Friday, September 3, 2010

BNN Blocks Chrystia Freeland's Cleavage

Summer's gone. Now it's back-to-school time. More tenured profs teaching two seminar courses on Willa Cather, picking up $130,000 for their troubles. More PhD students pretending that Roo Borson's worth even seconds of a healthy life. This year I'm lecturing on Thackeray and Marguerite Yourcenar. I don't know who the hell she is either, but no one'll pick up that course. The carrot moment happened when the university advanced me $5,000 to head out to a Yourcenar conference in South Africa. That's government-funded cash, baby. Your money. I plan on spending two grand on the trip and a thousand on a weekend in Vegas where the other 2K'll go on the Green Bay Packers to win the NFC North.

I'm not even prepping for my courses. About a week ago I saw an older prof. carrying a box of research on Lord Durham's Report, and the life just drained out of me. Now I'm watching the TSX stock ticker almost endlessly.

Chrystia Freeland was on BNN a couple of days ago. She was wearing a plunging v-neck top and was obviously bra-less. Freeeland's head of something at Reuters, and she's not a bad-looking woman. Here's a picture. Anyway, she was showing a ton of cleavage, enough to keep me interested in the interview with Paul Waldie. Then BNN threw up some electronic text block that completely obscured Freeland's chest. It said something like, "Dow down in August." And that little message stayed on the screen for minutes. Every time that Freeland was shown, the message popped back up. They'd go to Waldie and the message would disappear. Then back to Freeland and up it came.

Freeland has nice tits. Inappropriate or not, that's my conclusion. And this is the kind of post that I really enjoy writing because having already Googled "Chrystia Freeland and tits" I know that no one else is out there digging into this kind of message. Every time that I write something about Atwood I get angry emails from semen-less men and women who never saw a menstrual cycle complaining about how Atwood's an artist and a writer and a beacon of hope. Okay. But do I get people talking? Damn right.

So now Freeland has an admirer. When she goes to Yahoo or Infoseek or whatever site she uses and types in "Chrystia Freeland" this post'll be right there. And is there a better compliment that a man can pay than recognizing good cleavage? That's sure as hell better than being told that you teach The Tragedy of King Christophe better than any other ABD student.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Nadeen Boman's Breast Implants; Every Jay McInerney Book Stolen

Summer's here, and everyone knows what that means: a four-month paid holiday courtesy of a SSHRC grant. Ordinarily I'd feel guilty about taking your tax dollars, but my old SSHRC money went to break a car lease and pick up a new 2010 Jaguar XJ, so this new SSHRC cash is tucked into my pocket, later to be dropped on a craps table at Fallsview Casino.

Fuck. Have you glanced at the competition results from this year's SSHRC offensive? This is truly a glimpse into the mashing of priorities that stick the honest working-stiff in a Regent Park apartment where mentally ill tenants piss and shit in the stairwells while the gov. cries poor. Seventeen grand to Kim Havens for her dissertation, "Resistance Themes in French Postcolonial Literature for Children." Seventeen grand to Jessica MacEachern for her dissertation: "Eyes roving over an empty hog's skull: poetic perceptions of constructed neutrality." Seventeen grand to Adrienne King for her dissertation, "Edith Wharton and existentialism: a reconsideration of Wharton's milieu." Seventeen grand to Erin Julian for her dissertation, "Dangerous boys: the performance of female communities in Ben Jonson's Caroline drama."

Outrageous. Absolutely outrageous.

I know that I'm being an asshole about this, but it's just another kind of investigative journalism or self-loathing. Call it either. You know that if you make twenty grand a year and you need a root canal you're stuck pulling out that tooth with string and a doorknob. But if you're a grad student the gov./CUPE'll basically re-build your body from scratch as long as your paper on Wooff's Harbinger Farms shows some progress. I remember sitting through a CUPE meeting where some SSHRC recipient was bitching over the fact that CUPE's provider wouldn't cover her condom costs. The system's been fucked for so long that no one should be surprised when tenure turns into a memory, and profs aren't earning $140 K/year for teaching two seminar courses.

So that just shows you where my mind's at right now. It's the reason why I've been watching so much TV. And is anything more habit-forming than shows where young, attractive women try to lose weight? Chief among those: Bulging Brides, and The Last Ten Pounds Boot Camp. I love this Tommy Europe character. Here's a personal trainer with a 100% success rate; a guy who takes an overweight chick off her couch and six weeks later has her running a ten km sprint up a mountain. The other star of the show's a nutritionist named Nadeen Boman. Now because I'm so into this thing and have watched dozens of episodes I've noticed something completely unimportant and maybe even perverse: Nadeen has a new chest. The first season she was wearing camo. tops and earth tones. Suddenly she's Ms. Cash--the woman in black. And not just black tops; I'm talking about black everything. Black tights, black tanks, black cardigans, black sweaters. She could be pregnant and you'd never be able to tell. But every so often she turns to the side or the light's just right and it looks like her breasts are much, much bigger. As far as I'm concerned, that's amazing. I have no idea whether it's just an optical illusion, but that's just my guess.

