Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Well this is just... neat.

Damn, I want to read this book now. And then join a Muslim punk rock band.

Friday, December 19, 2008

My RA job: a flashback montage

I don't think I've blogged about my RA job yet. So here's the deal: the rest of my peers got TA jobs where they did things like run discussion groups, mark papers, teach people how to use photoshop, and other tasks that require at least some degree of intelligence, skill and mental stimulation. I was assigned to be the research assistant for a professor who's writing a book on women in the CBC in the '50s to '60s, and a journal article about Canadian feminist newspapers. 

Right up my alley, you might think. This is also probably what the director of my program thought when he assigned me the job (it was either that or 'A feminist, eh? We'll show you what we do with THOSE'). Well, yes, except that my main duty was transcribing interviews word for word with very, very, very old people, who mumble, trail off into unrelated anecdotes, and get angry when they're asked questions they don't remember the answer to. Ten hours of that a week gets a bit tedious, to put it mildly.

Well, today I finished it. I transcribed the very last word of the very last interview, after plowing through three weeks worth of backed up work. And so in commemoration, I present to you My RA Job: The Montage.

(Cue music. Violins, perhaps.)

Scene 1

(Claire walks up to the Special Collections desk at Library and Archives Canada.)

Claire: Hello, I would like to order this list of audio materials.

Desk lady: (Types them into computer) I'm sorry, but these are not available for use at this location.

Claire: Um, then how am I supposed to listen to them, since that is my job?

Desk lady: They are only available in the main storage location in Hull. They are open only on weekday mornings. Very, very early on weekday mornings.

Claire: But I go to school on weekday mornings.

Desk lady: Well, then I suppose you'll just have to get there extra early.

Claire: Please check one more time before I die of a heart attack.

Desk lady: Alright, but... oh wait... ha ha, I entered the number wrong. They'll be here in two days.

Claire: *Dies of a heart attack*

Scene 2: The audio consultation room of Library and Archives Canada

Claire is transcribing an interview in which not one, but two Very Very Very Old Ladies are interviewing EACH OTHER.

VVVOL1: Now, if you could remember anything about the women's senate party in 1763...

VVVOL2: Oh, now, let's see, yes, I wore a red dress, no, no, it was blue, and it was Mary, no, Marjorie, who put on the party.

VVVOL1: Oh yes, wait, no, it was Mary, it was Mary after all, and your dress was red.

VVVOL2: Yes, yes, I remember now, and oh, didn't they have the nicest sandwiches.

VVVOL1: Yes, but now, what were we talking about, oh yes, the women's senate party, and you made that speech...

VVVOL2: Oh my, yes, now that speech, I wrote that speech while I was caring for my husband, who was injured in the war, you know, and back in those days, the only medicine available was cod's liver oil and pressed garlic...

VVVOL1: Oh dear, I believe we've gotten off topic again, now where were we, oh yes, the women's senate party of 1763...

(Claire ejects the CD and throws it across the room like a frisbee. It hits a security guard. She waves.)

Scene 3: The Special Collections desk again.

Claire: Hello, I just had a question about the material on this CD...

Desk lady: *Goes white* Oh God. Oh God. Did you take that... from the audio consultation room?

Claire: Well, yes...

Desk lady: Into the hallway???

Claire: Yes, but it was just a few feet, and I...

Desk lady: No archive materials are ever. Ever. Supposed to leave. That room.

Claire: Oh, OK, well, sorry, but if you could just answer my quick question...

Desk lady: *Grabs Claire by elbow* I must immediately escort you back. Please keep your eyes forward and the CD visible at all times.

Claire: Uh, alright, sure, but I was just wondering if this is the right recording, because I was looking for...

Desk lady: *Hisses* Never. Ever. Do. That. Again.

Claire: *Dies of a heart attack*

Scene 3: The audio consultation room of Library and Archives Canada

Claire is sitting in one of the little cubicles with headphones, attempting to put one of those giant reel to reel tapes on the tape player. Every time she successfully balances on the player, it plays for a few seconds then falls off.

Claire: $&@*#($*!@&#!(!!!!!!!

People from the neighbouring cubicles give her dirty looks.

Claire: Sorry. *$^#@*#$@!!!!! Does anyone else know how to work these things?

Everyone either ignores her or shakes their head no. Claire tries one more time and this time the entire tape falls off the reel in a tangled mess.

Claire: MOTHER &@#$^@!##$!!!!!

Claire stands on a chair twirling the reel in an attempt to untwist the tape. A security guard walks by. Claire waves.

Scene 4

Claire is transcribing an interview on her laptop at her apartment.

Terrified researcher on tape: So, can you tell me what year that was? '51? '52?

Old lady: Well, now, I don't know! That was 40 years ago!

Terrified researcher: But you can't give me even a rough idea of when, was it before the national broadcasting conference, or after...

Old lady: National broadcasting, now, it was called the broadcasting conference of Canada! Don't you know? Haven't you read anything?

Terrified researcher: Uh, yes, right, I'm sorry, I'll make a note...

Old lady: Now you're rustling your papers! That's going to make noise on the tape! Don't you know anything about broadcasting?

Terrified researcher: Uh, I... sorry...


Anyway, it's been fun, and it is with regret that I must take on another position. But all good things must come to an end.

Excuse me while I mine my parents' wine rack.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I can't believe that just happened.

