Monday, December 31, 2007

End of Year Reading List

This past year, I decided to keep track of books read just because. And also because reading stimulates the mind, and I think its important, as academics and non-academics, as people who love to read, to try and keep up with.

I figured I would include books I actually finished for classes as well, cuz really I did have to take the time to read them whole, and most of them were pretty good, so why not...Though this list certainly does not include all the numerous journals, essays, articles, and chapters I've had to read for school...then it'd be considerably longer...muahahaha...

I'm also including the MUCH MUCH shorter list of graphic novels...

While my list isn't terribly long, it's more than I thought I could get in between working and going to school.

To a literary 2008!

Legend: *--book read for school

And in no particular order: Books in 2007

The Lovely Bones--Anne Sebold
Middlesex--Jeffrey Euginedes
Halfbreed--Maria Campbell
Stone Butch Blues--Leslie Feinberg
Past Due--Anne Finger*
The Loss of El Dorado--V.S. Naipaul
Player Piano--Kurt Vonnegut
Slapstick--Kurt Vonnegut
To the Lighthouse--Virginia Woolf
Witches of Eastwick--John Updike
Brideshead Revisited--Evelyn Waugh
Rendezvous with Rama--Arther C. Clarke
Mostly Harmless--Douglas Adams
A Perfectly Good Family--Lionel Shriver
Breakfast of Champions--Kurt Vonnegut
The Fire-Dwellers--Margaret Lawrence*
Beloved--Toni Morrison*
I Don't Know How She Does It--Allison Pearson*%
We Need to Talk About Kevin--Lionel Shriver*%
Vagina Monologues--Eve Ensler*%
The Good Body--Eve Ensler*
Of Woman Born--Adrienne Rich*
Waiting in the Wings--Cherri Moraga*
God Bless You, Dr. Kervorkian--Kurt Vonnegut
Eats, Shoots, and Leaves--Lynne Truss
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix--J.K. Rowling
The Colour Purple--Alice Walker
The Rez Sisters--Tomson Highway
Baghdad Burning--Riverbend
The Crone--Barbara G. Walker
Women and Social Transformation--Judith Butler, Lydia Puigvert, Elizabeth Beck-Gershiem*
Politically Correct Bedtime Stories--James Finn Garner

Graphic Novels:
We Are On Our Own--Miriam Katin
Late Bloomer--Carol Tyler
The Job Thing--Carol Tyler
The Little Man Comics--Chester Brown
Chicken With Plums--Marjane Satrapi
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home Vol. 1--Joss Whedon and Georges Jeanty

Happy New Year, witches.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I'm Not A Grinch But...

What do you get when you add being broke + picky teenagers/kids to shop for + a feminist ethic in regards to what you are buying?


Seriously! I hate Christmas shopping...

This witch hails from one large-ass family and this year we decided out of mercy on our credit card debts that we would buy only for the kids this year. That still leaves me with eight people between the ages of 19 and 1 1/2 years old to shop for. And an extremely tight budget. Not easy. Especially as I realize that the older these kids get, the less I really know about them. What the hell do I get for these kids?? And when did I start to become the distant aunt?

I saw things that I know I would love to get for Christmas. But then I remembered that I'm the "strange" aunt, so I ended up second-guessing everything I picked. Then I would get really frustrated, because, FUCK, why can't the thought count just as much as the actual gift? Christmas shopping really kills my holiday buzz. Thank god/dess for vodka.

Then of course, because I'm on a budget of $20 MAX per kid, I wasn't left with a lot of great ethical options. I've found decent gifts in that price range before at places like the Gap, but my conscience wouldn't let me do it this year. I can't shop at BabyGap and hand-over gifts of sweatshop origin. But shopping so conscientiously doesn't leave me with a lot of options when a witch is poor.

*And I'll bet you anything that I get a Gap shirt this year under the tree too. Sigh.*

I also don't want to promote gender stereotypes by giving my six and seven year old nieces all the pretty and pink princess merchandise they so crave. But all they want to do is bask in pink princess-ness!

Oh wait, I've just been told they've outgrown all that. Now they're into "Hannah Montana" and "Zoey 101", the latter starring a now-pregnant teen. And I only know of these shows because of such gossipy smut (I fucking LOVE gossipy smut--secret shame revealed)! If it were Degrassi, at least we could all look forward to a poignant, honest, straightforward addressing of the issue with a message that I would be willing to support with a cheesy keychain purchase. But it's a Nickelodeon show so probably, it will get swept under the writers' table. Still, I must walk into stores that make me feel old in my mid-twenties by being tailored to the Hilary Duff/Avril Lavigne brands of "individual" style. I suppose I should be happy that its not the Britney-style over-sexualization of children that's all the rage.

None of this helps me with my Christmas selections.

What's a witch to do...

