Friday, 25 February 2011

7 Quick Takes (75)

Yet another two-week edition.

1. Last week was Reading Week. What time I did not spend procrastinating, watching Firefly, or visiting with friends, I spent working on a biography review or grading papers. I shouldn't talk about the later as a matter of professional discretion, but I can discuss the former. If I were you, I would not read Park Honan's Christopher Marlowe: Poet & Spy. It is surprising that a biography about a brilliant poet and playwright, a libertine with ambiguous sexuality, a swashbuckling spy, could be so boring. If you do read this book, prepare for such a surprise. If you nonetheless insisted on reading a biography of an early modern playwright, then I might be more inclined to recommend Shapiro's A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599. While its literary readings of Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and Hamlet are not the best in the world, they are at least interesting, and it nicely situates Shakespeare in the time of his writing. I am not a fully-converted New Historicist, but I find that I appreciate Shakespeare far more (and far more maturely) when I think of him as situated in his time, nation, and culture.

2. I went to the Regent Chapel service on Tuesday morning with a friend, and we went for lunch afterwards. The service was interesting; I'm intrigued by, though not entirely comfortable with, the idea of an overtly religious post-secondary institution. This one is small and feels very collegial. I did, however, like the looks of their library and bookstore.

3. That following Wednesday evening I acquired Hopeful Monsters and a journal. I had received a phone call explaining that my book order for Hiromi Goto's collection of short stories had come in and realizing that I had reached my threshold of productivity for the day, I visited Chapter's that evening to get the book. While there I bought a set of journals. They have writing-paper lining and not graph-paper lining, but otherwise they are identical to those pictured. I have been told by Creative Writing professors and others that I should use a journal as a collection of insights into experience. This will be a useful repository as I write. I am not thinking of it as a "Dear Diary" sort of writing-as-catharsis exercise, though it may be that in some instances; rather, I am thinking of this as a commonplace book of experience. It is also a little bit of a commonplace book more generally, as Bakhtin, Foucault, Barthes, and Firefly have all featured in this first journal.

I know perfectly well that I will not get a chance to read much of Hopeful Monsters soon.

4. On Friday I went to a dinner party organized by the church. It has been a long time since I've been to a dinner party. It was very nice. Fortunately I knew most of the people there at least a little bit, but it's interesting to note how this sort of event, in which the host is good at leading conversation and involving people, is an excellent way of getting to know people better or at all. Having dinner parties is a skill I don't see developing especially well in my generation and/or demographic, and yet it seems tobe a key element in the social fabric of previous generations. Something to think about.

5. On Tuesday, despite being intellectually and emotionally exhausted by Reading Week (I hope you'll forgive me my reticence regarding the reasons--plural--for the emotional exhaustion), I gave what I felt was a good presentation in my Reported Speech class. It was on an essay by Short, Semino, and Wynne on faithfulness in reported speech. That is, they argue that faithfulness is important in some contexts when people report the speech of others. This may interest anyone outside of the field because most people (or most academics, anyway) assume that when we quote, we quote verbatim. What I am learning in this class is that such an assumption is all lies and deceit. We certainly do not quote verbatim. For the most part (especially in conversation) we don't even pretend to. What Short, Semino, and Wynne argue is that faithfulness (not verbatim) is important in some contexts, and while they are right to point this out, their argument is still problematic on a number of details. If this interests you, let me know and I'll tell you more.

6. The last few days have been spent in a glut of social interaction. I am making up for the scarcity of the same over Reading Week (other than ocassional Skype, a smattering of collegial talk in the Graduate Reading Room, tea at a bakery one morning, and what I wrote on above, I spent most of my Reading Week in scholarly isolation). I have a short but heavily-weighted paper due on Tuesday, so I need to put my nose to the grindstone and all of that good stuff. However, to see friends again, even after a week's absense, is a balm.

