September 30, 2009

Link here to NPR’s A Blog Supreme:
A Blog Supreme

Highlight of the first paragraph? “I have no five-year plan for this culture war, but I do think good jazz — both old and new — certainly has a place in alternative urban culture. Maybe focusing on that front, and not so much on the “jazz is sophisticated” trope, would be a good start. That, and not revealing our inner loser-dorks in public all the damn time. You! Stop snickering.”

Re: 500 Days of Summer

September 28, 2009

Evan and Katie brought up some good points in their comments on 500 Days of Summer. I wanted to respond to them, and (maybe) offer a bit of defense for the film and the narrative choices made.

Caution, there be spoilers ahead.

It is most definitely true that the films ends in much the same way as most romantic comedies do: guy gets girl. Except only sort of, in this case. The film really says nothing about whether or not Tom (Main Character) will be happy in this one, either. The film avoids the typical cliche of romantic comedies, and steadfastly refuses to put Tom and Summer together. And thank goodness, because she is thoroughly unlikable. Instead, after a period of mourning for a relationship lost– well over 100 days, if I remember right– Tom is finally able to move on.

This is, I think, the most important part of the film, really. I think Autumn serves more as a metaphor than anything else, and this film is LADEN with metaphor. Or was Los Angeles always gloomy and did people always dress drably when Tom was in a bad mood about Summer? Conversely, that dance scene? The film makers are winking at us here, “Yeah, you and I both know this isn’t really what’s happening, but it’s how he feels right now.” Thinking about the film this way, symbolically, lets us see Summer and Autumn in a different light. Summer represents one way of looking at relationships, a way that the film makers try to convince us is flawed; Autumn represents Tom moving into a more mature way of dealing with commitment and relationships.

Granted, the film doesn’t ask us to judge whether this new way is better– it gives us no evidence either way– but at the very least it represents progression on Tom’s part.

Anyway, my thoughts.


September 26, 2009

I found the Ulster Chipotle. It is called Boojum and it is three minutes’ walk from campus. Praise be to God.

I just finished Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground, and previous to that read Life of Pi. I heartily recommend these books; just excellent.

I have three friends with dangerously similar names here: Jer, Jem, and Jun. Jer is from the Republic of Ireland; Jem is from Turkey; Jun is Japanese American and also happens to be in my program.

If you’re watching a soccer game here, and people find out that you’re American two things will happen. First, they’ll be surprised you’re watching and liking it. Second, if there’s an American on the team they’ll ask what you think of said American. This happened to me most recently when I was watching a Carling Cup (A Tournament) game at the bar on campus. It was Leeds United against Liverpool. With about ten minutes left in the game an American named Mike Grella came on for Leeds. About two minutes later the Leeds fan next to me said, “How do you rate Grella?” “Well, you’re a Leeds fan; I was about to ask you that. I never get to see him play. He any good?” Turns out, yeah. He’s pretty good. In a couple of years he may have a place at a bigger team.

That’s another thing: I suspect it would be very different were I in England, but here they have no hangups about people calling the game soccer. In fact, about half of the people around here call it that. Reason? Gaelic football is one of the most popular sports on this island, and it gets the honor of being called football.

I just got back from being the only Fulham fan in a bar of Arsenal fans while the two teams were playing each other. Never will a person feel so isolated as when they are the solitary supporter of their team in a bar. Since Fulham lost, I had to take a lot of grief from the Gooner fans.

The week was pretty uneventful, to be honest. I got used to the campus and the city, bought food, got all registered for classes, had my program convened, opened a bank account. Yep.

I’ve been reading blogs rabidly recently, which is where most of the links I’ve been passing on have come from. I started looking through some blogs related to religion in the last couple of days, most specifically a whole host of blogs written by Christians. You know what I said yesterday about academic fights? A lot of what I’ve read on these Christian blogs feels like an academic fight to me. Maybe it’s the way they’re framing it. I don’t know. Whatever it is, the things that get argued about seem so petty and unimportant that it makes me want to tune the whole thing out. That said, there’s been a fairly interesting exchange in the past couple of days between several blogs about “pirate Christianity.” I’ll link to Pete Rollins’ blog; it’s a good jumping off point for understanding the debate, as Pete links around to other people who are talking about the whole thing. Oh, nevermind. Here are a bunch of links.

Richard Sudworth Prompting the Dialogue
Pete’s First Response
Sudworth’s Response
Pete’s Second Response

Ok, I think that about does it for me.

Academic Fight!

September 26, 2009

Glorious Fallacies!

The saying “academic disputes are so vicious because there’s nothing at stake” would apply here, if it weren’t the world economy we were talking about.

