Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Here she is with the absolute final word on the Macleans/CHRC issue, and why we should take media controversy-baiting very seriously.
AND she's a human rights attorney. Be still, my beating heart.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Essentially, the McGuinty Liberals have proposed a law that would place a number of further restrictions on drivers under the age of 22, including a blood alcohol limit of 0 and, for 16-19-year olds, a ban on having more than one teen passenger in the car at a time. New, special consequences for breaking driving regulations would also be introduced (including a 30-day license suspension for teens caught in their first instance of speeding, and growing more severe with each subsequent instance).
"Perhaps the most precious thing we have in society is our children, and that includes our older children," McGuinty said.
"We owe it to our kids to take the kinds of measures that ensure that they will grow up safe and sound and secure, and if that means a modest restriction on their freedoms until they reach the age of 22, then as a dad, I'm more than prepared to do that."
All of which seems appropriate and reasonable, unless you've been under the age of 22 recently, are related to someone who's been under the age of 22 recently, and/or think about it for half a second.
The article points out a few obvious issues, including the idea that 3 bone-dry 19-year olds (read: legal adults) couldn't share a ride to the movies (or church, or work). It points out that this means a group of 19-year olds, perhaps during their first year of college, would need to find twice as many cars and twice as many designated drivers every weekend, which can already be a difficult process.
I have a few more.
A 30-day license suspension for speeding. Let's think about that.
I'm one of 3 siblings in my family, all of whom are drivers, and two of whom, at 18 and 19, are both teens and legal adults. In the summers, when we're all at home, that's 5 adults trying to get to their 5 jobs (6 jobs, back when I had two), at least two of which are shift work, using two or three cars. That involves a hell of a lot of co-ordination, and a hell of a lot of dropping off and picking up and planning every evening. If any one of us had our license suspended for a month, that would be a huge deal. It's more than an inconvenience - it makes getting to work for whoever lost their license all but unfeasible. My 19-year old brother works a 45-minute drive away, in the opposite direction the rest of us go. No one could drop him off and pick him up every day.
And you know what? I worked all through high school, too, and volunteered and had a social life, and it wouldn't have been any better then.
It sort of seems like the more responsibilities you have, the worse this provision is for you. If all you do is go to the movies with friends, I guess you can probably work around a suspended license. The people who are most vulnerable here are those who do more - who commute to college or university from home, who work, who volunteer, who are helping take care of family members they don't live with, etc etc. That's right, young people do these things.
I suppose the argument is that this should be added incentive on my mature, responsible (and, I'll say again, legal adult of a) brother not to speed.
Again, let's think that through. The flow of traffic, at any given time, is generally speeding by a little bit. Like many Canadians, I took Young Driver's, back in the day, and they specifically teach their students to go with the flow of traffic, even if it is a little over the speed limit, because that's the safer option. Under these new laws, by doing what I was taught in driver's ed, I'm putting myself at risk of a suspended license.
And don't anybody point out that no one gets tickets for going 5km over the limit. We all know someone who's been nailed for 5-10.
I think the root problem here is that a lot of people generally don't perceive young adults as having the same needs as 'full adults' (which I apparently became on Jan 8, 2007). There's a reason why 'full adults' need to seriously fuck up before they lose their license* - adults need to be able to drive. They need to get to their jobs, shuttle their families around, etc. A lot of people don't really buy the idea that young adults need these things, too. They're wrong. Anyone who's had to finance any part of their post-secondary education will understand how catastrophic it would be to lose a month (or a summer) of work because you were caught doing 115 on the QEW. Young people need this autonomy in a very real way.
Impudent Strumpet, I think, hits the nail on the head when she raises this point:
I'm a horrible, nervous, skittish driver who hasn't been behind the wheel in a decade (aren't you glad?). I didn't finish graduated licensing within the allotted five years, but I have a G1 to use as ID. I also happen to be 27 years old. Under these proposed rules, I could go to one of those crammer driving schools that promises to get you through the road test in 24 hours, pass my G1 exit test and get a G2, and drive around with as many screaming idiots as I can fit in the car. However, a fully-licensed 21-year-old who's been driving every day since they were 16 (and who is, in fact, qualified to be my accompanying driver as I frantically practice for the road test) can't road-trip to the cottage or drive their whole band to the gig in the same van.This is discrimination against youth.
McGuinty is not suggesting adding extra qualifications to graduated licensing - he's not saying, "Let's add another step where new drivers, for the first 5 years that they're on the road, can't have any alcohol in their blood at all, can't have more than one passenger, and will face heightened penalties if they mess up." He's saying youth**.
When unclear, I endorse the age equivalency test: what other legal rights and obligations do people of x age have?
Age 18: You can vote, go to war, become a sex worker, whatever sex you like with whoever you please, get married, be tried for your crimes in adult court, and receive an adult sentence.
But having two of your friends in the car with you while driving is, according to McGuinty, too much responsibility.
Oh, I see.
*Demonstrative sidenote from my Criminal Law class: driving more than 50km over the speed limit can get anyone's license suspended for a full year. Yet some people, when charged as such, will actually try to plead up to a higher-level offence like careless driving or dangerous driving as a summary offence which can yield a huge fine ($1000-2000) but has no suspended license provision. That's because having no license sucks, for most people.
**Interesting how he's arguing for harsher penalties for young people where generally the law thinks young people shouldn't be penalized to the extent that adults are. Cops used to scare the shit out of me when I was younger - now, not so much.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
It's a tense, artificial energy I'm familiar with, which always arrives around this time at the end of a long night.
I watched the election tonight with some friends, had a few drinks, didn't touch my assignment for tomorrow. I felt something lean and strong inside me pull taut as the evening progressed, and stopped worrying about getting it done; my nerves have carried me through far harder nights.
We watched CNN without flipping. We joked about their holograms, ogled Anderson Cooper, and coloured in a map of the US red and blue as the states were called. We made rude jokes.
At the same time, as that old something pulled taut inside me, it became harder and harder to ignore how much I had invested in this election - not only in the man I've never met but have a guilty trust in, but in the process that's unfolded over the last two years and in something even larger than that. That taut solid something could feel my eyes flickering across the screen, cracking my wrists and pulling at my fingers as I watched the numbers and, more importantly, listened to what was being said.
My search for decency in the human race is all-consuming. It is happening at every moment of my day. Every gesture of respect and compassion, from a nod between strangers to much larger sacrifices, gets tucked away and archived as evidence that the faith which sustains me is not a foolish one. My most fundamental faith is that, given two options or positions argued with equal skill, people will generally choose the more decent of the two. At moments like tonight, I realize how fragile and edifying that faith is, and how much it sometimes takes to maintain.
I think this is where my attraction to Obama comes from. His rhetorical gift (and maybe his political gift generally) is in reconnecting us with our place in the larger picture - of a community, a society, a moment in history. And reconnecting Americans with their finer selves. I guess I see in his approach to politics (or at least to this campaign) a mirror of my fundamental faith: that whenever it makes sense to do so, people will be higher, better, good.
I cheered when CNN called it for Obama. I teared up a bit. But I realized - after McCain's speech, which seemed so dignified after the last few weeks, after thinking of Obama's grandmother who missed this moment by only a single day, after seeing Jesse Jackson crying in the crowd - that for all the validation, the relief, the release of tension and the renewal, this moment was bittersweet.
We saw tonight the realization of dreams which were long overdue, hard-earned, and glorious in the truest sense of the word. But to be honest, to be selfish, I need to admit that around 11.30 I suddenly wanted to see Hillary Rodham-Clinton... badly.
I was really surprised to be having that reaction. I had a hard time getting too excited about Clinton during the primaries - too centrist, I guess, too 'establishment,' and of course a little resistence to the idea that I ought to support her for her femaleness - although I had no trouble getting worked up about the sexist bullshit heaped upon her. But god damn. God damn.
Some day I will get to feel what Jesse Jackson felt tonight. But not today - and possibly not for a long time yet.
I was moved when Obama came out with his family. I was choked up through the first part of his speech - choked up and reminded that there's a very, very good reason why this man won. He had no real reason to include Clinton in his acknowledgements, but I couldn't help wanting to hear her name. It didn't come.
Obama's acceptance speech was probably the most memorable public address I've ever heard. By "waited for hours," by "gay and straight, disabled and not disabled," by the time we were putting our hands on the arc of history and bending it towards a better day, my mind was blown. I laugh-sobbed at Sasha and Malia's puppy.
