I feel like I ought to be celebratory and grateful, and I can't find anything to make me feel either of these things. When I pray at night I recognize this and 'reform' at least until I stop praying, but for most of the day I'm bummed. All week I look forward to the weekend, and all weekend I (inwardly) bemoan how much of my free time is being wasted. Meanwhile, there are people who work 60+ hours a week (compared to my 40) and send 50% of their paycheque to their family overseas or in Newfoundland, just to prevent said family from starving. So I feel guilty for feeling unhappy, and therefore feel even more unhappy.

Lesson: feeling like you ought to feel happy has never made anyone happier.

Instead, we need to come up with concrete ways of acheiving this peace. I have begun with prayer. Action is a good follow-up. I will likely put my name in to be a server at church. I need to make sure that it's not just because I want to wear an alb again, but beyond that I think I'll go for it.
I need to write more, and not feel pressured to produce. So that's it: I'm not worried about producing any more. I'll dither around as much as I like. I'm supposed to be writing for my own pleasure and for the education of humanity, not as a career. So I'll focus on what matters.
I still need an attitude adjustment for work. That is, to be happy and purposeful there. Hmmmm. Not sure how I'll handle that yet. That one's hard.

And perhaps I'm putting too much on (my own) happiness, after all. I likely am.

Anyway, I hadn't posted because I was trying to deal with those things, and then I was trying to celebrate and be happy.

In other news, I finished Book Three of The Faerie Queene. I still think that ought to be a movie. There were two endings, one earlier and the other revised to fit the story of books four through six. I recognise the need for the change, since the original tied up a story which needed to end untied for the other books to work, but I did prefer the first one. Perhaps, in another post, I will include it in its entirety.

Oh, the weather was beautiful yesterday and Friday afternoon. All week before that it was cold and snowing. I hope the snow stays back again until November, but there might not be much chance of that.

That's it for now. I plan to resume the whole 7 Quick Takes thing this Friday, but we'll have to see how busy I am.

Later, all,

Christian H aka English Clergyman

Friday, 16 October 2009

0 Quick Takes

I'm tired and grumpy and busy, and I have a headache, so as far as tonight is concerned, nothing happened this week. Maybe it will change tomorrow. Sorry about that.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Global Warming

Right, so it's Blog Action Day and I'm supposed to talk to you about Global Warming.

Now, maybe one or two of you have been reading my blog for more than a year now, or have gone through my archives, or whatever, and are now saying, "But didn't you once try to poke holes in Gore's An Inconvenient Truth?" Well, yes, I suppose I did. But that was because his data wasn't conclusive--or even relevant--and his argumentation had gaps in it, not because I disagree with his cause. Some people will point it out if you have a hole in the seat of your pants; some people will point it out if you have a hole in your car door; I point it out (or want to) if you have a hole in your argument. That's all. I dislike blatant misinformation.

"But," you might say, "didn't you say in that same post that you don't believe that global warming actually has been proven beyond all doubt?"

Well, of course I said that. I'm even marginally informed and I try to be honest, which pretty much means that I don't believe that global warming has been proven beyond all doubt. Not only do I think that almost nothing is proven beyond all doubt (which is impossible in an empirical system of knowledge, fyi), but I recognise that there is some evidence which suggests that global warming either a) doesn't exist or b) isn't man-made. That's not the same as saying that it's proven beyond all doubt that it doesn't exist or that it is even unlikely to exist. All it means is that there is room for doubt, or interpretation of data, or disagreement, or what have you.

If you did read that article, you may remember that I said we ought to act as though global warming exists, whether it does or not. Firstly, I think that it may very well exist. I think there might even be a good chance that it exists. Secondly, even in the event that it doesn't exist, most of the means that I know of for trying to prevent/postpone global warming are good for the environment for other reasons, too. Fewer emission is better for the air (and all that breathes it). Decreased fuel consumption is not only better for human civilization in terms of long-term energy reliability, it might also help mitigate ecosystem destruction. And so on.

Except that I add a caveat to this: we ought to be careful about what we do to mitigate the damage. Consume less, by all means and any means. Of course. I mean we ought to be careful about assuming that our 'green' energy programs are actually greener. We must check that relying on wind power doesn't kill off the endangered Tibetan cuttlefish and Australian ground sloths and Chilean pushmi-pullyus. In our well-meant but hasty drive to prevent one disaster, we must be careful that we don't cause another.

