Friday, 24 September 2010

7 Quick Takes (58)

1. Somehow it's already Friday. Did you know that? I can't explain how it's possible, but it seems that it actually is Friday after all.

2. Last Saturday one of my housemates and I went slack-lining. Slack-lining, for those of you who like me didn't know this, is tight-rope walking, except you don't actually use a rope but a nylon thingy. Anyway, said housemate is a slack-liner and has started teaching me. I can now stay on the line for short periods of time and got up to three consecutive steps.
Before you worry, it's only a few feet off of the ground.

3. Sunday I went to another church. It is enormous (by my small-town standards) but I think might persist in this one.
And today I got on the Navigator's mailing list here, and talked to them about volunteer opportunities. I didn't ask them about inter-faith initiatives, though; I had planned on it, but at the last minute I realized that might be a sensitive topic. I don't know. I really want to get involved in something interfaith-y, but I don't think I have the time and I'm not sure either 1) what I would like it to look like and 2) what it would actually look like.

4. There's a nice sushi place down the street from where I live. I say this in ignorance of what a nice sushi place looks like or what nice sushi tastes like, but at any rate I like it. I am no less clumsy with chopsticks than I have ever been, but at least the food gets into my mouth without falling all over the place.
There is a fair amount of quote-unquote ethnic food places at the SUB on campus. The mediterreanean place has a nice spinach- and feta-stuffed pastry with a long Greek name that I rather liked. The line-up for that one is not nearly as long as the SUB's sushi place, pizza place, Chinese place, or grill.

5. I rented and watched The Plan yesterday, which I regretted almost immediately afterwards because I then had to stay up too late to finish my readings. I also regretted it this morning, as I slept in a little and therefore missed my bus and therefore almost missed class, certainly not having an opportunity to get a Chai Latte from the Blue Chip on the way, which is almost essential these days.
But returning to The Plan: it's a Battlestar Galactica thing, so unless you are as entirely wrapped up in the show as I am, you may not see the importance. Basically, don't watch it if you haven't seen all of/most of Season 4. But in this entry I will proceed without spoilers. The structure of the show was odd; even though it was nearly two hours long, it felt a little rushed. This is because it takes place over an extended period of time, beginning just before the events of Battlestar Galactica Season 1, and ending during the events of the last few episodes of Season 2. That's several busy months, and the movie tries to tie a lot of its action into the events portrayed in those seasons, even re-using some of the scenes. After all, it is telling the same story from a different point of view (or, since Battlestar Galactica has since the beginning been told from multiple perspectives, for new points of view). Altogether, while I think the story that this movie tells is a good one in terms of morals and of entertainment, watching it unfold was an odd experience.
Also, the PG-14 rating was a bit low, in my opinion.

6. My housemate introduced me to the song "Hurt." Has anyone heard it? I mean Johnny Cash's cover more than Nine Inch Nails' original. Certainly I listened to the original before moving on to Cash's, because I think that when listening to a cover it behooves one to listen to the original first. I find the original a little less interesting, though, perhaps because the feeling of the song is lost (to me) near the end in the style of the music itself, while I find that Cash's style amplifies the emotion behind it. Further, while both are writing about drug use, it seems to me that Cash is thinking more about poor and destructive life choices in general. That's the luxury of a cover, I suppose: you get to assume a more symbolic/metaphorical position on the lyrics. In the end, Cash's seems more intimate to me, which is integral to the song.
The backstory to "Hurt," one of Cash's last songs on a posthumously released album, is a significant addition to the song itself, too.

