Friday, October 30, 2009

So, basically, think of the novel as Literature's rotten egg

"The novel is the end of genre... a narrative ideologeme whose outer form, secreted like a shell or exoskeleton, continues to emit is ideological message long after the extinction of its host."
--Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In Which I Make Not One, But Two People's Birthdays All About Me

One of the handy, how-did-we-ever-do-without-it features of Facebook is a little box that tells you when one of your friends is having a birthday. Given that a typical Friend list is approximately at least 100 or so friends long, that means you've got, on average, eight birthday notifications a month. Of course, not everyone posts their date of birth, so let's round that down to four. Still, that's a lot of birthdays. And you can't skip a birthday--not unless you want to face THAT social stigma. So you're left with posting birthday message after message, until the sheer banality makes you envy the creative powers of greeting card writers.

Happy Birthday, X!
Happy B-Day, X.
Have a gooder, X.
Hey man, happy birthday!
Birthday wishes!
Hope your day is nice!
Way to be born!

And the pressure to conform and just go with Facebook's own brand of birthday expression (Send X a Gift!) builds and builds, and the evil that is social networking is revealed in all its internal systemizing glory.

But no. I refuse to succumb to such mediocrity. I started a campaign to create meaningful, caring birthday messages that contain layers of symbolic meaning: each message represents what I think of that person, what I think they think of me, and what I think is appropriate for a Facebook birthday message. This entry was an early foray into this bold new genre.
Future attempts focused on the historical moment. One friend, for example, was born on the same date that featured, years earlier, an historic defeat of the Scots at the hands of the British. So he got to hear all about that war. Another friend was born on the day of composer Albert Lortzing, so he got a summary of the opera Der Waffenschmie, and a short note about why it was relevant to his life. Plus a short youtube clip of the opera.

Yes, my friends love these messages. Why do you ask?

But with this last message, I discovered you could attach youtube links, and suddenly, I had access to a new bold venue. That's why, for this Tuesday, I sent out two radically different Facebook birthday messages. First, this message:

“Youth is happy because it has the ability to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”
- Franz Kafka

So here's to growing wiser, but not older. Happy birthday!

And second, this message:

And the point, which I have reached in my classic roundabout manner, is that, in posting these two particular birthday wishes in short succession, is that their incongruity really struck me. The radical difference in tone made me consider not just what each of these girls meant to me, but rather, what image I wanted to present to them. The process really drove home to me how much identity is constructed, and, sometimes, willfully constructed. Which birthday wish is more authentically me? Is there an authentic me?

Facebook: good for existential crises AND wishing people happy birthday. Hallmark WISHES they could do both.

(Special bonus: people who know me in RT can try and guess who the two ladies in question are. No fair cheating by looking on Facebook.)

Later Days.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

If You Think This Is Bad, You'll Never Guess What I Thought Limp Bizket songs Were About

As I've mentioned before, my musical tastes, according to the music in my Ipod, at least, is built on a foundation I inherited from my brothers. As such, I've developed an eclectic taste that doesn't really jive with my other interests, hobbies, or basic personality. I'm very fond of the Foo Fighters, I have a high tolerance of Bryan Adams, and I am actually a fan of Blink 182. Until recently, my favorite song of theirs was an early ditty by the name of "What's My Name Again?" Aficionados can listen to the full version here (sorry, no embedded version):

For those who didn't check it out (and I'm not going to blame you for that), it's essentially the three members of the band, running around naked for the whole video and Freaking People Out. A later video does the same thing, but with midgets. Charming. And in case there's any doubt as to the song's tone, here's one of the verses:
Then later on, on the drive home
I called her mom from a pay phone
I said I was the cops and your husband's in jail
This state looks down on sodomy

And that's about the time that bitch hung up on me
Nobody likes you when you're 23
And are still more amused by prank phone calls
What the hell is call ID, my friends say I should act my age
What's my age again?
What's my age again?

Why was I a fan of this song? Simple: I misheard it.