I sent in my Battlestar article to MONDO yesterday and got an email back this morning.

There is a new TV editor and she has decided to take a firm stance against putting anything BSG related in the magazine.

That's right... I'm too geeky for MONDO. MONDO, the site that had Batman themed content for like, two solid weeks when The Dark Knight came out. MONDO, that has a comics section, editors obsessed with Spiderman, and once ran a series of Buffy fan articles years after the series finished.

Well, that's a blow to the ego.

So I'm making you read it instead. Blogs: helping rejected writers force their material upon an unwilling audience since 1999.


Just Let it Happen.

I’m about to take on an ambitious task.

I’m going to try and convince everyone who reads this article to start watching Battlestar Galactica, and to keep watching it until they’ve caught up to the last episode that aired mid fourth season. The show is starting up again on January 16, and you’re going to need the full Christmas break to prepare.

This being MONDO, bastion of pop culture nerdery (whatever, embrace it), many readers will not need convincing. However, I believe that a subtle approach is necessary to convert the skeptics, the people who respond to the argument “it’s the best show on television” with “yeah, but I’m not into spaceships and all that crap.” I want to be able to bring up the show at a bar and be met with a lively round of conversation, goddammit, instead of the usual chorus of “Shut up, geek!” followed by napkins and straws being thrown at me. So even if, especially if, you’re an ardent science fiction hater and the mere mention of the title makes you want to beat me up and steal my lunch money, hear me out.

I’m going to ease you into this. You may claim that all forms of science fiction give you seizures, but I bet you’ve enjoyed it in the past without even realizing it. OK, fine, you hate Star Trek. Acceptable. You may even hate Star Wars. A shame, but to each his own. But I bet you’ve watched Futurama through to a commercial break at least once while flipping channels. That show involves a spaceship, robots and the future: it counts. I bet you liked The Matrix and Independence Day. That counts too. I bet you’ve read Slaughterhouse Five, A Clockwork Orange, or 1984, and I bet you wrote a stellar book report on it. You’re busted.

Sneaky? Perhaps. Unfair? Maybe. But hey, I just proved that just because a book, movie or TV show has elements of science fiction in it doesn’t mean you won’t like it. A whole new world is now open to you. Thank me later. I’ll see you at the “Environmental Sustainability in Frank Herbert’s Dune Series” book club next Tuesday.

Now that your knee-jerk genre prejudice has been dealt with, let’s move on to Battlestar. I may be forced to give away some minor plot details in order to make the most convincing case possible, so if you’re already hooked but not completely caught up, proceed with caution.

The cast is hot and often half naked. OK, so this may be a cheap way to get people interested. But it’s true: BSG has a little something for everyone. Straight male? One of the main characters is a blonde model who often struts around in a very skimpy red dress. Straight female? Locker room scenes of buff, manly army guys wearing only towels abound. Gay male? Locker room scenes of buff, manly army guys wearing only towels abound, plus there’s Felix “Gaydar” Gaeta’s adorable man-crush on Dr. Gaius Baltar. Gay female? Katee Sackhoff plays short haired, cigar chomping, ass-kicking tomboy Lieutenant Kara Thrace, and... get ready for this... Lucy Lawless plays a bisexual robot (unfortunately minus the Xena breastplates). I challenge you to watch two episodes of this show and not incorporate at least one of the characters into your sexual fantasy roster.

The writing is riveting and the acting is fantastic. I don’t get hooked on long story arc type shows very often, because I find that most of the time they quickly disintegrate into the realm of the soap opera. But Battlestar sets itself up with a story line interesting enough to sustain an entire series without jumping the shark. I’m tempted to describe the premise, but every time I try I end up saying “I know that sounds really lame, but...” Just trust me that it’s not, and remember that this isn’t the first plot involving a futuristic robot war you’ve enjoyed (remember my point about The Matrix and Independence Day?). The creators of the show consciously try to make the daily lives of the characters believable, showing you where and how they live instead of having them just wander on and off the set like on Star Trek. This distracts you from the fact it’s set on a spaceship, I promise. Again, there’s something for everyone: intrigue, action, sex and drama. There’s just enough action to keep the romantic plot lines from getting sappy, and just enough romance and personal drama to keep viewers engaged who yawn watching fight and shoot-out scenes. The problem is that the very plot elements that make the show great are also what make it difficult and confusing to watch the episodes out of order. Why does the same actor seem to be three places at once? Why is Baltar the only one lucky enough to be able to see the model in the red dress? All will be revealed, my friend. Take the time and watch from the beginning. It’s worth it.

The plot features intelligent, complex social and political commentary. I would go so far as to say it’s the best I’ve see on television, ever. The show makes parallels with terrorism and the Iraq war, with the humans and robots (called cylons) holding competing religious belief. In season three, the cylons occupy a human settlement, so the humans develop an underground insurgency using suicide bombing as a tactic. Sound familiar? The fictional premise allows the writers leeway to explore controversial topics that would probably get them pulled off the air if the setting were more realistic. It also means the themes can be incorporated seamlessly into the plot without appearing preachy or out of place. Other topics brought up include abortion, freedom of speech, class politics, torture, and labour rights.

Christmas break is the perfect time to rent a season, hole up in your basement wrapped up in a blanket, and not leave the house. It’s snowing; you don’t want to go outside anyway. You’ll have an excuse not to talk to your family. You’ll save money by not going out. And when the series comes back on in January, you’ll be babbling about it excitedly to anyone who will listen instead of telling geeks like me to shut up.

