Saturday, November 22, 2008

Holy Crap It's Winter, Mes Amis (+ Sometimes I Write Papers + A Somber Occasion)

Hey pudding,

My goodness! I leave this blog alone for a week and all of a sudden there’s a seasonal transition to be talked about.

Maybe “transition” isn’t quite the right word. Transition implies something gradual—something for which one can be prepared. That may well be an accurate description for winter as you’ve come to know it in wherever-the-heck-you-are-from-if-you-are-from-somewhere-with-winter-at-all, but we don’t mess around with those little, teasing autumn snows that look pretty in the air but melt as they hit the pavement and don’t really interrupt the grand scheme of things in the slightest here in the shire. Oh no, not us. We jump headlong into epic, undeniable, event-cancelling, library-closing snows.

As the season began to take over earlier in the week, I was a big grumpypants about it because I didn’t want to cease my daily shared experience with ma bicyclette just yet, but this morning I woke up and made (as they were retroactively dubbed by somebody I’m about to mention) “Go Go Gadget Vegan Muffins”, put some of them in a handy dandy Tupperware container, and trudged off through the snow to meet my friend Eric (the somebody you were waiting for me to mention) in his room at Hunton House, where we spent several hours eating muffins, talking about things that are TOO SECRET FOR BLOGGING (gasp, whatever could she mean?! ...use your imaginations, dudes and ladies), and recording things on garage band featuring his room-mate’s sparkly blue ukulele. Er, mostly Eric did the playing/recording...but I looked up chord charts and accidentally contributed the possible title Metronomes Are For Chumps.

So yeah. Winter and me are cool now. I think winter kind of works on the same principles as a baby. It makes everything so much more difficult and the things it likes to do make no sense whatsoever, but it’s friggin’ cute and it transmits contact cuteness to everybody who touches it, or sees it through a proective glass sheild. Examples noted on my journeys to and from Hunton this morning:
· A girl telling another girl about something ridiculous involving her brother and a wall of snow from when they were little kids.
· A girl saying to her friend, “I’ve lost my mittens / you naughty kittens / and you shall have no pie”.
· A faux-orgy in snowsuits on the football field.

Friggin' adorable.

Okay. Speaking of sudden non-transitions to completely different topics, somewhere in the midst of writing my most challenging paper of the semester, this came out:

I shirked house initiation when I was a frosh. I usually feel sort of weird about intentional group bonding activities in general: pep rallies; trust exercises; supposedly empowering retreat assignments that inadvertently end up just underlining the crushing, insurmountable loneliness of the high school student...these things are not really my bag — not least because they usually seem to be scheduled for just shortly after I experience a more organic bond-forming moment with some or all members of the group in question. Doing something artificially devised to make me feel close to the same people tends to feel at best silly, and at worst like it reverses the whole process so I have to start all over again. Thus, having consulted with the dons and a few of my particular house friends to make sure it wouldn’t be too big a slight to any of them, I hid away in my room with my radio and my notebook while my housemates got covered in condiments and oatmeal and tested on the anatomy of the average goat (Bennett’s mascot, don’cha know). The whole affair lasted maybe twenty minutes, and when my recently made friends had been given their congratulatory blue plastic beer steins and the opportunity to shower, we reunited and moved on to our premeditated evening activities (which to the best of my recollection involved slight inebriation of one kind or another and that movie with the stop motion gorilla and everybody’s favourite screaming Canadian). It’s entirely possible there was some kind of magic I missed out on by not participating in ye olde ritual humiliation, but I think I felt about as at home in my residence as somebody as socially inept as me could be expected to feel — in fact, quite a bit more so than I expected from the outset.

I will say that I am in some ways jealous of people who are able to accept these things at face value and grasp their intended qualities instead of getting wrapped up in their own minute little feelings about everything that happens to them moment-to-moment and coming up with a really depressing interpretation of the situation, but hey—I’m a compulsive-writer-turned-English-major, so did I ever really have a chance at joyful under-analysis? I’m thinking not. I mean sure, I’ve tried to let myself get away with it before, but I always end up feeling grumpy and incomplete and dashing off into a corner somewhere under the hood of my sweater to produce some questionable prosetry (read: that which is not good enough at being poetry or prose to legitimately qualify as either) about my inability to function like a regular human being. All in all, it seems a better move to just not get involved at the beginning, and write on a subject I’ve exhausted a little less thoroughly.

I mention this right now, in the middle of the night, in the middle of a paper, because it has suddenly come to my attention that I’m being initiated: not into my current domestic situation (which is shared with a charming young woman who I’m pleased to report is as much of a nerd as I am), but into my chosen academic discipline.

I suppose I should have seen this coming when, on the first day of my Lit. Periods to 1800 course, I was bade welcome to “English Boot Camp”, but I took that to be a light-hearted jibe about having to be in class at an obscenely early hour and respond to surprise quizzes before the caffeine had kicked in. Here in the middle of a puddle of open books, incomprehensible notes, and used teacups however, I’m beginning to believe it’s a little more apt an analogy than that. I don’t think I’m allowed to explain it in any more detail than that to anybody who hasn’t been through it yet (i.e.- the assumed readership of this blog), but trust me...it’s one of the most excellent feelings you’ll ever have on not enough sleep and way too much caffeine.

