Friday, 6 December 2013

Books That Have Changed My Life (subject to additions)

In roughly chronological order:

The Bible

The Velveteen Rabbit: freaked me out, but I love the story.

Wishbone books: first encounters with literary characters, plus Wishbone is awesome

The Arthur Cycle ~ T.H. White - I was really into Robin Hood and King Arthur for a while...

Nancy Drew books

Narnia series ~ C.S. Lewis

A Wrinkle in Time ~ Madeline L'Engle

Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (in German) ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

The Count of Monte Cristo ~ Alexandre Dumas

Space Trilogy ~ CS Lewis

Watership Down ~ Richards Adams - sparked an interest in linguistics

The Works of William Shakespeare

The Brothers Karamazov ~ Fyodor Dostoevsky - Best. Novel. Ever.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead ~ Tom Stoppard

V For Vendetta ~ Alan Moore

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

1984 ~ George Orwell

Frankenstein ~ Mary Shelley

The Irresistable Revolution ~ Shane Claiborne

Howl and Other Poems ~ Allen Ginsberg

Great Expectations ~ Studied with Dr. Ruth Glancy, which made it that much more amazing

Jane Eyre ~ Charlotte Bronte

Leaving Home ~ David French

A Canticle for Leibowitz ~ Walter M. Miller Jr.

The Cripple and His Talismans ~ Anosh Irani

A Clockwork Orange ~ Anthony Burgess

Till We Have Faces ~ C.S. Lewis - probably my favourite of his fictional works

The Poetry of John Donne

Franny and Zooey ~ J.D. Salinger

Brave New World ~ Aldous Huxley

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

How I Ate More Than Rice This Week

I am about to eat a peanut butter and jam sandwich.

Before I get into the details of why this is worth blogging about, I'd like to put out a "I'm Not Advocating Works-Righteousness" and a "Sorry Mom/ Other Mother but You're Not Going to Like This" disclaimer for the following post.

This past semester, I've been part of a discussion group that has been looking at "The Irresistible Revolution" by Shane Claiborne. I read it a few years ago, and it challenged me to live more simply and responsibly in the ways that I use food, clothing, possessions, etc. A main point of the book is that what we have is meant to be shared and given away, in a loving community that takes care of each other.Claiborne, who has lived and been a part of communities from the leper colony in Calcutta to the inner city America, has experienced God's "upside-down" kingdom in real ways that he relates to give us a glimpse of what Christ-centered living can look like in a Capitalistic context. Getting to discuss the book with a group has opened up new ideas and challenges, and I've loved getting to be a part of the conversation.

Now that there's a bit of context, back to the peanut butter and jam sandwich. In the book, Claiborne talks about when he first started hanging out in the inner city: he and some buddies from college would go downtown, and even sleep there overnight out on the streets. Sometimes when they woke up, there would be food next to them. This idea, of God providing through people, really stuck in my mind. So when our discussion leader challenged us to do something during the break between our weekly discussions, I decided to give up food for a week.

Okay, not entirely. You know 30 hour famine, where you can eat rice? I ate oatmeal for breakfast and rice (mixed with tuna and salsa for some extra vitamins or whatever) interspersed throughout the day, and tea and coffee. Besides that, I only ate what other people gave me (unasked for). Crazy, and probably not very healthy, I know. But, just hear me out.

Wednesday, this began because...I forgot to bring my rice. I had a thermos of tea with me though, and had eaten a fair portion of oatmeal for breakfast. In my morning class, a colleague offered me a cookie. Around 12 when I was on my way to the library, I came upon a free chili luncheon that was being put on by the school for their 50th anniversary celebration. I returned shortly after bringing with me a friend because there were also roasted chestnuts and we had never had roast chestnuts before. In my afternoon class, two people had brought candy to share with the class. I ate an apple later on in the day that I had picked up at the free luncheon. That evening was our book discussion, where coffee and timbits were served. And there was a whole container of rice waiting for me when I got home. So, I ate pretty well on Wednesday.

Thursday after breakfast, I met up with a friend at a cafe to do some paper writing. She had brought lunch for both of us, unasked for, and so delicious. After rice and tea for the rest of the day, a friend asked if I wanted to come over for Sherlock, and she had put out chips and made hot chocolate for us.

On Friday, there were cookies in class. One of my office mates shared a chocolate bar.

Saturday, my friend bought me a coffee.

Every Sunday, there's a young adult lunch at the church I go to. There was pulled pork and salad and coffee. A friend gave me a pack of rockets, half of which I gave away. That evening, a friend hosted a dinner where there was lasagna, salad, bread, wine, pie, ice cream, tea, and wonderful company.