7. In my TA discussion, we discussed Leary, Huxley, and Castoneva. If those names don't mean anything to you, just know that we were talking about transcendental/spiritual drug use. I was happy for two reasons: 1) more people than usual were joining the conversation, and 2) the discussion went in such a direction that I could ask something that I think is an interesting question. Occasionally during the discussion some of my students wondered aloud or asked whether the mental states brought on by the peyote or mescaline or opium or LSD actually allowed the users to perceive reality better/validly, or whether the authors just thought that because they were high. At the end of the class in lieu of an answer to that question I brought up something one of my undergraduate professors alluded to: if we accept that LSD or peyote can through chemically transforming the brain allow us to perceive a different reality or perceive reality in a better way, then must we also say that people whose brains are chemically transformed through mental illness or through brain injury are also able to better perceive reality? Where do we stop?
Afterwards a few students stayed behind to talk about this. I posed to them the line of thinking that the professor I previously mentioned had more directly started when I was in his undergraduate class: Some people say that Muhammad had epilepsy, or that Joan of Arc had schizophrenia, which explained why they saw the things that did. Many people take offense to this idea, but perhaps (says the professor) Muhammad did have epilepsy, Joan of Arc did have schizophrenia; perhaps insanity is what allowed them to see the spirits, to see the angel Gabriel.
As Gaius Baltar says, "I may be crazy, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong."
(I'm not endorsing this line of reasoning, but I am endorsing that you think about it.)

Jen at Conversion Diary hosts the 7 Quick Takes carnival. Please visit her for more.

Friday, 17 September 2010

How to Be Good

I read this post today. Look at Quick Take #4.

Isn't this the case? Sometimes it's awfully obvious what we're doing wrong. It's easy to say, "I did wrong. This is what I did wrong." But what do we do from there? If we've screwed up often enough, we often don't know what right looks like in this particular case. If we don't know what it is to be good, how can we be good?

And this is why we sometimes need to look outside ourselves for moral direction.

7 Quick Takes (57)

1. I am tired.
This week has been exhausting. I wound up having to do the first presentation of the year in my Friday class. This meant that I had 200+ pages of Locke and Berkeley to read (and thoroughly, not skimmed) by Tuesday so I could talk to the prof. This meant that I had to do my Tuesday and Wednesday readings late the night before that class, and trying to marathon-read four chapters of Foucault's The Order of Things in one night is doable but tiring. Add to this TA responsibilities, transit, and the ordeal of day-to-day living, and somehow the week has gone by quickly and left me almost void of energy.

2. TAing has been going well. I do not mind at all the time I spend preparing for class. I like class prep, actually, and I like almost everything to do with being a TA. Many of the students are still hesitant to speak, so I did far more speaking than I would have liked this last week, but I still think that TAing is the best part of my week.

3. I visited the Museum of Anthropology again today. This may become a bi-weekly occurance. I was going to go to a lecture by one of the professors, but I wound up being so tired that I just went home after going to the MoA. I would really liked to have gone, but I just couldn't face it. Further, after a busy week and then a visit to the MoA, my head was (is) full.

4. I don't suppose any of you have read The Order of Things? It is supposedly Foucault's most difficult work. I still don't understanding the chapter "Man and His Doubles," but I personally found "The Human Sciences" liberating. It reminded me a lot of Frye, actually; quite diagrammatic, sweeping in scope, ambitious. If you feel like you're mentally robust and are interested in academia, I suggest you attack The Order of Things. I can't say you'll like it very much, especially if you're scientifically-inclined. I suppose that's stereotyping; certainly Foucault is not anti-science, but people who are touchy about science might think him so. He challenges our currect ideas about academic departments and projects, however, for which reason I am pleased with The Order of Things and many other won't be.
If you are familiar with Foucault's later work, concerning power dynamics, you might be surprised to know that The Order of Things has nothing to do with power.

5. I attended a church. I don't know what to think of it. It seemed... uninteresting. There was nothing about it that gave it much sticking power for me. The one interesting thing was that they gave out chocolate hedgehogs to anyone who had been there for the first time. I therefore got a chocolate hedgehog. Yay! I might attend a different church this Sunday, see what it's like. However, there is a program at the one I went to last week this coming Wednesday night which I intend to attend. I will let you know next Friday how that goes.

6. I had a Pedagogy Workshop yesterday. This was helpful; I now have better teaching strategies. This should be part of a previous entry, I know, but I'm running out of stuff.