Mostly, though, this speech was remarkable for the things it put to rest. I have cringed, at times, at the way Obama rhetorically collapses his own electoral victory with the accomplishment of the "change we need" idea, especially when he links his own fortunes to those of the voters and his campaign volunteers. Tonight, somehow, the next step happened: he rolled that momentum seamlessly, self-evidently, into the idea that what began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night; that what's been earned is not a victory but an opportunity; that the spirit of service is renewed not concluded tonight.
That this man will seek to belong even to those whose faith he hasn't yet earned.
Needless to say, by the time he got to Ann Nixon Cooper, the bittersweetness was gone. A good friend who I spoke to afterwards said it felt like watching the moon landing, and that's exactly correct. I caught myself mouthing "yes we can," I nodded and shook my head at the New Deal and the buses in Birmingham.
But it was a shot of a black woman nodding along in the crowd that made me break down and cry.
Monday, November 3, 2008
... "Syntactic Time Travel" Edition!
Rupert Murdoch, after FOX called the election for McCain today:
"While Obama has run a strong campaign, what we have seen is that Americans have made a choice against socialist extremism and have voted overwhelmingly for McCain this coming Tuesday," said Murdoch. "We have always been correct when calling the winners of Presidential elections and we strongly urge Obama to concede prior to Tuesday to ensure that his supporters don't go to polling places and eventually riot. Obama must do what's good for the nation and concede."
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Viral Video Film School: Local Commercials
Campaign Update: 10/17/08
Viral Video Film School: Dorm Room Tours
And I love this woman:
Target Women: Birth Control
Target Women: Wedding Shows
Target Women: Yogurt Edition
(Free cross-over bonus: Target Women: Sarah Palin)
Trust me, you'll end up watching all of these.
M. "The Hammer"
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Also, hey, go read some Dumont!
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I don't think it will be a call-in, only because I'm so painfully inexperienced at radio hosting that the idea of adding random phone calls into the mix makes me gulp with dread.
I've been doing some research and noticing that there are some pretty serious problems with, in fact, all of the parties' statements on the subject of arts funding. Some are wronger than others, as usual, but nobody seems to be in command of a terribly detailed understanding of how the whole thing works. Should be a good conversation.
Wish me luck!
Monday, September 22, 2008
Will he answer in freestyle poetry? Will the Canada Council receive the airtime it deserves? Will I resist the urge to crawl into his lap?
Thursday, September 11, 2008
"We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses,” party chairman James Carabelli told Michigan Messenger in a telephone interview earlier this week. He said the local party wanted to make sure that proper electoral procedures were followed.That's from this article, via Bitch Ph.D. Seriously, GOP, now you're just being assholes.
State election rules allow parties to assign “election challengers” to polls to monitor the election. In addition to observing the poll workers, these volunteers can challenge the eligibility of any voter provided they “have a good reason to believe” that the person is not eligible to vote. One allowable reason is that the person is not a “true resident of the city or township."
What's the relevance to Canada? Well, as far as I can tell, Harper's already borrowing pretty heavily from this party's playbook (in his very first speech after calling the election, he tried to dub Stephane Dion "Professor Dion,"* who presumably also eats arugula).
I'm not suggesting the Conservatives would pull any of this crap. I'm just saying, let's all stay very clear about the reasons why it's so important not to tolerate politicians doing the sneaky bullshit some of them do: because that slope slides, baby, oh it slides.
*Least successful meme ever.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Which has got me thinking (again) about the role of language in how we talk about sexual violence, and about our experiences more generally.
There's a reason we say "sexual assault" and not "rape," why we say "survivor" and not "victim" or "accuser," and why we let women tell us when it was rape and when it wasn't, rather than us telling them. This is all Sexual Assault 101.
But in this specific context (meaning a blog generally, and a personal-politics blog more specifically), I think there's something else going on.
A few days ago, my dad and I got into a very heated conversation about the American election. At the end of a long series of frustrating back-and-forths, he informed me that Michelle Obama is going to cost Barack the election, because she's just so *aggressive*. "I heard her speech at the DNC, and I couldn't believe how aggressive it was."
I had kept my cool through the conversation until this point - through accusations that I was relentlessly partisan, that I had a personal vendetta against Palin, that the idea that Palin was anti-woman was laughable, that McCain's POW status prevented all criticisms of his foreign policy approach - and then I flipped my shit. With tears in my eyes and no embarassment, I told him that when you hurl a word like "aggressive" at a woman like Michelle Obama, you're hurling it at all of us. Us. Us. Me. Me as a professional-to-be. That word tears down my future. Mine.
And then I realized I should have been saying this all along.
Sometimes objectivity is necessary and helpful. Sometimes it's the only path to the truth. And sometimes it's not.
This isn't a newspaper, or CNN, and I'm not a politician. When I talk on this blog, or with people in my own life, I have no professional obligations to be neutral. I'm not campaigning, trying to win people over to my side with diplomacy. I have no obligation to be neutral when I have something at stake, or to try to make myself seem rational by going out of my way to grant points to the other side, even when they make me wince.
My attempts at objectivity, at not taking things personally or getting emotional, enabled my dad to treat the misogynistic language of this election as a purely academic issue. I enabled that with him, as I have in many other conversations. That might be a disservice to him, but it's definitely a disservice to me. I, and women in general, are not a theoretical concept. Once I teared up and said my bit, he refused to continue the discussion "if I was going to get all emotional about it." The truth is, I wanted him to see the emotion. I didn't want him to have the luxury of treating sexism as a purely rhetorical problem, when we are living it. I wanted to break him out of those habits of thought and into my world. It's not that he doesn't care, he's just never had it made real in this way by someone he loves.
Which is why I'm rethinking the way I talk about women's issues on this blog and in general. Let me take one more stab at introducing that new Child Trends.
By the time we are 25 years old, 1 in 5 of us will have experienced forced intercourse.
Because it's us that I really want to talk about.
(h/t to Feministing.)
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Extra timely in light of the two big legal sneak attacks on women's health this year, bill C-527 (link: We Move to Canada) and C-484 (Antonia Zerbisias for the Toronto Star).
I predict that the fall semester ends with me buying Christopher Bird a beer... and doing a formal "What's the evil to stupid ratio on this?" for legal action over reproduction in the last year.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
I stumbled onto it following this link on why one of my favourite bloggers, L-girl of We Move to Canada (linked at right), won't be watching the Olympics this year. There's been a lot of discussion about the benefits, drawbacks, and justification (or lack thereof) for a boycott of the Games: does the West have a right to throw stones? is it a good thing that the world will be taking a good look at China at this crucial moment? will a boycott only, in the end, hurt our own athletes and China's poor? Of course in each conversation you get the inevitable mix of quackery, non-sequiturs, and concern trolling.
The title story on Common Dreams today, "China Using Olympics as 'Pretext' for Crackdown: Amnesty," corroborates the worst of our suspicions about what's going on over there, and provides as good an occasion as any to share one of my many Stories From When I Was In India to explain why I will be joining whole-heartedly in the boycott - and why you all should, too.
When I Was In India, I met lots of other people who were away on Big Trips - many of which were much bigger than mine. One of the most interesting people was a Canadian woman in her mid-20's who I met in Dharamsala. She was on her second year-long trip through Asia. On her first trip, she'd come through China, among other countries, and when I met her, she was still debating whether or not she was going to return on this trip.
Her family was Chinese by background, and she spoke a little bit of Cantonese. We talked a lot about where we'd been - and she'd been everywhere - but she had a bit of trouble speaking clearly about her time in China. All her sentences seemed to U-turn mid-way, veering from rants about the poverty to rhapsody about the quiet generosity of the people she met, and then from romantic descriptions of the coast to terse protests against the uselessness of the newspapers. She sounded like she was scanning her own comments, maybe her own feelings, for the exact wording that would leave me with an accurate impression of her time there without falling into any of the many pits that we all tend to fall into when talking and thinking about China.
The last story she told me was this one.
She was on a train somewhere in the interior - I forget which province. It was packed. About an hour before she was supposed to be getting off, she looked in her bag and noticed that her iPod was gone. She reported the loss to a railroad employee in the car, who told her to sit still for a moment and disappeared into the front of the train. The conducter stopped the train in the middle of nowhere. A few minutes later, the conducter and the man she's approached for help climbed into her car and began searching people. They were doing a sweep of the entire train, looking for her missing iPod. In the car behind her, they found it. The rail employee returned it to her and told her the situation was being taken care of. Out her window, she saw the conductor pulling a young man away from the train. He was bleeding heavily from his face but was still struggling. Two other men in rail uniforms followed. One of them pulled out a gun and shot the man point-blank in the head. They left his body there, and the train kept moving.