7. Just last night I started reading DeLillo's End Zone for the class in which I am a TA. I love it so far. I am not a fan of American football (nor should I be), but this book is only about football on the surface. So far I can tell that it is far more about language and the politics of devastation: it examines the jargon of the Cold War and the jargon of professional sports, reducing them to a moment in which they mean either far more than we'd like or nothing at all. Of a player, Bobby, who is "famous for saying he would go though a brick wall for Coach Creed," the narrator says the following:

Maybe he had heard others use it and thought it was a remark demanded by history, a way of affirming the meaning of one's struggle. Maybe the words were commissioned, as it were, by language itself, by that compartment of language in which are kept all bits of diction designed to outlive the men who abuse them, all phrases that reduce speech to units of sound, lullabies processed through intricate systems. Or maybe the remark just satisfied Bobby's need to be loyal to someone. [Creed does not want or deserve loyalty.] But Bobby had this loyalty to give, this eager violence of the heart, and he would smash his body to manifest it. Tradition, of course, supported his sense of what was right. The words were old and true, full of reassurance, comfort, consolation. Men followed such words to their death because other men before them had done the same, and perhaps it was easier to die than admit that words could lose their meaning.

The brackets are my summary of a longer passage; the embolding is my emphasis of sentences I love.

[Bonus round!]

8. I found this video on Facebook, and I was fascinated. It's a fanmade trailer for Riverdale, a fictional "gritty remake" of the Archie Comics. "Lux Aeternae" is likely responsible for 25% of my fascination with the video. My nostalgic and theoretical pull to Archie Comics is responsible for my 35%, and my interest in the genres of the dark remake and the movie trailer account for the remainder. I should warn you that, no matter your politics, something about it will probably offend you. Also, I should give a trigger warning.

9. Due to my nose-to-the-grindstone sentiment I expressed before, I will not be writing the posts I have planned. In response to Leah's post on transhumanism at Unequally Yoked, I plan to write a series of posts concerning the boundries of self. That is, what does and does not consitute "me." I intend to talk about somatic control, prosthetics, two-headed snakes, Judith Butler, and friendship. Do not expect this to be a simple or traditional account of identity; I want to write these posts at all in order to complicate the sort of naive delineations of self that I saw expressed in the comments section of that post. However, I must beg your patience on this matter, as my workload and lifeload not only demand that I abstain from writing those posts any time soon, but cease writing this one as well.

Please go visit Conversion Diary, the host of the 7 Quick Takes blog carnival.

Friday, 11 February 2011

7 Quick Takes (74)

1. I spent a good portion of the first week of February preparing for a seminar presentation on Henry IV 1 & 2, in case you couldn't pick that up from the rant about "gentlemen of the shade" last week. Those are some plays, folks. If you don't believe that a scene can at the same time be hilarious and horribly sad, you might want to look at Part 2 (after reading Part 1 of course). I suppose the knowledge of how it ends makes it sadder than you might get on a fresh reading, but I still find the tavern scenes pathetic, in the full sense of that word.

In case you are somehow entirely unaware of these plays (which I realize is possible and not condemnable), you must be introduced to Falstaff. This video is an excellent way to begin, though I take issue with Welles' description of the reverend vice. It's a great piece of stagecraft nonetheless.

2. Last Sunday after church I attended the Lunar New Year Parade. It was held on Pender Street in the rain. This is, after all, Vancouver. After some (im)patience, I finally managed to get close to the front, at which point my photography improved.
I am a Rabbit, so it seemed important that I attend this parade. I had been planning on going with friends, but I did not get the text that everyone bailed until I was already on the #10, bound for Pender St. So I was there "alone," or as alone as one can be in a crowd. I overheard numerous homeless people griping about the sudden influx of people, though some of them were friendly. I had an interesting conversation with a down-and-out-looking fellow on the bus, who descibed to me in great detail how he manages to avoid fights with drunks through trickery.
The rest of this post will have photographs of said event along the side.

3. There is a used bookstore down the street from me, and they have been stealing my money ruthlessly. Fortunately, this yeilds books: a collection of Donne's poetry (Cait, the one I gave you), One Thousand Years of Solitude, and Fables of Identity. This last is a collection of Frye's essays. Frye is a Canadian and once-influential literary critic who enjoyed significant popularity and is now considered obsolete and/or unreadable by most literary scholars. I know this, and I know why. I cannot take his work 100% seriously (it's too universalizing, for starters), but I must admit that I'm enchanted by Anatomy of Criticism. I might not ever work Frye into my own scholarly work, but they can't stop me from holding a torch.
At any rate, I can't afford to frequent this bookstore too often, but it's not a bad place. And I have a coupon!

