Monday, September 29, 2008

Heather Mallick, my hero

The CBC, like the globe and mail of a few years ago, has rolled over on heather mallick. i guess she wasn't as "deferential" as palin demanded (and, yeah, that's her adjective: she wants journalists -- journalists! -- to be "deferential" in their handling of her).

here's the column, since removed from the CBC site:

Heather Mallick
A Mighty Wind blows through Republican convention

Last Updated: Friday, September 5, 2008 8:48 PM ET
By Heather Mallick, special to CBC News

I assume John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential
partner in a fit of pique because the Republican money men refused to
let him have the stuffed male shirt he really wanted. She added
nothing to the ticket that the Republicans didn't already have sewn
up, the white trash vote, the demographic that sullies America's name
inside and outside its borders yet has such a curious appeal for the

So why do it?

It's possible that Republican men, sexual inadequates that they are,
really believe that women will vote for a woman just because she's a
woman. They're unfamiliar with our true natures. Do they think vaginas
call out to each other in the jungle night? I mean, I know men have
their secret meetings at which they pledge to do manly things, like
being irresponsible with their semen and postponing household repairs
with glue and used matches. Guys will be guys, obviously.

But do they not know that women have been trained to resent other
women and that they only learn to suppress this by constantly berating
themselves and reading columns like this one? I'm a feminist who
understands that women can nurse terrible and delicate woman hatred.

Palin was not a sure choice, not even for the stolidly Republican
ladies branch of Citizens for a Tackier America. No, she isn't even
female really. She's a type, and she comes in male form too.

John Doyle, the cleverest critic in Canada, comes right out and calls
Palin an Alaska hillbilly. Damn his eyes, I wish I'd had the wit to
come up with it first. It's safer than "white trash" but I'll pluck
safety out of the nettle danger. Or something.

Doyle's job includes watching a lot of reality television and he's
well-versed in the backstory. White trash — not trailer trash, that's
something different — is rural, loud, proudly unlettered (like Bush
himself), suspicious of the urban, frankly disbelieving of the
foreign, and a fan of the American cliché of authenticity. The
semiotics are pure Palin: a sturdy body, clothes that are clinging yet
boxy and a voice that could peel the plastic seal off your new

'Turn your guns on Levi, ma'am'
Palin has a toned-down version of the porn actress look favoured by
this decade's woman, the overtreated hair, puffy lips and permanently
alarmed expression. Bristol has what is known in Britain as the look
of the teen mum, the "pramface." Husband Todd looks like a roughneck;
Track, heading off to Iraq, appears terrified. They claim to be family
obsessed while being studiously terrible at parenting. What normal
father would want Levi "I'm a fuckin' redneck" Johnson prodding his

I know that I have an attachment to children that verges on the
irrational, but why don't the Palins? I'm not the one preaching
homespun values but I'd destroy that ratboy before I'd let him get
within scenting range of my daughter again, and so would you. Palin's
e-mails about the brother-in-law she tried to get fired as a state
trooper are fizzing with rage and revenge. Turn your guns on Levi,

Palin has it all, along with being vicious and profoundly dishonest.
Just hours after her first convention speech, the Associated Press did
a good fast listing of her untruths and I won't dwell on them.

I did promise to watch the entire convention so you wouldn't have to,
but I discovered a neat trick. I switched between the convention and
the 2003 folk music mockumentary A Mighty Wind on Bravo.

They were indistinguishable. Click on a nervous wreck with deeply
strange hair doing a monologue on society today and where it all went
wrong. Are you watching Christian belter Aaron Tippin singing Where
the Stars and Stripes and Eagle Fly in the Xcel Centre in St. Paul or
the actors from Spinal Tap remixing the 1966 version of Potato's in
the Paddy Wagon?

Who delivered this line: "To do then now would be retro. To do then
then was very now-tro, if you will." Was it Rev. James Dobson of Focus
on the Family talking about Bristol Palin's shotgun wedding or was it
a flashback to the Kingston Trio?

