Archive for April, 2010

Pick up and Read

April 29, 2010

Time spent reading is the best part of my day, and some of the best days are the ones that I can spend the better part of immersed in a book. The reason I am in school is that it is one of the few places that recognizes what I like to do as a form of labour. The by now expectable, defaultĀ  question from strangers about what I am doing with my time is “Where will that get you?” I need to think up a better answer than “Perhaps I will teach”– something like “It’s not about getting anywhere, it’s about staying where I am”, or, more to the point, “It’s about personal survival”. The problem is, to understand that answer, one needs to be the kind of person who has also managed to survive by reading, and those kind of people would not likely ask such a question in the first place.

But, if I may make a personal confession, reading has literally saved my life, probably more times than I am actually aware of, since, like homeopathic medicine, a steady consumption of books has likely staved off many precarious derangements of body and soul. But there have been other times when I have been laid so low by life’s crises that only books have been able to–I won’t say bring me back to life, since that is a process involving multiple factors, the most important of which seems to be human community–but at these pivotal times of crisis books have been the primary agent that has both preserved something crucial to human functioning and helped turn my mind away from whatever dark and perilous position it has found itself in.

"Hmmm...weak this plotline is."

For books, too, are a form of community, one that covers the entirety of recorded human history (and here we have to include the oral traditions of storytelling that preserved the first human communities through so many centuries of pre-textual existence). Books are a pact between the past and the future, an archive, if you will, of the human conscience itself. The artefacts contained in this collection are brought to life in the precarious balance of the present moment by people who like to read, who need to read, because humans are the storytelling animals on this planet.

Kulturbot will return

April 22, 2010

Extra! Extraneous!

April 19, 2010

A late night trip to the magazine rack!


Finishing a 25 page paper that you’ve been intently focused on for several days is a bit like surfacing from a diving bell that’s been sitting at the bottom of a lake: there’s a whole world up there that’s been going along on its merry way, and which an entire news industry will do its best to prevent you from noticing. For instance, I was shocked to discover that the Vatican has decided to forgive the Beatles for their wayward lifestyles and is finally admitting that Strawberry Fields is a catchy tune, regardless of whether the Sgt. Pepper’s album has sold more copies than the Bible or not. But I can’t imagine the Pope will ever forgive John Lennon for the humanistic messages of his solo career–doesn’t Nostradamus have some kind of prediction about that?

I don't get it.

Then there’s Time’s revisiting of the glories of World War Two, which must be some kind of strategy to booster support for the War on Terror, so we can get that over with and move on to the next excuse to kill people. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, Maclean’s had to resurrect an equal and inverse spectre, perhaps to deflect attention from the totalitarian tendencies of the current Canadian government. I should have stayed in the "homemaking" section.

And the National Post had a cover story about safari adventure vacations that I have no idea what to do with. As far as I can tell “The Real” is speeding by my neighbourhood 24 hours a day in form of five lanes of traffic contributing to local smog levels. Ok, maybe popping my head out from under the cover of my books wasn’t such a good idea after all!

But then Rebel Ink came to the rescue. Not only did it feature a picture of my future wife, there was a feature on skateboarding and punk legend Daune Peters. Peters has an ambition to cover his entire body with tattoos before he dies. He also has only six of his original teeth. I don’t know why I find this comforting after browsing through the other newsstand offerings, but I do. I guess tattoos are the opposite of newspapers: they don’t get replaced every day and they don’t give you the illusion of being “in touch” with the greater world. But you can, sometimes, read them on the bus. Which reminds me of a joke: what’s black and blue, red and blurry, and over forty?

Kultur Break

April 12, 2010

I’m setting the kulturbot surveillance satellite to “autopilot” for a while, in order to finish some term papers. With the observational filters set at their widest possible margin, it will be fun to see what images and sites of interest get stored in the bot-cache. If only the kulturbot platform could be reconfigured to write my schoolwork for me! But alas there seems to be, as of yet, no way around the necessity of human intervention. Please stay tuned for further transmissions…

Mixed Metaphors

April 6, 2010

Chapman’s “Canadian Vanilla, eh!” ice cream is gluten free, but may contain beaver by-products. The box instructs one to “slice with a hot knife to reveal the maple leaf”, which I can’t help but read as a metaphor for the violence inherent in nationalism. But eat this stuff quick because, as you will remember from high school, we’re a cultural mosaic, not a melting pot — and you wouldn’t want the colours of your ice cream to blend into a uniform pink goo!

Pride & Prejudice & Service Charges

April 3, 2010

It is a truth universally acknowledge that one should never disclose one's PIN number.


In the midst of writing a paper on Quirk Book’s literary mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I was happy to stumble across a six video VHS version of the A&E television serial of Pride and Prejudice from 1995. Having suffered through the zombified version, I’m not feeling inclined to re-read the original in its entirety, but the videos will help provide another angle to the theme of popular adaptations of Austen that my paper explores. And if you haven’t had time (or the inclination) to pick up the best-selling P&P&Z, never fear; in 2011 the world will be treated to Natalie Portman playing Elizabeth Bennet in the movie version of the zombie version of Austen’s tale.

The problem was, when I came across the A&E videos, I didn’t have any cash on hand. The thrift shop didn’t take interac, so I had to run down the street an use the bank machine of another bank than my own. I fully expected the $1.50 “convenience charge” they slapped me with, but what I didn’t expect was the “IT HAS BEEN A PLEASURE SERVING YOU” message that the screen flashed when the transaction was done.

the pleasures of instabanking

This last truly added insult to injury. Just whose pleasure had it been to “serve” me? Surely there was no pleasure coursing through the circuits of the bank machine itself. The people who install and service the machines likely couldn’t care less either, and the tellers at the counter certainly weren’t getting any richer off the spoils of service charges. So it could only be the bank owners and shareholders themselves who took pleasure in skimming the price of a large coffee at Tim Horton’s out of my bank account.

I only wish that they would program those machines to perform the pleasure that they claim is inherent in the act of taking my money. I would really appreciate if, say, at each press of the machine’s buttons, moans of pleasure emanated from a speaker somewhere. These lustful utterances could mount in intensity, culminating in my pressing the “OK” in consent to paying the announced service charge. For someone with the technological know-how, installing such a machine could be an interesting exercise in hacksterism.