I have to think this sort of thing happens more often than people are aware of. You hear one bit of the song incorrectly, and your entire conception of the song can be altered, even by a minuscule difference. For example, I have a brother who insists that the Smashing Pumpkins song "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" contains the lyrics "Despite all my rage, I'm still just a-ready to rage" even though that makes no damn sense.

So what was my misinterpretation? Well, in the course of the song, the narrator's girlfriend throws him out when he stops making out with her to catch a TV show, and then he calls her mom as a prank on the way home and implies that her dad was arrested for homosexual behaviour, and when he's caught, the girl breaks up with him. So he's essentially a dick. And throughout the whole thing, he repeats: my friends say I should act my age. What's my age again? The turn comes (or so I thought) in the final verse:

That's about the time that she broke up with me
No one should take themselves so seriously
With many years ahead to fall in love
Why would you wish that on me, I'll never wanna act my age
What's my age again?
What's my age again?

And that's the twist: this self-righteous asshole is really just a guy who's afraid to grow up, afraid to commit to a relationship. With "so many years ahead," an expression that gets more and more hollow as the years go by, why be serious? The moment you acknowledge that what's here and now is important to you, that you need to grow up and take it seriously, then you have grown up, and the cartoon shows and prank phone calls are a part of your past. From this final verse, the narrator becomes someone more complex and more interesting.

Only he doesn't. Because the real last verse goes:

With many years ahead to fall in line
Why would you wish that on me, I'll never wanna act my age
What's my age again?
What's my age again?

So yeah, he's still just your typical, young twenties self-obsessed asshole who can't seem to get it through his thick skull that there's more important things in life than dedicating it to your own hilarity. And even if you're not being that critical, the song is still nothing special--it's just another emo/punk song about the "rebel" not being understood by the "norms." The argument could be raised that, at 26, I'm past the song's age demographic, but trust me: I'm more sympathetic towards general slacking now at 26 than I ever was at 23--or 20, for that matter.

So: one word, three letters. A small thing, but my feelings towards the text as a whole hinged on it. Anyone else have a story of misinterpreted song lyrics?

Later Days.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Regarding the Pratchett Books: CHRISTMAS IS COMING, PEOPLE

What I did this weekend:

I finished my SLSA paper, bid a fond farewell to my parents, started running again, welcomed the new roommate who will be staying for a few months, marked a few papers, read a few papers, entirely failed to finish Jameson's Postmodernism, and learned that there are two Terry Pratchett books out I haven't read: Nation and Unseen Academicals.

Man, if I truncate a bit, we can get through these updates much faster. And none of these items were rushed through. Nope, not one. You've got as much information on each one as you're ever going to get, and there's absolutely, positively nothing more to tell.

Later Days.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cold War

Once again, we seem to have entered a dry spell of postings. I'd make the promise that things will be different this time, but after so many betrayals, I can't expect anyone to believe that. So let's just work through this, together, one day at a time.

Actually, I have reason to be optimistic re: a new, better posting schedule. See, I'm presenting a paper in a conference in Atlanta on November 7th, and I finished said paper... oh, about eight hours ago. Considering I got accepted to the conference back in about June or so, and considering it's only an eight page paper, this level of procrastination has been about as ridiculous as it was lengthy. For the past five months, it's been competing for my attention, right alongside the comp exam, and being able to give it a rest is a huge weight off my mind. I'm hoping it'll free things up in other areas.

Such newfound freedom would be a good thing, considering I'm battling one of the most prolonged sicknesses of my life at the moment. I was somewhat hesitant to make this claim before, because the concept of a trendy disease really, really rubs me the wrong way, but... H1N1? Maybe. According to my first Google search, symptoms include "runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue." I've had all of those, at some point in the last month. Of course, that's the problem; with a virus that has so many traits in common with virtually every damn virus out there, and with the (admittedly justified) advice that you're NOT supposed to go see a doctor unless it gets truly life-threatening, knowing whether you have H1N1 or not becomes a rather elaborate guessing game. What I know is that 3 weeks ago I had an incredibly sore throat, 2 weeks ago I had about a week of migrane-level headache attacks, last week my left side was so congested that I had a low-level headache 24-7, and right now, my cold is keeping me up at night so I have a tendency to fall asleep several times during the day. Blergh.