On Film

September 24, 2009

I hesitate to call the two movies I’m going to talk about “hipster movies,” because apart from some of the sometimes grating quirkiness and impeccable soundtracks, they lack a component of the whole hipster sub-genre that (I think) makes that tag hold together and stick: irony.

500 Days of Summer and Away We Go are refreshingly guileless. They don’t wink at their viewer; they aren’t self-conscious; they aren’t snarky. What they are is earnest– almost to a fault– in putting to screen what it feels like to be a young adult right now. They are truly stylish movies, well put together. But I can name many movies that are competently constructed and pleasing to look at that don’t end up sticking with me after I leave the theater.

Maybe my reaction to the movies says more about me than anything, though. 500 Days of Summer perfectly encapsulated (for me, at least) what it feels like to fall for a woman who probably isn’t good for you to be around. Away We Go almost eerily reflected my neuroses about and reinforced my ambivalence towards marriage, adult relationships, and starting a family.

Oh, I love the internet

September 23, 2009

I just have this image… The Economy, laying inside of a chalk outline on the sidewalk, riddled with gunshot wounds. A number of gunmen and women (banks, regulators, congress, the public, investors, housing lenders, et cetera), standing in a rough semicircle around the body, each with a firearm. Wisps of smoke drift lazily from each muzzle. All of them wear an expression of “Who, me?” Kneeling over the body is a concerned-looking policeman. A rumpled-looking detective stands at the officer’s shoulder, scribbling in his notebook. “So far,” he’s saying to into his cell phone, “we’re unable to find the smoking gun.”

(Every once in a while the internet coughs something like that out. And I rejoice.)

Economics Links

September 20, 2009

Why Capitalism Fails

The M Shaped Recovery

This is the kind of writing I’ve been waiting for. I know it sounds like I’m rooting against the world, but all signs point to a recovery putting the global economy back on the same track it was before. I don’t want that. Nevermind that I have doubts as to whether an economic system essentially predicated on greed and the willingness to exploit other human beings is a God honoring one; if capitalism is what we must have, then it absolutely must not be what we had before everything so spectacularly exploded.

Both articles outline how tragically inevitable this all was– neither having the guts to point toward the ascendancy of Milton Friedman style free markets as an enabler except obliquely– and how unsustainable it will be again unless we have significant structural alterations.

Wading In

September 19, 2009

I’ve been wondering for a while now where the line was between disagreeing with the President’s policies and just being a racist. Regarding all the rancor, the “They did it first!” defense is a poor one. Really, it just seems juvenile. It was wrong and inaccurate for liberals to call the last President a Nazi, or to compare him to Hitler. It is also wrong an inaccurate to do the same now. Those who equate proposed policy to socialism and fascism display a dismaying grasp of historical terms, as well.┬áTo be sure, there’s plenty of room for disagreement with a clear conscience on policy, and it is important that these disagreements get played out in full view of everyone.

This, however, is just not ok. Can we all please agree on that?

Rush Saying Something Silly

Full disclosure, the link is to a blog that is talking about an incident picked up by Mr. Limbaugh and several other commentators. I haven’t linked to their sites because I don’t want to increase their traffic and drive up their advertising revenue. If you want to go digging, go ahead. The commentary in some of the responses is bone chilling, and while the story doesn’t have to do with presidential or congressional policy per se, the attitude is in no way helpful. Those propagating talk like this can hide under a banner of telling “honest, PC-free truth,” but the only honest thing about it is that it is unrepentantly ugly and repulsive.

Furthermore, talk like this makes people calling the President a liar when he isn’t lying, or people talking about “Death Panels” when they don’t exist look sane by comparison.

The story that triggered all of this was of some black students assaulting a white student on a school bus. I’m not going to defend their actions as some relic of racial repression. At some point personal responsibility comes in, and attacking another person just isn’t kosher. But to claim this as a result of having a black President isn’t talking frankly about race; it is stoking racial antagonism in the worst way possible.

Yeah, I go to school there

September 19, 2009


Well, THAT was mad. From the beginning, then:

I have now decided– with utmost certainty– that I do not like flying even a little bit. Maybe my impressions would be changed if I were flying in a nicer section of the plane, but as I can not afford anything other that coach, I am serially annoyed with flying. Planes just aren’t me sized. Still, everything went well, planes took off and landed on time and I was never harried, sprinting across airports to make flights, like I was on my way home from Russia.