When she told me this story, I was so shocked that I didn't ask her any questions. She said she almost ended her trip after that, even though she was only a few months in. But she felt like she couldn't leave.
I have no framework for thinking about what it must be like to live in a place where the state has that kind of power, or where one word from a foreigner can (unintentionally) get a man killed. I don't ever want to need a framework for that.
I know this story is undocumented, and that anyone reading it is automatically hearing it at least two times removed from its original source. It's anecdotal and unverifiable. But I remember so clearly what she looked like while telling this story - this petite Canadian girl who had no reason to lie to me.
I do think that some folks are onto something when they point out that the attention China is getting over the Games has the potential to help the Chinese people. A huge part of that will be education (at least of the West, most of which hasn't been following China too closely until the last few years) about what's going on.
On the 8th, my TV gets turned off. I hope yours will, too.
This was the place.
Fuck you, guy. Seriously. Just fuck right off.
Who wants to help me find out who to complain to?
Friday, July 25, 2008
I was a serious fan of the show back when it was still on the air and I was still just a pup (I was only 16 when the show ended, and 14 or 15 when I stopped watching). A year and a half ago, for reasons that were mostly about procrastination , I started rewatching old seasons after not having thought about them for years. Nabokov said that only the rereading counts,* and he was right.
In short, I was surprised how easy it was to come back to the series - and how rewarding. I became a casual viewer around the age of 9 or 10 and an afficionado by 12. The 22-year old me
Rebecca Traister owns up to her fandom and has mini-essay up about Dana Scully, crush object. Feministing Community member Starzki6 has a list of reasons why the character was great (both via).
Although I agree whole-heartedly with both articles, especially Traister's (she picks up on the sainthood arc, coins the helpful phrase "walking pheromone," and shares my opinion that Mulder 2008 would be in Guantanamo Bay right now), I'm a little surprised by the unequivocally positive tone of both pieces.
I suppose it's because in rewatching the series, I remembered what I think was my first self-consciously feminist moment - and it was in criticism.
There's an episode in season five called "Kill Switch," and in it, a hardcore-sexy techie named Esther Nairn helps the agents and their bizarro associates (the Lone Gunmen) hunt down a big artificially-intelligent eye in the sky that's trying to blow them all up. Turns out it lives in a trailer, go figure. Scully bristles in Esther's presence to the point of being catty, asking of her, "What was your role in this? Were you the bass player?". With all due respect to Kims Deal and Gordon, D'Arcy Wretzky, and Melissa Auf Der Mar, I remember thinking, "God, that's so typical. They've made her all territorial when other women are around." This feature of Scully's character - who could stare a sociopathic serial killer into the ground if he was a he - wasn't a one-time thing. In "War of the Coprophages," a series hilight, she doesn't give a thought to joining Mulder in person until she finds out Dr. "Her Name Is" Bambi Berenbaum is on the scene. Further examples exist; I'll have mercy on more casual fans by not listing them.
In my 'rereading,' I've found more than that to object to on feminist grounds.
This is the character who I still think of when I consider who I want to be as a professional woman. This is the character who helped me understand that there is sometimes reason in faith and madness in everything. This is the character who lived and thrived at the exact point where chaos intersects with order, who was able to find the infinite possibilities within the natural world both beautiful and horrible, who looked at a world governed by chaos and still saw human responsibility everywhere. I believe in the cosmology of this character, very seriously. She gave me the sense, back then, that some day, I wouldn't need to conceal my intelligence anymore,** and also that if you can run as fast as everyone else and are going to be the most competent person in the room anyway, you might as well wear those 3-inch heels; you go ahead and wear whatever you want.
But so many of the character's flaws were heavily steeped in gender stereotypes.
For one, she had a Daddy complex. I'm not referring to "Beyond the Sea," in which her father has just died - that episode is beautiful. I'll even forgive the uncharacteristically teary "Was he ever proud of me?". But he keeps returning, and with each stroke her family life (and its apparent effect on her psykollergy) gets a little more patriarchal - and pathetic. After she returns from being abducted ("One Breath"), at the moment she's closest to death, she has a totally non-sequitur vision of her father saying a bunch of crap that has nothing to do with anything except to present the possibility - assumption? - that the only reason she's thinking of letting go is that she wants to be back with him: "We'll be together again, Starbuck, but not now." No mention of anything she might have unresolved in her life, just a monologue about his feelings for her and then that.
And while I usually wouldn't dignify season seven with a reference, the episode "En Ami" has the single most cringe-worthy moment of the whole series, bar none, which completely reaffirms what I'm talking about here. You know it's bad because in the scene before, her building attendant provides totally unprovoked and irrelevant praise: "She's a great girl - independent as they come, you know, but a great girl." Nevermind what that "but" is doing there, we have a Smoking Man quote to get to.
And I quote:
"You're drawn to powerful men but you fear their power. You keep your guard up, a wall around your heart. How else do you explain that fearless devotion to a man obsessed, and, yet, a life alone? You'd die for Mulder but you won't allow yourself to love him."
Throw in the fact that her brother hates her boyfriend (yah yah, he's not her boyfriend, blah blah blargh) and that putting the star at the top of the Christmas tree is "man's work," and I rest my case.
Other than the Daddy complex, my major complaint about the way the character is written regards those few cases when she does start acting irrationally - and all of them, to a one, are about woman-stuff.
In season four's "Never Again," she begins to wonder if she's being held back by everything she's compromised for Mulder (the premise is appropriate and right), but explores it by maybe-sleeping-with a creep she meets during an investigation and getting a tattoo. Bad girl! (/sarcasm.) The episode ends by showing how much Mulder takes her for granted, but the writers just don't seem to be giving her any more credit than he does. She was always good with kids, right from season one, but after she finds out her cancer has left her infertile and her (suddenly found) daughter dies, the writers played up the children-make-me-vulnerable-and-a-little-over-emotional dynamic way more than was necessary to give the character depth and indicate that the loss of Emily was formative and profound: on the contrary, it was just about drama. Drama that, more often than not, just felt tacky.
I hesitate to even bring up the awfulness that is "Milagro," a season six trainwreck. But I will because it confirms my suspicions about the writers' discomfort with the character's personal side, and helps show the ways I think they did her wrong. I admit that consistent characterization had been all but thrown out the window by this point, but come on. A guy who claims he's a writer is stalking Scully. He leers at her nauseatingly in the elevator (the camera participates - we get close-ups of her eyes, her parted lips) and she leaves all aflutter, unnerved but more than a little flattered. He corners her in a church (having deduced from her muscular calves that she jogs and where her route would likely take her) and she flees, scared but turned on. The episode's 'narration,' provided by Stalky McCreeperson, tells us as much: "But if she'd predictably aroused her sly partner's suspicions, Special Agent Dana Scully had herself... become simply aroused. All morning the stranger's unsolicited compliments had played on the dampened strings of her instrument until the middle 'C' of consciousness was struck square and resonant. She was flattered. His words had presented her a pretty picture of herself, quite unlike the practiced mask of uprightness that mirrored back to her from the medical examiners and the investigators and all the lawmen who dared no such utterances."
Yes, Stalky McCreeperson, please, give me what all professional women want: break through my shoddy respect-wanting veneer and mumble inferior, mock-poetic prose about how much you know you turn me on. Give me a "pretty picture of myself," preferably one you painted, because the real one - the one that I call my life - is just so, you know, unsexy. And definitely move into the apartment next to my partner's so you can watch me more closely. (That happened.)
Eventually they get ahold of the guy's manuscript. Mulder informs Scully that it ends with her doing a naked pretzel. Let's ignore the fact that this means Mulder actually read the entire, graphic, sexy thing, because that's problematic itself. When Mulder dares point out the obvious - that the guy's a creep, probably dangerous, and in this case, probably responsible for a few deaths, she defends him: "Why couldn't he have just imagined it, like he said? Like Shakespeare or Freud or Jung? I mean, maybe he has a gift and has a clear window into human nature."
I seriously resent being asked to believe that such an awesome character could suddenly dissolve into this desperate-for-attention wreck who wants to believe her stalker is Shakespeare and imagines that people who have "a clear window into human nature" look through it and see that nice, put-together girls like her really just need a little intrusion. How funny that you mention Freud - he had some thoughts on this, incidentally.