On Monday, the same office mate gave me a cookie. Another passing by gave me a handful of candy corn.

Today, the last day, I ate rice and oatmeal and drank tea. During our seminar, one of my classmates gave me a cookie.

And now I am at home, about to eat a peanut butter and jam sandwich.

Before I do, though, I feel like I should clear up a couple things. Firstly, food is great, and healthy eating is great, I am not advocating giving up food at all.  What I did was for a short period of time. Secondly, nobody knew that I was doing this: all of the random food offerings were exactly that. As the week went on, I noticed that my desire to eat something as distraction or for taste faded out: I mean, rice gets old pretty quickly. I was consuming not so much out of boredom or to take my mind off of the papers I was supposed to write, but rather as a way to take care of my body, or to share a bonding experience in a community or with a friend. Also, I noticed and appreciated food more, especially when it was from other people, but I felt less anxiety about it. Sometimes as a grad student there's this fear of not being able to feed yourself or have enough money to pay the rent: I think something that I learned (again) from this experience is that if God provides for the birds, for the fields, he's definitely thinking about us and providing for our needs too. Not that this "experiment" in depending on Providence was meant as a way of "testing" God. I knew I wasn't going to starve: I had rice and oatmeal, don't forget. I wanted to try not worrying about food for a while, and let God take care of those things that I worry about. Also, as the week went on it became easier to share food with others, not even kidding. You know how it feels not to have something and you don't want other people to feel that way, you want them to experience what you've been given too.

As a side note, we don't think too much about fasting in our culture, as North America is so caught up with constant consumption. This week, I've been thinking more about this concept, why we don't talk about it very much when it's in the Bible - I suppose there's always the danger of something like that (or like what I've described above) becoming legalistic, something that comes out of ritual or a sense of self-righteousness as opposed to authentic spirituality. But I don't think that means we can write it off entirely. Something else that seems to be lacking in our culture is the idea of self-control. I know for me, learning self-discipline has been a tedious process (this week included), but the idea of training the body - not punishing it or making it suffer - so that we can focus more clearly on God I think is an important one.

Thank you to everyone who unknowingly supported me this week. Just for the record, I'm going to return to eating regularly now. I think, too, that I'm going to bring cookies to class more, carry extra granola bars or apples in my backpack for people, take someone who's hungry out for lunch - and not because I'm trying to be a good person, or even because I know what it's like, but because God has given me something to share and support others in the community with. Jesus says that whenever we feed those, clothe those, visit those, and care for those around us, it's really him that we do these things for, which is a beautiful thought: that loving others brings us all closer in our relationship with God.

So, I'm going to go eat this sandwich now. If you have any thoughts or questions about this post, feel free to open up conversation! Peace.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Faith Like A Child

Hey, check out page 13 of the Nov/ Dec Issue of Reborn Lantern, you may see an article I wrote about Charles Dickens!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

That's Absurd!

As promised, here are the notes from my presentation on the Theatre of the Absurd.

 “What am I to do, what shall I do, what should I do, in my situation, how proceed? By aporia pure and simple? Or by affirmations and negations invalidated as uttered, or sooner or later? Generally speaking. There must be other shifts. Otherwise it would be quite hopeless. But it is quite hopeless. I should mention before going any further, any further on, that I say aporia[1] without knowing what it means.”
-          The Unnamable, Samuel Beckett
·         What is the Absurd?
Absurd = “out of harmony” (Hinchliffe, 1)

Wikipedia says: “Absurdist fiction is a genre of literature, most often employed in novels, plays or poems, that focuses on the experiences of characters in a situation where they cannot find any inherent purpose in life, most often represented by ultimately meaningless actions and events. Common elements in absurdist fiction include satire, dark humour, incongruity, the abasement of reason, and controversy regarding the philosophical condition of being "nothing."Works of absurdist fiction often explore agnostic or nihilistic topics.”

“[T]he Theatre of the Absurd strives to express its sense of the senselessness of the human condition and the inadequacy of the rational approach by the open abandonment of rational devices and discursive thought” (Esslin, 24).

