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

Oops.

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. 


Dubstep. 


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.


VOLVO.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Epiphany

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!"

Ew.

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?

Ass15.Brownell

BROWNELL, Claire

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?

Argh.

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

Updates!

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.