4. On the recommendation of a friend, I borrowed the film Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity (2002). It stars Sandra Oh (Grey's Anatomy) and Valeria Tian (Juno) and takes place in the Chinese Canadian community of Vancouver. It's funny, poignant, gripping, etc. and so forth. Mindy is a twelve-year old only child to her workaholic, money-harried mother. She is an eccentric little girl who tries desperately to improve her mother's financial and romantic prospects... by means of Taoist charms. Her inexpert attempts at these charms backfire, appearing to cause ripples in the local community. I suppose you might not like it if you are opposed to movies in which Taoist magic works. But it is a good movie. Watch it!
[American readers: I am not sure if this is available in outside of Canada. I am wholly ignorant of such things. I couldn't get it at the Roger's Video here, not even before it closed down. I had to get it from the library.]

5. Weather-related take: Last Friday I was tempted to write a post raving about the beautiful weather. I finished reading one of the Henry's in the Rose Garden, no sweater, no shoes, no socks. It was gorgeous. Yesterday was nice, too, but otherwise it's generally been rainy. No surprises.

6. This up-coming week is Reading Week. Today, then, was the last day before break. This afternoon I went to a lovely prof talk by one Prof. Patsy Badir on shame and failure in Shakespeare's Love's Labours Lost and Twelfth Night. If I do post at all this week, it will either be a continuation of one of the unofficial series (The Fantasy Genre, for instance) or some more explicit form of literary geekiness. However, I have grading, reading, and writing to do for Monday and Tuesday after Reading Week, so I may be too busy for blogging fun.

7. If you aren't already, I suggest you go take a look at the debate at Leah's Unequally Yoked. The argument surrounds whether it is at all acceptable, from any point of view, for someone to steal a host from a Catholic church, desecrate it, and post a video of said desecration on-line. What fascinates me is that there should be no debate at all. It's an obviously reprehensible act. I don't, for instance, think that a Zoroastrian fire is actually sacred, but I would react in horror if someone put it out; I don't, for instance, think that the Qu'ran is the revealed word of God, but burning one in public is a gross insult. I don't see how anyone could fail to make this connection, though it's also clear that many do. Anyway. Go take a look. I've linked to the most recent post on the issue, but from there you should be able to navigate to the older ones. [Edit 12 Feb: I should clarify that Leah is not the one advocating desecration. Not at all. I commend her for what she's said so far.] [Edit 14 Feb: I have now linked to her index of the posts. Thank-you, Leah, for your lovely indexes.]

And that's it for me. Please visit Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary for more.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Link to an Open Letter to the Westboro Baptist Church

This open letter to the Westboro Baptist Church is well worth a read. Like most things, there may be problems with it, but I'm willing to say that it's net effect is positive rather than negative. Make sure you read the update at the end.

Friday, 4 February 2011


Gentemen of the Shade is already a book title; the book in question is written by Harry Turtledove, and pertains to vampires during Jack the Ripper's reign of terror.

It should be a law that no line from Shakespeare can be used as a title of a book that does not deal adequately with the themes in the work from which the line was drawn. Books about vampires should be especially forbidden.

(For those who don't know, "gentlemen of the shade" is a phrase from Shakespeare's 1 Henry IV, spoken in a speech by Falstaff to Hal, the crown prince and his drinking buddy: "Marry, then, sweet wag, when thou art king let not us that are squires of the night's body be called thieves of the day's beauty. Let us be called Diana's foresters, gentlemen of the shade, minions of the moon; and let men say we be men of good government, being governed as the sea is, by our noble and chaste mistress the moon, under whose countenance we steal." Ah, Falstaff. I'd have loved to have drawn from this speech in a short story or novel. There's so much fun to be had, so many ideas to un/ravel.)

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Graffiti Jungle

A week or so ago I went down to Wreck Beach for a photoshoot and noticed a ruined, graffitied building in the woods. I decided to take photos of it as though I were some explorer voyaging deep in the Mesoamerican Jungle, finding some opulent Mayan ruin. About 0.3 seconds later I realized how colonial this idea was, but thought I might still be able to get a good photoshoot out of it. Overall I consider the theme of that day's photography to be Decay. (If I was a more experimental photographer I could have done something with De/Composition, I suppose, but that's not me. Not yet, anyway.)
So when looking at these photos, please recall that I was thinking about colonialism as I took them. And that I do not live in a jungle, but in a temperate rainforest.

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