Well, I did this:

For Julian (19), I bought him some warm house slippers and a Portugal Soccer toque. He's getting comfort this year.
For Dane (17) and Erik (16) I bought them a copy of Maus I and Maus II respectively, that as brothers, they can swap. My sister told me that though they're not big readers, they do enjoy war literature, and I love that book, so therefore I shall command them to love it too.
For Adam (12) I bought him the first volume in the Scott Pilgrim series. He's into video games and anime so I thought Scott Pilgrim, though neither, would be a relatable but decent break that doesn't undermine his age.
For Abby (11) I bought her a Lenore collection called Noogies. I love the Lenore comics, they have a dark sense of humour that she will appreciate (I hope and also command) plus the drawings are great.
For Emily (7) I bought her a Roald Dahl treasury that she can enjoy having read to her and also enjoy as she continues to learn to read.
For Serena (6) I bought her socks, cuz my sister told me she desparately needs new ones, but also a purple-ish and comfy bath robe that was on sale for 50% off at Bluenotes.
For Liam (1) I bought him a stuffed Snoopy doll where five bucks off the purchase price went to a children's charity.

I hope I did okay. If not, well, there'll be lots of wine at dinner for me anyhoo.
I really wish I wasn't so weak and could go to my family dinner and just honestly say "I'm broke, I'm sorry but at least we're all together, right?" I just end up feeling unreasonably guilty...Sigh...such a product of my culture...

Off to work I go so I can make rent this Christmas.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

War on Terror - and disorganised rambling...

I actually stole this from a friend's blog:

US Army at its finest...

If you're interested, and can stomach a lot of complete stupidity, the comments are somewhat interesting in a "Holy shit, I can't believe you said that" sort of way. Every so often it seems someone says something intelligent in the sea of moron.

I'd like to stipulate that in essence, I don't see war as such an inherently bad thing: I think it is an outpouring of our territorial instincts as animals, and has become a worse problem than it should be because we have managed to create technologies that make killing far too easy for us. Killing someone should never be easy. I do not think that as a society, or even "civilization" we can ever manage to eradicate war. In a world where there is only a finite amount of resources, as well as a population too large for those resources, we must accept that war will be a reality. The problem I have with war as we know it right now is our level of technology. We have proven, time and time again, that we have the technology to kill thousands more of "them" than "they" can kill of "us". (And, yes, I am talking in terms of Us and the Others). It is the fact that we participate in unfair wars that make us such terrible creatures. It is the fact that the populations our armies are keeping down are already being kept down by politics, by economics, by our own actions in the past...

It is sad that although we are such intelligent creatures, we will still fall prey to the natural laws of populations: we have allowed our population to expand over the limits of resources available, and, as such, we are going to experience (eventually) an incredible population drop due to starvation, because we lack resources. Naturally, this is likely to affect those of us living in the West less than it will affect those people living in "third world countries" (and I don't think many of them would be "third world" if not for the economic sanctions that we use to keep them down). (This, by the way, has absolutely nothing to do with the video linked to up above). Sadly, it is also likely that populations that are traditionally subjugated (like women) are probably also going to get the raw end of the deal.

I don't really have a solution, nor do I feel like going on about this for much longer right now. All I'm really trying to get across here is how sad it is that for all the intelligence, all the design, all the progression that our population has gone through, we are still animals. We must remember that we are still a part of the natural world, and we cannot remove ourselves from it. We can speak of enlightened ideals, of philosophy and art, of gods and spirituality, but when it comes down to it, we must eat and drink and breathe to survive, and we are creatures of the earth. What I am trying to say is that maybe we should accept that we are animals. We are not perfect beings, and anyone claiming sainthood is likely a hypocrite - we should recognize our own sins (not to suggest that I am a believer, I am, in fact, an athiest) and struggle to control them for the sake of ourselves as an entire population. If we have a defining intellect, why the hell can't we use it for something other than technologies that simply inflate our worst instincts (war, greed, being territorial) to a point where they are obviously uncontrollable?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Upcoming Events: Montreal Massacre Remembrance Day

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre that occurred December 6th, 1989. I attended an all-girl high school in downtown Toronto, and every year we spent a week remembering the victims of this brutal femicide, as well as other murdered victims of domestic violence. For a few years after I left high school, that week of awareness started to fade into my memory, something that is dangerous to let happen, especially as so many women are already forgotten because of racism and classism. Fortunately,York and its Women's Studies program, as well as other universities and organizations continue to commerate this day to raise awareness on violence against women.

The Female Eye Film festival remembers women killed in Montreal Massacre
In partnership with York's Winters College, the Female Eye Film Festival will commemorate the Dec. 6 Montreal Massacre with seven films by national and international female directors, along with a panel discussion, to be held this Thursday, Dec. 6.