Just let it happen.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A cautionary tale.

Yesterday I showed up to work five minutes early, giant yellow purse packed with all the essential tools of my trade, eyeliner carefully applied, blazer jauntily buttoned. "Boy, I sure am a picture of responsibility and professionalism," I thought as I looked at my put together self in the bathroom mirror. "Who wouldn't hire me? I am clearly amazing."

"Good morning, Claire," my editor said to me.

"Good morning, Kate," I cheerfully replied.

"Are you enjoying your internship?"

"Why yes, it is going fantastically," I said. "You will notice that I emailed you all three 850 word articles last evening at 5:30. Would you like to assign me some other work to do while you read them? Or shall I just bask in the anticipation of praise, like a puppy waiting for a tummy rub?"

"So you're really enjoying your internship?" She pressed, smiling knowingly.

"Why, of course I am. Ha, ha, ha. Hard work, federal politics, not having to deal with all those pesky tax forms since I don't get paid, who wouldn't?"

"Because I found your blog."

Heart stops.

Jaw drops.

Hockey buzzer goes off in head as I frantically try to remember exactly what I said in my most recent posts.

"I have this Google alert thing set up..."

Crap. Last week's quarter life crisis where I reassessed my career path. Being less than thrilled about fact checking stories on fertilizer policy at midnight.

"And it tells me every time the name of the newspaper gets posted online..."

OH CRAP. Gin buckets. Saying the House Curator's job is to scrape gum off historical objects.

"And so it emailed me when your posts came up..."

CRAP. CRAP. Asian prostitution. Drug tourism. How did I manage to fit all these things in one post?

"They were funny. You're a good writer."


"Here's your pay equity story back. My edits are in bold."

And so I stared at the computer, trying to make sense of what had just happened, picking up the pieces of my sense of identity as a together, unflappable intern. I mean, editing my pay equity story.

Yes, I know that anyone can find what I write on this blog. And I've definitely been playing fast and loose with my usual rule, which is if I can think of anyone I wouldn't want to read it, don't write it. But I didn't know that it was as if I was emailing my blogs to my boss every time I wrote the name of the paper (which, yes, I am carefully avoiding using).

It could have been a lot worse, that's for damned sure. So let this be a lesson to you. A cautionary tale, if you will. I'm ramping up my standards. Not only will I not write anything if there's anyone I wouldn't want to read it, I will assume it is getting emailed to everyone and everything mentioned.

Dear Kate:

If you are reading this, I really did enjoy my internship at your fine newspaper. I feel that my unintentional candidness gives you a more well rounded and honest perspective of my performance. Also, now you know how hard I worked. If you hire me in the summer, I promise I will not blog about pieing politicians or mention the name of your publication and Asian hookers in the same post again.

I look forward to working with you in the future.


Claire Brownell.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Internship week 2: A lot less terrifying?

Mega was right. Despite the fact that I have a similar workload this week, I finished work at 5 today with two rough drafts done, anticipate being done by 6:30 at the latest tomorrow, and am about to watch two hours of Kenny v. Spenny. 


I have a press gallery pass for Parliament!

If I had a digital camera, I would definitely post a picture of it. In fact, it would probably be my new profile picture on Facebook. You'll just have to take my word for it that it has my name, The Hill Times, and the Parliamentary crest (there's probably an actual name for that), and a picture of me that looks like someone squished my head. It's beautiful.

I interviewed the Curator for the House of Commons Collection today for a feature profile. Basically his job is to keep track of all the historical stuff in the Centre Block and make sure no one sticks their gum on a bust of John A. MacDonald. Nice guy. We somehow got on the topic of Cambodia, and now I'm slightly concerned he'll Google me and find my MONDO articles and have his image of me as a fresh faced go-getting intern drown in a bucket of Samsung and Red Bull. Note to self: launching your journalistic career with a series of travel articles about drugs, prostitution and binge drinking can lead to future awkward professional situations.

Tomorrow I'm interviewing the woman who plays the bells in the Peace Tower at noon. She used to be a doctor in Spokane, you know.

And my pay equity article is turning out to be quite exciting, and led to a brief but lively exchange with a spokesperson for a certain government department that I should probably not discuss in detail in my blog. Ask for details in person.

Coming soon on Take your Blazer and Get Out:
- The wife leaves town: Mega, Lisa and Claire consume 17 pies, 36 gin buckets and the beer store's entire stock of Max Ice
- I starve to death and cry myself to sleep in my lonely, wife-less state
- I discover that attempting to do 30 hours of backlogged transcribing in 30 hours leads to hallucinations and uncontrollable fits of shrieking

Stay tuned!

Oh. AND. Mega has a blog now! Find it on my blog roll or at

Friday, December 5, 2008

Internship week 1: still standing.

Well! I was right. That was interesting. Not quite in the way I thought though.

My dreams of chasing down politicians while yelling hard hitting questions about accountability and parliamentary precedents were crushed Monday morning when I was handed a stack of assignments on resources, next week's focus topic. 

