Thursday, August 27, 2009


I'm starting university in a couple of days.

When I wrote nothing more than 'university is..." in the Google searchbox, the results it displayed were overwhelmingly negative. University is a waste of time, university is useless, university is bullshit, and so on.

I've been hearing this sentiment for years, spanning decades of thought and opinion. For example Bukowski spent about one year at higher education: "The only damage they did was to your mind", he wrote although that isn't verbatim. And he wrote much more in his courses than what was expected and was considered an A-grade material student, yet he dropped out. I don't see him as the be-all-end-all of literature but he does write the occasional good line of poetry. Hey, everyone loves him.
I remember my first year of university at the U of Manitoba, how my Economics professor joked that you'd only be able to get a worthwhile job if you weren't in university, and the whole class though they knew their degree would guarantee them a dream job, or as though they went through the System and knew the time/money (because they're one and the same) put into university would have the biggest payoff...Were they right to laugh?
When I worked as a dishwasher in Ottawa I clearly remember a fellow employee of mine lamenting how post-secondary education was a money-grabbing waste of time - and he was in university...
I mean the real secret to success is that (spurred on by a quote by a former American president - Coolidge?) what really matters in the world is how much guts you have...

For the arts? Universty is a waste of time for the arts, of course. Even moreso for writing. I mean I should've realized that people want youthful artists to create MUSIC- and they want people who are older to be their writers. It's futile to even try and be yourself and not conform to what everyone believes by writing. If I'm not conforming to what everyone else believes, how do I expect to have any appeal? Do I think I'll be so immersed in the 'other side' that people will actually care and try to live vicariously through me?

A writer needs experience in order to write. You can't gain experience in a classroom. Just like the best way to interpret art is to be in front of the art yourself (instead of having someone tell you what it's supposed to mean), the best way to write about life is to experience life itself rather than have a teacher tell you what you're supposed to infer from what a writer inscribes. "Go back to school, little Starling."

After all, that's what one of my professors once told me: that the author's intention is irrelevant, and only your opinion of the text counts. Barthes, anyone? "The death of the author is necessary for the reader to make sense of the text", he wrote. But when I created Disassociation, I wanted people to bring up their stereotypes (both negative and positive) of Arabic people and re-evaluate them. To realize that the Arabic person walking down the street actually might not be a terrorist and not agree with terrorist values, and could be their own individual person. And just as importantly, for the young Arabic person to understand what their belief in blind violence could lead to...Do my intentions push my novel into the 'useless trash fiction' category of writing, since they aren't supposed to have any value? And more importantly, does my lamenting of this problem onto the Internet somehow undermine my future? Did I ever have any future to begin with? Would anyone even think to themselves, "I want to broaden my perception of Arabic people and not think of them in a stereotypical fashion?"

...So with all this weight against me and my writing as I get ready to start another year of university, I really don't know if the money and effort I put into York is going to be worth it in the long run. So let's have another chastising comment tell me the opposite!

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I'm not above reading any children's literature, but it's usually only the literature that I enjoyed as a child more than a decade earlier, and it consists solely of my old Tintin books and the Bone cartoon books. Lately I've been reading my Tintin books again. I have them all except for Tintin and Alph-Art, and the original Tintin in the Land of the Soviets.

When I was eleven I first heard that Herge, the creator of Tintin, was affiliated with the Nazis. And he did work for the newspaper Le Soir which was under Nazi rule, and he did believe during that time that the Nazi regime was going to establish world control. I don't think that he was anti-Semitic or fascist, but there are theories supporting those thoughts.
I've noticed for awhile that some of the Tintin books don't exactly portray Arabic people in a positive light. For example in The Red Sea Sharks when the Emir doesn't fully express sympathy for African slave-trading; Tintin says it's horrible, and the Emir responds 'Er...yes...' as if he's implicitly taking some part in it as well. Pretty strange.

And on the subject of African stereotypes...When I went to New York for the first time I visited a comic book shop and was surprised to discover Tintin in the Congo, a book I'd never even heard of before. Yet to this day I haven't read the whole thing because of how stereotypical the book portrayed African people. There's a scene where an African fails at doing something and Tintin responds "I'll show you how a real man does things", and that pretty much turned me off from the rest of the book. Tintin doesn't talk like that.

I know that some Tintin books refute stereotypes though, such as The Blue Lotus which clearly disputes widespread European beliefs about the strange practices of Chinese people, such as women dumping their babies in rivers. But it seems Herge was advised to refute these stereotypes, rather than doing it of his own accord...

And Herge should've given credit to his whole staff and not just put his own name (which is actually a pseudonym) on all the books.

I admired Tintin so much as a kid that I went to the Tintin Store in Montreal with my mom once and bought a Tintin watch and a couple of books. And when I read The Beach by Alex Garland I found his discussions on Tintin pretty cool (he also references the series in The Tesseract with the Karaboudjan and in The Coma with the word puzzle).

And even though I plan on buying the Alph-Art book, I still find the realities behind Tintin a taking larger and larger presence.
That's adulthood.