The conventioneers are nothing like the rich men who run the party,
and that's the mystery of the hick vote. They'd be much better served
by the Democrats. I know Thomas Frank answered this in What's the
Matter with Kansas?; I know that red states vote Republican on social
issues to give themselves the only self-esteem available to their
broken, economically abused existence.

Lie works for Palin
But surely they know Barack Obama is not planning to finish off the
ordinary hillbilly when he adjusts tax rates. He's going to raise
taxes on the top 2% of Americans and that doesn't include anyone at
the convention beyond the Bushes and McCains and random party
management. So why cheer Palin when she claims otherwise?

Is it racism? I'm told that it is, although I find racism so appalling
that I have difficulty identifying it. It is more likely the dearly
held Republican notion that any American can become violently rich, as
rich as those hedge funders in Greenwich, Conn., who buy $40-million
mansions unseen and have their topiary shaped in the form of musical

When Palin and Rudy Giuliani sneered at Obama's years of "community
organizing" — they said it like "rectal fissure" — the audience
ewww-ed with them. Republicans dream of a personal future that
involves only household staff, not equals who need to be persuaded to

So I'm trying to imagine the pain of realizing, as they all must at
some point, that it is not going to happen for them. It's the green
light at the end of the dock. It's the ship that never comes in, gals,
as Palin would put it. But she won't because the lie works for her. It
helps her scramble, without compassion, above all those other tense
no-hoper ladies in the audience.

American politics isn't short of smart women. Susan Eisenhower, Ike's
granddaughter, who just endorsed Obama, made an extraordinary speech
at the Democratic convention (and a terrific casual appearance on The
Colbert Report as Palin was speaking). The Republican party has
already consumed nearly all of its moderate "seed corn," she said
aptly. Time to start again.

Eisenhower, a scholar and journalist, has a point. Or am I only saying
that because she's part of the thoughtful demographic that I'm trying
to reach here? Think, Heather, think like a Republican! The Skeptics,
shall I call them, are my base, and I'll pander to them as ardently as
the Republican patriarchs tease their white female marginals.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Work week lurch

the semester is announcing its groove.

sundays are a gift, a day of rewards so sweet i forget, temporarily, what's coming 'round the bend. sundays are walks in the autumn gold, or a yoga class, waffles with fresh fruit and yogurt, newspapers in bed and feeding peanuts to the bluejays who eat out of my hand. sundays i phone friends in other cities, refuse to read my email, remember to look at the sunshine. sundays are short.

mondays are a grading and class prep day. i go to pilates in the morning and spend the rest of my time (barring meetings, of which there are, predictably, several) trying to get ready for the week. i'm teaching two new courses and supervising a directed reading. all the material in both undergraduate courses and some of the material in the DR is new, and in a fit of enthusiasm i embraced technology -- make that technologies -- in both classes, which presents a fairly steep learning curve of its own. mondays are a big day and i spend much of my time banging my own forehead with a fist and asking, "what were you thinking??"

tuesday, though, i feel good. i'm ready to teach from 9:30 to 11:00, though it rarely goes well, for reasons i haven't fully divined. there's the certainty that i will humiliate myself on some small point ("the eli clare text is finally available at the bookstore!," i might announce, for instance, to which my puzzled students respond, "what book?" since, it turns out, it is indicated exactly nowhere on the syllabus), but there's something else i can't put my finger on -- the material is too difficult, or i'm speaking too quickly, or the students are too shy, or something. i struggle through even though my feet start hurting after an hour.

i don't teach again until 2:00, which is like hiking up a steep hill and settling down at the top for a sandwich: there's always some sharp stone digging into my back and reminding me that i can't relax yet because i have another class to get ready for. in three hours.

my new practice is to leave the building and go for a swim at noon. (it used to be running until i got the arthritis diagnosis.) even in the pool i feel a certain anxiety and spend much of my time calculating how fast my laps are and how many i'd like to do, subtract the total from 1330, which is when i have to get out of the pool, or actually before, because i have to get back up the hill, and also when will i actually eat lunch? even so, it is good to swim.