So instead, I found myself frantically making phone calls trying to get interviews on such topics as fertilizer regulations, offshore oil in Newfoundland, and Arctic research. I had a meltdown Wednesday night around midnight as I was still banging out my fourth article and wondering if I had damned myself to a life of working 16 hour days and doing interviews on my cell phone sitting cross legged in bus shelters in subzero weather ("Oh, yes, you're the NDP Indian Affairs critic... yes, of course I have time to talk to you now. Please excuse the sound of rush hour traffic and my chattering teeth").

Realistically, it wasn't that much more work than a normal week at school, where I'm used to never getting a day off and working all night. But there's something about having to be in an office from nine to five that adds extra misery to the realization that it's 10:00 p.m. and I'm reading the Fertilizers Act to fact check.

But Mega reminded me that any new job seems overwhelming at first, and that maybe it would get easier. And it did... once the deadline was over things were pretty easy, and I spent the afternoon getting a head start on assignments for next week, which will hopefully mean I'll be less crazed. I even pitched a story idea that I got the go ahead on... and it's a story about the Conservatives rolling back pay equity! I'm getting a story published about feminism! Who woulda thought?

Another weird thing I noticed is that after spending so much time exerting every ounce of energy sounding professional and articulate in five billion interviews with important people, I immediately became a neanderthal when I slipped back into normal life mode. "What kind of coffee would you like, miss?" "Uh." "How many sheets of bus tickets do you need?" "Duh." "Yo Claire, how's work going?" "SO. HUNGRY."

And I'm making it sound like it was all stress and caffeine. It wasn't. I definitely got a perverse kick out of calling MPs and lobbyists and pretending I knew what I was talking about. "So how long have you been with The Hill Times?" they would ask me. "Since Monday," I would respond. ".... Oh." I went to a conference on renewable fuels and interviewed the woman in charge of a $1 billion biofuels fund. I wrote a really interesting article on drinking water quality in First Nations communities. And I saw my five (FIVE!) articles the way they're going to be laid out in Monday's paper with my byline, and damn... my name looks good in print.

But I think the strongest indication that I still like journalism is that I came home from work today, made myself dinner, turned on the 6:00 news and started blogging.

Career path confirmed. Lisa, start baking that pie.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Political chaos? SWEET.

What the hell crazy episode of the Twilight Zone did I just fall into?

Yesterday television talking heads were bemoaning how dull the last election was, and Canadian politics in general... now there's an opposition coalition that feels more like a third world military coup than something that would happen here.

Yesterday Stephane Dion was a hilarious political has been that the Liberals couldn't wait to write off as a giant embarrassing mistake... now he might be the Prime Minister in a week.

Yesterday the Governor General, unelected representative of the Queen of England, had a job description mostly consisting of signing things and wearing fancy hats. Now she's going to decide whether the coalition goes ahead or an election gets called.

Yesterday I was happy to be finished with a story about intramural dodgeball... now I'm a reporter on Parliament Hill.

If they have me answering phones and making coffee or writing stories about politicians' pets, I might throw a tantrum. Because this is so... freaking... COOL.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I was going to come home and immediately do my law take home exam, edit my essay for my elective class, and put together an internship application.

Instead I wrote an article for MONDO about Battlestar Galactica that I'm not even going to submit for like, two weeks.

Forget Christmas. Someone should make a countdown to BSG advent calendar.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Team Volvo

I slept from 6:30 to 11:00 in a living room with six other people, I smell like an ashtray’s ashtray, I had to take a bus home from Montreal half blind because I lost my contacts, and someone spilled a bottle of Orangina in my purse.

A typical Volvo weekend.

A few of my friends and I used to drive up to London a few weekends a year to visit our friend Mike, aka DJ Busdriver. We started calling ourselves “team Volvo” because of the car we drove up in. Basically we would listen to Bus spin records in his basement, or occasionally at a gig at a bar, spend the night spooning on the floor, have a pizza and coffee party when we woke up, and go back to our ordinary studying and working lives.

Favourite Bus quote: one New Years we were all crashing in his room when the phone rang. Bus: “Who needs the phone? Everyone I know is in my bed.”

Last night was a Volvo reunion. I saw people I haven’t seen in years. Friendships were reaffirmed, grudges forgiven, smiles were on everyone’s face. It didn’t hurt that we were there to see Joe Nice, North America’s biggest dubstep DJ, and the crowd was going absolutely nuts. There were a few wrinkles, like when some drunk girl accidentally on purpose almost walked off with Megababe’s purse and hoodie, but in general good times were had by all.

Sometimes I forget how awesome my friends are. They’re graffiti artists, vagabonds, t-shirt designers, DJs and party promoters. They’re the people who just do things instead of talking about it. Despite layers and layers of baggage and friendcest, we manage to stick together out of our love for this crazy music no one’s ever heard of and each other.

So far I’ve totally failed at describing dubstep. Here’s what Joe Nice has to say about it, which I think is beautiful:

Deep in the heart of South London's underground lies a sound that percolates in the streets and vibrates the speakers...dubstep is the soundtrack. A vibe that rests on the edge of relaxation and explosion, that flourishes in the middle ground of the comfortable sounds of soulful house and the unbridled energy of drum & bass..... 

Music made in London -- forged from multicultural influences, syncopated rhythms and loads of bass. 


Not too fast....Not too slow....Just right. 

Dubstep = Bass + pace + space. 

Dubstep = Beats + bass + boom. 

Dubstep = A force of nature. 

Dubstep = Infection + reflection. 

Dubstep = release + restraint. 