-          Against usual rules: no linear sense of plot, no beginning-middle-end, vague characters, babblings as opposed to wit (Hinchliffe, 9-10)
-          Inner landscape – fluid environments, language as only “defense against the chaos of living experience” (Irving Wadle)
-          Banal language instead of poetic
-          Satirical: criticizing petty/ dishonest society
-          No history/ social context – left only with basic questions of existence
-          Alienation
-          Critical attitude must be taken on by audience – making sense out of non-sense
-          Zen Buddism connection – nothingness at the base of existence
-          Promethean – purposeless existence
-          Man is free and so must bear responsibility (Hinchliffe, 57)
-          Woven images to impress static situation – explore ONE MOMENT (Esslin, 404)
-          Complex perspectives broken down and placed in linear order to create illusion of time (Esslin, 405)
-          language as contradiction
-          combines laughter with horror (Esslin, 411)
-          circular structure – not what happens next that creates suspense, but what is happening? (Esslin, 416)
-          Tragicomedy/ Anti-play
-           “Absurd drama, whatever its form or method of staging, is usually very funny and very terrifying” (Hinchliffe, 60)
-          free from logic – spontaneous kindness/ destructiveness

·         How did it develop? Who influenced its development?
-          “Theatre is always more than mere language” (Esslin, 329)
-          Antiquity: mimus – character types in spontaneous clowning (Esslin, 330)
-          Shakespeare: clowns, fools, ruffians – free association, poetry of feigned madness – sense of futility of human condition
-          Nonsense Literature: Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear – liberation through nonsense: Freud – a freedom for Carroll in losing one’s name.
-          Ring Larder: “[Mama enters from an exclusive waffle parlour. She exits as if she had had waffles.]”
-          Satirical and destructive use of cliché – Flaubert’s  Dictionnaire des Idees Recues – ex: “Money – the root of all evil…Jansenism – one does not know what it is, but it is very chic to talk about it” (Esslin, 348)
-          Literature of dreams – Divine Comedy (Dante), Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) – August Strindburg: A Dream Play, The Ghost Sonata (1907) – dreams and obsession – grim hopelessness and despair
-          Joyce, Dostoevsky – subconscious
-          Kafka – anxious “lost in a world of convention and routine” (Esslin, 354) – guilt, loss of contact with reality - arbitrary, irrational universe (Esslin, 356)
-          Music hall comedy
-          Silent film comedy – dream/ nightmare like strangeness – constant purposeless movement/ action (Esslin, 335)
-          Dadaist – destruction of conventional/ bourgeois art
-          German Expressionist – too idealistic, politically conscious for Absurd –projection of inner reality (Esslin, 370)
-          Surrealism – healing through subconscious
-          Zarathustra: Nietzsche – “God is dead” – increase in number of people who believe that (Esslin, 399)
-          Two world wars

·         Who was involved in the Theatre of the Absurd?
Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, Arthur Adamov, Harold Pinter, (early Bertolt Brecht)
Ionesco: The Bald Soprano (1950) -anti-theatre – communication between human beings is impossible (Esslin, 128)
Brecht – early: rejection of character motivation – music hall techniques – negative and absurd universe run by imbecile gods (Esslin, 378)
Samuel Beckett:
-          Wrote Molloy trilogy 1946-1950
-          Stabbed in the street, man who did it said he didn’t know why he had done it – disconnection from meaning of action.
-          Waiting for Godot (1953)
-  (11:55-13:25)
-          Static situation
-          Constant state of deadness
-          Question of self
-          Beckett – nothing to express but at the same time an obligation to express (Hinchliffe, 67)
-          Circular reasoning, circular plot, return to same images, same questions
-          Compassion for characters looking for meaning in a meaningless world (Hinchliffe, 72)
-          Physical humour
-          Two thieves – one was saved, one was damned

-          The Room (1957) – rambling irrelevancy of every day speech
-          Omission of motivation/ explination – “Well-made play” not realistic – we are always interacting with people who’s history, motivations, psychology we don’t know (Esslin, 242)
-          Reoccurring theme – people in a room – what’s going to happen to them?
-          Suspense, scared of the outside
-          Mystification
-          Fusing tragedy with farce
-          The Birthday Party – “everything is uncertain and relative. There is no fixed point; we are surrounded by the unknown” (Esslin, 242).
-          Deliberate failure of language
-          The Room
-          The Birthday Party
-          Evasion of communication – frightening, rather engage in small talk (244)

·         The Existential Search
How to confront world devoid of purpose?
Kind of religious search – way out of trite, mundane existence (Esslin, 400)
Social criticism of inauthentic society
 “No pretense of explaining the ways of God to man” - no didactic purpose (Esslin, 402)
Impossible to know why there is existence, no system can explain – ineffable – Zen Buddism, mystic Christianity (soul cannot comprehend God) (Esslin, 426)
Not despair – modern struggle to come to terms with meaningless world – sober acceptance of reality, not drugging it out

·         Beyond the Absurd
Tom Stoppard – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead – huge debt to Beckett

“Waiting For Godot.” YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 23 Sept 2013.
Beckett, Samuel. “The Unnamable”. Three Novels by Samuel Beckett. Grove Press, New York: 1955.        Print.
Esslin, Martin. The Theatre of the Absurd. Methuen, London: 2001. Print.
Hinchliffe, Arnold P. The Absurd. The Critical Idiom. Ed. John D. Jump. Methuen & Co. Ltd, London: 1969.
“Absurdist Fiction”. Wikipedia. Wikipedia, 2013. Web. 23 Sept 2013.