the 2:0-3:30 class goes reliably, though i'm always careening between too much and too little. i'll work our way around to a really great point, only to realize, godawfully, that we're only ten minutes in and i've blown my wad. fifty minutes later i am in a panicked rush when i realize we're not going to get through everything. for example: we've only listened to 3 of the 9 tracks i put on a playlist to teach the blues. even though i made the point with billie holiday. this is pacing, and it comes with experience. comes back with experience, i should say. i hope.

every tuesday so far i've had something on right after class: a meeting with the chair, a talk by a visiting scholar, women's studies 20th anniverary, a book launch. so i don't get home until 6-something. by the time we've eaten and i sit down again to work, i'm a) tired; b) panicked; and c) behind. again.

wednesdays have become miscellany day: meetings with graduate students, meetings with the canadian literature centre, meetings with visiting scholars, meetings with my directed reading student. the great thing is that amy and i do the directed reading on foot, which gives wednesdays a great sense of being in it: in the ideas, in the moment, in the city. we walk from the university to wherever it makes sense to go, talking rebecca solnit or jane jacobs or linda goyette or lucy lippard as we go. it's so exciting that i need a nap afterward.

but there is no napping on wednesdays because those are exposure meetings, which seem to run longest when the agenda is shortest, which makes me by turn frustrated with others and doubtful of myself, neither of which puts me in the best frame of mind for coming home and getting ready to teach again on thursday --

-- which is just plain tiring. by thursday the pre-class shuffle, the 2 x 90 minutes of standing and pacing and trying to understand where 30 other people are coming from, and running two or three computer programs and translating theories i don't believe in to language students will understand, and then sitting in my office trying to catch my breath before doing it all again in a few hours -- by thursday it's all and so i skip the workout, not because i don't think it would help, i know it would help, but the question is, would it help more than staying behind and clearing my inbox just a little? the bad decisions continue into thursday night, when i feel capable only of watching trash TV.

friday is a day of reckoning. i guiltily reply to emails and read student proposals, apologize to my collaborators, open dinning letters from various editors and, if i'm lucky, balance my chequebook. my sense of embodiedness is most acute in the evening, when i feel my sitting-bones drawn to the rare-earth magnet otherwise known as the sofa, where i sit and watch TV or, if i'm feeling particularly lively, play tetris and, lively or not, eat cheese popcorn and peanut M&Ms and salt and vinegar chips and chocolate and dried mangos and regular popcorn and licorice if we have it. all of which sets up a terrible hangover saturday morning, my mouth raw from the acid and my body still struggling to metabolize all that fat and sugar. it takes all day to rouse myself to run, though i'm always happy to have done it. after the saturday chores, of course.

this weekly descent is the epitome of mindless living, and i find it particularly distressing because of the painful knowledge i have gained over the last two years. when i was away from the university i still worked, but i also slept sufficiently every night. every night! i exercised regularly and prepared healthy meals. i quit working for the day when i was too tired to be productive -- often, in fact, i quit before i hit that point. i took evenings off, to hang out with mo or read magazines or even, sometimes, novels. but the point isn't what i did or didn't do -- believe me, my life is hardly exemplary -- but for the most part, i made decisions about what i was doing. i lived mindfully.

the hectic life i have returned to is, i think, typical of the lives all my friends lead. freelancers, professors, artists, parents, editors, teachers, fundraisers -- everybody is working way too hard all the time. the details change, but the sense of being stretched too far and tired all the time seems common, even when we like our lives and our jobs, which most of us do. i want to register, before it all gets normalized again, that this is a bad way to live. it is dangerous. it's unsustainable.