Dubstep = The irresistible force meeting the immovable object. 

Dubstep = The art of the invisible. 

Dubstep = Mood music that's strictly for the headstrong. 

Dubstep = What is now and what is next. 

Dubstep = Musical soul food. 

If anyone’s interested in seeing it for themselves, a girl we’ve gotten to know is putting on a fundraiser for the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre at the Elgin St. Freehouse on December 6. You have to see how packed this teeny tiny bar gets for these nights.


Saturday, November 22, 2008


I came to an epiphany today.

All these years I thought I was resisting going to my brother's hockey games because I hated hockey. Well, actually, to be truthful, I thought it was a combination of hating hockey and being a selfish brat who couldn't be bothered to support my brother in my childhood and adolescence. I would go to extreme lengths and make up outrageous excuses.

But his team was playing Carleton today, and I was short on excuses and figured I was probably over being a spoiled brat, so I went. And I think I figured it out.

I don't hate hockey. I hate hockey rinks.

They smell like a refrigerated gym sock. They are full of obnoxious ads for car dealerships. They blare out of date music between plays (Blink 182?? Seriously???). The stands are occupied by puck bunnies with platinum blond highlights and frosted lipstick and middle aged white men with Bob and Doug Mackenzie accents clutching cups of Timmies and yelling things like "Deke! Deke! Deke! Deke Joe! Hit 'em hard!"


No wonder when I'm silently panicking about something I imagine a hockey buzzer going off over and over in my head.

Anyway, I managed to actually follow the game itself. I think dodgeball may have awakened my inner sports fan. Too bad my brother's team (U of T) played like the living dead and lost 3-0. There were actually times when I was tempted to yell "Try passing, you hosers!"

Please don't make fun of me about the hockey buzzer thing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Am I crazy if I hand this in?



Nov. 20, 2008

It was a battle of David and Goliath proportions. A bittersweet tale of the triumph of the human spirit. A sporting event to write home about.

It was Athletics 1 versus CUSERT in the intramural dodgeball semifinal.

“If Hollywood has taught me anything, it’s that we can’t possibly lose,” said Craig Elder, Athletics 1 team member.

CUSERT, made up of members of Carleton’s student emergency response team, was in a three-way tie for first place and Athletics 1 was in third going into the match. Athletics 1 was in an underdog position since they had less spares and two of their key players were injured. Elder had one arm in a tensor bandage from a previous dodgeball incident. The burly and bearded Carlos Funes was limping on one crutch after aggravating his bum knee playing soccer.

The last time Athletics 1 played CUSERT was immediately after members of the emergency response team administered first aid to Funes when he injured his knee. Two Athletics 1 members were taken out of commission in that soccer game, Elder said.

“They were taking Carlos away and we asked ‘Hey, are you guys playing a dodgeball game later? Because you’re playing us,’” Elder said. “If we start losing tonight, could you maybe run to a payphone and call the ERT? Some of them are sure to be on duty.”

On the walk to the game, Elder, Funes and Brian O’Shea debated the wisdom of burning a CUSERT magnet in voodoo effigy for good luck. They decided it would interfere with their status as “the good guys” and potentially move them into the “villains who deserve a comeuppance” category in the balance of the universe.

Instead, they decided to hang their strategy on a number of new plays. These included the Berserker, in which one team member yells gibberish and runs to the line kamikaze-style to distract the other team; the Goliath, in which the tallest team member is attacked; and the Medusa, in which players aim for the ugliest member of the opposing team.

But these strategies were quickly abandoned for the struggle to survive against the disciplined and well-conditioned CUSERT. They were calm and collected as they stared down Athletics 1 with fire in their eyes at the start of the first five-minute match.

“Don’t get hit, don’t go for the catch, just stay alive!” yelled Funes, leaning on his crutch as he played coach from the sidelines, hoping the situation wouldn’t get so dire that he would feel obligated to play.

Athletics 1 won the first match, but things started to go downhill as Stephanie Harding had to take herself out when she was hit on the ear. Both teams held steady with four players each in the game until CUSERT made a catch thrown by Karina Auclair with two seconds left. The third match was another quick loss for Athletics 1 as CUSERT sniped off players one by one, eliminating them all within three minutes.

Match four had to be an Athletics 1 win for them to stay in the game. They held strong for the majority of the match, but were unable to hold their own after a few lost players, eventually leaving the injured Elder alone in a three-on-one. He held strong for 30 to 40 seconds, dodging throws until all the balls were on his side. Once he threw them back and the firepower was against him, he was quickly eliminated.

“We played hard. The other team came out fighting, we expected that. I don’t want to make excuses, but the injuries really held us back. Ultimately, they were just better conditioned, and a couple missed catches really turned the game against our favour,” Elder said.

Their faith in Hollywood endings shattered, Athletics 1 walked, hobbled, and limped towards Mike’s Place for a post-game pint. The pink-clad Renfrew House team who was playing in the next round of the semifinal jogged past them, yelling cheers in unison.

The quest for dodgeball glory continued.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Love/Hate with Leah

Anyone else have the same love/hate relationship with Leah McLaren that I do?

Leah McLaren is a columnist for The Globe and Mail whose job seems to consist of writing one column on Saturdays in the Style section about drinking, sleeping in, traveling, not going to the gym, and living in trendy neighbourhoods. Occasionally she is invited to make snide comments on a topic du jour on some TV or radio show. This apparently funds a recent move to England (that's right, she's now a foreign correspondent), frequent trips abroad, and a hip urban lifestyle.

