garran: (Default)
2010-09-17 02:16 pm

August novel-reading

Hi, I've been super-busy, which means the stuff I mean to write about but haven't got around to is piling up, which means that this entry keeps getting pushed back. Or maybe it's less that I've been busy by the standards I'm used to than that even everything day-to-day has taken on the character of the busy, being new and in need of active attention and adjustment. Joanne and her kids have come home and we are all living in what was formerly only their home and now is mine as well. I will probably have more to say about the many changes that is bringing to me.

My class has now met twice, and settled down, apparently stably, to nine people. The second one especially had a level of conversation with which I am very satisfied, and the democratic grading seems to be going smoothly. I am kind of drunk on the power of being able to dictate (or to have already dictated) the schedule on which people read, and to hear their reactions as they do -- also and relatedly, to say effectively, "Before we have this conversation, go and look at Foucault." We start in next week on Stranger in a Strange Land, which reminds me of August:
Samuel R. Delany, [Trouble on] Triton
Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land (reread)
Jo Walton, Lifelode
Thomas Disch, Camp Concentration
Triton is a difficult and unsettling book; I'd tried starting it several times before this one and foundered in the first fifty pages or so, which would probably have happened again if I hadn't been doing so much careful reading of Delany lately. It still came across as flat and chilly in those early parts, because it takes a while to become obvious just how unreliable a narrator the protagonist is; then, as it does become obvious and they flee from that revelation into further and more extreme attempts to embrace their narrative regardless, it became unexpectedly compelling to me. It's about how if you are a selfish jerk who refuses to self-reflect, you will not be happy wherever you go, but it would be easy to do that in a facile way, and Delany does not; he evokes the psychology very carefully, convincingly, and with an oddly unyielding compassion.

Lifelode is Jo Walton's most difficult book to find, which is a shame because I think it's probably her best. I made the NVCL pick up a copy, though! It is about housework and trying to deal honestly with the people around one (especially in a polyamorous context) and relativistic time dilation in a fantasy world with meddling gods, and it's sad and gentle and exciting and I really liked it.

This concludes year four (!) of my book log; stats will follow. Edit: Actually, I'll just put them in here. Cower before the felicity of my numbers!

In the year starting September 1st, 2009, and ending August 31st, 2010, I read 55 narrative books, of which 11 were books I'd read before and 44 were new to me. (That's an average of about four and a half books a month. For a while I averaged six, but for whatever reason I seem to read less in the summer.) 34 and a half were by women (with 17 individual authors represented) and 1 by someone who identifies neither male nor female. 13 (by 6 individuals) were by authors I know to be people of colour. I wrote at least a sentence of review or description of 18.
garran: (Default)
2010-08-22 06:53 pm

Undertakings; happiness and the sun

It probably looks like I'm really late posting this month, but I actually just didn't finish any books in July. Lots of other stuff has been going on, though. In particular, my class was approved, I set up a room and a timeslot with the women's studies department, and advertised on facebook and various department mailing lists; as of today, there are ten people registered, which is two more than the minimum to avoid cancellation and includes five people I either don't know or don't know to be taking it. I don't think there's anyone liable to be reading my journal who is a current UBC student, interested in both SF and queer theory, and hasn't already heard about it through other channels, but there are still five spaces left and it's up on the student service centre as WMST 425R. It's in the fall term every Wednesday from 10-1, which is a date I'm very cheerful about, since it means I won't lose any weeks to holidays; there's a brief PDF outline online here, and I'll be posting some more stuff soon.

Joanne left on August 2nd to go to Ontario for a month to see her family there, as she does every year about this time. Before she was gone we made a plan that I would housesit, and also spend the month moving in, so that when she got back we'd be living together, which is in fact what I've been doing. By a fluke of timing she's never gone away while we were actively dating before; I miss her more this time, then, because I have no reason to already be holding back from the possibility of connection. I'm glad we're taking this step toward there not being more such separations after this.

I'll be taking my own trip soon: on Thursday I'm leaving for Oregon, back the 31st (two days before Joanne is home). I will meet Rachel's baby! And reacquaint myself with other aspects of Rachel's local landscape.

Being August, it's sometimes been hot, but this past week the temperature when the sun is out has been exactly right for me, not uncomfortable but warm, breezy and peaceful. When it's a day like that I breathe it in and it buoys me up, and I've been noticing that more the past couple of years, or noticing a change in my relationship to it. To varying degrees during the first two decades of my life I thought of and talked about the weather as something baffling and mystical, something that carried encoded in it aspects I was drawn to, but couldn't figure out. I think now this is because it had this tendency to show me at least the potential to feel happy and grounded, at times -- especially in my childhood -- when I felt very far from having reasons to feel that way. Recently, as I've been able to build up such reasons around myself, it feels good to be out on a nice day in the same way that it did before, but I no longer articulate it to myself as numinous.