while i've been trying, for two weeks now, to figure out why i am so tired all the time, something david suzuki said has been pinballing around the edges of my consciousness. naturally, i can't remember it word for word, but the gist was this:

happiness has a direct correlation to sustainability. the things that make people genuinely happy are environmentally low-impact and personally/socially regenerative. what people like to do, what makes them happy in a deep and abiding way, includes spending time with loved ones: friends or family or lovers or tricks or comrades or animals. we are happiest when we live in our bodies. we thrive on being creative, whatever that means to you; unless your hobby is, say, reproducing dupont substances in your basement, pursuing a hobby tends to be environmentally friendly, and have you ever met a bitter scrapbooker? happy people spend time alone, spend time in nature, spend time being active and spend time being still -- they spend time, they don't "save" it or "waste" it -- all of which is not just neutral but actually good for human beings and good for the planet. unlike driving, shopping, fast food and television.

i think this is profound. and while i don't yet know how to solve this issue for myself come monday or, worse, thursday, it's something i'm thinking about. you know, in those days after days after days when i'm not finding any time to blog.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

i have been pondering anthony's suggestion of the golden pradas (see his comment on the last post) but no. i hate flats. it has something to do with not having dainty feet; flats tend not to suit me. but mostly it's because i can't get over their metaphorical literalness, if you'll allow me to say that: their "flatfootedness." there's no wit to flats. worse, as with birkenstocks, flats have always suggested to me a person who would say "my comfort is paramount, far more important than your aesthetic pleasure." it would kill me to be such a person. i cringe just thinking about it. shoes are all about putting visual thrill out there in the world, for myself and for others. even when they hurt, they give me huge, if masochistic, satisfaction.

here is how i solved my problem. tell me you still feel a tiny bit of a thrill?

and yes, i'm afraid that's it for now. the week is coming at me like a water cannon, and i haven't so much as a slicker for protection.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Terrible truth

for ethical reasons i won't blog about my students, which means it's been hard to write much over the last week. and who am i kidding, it's been hard to find ten uninterrupted minutes. going back into the classroom after being away for so long is shocking, exciting, depleting, disorienting, sobering, thrillingly scary, and absolutely crammed with realizations, most of them banal yet resonant. among them: teaching is tiring. it takes an incredible amount of energy to respond to 40 people at once. i'm not exactly complaining; i don't mind the work; it's just hard. it's like cooking a multi-course dinner party for a dozen friends. several hours into the prep, your fingers pruny and your feet aching, you find yourself wondering how this ever seemed like a good idea. when the wine starts flowing and conversation pools around the candlelight, though, it's all good.

and then there's all the other beginning-of-term stuff that ramps up. meetings, to be sure, and graduate student committees, and proposal-writing workshops, and office hours and major grant deadlines and so on, but also the socializing. next week i will be out monday, tuesday, wednesday, friday, and saturday evenings, entertaining visitors, attending talks, putting in an appearance at the obligatory department party. again, it's not that i don't enjoy it (well, okay, i could live without twinkling at the dep't party); it's just that after about 90 minutes of hanging out with anybody, i need a nap.

around the time that cycle ends, grading will start coming in.

all of this is doable, i keep saying, as long as i pace myself. right? right??

but the truly heartbreaking realization -- banal yet resonant -- is this: i am actually going to have to break down and get myself some comfortable shoes.

now, that i might not surive.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Best saturday things

  • finding the mousetraps empty
  • having the market to myself
  • running into leslea at amy's AGA show
  • albrecht durer's trees
  • getting a pass from the parking patrol
  • dropping off flowers to a friend
  • a free night.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Bad feminist

the following ad floated to the top of the debris pile otherwise known as my inbox the other day, advertising the newly reconstituted faculty women's club (originally called the faculty wives' club, if memory serves):

The Wine & Cheese Social will be an opportunity for both newcomers and returning members to check out the club and our many activities: from Art Gallery Tours to Golf, Book Groups to Bridge, or Gourmet Dining to Dog Walking - just to name a few. We have activities that meet during the day, in the evening, and even occasionally on the weekends.

i know i'm not supposed to feel envious -- but, wow: what kind of a charmed life would you lead if you had time to take in dog walking groups?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The fray

today was my first day of teaching in something like two and a half years, and i've been nervous about it for some time. (hmmm, could that be what the terrible back-and-neck pain is about? nah...) would i remember how to manage a class? would i recognize my students? would they respect me? okay, let me be honest -- would they like me? do i still care about that? and how do i feel about caring or not caring? am i patient enough for teaching? is the syllabus organized? have i thought of everything? OMG, i need a key and a code for the smart room. what if they hate iclicker, what if they hate world writing in english, what if they act snooty and superior? and what am i going to wear? (yes, chie mihara shoes, but what else?)

