Saturday, July 30, 2005

Did you know?

19% of women think about sex every day or several times a day

54% of men think about sex every day or several times a day

76% of graduate students think about sex every day or several times a day

97% of graduate students trying to meet a deadline think about sex every day or several times a day

Source: The Kinsey Institute

Friday, July 29, 2005

Radio, radio

In case you were wondering why commercial radio sucks such ass. May you rot in a hell of your own making, you greedy, tin-eared bastards...

Quotes of the Day

"I’m an ignorant art brat." -- The Hipless Boy

"In matters of the heart, I am little better than an eel." -- D.

"Research has found that monkeys display a level of empathy, which puts them higher on the evolutionary scale than Karl Rove." -- Bob

"Man, if you can get off for only 69 cents, you're doing pretty well for yourself. . ." -- Khansahib

"For once I am going to spend my money on something more concrete than a hangover." -- Septima

"It's been 3 months - I need a man.
Oops! Where did that come from?" -- Maz

Thursday, July 28, 2005

I miss radical fairies

They were wonderful: a faggle of beautiful, young boys who lived at Kathedral B. They wore skirts and had pink and purple hair and did colossal amounts of drugs, which seemed only to enhance their sexual appetites, which were already nearly insatiable.

Sex, for the fairies, was an affectionate gesture. If you liked someone, you had sex with them; it was as simple as that.

And what sex they had – in every room of the house and on the front lawn and in the park across the street, in twosomes and threesomes and often more. Once, at least, they had a fairy orgy on the roof, which they videotaped and turned into a safe-sex film. I think I still have a copy of it somewhere.

Nicky was my favourite. He was seventeen and had come to Toronto from out east the year before, when his father beat him to within an inch of his life because he was gay. He was still missing a front tooth, which made him seem even prettier.

I called Nicky my kitty-cat, because he would curl into my lap and let me play with his hair while he looked up at me and talked about all of the things he had done that day. Looking back, they were all of them cats, forever lounging and stretching and purring as the days passed slowly around them.

What I liked most about the fairies was that they genuinely liked women, even though they didn’t have sex with them. I never discerned revulsion just under their words as I have with old queens, for whom the female body is merely a whipping post. No, we were mother-sisters to the fairy boys, with bodies that were as deserving of pleasure as theirs.

There are no radical fairies in grad school, which is a crying shame. It’d be so much more fun if there were.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

On courage

Last night at the Copa, Alice said, having recently read de Beauvoir, that men know how to impose their will upon the world. They used to, I think, but far less so these days. Or were they always bluffing?

Still, it seems that women are so much more afraid, and Alice is full of fear. It’s never good enough, she’s never good enough, she doesn’t trust her competence or her talent. She fears that even her body will give her away.

We don’t trust ourselves because maybe we’ll fuck it all up and prove them right.

Rashid can’t understand it; he has absolute faith in Alice and doesn’t recognize her fear. He pushes her and she fights him for the space to be afraid. He tries but he can’t understand. She is driven to defend herself against his faith in her.

I see both sides of the argument.

I said to her: “He believes in you. Let him.”
I said to him: “Let her be. She’ll come into herself in time.”

She will. We all do. We reach a point where we are so retchingly sick of being afraid that we run straight at it, half-blind with desperation. We reach a point where we don’t care anymore because anything, even failure, is better than the endless, cramping fear. We impose our will upon the world as a measure of last resort, because we will suffocate if we don’t.

Walking home in my summer dress, I wondered which I am afraid of more: failure, or paralysis? Which is the bigger dog? I wondered this as I walked alone at three ‘o clock in the morning, wearing next to nothing, fearlessly.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Gone shopping

I apologize for the absence of posts in recent days. Among other things, I have been shopping.

As some of you know, I have been looking for a summer dress since the first heat wave descended upon this city in June. Until today, I have had no luck at all. None. I have found evening dresses, cocktail dresses, work dresses, even prom dresses, but nothing that any woman in her right mind would want to wear on a blisteringly hot day.

Today, I found a summer dress. In fact, I found three. One is green with yellow flowers and has buttons down the front; the second is red with thin little straps; the third is blue and white and as sheer as rice paper. The total cost of the three dresses was nineteen dollars, and every one of them fits me.

This is nothing short of a miracle.

Having procured these dresses, I intend to wear them every single day until fall arrives. I will wear them around the house; I will wear them to work; I will wear them while biking to various destinations and not think twice about doing so. In fact, I will revel in the faint evening breeze as it acquaints itself with every inch of my body, and if that same breeze momentarily displaces the skirt of the dress as I ride, then I will laugh uproariously at my own indecency and keep on riding.