Because of the people in it (most especially but not exclusively the two mentioned above) and how they reflect me back to me, because of social institutions like university and Windsor House, because of my theoretical, artistic, and ethical passions, and because most of all I've been able to make and maintain a space of personal safety around these: my life is so much better than it was when I was 10. I suppose this is pretty obvious, but what remarkable corollaries it sometimes has!
garran: (Default)
2010-05-07 04:39 pm


Yesterday I turned in my application to teach my class, a day early for luck. I'm not sure what I'll do if it gets turned down after all this work.

(Edit: At the request of the commentariat, I'll clarify that the rest of this entry has nothing to do with transgressive sexuality in science fiction.)

On my way home I was climbing up this back lane which is one of the ways up the hill to my house, and a boy emerged from the bushes ahead of me, holding a hollow stick about the right size to be his sword. He was nine or ten, white, blond. He said something like, "Hold it!", but I wasn't sure whether he was talking to me; he might just be playing. As I got closer, though, he watched me, reaching back with his other hand to pick up another stick of similar length, and moved to block my path.

"Are you challenging me?" I asked, as I drew level with him. "Yes!" he said. So I took the stick he was holding out closest to me and went vaguely en garde.

I had reach, a little bit of decade-old fencing training, and quickly claimed the higher ground. He was bolder, more reckless, and willing to hit at my stick harder and more often. He knocked the tip off of it early, showing me that I couldn't just play defensively and expect my weapon to survive for long. I don't know what would have happened if things had gone steadily against me; he might have been willing to accept my surrender, or I may have had to run for it. In the event, though, I got in a lucky blow and shortened his stick by half, forcing him to close, and shortly thereafter I saw an opening and was able to jab him decisively in the belly.

He made a sound of pain, and we put up. "Are you all right?" I said.

"No," he said, in a voice reflective and resigned. "I'm dead."

I nodded, shrugged. "You were a worthy opponent," I said, since it seemed like the thing to say. Then I cast my weapon aside, turned, and hurried up the hill, because I really needed to go to the bathroom.
garran: (Default)
2010-02-22 01:24 am

Transgressive Sexuality in Science Fiction

I have this university class I think I'd like to teach; I've been fiddling with it as a thought experiment in a lot of the time that I ought perhaps to be devoting to the classes I'm taking. (But now it's the reading break, extra-long so that my city can draw campus into its bright and public post-apocalypse.) My interest in it has been steady enough that I'm looking into sticking around to do something in UBC's student-directed seminars program, but in the meantime this post is still about the thought experiment rather than whatever real things might come of it.

The course would be called "Transgressive Sexuality in Science Fiction". It comes originally from my noticing that all the polyamorous people I know are SF fans*, which is not a coincidence -- there's a definite subcultural current in that direction in fandom, which may not have had its origins in Heinlein but he obviously didn't hurt -- and which got me thinking further about how science fiction has this narrative about itself as politically and culturally progressive while at the same time often coming across as very reactionary, and how both of these things are true. SF is a broadly counterfactual genre, so it has the potential to show us what it would be like if social or even biological norms were radically different, but at the same time it is obviously written by people whose expectations and opinions about what is possible have been shaped by the political discourses available in the society they are writing in. So I want to explore both the successes and the failures of imagination, and argue about which are which, in a bunch of works of written science fiction, where it comes to presenting alternate possible worlds around sex and sexuality in particular. The focus on sex is for a number of reasons, including that it's a big thing that I'm interested in right now and that it's something just about nobody is ontologically apathetic about; another nice thing about doing these two topics together is that both sexuality and genre are prime sites for humans fractiously trying to shove difficult edge cases into one or another of our somewhat arbitrary categories.

(* When I shared this realization with my Sociology of Sex class last summer, the professor loudly booed me; she later explained, mortified, that she'd thought I was taking a cheap shot at someone. This is pretty much my favourite way that a professor has ever responded to me in class.)

People keep saying when I describe this idea that it's kind of narrow, but actually I've had to narrow it still further in order to come up with a reasonable imaginary reading list. I've ended up putting four extra restrictions on inclusion: 1) Written science fiction, 2) SF rather than fantasy, 3) written and consumed in the subcultural milieu of English-speaking science fiction fandom, and 4) written somewhere between 1960 and 2000 (so with a focus on New Wave-ish stuff). Here follows that reading list, which it ought to be just about feasible to shoehorn into 12 or 13 weeks. It comprises three novels, ten-ish short stories, and three guiding works of theory (which aren't actually in the draft list here but I'll talk about them after).

In here, I mean. )

The theory would include one major reading each about sex, gender, and genre -- my current plan is for the first 50 or so pages of Michel Foucault's History of Sexuality, vol. 1, something by Judith Butler, and some of Delany's literary criticism, respectively -- and a smattering of smaller stuff relevant to specific works (like this!).

So there you go. I originally planned to post about this and ask for suggestions for additions or alterations to that list, but I put it off for a while and in that time got more set in it as it appears. Nonetheless if anybody does have an opinion I'd be happy to hear it.
garran: (Default)
2009-12-21 11:53 pm

Getting longer for a while

It's been the winter solstice again. I live on a planet with an axial tilt; it is much larger than I but my days are intimately bound up with it.

Rachel and her gentlehusband came to visit and it was lovely and lower-key than usual. She is pregnant, which makes me feel strangely protective. We played board games and watched several movies all of which I enjoyed more than I expected to and ate dinner with old friends of mine who have naturally over time become hers. Once I guessed her Balderdash entry verbatim before it had been read out (the word was 'millimole'; Rachel scribbled for five seconds and slapped it down with a "done", and I said, "I'm just going to assume that Rachel wrote, 'A mole with a thousand legs'." It was basically amazing).

Now she's gone home, though, and others of my people have likewise fled the city; Joanne's gone to Ontario and the new women's studies buddies I know best are off to various American ports of call, some indefinitely. So I am left more of a hermit than I might be, my beard growing relatively long and itchy, checking every day to see if my grades have come in yet (nope). It's nice not to be furiously treading water, though. Also my narrative about this is slightly disrupted by the people still around who invite me to solstice parties I don't quite make it out to.

I have a lot of windows open with short stories I've seen recommended or otherwise becomes interested in, but haven't got around to reading yet. Some of them have been there for months. I still intend to read them all (that's why the windows are still open) but in the meantime, I thought it might be interesting to link to them in the order they appear. Do you feel like reading an arbitrary but not indiscriminate short story? Try one of these: 1 2 3 4 5.
garran: (Default)
2009-11-08 11:55 am

October novel-reading

A factual account:
CJ Cherryh, Invader
Steven Brust, The Phoenix Guards (reread)
CJ Cherryh, Inheritor
I'm finding the Foreigner novels really immersive. But there can be only so much time for reading since I had putative swine flu for a week of missed school, and am still struggling to catch up. (My professors have been really generous with extensions.)

Today it is David's birthday, which means that, in a week's time, it will be my birthday. Did you know that I was birthed?

My sister is in town and I got up very early to have breakfast with her.
garran: (Default)
2009-09-02 09:54 pm

August novel-reading

It's the space between terms -- three weeks long, in my case, of which two are passed -- and I am celebrating by prioritizing and passionately applying myself to things which are not important in any time-dependent way. I've finally finished Final Fantasy 6, reactivated my City of Heroes account, and read several very good novels, one of which was especially long:
Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior
Nnedi Okarafor-Mbachu, Zahrah the Windseeker
Neal Stephenson, Anathem
Josephine Tey, The Daughter of Time
John M. Ford, The Dragon Waiting (reread)
And yes, that's year three done. I'll do stats later.

All the other mammals in the house left today on a trip to Saskatchewan, where my sister lives now; I didn't go in part because my school will be back before they are. Since I've never been here on my own for this long (it will be a fortnight), it will be interesting to see whether the solitude gets weird; it hasn't had time to yet, except that I keep turning around expecting the dog to be there.

We Live In The Future Watch: 'antigravity gardens' (that is, vertical ones). I would also accept this as "We live in a Miyazaki movie."
garran: (Default)
2009-04-10 01:46 pm

March novel-reading

Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely
Ursula K. LeGuin, A Wizard of Earthsea (reread)
Term is over! I thought at the beginning of September that this year would be my last one in school, but I'd underestimated the language requirement, so I'll be coming back next year to take two more courses in Japanese and (since I'm here anyway) the majority of a minor in Women's Studies. I kept putting it off a year when it was time to leave Windsor House, too; at least this time it has more of a plan about it than just cleaving to inertia, an excitement about where I'm at more operative than the fear of where I'm going next.