The hate, of course, is pure jealousy. She's a fabulous writer and I would kill a small animal (maybe even a big one) for her job.

An excerpt from yesterday's column:

"I have worn yoga pants every day of the week, except Saturday - when I do the laundry in my bathrobe.

While my productivity hasn't suffered, other parts of my life are feeling the strain, or the stretch, as the case may be.

I am loath to have lunch meetings (too much fuss) and Patrick has taken to calling me 'the urban hick' because of my new habit of wearing rubber boots around the house instead of trainers (no more inconvenient laces)."

That's right, she wrote an entire column on how hard it is to have a job where she can work from home wearing yoga pants. And I can't hate it. It's funny. It's well written.

Dear Edward Greenspon: I feel that since Ms. McLaren's move to England there is a gap in your coverage of the issues faced by young, urban, trendy Canadians who drink a lot and complain about things. I feel that I am exceptionally qualified to fill this gap. Please find my resume attached and feel free to contact me at any time.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Foot in mouth.

Top things not to say at a potluck at your professor's house while his wife rummages through the cutlery drawer behind you...

"Well, I did work at a Cambodian brothel once, but it was as a bartender. Plus it wasn't so much of a brothel as a place where sex tourists go to meet prostitutes."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mainstream is the New Radical Chic

You'd think this would be obvious. You'd think this wouldn't come as a newsflash. But after four years in York's political science department whose politics are somewhere left of Lenin, the following revelations are quite a shock to my system:

- Most people are suspicious of people who describe their politics as Marxist.
- Most people are pro-capitalism.
- Many normal people actually actively and sincerely support a mainstream political party.
- Most people, including most aspiring journalists, don't think the media is involved in a conspiracy with the state-corporate elite to spread capitalist propaganda to the citizens
- To most people, the phrase "While I get where the Foucauldians and postmodernists are coming from, I really think it's important to find a way to incorporate anti-racist feminism into a Gramscian historical materialist analysis" means absolutely nothing.
- And it certainly wouldn't be casually dropped into a conversation with your friends and classmates.

Seriously, I know, this is not exactly breaking news. I am not calling CNN over this. But I didn't realize how normalized radicalism had become for me. I've had professors argue with a straight face that Stalinist Russia wasn't really as bad as they make it out to be. I know that if you soak a handkerchief with vinegar and hold it up to your face it helps keep the tear gas fumes from getting to you. We criticized everything "mainstream" in class, from politics to the media to music, but any time I criticized Marxism in class I was met with shock and outrage by not only my professor, but my classmates.

So to hear people raise their hands in J5000 and utter the words "Well the author's a Marxist, so this article is clearly an ideologically biased rant" is just... weird. Welcome, don't get me wrong. I found it absolutely horrifyingly creepy how quickly the York political science department seemed to literally brainwash students over the course of four years into neo-Marxist automatons. But weird.

There were lots of things I loved about York's radical politics. Not the Marxism, I always found that dogmatic and frankly, kind of dull. But the activism, the engagement, the alternative way of looking at things shaped the way I think and act. I know I'm supposed to be all non-partisan and junk now that I'm a journalist, but I think it will make me do my job better by looking for stories from ordinary, under-represented people instead of the usual politicians, CEOs and "experts."

And I have to admit... I'm kind of craving a solid feminist deconstruction of Paris Hilton's New BFF over a couple of beers. Or a rousing bout of "Hey hey, ho ho, corporate fascism has got to go." Sigh... heartwarming nostalgia.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Crackpot Schemes and Responsibility: A Fine Balancing Act

This weekend Michelle, Lisa and I were planning to hitch hike to Montreal to go to some event thrown by one of the DJs we met a few weeks ago. I had a serious crisis deciding whether or not I should go. Michelle made me make a venn diagram to help me decide, a tactic we've used for years to stave off freak outs.

Pros included:
- Guaranteed good time
- I'm craving a good crackpot scheme. Something seriously crazy. A real "mom's not gonna like this" fiasco.
- Will make for fabulous blog entries

Cons included:
- High potential sketch factor
- No time for crackpot schemes since starting J-school. Semester is over in 3 weeks. Should move to library and cut off all communication with outside world instead of coming up with crackpot schemes.

The part of the diagram where the two circles intersect (please tell me somebody else remembers and/or makes venn diagrams. I swear this was at least half of grade three) was labelled "prons" and included the observation that I can always run away if the sketch factor became overwhelming, which prompted the addition of "might end up sleeping in a ditch" to "cons."

We didn't end up going to Montreal. But the reason for this story, besides sharing the venn diagram tradition, is that I feel like I need each week to be an extra three days longer, at least. I have two awesome groups of friends that I have so far failed to amalgamate, meaning that I have twice as many fun things to distract me and half as much time to spend on them. My parents are coming in two weeks, on the weekend when a super wicked DJ who rarely comes to Canada is playing in Montreal. "So mom, would I be the worst daughter ever if I abandoned you in Ottawa the Saturday you come to visit me to hitch hike to Montreal to go to some sketchy club?" are words that will be leaving my mouth some time in the next 24 hours.

The voices in my head are arguing again. At least it's just my brain... so far my uterus and liver haven't joined the conversation.