***Check out Tom Stoppard's radio drama DARK SIDE for a recent example of Absurdist existentialism (also very well written!)*** 

[1] “A perplexing difficulty” (OED); see also David Lodge’s article on page 219 in The Art of Fiction

Friday, 11 October 2013

grocery list

All you people who worry that I'm not eating properly, look what I picked up at the store today!

*1 jar of organic peanut butter
*1 loaf of whole wheat bread
*1 container of organic honey
*1 carton of brown eggs
*1 box of almond granola bars
*1 can of condensed vegetable soup
*1 container of margarine made with olive oil
*1 can of tuna
*1 small block of orange cheddar
*1 tetra pack of almond milk

I had a grilled cheese sandwich and tea for dinner, which was the best. And if you're worried now because I don't have any fresh vegetables or fruit on that list, I am going to the farmer's market tomorrow. Okay? Okay mom?

Though...I am still lacking cookies.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

NaNoWriMo Planning

Less than a month until National Novel Writing Month begins! I'm determined to hit 50 000 this year, and so have started planning plot, theme, etc! If you haven't heard of NaNoWriMo before, it's a great event where thousands of crazy writers across the world write a novel in a month. Here's the website if you'd like to join us: It's free, it's fun, and it sure gets the creative juices flowing! I find it helpful: during November I have to be really intentional about sitting down every day to write something; even if it isn't very good, at least it's a start, something I can go back and revise later.

So, here's what I have so far: the preliminary development of my idea and a step-by-step plan to take me to November 1st!

Cyborg Theory
by Brittni Ann Carey
NaNoWriMo 2013

During our first GA meeting with Dr. P, L. shared with us the matter of a panel at a conference he had attended in London; the panel was concerned with cyborg theory (at least, that's what I call it in my head). Or, in plain terms, in this society of ours where medicine is becoming increasingly technological and invasive into the human body, replacing joints, valves, bones with artificial substitutes, pacemakers, and plates, how do we define what it means to be a human being, or a cyborg for that matter? If you have dentures instead of teeth, does that make you one percent less human? Even wearing glasses renders part of you “artificially dependent”.

This struck me as terribly fascinating. How do we define ourselves as human beings in the 21st century. Materially? Ethically? Is the idea of a personal soul even a factor in what shapes our behavior and thought and morality?

So, I thought I’d write a story involving the development of this idea in medicine and how it could affect how we view ourselves and technology.

Step One: ask L. who the presenter was and look them up.
Step Two: research using the library database, internet
Step Three: Talk to people about the idea.
Step Four: sketch out a basic plot and character list
Step Five: arrange a writing time with C. and other NaNoers
Step Six: Stock up on caffeinated tea

Step Seven: Write a novel in a month!

Saturday, 5 October 2013

skaz in literature (with a story of Syd and Sally)

A Clockwork Orange. The Catcher in the Rye. Huckleberry Finn. Their Eyes Were Watching God. "West Side Story". "ER". That blog post by a teenager with horrible grammar and slang everywhere. What do all of these have in common?

Skaz, ladies and gents. That is, the use of spontaneous language that mirrors speech. Written from a first person perspective, where the narrator is a character as well, revealed through his/ her use of language. Or, in the case of cop shows, law dramas, or the turtle from Finding Nemo ("Duuuude"), the ornamental use of what I like to call "shop talk". Gives a film, book, theatrical work, whichever, an authentic sense of place, social dynamic, and character.