Term is not over! I still have finals and papers, and I'm going to go visit Rachel for a week starting the 18th -- that's nothing to do with the term but there's a huge gap between my finals so it's going in there. I'll leave an hour after the end of my Japanese final and come back a couple of days before writing my Metaphysics (which fortunately I'm not at all worried about).
garran: (Default)
2009-03-10 09:48 pm

February novel-reading

Today on the bus I was sitting between two people who, on noticing one another, started a conversation over my head. The topic of discussion made its way around to a mutual friend who had recently had a wild birthday party, and the difficulties she'd had functioning the next day, and one of them was reminded of a thing that had troubled him. He said something like, "Yeah, I was thinking about that the other day. Like, the day after [our friend's] birthday is really the first day she's 22... And there's the day after New Year's... Every time you start a new year, you're hung over. It almost doesn't make sense!"

It was that 'almost' that made me want to write it down. He was trying so hard to question his paradigm, but he just couldn't quite get removed enough to manage it! So it is so often with us all.

In February I read:
Cory Doctorow, Little Brother
garran: (Default)
2008-10-10 01:36 am

September novel-reading, novel-reading generally, tilting away

All I read in September was
Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed (reread)
I've been kind of embarrassed at how little I've been reading lately, but I think I probably gave myself unrealistic expectations by first starting to keep track during the peak of an unusually heavy period. (It was also a much more innocent time in terms of academic stress.) That tends to happen in waves, so it will be back eventually, and really it only bothers me when I'm considering my reading habits in isolation; when I consider what I've been spending my attention on instead, I don't regret it at all.

Anyway, here's the bookkeeping bookkeeping for my second year of noting these things in my weblog: I read 58 novels, 11 of them rereads. (Also, two of them at different times were Pamela Dean's Tam Lin, so maybe that should count as 57 and 10.) This is a little under thirty fewer new books than I read in my first year, which actually isn't as bad as I thought it might be.

Leaves are starting to change en masse, and it's noticably chilly even when the sun is out; before either of these signs of autumn, before even the equinox formalized it, the days were already getting radically shorter. This feels heavy with narrative significance, because, like a proper existentialist, I am casting out portentious meaning onto everything around me. (You should see my recent relationship with fortune cookies.) I had an excellent summer, charmed and optimistic in a way that was thematically in keeping with and maybe enabled by the daylight still lingering when I got out of my classes at 9 PM. It's not that the sky's recent indifference has me pessimistic instead; it does seem an important difference of tone, though, to be moving into the seasons during which humans really need to work to make their own light.

(One place where I was not actually so good at projecting meaning onto things was in my Japanese course, where on the third day of class or so I had the literally nightmarish experience of having a piece of paper put in front of me and having no idea what to do with it. So I dropped that course and replaced the course I was going to take next term with the equivalent of the last course I took at Langara, which will hopefully catch me back up but which means that I won't be graduating from UBC in April. The need to make up the credits I've thus abandoned did give me an excuse to sign up for the awesome-looking "Feminist Pedagogies in the Classroom and Community" course that Isabel is going to be in, though, which I hadn't thought that I was going to be able to justify.)

Later: something about the election, probably.
garran: (Default)
2008-09-02 10:21 am

August novel-reading, etc.

I wanted to write a big post about IDEC, but apparently I didn't get around to it before school started so who knows whether I'm going to. It was awesome, though! I met and hung out with a bunch of the current generation of WH teenagers, who turn out to be pretty cool, and went to several workshops that challenged me usefully, and stayed up late vocally jamming with musicians from around the world (!), was made to cry by Yaacov Hecht and got very grumpy at Dr. Gabor Mate. Helen is starting a new school, and I am seriously considering trying to be on its staff once my fourth year of university is done.

This past month's fiction:
Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
Charles Stross, Halting State
This concludes my second year of keeping track of novels read; I'll figure out the stats later. I definitely read fewer things than I did during the first one.

Rachel wanted my school schedule, so here it comes, from memory because the UBC website doesn't want to let me log in to look at my timetable for some reason. It's kind of a ridiculous schedule.

On Monday Tuesday Thursday Friday I have Japanese 102 at 9 AM, which means I have to be up before 7 to get to school on time. Also I haven't really practised Japanese since the last course I took in late 2006, so basically I am insane. Today is the first day of school and I got here on time to find that it was cancelled. Well, nevermind.

On Thursdays I have Philosophy of Law at 11:00 (it is a three hour class). The textbooks include a book co-edited by John Russell, whom I used to take classes from at Langara. Then I get a half-hour break and at 2:30 I have Philosophy of Language, which has a very good reputation here.

On Fridays there is the Honours Seminar at 10. They alternate each year between focussing on ethics and focussing on metaphysics; this is an ethics year, which I'm rather looking forward to because last year was pretty metaphysics-heavy, except that it's being taught by the other Dr. Russell so we'll probably be spending a certain amount of time on the metaphysics of free will.