7. You know what's annoying? It's annoying when people make things difficult on buses. The buses here are often quite full, so we need to be space-efficient. That's not easy when there's some guy standing in the middle of the bus talking to people seated next to him. In front of him the aisle is getting more and more packed with people, but he won't move down and he won't let anyone past him. So there's all this space open at the back two thirds of the bus, which no one can get at because he's standing there, talking to these people. Can he not tell that he's blocking the aisle?
Note to self: my worst time for grumpiness is on the bus. I must try to guard against grumpiness while on the bus.

You know where to go: Conversion Diary, host of this fine carnival.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Worth Reading

If you are in the area because you are interested in religious things, or if you are in the area for other reasons but are nonetheless interested in reading about a religious position you likely have not heard before, I highly encourage you to read Richard Beck's posts on why he holds a universalist soteriology/eschatology. To cut through the jargon, this means that Dr. Beck believes that all people will eventually be saved from sin and death through Christ, not just those who God chose (Calvinism/Reform) or those who freely believe (Arminianism). All people will be resurrected.

I'm not posting this because I intend to stake this out as my own theological position; rather, I am soteriologically agnostic, at the moment, and am considering whether this is a position worth holding. If anyone has any ideas about universalism, or wants to mount a defense of Calvinism/Reform or Arminianism, I would be happy to hear them. I would suggest you read the whole series, though, before entering the discussion.

Friday, 10 September 2010

7 Quick Takes (56)

1. I am a student again. I have attended classes. I did some readings. This is strange, and yet not strange.

2. I am a TA. That means "Teaching Assistant," for those not-in-the-know on university lingo, and Teaching Assistants do things like lead discussion groups and mark papers. As a matter of fact, I hold the grades of 20-odd students almost entirely in my hands. I also have to create a 50-minute environment of collegial discussion about literature each week in the seminars. It was absolutely mind-shrivelling terrifying at first, but I'm already getting a feel for it. As a matter of fact I quite enjoyed the first session; some of the kids were quite willing to participate. (I say 'kids' but they're not kids; some are first years, but some already have a BA. And even the first years are at least 17. It's scary, almost, seeing these kids who are adults, or adults who are kids. And then I remember that at 23 I too am hardly an adult. Certainly in many ways I am not an adult, but in few or no ways am I still a kid.)
Take home message: I like this teaching thing, so long as it's not overly formal.

3. I have explored campus and such a little more. Did I tell you that I visited the Museum of Anthropology on Monday? I was surprised that it would be open. There was a cool documentary playing about a guy from a local Aboriginal community who was part of the totem pole tradition; he went to New Guinea and partnered up with another guy there and then brought that guy to BC, where they both carved things. The New Guinea guy's totem pole, carved in Canadian redwood, is in the MoA.
The MoA is extremely cool. I might do a post about it in the future.

4. On the note of exploring, I visited UBC's Botanical Gardens today. Those are also pretty cool. I did the canopy walkway, which was a little nerve-wracking for acrophobic me. The Asian and forest area was sublime (in the sense in which it's contrasted with the beautiful): there was such a sense of vertical space, tall and high and daunting. The other parts--the alpine garden, the Carolinian garden, the physic herbarium--were also interesting. This deserves more exploration.

5. I am getting to know people. This is a good thing. Today I also visited with someone I know from Queen's who currently lives in Vancouver.

6. I, like virtually everyone else, am watching this crazyman in Florida and his hateful book-burning. I, like virtually everyone else, am hoping he will not go through with it. And I, like at least some other people, am concerned about the radical and hateful reactions in the Middle East (the "Death to the Christians" chants come especially to mind).
There seems to be a question of whether Pastor Jones' sulphuric rhetoric is in fact built logically upon his foundational beliefs; that is, whether burning Qu'rans makes perfect sense in a Christian worldview (Leah, if you are reading this and if you believe I am misrepresenting your claim, please let me know). To me it is obvious that Pastor Jones' behaviour entirely contradicts the foundations of Christian ethics, and I am happy that Elizabeth Esther articulated this far better than I could in her recent post about American evangelicism in general and Pastor Jones in particular:

"It often seems to me that for many of these evangelicals, sending a message is more important than being the message. This is why being a Christian in America isn't so much about feeding the hungry and clothing the naked as it is about voting Republican and attending a mega-church."