As far as the McInerney goes, I went to a university library to pick up some Jay and it was all gone. The online catalogue said that the books were all shelved, but every single JM book was missing from the stacks. So, because I felt like it, I took five or six Foucault texts and shelved them around the building, on different floors. Maybe that's crazy, but it'll really piss off some too-literate grad. students looking to show how Dungo "controls the discourse" in Matt Cohen's The Bookseller.

If only they had a wood-burning fireplace.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Contest: Recommend A Good (New) Canadian Novel; Win An Autographed Copy Of The Handmaid's Tale

I was in the library yesterday, and a friend was sitting on the floor surfing a purse blog. The purse blog, which is located at was running some kind of contest in which readers could win a purse or a clutch or a wristlet or whatever women use to carry their phones and a VISA. She told me that contests are huge, and that all good blogs use them to attract readers. This isn't a "good" blog, and readers keep trickling in despite the lack of content, but in the name of fairness I'm willing to hold the first Canadian literature contest in which entrants may actually win something of real value: an autographed first edition of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. It's my least favourite book; I think an incredibly self-indulgent fantasy that doesn't read well and just isn't very good.

So why do I have it? I was at Atwood's place a year or so ago and she was carting out a few boxes of junk. Only, in Toronto, there are certain things that the city won't pick up. You clean out your basement or garage, put the stuff on the curb, and the garbage haulers'll laugh at you as they stop, pick up one bag or one box, and leave the rest behind with an orange or green sticker to let you know that you're fucked. Then you find that the city's policy of conservation and carbon footprint reduction is really about not letting you throw anything away.

So Atwood was tossing the boxes and asked me to carry one to the curb. I said, "They'll never take this; it's a box, and it's too heavy." She said, "Well, they're just books. They'll be recycled." I opened the box, rooted around, and they were all copies of Atwood novels that I guess had been issued as promo copies. She was tossing them. They were all autographed. I said, "Why are these all signed?" She said, "Practice." I said, "Yeah, but why's this one addressed to Beverly?" "I like the name."

So Atwood hones her signature on first editions. And she likes the name Beverly. Who knew.

Here's the contest: The first person who recommends a good Canadian novel published within the past five years wins the book. No catches; it's that simple. Just comment on this post, recommend a book, and if I like it you win.

Or, the first person to send in a nude photo of Rudy Wiebe wins all of the books: autographed first editions of every Atwood novel published to date.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Notes From The Canadian Literature Symposium 2010

Every time that I abuse this site by, say, not writing anything for two months, I come back and find that more and more people are being directed (by Google) to posts about Margaret Atwood's yeast infection, Alice Munro's African dildo collection, or just a nonsense time-wasting post on how Rudy Wiebe loves honey-whole wheat bread. I'm not sure what that means. Maybe I should write more? Maybe I should write less? Maybe Atwood and Canesten are teaming up for a campaign. God only knows.

As a segue, I'm at the Canadian Literature Symposium at the University of Ottawa. The CLS is an annual thing that, essentially, gets Canadian literature scholars out of the house for a few days. Universities pay the tab--as they always do--and we sit around and talk about Yvonne Johnson or Todd Babiak for a few days. We eat celery. Then we go home and read the New York Times on the 'Net. I think I've pretty much captured it exactly, but maybe a little more detail would be helpful. Especially since I know that some if not all of the participants will Google their own names in the next three weeks and somehow be drawn to this post.

Yesterday Pauline Johnsnon, who died in 1913, was compared to Lady Gaga. Obviously, the comparison was strong. Johnson was a performer; she read poetry, chanted, and gave no-hands blow jobs. Seriously, Johnson created her own identity, was a little mysterious, and danced a bit. And she gave no-hands blow jobs.

What else is happening out here? What's coming up? Today Brooke Pratt and Erica Kelly are presenting a paper on teaching Malcolm's Katie in the modern classroom. That should be interesting. I know that Isabella Valancy Crawford is a polarizing figure on university campuses. There's a lot of controversy there. I've taught two seminars on Crawford, and the consensus was that everyone hated her work--found nothing redeeming at all in it. But I guess that she's still dutifully kept alive on a syllabus somewhere. F.P. Grove's still cool though.

Joel Baetz is going to talk about Helena Coleman. I like Joel, so I'll be there.

And, of course, we're gonna hear about T.C. Haliburton and Archie Lampman. I'll have my copy of At the Mermaid Inn ready, but the cover'll be wrapped around a copy of Richard Ford's The Life of Irwin Bierbraer.