And I'll be working MWF, 12-6, 12-6, and 2-6, respectively, unless I get a better job.

Some other pretty awesome things have been going on, but they're probably not suitable for talking about in a public livejournal entry. Sorry, public.
garran: (Default)
2008-06-27 02:41 am

(no subject)

The solstice has passed and so the days are waning, though they're still long enough that if it's dark out it's probably like 2 AM. (By which point... Oh, never mind.) The solstices and eqinoxen have no religious or ritual significance for me, but I always feel buoyed and energized when I notice that it's one of those days; there is something about that particular sort of astronomy, the recognizable influence on my life of things happening on a scale where I am completely insignificant, that I've always found very cheering.

I got my copy of Brendan's book! I ordered the 'author's edition', which comes with an exclusive original anacrusis, so he wrote me an entire story in the style of my placing 2004 Lyttle Lytton entry. I would take this for karmic justice if I were more confused about how karma is supposed to work. The collection is generally excellent, containing several of my favourites (I was particularly pleased to see Asuka, which I recently rediscovered), and several more that I'd forgotten about (or never read?) but admit to be their equal, or near it. There are some webcomics-star-studded illustrations, which I mostly take to be superfluous, in keeping with my opinion of illustrated books more generally; a couple are good enough to enhance my experience, though Bridget is more effective just as text, I think. It's built around Cosette (not least, I suspect, because she's unusual in that her stories can be presented simultaneously in order of composition and that of internal chronology), but several other bad pennies make appearances: there's a Rita story and two separate Holly stories, though we have none of the information that links the latter except her name.

(Everything that Brendan has written about Holly since I made my timeline has been set in the biggest gap I identified there. This is both gratifying and a little bit taunting, since I also want to know what happens next.)

My women's studies pal Joanne told me that there's an English professor whose literature class is all fantasy -- Tolkien and Sandman and, particularly exciting to me, Dean's Tam Lin. The other day at Matt's book launch, Selena told me about a "Women In Film" class she'd taken with a thoughtful and fascinating professor who focussed on works by local women of colour. The knowledge of these, and all the other fascinating classes I haven't taken yet, is rather bittersweet as I register for what will (should all go according to plan) be my final year as an undergraduate, in which there's room for nothing but Japanese and Philosophy, and not nearly all the philosophy I'd still like to learn here, even; I feel nostalgic for my early Langara days, when, having no plan, I just dove into anything I spotted that I thought might excite me. It's not that I have no excitement for the things I'm still taking -- happily, college on the whole has never yet been drudgery for me. There's just so much more offered than I'm able to accept!

I might try to work Tam Lin or Juniper, Gentian and Rosemary into my Women and Literature research paper, though; I can see how that might work, and it would be lovely to get to write about Dean.
garran: (Default)
2008-06-01 06:46 pm

May novel-reading

This would be even scantier if I hadn't decided a while ago to include short story collections on occasions where I read them straight through, keeping them in that same "book I'm reading" conceptual space that novels go in. I'll probably start letting in narrative nonfiction on the same provisions, too, if I haven't already without noticing it.

Elizabeth Bear, New Amsterdam
Diana Wynne Jones, Fire and Hemlock (reread)*
Nancy Lee, Dead Girls
(* I almost understood it this time.)

The short fiction we're reading for Women in Literature (represented here despite my predictions due to the above) is mostly good but predominantly very bleak; it's wearing me down a little. (I don't think the somewhat wonder-minimizing genre conventions of "mainstream literary" fiction are helping.) Working to counteract this are the in-class discussion, which is awesome; the new group of friends I've acquired from it, one of those tight-knit and ephemeral sudden pockets of intimacy that college sometimes fosters among people taking a course together, which I don't dare expect to be durable very long in its present form (though I do hope to keep hold of at least some of the individuals), but which I'm rather pleased and amazed by while it's here; and the nonfiction we're assigned, which tends to be much more invigorating. Today I was reading a translated copy of Luisa Valenzuela's "Writing with the Body", and I read,

"...I don't believe in the ineffable. The struggle of every person who writes, of every true writer, is primarily against the demon of that which resists being put into words. It is a struggle which spreads like an oil stain. Often, to surrender to the difficulty is to triumph, because the best text can sometimes be the one that allows words to have their own liberty."

