Friday, November 14, 2008

The Hell, the Hobos, and other Things I Love.

Hey pudding,

(I’ve decided I really do like that as a collective term for all of you. I think it’s going to stick. I like how many different images I can make out of the term. Are you people made out of pudding? Am I addressing these entries to a literal bowl of pudding that represents the body of individuals who might potentially like to go to Mount Allison some day? Are there great symbolic implications? Am I just being an affectionate goof? THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS.)

Anyhow. This here is an entry about some of the things I mentioned were coming up in future entries when I wrote my first entry. I’m going to be surprising by not telling you how many parts there will be or what they will consist of, but mark my words, there will be parts. Oh yeah, baby.

Part One:
The Burning Hell!

Struts Gallery (one of several fine art-showing establishments in the shire) was host to a truly rockin’ band known as The Burning Hell on Wednesday night.

The Burning Hell are named after a religious tract, and they feature such handsome instruments as ukulele, banjolele, cello, violin, glockenspiel, and our old friend electric guitar. They come from Peterborough, but I get the sense they’ve got a bit of a towncrush on Sackvilleshire, as they were here just this summer as well, and they played two covers of local bands in their set last night: a Shotgun Jimmie song and a Construction/Destruction song—the latter with guest vocalists from the original band. It was a great show, and I danced in wellington boots for the very first time ever (at least within memory). If you have never danced in your wellies before, I’d like to officially state that I wholeheartedly endorse it, especially if it’s a Burning Hell concert that you’re trying to choose footwear for. The boots and the band complemented each other’s marchiness very well, I found. If I had been wearing sneakers or bare feet (my usual dancing attire), I think the marching would have felt silly, but in wellies I was filled with a sense of joyous certainty that marching was just the very thing to do as the basis for a dance to TBH. In fact, go grab yer boots right now and you can practice at home.

I like that they have a lot of songs about death and a lot about birth/gestation. Those are important times, and I like hearing songs about them! It’s really fun dancing like a corpse and like a fetus. Are you doing it right now? In your rain boots? I hope so! If not, I’m sorry, but you might just not be cool enough to come to Mt. A.

Part Two:
Hobo jungle in front of the library!

Yesterday there was a protest initiated by the SAC (Students Administrative Council) and also attended by a fistful or two of non-SAC-affiliated students (comme moi). The idea of the protest was to make a case for the notion of putting a cap on student debt. In order to illustrate the point, we dressed up as classic dirty-thirties-style hobos. I of course brought my mandolin out to join the cause, as well as a washboard, some spoons, and a couple of egg shakers so we could get a nice hobo jam band going, but by far the best prop involved in the whole affair was a real live oil drum fire. This was also quite practical, for although it was nice and sunny out at 10:00 AM when the demonstration began, it got quite chilly as the day went on, and at 6:00 PM when it was time to clean up, we had a handy way to eliminate the cardboard boxes we’d built temporary hobo-shelter-type structures out of. (Did you know that corrugated cardboard is kind of like red hot rippled potato chips as it burns? If not, I have just offered you a little nugget from my amazing hands-on learning experience here at Mt. A. But um, don’t eat red hot cardboard. Potato chips aren’t very healthy, but at least they don’t give you third degree burns on the inside of your face. Actually, I’m not sure exactly what degree the burns would be from putting burny cardboard chips in your mouth, but I’m thinking that’s one of those pieces of information I am totally okay with not learning.)

It was nice to have an excuse to pull out some of the hobo songs I’ve loved since I was a kid (remind me to explain how much more I love Woody Guthrie’s East Texas Red now that I’ve studied Sir Gawain and the Green Knight sometime...or just Google both of them and love for yourself), but even better was the kind of open discussion forum that it became. One of the things we talked about for a while was the Allisonian obsession with the Maclean’s ratings. I guess it’s fairly natural for the administration of the school to fixate on and not criticize a rating system that consistently gives our institution such high marks, but I’m not administration, so I can say whatever I want about it. Muahaha.

The general consensus we reached around the fire was that the idea of ranking universities from “best” to “worst” was sort of fundamentally flawed. I can say with reasonable confidence that Mount Allison combines a lot of factors that make it a really good school for me, but it would be ridiculous to say that those factors make it THE BEST SCHOOL FOR EVERYBODY. People are different, and therefore thrive in different environments. Personally, I know I couldn’t deal with a big school in a big city; I have an affinity for a lot of the way things are in the maritimes; I have a family connection to Mt. A. that makes stumbling upon bits of history I’m walking over every day a really special feeling; I want to study theatre from a primarily literature-based perspective...and lots of other things I’m sure I have/will cover in other blog posts. For me, the things about Mount Allison that suit me are worth sticking around for even when the kind of cruddy things (ej- high tuition fees, lack of tempeh in the grocery stores...) make my experience here a tad less awesome. So yeah, Maclean’s likes Mount Allison, and so do I. That doesn’t mean that the things Maclean’s and I like about it are necessarily at all relevant to how good a school it would be for you. Just something to think about as you’re looking at the messages from/about Mount Allison and other schools you’re looking into right now, I guess. The official ranking a school gets on some list is worth absolutely nothing if it’s not a good fit for you, you know?