And no, I don't plan on seeing the movie. Why aren't there more original movies being created rather than remakes of what was popular in the past?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Time after time.

Things I appreciate nowadays:

1) My cat Grvslv making a soft 'mah-mah' sound (hence the above photo, which I'm reluctant to put up because it's not the most masculine image. But I think it's funny, who cares.)

2) The songs Time after Time (Cyndi Lauper, also not the most masculine) and Nighttiming (Coconut Records).

3) Receiving a pair of winterfresh scarlet red OG DC Kalises in the mail that I bought off eBay for $20.50. I'm so proud of the adjective 'winterfresh'. In fact, I'm going to copyright it. Wait, gum companies already use it?

4) The good weather here in the Toronto area, and the strong sunscreen I've been using to keep it at bay.

5) Random pieces of information. I passed a golf course on the way to my apartment building this evening and saw a golfer playing in the dark...and he was using glow-in-the-dark golf balls. I had no idea. I can just imagine the connotations between a glowing golf ball and a shooting star start to arise, most likely in golf magazines. Golf.
And I found out today that Spam is actually an acronym for Shoulder of Pork and Ham. I don't eat pork, and I'll never eat Spam in my entire life. But this factoid is interesting due to how it's a contender for the most useless piece of information I've ever come across. No offense, but I just don't like Spam. Sort of like a certain Monty...

Simple pleasures...for a simple mind? I don't think so, contrary to popular belief...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Famous photos.

These are images by photographers whose work I've pored over in public libraries.

By Don McCullin.

By David Plowden. Industrial Landscape is one of my favourite photo books, although this particular image isn't from it.

Both photos by Yousuf Karsh. He took multiple portraits of Albert Camus. In one of Mr. Karsh's books he shares personal anecdotes about his subjects. Although it wasn't during the above picture, Karsh asked Camus what he thought of the growing Arabic world (Camus was Algerian). Camus responded simply by saying that the Arabic world had a long way to go...
...Simple doesn't necessarily mean devoid of thought and intelligence.

I remember hearing a certain reason why people hold their hands to their head while posing for photos. I can't remember what it is offhand but I'm guessing it's because it makes us look more thoughtful and therefore more intelligent. I heard cosmetically it can give us a tiny 'facelift' and compliment our features...
...I'm not sure if it goes deeper than that, though.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

That poem by William Carlos Williams - the old woman (the narrator's mother? I can't remember) who says she's grown tired of seeing trees...

...This came to my mind when thunderstorms were tearing up the sky this evening, and I enjoyed seeing thunderbolts connected like veins on my hand suddenly flash in the dark sky...

The thought came to my mind that I've always enjoyed seeing lightning. And then the Williams poem came to mind. After that, I wondered if I'd grow tired of seeing lightning in my old age.

Internet watchdogs trying to pinpoint the interests of their target demographic please take note.
As well as other writers who steal ideas.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The News.

Today I read in the news about Ronnie Biggs, one of the main criminals of the Great Train Robbery back in 1963. He's getting released from prison due to his ailing health in his old age.
The article I read described the robbery as 'daring'. At its end, it explained that Ronnie came back to England after escaping from jail and traveling the world, finishing off with his quote of how his 'last wish was to enter a pub as an Englishman and buy a pint of bitter'.
The article seemed to portray Biggs as a rapturous, whimsical ne'er-do-well with a wink in his eye, swooping down from a staircase and catching your woman along for the ride, leaving her breathless and exhilarated and stealing her away to exotic locales with his large fortune he acquired from his gutsy adventures you would never attempt to try, so timid are you. A real man, this Biggs - grown up from his days of bullying others at school and making all the girls secretly swoon, wanting to tame and change this wild Alpha Male.

So, fine. Sometimes I feel like I exist only to be ridiculed and/or imitated, as people respect and admire criminals and those who use others.
"You're his servant now".
"I lose interest in a man as soon as he begins to care for me."

Codes, games.

The boxer Arturo Gatti committed suicide recently and one of the speculated reasons was his problems with women.

What follows is a true anecdote. I was on the bus about a week ago and behind me were two elderly women talking about the affair with Arturo Gatti. I hate eavesdropping but I forgot my mp3 player and they were loud. One of them mentioned how Gatti's wife was plotting the whole thing.
"Women are evil", this elderly woman said. "My son had to deal with his wife divorcing him and taking his things..." She kept repeating it. "Women are evil". "Women are evil, my son had to deal with..."
One of Gatti's family members was quoted as saying "Even if he had problems with his wife, there were at least twenty other women waiting in line..."

There was a terrible shooting in Pittsburgh a few days ago and my condolences to everyone who was harmed by the tragedy.
The shooter had a website and on part of it he wrote about his long sufferings with women, which I think authorities believe was one of the reasons of his violence. He ended his website by saying "Death Lives".

Suicide and violence. I would never consider either.

"It doesn't hurt as much when you're young".
It will never hurt that much.

"Writers are the loneliest people in the world", Anais Nin wrote in her diary.

What can I say? I need a woman in my life, but aside from that?