I suppose what I mean is this: Let's all start by consuming less. Much less. That's a good one, and it doesn't require a whole lot of thought to get started. Don't drive when you don't have to, put your thermostat lower, wash clothes only when you have a full load, fly economy if you must fly, buy domestic, buy used, buy less, throw out less, eat less. (Keep your empty jam jars, because they make good cups. Read those red-neck repair jokes not for laughs but inspiration.) And then let's all think very carefully about what our next step is, and not let partisan biases and our fear of not sounding environmentalist enough get us headed the wrong way.

And let's not lose hope. Or, let's find where we put our hope. 'Cause on this issue and on all environmental issues, I'm not sure I've still got mine handy.

I know! Let's pray on this. And I mean this not in a pray-as-an-automatic-response way, like lots of Christian-type bloggers will, but in the way of modern media. In Battlestar Gallactica, one character is diagnosed with cancer. They talk about treatments, and the doctor half-jokes about trying prayer. But then, just as the doctor walks out of the room, he turns to her and says, "And for the record, I would seriously consider prayer." For some people, prayer really is a last resort, and I'm scared that that's where we are right now: on the edge of apocalypse. That by now it's out of our hands, and our only job is to try not to make things worse and just hope they get better. I'm really, really scared that this is the case.

But I'm sometimes struck by something. A person who has been shot three times in the torso can sometimes still walk to the hospital. Our bodies are frail enough that a little damage in the right place (well, wrong place, I guess) can kill us in seconds, and yet our bodies can also stumble on when damaged beyond recognition, and still even recover. I know a man who was hit full-on by a transport truck, and he was walking again within a year. Maybe, just maybe, even after all the abuse we put our world through, it (we) can still stumble on and then recover. But in order for that to happen we must stop the abuse, and I suppose that's what this whole Blog Action Day and every environmental awareness campaign is supposed to be about. I think the problem is that we need to stop being so big on 'awareness' and more about 'action plan' and 'hope.' 'Awareness' just seems to be code for 'fear-mongering,' and breeds either despair or resistance. Neither of these are any good at all. What we need is cooperation. And practicality. And cheerfulness.

I saw a This Hour Has Twenty-Two Minutes skit where the newscaster said that the Catholic Church was criticizing advertising companies for using sex and greed to sell products; they should do what the Church has always done and use guilt and fear. My first thought was, Isn't that more of an environmentalist or social activist thing than a Catholic thing? I recognize that elements in the Catholic Church have used guilt and fear a lot and I also recognize that many social activist groups are trying to get past that, but it does seem to me that there's little difference between hell-fire and gun-fire or forest-fires as far as public relations go.

One way or the other, I hope the global warming/environmental responsibility campaign will come around.

I probably did not write something in the spirit of the Blog Action Day proposal, did I? Well, I suppose this must do, because I have nothing else.

Good luck. Go read more useful Blog Action Day posts.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Additions to the 7

I forgot these two last night. I got up to seven a bit too soon.

8. It's snowing up here now. Apparently it does not usually stay on the ground for long, but a light dusting of snow has been here for a few days now. I have heard that the second last week of October or so usually gives us one more blast of warmth.

9. We had Turkey Day dinner on Thursday night. This is because my Dad works straight through this weekend, so Monday night's a no-go for us. We had a chicken and not a turkey, with taters and carrots and parsnips and stuffing and spinach.
Americans: in Canada, we celebrate our harvest festival at actual harvest time, not in early winter. (Okay, okay, I realize that November is harvest time in some of the US. Still not convinced it would have been for those pilgrims you always see eating the pumpkins, though.)
Non-Northern North Americans: Turkey Day is slang for Thanksgiving, which is a stat day in Canada and the US. If you watch American telly, I assume you know what Thanksgiving is.

Friday, 9 October 2009

7 Quick Takes (XIII)

1. I just saw this on MSN News: So cool.

2. Saturday night, I went to volunteer and help set up for Run for the Cure. Not too much to say about that, really. It was at Keyano College, and was not really all that labour-intensive.

