Friday, 1 October 2010

7 Quick Takes (59)

1. I think we'll see a general decrease in the quality of my 7 Quick Takes because I am always exhausted on Friday afternoons and evenings. We may also see a general decrease in the quality of this blog. I will try not to let that happen, but I just want to throw that out there.

2. I did some more slack-rope practice last weekend. Not much to report there. I feel like I'm plateauing. Part of the problem--my recurring problem--is what the Buddhists would call monkey-mind. My racing, busy, non-stop mind is (as usual) getting in the way.

3. Oh! On Saturday I had a field trip with my Asian Canadian Lit class, where we went to Chinatown. That was interesting; I learned a fair amount about the Chinese community in Vancouver, stuff that changes how you see history. For instance, did you know that there was a developed Chinese community in Vancouver when the city was founded? That there was a time during which there were more Chinese settlers in coastal BC than European settlers? That, unlike Eastern Canada, it is far from clear that Europeans were the 'legitimate' settlers and that Asians were late-comers? (This last one implicates Asian Canadians in "colonial guilt," by the way, something that most of the class picked up on.)
At the end of the tour around Chinatown, we ate a Chinese restaurant. I had barbeque duck on rice, which was quite good.

4. My property-manager's little girls have taken the visiting the tenants in the basement (including your truly). They are hilarious and adorable, about the only thing preventing us from being seriously annoyed by the frequent invasions of privacy.

5. I went to see Henry V at Bard on the Beach last Friday evening. Have I told you that yet? It was quite good. Alessandro Juliani, who plays Gaeta on Battlestar Galactica, played King Henry. I do like that play, and this was a better version of it.
Shakespeare's a funny guy, though. A recurrent theme throughout Henry V is that the audience must create the setting with their minds. The Chorus often asks us to imagine the horses and the castles and the ships, to see these meagre costumes as rich robes, to see this players as dukes and kings. What occured to me during the play (for the first time, oddly) is that this request to see the stuff as what it represents actually diminishes our imaginative capacities. Instead of helping us imagine a real setting (which we can normally do perfectly well on our own, if we're any good at watching theatre), it calls attention to the actual props, the actual stage, and the actual actors. It calls attention to the imaginative process itself, and throws that process for a loop.
Given what I know about Shakespeare, having studied a number of his plays, I'd have to say that this isn't a stylistic blunder on his part but rather a deliberate choice to make us see part of the playmaking process. But here I'm getting into the Intentional Fallacy, so I will merely offer this idea of his intentions and allow you to make of it what you will.

6. Being a TA is really forcing me to think critically about what doing English is. Having to explain the process of thesis-generation, making arguements, and reading symbolically is a challenge in and of itself; having to explain departmental culture, the different schools and methods of criticism, and strip high theory into non-specialist conversation is a whole other ball game. It is humbling because I increasingly realize that I don't know precisely what I'm doing.

7. On Wednesday I at last brought up in conversation with some classmates that I am Christian. This was a hugely anxious moment for me because these classmates had made some off-the-cuff remarks that seemed disparaging of religion. And yet in the end this allowed me to have a good conversation with one of them, an atheist, about politics, religion, academia and so forth. It turns out that he has a great deal of respect for religion and a great deal of scorn for Hitchens and Co. That was a good conversation in so far as I felt more able to be myself (and I was less concerned with whether he, at least, was judging me for being Christian, though I cannot be sure about the others), but also because it followed a graduate seminar on Hume and Voltaire which settled about three quarters of an hour before class ended into an attack--a gentle attack, but an attack--on religion in general, Christianity in particular. So I was feeling rather unhappy about that seminar. After all, there were only eight students, including myself. I usually speak in class, even when out of my depth, so my silence during this conversation was conspicuous to me, if not to the others.
It seems that in university in general and some seminars in particular, at least as far as Queen's and UBC are concerned, that people just do not think there are Christians in the class. It never occurs to them. I am sure people from the Southern US will be boggled by this statement, but up here, in academia, there is an assumption of atheism/agnosticism/apathy, which manifests as a comfort in not just critiquing Christianity, which is fine and probably necessary, but treating it and its adherents dismissively. But I never want to say anything because I'm afraid I'll confirm their biases by being, I don't know, some polemical and overly defensive fanatic. Though you could just ended that sentence at "afraid."
Which is to say, I was happy to have this conversation immediately afterwards, especially as the classmate I had the conversation with was also in that particular seminar.

That was too long.

I encourage you to visit Jennifer Fulwiller, host of the 7 Quick Takes meme.

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