Wearing these dresses, I will never sweat again, even without air conditioning. Air conditioning? I don’t need no stinking air conditioning—I’ve got summer dresses! Heat wave? I can take everything you’ve got and more, Environment Canada! Forty-one degrees with the humidex? Bring it on, motherfucker! I’m a Montréalaise in a summer dress, and don’t you forget it!

Now, if I could only find a decent pair of sandals...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Obsessing

If
that boy
in the open linen shirt
instead of walking past
turned
and came into the Café
where I was sitting

And if
he sat down beside me
not across
but beside
and leaned in a little
so that I could smell him

And if
he put his hand on my knee
under the table
where no one could see it
and smiled
as though he had planned this

And if
he walked home with me
and came inside
waiting
as I locked the door behind us

And if
he followed me into my bedroom
and removed his linen shirt
revealing
a secret tattoo
and a playground scar

And if
he came close enough for me to feel
what his chest was like
and his hips
and that just below

And if
he lay down with me
on the unmade bed
displacing the cats
and my books
(without noticing)

And
if
he drew his knee up
between my legs
and kept it there
holding his place
as he bit down
hard. . .

I would tell him to go home
because it’s too fucking hot.

Monday, July 18, 2005

On love

From a conversation on Notes From an Exile:

"The only cure for romantic love is actual love."

Froggie-style

Nantel

If you have a thing for frogs, monkeys, or exquisitely beautiful insects, check out the Costa Rica pages on Andre Nantel's Digital Apoptosis. Breathtaking stuff.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Weekend Edition

My apartment is insufferably hot, I am slightly nauseous from the iron pills I am taking, and I have PMS. In other words, I am in dire need of a laugh.

And here it is. Get those credit cards ready, boys--you're going shopping!

In related news, Montreal is a finalist in the “Most Fetish-Friendly” section of Gridskipper’s World’s Sexiest Cities competition. Berlin is presently in the lead, so get voting, people!

Finally, this, apparently, is what European parliamentarians get up to when their constituents aren’t looking, which explains a whole lot. Tee hee.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Work

I spent almost eleven gloriously air-conditioned hours at the union office today. It was my favourite kind of work day, which consists of intense bursts of hyper-focused activity punctuated by languorous smoke breaks taken on the small, metal fire escape that services the office window.

This rhythm of work—and it is very much a rhythm—can only occur under certain conditions. To begin, it requires absolute solitude; for the time that I’m there, I need to feel that the room is wholly and completely mine. Secondly, it requires equally absolute silence; though I love music more than I can describe, I cannot listen to it while working. Thirdly, it is entirely dependent upon the fire escape, which not only facilitates cigarette smoking but the periods of reflection that are the hallmark of the habit.

In this way, my work time is clearly demarcated: action/reflection; tension/release; forward/back. In musical terms, it is the distinction and interplay between pushing and dragging the beat, a phenomenon that is based on a difference of microseconds, if that, but which nevertheless transforms the perception of rhythmic flow. A great deal of the art of jazz, and most R&B, resides in this small acoustic space.

Harkening back to yesterday’s post, it has become increasingly clear to me that one of the primary reasons that graduate students in the humanities are so woefully unproductive—and let’s face it, we are—is because we are given no physical space to work in. Science grads, as I have recently discovered, are given offices as part of their studies, which may or may not contain computers, internet connections, and phone lines, but which almost always come with a key. It is a space that is theirs but is not home, one that provides both the physical and temporal boundaries that delimit the sphere of work, and which grants de facto recognition of what transpires there as something that has value.

By contrast, we humanities types grab space wherever we can get it: at a library carrel, if we are lucky and one is available; in cafés, when our apartments are too hot and we can’t think straight anymore; on bus and train rides to other destinations. Mostly, though, we work from home, the place where we do all the other things that make up a life, the things that define a space as not-work. Where is the distinction? Between one part of a room and another? Between different times of the day? To use another musical analogy, you can’t get rid of the bleed: that is, the echo of other instruments when you’re trying to isolate one sound on a track. When sound bleeds, you can’t bring one element up in the mix without bringing up the others--you can’t demarcate sonic space, which means that you can’t control it.

I find myself coming back to Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, and to the notion that work that is considered to have social value is accorded a separate space. Women’s work, in this sense, is that which occurs in the undifferentiated space of the home: as such, it is not recognized as work. The humanities apprentice, who has become in many respects a feminized worker irrespective of their individual biology, suffers from the same lack of differentiation, and from a similar lack of acknowledgement of the intrinsic worth of what they do.