3. On Sunday, I made the interesting discovery that the special deadline for Queen's students for the OGS application (that's "Ontario Graduate Scholarship") had passed. This lead to stress and then to research, which led to more stress. On the one hand, I learned that a number of programs I want to apply to have deadlines in January, which is more than doable. On the other hand, I learned that one program--a nice one--has a deadline in early November. Yikes.
And later, I learned that the OGS deadline in fact has not passed. So all that work I haven't done on the application because I thought it was too late all of a sudden is looming in on me. I am now behind schedule. Fortunately, I have this weekend to get my act together and catch right up.

4. On Monday, I started to feel sick at work. On Tuesday, I went home sick within half an hour of arriving. I was off Tuesday through Thursday. Jon can attest to the fact that I have the tendency to try and, uh, ignore my symptoms and go to class anyway. He has lectured me about this in the past. Anyway, remembering what Jon said about rest and what my coworkers said about not spreading my sickness to them, I stayed home.

5. And started watching the first season of Battlestar Gallactica again. Yeah, yeah, nerdy or whatever.
Actually, this deserves a minute. Let's think on this. Is anybody in a position to tease anyone else about TV shows any more? Unless you don't watch TV at all, you likely have some guilty pleasure. It doesn't matter what you watch; nothing is above some sort of critique. Even the award-winners, like ER or CSI or Law and Order, can have assorted accusations leveled against them, from gore-mongering to predictability to being a soap opera. And at least the acting and scriptwriting in Battlestar are good, so you can't hit it with the standard attacks on sci-fi as being poorly-developed trash. If you don't watch TV at all, I'd really ask if you have a platform to stand on there, too: for one, if you haven't watched the show, where do you get your information by which you make these judgements?
Back to the bullet, though. I do quite want to watch the second season now. How long can I wait before I justify making another personal purchase? Sadly, after my holiday, I'd have to say I should wait until November, anyway.

6. I finished Stephen King's On Writing. Now I'm having worries over my writing career. King recommends spending 4-6 hours per day reading and writing. Some days I must make that, but others will be far from it. Lately writing anything other than this blog has been difficult. Granted, King takes that into account. He says that each person will produce at their own pace: James Joyce, for instance, reputedly worked at less than seven words a day. It was either Jane Austen or Virginia Woolf who spent an entire afternoon over a comma. Perhaps at some point I will make a post discussing some of King's advice and put it up under "Writer's Package." Some of it contradicts what I've put up there before, of course. Kay, I think, would like King's sense of spontaneous development.
But still, with a full-time job and assorted ways I like to waste my time, 4-6 hours a day is not a good thing to hear. Then again, I can spit in King's face (metaphorically) and do it my own way.

The question of course is, will that work?

7. I continue to struggle with the narrative styles of the sources I have to read in my research. This is at work. Some of the documents I'm reading are written by people whose prose style is less than aesthetic or literary. Sometimes it's endearing and funny, and other times it's frustrating. The grammatical sense of some of these writers frustrates me, but I suppose they haven't been educated as much as I have been in these sorts of things. (That still gets me though, because grammar is not THAT HARD!) (Sorry.) But their sense of flow is also odd. When I voiced my frustration, a coworker of mine--the one whose recent experiences have included the less-than-corporeal--said she found the one author difficult because she (the author) tended to go off on long digressions on how great religion is. Now, I've been catching hints of anti-religious sentiment in this coworker lately, so I'm wondering when I'm going to have to deal with that. I didn't find that all too problematic, considering that the writer is a nun, after all, and much of her thesis in these books (if she really has one) is the Sovereignty and Goodness of God. I'm here directly referencing the captivity narrative of Mary Rowlandson, which tells the story of her capture, captivity, and ransom by New England aboriginal people, but by the title you can tell that one of her major concerns is how great God is and how this experience transformed and was transformed by her spiritual life. (Note: I've linked to Wikipedia here, but the article sucks, particularly in its dismissiveness towards "the Puritan mind." This page will give you enough information for my purposes, but if you're curious, I really suggest you look elsewhere than Wikipedia.) Similarly, while this book may be about the services rendered by the Grey Nuns of Montreal to the communities of northern Canada, it is also about the ways in which God works through the Grey Nuns to impact these northern communities. Of course I'm trapsing all over the Intentional Fallacy here (you can see where I stepped in it trod all over what I just wrote if you look carefully enough), but since the author does believe that God most specifically works through these women, I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that this idea was at least present in her mind when she wrote the book.