Personally, I'm a big fan of this method. Skaz can be used to create dissonance between the world we are used to and the environment of a particular story. Something I'm learning about writing all the time is that it is better by far to be specific. Don't say Sally is a twelve year old in love with a pop star, say that she has a poster of Jusitn Bieber on the back of her bedroom door that's held up with four generous strips of masking tape. And then cringe a little. Poor Sally, she should know that there are better kinds of music in the world. Don't just say it's a nice day out, say there's sunny blue and a breeze. Sally blows Bieber (ugh) a kiss on her way out the door, and leashes up the family dog, Maximillan, for a pleasent afternoon walk. Hey, there's that weird punk kid on skateboard. "Sup Sally?" "Oh, not too much, Syd, how are you?" "Hey, I downloaded this sick song on iTunes last night, you should check it out." "Okay, thanks Sid." Sally doesn't even realize that this song is going to change her life. Syd slides off, rumbling along the sidewalk like a train off its tracks. After the walk and feeding Maximillan a dish full of dry kibble and bits, Sally sits at the family computer, a clunky white PC from the early 2000s, and looks up the song on YouTube. As the song rushes over her, her world is changed. No longer is she in love with Justin Bieber (sorry, Justin, I'm really too mean to you), nor has she fallen in love with George Fredric Handel whose sweet Water Music is at the moment totally changing her world: she is fully and unremittingly in like with Syd.

See what I did there? We have Syd's teenage "skaz" to contrast Sally's conventional middle-class speak, but also, the narrative voice has a particular style and flavor, yes? This could be considered meta-fiction, as the author is interjecting into the story, but if I did end up making my "skaz" persona into a character, it would become a first-person narrative, using colloquial language with a feel of spontaneity and impression of natural speech-patterns. Even this blog post as a whole could be considered "skaz"!

Enjoy this tune of classic gang-speak. Next week: the Absurd!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Fight Club vs. Samuel Johnson

We've been immersed in Samuel Johnson's idea of literature over the past couple weeks in Medieval Lit. class. Rambler No. 4, maybe you've read it. Anyway, his basic idea is that fiction should teach, move, and delight. Teach us how to be virtuous by influencing readers, especially the impressionable young, through the power of example. Move us to action by these virtuous examples, leaving vice to creep around the edges of a tale, in shadow. Delight us through the  Realist-style narrative, where we can relate to common characters like ourselves.

I couldn't help thinking of this while watching Fight Club at a birthday gathering. All girls, drinking tea, eating cake, and watching Fight Club. One girl who had never seen it before commented that she preferred films that made her feel emotion, and not the kind that Fight Club had offered. It was strange for me to think about, as I choose heavy films on purpose - I like to have a multi-layered and socially applicable story and ideas to mull over and discuss after sitting for two hours.  I've decided that Johnson and I agree on one point: I don't think he would be a fan of the pure form of "chick flick", where gushy romance is the driving point of the plot and character interaction. That seems too in line with the Romances of his day, the fairy-tale knight in shining armor killing dragons and saving damsels, in lands and stories so removed from the reader's experience that there is no danger of them taking anything out of it to apply to their own lives. Teaching and moving are absent from the equation. I'm not saying Romances are totally useless: our imaginations are engaged by the stories of other lands and it is an honorable world where things work out for the best. There can be hope taken from that.

Johnson and I would very much disagree on how Fight Club goes about developing its themes. Brad Pitt as Tyler, the narrator's alter-ego, is a charismatic bundle of chaos, sexual attraction, and violence. Whereas Johnson believed virtue should be in the spotlight as he was aware of the terrible allure that vice holds for audiences, the film is very much centered in a place of frustration with society that can only be expressed through violent action. When the narrator, in a way the "humanizing" voice of the split character, realizes the power which Pitt's character has gained over him and the extreme violence against mediocrity and consumerist culture to which his frustration has led, destroys that living splinter of himself, there is a kind of hope to be found in that. Tyler's death, and the destruction of the credit company buildings, both mirror the removal of debt: the narrator's dependence on Tyler, and society's dependence on corporate hierarchy. This is a vague point still, I haven't quite figured out how to put it down in words, but there is some kind of connection between Tyler's tyrannical rule over everything and consumerist society, in which all members are commodoties, objects, unnamed/ numbers, to be used until they wear out or die.

So, Fight Club and Johnson. Similar in one way, and in another completely opposed. I think this demonstrates that the purpose of art and the way it goes about portraying an idea isn't restricted to one "form". I guess even mushy romances have their uses, as long as we keep thinking.

Friday, 27 September 2013

sorry brain

Today, I apologized to my brain. I think it was at around 2:30, when I was in class, and our prof was talking about metafiction. I had the worst headache. When I get them, it's either up the sides of my temples, or right at the front, like my personality-centre is having a meltdown and needs to cool off for a bit. I think the temple pain comes from grinding my teeth when I sleep. Also, I hadn't eaten much. I was running it off fumes. Cramming in more and more and more, until promise-crammed, I had to lay down in my room later on and sleep. In a half-dream state of daytime slumber, on the carpet with the sliding door to my balcony open. A distant lawnmower humming somewhere over the rainbow while a child called in a sing-song voice for his daddy, and the dreamy circle of ice-cream truck singing siren over and over and cold, feeling so cold with the door open, but being unable to move. My eyes were open and my headache was gone. I fixed my eyes on my silver watch band until it came chromey into focus. I had lived a hundred dream lives. It had been an hour. Eventually, I got up and put on a sweater. Eventually, my headache returned.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

virtual seminar (with comments on Quicksand)

Currently, I am waiting for class to start.