Voice #1: "The semester is over in three weeks. THREE WEEKS. You have three weeks to write two 15-page papers, do a feature article on an extremely broad and touchy subject, actually pick up a copy of the newspaper you will be working for in December, do a law take home exam, and write three reading critiques. Do not leave the house. Flush your cell phone down the toilet. Look directly forward in class and respond to all invitations to get coffee, lunch or drinks with class mates with a polite but firm no thank you."

Voice #2: "Go to Montreal twice in two weekends. Drink so much gin that your nursing student roommate doesn't understand how you didn't get alcohol poisoning. Lie in bed all day watching Buffy. Get a tattoo. Spend hours writing and reading blog entries instead of actual school assignments. You worry too much. You never take me out any more. You used to be cool. What happened to the Claire I know who built a raft to a Laotian island and had to spend the night there because it go too dark to swim back? Why aren't you riding a motorbike through rush hour traffic in Vietnam? What is all this school crap? You're looking at your watch to make sure you go to bed in time to get exactly eight hours of sleep, aren't you? You're looking up CP style for your blog entry on irresponsibility, AREN'T YOU? What happened to you?"

What happened to me?

Is it Christmas break yet?


Monday, November 3, 2008

Lisa saves weekend from being an unproductive disaster.

Lisa and I were talking about my MRP and I was explaining how I want to go back to Cambodia to do research on how the changes in the tourism industry are affecting people who run small businesses. The problem is that the best time for me to go back is the summer, which is the rainy season in Cambodia and the worst possible time to do research into tourism since there won't be any.

"What about Malaysia?" Said Lisa, drying off the last dish and opening the oven to check on her butter tarts. "Kuala Lumpur has this really interesting thriving gay scene even though being gay is illegal in Malaysia. I know a couple you can stay with and one of them is a DJ so he knows everybody and would be able to get you a million interviews. And it's farther south so it will still be the dry season in the summer."

I almost fell off my chair! And not because of my slanty floor this time! Social justice, a hot and relevant topic that is in the middle of big changes (Islamic countries and gay rights), and spending grant money partying in Malaysia? I am sold. So, so sold.

I do not know what I would do without Lisa. I would never eat. I would talk to myself and probably explode in a big fireball of stress and feelings. My cupboards would still be covered in 50 years of grime instead of being magic erasered clean. I would have no practical idea for my MRP.

Lisa decided the other day that the reason we get along as roommates is because we both replace the toilet paper roll when it's done. That says it all, really.

We share an apartment that is a stretch to call a one bedroom and that was described in the craigslist posting as "if you need room for your pet rock collection, don't rent this place." It also houses two guitars and a banjo. And yet somehow it works.

Yesterday my parents called and asked, like they do every weekend, "Is that girl still living on your floor?" "Yes, she is making me sushi as we speak," I replied. They clearly think I'm crazy. So do you, probably.

What do you guys think about the MRP idea? I think I'm going to run it by Allan maybe sometime this week.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Blog housekeeping:

- I realized I had it set so that only people with blogs could comment. Now anyone can. Hooray!
- You can thank Michelle for the new blog title, which makes just as little sense as the last one.

That's all for now, since it's 9:58 and my life revolves around The National.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Journalism Student Literally Dies of Embarrassment.

A 23-year-old journalism student died of embarrassment last night outside a sketchy rave at Preston and Somerset.

Friends say Claire Brownell brought them there hoping for a repeat of last month's funk night thrown by DJ Timekode at the same venue. "She kept telling us how packed and awesome it was with tons of people dancing and great music," said classmate Natalie Spechyson. I mean, Stechyson.

Instead, the group of 11 was greeted by pounding techno that sounded like it would be more at home in neo-Nazi Germany than Ottawa's Chinatown. "The beats were neither funky nor fresh," Brownell's friend Ben Nicholson-Smith said. "Claire and I used to go to a bar in London that had a weekly funk night, and she promised me it would be like that. She lied to me. Why would she lie to me?"

Nicki Thomas, another classmate, said her first clue was the strange manner of dress of many of the people in the line. "I know Halloween is coming up, but these people looked like fairy wings, vampire capes and rainbow hot pants were just a part of their everyday wardrobe," she said.

After paying $7 only to find the bar empty of all but an enthusiastic, wide-pupilled few, an already intoxicated Brownell proceeded to down several more shots, witnesses reported.

She then text messaged "Help" to her other group of friends, who were on their way to join her at the bar. "I knew something was wrong when I got that text," said Michelle Smoliniec, who goes by the alias Megababe. "Unfortunately I was too drunk to do much but send her a seven minute long voicemail about the time I worked as a lifeguard at a summer camp even though I didn't have any qualifications, skills or experience."

"I don't know what she was so embarrassed for," said classmate Sonya Bell. "I think rainbow hot pants are totally sexy. I almost wore the same thing."

Brownell was pronounced dead at 12:47 a.m. Sunday morning. Witnesses say she fell to the ground twitching and cursing the owner of the cafe who had told her on the phone that the same event she had attended a month ago was being held that night.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

WHY did I rent this apartment?

Today I called my landlord because the heat still hadn't been turned on in my building. He showed me where the dial was on the one notch above wood burning stove old school fire hazard floor radiators, promised me for the billionth time that he was seriously for real going to get me a stove that was manufactured after 1920 any day now, and then dropped this bomb while he was leaving:

"Oh, by the way, I'm trying to sell the building, so I'm going to be showing potential investors the apartment every Tuesday from 11-2. Hope that's cool."