What irks me is the patchiness of the narrative and the almost casual way with which she deals with the gory and horrible. Infanticide is mentioned without squeamishness, though with explicit compassion. One sister mangled her hand in a laundry machine, but the author rendered this anecdote almost comically, along the lines of, "She obviously pulled her hand out immediately, but unfortunately left her ring and her finger behind." That's not to say that I wouldn't have perhaps delivered the same story in a similar way, but only to people I knew and who knew I felt compassion even though I was maybe employing dark humour along the way. Publication, though? I don't know.
Another thing that bothers me is her use of the phrases, "There is no need to emphasize that...", or, "Obviously...", or something similar.
Lastly and on a more positive note, these odd stylistic choices are sometimes amusing or endearing. For instance, in a memoir, we find the following (paraphrased): "There are lots more things I would like to discuss, especially concerning religion, but I keep losing my pencil, so can't write them down as they come to my mind." That might not be verbatim, but I think it captures the sense and the personality/diction of it. As much as similar things appear on this blog, I would never include something like that in a memoir. But that's just it, right? What I think of as my objectives in a memoir are likely not the same as this woman does; if they are, then my means of getting their certainly are not the same. Those traits that I think of as lending credibility or honesty or authority to my story are not the same as those traits this woman thinks of as lending etc. etc. etc. The hybridity of conversational and formal tone I use here, on my blog, is closer to something I think she's trying to acheive. I get the sense that she's thinking of this more as writing a letter than as writing a book. There's a familiarity to it, a consciousness of the physical and social space that she's writing in, that is utterly unlike what I think of as 'formal writing.'

In a sense, despite the irritation I feel as I try to pull information from rambling, anecdotal, grammatically incoherent (sometimes it really is impossible to figure out what the author meant thanks to typos or grammatical fumbles), and colloquial sources, I also realize the placedness of my own sense of "good writing"(don't worry, I'll explain what I mean by that). I've grown up and/or been educated with a number of assumptions of how to write so your reader will respect you, understand you, feel comfortable with what you've written, enjoy what you've written, and in the end believe you. However, all of these techniques or rules or objectives I've learned are particular to a limited number of audiences. Quite frankly, those audiences are far removed from the audiences that populate rural northern Canada, many of whom speak English as a second language and many of whom have not been educated in anything like the standards we expect in southern Ontario (for instance, a number likely didn't graduate from grade eleven). This may be a literate audience, but it's not a literary audience, that's for sure. It's an audience of trappers and farmers and industry workers who couldn't write like Louis L'Amour (or, if you want a more modern example, Dan Brown) if they spent years at it. I think of some of the people who went to my home church or went to my elementary school. The word "unsophisticated" comes to mind. And the style of these books, with all of their preoccupations and taboos and ethnic slurs and litanies of who was related to whom and who died when or how and what the family thought of that, is precisely the most meaningful, or at least entertaining and communicative, to this group of people.

I am not questioning my own literary modes or ambitions here. Not at all. I am getting, I think, the beginning of an insight. These books may not less difficult for me, but perhaps with this realization in mind they will be more bearable and more interesting.

And if you somehow sat through that jumbled mess of thought up there, I am both flattered because you thought it was worth it and proud that you managed to tie together my own digressions and preoccupations. And jargon. I wish there was an easier way to describe a "preoccupation".

And that, my friends, is 7.

I'd direct you, as usual, to the Quick Takes Queen, but she's going wireless for one week, so I wish her well in that (heehee, alliteration) and will not link.


Monday, 5 October 2009

Websites are like puppies...

INTERN says:

"A website is like a new puppy. Cute and fun, but, like your parents loved to say, "a big responsibility." If it's a blog, you need to feed it new content regularly or it will look abandoned. If it's a website written in some finnicky language, you'll need to know how to fix the code if something breaks (or call an expensive internet-veterinarian). And no matter what it is, you'll need to resist the urge to dress it up in those ridiculous sweaters."