I'm left with the sense that so much of what made the character of Scully so loveable for little proto-feminist me came not from the writers but from Anderson. The writers knew how to write Scully the professional but not Scully the woman. Sure, she had epiphanies, but the Big Ones, the ones that seized The Truth with a capital 'T,' whether it's The Truth About Aliens or The Truth About The Teliko, were almost always Mulder's. The show itself so often seemed to take delight in setting Scully up to be wrong, getting the audience to roll their eyes at her, and then shove the truth up in her face in the last five minutes of the episode. But in those same moments of revelation, we see Anderson's Scully, and Traister's:
Mulder's desire to believe was so expansive, his credulity so flexible, that it's not as though he was ever going to have either shaken from him. But Scully's surety was solid, stable, rigid; every time she saw something she thought she'd never see, we saw it crack, sparks fly from it. She was forced to question herself, grow, change. In short, she got the better arc, and her journeys were always, by dint of the setup, more intricate and moving.Anderson's, and Traister's, and mine.
Of course, in all of these criticisms, I'm asking perfection as if it's a shame to be merely great. I just wish my Scully hadn't been as under-estimated by her writers as by the institutions they sought to villify.
And somehow I've ended up revisiting another tradition I haven't touched in a decade - spending upwards of an hour on a Friday night talking about the X-Files online. Ahjeez.
I'm 15 again, and I'm seeing "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" in 1 day, 23 hours, 36 minutes.
UPDATE: 1 day, 23 hours, 35 minutes.
UPDATE: 1 day, 23 hours, 34 minutes...
NB: All quotes and episode titles taken from Red Wolf.
*Michael Ondaatje agrees with him and uses a nice translation.
**Let's have the discussion about what it means to be a "smart" young girl some other time.
And also except for the part where I get to passive-aggressively direct browsers to books I think they should read. The new policy, to get me through the day, is to shelve books that I don't like with only the spines facing out and to turn the ones I do like so that the whole front cover is visible. This practice does comply with proper merchandising procedures... more or less.
So, new add-on feature: "Spined and Fronted."
Wendy Shalit, "Girls Gone Mild."
S. Fred Singer, "Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years."
"Gossip Girls": the entire series.
A bunch of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" books.
Marjane Satrapi, "Persepolis."
Tim Weiner, "Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA." (which I'm still reading and loving)
Been a good day. (See also: below.)
Dare we dream? Dare we? It's probably too early to get excited about the judiciary committee agreeing to let Kucinich (glad to see he's keeping busy) and others make their case for holding a full impeachment hearing. Still, I admit, I'm surprised it even got that far. I thought impeachment was just for lying about sex - I didn't realize it could also be used for things like gross breaches of the constitution and lying to the public in order to start wars of aggression (which I think used to be known by another name: treason).
But lest thou, O committee of our hearts
Be phased by the sprawling and unweidly
Dramatis personnae of this long tale,
The team at Slate presents this helpful guide
To who is who and who is on who's side.
On behalf of Canada, may I say
The world is watching, so impeach away.
Only a sucker would let off Gonzales
And you don't want Canada thinking you're ballsless.
Slate's Interactive Guide: Crimes and Misdemeanors. I'm taking this as an apology for not firing Will Saletan.
Iambic pentameter is hard. Leave your Shakespearean plea for impeachment in the comments.
*I'm assuming that this is better classified as a Shakespearean tragedy than a comedy. Of course, at 11pm and 11.30 every Monday through Thursday, I'm reminded otherwise.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Things have been a little slow since I've been home. I culture shocked pretty bad for about a week - every time I saw the colour white I was stopped in my tracks. Any street without pedestrians made me feel like I was living in a post-apocalyptic zombie world. For the first few days, I smelled everything - the Toronto airport, Canadian trees, my house, our car, you. Then, after it faded, I was desperate for days at a time to smell anything at all. I slept poorly, waking up in inky silence. One night, in a groggy half-delirium, I woke up thinking I should be able to hear my heartbeat, but there was just silence. I took my pulse at the wrist. Still there. Slid back into sleep, felt silly in the morning - silly, but also empty.
It's been more than a month since I got back and I've spent it unemployed and claustrophobic. I've been to Montreal and Toronto twice each, looking for company and a new home respectively. I've been job-seeking, emailing, sorting photos. I've done a little reading, but less than 200 pages. Mostly, 've been haunting the house feeling increasingly unsettled and useless.
All of which has reminded me that idleness one of the quickest harbingers of poor mental health... at least for me.
A few big things have happened in the last few days. First, I got hired. It's nothing to be of - just a lousy retail gig, actually one I was offered once in high school - but there's a paycheck coming in my near future. There's no emoticon indicating "sigh of relief," is there? I guess that's because 15-year olds rarely contemplate paying law school tuition and Toronto rent without any savings. Kids these days.
I also had my first orientation day at Osgoode, which feels too much like home for me to accept the nickname 'Oz.' Its homeliness is good and bad. I felt sincerely welcomed and inspired by what I heard, but not challenged.* I know without equivocation that I will eat these words over the next few months, but that doesn't stop the feeling now.
I also found my notes for a writing project I had started dreaming about during the months before I left. I still like it, and it still scares me. So, great. Included: a note from a former co-worker in response. "I think you're on to something." You know, I might be.
Perhaps most importantly, while I was in Montreal last weekend I made a pact with a friend. We both tried to think of something that we knew in our minds that we could do if we worked at it, but which seemed completely unimagineable at the moment. We both needed a bit of a kick-start in our lives, and this seemed like the way to do it. She came up with doing a triathlon next summer. I came up with running a marathon.
This, in 2009, is going to be my marathon. I have well over a year to train for it - enough time to prepare if I work at it consistently, not enough time to drag my feet. I have new running shoes and I've started my jogging training plan. I run three times a week for the next 8 weeks when I adjust my schedule based on my fitness level. By that time, my free York U gym membership will have kicked in.
So far I'm excited and feeling good - about everything. In this spirit, I present a new post tag, inspired by my unspeakable love for Simon Pegg: "Run, fatgirl, run."
All this to say, I'm resurrecting this blog. All previous entries from my India trip are now going to be tagged with "India" and archived. I'm hoping to post substantively at least once or twice a week, depending on how school is going. At the moment, I'm bursting with things I want to talk about - mostly the things I always talk about: politics, pop, and progress.
*Budgetary challenge not included.
Monday, June 9, 2008
So, in the meantime a few Best Ofs:
Best attraction (architecture and culture):
- Taj Mahal (especially at sunrise)
(Honorable mention: the Golden Temple in Amritsar_
Best attraction (nature):
- the walk to Bhojbasa and Gomukh
( mention: the Pachmari hike)
Best interaction with the locals:
- Surya in Jaipur
Most appalling moment (nature):
- the army of leeches, Coorg
(Honorable mention: puppies harassing mother dog, also Coorg)
Most appalling moment (human):
- the men in the van, Mysore
(Honorable mention: the insolent rickshaw kid in Hampi)
Most unfortunate sickness:
- E: "My only symptom of _____ is ______."
(Honorable mention: me in the Thar desert, pursued by sheep)
Best liberty taken under the guise of being in India:
- Ali baba pants
(Honorable mention: chai chai chaiya chai)
- the treehouse in Chinnar
(Honorable mention: not wearing my money belt on the plane)
Coolest place we stayed:
- the lodge over the Nepali border with the big clay oven, the first night of our Darjeeling trek
Finest moment in communication across a language barrier:
- The rickshaw driver trying to teach me to skip stones in MAdikeri
(Honorable mention: the richskaw driver in Dehra Dun who, delighted with my broken hindi, took me to meet his wife)
- not making it to Varanasi
Most persistent catch phrase:
- "Only one way to find out..."
(Honorable mention: "Eh, what are you gonna do.")
Funniest sexual harassment moment:
- to E. in Jodhpur: "Hello, hey! You! You look like Madonna! Too beautiful!"
Most memorable moment of fear:
- having to provide the name of a husband or father on my police report, first day in Delhi
Most memorable moment of joy:
- watching the stars coming out over the That
(Honorable mention: walking in the mist, first morning in McLeod Ganj)
- Gautam's birthday party
(Honorable mention: Hotel Pearl Palace, Jaipur)
Soundtrack to our trip:
- the "RACE" soundtrack
Western cultural artifact I will now always associate with this trip:
- anything by Michael Ondaatje (Anil's Ghost, Running in the Family, or Divisadero)
Most memorable thing said by a travelling-Westerner friend:
- "In 50 years, there will be no more places like this, and it's our luck that we can travel it now. I meet the local people here and say, 'It's the luck of birth.' And they say, 'No, it isn't.'" (man from UK, Pachmari)
(Honorable mention: "No one really cares about McGill." (CDN drug lawyer, Udaipur))
And now you know all my good stories.
