April 2005 Archives

The trend continues

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I feel oddly compelled to post today, if only because posting today will continue the pattern into which I seem to have fallen...

So, just to make it worth your while:

Brief reviews

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Mark Haddon
This is a great book, with a compelling narrator who is so realistic that people have been fooled into thinking that Haddon himself is autistic. In fact, Haddon did work with autistic children, and he obviously has a good writer's gift of observation.

In brief, I laughed, I cried, etc., etc. Mind you, I bought the book primarily because (a) I had heard things, (b) it had a neat cover (I know, 'don't judge a book by its cover,' but really, who among us doesn't? It works as a metaphor, but actual books can definitely be judged by their covers.), and (c) the title is an allusion to a Sherlock Holmes story, 'Silver Blaze.' Yes, the book was great, but there was a significant lack of references to Holmes, although there was a curious incident, in the night-time, involving a dog.

Definite recommendation.

Read another review of this book.

The Jane Austen Book Club
Karen Joy Fowler
I've been trying to remember which book this book reminds me of (aside from the obvious parallels with various Austen novels), and I can't! The premise is that six people - five women and one incongruous man - form an "all-Austen-all-the-time" book club. The women are of various ages, marital statuses and sexual orientations, and each one hosts one of the six club meetings.

Fowler manages to incorporate enough nuances of Austen characters into her own to let you know what she's doing, without the echoes drowning out her own story. After all, as 'Bride and Prejudice' demonstrated, Austen's characters and themes are universally recognized, if not universally experienced.

As any good Austen story, there are plenty of giggles, if not guffaws, and a few sardonic narrative grins. The narrator is the most interesting facet - this is a first-person narrative, but plural - "The six of us - Jocelyn, Bernadette, Sylvia, Allegra, Prudie and Grigg - made up the full roster..." So the implication is that the narrator is part of the group; however, the narrator's identity is never revealed. Every member of the group is discussed in the third person. I spent the second half of the book playing process-of-elimination, trying to figure out which of the six could "be" the "I" behind the "we."

Recommended, especially if you've read an Austen or two, and even more especially if you liked 'em.

Read the NYT review.

Shake Hands With the Devil
Romeo Dallaire
(not smiley appropriate)
Ok, here's the thing. I feel morally obligated to read this book. This book is well-written. This book scares the bejeezus outta me and I cannot open it right now. I've managed to read up to the end of the first day following the explosion of the President's plane. I know what's coming.

This book is an exercise in frustration. Every step of the way, Dallaire details the attempts he made to avert what was increasingly inevitable.

This book is a tear-jerker. I was sobbing by the end of his preface, for goodness sake.

This book is, above all, terrifying. The human race can be a cold, bloody-minded monstrous thing. Dallaire writes about a military observer's visits to Rwandan schools about a month before the genocide began:

"At one school, he noticed the teachers undertaking an administrative exercise: they were registering the ethnic identities of their pupils and seating them according to who was Tutsi and who was Hutu. This struck him as bizarre, since children in Rwanda were not require to carry identity cards. As he visited other schools, he discovered that the same procedure was taking place. We mistakenly assumed that this was just another example of ethnicity at play in Rwanda."

Recommended, but be prepared to feel compelled to hug small children at random.

If you have time, there's a transcript of an address by Romeo Dallaire to the Carnegie Council, as well as tons of other material - both pro and anti-Dallaire - widely available for perusal.

A poem

With not which put will something
Bea Arthur Braff Zach the and Churchill
Teflon Maggie that windshield wiper
Are one fluid
This now washer
Out wanted stars
For every photos naked Winston
Male Canadian McDonnell jokes
Montreal Ikea blades pictures
Wonderbrella review
Duck life monkey
You can tire
Women
Mans.

The first 50 key words from which search engines find this site. Inspired by Lisa.

Definitions from the Robert Dictionary

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Robert was helping me unload the dishwasher yesterday, and I asked him to put away the cutlery. He looked at the contents of the dishwasher and said "that's the furniture you use to eat, right?"

Is it just me?

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Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVILeslie Nielsen

Ratzinger is, as I see it, a safe choice - he's European, but he's not Italian (nor is he Jewish). He is conservative, but probably nowhere near as conservative as the various Latin American candidates. He was close, professionally and personally, to Pope JPII, so there are no radical changes - good or bad - looming. As Michel points out, he has some questionable entries on his CV, but as Bruce counters, these should be taken with a grain of salt.

Most importantly, he's 78. That's 20 years older than JPII was when he was elected. Benedict XVI is not expected to last.

He's the rebound pope.

Query

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If Lustiger is elected, will "is the Pope Catholic?" still mean an emphatic 'yes?'

And the world waits with bated breath...

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1. Jean-Marie Lustiger (France) 4 - 1
2. Claudio Hummes (Brazil) 13 – 2
3. Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini (Italy) 7 - 1
4. Joseph Ratzinger (Germany) 7 - 1
5. Francis Arinze (Nigeria) 15 - 2
6. Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga (Honduras) 10 - 1
7. Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Argentina) 10 - 1
8. Dionigi Tettamanzi (Italy) 14 - 1
9. Jose Da Cruz Policarpo (Portugal) 20 - 1
10. Keith O Brien (Scotland) 20 - 1

The latest Paddy Power odds on the Papal election.