there were a few mishaps. for one thing, i went to the wrong room. i teach in the humanities centre on thursdays and the business building on tuesdays but somehow i got it backwards and walked right into BUS 4-13 at 2:00 today. as karma would have it, there was an MBA class there. after i raised my question ("uh, do we perhaps have a scheduling conflict?"), the prof said, "oh, you seemed so pleasant i thought you were going to ask whether you could be in my class!" then he put his hand on my back and leaned in. i was so flustered by the whole thing that i didn't really absorb it at the moment, but in retrospect i kind of (kind of) wish i'd said, "no, no, that was last week's plan B. since then my partner has convinced me that i'm already qualified for whatever an MBA would qualify me to do, and besides, the ethos in the b-school is just way. too. conservative, so i'm moving on to plan C, which is to become an electronic mashup artist."

what i actually said was, "oh! no! uh, no, that's not it at all." then i pointed stupidly to my syllabus, which clearly stated the wrong information. the prof canvassed the class, none of whom proved to be english 123 students, and then acted very solicitously (in the other sense), walking me down to the admin offices where i called the english department which, reliably enough, gave me the totally wrong information ("you're supposed to be in tory 1-107!"), allowing me to deduce, all on my own, where to go.

so, yeah, i was late. and i was nervous. my timing is off; the classes weren't paced well. and there are many mistakes on my syllabus: readings listed that i've since learned we won't be able to do, unconfirmed class visits, days titled something provisional like "web 2.0" or "local writing." most dreadfully of all, the assignments don't add up to 100%. i hate being a stereotype of an english professor.

but the most surprising thing to me is how much poorer my memory is. i used to memorize every student's name in the first class. before your eyebrows head to the stratosphere, i had a simple trick: get students talking about themselves and listen with one ear. meanwhile, use your real attention to write down something visually striking about them. you have to give yourself permission to write whatever strikes you: "porn star," "pig eyes," "plain girl," "vivacuous" (which is my favorite student neologism of all time). of course, you must burn this piece of paper later that night. my theory is that meeting someone is an overwhelming experience, there's so much coming at you at once: visual details, mannerisms, emotions, expressions, stories, hopes, desires. it takes a certain length of time to quiet the riot in the brain, and the discipline of focusing your attention on the one visual detail that will connect a name to a body helps.

anyway, i tried to do that this morning. i had the students reveal their favorite book or movie or band. while they talked, i tried to jot something down about their physical appearance, things that might trigger my memory five days from now, when i see them again. even at the time i thought it was choppy, but when i got back to my office afterward i could see what a total disaster it was. my notes do not say things like "meathead" or "aniston hair" (not that anybody does that anymore, but you take the point) or "generic white boy," all of which would be meaningful to me; they say things like "blonde" or "glasses" or "headband." the last is particularly disappointing, since one of the tacit rules of this exercise is that you do not focus on the ephemeral -- maybe he's the kind of student who wears a preppy sweater, but he could just be behind on his laundry, or terribly ironic -- whereas a descriptor like "pinhead" will identify him even in a metallica t-shirt.

so, i have no idea what anybody's named, and will have to struggle along through the class list. what i'm left wondering is why i failed. am i just out of practice? and if so, unpracticed at what: meeting people? memorizing? or being blunt? is the problem that there is so much noise in my head now that i can't actually see people for themselves? or is the failure not about memory or distraction but about cognition: is it harder to multi-task now? and that, in turn, makes me wonder what other pleasures of aging might be in store.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Kafka's workshop

i don't know whether it's years of working with students, who are themselves infantilized at every turn, a weird protestant frame of mind, or a historical hangover from the mid-1990s, but the cheapness of this place floors me. i try to be a professional, but unfortunately it's in spite of the roadblocks in my department.