I am sitting in my apartment, with my bare feet pleasantly burying their toes in the thick earthy carpet, and "Harvest Moon" playing in the background. Yep. Virtual seminars are the best. I can even get up and make tea between posts.

Due to the CUPE 1393 strike, many professors have decided not to cross the picket line on this, a bargaining day where we all hope to God that something will be worked out. It's been 17 days of pamphlets and back and forth media-perspectives on what each side actually wants, with workers out on the sidewalks with signs and buttons, many students ignoring them, turning to their iPods or fellow students. We passed a couple of CUPE guys with a kite yesterday. "Not too much wind out today," my fellow student called to them. "Nope," they replied, "but we're hoping." "The winds of change!" I said and they laughed. I went on along the sidewalk humming Bob Dylan.

Oh! The first post!

Just for some context here, friends, we're discussing Quicksand, by Nella Larsen, one of the writers of the Harlem Renaissance.

So, the first point of view: Helga does not miss "the import" of Dr. Anderson's words at the end of chapter three, rather he misses the importance of what she is trying to convey with her rejection of Naxos school's "uplift" policies of conforming African-American students to "white man's pattern".


Oh my gosh, it's been an hour, and I am feeling quite overwhelmed by all these concepts and discussions, but most of all by my own feelings of inadequacy. People are so smart, yikes. But I'm enjoying reading how the comments go, the things people pick up on from these bits of text. Some write long paragraphs (like myself); some slip in a poignant one line question. It's kind of a cool way to do it, to write out our thoughts, responding in writing and receiving almost immediate feedback.

I shall make some tea and return to join the fray (all very decorous thus far!).


Half-time. I haven't had this much fun since the kite episode!


Threads of discussion:
"Quicksand Response"
"Does Helga Miss the Important Words?"
"Helga¿s conception of the ¿uncanny¿: ¿...that class of the frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar¿ (Freud THE UNCANNY)"
"The Economic of Quicksand"
"Helga's Discontent"
"quicksand and myth"
"Religion in Quicksand"
"Quicksand: First Impressions and 'Salvation' at the end of Larsen's novel"
"Break Time?"
"Quicksand and Nella Larsen"
"Quicksand: alternate endings!"


With a petering out, and a silence of the clear inbox, our discussion seems to have come to an end. This experience of virtual discussion has been one I hope to repeat. I can explain myself so much easier in writing, and it helps to have people's words in front of me and their names, so I can go back, think on their points. If you have not participated in a multi-player field of online textual discussion, I highly recommend finding a respectable forum where you may engage in hours of engaging dialogue. I learned a lot. And drank a lot of tea. Which for me equals a good day.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

on strike

Firstly, oh my word it is hot, and the air conditioning is out on campus, which has led to a lot of sticky-hot classrooms and early dismissals.

CUPE 1393 has been on strike for a few days now. Having never encountered such a protest (aside from a brief visit to the Occupy site in Edmonton a couple years ago), I was uncertain as to how to proceed as a student and GA on campus. In fact, I wasn't even sure why CUPE 1393 went on strike in the first place.

The main issues are connected with job security and other basic worker's rights as can be found outlined on the UWindsor website:

 I chose not to cross the picket line on Monday, but have returned to class since then. The sidewalks around campus property are full of people with signs, walking out in the cruel heat, some with their children, some handing out pamphlets. As can be seen from an article posted on the CBC website (, people on campus have mixed attitudes towards the strike. An article from the WUFA I read put the strike in perspective for me,: "Settling this strike does not simply mean successfully resisting the concessions being demanded; it also means re-affirming the democratic principle that collective problems be solved collectively." 

Hopefully, this can be accomplished.

Friday, 23 August 2013

wrapping up a novel, there's a feeling of completion - and also loss

Edmonton has been my home for the past 5 years. I've gone to university here, been a part of an amazing community of friends and artists, grown in my thoughts and my faith. Sorrows and joys, laughter, contemplation, have enriched my days in this city, with it's grey winters, green but too-short summers, and orange-tinged nights.