Oh, and in case you ever wanted to know what fancy university scholars sound like when they’re distracting themselves with MSN conversations...

emmet says: you know what's weird?
Eric says: what?
emmet says: being a writer who's been dead for years and years and years and having people write great big books about what you were probaby getting at.
Eric says: that is a bit odd....
emmet says: i mean, if you're alive it's probably weird if somebody writes something about something you wrote and interprets it in way you're not necessariy aligned/comfortable with...but then you can just be like "um dudes no", but if you're dead you can't say nohin', so it's like EVERYBODY'S RIGHT.
or at least that what's i'm going to tell myself so i don't feel like a big jerky jerk for trying to definitively make up my mind in one night about what chaucer was tryna say about women-folk.
Eric says: but I mean, there has to be a set sort of idea that people have, I mean people aren't that stupid i guess
emmet says: it's just odd because there are certain points that everybody hits and pretty much agrees upon, and then there are these radically different interpretations of what those points actually meeeeeaaaan. and the dude is uber-dead, which is most unhelpful of him. anyhow. back to essay.

That’s me in all my unedited, non-capitalised, typotastic glory, chillens.

At 8:32 on the night before the paper is due, I am suddenly stricken with an irrational fear that I am mistaken not only in my thesis, but somehow in the subject of my research altogether. A good 25% of my mind is paralysed with the conviction that I must have remembered incorrectly which text’s name I drew, or that I somehow failed to read the right thing in the first place. The better part of my brain assures me that I took most careful note of it at the time, and that it’s pretty unlikely for a second-year English major to read The General Prologue off of a piece of paper that actually says Sir Gawain or Beowulf or something, but I do this around this time with pretty much every major assignment ever. You know, the point at which I’ve officially put a whole lot of work into it and am entirely unprepared to turn around and change anything major about it. The thing is that I can never quite calm myself down about it entirely, because the whole oops-wrong-topic thing actually did happen to me on an assignment in grade 10 English. It was a really major assignment, and I ended up failing the course. (So yeah — if there’s some kind of myth out there that you only get into Mount Allison if you were an impeccable student in high school: BUSTED.)

Weird. I actually hadn’t put it together until just now, but yeah — since then I have at least one moment like this in every significant project, in which I am convinced I’m going to find out I’m OBSCENELY WRONG about what to do as soon as I walk into the classroom all set to hand it in. It’s probably a good sign, really. Means I’ve got something I feel is in some way valuable provided I am writing about the right thing, right? Right?

Hilarious retroactive addendum to this anecdote: when I arrived in class to turn in this paper (having completed it, I kid you not, less than twenty minutes before leaving the house), I was told to partner up with a particular fellow student. I wasn’t sure what the partnering was about, but I was pleased with the person I’d been partnered with on account of she’s really smart and friendly—but then she plunked herself next to me and asked, “So, I guess you did The Wife’s Lament too?” A vast desire to bash my head into the desk until one or the other was reduced to some form of pulp ensued…but was promptly assuaged when Dr. Rogers explained that, as a reward for none of us sending her any stupid questions by email at the last minute, we were all being given the opportunity to have our papers proofread by a peer chosen for complementary skills, not identical paper topics, take their suggestions home with us, and submit the edited versions on Thursday morning. I don’t know if it’s possible or likely for somebody to pee their pants with relief, but I’m pretty sure I almost did (although that may have had something to do with the massive quantities of tea I’d consumed throughout the night).

That brings us to Thursday, which brings me to an important Catalyst event that evening: the annualTransgender Day of Remembrance vigil.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day set aside to commemorate people whose lives have been truncated violently by other people who somewhere got the fucked up idea that people who don’t fit the standard male-female gender/sex dichotomy are not entitled to the same basic respect for their corporeal persons as those who jive easily with the system. We had intended to hold this vigil outside the library, as we did last year, but due to the aforementioned weather issues, we switched locations and gathered inside the chapel instead. Names of this year’s fallen and a few representative body shapes were chalked on the stone floor at the front of the chapel; candles were lit; Katie spoke very movingly on the importance of remembering these people whose deaths are too often overlooked in the media; Reverend Perkin led us in prayer; the list was passed and read aloud by the community, a moment of silence was observed, more candles lit; folks were thanked for showing their support, and copious embraces and handshakes were exchanged among friends and strangers as we began to disperse.

Katie and I were then drawn aside by a representative of the Argosy who wanted to interview us as Catalyst Executive members (President and Activism Chair respectively) on our reasons for organizing the event, and what we hoped people would come away from it with. These weren’t very difficult questions to answer (essentially: a. people are being murdered and that’s not okay by us, and b. we need to be putting more energy into loving and caring for each other, and less into setting up rigid, unrealistic, unfun social structures that leave out so many valuable, beautiful, fallible, loving, real people), but it is in some ways strange to suddenly be one of the people to whom people automatically turn for the official story on these things. To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t considered that being Activism Chair would involve so much media interaction (sure it’s small scale, but everything is here) when I put my name forward for the position in September. It’s not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing — just something that’s surprised me. I’m pretty sure I’ve managed not to say anything too stupid in a public capacity so far (knock on particle board).

Oy, this has been a long entry. You want some kind of shiny reward at the end for your faithful display of literacy in reading this, don’t you? Fine.

^ Nothing to do with Mount Allison (she lives way over on the opposite coast, and one nation to the south), but I spent a good chunk of this afternoon learning to play this song, as the little lady who wrote it was nice enough to send me the chords to her original material. Her name is Molly and her birthday is tomorrow.

Oh! Before we part, the hobo demonstration I mentioned last post made front page of the Argosy, pudding. Er, the picture in the actual print version is much more exciting, in that it’s big. I’m not in either of them, because photos were taken at 1:30 whilst I was in class. A point is made in that article that the hobo aspect of the protest may have been somewhat offensive. This is…not entirely untrue. That said, I think the linking of hobos and education kinda strikes a chord for me. I may or may not elaborate on this later. Now it is most definitely time for this entry to be over.

More Life,
Emmet

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