for those of you who think being a professor in english at the university of alberta is all bonbons and choice parking spots, let me disabuse you. here is a partial list of the things i pay for:
  • a computer. that is, if you're not comfortable using good ol' wax tablets. if you buy a computer on a research grant, the university owns it -- but you have to pay for repairs. is there tech support? sure! at the moment, there are 3 guys for over 300 professors, half a dozen digital humanities research labs, and hundreds of teaching websites.
  • photocopying. i've just had a big fight with our administrator over this one. there's a new system in place -- but we're only allowed to transfer a certain number of our old copies to the new system. "photocopies are a liability," she explained to me. "you were given an allotment for a given year; if you didn't use them, i wonder why not." uh, because i'm trying to use less paper? because i was on sabbatical? because the last year i was teaching full-time i ended up on medical leave? any of those sound legit? but why am i photocopying on the first day of teaching anyway, you ask?: because although my first-year english course was designated full and closed according to the student registration system, it turns out that someone else in english has been enrolling students hand over fist during the last three days. don't even start me on this.
  • letterhead: yeah, that's right. we get an allotment of l/h at the beginning of the school year, and if we need more -- for instance, because more than a dozen students request letters of reference -- we have to go and ask a secretary for more. she will pause before unlocking the cupboard, to ask, "how many more sheets do you need?"
  • whiteboard markers. okay, technically, you can request 2 at the beginning of the schoolyear, but if you lose them, replacements are on you.
  • voicemail, long distance, voicemail-to-email: here's how it works. every three months you get a receipt for your administrative expenses. on the front page is a total, usually under ten dollars. stapled to this front page is the evidence, mostly strips of paper cut from a massive detailed phone bill. if these calls were made for "legitimate business expenses" -- if, for example, you're a graduate coordinator recruiting students from outside the 780 area code -- you can write an explanatory note on this bill and return it, and the department will pay for those specific calls. are your eyes swimming? exactly. think of this: it is somebody's job to go through the phone bill for a department of 56 professors, 20-30 sessionals, 120 graduate students and 8.75 non-academic staff members and scissor out long distance charges, access-code by access-code, in order to recoup this money. now, when long distance was ten cents a minute within canada and we were facing 21% budget cuts, this was perhaps -- perhaps -- understandable. (in one of the most gob-smacking trades of all time, the department of philosophy in '94-'95 got rid of professors' telephones completely, in order to maintain research assistantships for their students.) but in the twenty-first century? what's the fear, that we'll go hog-wild on long distance? jesus h. christ.

this kind of nickeling and diming takes a toll. it tells instructors that they are not professionals, that the work of teaching and learning, research and administration, should be done just like it was done in graduate school. result: we internalize this ethos, we become bad professionals. and the money issues bleed out into other things, more serious things, like time (oh, i'd love to go to my kid's soccer game, but this article was due yesterday), attention (i'll check my email just one last time before i go to bed), or a sense of self-worth.

practices like these also tell department members that they are not trusted, and that "the department" (whatever that is) does not care about the quotidian concerns of its teaching staff. it downloads the importance of teaching onto instructors: if it's important enough to write on the board, you'll find a whiteboard marker! if you want to use new technologies, you'll figure out how to build, fix and maintain them yourself!

don't we hear such messages about teaching and learning from the general public often enough? do we really need it at home, too?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Library stacks

i wasn't far into my job when i learned that the life of the mind involved less reading than you might imagine. i started a stack of books called "books to read this summer." when the summer of 1994 came and went, i started a new stack of "books to read this summer," and moved the unread to "books to read next summer." when i had three years of summer reading piled up, i started a stack called "books to read upon my retirement." what's next, "books to read before i die"?