This summer has been especially full. Graffiti Mix, the theatre collective I helped get off the ground last year, had a successful weekend of one act performances. I worked briefly at a coffeeshop/ bookshop, feeding my tendencies towards caffeine and literature consumption. One of my teachers connected me with a church group downtown that got me on board to write a story series to be performed as reader's theatre each Sunday in July. I was able to head east to visit my Mom, which was a restful time in the middle of my crazy life. Since my return to Edmonton, I've been stage managing for a Fringe show, meeting with friends, eating vegetables fresh from the garden, writing a screenplay, and getting everything ready for my move to Windsor.

A new city, new faces, new things to read and write...leaving Edmonton is already proving to be more difficult than I thought it would be. I guess that's why it'll always be a kind of home, a place I will always come back to.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Fall Plans

Guess who's going to Windsor for a master's in creative writing? (:

Friday, 12 April 2013

Early Start

It seems I've jumped the gun a bit in my well-organized novel development plan.  Having finished my second draft, I was thinking, hmm, maybe I should send off a query letter, just to put my name out there, and then BAM! Hello, we'd like to read your novel now. I'm freaking out, and trying to format the text properly, and thinking back to my English degree, when this would be me and a Paradise Lost paper in the library an hour before class.

I sat down to my computer at 11:00am and made it my goal to finish updating the draft before noon, so the publisher would return from her lunch break, sit at her desk and see my prompt and well-formatted e-mail at the top of her inbox. It didn't go off that cleanly, however. The table of contents hindered my progress and it was closer to 12:30 when I sent it off, all read over, a couple grammar mistakes fixed. I realized at the end of chapter eleven that this novel is the first in a series. Darn it.

And now it's in her inbox, and maybe she's reading it, and maybe she's thinking, ah, what a kid, what is this stuff? It's sentimental and unfulfilled. And then Hemingway will lean over her shoulder with a short glass of red wine in his hand and read a paragraph, and scoff over to Dostoevsky sitting all dark and sombre in the corner of the room. Mary Shelley, picking moss out of her hair, will shake her head and Charlotte Bronte will smile in a close secret way.  I'll get my first rejection slip all signed and marked over with dead authours' names, and I'll put the story away in a drawer...

Ah, waiting is the worst...

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

life is like a patchwork quilt...

Sometimes, I feel like I am a divided person!  I spend half my week working as a barista, pouring espresso shots and communicating through a headset with customers and co-workers alike.  The other half I spend in a university theatre stage managing for a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  My free time is split between meeting with friends and meeting new people - and in the midst of it all, I somehow have time to write.

A huge milestone for my writing this past month was finishing the first draft of my novel.  It was a challenging and exciting experience.  When I had written the finishing sentence, I sat back and thought, so that's what it feels like.  The revising process has been surprisingly pleasant - I find it a lot easier to pick out bad writing from good ideas when it's in front of me.  Reading Hemingway has been a good motivator for digging deeper for good prose and not settling for anything that is not full of truth.

I hope to have a completed version of my novel ready to send to a publisher by the end of the summer, exactly a year after I began this adventure.  And then, who knows what pieces will be worked into my life after that!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Why is British television so good?

After a long hiatus, I have finally managed to get my hands on the third season of Doctor Who.  At the same time, I've devoured Sherlock season one, and now, this awful dilemma: which do I love more?  Both are clever, intense, full of amazing characters and mind-bending problems.  We are in awe of Sherlock's keen insights, amazed at the Doctor's ability to think his way out of life-threatening situations.  Both characters are time-honoured, have a loyal companion along to share in their exploits, and often talk over the heads of those around them.  Sherlock, however, tends to explain right away instead of later.  Both have Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss on their writing panels.  Both are brilliant.  So can I just say I love the writers the best, and not have to choose between these two fantastic series?

These fan-made Doctor Who/Sherlock crossovers will make you laugh, sigh, and 'ship WholockThese fan-made Doctor Who/Sherlock crossovers will make you laugh, sigh, and 'ship WholockThese fan-made Doctor Who/Sherlock crossovers will make you laugh, sigh, and 'ship Wholock
(Fan art from:

Monday, 7 January 2013

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Les Miserables Review

WARNING: I talk about everything in the film: if you don't like spoilers, please do not read on until after you have watched Les Miserables in its entirety.  Thank you.  And thanks for reading.