Friday, 2 October 2009

7 Quick Takes (XII)

1. I managed, through what I think of as a terribly faulty keyboard effect, to delete my post. I am quite unhappy about this. I do not think that pressing a scroll key while your text is highlighted should delete it. That makes no sense. My entry #1 was quite long and I thought it was good, but now it's all gone. OK, re-try. Remember Buddhist sand pictures.

2. I may have previously made similar claims, but now it's more valid: It is autumn. I was going to go on about how much I love autumn, but Yolanda beat me to it. And not only did she beat me to it, but she also gets to experience seasonal changes in Burundi, not Fort McMurray. And despite the cold--which is bothering me far too much already for this coming winter to be healthy--I still love fall. I love the 'autumn'; those vowels and that silent 'n' just fascinate me, and the 'au' is the 'holy vowel' found in amen, salaam, and certain versions of ohm. What a euphonic sound. But of course the word is only the smallest fraction of it. The season itself is wonderful. In Ontario, autumn means sprawling pumpkin vines and chilly mornings and the beans turning scarlet or burgundy and the cornstalks whispering in their dry voices. In Fort McMurray, we don't have either of the latter two or much of the former two, but we do have many of the other trappings associated with this time of year: honking Vs of geese, chameleon trees, toadstools turning to black mush, frost on the grass. What is new is the degree to which I see these characteristics. Mainly, we are surrounded by hills here, especially in the downtown region. There are two banks of hills visible from my workplace, one in the north-north-west, roughly, and one in the south-south-west to south-south-east. These are tree-covered hills, so the colour change is very noticeable this time of year.
This morning was very foggy and frosty, both of which took a long time to burn off. I would like to be able to use the word "rime," but that requires salt water. Oh, well. Someday I will.

3. One of my co-workers claims to have seen a ghost in the Park. The facts of the case are thus: she was locking up one of our buildings, when she noticed a grey, glowing, robed figure go up the stairs. In this particular building, the stairs are blocked by a large display case (which was still in place), and then the landing is crowded with chipped, saintly statuary. Getting onto the stairs is all but impossible without moving at least the display case, and difficult without also moving the statues. Now, this co-worker has not believed any of the ghost stories told about our Park so far. The long-term staff does, and apparently doesn't share many of these claims with summer staff. I had heard a fair amount about George, our resident poltergeist, but I did not hear everything. Summer staff hear only about doors opening and closing and lights turning on and off. They do not hear about George's more, uh, destructive tendencies.
Anyway, the staff member who saw whatever it was does believe in the supernatural, but not in the stories about our Park. So this was an unlikely thing to hear from her. Also, I haven't heard anyone claim to have seen an apparition at the Park before. I've heard second-hand accounts of such things, but not first-hand.
All of which, I think, is very interesting. We'll see what the winter will bring. I have heard that the winter months are more active, supernaturally speaking.
The staff member does not seem worried or unnerved by whatever it is that she saw.

4. Our dear old dog is still dear, old, and more active than her body can handle. Case in point: as I was trying to type the previous entry, she was trying to beg a cookie out of me. Begging, that is, in the sense of a child tugging at a parent's clothes and jumping up and down and squealing until they buy the toy the kid wants. What our dear old dog was doing was this: prancing and breathing excitedly and putting her paw up on the arm of my chair and putting her nose into my stomach and on my arm while writhing her head around with a good deal of force. She wasn't quite using her nose to flip my hands off the keyboards--a trick she'll try on Mom pretty much daily--but she was close to it. Crazy dog. Now she'll off in the laundry room, cooling herself on the cement floor. As though it's not already cold in here. Crazy dog.

5. I am getting near the end of Anatomy of Criticism. I have discussed it already, so I'll leave it there. I am getting through Psalms, as ever. There is some seriously nice poetry in there. There's also a line that I kind of what to know the Hebrew for. The speakers wishes his enemies to be "consumed by wrath," and, in the context, there are three possible interpretations: 1) that God, wrathful, consumes them (ie. "God, in his anger/wrath, destroys the bad guys"); 2) that God consumes them with a physical manifestation of his anger (ie. "God manifests his wrath as fire and burns them"); and, my favourite, 3) they are consumed by their own wrath (ie. "they are wholly encompassed in their anger towards Israel, and their anger burns/devours/destroys them"). I want the Hebrew so I can tell if the last one is a valid translation. I like this idea: may your punishment for hating me be the hatred itself. The Dali Lama spoke of holding onto anger being like holding onto a hot coal: it hurts you before it hurts anyone else.