Well, not all of them.
See you all soon.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
It's day three of five for me in this stifling city, and I'm bored out of my mind. I've done some shopping, but as I mentioned, all those narrow, windless stalls aren't very inviting in this heat. Neither is the cramped and sun-blasted bazaar. I have planned a nice final day, though, which I'm saving for Monday - get checked out of my hotel in the morning, whatever last-minute buying I need to do in Pahar Ganj, then I'll spend the hot part of the afternoon in the National Museum of Modern Art, which I'm assuming is air-conditioned (this is, in fact, crucial to the plan), and then I'll drift up Janpath and eat dinner at Spice Route, which apparently is one of the finest restaurants in Asia (at which a full meal works out to about $20 CDN). After that, grab my bag and head for the airport. Beautiful.
So who wants to have a beer in a few days?
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Today I've stumbled on a quote from Jean Renoir in a commencement address by Samatha Power: "The foundation of all great civilizations is loitering." (Read the entire, phenomenal, thing here.) Well, I've put in enough of that to start my own nation, and frankly, I see the advantage.
See y'all in Delhi.
Insensitive but Hilarious Bonus:
Headline of the Day:
Cheney Apologizes for West Virginia Inbreeding Joke
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Can you imagine how much free information there is here? I feel like I'm having a heart attack, or discovering the internet again for the first time. This is a really, truly, for-real, god-given miracle. I really might buy an apple laptop now, purely out of gratitude. Steve Jobs needs my money.
Looks like we know what I'll be doing for the rest of the summer!
Of course I didn't just come here to share my excitement about aspects of iTunes that most of you probably discovered 5 years ago. Mostly I came to share my excitement that I bought myself two more days in Dharamsala by swapping my train ticket to Delhi for a much less comfortable overnight bus ticket, meaning I'm still in sunny, temperate Himachal Pradesh and not in sticky, sticky Chandigarh. Meaning it's a good day.
But meaning also that I'm coming to the end of my relaxing shopping from Tibetans rather than Kashmiris (sigh... it's been so nice...) and that I'm already choosing where to eat my last Dharmsala lunch. This town's been good to me.
Alright, so I have nothing to say, and I really did just want to share my excitement about free iTunes lectures. Sue me.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Law student-to-be requires summer job through end of August. PT/FT, anywhere in GTA. Extensive experience in writing, communications, administration, social justice, sales, customer service, event co-ordination, ice fishing, and Sanskrit. Will work for minimum wage OBO.
You may recognize my name because of my more successful brother, Mark...
Have pity, world. If anyone's looking for some summer help, or knows anyone else who is, please drop me a line. Surely someone out there has a restaurant...
Unfortunately, I lost Connie without getting/giving emails, which is too bad. Unforeseen circumstances. David I'm keeping - I'm very happy to have met him. The next time I'm in New York, I'll be visiting. He'll be at Columbia for another few years at least... Ph.D. in Political Economy. Can show me around the city once I get into that NYU program. Cough.
The Yanks took off this morning, so I'm on my own again. Where has the time gone? I only have three days left here before I have to head for Chandigarh to catch my train to Delhi, that stink-hot people-bog. You know, McLeod Ganj is really only about 3 streets about 500m long each, dotted with hotels, restaurants, and shops, and when I first got here, I was happy but couldn't understand how anyone could spend two months here. Now I feel like I could get through that time easily. I ran into Momo again today - the girl I took the bus here with. She's changed her mind, she's staying for a month. She says the community pulls you in. I don't disagree. Everyone here is just friendlier and... better. Just better.
So now I'm thinking: what is it that I'll want to take with me? Something in scarlet and saffron, to remind me of the monks' robes; something forest green, something slightly iridescent. A string of prayer flags, and something in silver.
And something for you!
Sunday, May 25, 2008
There is a small band of white space at the bottom, left (I assume) so that more flags and coins could be added when appropriate. And so, drawn up clumsily in marker and taped to the outside of the glass, are a few more: Turkey, Columbia, and one with no label.
Red background, quarter-circlet of yellow stars around one larger. In rough marker, and the coins are there, this small gesture of sympathy and hope.
I started thinking, maybe there's still time to do all of this right.
Of course you know by now that any time an article vaguely addresses race, you wade into the comments section at your own risk, but if you're feeling adventurous (and have a shovel handy) this one's a doozy. If you go quickly, you can get all the way to page 3 before the inevitable invocation of FREE SPEACH MAN to justify their bigotry by someone who clearly has no idea how free speech works - like how it stops the government from putting you in prison for being an asshole, but doesn't stop your fellow Canadians from telling you to shut the hell up when you really ought to.
Still waiting on one solid example of Canadians being forced to 'cater to the whim of every new immigrant.' They chained me to their golden palanquins and force-fed me rotis, I swear! I didn't drink all that sake till after.... *
Here, I made you all a StupidityQuilt from the comments on that article:
Special asshole mention to Justme7, for this:
This is all too funny. In 100 years the overwhelming majority of people in Quebec won't be of French decent or Catholic - but they might speak French.Dude. I know there's an outside chance he's not talking about immigrants from French-speaking Africa, but.... but I can't think of a way to finish this sentence.
I'm glad the Bouchard-Taylor commission basically told everyone to chill the hell out. (I'm trying not to use the f-word so much anymore, but it's just so hard sometimes.) It's a response worthy of its commissioners, who are both respectable intellectuals.
I would, however, like to draw everyone's attention to one minor point in the article: the PQ, unlike Charest's Liberals and the Dumont ADQ (really? are we still listening to him?), are waiting an extra day before making any public statement on the commission's findings. I know a single day is minor, but this is bullshit. Other than Mario 'the Q is for Quack' Dumont**, the PQ whole has been one happy bunch of mud-slingers in all this reasonable accomodation crap. Fine, it's mostly them agitating for a QC constitution, but what a hideous political maneuver, waiting to see what statements the other parties give first - and, more importantly, what the reaction of the Canadian public is. Shame on them; je me souviens, Mme. Marois.
To sum up:
Yeah! 'zactly. Quebec totally needs a Charter to let all them immig'nts know what Quebec's all about!
Oh wait, here it is, except that it's all full of this bullshit about equality and opportunity.
We need, like, one to protect French Canadians specifically!
*Actually, this situation would be fine with me.
** The quotation marks key isn't working on this keyboard. Scare quotes for all! .... yeah it's driving me crazy, too. Sorry.
Friday, May 23, 2008
I'm amazed by the depth and duration of the freedom struggle. Under immense brutality and oppression, in a country where "legal action" means something very different than it does in Canada, people have been organizing and demonstrating and resisting for more than fifty years. Multiple generations - people born twenty years after the Dalai Lama left Tibet - fighting the same battles, facing the same hostility. I read a first-hand account today of a nun who, with six other nuns, knew what would happen when she planned a demonstration outside her convent in Lhasa: they peacefully demonstrated for 15 minutes, then were arrested, beaten by the Chinese police, and sentenced to 7 years in prison. During this time, she and the others were regularly suspended by the wrists, denied food, kept from sleep, and two of her 6 companions were raped with electric probes. For 15 minutes of peaceful demonstration. 7 nuns outside a convent. Millions of Tibetans, over the last half century, have made the same choice. Millions more have fled their homes, over the highest and most dangerous mountain passes in the world, rather than say (at gunpoint) that they denounce their spiritual leader. Believe me when I say that seeing all of this in photos is much more effective than in writing.
We're all finding our way back into history, aren't we? We lost the thread for a while. The Cold War ended and we weren't sure where we were going. I wasn't there, not really - too young - but it's the feeling I grew up in. All that is different now, or at least it should be. I flatly reject the concept of a "post-9/11" condition - I am one of the many who believe that the rights we should have had on Sept. 10 2001 are no different than the ones we should have today, and by "we" here I mean everyone, everywhere - but if there is a single change in our collective awareness, I think this was it: we got pulled back down onto the timeline, where everyone else was all along.
There was this long period where we thought nothing meant anything, that we could never hurt the world enough that it would come back on us. We were sort of floating in it, and we kind of stopped being able to see each other; these long years where we weren't talking about race, about class, about women or gays, or the uncountable brown people we couldn't name - how passe, to be a feminist, to eat brown rice, how old-school. The few voices shouting in the background, the butt of jokes, the slur returns as a major genre of popular comedy - nigger, paki, faggot, bitch, scheister, hippie - history itself becomes unfashionable, and suddenly that damned prefix "post" is popping up everywhere, telling us all kinds of bullshit we won't see through till later, if we see through it at all.