I suggest you read the whole post, but the gist as it relates to the logically-consistent question is that Christianity is not supposed to be about publicity and belief-control at all, but about showing love and fighting injustice. As Pastor Jones doesn't seem to be much for either, I can't say that his actions are "really" Christian... but that's a tricky concept anyway.

7. I have borrowed The Queer God, by Marcella Althaus-Reid, from the library. Whether I finish it or not is fair speculation, but I took the first step. So far it is not an easy read. Trying to read it simultaneous to watching Battlestar Galactica cannot help. What will help is that, as a grad student, I do not need to return the book until sometime in November. I'm increasingly unsure I will be impressed. But by hook or by crook I will learn more about non-normative options in the general Christian umbrella...

Alright, all, it's time to head over to Conversion Diary, host of this carnival.

Monday, 6 September 2010

DID video

Again I return to DID...

I was thinking about the postmodern idea of a non-unified self, the self as fragments, masks, or identity components more than a real unified thing. I also read somewhere on-line (TV Tropes, oddly enough) about people with multiple personalities who want to be recognized as more than one person inhabiting/sharing a single body rather than fragments or parts of a whole person. I must say that I'm skeptical about the postmodernist project, but I will allow that the postmodernist project was perhaps necessary for our culture and that it has some important insights. Noticing a connection between these academic ideas (po-mo) and actual psychological events and identity politics (DID) I YouTubed it, and found the above video. Hopefully I posted it successfully. Anyway, other videos in her channel are interesting. "Advise?" and something about hair and a ring are worth watching.

There is some controversy surrounding DID, among which is the contention in the psychiatric community that it does not exist. I do realize that YouTube videos hardly constitute evidence as they can be faked, and I realize I'm a non-specialist who knows next to nothing about the issue, but from what little I have seen it seems to me that not many people are actually listening to what the sufferers (if sufferers they are) have to say about the issue.

I find this a fascinating topic. With luck researching it can be more than just "diversity voyeurism", a term I just made up to capture a sort of scientific-colonial tourism justified by political correctness and the supposed to desire to expand one's mind. With luck researching this topic can lead instead to actual liberation for the people who have this psychological phenomenon, and, perhaps, for the rest of us.

I'm too tired to be more coherent than that, and probably I'm being foolish. Time for bed.

Edit: It occured to me last night after posting this that it sounds as though I was saying that some guy researching people with DID on the Internet might somehow help those with DID. This is clearly an absurd position, one that not even a tired version of me would think valid. Rather, that research must end with something. In my case I would be thinking publication but it doesn't have to be that. But research must have fruit in order for it to be valuable. Research for research's sake is a silly and wasteful concept, in my opinion.

Edit 2: To clarify, DID stands for Disassociative Identity Disorder. That is the term people are using these days, but formerly it was called Multiple Personality Disorder. It is an entirely different thing from schizophrenia. If you did not know that schizophrenia, split personality disorder, and bipolar disorder were different things, then I highly suggest you look it up.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

7 Quick Takes (55)

1. Where do I begin? I have moved to Vancouver and am about to be a grad student. That is probably the best place to start.

2. At the end of last week I finished work at the Park. As a going-away present my employers gave me a pocket-watch. That was nice of them. It's classy.

3. Then I packed. This was last Friday. Jon helped my folks and I load the van.

4. Then we drove. The folks and I toured through Jasper, down past the Columbia Icefields, across through Yoho National Park, including Field, through Revelstoke and down into the Okanagan Valley, heading west at Kelowna and getting to Vancouver. This took three days. Along the way we explored Maligne Canyon, where we saw marmots and pikas. At Field we ate at The Siding, a little excellent restaurant I will again recommend.

5. I moved my stuff into my new rooms on Tuesday, but did not move in officially until Wednesday. I also got furniture from IKEA.

6. On Wednesday we went to the Aquarium. It is quite interesting.

7. On Thursday and Friday I have been doing graduate student orientation stuff. Most of it was specific to the English Department, so I have been meeting fellow English grad students. This morning I was at a TA training session. I am going to be a TA. The thought is terrifying.

That is all for now.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin