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Friday, January 20, 2006

Fightin' the good fight 

This week I have been busy volunteering with the NDP campaign. One morning I went with our candidate Linda Slavin and Caitlin, another Trent student to a local high school to talk to a combined class of civics and politics students. They asked good questions about the NDP's policy on agriculture, gun violence, securing the jobs of autoworkers, peace keeping and job opportunities. She had Caitlin and I express our own post-graduation concerns about finding a job.

Today Devon and I went to the Holiday Inn where the riding association was having a cross country virtual rally with Jack Layton, who was in Burnaby, B.C.; as well we got to see the NDP supporters in Newfoundland, Montreal and northern Saskatchewan. The Ptbo contingent was by far the largest. We're optimistic that Linda can win this seat, she's beat an strong advocate for all social justice issues in Ptbo for 35 years. Her main competion is the greasy Conservative car-dealer, Dean Del Mastro.

I want to run an ad on local TV that would go something like this

Narrarator: Benito Mussolini was Italian he was a facist dictator. Al Capone was also Italian we was a gangster who killed people. Do you know who else is Italian? Dean Del Mastro On Monday, January 23 vote for Linda Slavin and the NDP, she's NOT Italian.

On monday Devon, Tom and I will be volunteering at the campaign HQ or at polling stations around town.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

University, Useless? 

They both start with U: coincidence? I think not.

(Let's disregard the fact that "useful" also starts with U. )

I was going to make this a comment on Ben's earlier post, but it seemed too long, so I will just use it as a segue to rant about a particular misgiving I have concerning university.

A big problem I have with university is that, depending on the kinds of things you want to do after school, your degree can turn out to mean a lot more for its demonstrative aspects than for the actual content of what you learn. For example with an undergrad math degree, if you’re going on to do grad school in math, research, become a prof, then the stuff you’ve learned is going to be supremely useful to you, whereas if you want to become a high school teacher, you’re likely never going to use a large proportion of the things you learn in university. So your degree serves the purpose to demonstrate to other people that you’re intelligent and/or hardworking enough to do the courses, and doesn’t really provide you with a set of knowledge or skills that allow you to excel at your job. (Obviously this doesn’t occur with all programs and all people, but sometimes that’s the way it turns out).

Even so, I guess there’s some consolation in knowing that even if you’re not going to be directly using a lot of what you learn at school in your profession, it’s something that has to be done – a means to the end. And if you don’t know what you’re going to do after, I guess there’s always the hope that whatever you do end up doing, it will make use of some of what you’ve learned.

Goin' Ape-Dean 

Which is to say "goin' A.D.ing" Just a reminder that the Renny is going to be out of town from today until monday night, so have feuuun without me. Going to A.D. a short stuedent flim in Brantford. Was initially very stressed and still sort of am, but yesterday's crew meeting calm me down a bit. Crew very easy going. Not the die-hards, thank goodness. Hope all goes well now. Am excited.

I've decided to write a couple rap songs. Just write, no beats, no delivery. Just to see if I can do it. It's something I've been thinking about trying for a while and I was inspired to go for it after seeing Andrea's extended poem about the giant and the king and the castle and the beards. If I could come up with 3 or 4 good writtens of at least 60 bars. (One would have to be "100 bars" after my hero).

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Loads =/= being pulled. 

So I've been lazy and not posting on my own fuggin blog. Sorry, folks. It's been busy. All y'all know I was in Saskatoon for a while, so I won't bother with that so much. I'm in that lull that you're probably all feeling to some extent-- post-Christmas boretacularity with school and such. I've actually got some really interesting classes, but nothing's really turning my crank at the moment, with the notable exception of Jonna, who isn't school-related, so there you go.

I'm working with this new student group for FACS. We're going to throw a big party in February, which is exciting, and anyways we really ought to have a FACS student union. Other projects include the Bubble Project (goin' down on Saturday), a giant puppet project (for class), a big Kensington Market Cultural Memory project (for another, more different class), a possible installation, and perhaps a guerrilla assault on non-student space at York (with the intentions of making it available and remotely livable). Of course, before I can do a lot of this, I need to do my fucking HOMEWORK. This is proving surprisingly difficult.

I ran into Leslie Korrick today, who said many nice things to me, and also invited me to join a fourth-year seminar she'll be running this summer! It sounds awesome, and I miss having a Korrick class, so it looks very likely that I'll hit it. It's nice to be finding a bit of a space in this goddamn school, if only a conceptual one. I really want to go somewhere else, though. But I might as well finish this fucking degree, first. Do you guys feel like you're going anywhere with yours? Like, really? Do you know what you want to do? Cause I sure as fuck don't, and I'm almost fucking done. Usually I feel pretty good about the open-endedness, but right now I'm achin' for a touch of direction (and a lot less fucking debt). (On that note, I need a job).

So I'm going to go do work now. I'll leave you with some linkins.

This guy's a scary-as-hell site about Wal-Mart's crazy hegemony. It's really illuminating.

Ever wonder what a wall-sized portrait of Elvis would look like if it were made of post-it notes? Now you do.

I'm going to grow a couch this summer.

And I'm out.


I was just inside a convience store near where I work buying M&M's. They had two bags of peanut butter M&M's. I'm pretty sure they haven't made these for the last seven or eight years.

Tomorrow I will buy one of the bags and find out.


I bought the Peanut Butter M&M's today. No inidcation as to when the package was from. Opened it up and I'm eating them now. They're delicious. I'm fairly sure that they've been brought back.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Triumph Steals My Material 

Alexa MacDonald's favourite Insult Comic Dog (how's that for a dated reference) released a song called "I Keed" a few years ago. My roommate has the video of it, and since iTunes shares this stuff over the network I watched it as I was looking through his video (BTW, "My love is like... wo" is probably the most insipid lyric this side of Counting Crow's "Well baby I surrender/to the strawberry ice cream/never ever end of all this love"). Anyway there's a line in that song that goes thusly:
But you can see Christina in all her sluthood
It's like watching porn but the music's not as good.

Anyway, the song is from November 26, 2003. But I had a very similar line in a story that I can date back at least to August 29, 2003!
It's from a story I wrote for writer's craft about a dance, (called-prosaically enough-The Dance) which is about a guy being led around a school dance, encountering thinly disguised caricatures of my classmates and engaging in snarky banter. Here's my line:
"Oh I hate Dirty," Erica complained, "Christina's just trying to outslut Britney. Did you see the music video for it?"
"The only difference between that and a porn movie, is that the porno's got better music," Rob told her.

Now if I could rewrite that sentence I'd take out the second "that" but the point still stands... Conan stole my joke! Well actually, I'm sure it really just writes itself. I actually kinda enjoyed the story, only wincing occaisionally. There were a couple of jokes inserted in it: The club is named Cacophonyand the student council is named PEDIS which is a take-off of our student council of CAPUT, latin for "head" (incidentially, when a girl was running for President she started off her speech by saying: "Caput. It means head." then she heard the laughter and blushed and was elected). I really missed an opportunity to give the high school some terrible name though. I like some of the lines: "Ground control to Major Tom. You there man? You looked like George Bush trying to pronounce Kyrgyzstan.", "An awful boy band crooned out an equally awful ballad as couples danced along, apparently trying to eat each other's tongues." and I'm not a girl, Not yet a woman is like "the soundtrack for a Disney version of Lolita".
And I'd forgotten about this exchange:
A teenage voice started complaining in short bursts.
"Sum 41?" Josh guessed.
"Blink-182." Rob corrected.
"What's the difference?"
"Good question," Rob thought for a moment, "Sum 41 has a black guy. And they're slightly less relevant."

The story starts (in a pretensiously 12-grade sort of way) with a quote by Byron and mentions Don Juan, which is really weird cause I'm reading Byron's Don Juan right now for no apperent reason. Byron is far (far!) funnier than I am so I almost hate to put some of his stuff afterwards, but it's a really great poem and if you have time on your hands you should think about it. Here's a verse about what Don Juan's was taught:
The languages, especially the dead,
The sciences, and most of all the abstruse,
The arts, at least all such as could be said
To be the most remote from common use,
In all these he was much and deeply read;
But not a page of any thing that 's loose,
Or hints continuation of the species,
Was ever suffer'd, lest he should grow vicious.

Byron strikes me as very similar to a rapper. Like 50 is he's a P.I.M.P. (he had a pretty constant string of affairs), he was from the streets (well, English upper class but close enough) and while 50 may have been shot he died fighting the Turks (well died of sickness on his way to fight them). Plus he disses his contemporaries:
Thou shalt believe in Milton, Dryden, Pope;
Thou shalt not set up Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey;
Because the first is crazed beyond all hope,
The second drunk, the third so quaint and mouthy:
With Crabbe it may be difficult to cope,
And Campbell's Hippocrene is somewhat drouthy:
Thou shalt not steal from Samuel Rogers, nor
Commit- flirtation with the muse of Moore.

Grain Alcohol 95%. Warning: FLAMMABLE. Any Questions? 