And now I'm the guy that complains to everyone about his health problems. I hate that guy. I guess I can take some condolence in the fact that, at the moment, I have nearly an entire city full of company right on my doorstep.

Later Days.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Quotations: Why Yes, It Was This Book that Gave Me the Migraine

"There have always been churches to hide the death of God, or to hide the fact that God was everywhere, which amounts to the same thing. There will always be animal reserves and Indian reservations to hide the fact that they are dead, and that we are Indians. There will always be factories to hide the death of labour, the death of production, or the fact that they are everywhere and nowhere at once." Jean Baudrillard, Symbolic Exchange and Death.

Later Days.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Honest, they will. Just not soon, because I'm taking off to Toronto for a few days with the parents. So here's a catch up session, bullet-style.

  • The Folks Arrived Last Thursday. Me: Are you sure you guys want to stay here? I mean, I only have one bed. Folks: No problem. We'll stop after the airport at IKEA and buy a bed. Me: (envisioning free bed) Well, all right then. And you got me a new keyboard? And... my God, is that a printer/scanner? Welcome, parents!
  • Oktoberfest. Doesn't any young man dream of a night on the town with his parents? Seriously though, it was a lot of fun. Highlights included: the middle-aged woman who decided to sit down and start talking to us for no particular reason; watching my parents be rather uncomfortable at the second Pavillion which featured a few hundred people with an average age of around 20; and watching a traditional German dance that involved chopping wood. There's something very Canadian about drinking beer and watching people chop wood.
  • Best Thanksgiving Ever. Man, it was awesome. Last Saturday, I went over to a friend's house, and got a full helping or two of Thanskgiving, East Coast style. Then on Sunday, it was a family dinner with the folks, all Prairie style. (I honestly didn't realise how much I missed a family thanksgiving until I had one. Thanks so much for being here, parental units.) And on Monday, it was dinner at another friend's house, Ontario vegetarian style. At the third dinner, the hostess's niece (three years old? Six? I'm no good with kids' ages) ran around in circles singing nursery rhymes at the top of your lungs. (I honestly didn't realise how much I missed having little kids around until I had one. And then I quickly realised how much I missed not having them around.) There was much food eaten. Too much, frankly. I need to either pick up my running routine immediately, or make plans to hibernate. Most important part: I HAD SIX KINDS OF PIE. (I knew exactly how much I missed having pie. And it was glorious.)
  • The Play. Yesterday, my parents took me to a play. More specifically, a musical. Which thus makes it more awesome. It was A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum. It's much, much better live than it is in the movie version, Zero Mostel and Buster Keaton notwithstanding. The down part is that I chose to spend from 1:00 to 6:00 reading lit theory, and it literally gave me a migraine headache, which is not particularly conducive to play enjoyment. Oh, lit theory. Is there anything you won't ruin?
That's it for now. Any one of these items would normally be expanded into something meaningful and deep, but... well, I'm out of practice. The swing in my step is loose in the chain. There's a disturbance in the Force. I'll fix it for next week. Probably.
Later Days.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Quotations: Is that "Global Respect" thing up and running yet?

Nobel prize win 'humbles' Obama.

Apparently, the BBC News headline writer feels the award should have gone to Morgan Tsvangirai.

Later Days.

Monday, October 5, 2009

aRe THe LeTTErs SuPPOsed To dRIP DowN teh ScREEn?

A proper update is coming soon. For now, I just needed a place to say that, thanks to a particularly unfortunate bout of insomnia, I have had six hours of sleep in the past 48 hours, and about 3 in the past 24.
Today's To-Do List:
-Turn in my OGS application
-Meet with one of the chairs on my literary theory committee
-(Start and) Read Foucault's Archeology of Knowledge.
-Go for a run.
-Eat a light lunch. I'm thinking bagel, apple, orange juice. I could go either way on the cream cheese.

Later Sleeps.