When the chemistry student dicks around with a formula for most of a day, even if it ultimately fails, he has still clocked in a day of work that is recognized as such because it occurs in his conferred work-space. When a philosophy student reads a part of a text, wanders away, reads another text, thinks about the second text for a little while, and then comes back to the first, all in her small kitchen, she has not clocked in a productive day at the office. In fact, she is perceived to have done nothing whatsoever of value until the moment that the process is defined, not within a space, but as a product: i.e. an article, a thesis, a book. Without the product, she might as well have been doing laundry.

Yes, we need a room of our own, or an atelier, or our monk’s quarters. Dibs on the one with the fire escape...

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Unsolved mysteries

Miraculously, I did not have a debilitating hangover today, just a slight fog behind the eyes that dissipated soon after waking. As it turned out, James’ birthday celebration was an entirely civilized affair, and, since he forgot to invite people until just before eleven PM, quite an exclusive one. In any case, James has successfully reached the age of thirty-four, a feat I hope to replicate in several weeks time.

I have heard nothing from my mother or my brother since Saturday, which is probably just as well, as it allows me to maintain the illusion of distance. I have spent a lifetime learning how to keep my family at bay, a skill I have by no means mastered, but which I have always instinctively understood to be essential to self-preservation. At least, that’s what my therapist tells me. She has had less to say about the raging currents of guilt it causes, but I’m hoping we’ll get to that.

To belabour the point, why is it that every graduate student on earth, or in the humanities at least, eventually winds up in therapy? Is it because the university functions as a homing beacon to the congenitally fucked-up? Alternatively, does academia drive otherwise happy, well-functioning individuals to the brink of despair? Whatever the cause, it seems that we are all writing, or not writing, the same PhD thesis: “Self-Sabotage: Personal Discourses of Extreme Negativity and the Denial of Satisfaction.[1]

Obviously, I am stuck on chapter one: “Procrastination.”

_________________

1. Oblivia. “I feel the heat.” The Public Ineffectual. http://thepublicineffectual.blogspot.com. 05 July 2005: 1.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Later

As an update to yesterday's post, I have no further news to report. I listened to the message my mother left this morning, emailed my brother, then decided to ignore the crisis for the rest of the day. As I am continually reminding myself, if never quite accepting, there is nothing I can do.

Someday, I will write a book about my relationship with my mother. I say this knowing full well that the last thing the world needs is another literary product about someone’s relationship with their mother, but there you go. If nothing else, I can provide assurances that it won’t happen anytime soon.

In other news, it is James’ birthday tomorrow, or, more accurately, today. In either case, a debilitating hangover looms.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Late

My mother called tonight, with the news that my brother is in the hospital. It is impossible to know what happened, but as she tells it, he had been severely beaten and required five stitches to close up a wound around his right eye. She wept hysterically as she told me this, and vowed to seek revenge.

It is impossible to know what happened, except that it only ever gets worse.

I consider the possibilities. Did he attack someone first, believing them to be a threat? Or did someone beat him up for the hell of it, without provocation? Or, did something else entirely happen to him, which my mother paranoiacally interpreted as an act of violence? I wonder how he makes sense of whatever did occur, and if he is afraid.

I called my father immediately afterward, knowing that he has already given up. He moves to Sarnia on Monday, where he will attempt to salvage some sense of peace from the last years of his life. This is what he wanted to talk about tonight—what might still be good, not his unrecognisably damaged son.

I force myself to think about what’s good. Last night with James. Today with Arit. An email from Matthew. A phone call from D. Ivan in my lap. Simone waiting her turn. The Arcade Fire CD. Montreal in summer. Dawn breaking.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Again

From our colleagues at Metroblogging London:

The Persistent City

60 Years...

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

This week in spit and bile

First, a hearty fuck you to the Ontario Supreme Court, which has coldly rejected a bid to soften Canada's student-debt bankruptcy laws.

Then, an equally hearty fuck you to CBC bureaucrats for pulling the plug on Radio 3 and for threatening to retool the legendary late-night program Brave New Waves.

Finally, a fuck you too to research scientists who think that the complex spectrum of sexual orientation is reducible to that which can be measured with a pair of electrodes.

Anyone else suddenly need a drink?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Storm

The day is as hot and wet as soup and the rain isn’t cooling it. I am trying very hard not to be afraid of lightning, but I still flinch every time it flashes.

The cats are curled up in their fur and oddly still; none of us eat when it's like this. Everything is on hold as the rain comes down in thick, dark sheets.

I’ve always been afraid of lightning, though I’m better than I was. I’m not afraid of heights or snakes, and I actually like the sensation of flying. I used to be afraid of fast cars too, but for some reason I’m not anymore.

I've just noticed that my street is completely flooded. Cars move through the water like speedboats, pushing tall waves onto the abandoned sidewalks.

The rain isn’t stopping. I was going to go out to buy bread but I don’t think I will now. I’ll just stay where I am and wait it out.