2001 called bullshit on all of that, I think, and everyone did one of the three things people can do when something seriously calls bullshit on the tidy narrative (or lack thereof) they'd organized their life around:
Some ignored it entirely.
Some dropped off the scene for a bit, staggering, came back knowing they needed to get in this more than they were before - those of us (yes, us, this is me) who hadn't yet figured out how they fit into the big picture realized there was no path they could take that didn't lead them into the center of this clusterfuck, that each step they take, in any direction, is a step forwards through time and therefore towards the culmination of the last century, the sum total of everyone's choices all over the world, and that they better get the fuck in there and start helping out where they can - not to save their own asses, or those of their loved ones, but because it's about fucking time we did. It's just our turn. We got ripped back into history, like I said, and now we know we were here all along, and always will be, so we need to start being smarter about it.
Some, those (often) with the most invested in all those bullshit "posts" - post-racism, post-feminism, post-colonialism, post-communism, post-responsibility, post-capitalism - initiated what can only be called The American Beserk. Here you find, among other things, the Patriot Act and its correlated bullshit, this suddenly renewed (or, I should say, suddenly legitimated) hostility towards immigrants, these mouthpieces on wingnut welfare unleashing this avalanche of crap on the rights of women, gays, minorities. A new, more aggressive phase in the American theatre of neocolonialism dressed up as development, or not: a war that could never be won, paid for with money and lives that will be horribly missed.
Maybe that's what this trip is really about, for me. I've looked around, I see where we are in our history... Canada, the States, Western Europe (to a lesser extent). I feel where I am in it, and I'm starting to see how I fit in, where I can go. And in all directions, I feel live wires tentacling out into darkness, hot pulses of white light sent shooting off every time any one of us moves. But I can't see where they go. Maybe this trip is about being able to follow just a couple of them, out to wherever they're grounded. This is where we are; where are you?
Plus I learned how to embed YouTube video in my blog posts, so, good day.*
*Yeah, I know, you just copy-paste the embed code. Quiet.
You know, sometimes things just come to you. Today, it's phrases, which are going to become blog tags as I (hopefully) keep this thing going as a Canadian politics blog once I'm home.
The first is lifted shamelessly from the back cover copy on an edition I found of Philip Roth's American Pastoral: "the American beserk." Pictured above.
The second is from Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon, who puts so succinctly the question that plagues so many Canadian followers of the more baffling elements of American politics: "What's the evil to stupid ratio on this argument?" What indeed.
She brings it up in relation to the group hysteria and conservative pearl-clutching in response to the California Supreme Court ruling in favour of treating gay people like human beings, and points out (wisely) that the bullshit "states' rights" rhetoric only comes out when the states are doing a better job that the feds of keeping uppity your-minority-group-here's from gaining/keeping the right to thing-thats-totally-legal-everywhere-else-in-the-developed-world-here. This will now be the question I ask as regularly as possible of not-right-rhetoric on both sides of the border. It's hard to know what to hope for, in terms of answers.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I have arrived in Dharamsala, what feels like yesterday but was really at 5am this morning. On the long overnight bus ride from Rishikesh (via Dehra Dun), I met a lovely girl from Austria and an absolutely radiant man who was returning to his adoptive home - he fled Tibet 12 years ago.
I was expecting a heavy Tibetan presence, but this is even more than I was expecting. I've barely seen any Indians since arriving here... the population seems to be almost entirely Tibetans (many via Ladakh), mingling with just hordes and hordes of foreigners, some of whom don't seem to feel like visitors here anymore. The expat community is pretty stable, as far as I can tell.
What's nice here is everything. The people here are by far the warmest of anywhere in India I've been. This morning, waiting in the square for our hotel to open, we bought Tibetan bread and chai from a street stall - and then were offered more, home-made, by a quiet girl in the crimson robes who'd been in a taxi with us, and whom we'd thought couldn't speak English. At 6am I was put into a bare but warm single room with an entirely unblocked view of the Dharamsala valley. I finished Ondaatje's "Running in the Family" with the windows open, smelling the morning fog and waiting for the restaurants to open. At 7 I was wandering the streets, mothers tugging their children along beside me, humanity piled on top of itself despite the stillness. Book shops, chai stalls, long narrow stores full of warm clothes, cafes putting out cakes and sweets I didn't recognize. The smell of real coffee. The valley right there. My mind gone quiet and no pictures popping up of personal car wrecks. A cautious, rich peace resounding around the cavern hollowed out by years of anger and loss.
I think it's too bold a comparison to say that I see a similar peace in many of the people here. Anyway, I haven't felt that fine in a long time.
Breakfast of tsampa porridge with banana and honey (okay, so I wish E. were here) and coffee. The restaurant had a copy of the official journal of the Tibetan government in exile. They are keeping a detailed and, I imagine, invaluable history of their unfolding conflicts; there were 25 pages of newsbrief-short reports of monks being arrested, peaceful protests broken up with big guns, spiritual leaders of communities being subjected to "patriotic re-education," which consists mostly of swearing oaths to China at gunpoint. NGOs informed that their communications with all bodies outside China were being monitored, and that any complaints - anything, actually, other than reassuring the world outside that all is fine, yes, the protests are dying down, thank god, the Chinese are handling it wonderfully - will become the subject of immense legal trouble. I bristled, and remembered an article I read in The Economist a few days ago: China making mining deals with the Congo, its own unprecedented growth, its search for resources sending it everywhere. It now consumes a third of all the world's steel. What are these people going to do?
Bittersweet, being here, but I feel at home. I need to learn how to stare directly at conflicts that seem impossible to win. We all do.
Monday, May 19, 2008
But no. We found a money-changer. No problems, no heartbreak.
This would have been an especially terrible time to run out of money. There's only 1 day left in my Dharamsala countdown! Tomorrow night is my hideous 14-hour bus ride from Dehra Dun. It takes a hell of a place to deserve a 14-hour bus ride on a North Indian government bus, but I think Dharamsala might be that kind of place.
My mom points out via email that I haven't updated in a while. I thought I mentioned that I was headed for a week to Gangotri to do a trek to the source of the Ganges at the Gaumukh glacier. Apparently I didn't.
Well, that's where I was, and it was even cooler than it sounds. I'm taking my sweet time this afternoon uploading some photos, so those of you with facebook can check it out. I'll email the link home as well.
The Himalayas are really something. I'd love to give you more detail than that, but I can feel a teenager's arsenal of hyperboles creeping in. I guess I'll stick to the facts instead.
Gangotri is a small town in northern Uttaranchal which is regarded as the spiritual source of the Ganges. There's quite a temple there. It's about 12 hours from Rishikesh by bus. The physical source of the Ganges is the Gaumukh glacier, which is about 19km past Gangotri. Gangotri is surrounded on three sides by rather large snow-capped mountains from the Himalayan range, featuring Shivling Peak and Bhagirath I and III (all around 6500m). We did a 3-day trek to Gaumukh, resting at the end of days 1 and 2 in the hamlet of Bhojbasa, which is really just a guesthouse and an ashram in the bottom of a valley. We stayed in the ashram. You meet interesting people in those. The kind of interesting that you put in scare quotes.... 'interesting.'
The glacier itself is retreating, now, hundreds of metres per year. As you walk along the trail out to it from Bhojbasa, you pass rocks where people have marked "Gaumukh, 1935," "Gaumukh, 1966," and it's really shocking. When the town of Gangotri was founded (meaning within the last 3500 years), the glacier reached its edge. That means 19km of retreat in 3500 years. In geological time, 3500 years is a heartbeat. That's a mind-blowing amount of change. Additionally: if the markers are accurate, it seems that the vast majority of that retreat has happened in the last 150-200 years. Hrm, what happened 150-200 years ago?
Shameful, and painful. As we sat in the snout of the glacier, we could hear the ice cracking deep in its heart, ripping out through the crevices. Periodically, slides of ice and rock crashed down the side of the ice face. Really surreal.
Anyway. Some difficult travel later, we're back in Rishikesh, and having a recovery day before leaving for Dharamsala.
Up next: Dharamsala blogging!
Free Tibet indeed.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Also: guess who's going to York! The dream of the NYU LL.M. within four years survives!
And, bonus, no further ranting about McGill is necessary.