Is this conference the least useful, the most wasteful, the pinnacle of esoteric knowledge-grubbing of the past ten years? I'm obviously a bit ashamed that I can't say anything substantive about nineteenth-century Canadian literature scholarship, but I'm so exhausted by its heavy, heavy tone that for the next day I'll just float around and try not to be depressed by the frequent and dizzying use of "discourse," "aesthetic," "ideology," etc. I feel like we're all huddled in a cave obsessively protecting something that no one wants.

Anyway, I think that the verdict on early-Canadian literature scholarship's been delivered. Given that a SSHRC grant for Haliburton studies is about as likely as finding a technicolour photo of Jane Rule fisting Judy Garland, the subject's closing fast. Scary or not, no one--and I mean no one--knows who the hell William Wilfred Campbell is.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Melissa Lee Hates Gary Kaminsky

Quick shift: It's RRSP season, and time for some portfolio planning. Yeah, academics own stocks: give someone a $100,000 SSHRC grant and they can buy-write 'til tenure. So I've moved away from the life of T. Mann to dig around other interests: my band of LEAPS. Now that Amanda Lang's on at 4:30, I can watch Fast Money and the L\OE. And Fast Money is percolating. It's getting hot, and it's getting ugly.

This has nothing to do with Canadian literature, but has anyone noticed the raw vitriolic hatred popping the liquid crystal diodes of TV puppetry whenever Melissa Lee and Gary Kaminsky are with a scent's distance of each other. The garlicky Kaminsky and his onion-everything bagels are now well under Lee's skin. Lee, a fair Harvard grad. with the emotional depth of a plastic spoon, just wants to stab this man with vituperative lyrics--Hit 'Em Up, maybe--'til his silk ties unravel. You can see it plain as Najarian's black-pepper border braid. ML's a mean robot of a person, and she ain't used to the rugged individualist-Sammy Glick. At Harvard the circumsized ones all wore Zegna and wintered in West Palm. GK was there, but he was eating Strub's kosher pickles.

It's amazing how Lee--the most glib personality on TV--reacts to Kaminsky--the clear winner of the global ego contest once contested by Peter Schiff, and Charlie Gasparino. But Kaminsky's just clobbered them with grammar (like PS and CG, his favourite pronoun is the royal we) and his almost-unbelievable conviction in determinism. It's like Nostradamus lives in GK's mezuzah. While Schiff and Gasparino--both huge pricks--are guys who'd grunt their displeasure if, while behind you in line, you ordered a rye and delayed them unduly by asking to have it sliced, Kaminsky seems like the kind of person who'd hit you with his boat. While I can't be sure...well, Christ, I am sure that if GK were behind me at an advanced green, he'd lean on the horn as soon as the verdant photon packet hit his retinae. And probably a second before.

Last week I was moved to knee-slapping joy when Kaminsky launched himself onto Fast Money via telephone to congratulate everyone for their prescience re: Lloyd Blankfein's sub-$100 million bonus (it turned out to be $9 million in stock). As Kaminsky rambled on, praising "we" and "us" for the guess, Lee's ocular fluid dipped below the freezing point. Finally, enough: "Gary, that was your call." Right. He said "We," didn't he? He is "We."

The man had been on earlier in the week pounding the table re: Lloyd's bonus. In fact, it was almost as if he'd read it in a burning bush. No one else really offered an opinion, and Kaminsky made it clear that he owned the call. Then he had the balls to come back for a curtain call? Even Tim Seymour's hair shifted uncomfortably on that one.

Karen Finerman, the Jewish WASP of the panel, seems almost horrified by Kaminsky--as if he's crawled out of the shtetl thrusting a huge salami sandwich at her. You see, pre-Kaminsky, Finerman was Fast Money's token Jew. I know, odd for a Wall Street-focussed show. But, like Shawn Green, Finerman was the Jew who'd play on Yom Kippur. So no one really knew or cared. But Kaminsky's changed the whole dynamic of the show. Just watch. If he's there long enough, he'll elicit the Jew out of Finerman, start asking her how her seder was, and she'll flip. Though she always looks like she's dying, Finerman's reactions to Kaminsky are shocking: if she sniffed any louder as he passed by, I'd be tempted to look for an arm band. Maybe red and white with a funny equilateral cross bent at right angles. There are some things that you just know: GK eats pickled herring in the green room, offers Finerman a chunk and some horseradish, and Finerman's memories of Beverly Hills cheder just come rushing back in horrible Semitic technicolour.

The rest of the guys: Najarian's too caught up in FCX to care. Adami's transparent--you can see his jaw tightening. He could go Rickles at any moment. Terranova's the same way, but he's a classic narcissist: as long as GK stays away, Joe's happy with his Clinique pocket compact and Glitzy Glam emergency survival kit.