And then I read it again, three or four times. "It is a struggle which spreads like an oil stain." Writing it out here, it becomes a quotation, and it is the sort of thing one says in quotations, at least in form, so one is ready for something like it and I don't think I've captured what it was like in that moment. To come upon these words, not set apart but flowing from and in the context of other words before and after, for me was like unexpectedly being kissed.
garran: (Default)
2008-05-05 11:47 pm
Entry tags:

April novel-readings are causally unrelated to May school schedules

Today I told somebody I had a livejournal, and then I felt slightly guilty for the usual reasons. Here's what I've been reading, at least.
Emma Bull, Bone Dance
Diana Wynne Jones, Eight Days of Luke (reread)
Liz Williams, Banner of Souls
Maureen Johnson, The Bermudez Triangle
Charles Stross, Glasshouse
I'd thought that I was going to have at least a two week break between the end of my spring courses and the advent of the summer, but that is an example of a time that I was wrong, and so today, the Monday after the Monday after the Friday I took my last final, I was already back. Do you want to hear about the courses I am taking? Internet, I will tell you.

On Mondays and Wednesdays from six until nine o'clock I'm taking WMST 224C: Women in Literature, so that was what I was at today. The professor has tattoos on her arms, and a demeanor that is slightly nervous but sensible, and a British accent -- not BBC received English, but some regional variant such that that rather than simply getting rid of the 'r's she leaves out of words like 'are' and 'certain' she recycles them to the end of other words like 'idea'. I am pretty excited about my sense of her and of the general atmosphere of the course. (That I've already had two separate nerdy and stimulating conversations with various of my classmates also seems to bode pretty well.)

Unlike my last summer's literature course, this one probably won't be reflected in my novel-reading entries, since the syllabus seems to comprise entirely short stories. But we are reading selections from Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber (which I've heard of), Nancy Lee's Dead Girls (which I haven't), and an anthology and a reading packet neither of which have morbidly evocative names. There will apparently be at least one session where we watch and talk about scenes from Buffy, for which I feel a little overqualified.

Secondly, I'm in PHIL 435: Environmental Ethics on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 'til 4. This was the philosophy course I haven't taken that fit in with my schedule (the other candidates were in the second summer term, and might have had finals that conflicted with IDEC), and so the fact that this is such an activist summer is pretty coincidental. I don't know much about how it will go yet; I've actually been hanging on to the possibility of dropping it, in case the two intensive summer courses are too much for me, but having learned that the women's studies course extends into July, and not merely to mid-June like I thought, I feel cautiously hopeful that that won't be necessary.

(And I'm working 16 hours a week as before, Monday and Wednesdays before school and Friday afternoons.)

P.S. to cola: I got three A minuses and an A+ last term, so I guess you "already got" those "books", too!
garran: (Default)
2008-01-22 12:37 am

A little city-state

I voted (via the handy web service) in the UBC AMS elections yesterday; I might probably have not organized myself to do so, except that an acquaintance of mine is running to be a senator, so I had to actively decide whether or not to vote for him, which required looking up his platform and his online rhetoric and those of his opponents, and once I'd done that, I was interested, and there are online profiles with links to campaign sites for all the races right there by the place where you vote, so it wasn't at all out of my way to vote for the other offices, too. Since doing that, I've been wondering about the campaign posters up on bulletin boards all around the school. Mostly they all say, "Vote for Tony Glunton!" or what-have-you, without any reference to Mr. Glunton's positions on the issues*, so I'm not sure what good they're supposed to be doing. The candidates may have the idea of making their names stick in our heads when we come to the polls, but I keep hearing reports to the effect that there's woefully little participation in the elections, and so I rather suspect that most people who vote are either doing so because they're already affiliated with one of the candidates or else because they are a nerd about democratic participation (or in my case, both) -- and under the first circumstance, they're already decided, and under the second, they'll poke around enough for those subliminal impressions to be swamped by others more relevant.

(* With the exception, I should acknowledge, of the girl whose campaign for student president is based around the argument that students should stand up for ourselves against the deplorable "war on fun" being conducted by the university, where 'fun' is apparently synonymous with 'alcohol'.)

Another possibility, since it's a first-past-the-post election, is that they want to be seen to be advertising because then those of us who might be inclined to vote for them will feel as though they stand a chance of having sufficiently many other people vote for them as well. But this seems to fall over for similar reasons: since just about everybody running has information right there on the voting site, it's not like being low profile elsewhere means that nobody will consider you, and -- perhaps again because so many people apparently don't vote -- I certainly haven't got any sense of the zeitgeist favouring or ignoring any particular candidate so as to influence me tactically either way. So I guess that either I or they must be confused about the realities of this election; since I only just started paying attention, I admit that it's probably me.