6. Through a Facebook conversation, I have been informed that deadlines for grant applications are creepy ever closer. As a result, last night I had a crisis about my future. See, in order to apply for a grant, you have to have tell them what, actually, you plan on researching. I had no idea whatsoever, and began to worry, in the sort of, "I have to decide my life in the next three days," "I am doomed to a life of misery," way. After a good hour of fretting and half-hearted, anxious, not-really-listening prayer (while washing the dishes), I brought it up with my Mom and we talked it over and she reminded me that I don't actually have to decide now which program I will go into (English Literature, Cultural Studies, Creative Writing), because I can actually apply for all three programs at different schools. So all I need to do now is find out which to tell OGS I am planning on doing (I'll have to call them about that), and try to figure out a thesis for each.
That last of which would not be easy, except in the shower last night I actually had a cluster-epiphany and came quite close to getting at least a direction after all. It's likely too scattered as it stands, but I can refine. The important thing is that I have a starting point. Briefly, without giving away too many ideas, I want to look at how a selection of texts deal with who we experience multiple identities within ourself or others, keeping a very close eye on the genre, media, and other formal considerations. I literally wrote down a few pages of possible sources and directions. The beautiful thing is, I can take this same list and refine it to be an English thesis or refine it to be a Culture Studies thesis. Whichever program I wind up taking (of those two, at any rate), I can still do the same basic thing. Possible texts include Sidney's sonnets, Donne's sonnets and other poems, Shakespeare's As You Like It (and, just possibly, 1 Henry IV), DC comics featuring Triplicate Girl (if I did this, though, I would actually have to start reading some comic books, something I really don't do, notwithstanding my general knowledge of superheroes), the computer game Half-Life 2, and The Real Inspector Hound (which is Theatre of the Absurd). Critical or 'source' literature I could draw on include Al Berger's Ways of Seeing, the works of Plato, of Freud, of Bakhtin, maybe of Foucault (esp. on hermaphrodism), the Pauline Epistles and assorted Christian theologians, and ... well, I think I'll keep the others a secret. Those ones are pretty common and expected in literary analysis, but I think I have a few ideas which are less predictable.
Oh, and this seems to be a rather arbitrary 'cap' to a lot of this disparate things I wrote on in my classes. Looking back, I seem to have focused on things like multiplicity or diversity or ambiguous/dual people. These all come into play here.
In the end, what this all means is that I have a fair amount of researching and filling in of applications to do in the immediate future, but also that I'm happier about where I'm going in the future thanks to a bit of distress on the same topic.

7. The folks at St. Thomas' tried to lassoo me into being part of the worship team. I tried to explain that I am not musically talented in the least. They asked if I could shake a ... one of those bean-filled shakie things. You know the ones. I suppose what they don't understand is that I can't even match clapping to a beat. My timing is awful. I remember on Rock Band I was failing horribly at a particular section: Jon and Phil pointed out that it was simply double the previous beat I seemed fine at, and I tried (and, I think, failed) to explain that doesn't help me at all because things like 'twice as fast' do not compute into anything workable in my brain. It's like dyslexia: it's impossible to discursively explain how I invert numbers. I just do. That part of my brain is broken. Same here. I played piano once upon a time, and I was quite mediocre. I can punch it out by rote, but I have little 'sense' of it. I don't clap during worship songs in which everyone else claps because I can't ever seem to clap at the same time as them. If you ever see me clapping on the back-beat, you can be sure it's not intentional.
Regardless, I now know the names of David, Laurie, and Kim, and they seem like nice people. Also, I will surely be asked to participate in worship service again soon. I do want to get involved somehow. Personally, I want to wear an alb. They likely won't offer that, though. Perhaps something I can do will come along, though. Music-related things are not among them.

Make sure you visit the Quick Takes Queen.
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