That is not cool, dingus, for several reasons:

1) I have class every Tuesday from 9-5. Sort of like the hours that normal people work. So strangers will be poking around my stuff every WEEK without my being there.

2) There is a 0% chance that I will be able to keep my apartment reasonably clean for these Tuesday visits. I told my landlord this, and he said, in typical dingus fashion, "Oh, that's cool." I am going to make my apartment as messy as possible every Tuesday morning before leaving for class on purpose. Not that it matters, because...

3) Dear genius landlord: Have you SEEN my apartment? The floor is so slanty my desk is propped up by two hockey pucks on each front leg. The baseboards form close to a 45 degree angle. The door between my kitchen and bedroom is a sea foam green bedsheet spray painted with "You don't wanna door" and thumb tacked to the frame. In fact, when I have time, I'm going to make a photo essay and send it to FailBlog. Instead of SHOWING potential buyers this disaster, you should keep them as far away from it as possible.

4) What will my wife do? Lisa, the shifty couch surfer who lives on my floor, will be forced to vacate the premises every Tuesday for 3 hours, or risk getting kicked out when my landlord realizes she's my roommate and not my girlfriend, which is why he thinks she's around all the time now.

5) What if I had a giant stash of porn on my coffee table, or was airing a sex toy collection out to dry, or liked to keep a bong on my counter... not that any of these are the case (as far as I'm disclosing on the internet, anyway), but the point is, my apartment is MY space. I do not want strangers looking at it every week for three hours from now into eternity and worry about them judging me, because that is how long it's going to take my landlord to sell this building.

I called the Landlord-Tenant Board of Ontario and they told me I'm SOL. Him telling me today counts as 24 hours notice, which is all you need. Which seems ridiculous to me. There has to be some sort of limitation on how often your landlord can come in to your apartment. What if he had told me, "By the way, I'm going to be in your apartment every day from 9-7 starting the day after tomorrow. I noticed you have an interesting book collection, and I've decided to sit on your futon and catch up on French political philosophy." It would be 24 hours notice, technically.

At least I have heat now.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

C'est Sa Fete!

"C'est ma fete!"
"C'est ma FETE!"
"I thought you were bilingual."
"Oh... you're speaking... yeah, I did too."

Dominating dance parties, drinking gin with friends who've soldiered through flat tires and traffic jams to get there, and beating up DJs from Montreal... yup, sounds like Michelle's birthday.

Michelle was so enthusiastic that she's been put in charge of promotions for next month's event (i.e., handing out fliers on the street). Doing my part to help the cause: everyone should go to the Elgin St. Freehouse on the third Saturday of every month for dubstep night. What's dubstep? You'll find out when you get there. It sounds something like this: wob wob wobblewobblewobble wobwobwob.

Happy birthday, megababe. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Partying with the Green Party

Last night was my first foray into the wonderful world of slave *cough* erm, “paid in tax-free experience” labour for a professional media organization, which is apparently going to be a regular feature in my life for quite a while. I was covering the Ottawa Centre Green Party on election night, calling in 50 word descriptions of the scene as new developments happened and eventually filing 150 words for the print edition.

I definitely got the sweetest assignment. It was (a) at a bar, which was (b) a 15 minute walk from my apartment, and involved (c) hanging out with Jen Hunter (the Green candidate), her campaign workers, and some random BJ students who were doing a class assignment. I tried really hard not to rub it in the faces of my friends who had to drive an hour and a half to Brockville.

I love the Green Party. Only they would decorate their election night headquarters with disco lights and schoolchildren’s construction paper cut-outs. I was greeted by Jen with a “Welcome! Have a seat! Um, who are you?” The answer that I was covering the event for the Citizen, and my subsequent refusal of a free drink ticket, led to me being treated politely but reservedly (well, reserved for the Green party) for the rest of the night. Jen has some issues with the way she’s been covered by the Citizen in the past, apparently. As for turning down the free drink, yes, I felt like a total loser, but I mean, isn’t that pretty much a textbook example of what not to do for journalists? Anyway, I kind of felt like a narc all night. Or someone’s mom. The fact I was dressed as “reporter Barbie” (Michelle’s description) probably didn’t help. The BJ students partook enthusiastically in the free beer.

Even if they thought I was a dork, infiltrating scenes I’m not a part of is my new favourite thing about journalism. And the Green Party is just adorable. Everyone cheered every Green result, no matter how dismal, including the news that Elizabeth May and Jen Hunter lost. 

One paragraph of one article published under someone else’s name is all that actually got into the Citizen. But something I wrote still got into a real newspaper. Right?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Carleton's Master of Journalism Program: Kind of Like a Grade Eight Birthday Party

I have all my classes with the same 21 people, I have weekly homework assignments, and I'm about to start watching Buffy again...

Wow, that's exactly a 10-year cycle back to grade eight. Very impressive, universe. You've done it again.

We may have way too much to do, our self confidence may be destroyed twice a week when our reporting assignments get displayed on a screen and picked apart in front of the entire class, and we may schedule our nervous breakdowns into our day planners, but I predict two things will glue our fragile psyches together:

1) We will start drinking at 4 p.m. every Friday and continue until last call, and:
2) We will blog, and it will be good.

It begins!