We discovered the original cast recording of Les Miserables in our teens.  It was filed in the back of the CD case, behind Rattle and Hum, a massive collection of music that captivated our attention like almost no other (Phantom and the Andrew Lloyd Webber collection were its main rivals).  My sister and I, baking, playing cards, spending all those long summer days reading, sang Stars and played Valjean and Javert in their epic counterpoint encounter, throwing dramatic poses and pretend sword fighting in the living room.  A month ago, waiting for a street light to change, we were delighted to discover that we still knew all of the words. As kids, we didn't know the story - we gathered as much as we could from the worn lyric booklet - but I think it is a witness to the power and grace of the composition that it was able to so captivate the hearts of two kids in crazy times such as ours.

It was with this bias that I went to watch the new production in movie theatres a couple days ago.  I as a rule tend to research films as little as possible beforehand - I like to be surprised.  And my first surprise was delightful.

* Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen as the Thenardiers-
Every Musical film fan's dream!  These two triple named stars of proved Sweeney Todd fame were hilarious.  Quirky, with subtle humour, and a comedic ease that evoked laughs as easily as they pulled purses out of pockets, they worked incredibly well together, with trust and ease.

* While we're on the topic of casting, Hugh Jackman -YES! oh my gosh.  The best moment for me was when he was singing to Cosette in the carriage, and everything about him, his manner, his face, his voice, was tender father. Strong voice, confident, believable, lovable, expressive.  I have to say he was my favourite.

Anne Hathaway -YES! The shift in her character is so tragic, she handles it beautifully, and oh what a voice and oh what a heart-wringing soul shaking performance of I Dreamed A Dream.

Marius - I loved the casting choice - not your romantic-typical - he's a young man and he's afraid and in love and he has freckles.  I loved that.

Aaron Tveit - a brilliant Enjolras, I would have followed that charismatic freedom fighter to the end.

Cosette - I hadn't realized before actually watching Les Mis that Cosette is a pretty flat character.  Eponine is much more interesting, which is why On My Own is perhaps more heart stirring.  I thought these two were good, but I kept thinking, Mamma Mia, is that you?

And the next one, he gets his own star...

*Speaking of Mamma Mia, perhaps the best way to open this paragraph is to mention the elderly couple behind sitting behind us who said something about Pierce Brosnan during Stars.  The weakest performance in this Musical Adaptaion was definitely Russell Crowe.  For me, it would have been fine if his acting had matched up to the expressiveness of his co-actors, but in my opinion he made Javert into a wooden toy soldier. Maybe that works for Javert, but I don't know... Was it just me, or was there an increase in dramatic camera angles to give Stars any kind of emotional power?  I must say though, that there were two times he made me care about Javert: the scene where he pins the medal on Gavoche (almost cried) and when he's walking along the bridge and you know what's going to happen and you're like (well at least I was) "Don't do it, don't do it!"  But after having grown up on the OBC, I couldn't give the Javert of the film any power.  He didn't have the rich, tragic voice that so wants to do well and right that it cannot accept failure, or Grace.
*On the musical choices: The fact that all the voices were recorded on set while filming was excellent - it gave the film an almost Brechtian quality in that the voices weren't perfect all the time - reality and honest raw performance were highlighted instead of technically "perfect" vocal usage.

*Visuals: striking pictures - Valjean and Marius covered in black slime, only the whites of Jean's eyes showing; grand sets - the ship yard at the beginning.

*Les Miserables is about the downtrodden of French society in the 19th century, but I felt that the film was very conscious of how the social issues in the play are no different from the social conditions of our world today.  We too are living in a time of revolution.  Of warfare and poverty and hunger and depravity and injustice.  The close-ups of characters as they sing prevents us from turning our heads, not noticing the suffering that we are suddenly so uncomfortably face to face with.  We can't just keep walking by.  We have to see the tears and the dirt and the sores.  We have to see Fantine torn apart by pain, we cannot run from Valjean's confession in his Soliloquy.  Like the comfortable bourgeois couple in their carriage, we are affronted by Gavroche's sudden appearance in our window, and suddenly our comfortable movie theatre with padded seats and warm popcorn is invaded by dirty street urchins, conniving innkeepers, drunks, prostitutes, criminals, young people with idealistic fire in their eyes.  The way this film goes about showing people their own hearts is brilliant; I know I was emotionally exhausted afterwards.

*All in all, I think this film accomplished what it set out to do: tell the story in a raw and believable way.  Though I found the beginning a little jarring with pacing and some camera choices, it wasn't long before I was living in the film, hoping that it wouldn't have to end. But when it did, oh, the final scene with Fantine calling Valjean home and the "curtain call" at the end with that powerful last set of chords, oh, I was in heaven.

So, those are my first viewing thoughts.  Hopefully, I'll be able to share some second viewing thoughts, and third viewing, and fourth viewing...