Finished my scarf. Made delicious gnocci from scratch. Drank alone in my room reading Rousseau's On the Social Contract, eating chocolate and listening to The Go! Team. That's my idea of a productive sunday night.

I was looking at pictures from the newmindspace subway party and found several pictures of Ben and Jonna (with glasses that appear to have been stolen from the meanest 1950's 3rd grade substitute teacher. Named Mrs. Urlbacher. Hawtness). The first of Ben is about 1/3 down the page.

In my class on the history of American foreign policy I suffered through an extrordinarily dull 30 minute presentation by six students on the CIA-backed coups in Guatemala and Iran in the early 1950's. Only a couple of them had any stage presence and they were all crowded behind the podium for protection. They thought they could start a discussion by asking a safe, simple question about the legitimacy of the coups. This being a class of bored lefty Trent students the chances of a real discussion seemed limited. That's when I jumped in. It is so easy and entertaining to get Trent students riled up just by justifying some American freign policy. In the 1950's the state department and the intelligence services saw communism as the biggest threat. They believed that the spread of communism must be stopped and rolled back, just as facism had been quelled in the 1940's. To the policy makers in Washington chaos, instabilty and thousands of dead Guatemalans was a small price to pay for a safe capitalist hemisphere.In the end the U.S. got fruit from Guatemalla and oil from Iran (temporarily) so it was all worth it. Of course this was reprehensible self serving policy, I guess my classmates can't identify the devil's advocate when they see him. They got very angry at me and questioned how I can morally justify this approach. Morlality? Don't be silly. They got angry and I couldn't suppress my grin. One guy seemed close to tears. If they didn't want to be goaded they shouldn't have asked such silly narrow-minded questions about "morality". Now I know they are easily provoked targets.

Tonite we got drunk and played Risk for 5.5 hrs. I ate way too much fudge and got really giddy.

"I don't like blogs anymore." 

Where the hell is everyone? Matt posting twice in a row? Unheard of! A sign of the apocalypse!

I'm playing Rome: Total War again. On maximum difficulty it is hard to be Carthage and not lose any cities. They get peasant concripts and militia for the first decade. No good. Run away all the time. Need more elephants.

If you don't read Bob The Angry Flower, you should.

I don't have a beard anymore. It looks and feels very, very strange. I'm not letting myself grow it back yet though. I'm detirmined. Hopefully shaving every morning will add more structure to my day, and getting used to the monotony will make me a better student. It's a small step, but there it is. I'm a really bad student.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Who's signing who and who's getting shot 

Does everyone remember Ma$e? "Bad, bad, bad, bad boy (y'know you make me feel so good)". Well, he's a really important figure. Watch what happens.

The Notorious B.I.G. comes out with his debut, Ready To Die in 1994 and it blows pople away. He becomes what you could call the lead vocalist of the record label. Almost three years later (that's how it works on Bad Boy Records) he's ready to drop his follow up, Life After Death when he's shot amidst the furor of the Bad Boy / Death Row beef (or as the press called it, the East-West rivalry).

Biggie's down and Puff can't rap, so Ma$e becomes the new star event of the label. Biggie's music had a fair bit of blingin' interspersed with a lot heavy ruminations on death, drug dealing, the like. Suicidal Thoughts was a million pound confession.
Ma$e was a very different breed of rapper. Not just less talented in terms of his writtens, (lacking the clever play of syllables and punchlines of a Biggie) but just more showy and blingy of course. Anyways, Ma$e is gonna be the hot Bad Boy prospect since he is popular, when he feels the hand of God on his shoulder and leaves to become a minister.A few years pass and the jokes are made.

Ma$e comes back to the rap game on Bad Boy Records and records a happy song to (just pirated a year earlier by Onyx) "welcome back". Gone are the ho's, the Vegas and the bad, bad, bad, bad boy chant. The song boasts about how Ma$e got wealthy without having to get his hands dirty with drug money and such and he's a nice guy. The album flops and ma$e gets shoved in the later bin on Bad Boy's list.

Along comes 50 Cent. 50 is in the process of buying up the New York underground. He's just signed Mobb Deep and M.O.P. Two longstanding semi-underground acts which are decade+ workhorses and thorough representatives of the grimiest thugs out there. And then 50 signs Ma$e? The blingy bad boy turned reverend turned wholesome rapper is now signed to G-Unit. If he makes it big now and has got street cred, this is gonna really be a victory for the mighty 5-0. Gawd.