God, it’s a strange summer this year.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Dear Sir Bob,

I hope this letter finds you well, and that you are getting some much needed rest. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t bother you so soon after an historic musical event, but I watched the network broadcast of your Live 8 show yesterday and felt I had no choice but to write to you immediately.

Before I begin, please know that I have had a crush on you since I was eleven years old. In fact, you are at least partially responsible for my taste in men, which is a cross I have unfortunately had to bear ever since.

In any case, I both respect and am attracted by what the New York Times churlishly calls your "hectoring tones." I, for one, do not doubt the authenticity of your moral indignation, nor do I take issue with your equally sincere desire to effect change. That you choose to express this desire in language befitting a drunken sailor only adds to my swooning admiration.

Nevertheless, I must protest the events I witnessed last night. To start, there is the matter of the show’s opening number, which was cringe-inducing both for its use of Beatles impersonators as set pieces and for Sir Paul McCartney’s embarrassing inability to reach the notes that the song he penned nearly forty years ago still requires.

Then, there was the spectacle of Will Smith leading the crowd in a sombre game of finger-snapping, which was intended to illustrate the appalling rate at which African children die of poverty, but which rapidly deteriorated into a stadium ritual that evoked all the radicalism of a seventh-inning stretch.

Then, there was the much anticipated reunion of Pink Floyd, the band that dedicated its long career and even longer albums to the humanitarian principles of narcissism, nihilism, and bacchanalian self-indulgence. That the guitar solo on “Money” actually kicked ass in no way negates the previous statement.

But then, as I squirmed on the brink of despair, you yourself took the stage and addressed the crowd as a twenty-year old video clip of children dying in Ethiopia played on the screen behind you. The mass fell silent as you dutifully harangued, reminding them that African children are still dying today and that cynicism is not an option. And then you brought one of those starving children onto the stage, the child now a grown, healthy woman, and as she smiled shyly beside you, you raged, “Don’t ever let them tell you this doesn’t work!”

And my god, in that moment all was forgiven: the jowly old rockers and the clueless movie stars and the shameless spectacle of it all. Miraculously, you pierced through a thousand layers of bullshit with a thrust of your finger and, for one remarkable nanosecond, the spectacle threatened to mean something.

And then you fucking blew it, Bob. You handed the young Ethiopian woman off to Madonna and she just stood there, glancing nervously at the crowd while the pop star made show with gospel choir in full throttle behind her. That’s when I noticed that the woman had been holding a microphone the entire time she was on stage but that she never once spoke. She just kept standing there, frozen, like some kind of humanitarian kewpie doll as the pop extravaganza blared on all around her. And then she disappeared.

You must admit, Bob, that it was awful, and that, despite your best intentions, you inadvertently replicated exactly the global power relations that you are seeking to change. I can already hear your snarling retort—that the end justifies the means—and frankly, in this case, it probably does. If this week’s G-8 summit results in a meaningful shift in economic policy on the part of the world’s richest nations, then it will all have been worth it. Even so, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the searing contradiction that resides somewhere between the one and the other.

In closing, I trust that you will take this letter in the spirit in which it is intended, and I hope that we will soon have cause to celebrate. And, for what it’s worth, I’d still have sex with you in a heartbeat.

With love and in solidarity,
Vila H.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Au revoir, D.

D. left for California today. I imagine she’s there by now, after a night without sleep and a very long flight. I hope she’s sleeping as I write this.

We had planned to get together for a drink last night, which almost certainly would have led to a bout of furious chain-smoking; several impassioned rants about politics, grad school, and/or relationships; and at least one of her legendary drive-thru tarot readings. What it likely would not have occasioned was a proper goodbye, which I suspect she would have deftly avoided by ducking into a cab and speeding away.

As bad luck would have it, we didn’t get to have that last drink. Instead, D. spent her last night in Montreal cleaning, packing, and dragging garbage bags down four flights of stairs to her building’s dumpster, which she was still doing when I called her at three ‘o clock in the morning. We talked for a little while and I wished her luck, but we still didn’t say goodbye. When I woke up today, I found the email she had sent me at 5:03 AM. It consisted mostly of swearing.

As she has written about extensively in her blog, D. did not have an easy time of it in Montreal, and only weeks before leaving the city she succumbed to depression. I know that she’ll be okay but I worry about her just the same, in the way that one does with people who don’t like to be worried about: that is, gingerly, and never without a sense of humour.

When we hung out last weekend, I gave D. a copy of Arcade Fire’s Funeral, which I hope, eventually, will remind her of the good things about her time here, even if a far greater number of things sucked ass. Listen to it loud, D., and call me when you can.