Now accepting your congratulations.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
Alright, just kidding again, it's not that bad.* But we are surrounded my cloud, which makes it a little hard to tell you what Darjeeling looks like since we haven't actually, really, totally seen it. From the 20-feet at a time that I can see, it looks pretty nice. One half European ski village, one half Nepalese market place.
Again I seem to have ended up with more stuff on my mind that I have time or space to sort it out in. Also I spent like a half hour emailing Cindy, another 20 minutes on facebook, and this internet ain't free. So, quickly:
There is a burgeoning separatist movement in the greater Darjeeling area, wanting to become a separate state (possibly a separate nation... I'm just learning about this now) from West Bengal. I won't even pretend to know the history behind it, but I will say this: there's a pretty clear ethnic difference in the population of this area vs. the rest of West Bengal. Darjeeling feels totally different than the rest of India, which probably comes from its huge Tibetan and Nepalese (Nepali? God, that's embarassing...) population. Names here sound like "Kalimpong." Names in the south of the state sound like "Howrah" and "Malda." This morning, during our breakfast in a hotel restaurant, the owner of the establishment got everyone's attention and told us - loudly - about the blasphemes of a Calcuttan minister who'd just published an article in a major newspaper (government officials in this country seem to have unlimited access to publication in the major media outlegs) about how the Darjeeling separatists are wreaking havoc on the region, with strikes and violence everywhere, and warning tourists not to go there. He asked us to tell other tourists we meet what we've seen here - that there is no violence, that there are small strikes but nothing that stops the tourist trade. Completely surreal. We leave tomorrow morning for our 5-day trek along the Singalila Ridge, but we're supposed to have one more day in Darjeeling afterwards, for recovery. I'm hoping to use that day to figure out what the hell is going on here. Suspect it will take longer than that.
So tomorrow is day 1 of the trek. Day 1 involves 14km of hiking with a total ascent of about 1k. The next day is... well, one day at a time. How about that?
Bengali food is freaking amazing. A-mazing. Too bad our only stops in West Bengal were Calcutta (oops, Kolkata) and here. Tibetan food, apparently, is also incredible. Which brings me to my next point:
Dharamsala arrival countdown: 19 days!
Which brings me to my final point:
It's May! Wish me a Happy Actually Finding Out About Law School Month (Well, At Least York, But Really Who Cares About McGill Anyway, If They're Going To Be Jerks Like That)!
Gonna have to find a snappy acronym for that. Who's for tea?
* It really is dank, though. That part's true. Oh, and about the lack of running water.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
We're in Hyderabad at the moment, killing time on the intraweb until we catch our plane to Calcutta. I'm appalled that we're flying; add this to the number of trains and buses we've taken over the last three months - nevermind the flight to Delhi in the first place - and we've racked up so many enviro bad-karma points that we'll never recover. There's nothing like knowing that you've caused irreparable damage to the place you came to see and appreciate to make you feel like... well, like a spoiled jerk.
And I forgot to remark on Earth Day, which was April 22. We were trekking through the Western Ghats in Karnataka. Thinking back, we got lucky and managed to go the whole day using barely any electricity (no more than two hours of a single light bulb, in the homestay we stayed at that night), if you cheat and don't count the energy that went into making our food. Or the 6 plastic bottles we only reused twice each before throwing them away. Like I said, we'll never be able to atone for the damage done in this trip.
And yet, it's still probably less than the damage we would have done in Canada. Of course that's not what I meant to Earth-Day-post about.
Some handy enviro links:
- your personal carbon footprint here, in relation to global averages and to the world's total resources. how many earths would we need if everyone lived like you do?
- everyday activist, one of the most useful sites on teh web; suggestions for small changes that everyone can make, more or less effortlessly, to improve the way they live. devoted especially to the generations who think they're too old to change now.
- philobiblion, for green politics (plus books and feminism. word.)
- some helpful information about the ideas behind fair trade, its effects on communities and the environment, and fair trade product certification
Alright, enough. I'm just going to feel guilty, and that's that.
Hyderabad is interesting. It's quickly surpassing Bangalore as the IT-tech and financial hub of India, which means a sort of westernization that, as it tends to do in this country, only makes the whole thing seem more fundamentally Indian than it otherwise would. Those unique types of Indian wealth and poverty, of modernization and tradition. This is a very, very interesting time to be in the East.
That said, I think we're all starting to think about home a little more than we have been. Between today and tomorrow, we're saying goodbye to the plains; the rest of our trip will be in the Himalayas, which is a little surreal. We've been on these plains for two months, which I guess isn't all that much time in absolute terms, but has been long enough that it started to feel like it wouldn't end, like this is just how our life is now: moving from place to place every few days, finding a new hotel and new places to eat, things to see. Occasionally joining another pair or group of travelers for a day here and there. But, it's not.
Next stop: Calcutta. We barely have 24 hours there before we get on a (painfully long) train to New Jalpaiguri, where we'll wait out the night and then take another, 6-hour train (of the old-fashioned steam variety this time) to Darjeeling proper. We've given ourselves one day there to put together our 5-day trek, and then we're off along Singalila Ridge. We have a total of about 8 days in Darjeeling, to give us some time to let our sore legs recover and to see the town a bit. After that, S. will be off into Nepal; E. and I are hanging back, E. because she's running out of time, and me because I have no visa to re-enter with. So together we'll be going by bus under the Nepalese border, across to pick up the mountains as they re-emerge on the other side of Nepal, back in Uttaranchal, above Delhi in the West. From there (well, from an 12-hour bus ride from there) we'll be doing a 3-day trek together to the source of the Ganges. This trek features glaciers, which is in and of itself exciting.
All of this may or may not be followed by a trip to Lahaul and Spiti valley, which is a poor substitute for where I'd really like to go: Leh, in the Ladakh region, which is still snowed in an inaccessible except by flight from Chandigarh. And I'm done with flying for this trip. Still, Lahal shares the high-altitude desert, the snow-capped vistas, the strange and barren moonscape. And I suppose that's the point.
Either way, it ends in McLeod Ganj.
I would expect that I'll have time to post from Darjeeling, but I'm not sure whether it will be before or after our trek, making it somewhere between a few days and a week and a half from now. So, be good. My dad tells me you have a (ha!) heatwave coming, up to 22C. I laugh with contempt at your 22C. Ha ha ha, that's my laughter. At you.
It's 41C here. That's without factoring in humidity. The breeze is like having a hair dryer blown in your face. Like outdoor shopping in an oven. Seriously, there is nothing in the Canadian vocabulary that can accurately capture exactly how hot it is here. Don't even get me started on the Madikeri trek. Gorgeous, yeah, but now my sweat valves only have two settings: resting, and pouring like a stuck faucet. Have you ever gone from bone-dry to dripping sweat in under 5 minutes? Because we have.
And yeah, one of these days I'll get a good post in that has some, you know, actual thought content in it, rather than just exposition. But, friends, that day is not today.
Behave yourselves. Everyday Activist can help you do that.
(Addendum: We Move to Canada has a post up about recent good stuff Canada has been doing on the green front.)
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Who wants to help me find a good job in Toronto?
Oh yeah, I gave you a cheap, point-form update on what we've been up to. Well here's another:
- moved states; we're in Karnataka now (if you've looked at a map of India and noted that our travel route makes no sense and never has, you're right)
- Mysore! A palace! Sandalwood and crappy internet! A random guy who groped us! E.'s catlike reflexes in throwing a half-full water bottle at him and asking very loudly what is wrong with him!
- seriously though, Mysore was nice
- the Coorg region, coffee and cardamom plantations, and a two-day starter trek
- kinda nervous about the Himalayas; I'm coffee-shop-in-Montreal shaped, not necessarily 5-days-of-intense-mountain-climbing shaped
- keeping tabs on the Tibet situation, dying to get to McLeod Ganj already
- en route to Hampi, a huge ruined city
Yeah, there's really not much. Let's talk about what's going on on your end.
We Move to Canada is telling me some scary stuff today, among which is the fact that suicide rate in the Canadian military doubled between 2006 and 2007. What's going on out there, Canada? What are all these bills? And what the crap is this SPP?
Information, please! Especially about the SPP.
Seriously, I leave you guys alone for three simple months....
Sunday, April 13, 2008
- sunrise at the southermost tip of India, which was about the time we began dripping sweat
- rode one of these through here
- tata makes tea! who knew? and they couldn't have chosen a nicer place to do it
- finally got the rats (and, we think, bats) out of our abyss-black treehouse in the central Indian jungle at about 5.00am... and then played cards on our mattress on the floor (by flashlight)
- swore never to sleep in a treehouse again
- struggled to find a language to describe just how hot it is on the plains
- nearly stampeded by a herd of spotted deer
- our hiking guide: "be careful, the elephants sometimes run through here"
- ran after our guide who bolted when the elephants we were watching (distance approx. 40 feet) did, in fact, make like they were about to run
- a little bit in love with Kerala
- seriously, it is so hot
- concretized pretty much all of our plans for the rest of the trip.