Not to mention what the signing of Mobb and M.O.P. is gonna spell. Is this the homogenization of the street or will the street stay "true" to how it was while infiltrating millions more ears? I almost don't know what's worse. If M.O.P. starts rhyming about Bentleys, though, I couldn't help but see that as a defeat, for them at least.

And where did all this 50mania start? With "shot nine times" "In da Club" and "signed to Em and Dre". Now, take another artist who signed by Em & Dre, my cause celebre, Obie Trice, a Detroit wordsmith closer to Biggie than Ma$e. Em does some of the most creative production of his career for Trice's album, but there's no hit single and most of all, no "9 times" story. So Trice sells platinum but remains far from a household name. Real name, no gimmicks.

Two weeks ago, on the morning of New Year's Day Obie gets shot on a freeway in Detroit. The story garners little attention. Wait a minute, I'm starting to think I don't understand anything at all here.
- Signed by Em (and Dre)
- Got shot up
Where's the hit single? Do you have to be shot before you get signed?

Another thing. Eminem, for all the controversy and the whoo-ha and the sexism and homophobia has pretty much put it to rest on his last two albums and tried to clean himself up a fair bit. One of his things was gaining a sort of a political conscience, which is conflicted and hypocritical and I won't get into the complexities of that picture except to say that he designated himself as firmly anti-Bush. Now I was reading a 50 piece in GQ (yeah, really) and 50 said he thought GWB was "a real gangsta" and said he would like to meet him so he could shake his hand and tell him how much they have in common.

Another thing I gotta vent on 50 is him dissing Nas in his imbecillic "Piggy Bank". Going after a legend who could've whupped your ass lyrically at any point in his 13 year career over nothing is such a crab move it's sickening. "Piggy Bank" is ridiculous too, because it disses like 10 rappers. It's exactly what he did in "How To Rob" back before he got shot and signed. Now everyone's embraced him like he wasn't going to do it again. Apparently he made a video and depicted Jadakiss as a Ninja Turtle.

And the underground is going further underground. Pharoah Monch just signed with one of the D-12 guys who is starting his own record label. Given the success of Proof and Bizarre's solo projects, I can't see things going well for the talented Pharoah. Unforutnate.

Canibus (Dr C., de facto PhD of science, literature and paleo-anthropology) came out with an album called Hip Hop for Sale. Nuff said. Although I'm thinking of buying it despite my apprehensions, just to track this talented mad man.

But there is hope. Talib Kweli's last album was good and so was Kanye's and Mos Def hasn't sold out yet. So if Blackstar teamed up again (like they promised) with 'yay on the boards (wishful thinking) they could have massive popularity again and undo these terrible tides.

As a closing note, thanks to everyone for listening. I'm sure you learned more about the rap industry than you knew before. These are interesting times, folks and I think we can see that reflected in the soap opera of the rap world, too.

The Dogs Days of Winter 

The first week back to class has been pretty dull. No new classes but I've got two new profs. My new political theory prof has an annoyingly high nasal voice. I've started work on an essay about the Canadian contibution to the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War. I'm really excited about this one because I got to pick the topic and it's something I know nothing about. Also it beats writing about trench warfare on the Western Front again.

On Friday I went with my friends Devon, Stacey and Michelle to see a play titled Good Night Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) by Canadian playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald. We were there to support our friend Jana who was in the play. It was about Constance who, based on an old manuscript she finds, developes a theory that Shakespeare stole the scripts for Othello and Romeo and Juliet. The original author had written the plays as comedies but Shakespeare left out the Fool. Without the Fool around to avert disaster Othello and R & J became famous as tragedies. The manuscript turns out to be magical and transports Constance into the plays where she must play the role of the disaster-averting-Fool. All-in-all it was very funny. There was lots of Shakespearian gender bending.

Last night I had dinner at Kate's house with her friends Elaine and Erin and Erin's boyfriend Kyle. We made several delicious curry dishes including one aloo gobi recipe from the DVD of Bend it Like Beckham. We sat around eating lots of delicious food, drinking grain alcohol brought back by Kyle from Indiana, playing poker and admiring Erin's new baby chameleon.

This weekend and for a couple more weeks this month four of the biggest bars/clubs in Ptbo are closed or will soon be closed due to liqour license violations. These infractions vary from serving after last call to being over capacity. Rumour has it that student favourite The Pig's Ear Tavern is being investigated for drug related crimes.

Box-o signing out

Hey, You guys. 

I'm going to be in Toronto Sunday night, en route back to Kingston from Waterloo. I know that's not an optimal day to do stuff, but if any of you want to hang out, that would be cool. End transmission.

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a gorilla with no superego.