Normally I’m antagonistic towards the idea of orientation activities, since my experiences with them have been of being smushed together with people I don’t know and being told– always implicitly– “Make Friends!” Seeing as this is a school in a different country, and they do school differently here, I decided that my normal stance would be unhelpful; thusly I have been a faithful attendee of orientation related activities. Except the dance, which I genuinely forgot about and was intending to go to. (No, not a club like in Russia, or a sway back and forth uncomfortably affair like in high school. This was intended to teach us how to dance like an Irish person.) The first night I was there all the international students had a common dinner. I sat at a table of Chinese exchange students. Some may be aware of my difficulty picking out words when the rest of the room is filled with constant white noise. This, coupled with an unfamiliar accent meant I had a devil of a time understanding the people at my table, in spite of their impeccable grammar. Slightly related, I’d say at least a quarter of the international students for this year are from southeast Asia, or are of Asian descent. I wasn’t expecting that, and I’m not sure what, if anything, that says about me. The Americans also stand out. A lot.

Mainly because they don’t listen. Also they think they’re really cool. My first night in Heemstra Brian told all the freshmen, “When you were in high school it was all right to think you were too cool to get involved in things. It was ok to be standoffish. Well, you’re in college now, and doing that hurts no one but you. If you think you’re too cool, no one else will care. You AREN’T too cool, and you should probably get over that.” I think, generally speaking, that the American students I’ve met should have Brian give them a talking to. Witness registration: we received extensive instruction as to the form and reason behind the form that our registration process would take. Of course the people sitting behind me in the queue couldn’t be bothered to have listened to that. “Why do we have to sit in these chairs and move forward?” “This just seems like a waste of my time.” “I should just go back to my room and do this myself.” “Isn’t there a better way to do this?” In a word, *facepalm.

I’ve had one slight snag, too. Apparently my loan checks haven’t made it to the financial office yet, which means I’m limited to the money I brought with me to live off. I’m going to go to the International Office on Monday and see if I can figure out what the deal is.

BUT, I’m registered for class. It isn’t quite as mental as I thought it was going to be, two classes first semester, two classes second semester, plus the dissertation. Still, I should be plenty occupied. I may also sit in on one class and do the reading for it, but not do any of the work. Basically audit the class. When I asked about doing that the student helpers from Queen’s looked at me like I was a bit nuts. “No one would ever do that here. I’m sure the professor wouldn’t mind, but… everyone else will think you’re an odd one.” Also, I discovered why my term is technically until September, even though classes are done in the middle of June. September is when my dissertation is due, and speaking of which I haven’t quite narrowed that down any yet. Rough outline: Ethno-religious conflict in the industrializing world. Wide swath to choose from there. Obviously it will require some tightening. Actually a lot of tightening.

Living arrangements are taking some getting used to. I live in Elms Village, and it is essentially the antithesis of Heemstra. I live alone in my room, and I’m not allowed to keep my door open or I’ll get grouched at by security. Sizewise the room is about the same size as one of the dorm rooms, but its just me in there. I’ve managed to make some friends on my floor, but my basic strategy has been to park myself in the lounge with the tv on while reading and wait for someone to come in to see what was on. Commence introductions and hope they don’t hate me. Frankly, its a bit lonely right now, but the buildings have been mostly empty, too, since the students from Northern Ireland just moved in today. Things should improve with more people around classes started.

I explored the city a bit today. I set out at a little past 11 to meet up for lunch with a friend on the other side of town. But I had the wrong directions and couldn’t find the place. Which is to say that I was walking around Belfast for about three hours and didn’t find what I was looking for. Just a little bit annoying. I did figure out where EBM is in relation to my place of residence, as well as finding the hostel I stayed in the last time I was in the city. I’ve seen several shops and restaurants that look promising, so maybe once my funds arrive I’ll have to give them a look. Speaking of funds, I’m going to try to find a job on campus, or even better, someplace that will help me with international/ethnic relations. Maybe work for the international office? We’ll see.

That’s all for now, I’m tired of typing. For the record, this post is 1/30th the length that my dissertation must be. Ye gads.

C’est Tout Vrai

September 15, 2009

I’m going to go ahead an keep that comment, it makes me feel better.

In a little over twelve hours I’ll be in the air on my way to… Houston, from there to Newark, and then on to Belfast.

Basic idea is this: I’ll have at least one big post a week, summing things up, talking your ear, maybe (hopefully) giving you some great insight into life in Belfast. Throughout the week I’ll intersperse smaller posts highlighting interesting things I found on the internet, anecdotes, or a quick run through of the news in Belfast, maybe opinion.

Or I may do none of this and just do one post a week if you’re lucky.

Point of interest: C’est Tout Vrai translates from French as “It’s all true.”