Now back to your regularly scheduled propaganda!

Part Three:
The Bitch Complex!

A few weeks ago, quite out of the blue, I was asked by my Women’s Studies professor if I’d be interested in co-facilitating a lunch hour discussion session entitled “The Bitch Complex”.

This kind of thing tends to happen a lot at Mount Allison, in my experience. I highly recommend practicing the art of politely declining invitations to take on enticing jobs you simply don’t have time for in advance of your arrival in the shire—because believe me, you will receive them in abundance, especially if you get involved at Windsor Theatre. I was asked to be both Master Carpenter and Sound Tech on a show that played there recently, in spite of the fact that I have no skills or experience in any way relevant to either of those jobs. If you said “yes” to everything at Mount Allison, you’d burn out and die pretty quickly—but it’s also pretty neat to jump into a job you’re not entirely sure you’re ready for every once in a while. Trial by fire and whatnot.

So I said yes to my Women’s Studies prof, and today was the first PACWI (President’s Advisory Council on Women’s Issues) Brown Bag session. My co-facilitator, Toni Roberts (who has some crazy number of degrees in seemingly incongruous subject areas under his belt—very Mt.A.) was well-prepared with a series of power-point slides to frame the discussion, which served to make both of us less anxious about covering the important areas we wanted to cover, which would have been easy to do given the broad applicability of the topic at hand. Perhaps not unpredictably, one chapter of our discussion that fuelled a lot of impassioned response was the Sarah Palin problem. Herein was the biggest highlight of the hour for me. Not because I find Sarah Palin and her supporters and detractors to be chock full of interesting dilemmas for feminist-minded individuals to ponder (although I sure do!), but more importantly because Toni used the acronym “MILF” on his slide about her, and several of the attendant professors were unfamiliar with the term, so I got to say “Mother I’d Like to Fuck” crisply and clearly for all to hear.

Also, there were cookies. All in all, it went well , and left me feeling relatively capable and glad that I’m at a school where this kind of frank, intelligent discussion between students and professors is a big part of my experience. It doesn’t happen every day, but it happens often enough to reassure me that I probably am smart enough to be here on some level, even if this whole “transformative process” that is postsecondary education sometimes leaves me feeling like I must have about the same IQ as the moss which grows on sloths if they stay lazy for long enough (which they usually do).

Part Four:
My flat-mate was a sweetheart and made perogies for dinner, and later tonight I’m going to dance my face off!

Wow, that’s kind of cool, we’ve come full circle-ish, what with the dancing and all. Tonight’s danciful adventure will be experienced to the tunes of the undoubtedly great Guy Davis trio, courtesy of the Tantramar Blues Society. I love TBS for the following reasons:
a) BLUES!!
b) Multi-generational dance floors are infinitely more interesting than those composed entirely of youngsters. Grown-ups FTW!
c) The price of admission to the shows is only $6 if you flash ’em your student ID at the door—this is exactly half the regular ticket price.

The only noticeable drawback for me is that the Blues Society events mostly happen at George’s Fabulous Roadhouse, which is a grand old place, but not an all-ages venue. I’m lucky (read: academically retarded) enough that I was already of age by the time I came here, but I still consider this a pretty sucks thing on two levels:
a) A biggish number of my friends (including my darlin’ flat-mate) are still underage, so they can’t come, and that’s way lame.
b) Multi-generational dance floors are even more awesome when the generations include little kids, who everybody knows are naturally amazing dancers because they haven’t learned how to be boring yet.

However, I think it is clear that the pros outweigh the cons, and once a year there’s a free blues show under a tent on Bridge Street, which is just all pros and then some.

Awright. Signing off now. I’ll throw another video in here, to compensate for the lack of pictures in this entry:

This is Amelia Curran, who was one of the opening acts for Jenn Grant when she played the Super Amazing Top Secret Old Sackville Music Hall (a place I will definitely have to post more about some day, with pictures!). I’m not gonna lie, I swooned a bit when she played this song. I’m a big Swoony McSwoon-Pants.

More Life,

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