As you can see, former favourites like Arinze and Maradiaga have fallen off the top three in favour of Lustiger and Hummes. It's no surprise that the number three spot is an Italian; after all, as my Mum pointed out, there hasn't been an Italian pope in over 25 years!

Hummes, who is Brazilian, is the politically correct choice, given that Brazil is home to the largest Catholic population on the planet.

Lustiger is an interesting choice - he is European, which is obviously an advantage in terms of maintaining a Euro-centric upper echelon. On the other hand, he is Jewish by birth - don't get me wrong, this is not an anti-semetic statement. After all, the central figures of worship in Catholicism, Jesus and the Virgin, were both Jewish. But for generations the Vatican has rejected candidates from places like Africa and South America because these places were 'converted,' which means that its Catholics were somehow not the "men of God" that the papacy requires. So, y'know, a Jewish Pope? Personally, I think it's cool; I'm not sure it would fly with actual practicing Catholics.

On the other hand, some claim that a Jewish Pope is inevitable, according to various prophecies. Some prophecies indicate that the next Pope is the last Pope, too. Interpreters of these prophecies are divided on a few issues, including whether or not John Paul I 'counts.' None of the prophecies mention a Scottish Pope, unfortunately ;)

Perhaps it's sacreligious of me, but I keep picturing Kermit the Frog, trenchcoated and microphone in hand, outside St. Peter's Basilica...

Willkommen! Bienvenue!

I'm just home from my very last College Teaching class - after the class, we went out for supper. Over the course of the meal, it was revealed that I am a blogger, and several of my classmates asked for my url.

broccoli.jpgWelcome!

You'll note that the previous entry is my fifth journal entry - the others are also available, as are a couple of other reflections on this course. Just go to the Learning Curve section. If you're interested in my faculty page, there's a link in the sidebar (that's the list of links over there <== ) under the 'Stuff for Students' heading.

Well, it's been a great semester (it feels a little weird that our semester's over when there's still a month of teaching left). I look forward to seeing you all, whether at the play next month, in phase II of the course, or elsewhere! Don't forget to eat your broccoli.

When the teacher becomes the student

This semester I resumed the role of student for the first time in (mumble mumble) years. The experience has affected my teaching on two levels: first, through the actual content of the course, and secondly, through the experience of being a student again.

The content of the course has changed my teaching in a number of ways. I thought it might be useful to refer back to our course outline for the final journal entry – so I did:

Where's Buffy when you need her?

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Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the roommate from hell.

via Davezilla

His Holiness, Seabiscuit IX

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Now that it is an ex-pope, betting has started on his successor. The front-runners so far are an Italian, a Nigerian and a German, which makes it sound like the set-up of a really un-PC joke*.

<<Update, April 6 - the Honduran has come from behind to upset the German!!>>

Also, if you're looking for more ways to rid yourself of the root of all evil, you can place a bet on the next papal name. Unsurprisingly, the top picks are John, Paul, and John Paul. The odds are definitely against Sixtus, and Urban is also a longshot. Bettors should be aware that "in the event that two names are chosen dead heat rules will apply."

*perhaps involving a Volkswagen.

Are you talkin' to me?

Sporadic activity, thy name is blogging

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Early morning thinking is overrated.

Here's the scenario: something wakes me up - a small child, a snoring husband, or demands for attention from a cat who is capable of producing a remarkable amount of noise, given her overall smallness. Despite my best efforts to stay asleep, my brain turns on and random thoughts start to cross my mind. Getting back to sleep becomes more and more hopeless, until I give in and get up.

So here I am, at 5:38 a.m. on a Saturday morning, updating my blog, waiting for the coffee to finish brewing, and watching the Pope die.

A sampling of the random thoughts:

~ Most of us have seen that picture of Terry Schiavo, captured from a family video this summer. Yesterday I saw, for the first time, a picture of her before her brain was damaged. While I do feel for her parents, I still feel that theirs was a hopeless case, and that Ms Schiavo's death is a release from a non-life. Now that I have seen how beautiful and dynamic she was before, I cannot help but feel a certain amount of outrage that this past decade and a half has only ensured that she will be remembered as a pathetic inhuman lump, rather than a vivacious young woman whose life was cut short.

~ Reading Dan Brown's Angels and Demons has, as it turns out, been educational. As I keep this morbid Pope-watch, I realize that I now know more about the relevant terminology and ritual that I did a few months ago.

~ Are these guys serious, or what? (Thanks, Irene)

~ If the paper has arrived, it's not too early to be awake, right?

~ I am not usually a pre-dawn TV watcher. Is this really the kind of advertising that goes on at this hour? Also, can one become a professional musician whose specialty is sad TV muzak?

~ Or a graphic artist whose specialty is TV backgrounds for similarly emotional occasions?

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