Meanwhile, I want to complain about the candidate (for 'VP External') who has the phrase "Put A Free Man In Office" all over all his promotional materials, because I think that that slogan is really stupid. It doesn't mean anything. I mean, okay, it's a play on his given name -- 'Freeman' -- but it seems to me that a pun really ought to have at least two meanings, at least if it's going to be released repeatedly into the public with a job in marketing, and actually there are no slaves running this year that I'm aware of. (His opponent, whom I voted for based on her interesting pitch rather than on the fact that this dude annoys me, is not a 'free man' only by an accident of modern english grammar.)
garran: (Default)
2008-01-05 04:03 am
Entry tags:

December novel-reading

Do any fictional apocalypses take place in 2008? I have lost track.

Look, books:
Elizabeth Bear, Carnival
Dorothy L. Sayers, Whose Body?
Laurie J. Marks, Earth Logic
Dorothy L. Sayers, Clouds of Witness
Dorothy L. Sayers, Unnatural Death
Sarah Monette, The Bone Key
Dorothy L. Sayers, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (reread)
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison
Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear, A Companion to Wolves
Emma Bull, War for the Oaks
I did actually finish all my papers in time, by the way; sorry I forgot to provide you with closure, livejournal. Assuming that my professors are not each embroiled in a darkly-intentioned conspiracy toward my academic complacency, a possibility which I assure you that I have considered, apparently they (the papers) were all better than it felt like they were at the time. All of the books you see here were completed after I turned the last in on the 14th, in a kind of a delirious state, as I picked up every piece of entertainment that tempted me and cackled at not feeling guilty about it.

Now, or on Monday, school comes back; I'll post an exegesis of my new class schedule shortly. Meanwhile, I have two days to reorient my sleeping schedule so that I can catch that 9 AM bus. Um.

Neko Case has a song called 'Andy', which I think is actually a cover. I like it (musically, I mean), but -- maybe because she says my name separately and with emphasis -- it triggers a false positive in my sense of being addressed in a way that other songs that include it, like the one by the Killers or the one by REM, don't; it is a very peculiar feeling. I wonder if this is how people named Michelle or Cecilia feel all the time? (I dare not contemplate too long the complications of being a Roxanne.)
garran: (Default)
2007-12-28 03:07 am

Book reports / Disbelief in democratic education

I've been seeing some people do that thing where one reposts the first sentences from the first entry of each month. It occurs to me that if I did that, every single one would be a variation on 'here are some books I've read'; there is something kind of heartening in that. I didn't know if I was going to stick to this book-tracking thing, when I started. (Of course, there has been that paucity of other content to moderate my sense of achievement.)

Which reminds me, somewhat belatedly: Brendan asked me about Bull's Territory and Vernor Vinge in general. I spoke in carefully vague terms about the former, but the first paragraph of my response does contain a spoiler about the general direction of the plot in A Deepness in the Sky.

As many Bobs already know, IDEC is going to be in Vancouver this summer. David, who is (surprising no one) one of the major people taking charge of the organization, has asked me to write a short page for the rather inchoate website, explaining the notion of a democratic school; I'm having some trouble working out the phrasing. The effort has me thinking about my tendency to habitually underestimate just how radical a notion this actually is.

It's been a long time since I talked about Windsor House in my weblog. )
garran: (Default)
2007-12-02 02:51 am

November novel-reading

I read some books:
Vernor Vinge, Rainbows End
Sarah Monette, The Mirador
Laurie J. Marks, Fire Logic
Pamela Dean, The Secret Country (reread)
Pamela Dean, The Hidden Land (reread)
Pamela Dean, The Whim of the Dragon (reread)
Emma Bull, Territory
(Also Samuel R. Delany's The Motion of Light in Water; I can't decide if I think that qualifies as a novel for the purposes of this project.)

Today it snowed all over everything; I didn't have to consider whether school was going to stay open, because it ended yesterday, aside from the five or so term papers I have to write in the next two weeks (also, it's Saturday). I should write one of those papers every day or two so that I can be done all the rest by next Friday, and then spend a week on the relatively enormous Honours essay. I finished the first one today (having properly commenced it yesterday), so maybe it's possible.

I took my dog out briefly, and when we came back in he lay himself down on the rug in the front hallway and carefully licked all of the snowflakes out of his fur.
garran: (Default)
2007-10-23 02:50 pm

No effort not to be disjointed

Rain has been everywhere, rain, rain! but today it is sunny again -- and not just sunny but clear, and golden, and cool but not cold. After a September and early October that were chill, grey and remote, and poignant as winter, and the past few weeks of deluge, the year has resolved after all at least for a moment into the kind of Autumn I like best.