Here's what that looks like (wikipedia reading a google-image-searching provided by you):
After Cochi, where we are now, we're headed to the Wayannad Wildlife Sanctuary (which I'm praying is at least a few thousand metres above sea level) for a few days. From there, we're going to Mysore, then Madikeri in Coorg (coffee and cardamom plantations in bloom at the moment), then hopefully Hampi (though the heat is making that seem less and less attractive), then cutting across the continent to the Bay of Bengal coast for Konarak, and then a two day (minimum) journey up to the blissful 19C air of Darjeeling. We'll be there for about a week, including a 5-day trek. After that, we're cutting back West towards Uttaranchal to do the three day trek to the source of the Ganges (which also features some West Himalayan glaciers).
That will be about the end of E.'s trip, since her plane is leaving the third week of May. S. and I are still working out the details for the last leg, but I'm pretty sure I know how it ends.
Unfortunately I have to be back in Delhi by the 4th of June even though my plane doesn't leave until the 9th so that I can get my exit visa cleared up. Delhi, by the way, will be 43C at that time before adjusting for humidity. So for the week or so before that, we should be hiding out in McLeod Ganj, the home of the Dalai Lama and the center of Tibet-in-exile. It's also an extremely safe and popular backpacker's haven. To seal the deal, I found a highly recommended three-day cooking course there for Rs600 (about $16) - that's three days for North Indian food, and then you can attend random afternoon/evening courses for South India, Tibetan, and even Nepalese. And it's high altitude, so the temperature will be reasonable. I pretty much can't wait.
Have any of my postcards arrived yet? My faith in the Indian postal service is growing shaky...
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
And, no word from schools yet. Why oh why must I wait to know what I'm doing in September?
Thursday, April 3, 2008
There's too much to really update on at the moment, so I won't. We're getting a train tonight to Varkala, Kerala, from which we'll be headed Kaniyakumari, the southernmost tip of India. After that we're working our way up through Kerala, cruising the backwaters, and then (after maybe 8-10 days) until Karnataka. For the next little while we're going to be super short on internet time, so this is a heads up to all family members that we'll email you as soon as we can, but that's not going to be very soon. S.'s cousin and his friend are with us as well, and having actual Indian people to help out with stuff is... helpful. It might easily be more than a week before we post/email again. That goes for E. and I both.
So, have a great week or two. Wish me a Happy Finding Out About Law Schools Month, it's April.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
It basically talks about how teen girl online diarists are the hot new bloggers (untrue), and how women are, like, totally getting into tech finally so we can, you know, share our feelings and stuff. Totally makes up for the abysmal showing of women in tech jobs. Because we don't want the jobs or the pay or whatever, we just want to express our selves, you know, socially. According to our natures.
And, of course, the article ends with a girl realizing that, now that she's gone to university and made real friends, she can close up the blog, which was just a surrogate for other people.
Luckily it was on MSN, so no one read it.
You may actually recognize Udaipur; it's the city where the Bond movie "Octopussy" was filmed (as about a million signs and restaurants remind us daily). It's got the white palace floating on the lake, etc. Beautiful, but we're definitely getting a little too used to Rajasthan and the northern architecture; we've been here for three days, and only spent one morning doing anything especially proper-touristy (the City Palace). The rest we've just been enjoying the town, which is a little pricy but very laid-back and comfortable for us Western types because it's absolutely overrun by tourists. That's unfortunate - a town this nice should belong to its people - but it is nice to be able to sit on the rooftop in a tank top for a change.
Mostly, what we did here was Holi. I'm going to write a bit more about it in Mumbai (tomorrow) or Aurangabad (the following day), because some very interesting things happened that have got me thinking, and I know I'll need more than a half hour or so to get it out properly. But, in the meantime, a bit about Holi. (Skip the part of that wikipedia article on the health hazards. We did.)
It starts with a huge serious of bonfires in the streets just after sundown on the night before. Stacks of wood, tented together, reach 12 or 14-feet high in small squares (about the size of 3 driveways), and 6-7 feet in the smaller streets. Firecrackers and cherry bombs are thrown into the blaze or launched into the sky. The noise, in a town the size of Udaipur, was tremendous - as was the fireworks display. (Fireworks are legal here and easy to buy year-round because they're used in weddings and on other auspicious days.) Then, a good chunk of the population starts drinking; for most of the residents of a town like Udaipur, Holi is the only day of the entire year that they won't have to work. The enthusiasm is contagious, and there's no argument about it - they deserve it.
Revelry in the streets is over before midnight, but starts again early the next morning. By 9am, the streets are full of people moving in big groups, swarming through each other. Everyone you pass, you say "Happy Holi" to each other and throw a handful of coloured powder (or water) over each other - sometimes you put it directly on each other's faces. Sometimes hugging follows. The result is an incredibly congenial, hilarious atmosphere in which you can't stop laughing and end up with colour in your mouth as well as everywhere else. People are almost unrecognizeable - after about 20 minutes I could only pick out the other people in our party by height and stature, as even our clothes were so covered in bright colours running together that you couldn't tell what they originally looked like. My skin is still stained in a lot of places (all visible, unfortunately), and my clothes are absolutely ruined.
All of which is fine, because it was so much fun. S. and I went out with a couple we met from Toronto named Aaron and Marion, who are maybe 10-12 years older than us but very fun. (Bonus: he's a criminal lawyer who loves his job, and loved law school, and wasn't a jerk in the least. There's hope!) We'll post photos once we get them from Aaron, who was the only one brave enough to bring a camera into that mess.
There were some tourists who were not loving it - which was maybe the most hilarious part of all. Every once in a while you'd see some sour-looking European in khakis and a white golf shirt lurking around with an expensive camera giving death stares to anyone who approaches them with powder. Imagine coming down from your hotel into that chaos - just a huge mob of people greeting, throwing colours and paint everywhere, hugging, laughing - and expecting to be left to yourself on the sidelines. It doesn't work like that. Like I said, there is no solitude in India - and definitely not on Holi. Did I mention there were people walking around with drums, stopping when they met other drummers to play together, and people came running from the sidestreets to dance in big groups wherever they were?
All of which has reminded me that joy can get you through a lot. Again, I'll save some of the details for a longer, later post, but the last few days have been extremely instructive.
Gordon, a British man we met in Pachmari who has been coming to India for 15 years, said over and over again that India is the great teacher about humanity, and that whenever you start to get it wrong, India will correct you. That's certainly what's happened here. Just when I've had all I can take of touts and aggressive salespeople and everyone trying to squeeze every penny they can from you, staring at you, talking about you, and giving you wrong information, you meet a young shop worker who stops you with a glance and all but closes up his shop to sit and talk with you - and then refuses to sell you anything. That's what happened the day before yesterday, to E. and I., when we were out in the market. A man named Surya (appropriately, he's named after the sun) started the conversation the way most touts do - "From which country?" - but ended up being so sweet and so interesting that we spent a few hours with him drinking chai and talking Big Ideas. He grew up in an ashram in Kerala, but when he was in his teens his guru told him he needed to see the world before he would understand anything. So she gave him Rs. 2000 (about $50) and sent him on his way. Ever since then (about 10-15 years ago) he's been moving from place to place every few years, working two jobs for 11 months of the year and then using his 12th to travel around India. He had a really interesting perspective on the world. Although astrology is Not My Thing, he was talking to both E. and I about our signs and whether we match with them (it seems like everyone here takes astrology very seriously), and suddenly got very intense about needing to read my palm. He told me a pretty good story. A lot of it was familiar. With these things, it's not so much about the accuracy or inaccuracy of what people can tell about you; it's about paying attention to how you react to the news. Your own response can be highly, highly instructive. Mine was.
(Actually, this is the second time a relative stranger has singled me out to read my fortune for free. The first time was years ago, and it was helpful too.)
A wave of goodwill can carry you for a long time. I'm hoping mine carries me through Mumbai, but I'm dumping it there, because I have things to do and some serious business to write about. As always, the last few days weren't all rainbows, and I think there's some big shit brewing here. Holi, joy, and the British travel warning released last week about Goa - and, for good measure, how all these remote things on the other side of the world help shape how we perceive our communities at home.
Be good, all.