The program, In Memoriam of the Montreal Massacre, is designed to remember the 14 women killed there 18 years ago. All of the films look at issues of violence against women. A question and answer period with the directors will follow the screenings. The program will take place at the Nat Taylor Cinema, North 102 Ross Building, on the Keele campus

On Dec. 6, 1989, Marc Lepine walked into l'École Polytechnique, a Montreal engineering school, separated the men from the women and opened fire. He shot 27 women, 14 of whom died. In 1991, Canada's Parliament declared Dec. 6 a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada.

The program runs from four to ten p.m.

In some of the old articles covering the massacre, it was noted how some students were sobbing that they weren't even feminists.

I've made this comment before, but I think it bears repeating. Marc Lepine, despite what he may have stated, did NOT really kill these women because they were feminists; he killed them BECAUSE they were women, and he felt entitled to violently take from them what he couldn't get for himself. Even if every woman he killed was a feminist, that is certainly no justification for murder.

We need to stop thinking that feminism(s)is(are) no longer relevant.

Thoughts On Buying Nothing

Of course I'm late on making comments on a campaign that happened a few weeks ago. Of course, I am. I'm a student; can't expect much in terms of keeping up with me.

However, I did recieve an email last week from AdBusters' Culture Jammers Network about a wrap-up on Buy Nothing Day. In it, they express Buy Nothing Day as a success that garnered media attention, and asked for people's experiences related to that day. Though I am NOT sending it to their blog, I am here offering my thoughts.

Here's the thing; I love Adbusters and their often spot-on critiques of capitalist consumer-based degradation of culture. I appreciate their work, and will continue to support the magazine (ironically, when I can afford to again). However, I really can't get behind "Buy Nothing Day." It's too flawed a campaign.

I appreciate its sentiment. In theory, buying nothing should disrupt the capital flow of consumerism, hopefully highlighting a message of the need for a more sustainable economy that closes the gaps between the haves and the havenots. It should also pose a threat to the fat cats on top who play the capitalist strings to the tunes of their own greedy hearts. I agree, we need to spotlight consumer waste; we treat this planet like the pigs depicted in the ad for Buy Nothing rejected by MTV.


The problem with this campaign is that it doesn't really address the structures of economy nor the pyramid scheme of power that is capitalism. Buy Nothing is far too simplistic an approach to thoroughly analyse the issues of consumer waste that define its economic concerns.

When I was invited to participate in "Buy Nothing Day" on my facebook, I was ambivalent about it. Initially, I said "maybe attending." Eventually, I declined all together. Buy Nothing Day is not a campaign I can support.

Let me illustrate the issues for you.

For one thing, when big capitalists lose money in their ventures, it is not their bank accounts that suffer, or any of the CEOs that lose their jobs. Rather, the first people affected by an economic slump are the people at the bottom, the people whose backs that money is made off. Let's look at the film "The Take" (Avi Lewis, Naomi Klein) for example. In it, we start with a prosperous Peron-era Argentina, enjoying the spoils of capitalism in all its consumer-happy glory, backed over the continuing years by IMF and World Bank, conditional of course to Argentina's adherence to their policies. Then fast-forward to Argentina's current economy. Here we see total collapse, wherein capitalism is forced to break its own rules. The economy can no longer sustain itself at the consumerist pace it was going. Of course it couldn't for other issues I am not even touching upon here, and the Buy Nothing campaign is right to highlight this. But again, going back to the documentary, let's see who suffers the fallout of such a collapse. The wealthy in Argentina suffered minimally, because they had invested in true capitalist fashion in offshore accounts keeping their money safe and free. Rather it was the middle and working classes that suffered, since they had no such backups, and had all their accounts frozen and made inaccessible. Factory owners shut down thier production sites without warning or severence pay, safeguarding their own money while devasting the country's economy. Working class Argentinians were forced to rethink their strategies and build a new type of power that was collective and horizontal in order to reclaim the deserted factories. Its not like when this capitalist collapse happened, that the rich were forced to give up their wealth and re-distribute it equally amongst everyone. And that's ultimately the problem with Buy Nothing. I'm not suggesting this campaign would have the fallout effect that Argentina suffered. What I am saying is that when capitalism fails and we are not careful about how it happens, its the bottom that gets knocked out, not the top. We have to be really thoughtful about the way we imagine a revolution of economy. And Buy Nothing doesn't address the structural distribution of capital resources.

Case in point: Why I Can't Participate.