Oh...Jeff Macke. If Jeff Macke were around, we could really have some fun. Before he was spanked off the set, non-disclosure clause in hand, Macke was the resident cynic/comic/human being. Everyone else was courtesy of Ann Taylor and the Vineyard, but Macke was a guy who'd eat a hot dog and like it. Macke would lose money, then talk about it. GK sticks his finger down his throat pre-show just to get those stories swirling toward the Hudson in cast-iron pipes. As good as Adami can be, he's slippery as hell. Macke was honest as pine. Macke vs. Kaminsky vs. Ratigan, and--Unclie Miltie or no Uncle Miltie--you'd have a Friar's Club Roast. A Berle-Stang showdown that'd have me waiting for Joe E. Lewis to smack someone.

Just wait for the bloodshed. It's coming.

As for my RRSP: I think I'm going to buy SU and sell the Jan '11 $34s.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Michael Ondaatje Is A Prick; He Deserves Bulldog Coffee

There's a coffee house in Toronto called the Bulldog Cafe. They make great coffee. The coffee is excellent; only don't ask for coffee. Ask for a latte or a Cafe Americano.

It's a great place to sit and get treated like shit. I went in there a month ago and ordered a coffee. I don't know the history of the coffee bean; I have no idea what happens to coffee when you release its essential elements and add hot milk. But I have a friend whose avowed homosexuality keeps him anchored to Church Street despite the impossibility of finding parking for his Lexus SC430 (his summer car) and his Lexus RX350 (his winter car).

Last month that friend and I went to the Bulldog to have a drink and maybe talk for an hour. It was an experience only few TTC riders'll ever have. I ordered a latte and tried to pay with a twenty. The guy behind the counter looked at me like I'd just vacuum-aborted octuplets in his revolving door. "Don't you have any change?" He asked/spit. The bill was $8.74. I didn't know that I had to travel with a coin purse just to avoid merchants thumbing a quarter and a thin zinc cent.

"No, sorry," I told him.

Then he thrust the latte at me. I thought that I was going to have to catch it. It's the first time that I've ever had someone say, "Here!" and simultaneously hand me a scalding drink.

So I sat down with my friend, and we talked. It took about ten minutes to finish the latte. Then we got the eye. The guy looked at us and said, "Well, this isn't a library." Really? Then how'd you explain the guy in the corner using a copy of Green Grass, Running Water to give himself papercuts on his glans?

I said to my friend, "Let's get the hell out of here." And as we got up to leave, someone yelled at us: "Clean up your cups!"

What the fuck? What kind of antebellum plantation did we wander onto? At any moment there was a risk that we'd be asked-told to tote dat barge or lift dat bale. I told my friend to run if he didn't have time for a brief middle passage. And he's a skin doctor who was on a lunch break, so clients would be upset if he turned up, say, three months from now in South Carolina. To the counter help: Clean up your own goddamn cups. You own the place. You've got people working for you; though I know that they'd rather be watching Friends episodes streamed on Ninjavideo.

Then something happened that made it all worthwhile: Michael Ondaatje walked in. No one recognized him, but I'd seen him in that suit a hundred times. He walked to the register and said, "Give me a coffee."

"Aren't you going to say the magic word?"

And then Ondaatje just walked out. Turned around and walked out. Later that day I saw him in a Pizza Pizza on Wellesley. Ondaatje's the kind of guy who needs his ego stroked. And maybe his balls too; I don't know. Though I've heard stories.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Wisdom Of Alissa York

For a vanity CanLit blog this thing has some devoted followers. I don't know why. I'm actually starting to question my literacy; I write a post and wonder if blogging's inimical to the horrors of academic writing. Must be.

But I was thinking, maybe the reason that people read this thing is that Canadian writers are so...private, and Canadian literature fans are so devoted. But they never meet. Maybe a few signings and readings help to provide a personal fix. If you like Michael Redhill, it's not like you can meet him at the Sunset Grill. You wait years for a novel to come out, you read it, then you wait for the next one. But all the while Redhill's writing, reading, cooking dinner, grocery shopping, and you'd never know.

So here's something that Alissa York said. You Alissa York fans'll enjoy this. And I guess I'll get to Redhill and Pyper and the rest of them. They're all articulate people, and sometimes they say interesting things.

Like York (to a guy in a red sweater): "Do you ever watch a porno right to the end? Sometimes I do. I want to see what happens. Usually, you can guess."
All Posts On This Site Are Intended As Juvenalian Satire. If They Veer Into Horatian Satire, That's OK Too. Just, Please, Don't Take Them Too Seriously. PhD Students Can't Afford Libel Suits. CUPE Doesn't Cover Court Costs.
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