Just because it has been cold doesn't mean that I have had a cold, as Harvey Keitel probably wouldn't say, but in fact both are the case. It's now almost gone (lingering only enough to interfere with my ability to sing high notes at parties), but it's been around for about as long as the rain has, the persistent descendant of the vague fever that incapacitated me over Thanksgiving weekend. (NB: I am Canadian.) My personal myth about that sickness is that it happened because I'd been under the stress of being so relentlessly anxious about school, which weakened my immune system; this may not actually be true, but it was a useful thing to think because it made me look at why I was anxious and realize that it was almost entirely about the enormous (by my own standards so far) term paper I need to write for the Honours seminar. Even when I was apparently reacting to some other, more immediate reason for stress, I was really going, "I have this homework to do now, and I have this 5000-word paper sitting on my future like a brick". Having had cause to look directly at my worry and sort it out into discrete concerns, instead of adding that major one to everything like that, has made the time since rather easier.

It's strange the degree to which part of what I have to worry about for school now is my grades, because there are scholarships etc.; I feel almost betrayed that these things, in their capacity as collectable tokens rather than as feedback, didn't remain irrelevant epiphenomena, even though I thought before that their irrelevance was one of the marks against them. It doesn't help that at least some of the courses at UBC undertake practises that totally undermine the usefulness of good marks except as somewhat arbitrary collectables, e.g. grading on a curve.

Music stuff that I have been meaning to mention:

There is a new Noe Venable album. Unsurprisingly, I think the free downloads are pretty great.

There is also a new Radiohead album. I haven't heard a thing off of it yet, but check out that distribution method!

Non-music stuff:

We're getting the libraries back! I wonder how the pay equity stuff worked out?

I have been invited to a Hallowe'en party. Maybe I ought to come up with a costume this year, after all.
garran: (Default)
2007-09-06 01:27 pm

August novel-reading, stuff going on

I devoted a bunch of my August leisure to video games, so I haven't been reading as much as I might have. No doubt this trend will continue for different reasons as I fall on into a morass of schoolwork.
Gene Wolfe, The Claw of the Conciliator
Gene Wolfe, The Sword of the Lictor
Gene Wolfe, The Citadel of the Autarch
Sean Stewart, Resurrection Man
School began Tuesday and continues; today I had my first class that wasn't that class' initial introduction. (For Social and Political Philosophy; we watched a video on the Milgram experiments with the shocking.) The campus is much busier and yet somehow more organized than it was in the summer; somehow the effect of the vast tides of people surging between buildings past signs and booths and shouting isn't anarchic, but fractal, every piece of it presumably making cheerful sense if you look closer. On the first day, there were people with shirts saying 'I am UBC' holding signs and leading around huddled groups of first-year students; the signs apparently just had to be distinctive, and I saw a lot of people with seemingly random words: "Somatic", "Endemic", "Bourgeoi$". I also saw five or six different people I knew from Langara, which was unexpected and heartening, as all the Langara people I'd kept in touch with have stayed there (hi, Marilee and Allison); most notably, Goldie, from my introductory Metaphysics class in 2006, is in the Social and Political class, and we hung out for some time measured in hours afterward.

The main things going on in my home are preparations for my sister to move out (for, yes, the second time); this time she is going to Fort St. John, which is considerably farther away as well as being, by my family's standards, almost bewilderingly small and inconveniently located as technical cities go. ("It's not that it's in the middle of nowhere; it's just that it's nowhere near anywhere else.") She is going there because she has been offered a job at their local newspaper, the Alaska Highway News, which suits her very well on account of how she's a newspaper reporter with an adventurous streak. So there has been a lot of putting things in boxes, and we bought a new car (a startling shade of red; so far my mother won't let anyone else touch it or get inside) because Tess is getting the old Volvo, and attitudes are generally a harried sort of excited.

I am playing in Rachel's online AD&D campaign on Saturdays. I rolled somebody who could have been a paladin even if we were playing 2nd edition*, so a paladin is what I'm playing, which is neat because I've always kind of wanted to try it. It's very different from being the wizard I played last campaign, who was always making pragmatic moral compromises; that was fun and interesting not least because of the way it often made me the player kind of uncomfortable, but it's a very different sort of gratifying to play someone who speaks up when something seems wrong, and won't kill someone who isn't facing him with a sword in his hand and won't allow the torture of prisoners, etc.

(* We're playing 3.5, which I seem to be getting used to; I still think they made some unfortunate decisions in the Player's Handbook, and that a lot of the character classes feel less special than they used to, but some 2nd edition rules are starting to have the same startling quaintness for me that 1st edition does. It's a little bit sad.)

The sun is starting to learn again to be comfortable. I always liked autumn and spring the best.