I work in a restaurant. As a server, I am paid less then minimum wage because it is expected in this industry that my wages will be supplimented by tips (15% standard, thank you very much). I am also a part-time worker, due to not only being a student, but often also to overstaffing that seems to occur when restaurants decide to hire a lot of students. That means the amount of tips I can make is directly related to the amount of time I can work. If I am only able to work a couple of days a week as a result of these circumstances, and Buy Nothing Day falls on one of those days, to put it brashly, I am totally screwed. If no one comes into the restaurants, and buys nothing nor tips, it is I who suffers. If the restaurant is having a slow day, it is my shift that gets cut, at an already meagre wage. If my higher level managers have a short day, their pay is not compromised like mine is since they work on salary. And the CEOs of the company certainly don't see a hit, since they save money lost by cutting my labour. In the end, its a slow day for the people on top. For me, it means I have to wait til my next shift til I can buy groceries. I already live on the benevolence of the tipping system, which is often fickle. My chances of doing well are shortened by such campaigns to end consumerism. In an economy that is in fact so consumer driven, it is the people at the bottom of the chain like me who get cut first.

And it is people like me who Buy Nothing days hurts before it challenges the big business structures. Do you think Buy Nothing day makes any sort of real threat to the disgusting, unadulterated capitalists like Kevin O'Leary on Dragon's Den?

I'm sorry if I am coming across as being selfish here, but I do have to survive in this world. Too many of my days are already Buy Nothing days by economic default.

I think, too, that Buy Nothing Day does not ask its participants to question their own every-day spending habits enough. As the boy pointed out when we discussed this at home, most people who participate in buy nothing not only probably have enough things like food and transportation to get themselves through the day, they probably bought everything the day before, thus invalidating any claims that the actual event day is trying to make. It also means that it is mainly those who are already comfortable who can really do the significant part of protesting for this day.

We need a better campaign. I don't necessarily have a better answer; I just know we need to really do more thinking about how to dismantle this particular machine. Especially when we are up against cringe-worthy folks like Kevin O'Leary and company.

I don't think Adbuster's attempts are without its worth. I will continue to be intrigued and grateful for the alternatives this magazine/organization attempts to offer. Buy Nothing Christmas, with its return focus on the spirit of the holiday rather interests me. Though I might ask them to dump the Christmas part of it and remove its religious strings so that becomes a more open holiday idea for those of us who do not follow Christianity.

Everyone: Let's keep working on this.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Just in time for the season...

I thought I'd post this, although I can't make it (damn the distance to Montreal!).

Bingle Jells
An electroacoustic project by Philémon
presented in articule's washroom

December 2007 - January 2008
articule, 262 Fairmount O., Montréal

'Bingle Jells' is a reaction to the way the ubiquitous mercantile 'spirit' manifests itself during the Holidays. The poor quality of the components of an electroacoustic system transform the well known 'Jingle Bells' ditty. It is their relative drag that reframes the song. The juxtaposition of the electromechanical music boxes, whose mechanical 'guts' of the system are exposed to view, highlights the inherent entropy of real time. It is the variability-inducing friction that produces the 'desynchronisation' within which 'Jingle Bells' dissolves in a quantic cloud over time.

In "Bingle Jells," Santa's elves don Indonesian garb to emulate "gamelans." Within the gallery's washroom, the location of the sonic construct optimizes its potentially laxative effect. The space's intimacy privileges an individual perception of the acoustic phenomenon.

262, Fairmount ouest
Montréal (Québec) H2V 2G3
T 514 842 9686

(There website actually doesn't have this show up yet... It's a little bit lost back in October/November... sorry I haven't loaded the picture that came with the email either...)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Name Change.

So yeah. Not particularly world-rocking, but I've decided to use a new alias. I'm thinking it might be interesting to change it up as I continue to navigate my mind within the blogosphere, as I change, develop and grow. Originally, I went with "Electric Furr" because it came from my favourite line in my favourite e.e. cummings poem :
"i like kissing this and that of you,i like, slowly stroking the shocking fuzz,of your electric fur, and what is-it-comes over your parting flesh..."

Also, it is the name of the last litho project I spent all of last school year working slavishly on and really held personal and artistic meaning for me.
Fuck, I still may end up changing it back.

At any rate, this name change has been on my mind, especially as I was growing tired, and out of, this Electric Furr. I found the term 'revista' instead. I was researching names for another blog author, who shares the same cultural background as me (Portuguese-Canadian)and came across 'Saudade' (loosely translated as mournful longing but my portuguese is crap so I could be wrong). I also came across 'Revista', meaning social or political commentary, sometimes in the form of dramatic satire. I think if this was a Portuguese-language blog, that name would come off as a little too simplistic. Perhaps in time, I will find some other appropriate words to augment it more specifically. Until then, I really do like the ring of that word/name as it sounds and means in English.

I myself am probably not nearly so deep as this new name suggests. But it struck a chord with me about the ways in which I'm learning, and the ways in which I am thinking about the world. I may change this again. I may even eventually use my real name, and really claim the things that I say. We shall see...

In the meantime, Electric Furr=Revista. For now.