every sabbatical is an opportunity to start anew. and every sabbatical ends with the glum realization that, once again, i have read far less than i meant to. here is a record of my misspent time, organized according to the tippy stack of books i will schlep back to the university this week, unread:
  • mike davis, planet of slums and david harvey, the new imperialism. i was going to read these in service of a doctoral student's project. maisaa defended her thesis back in january. oh well.
  • brian massumi, parables of the virtual. i bought the book because i was intrigued by the following: "critical thinking disavows its own inventiveness as much as possible. because it sees itself as uncovering something it claims was hidden or as debunking something it desires to subtract from the world, it clings to a basically descriptive and justificatory modus operandi. however strenuously it might debunk concepts like 'representation,' it carries on as if it mirrored something outside itself with which it had no complicity, no unmediated processual involvement, and thus could justifiably oppose. prolonging the thought-path of movement, as suggested here, requires that techniques of negative critique be used sparingly. the balance has to shirt to affirmative methods: techniques which embrace their own inventiveness and are not afraid to own up to the fact that they add (if so meagerly) to reality." still sounds promising. but 256 pages of massumi? i started blogging instead.
  • latin american spanish: been there, done that. sorta.
  • henry giroux, the university in chains, george fallis, multiversities, ideas and democracy, james cote and anton allahar, ivory tower blues, clark kerr, the uses of the university: guess i never did write that book about the contemporary university.
  • CD the dreaming gate. "enter a shamanic 'dreamtime' with the entrancing didgeridoo music of inlakesh and hemi-sync (TM)." fine. i'm never going to crack the cellophane. but why on earth, you might be wondering, do i even own such a thing? spite. i did a leadership training thing at the banff centre last fall. it was generally good, but they hired a chiropractor to do one of the sessions, and i hated him. we all did. (jen, you're reading: am i right?) he was at once simplistic and self-satisfied, offering the most simple-minded advice you could imagine. cleaning him out of free CDs was our way of trying to recoup the hours of our time he soaked up without apology or shame.
  • naomi klein, the shock doctrine. wait, no, that stays. i am totally going to read this book. any day now.
  • douglas coupland, the gum thief. in hard cover. what was i thinking?
  • houston wood, native features: indigenous films from around the world. houston, my friend, i love you. and i am glad, very glad, to own your book. but, uh, i didn't get around to actually reading it. yet.
  • barbara gowdy, helpless. wait, i have a new barbara gowdy? for real? i love her! wow. oh, what a treat.
  • buenos aires, a cultural history. if i didn't finish reading it in BA, i'm unlikely to finish reading it here. still, it's such a good book i think i'll leave it in the reading stack for now. i'll read it when i finish tomas eloy martinez's the tango singer. also in the stack.
  • sun tzu, the art of war. i bought this thinking it might be helpful before heading back to the faculty of arts. and who knows, it might. that stays in the stack.
  • chip kidd, the learners and the cheese monkeys. now that he's not coming for exposure this fall.... oops. wasn't supposed to spill those beans. on the other hand, i did read alison bechdel's the fun home, which is a marvelous story of her relationship with her dad: complicated, recursive, intensely literary, funny.
  • john mcphee, annals of the former world. as i recall, i was reading this 696-page book around the time i joined facebook, so it's there under favorite books, making me look mannered and self-important (yet not so mannered and self-important that certain high school friends are afraid to befriend me). it's a geology of basin-and-range land formations across the united states. it goes with ellen meloy's three books, also still in the unread stacks: the anthropology of turquoise, eating stone and the last cheater's waltz. they stay, this trio, reminders and models of what nonfiction can be.
  • steve fuller, the intellectual. here's what it says on the back: "covering the intellectual from ancient greece to post-9/11, steve fuller introduces past exemplars -- voltaire, sartre, bertrand russell -- alongside many living examples, in this fascinating road-map to the intellectual life." is it really a road-map to the intellectual life? 'cause, like, that would be totally useful. on the other hand, how can you write a history of the intellectual in under 200 pages? on the third hand, short is good, i actually might read a book that short.
that's not bad, right? i've got rid of some stuff? still in the stack, to be read any day now: three books by rebecca solnit, mike davis's in praise of barbarians, fiction by coetzee, erdrich, vassanji, oliver sacks's musicophilia. oh, and the taschen twentieth-century design book. maybe i'll start there, just a quick browse ...