Wednesday, August 15, 2007


When I talk with people about their plans in life, I sometimes feel a bit anxious for those who seem to have too clear an idea of what they want to do. From my (admittedly) limited experience so far, it seems that the most important life changing moments occur unexpectedly, quickly, and often despite whatever-the-hell else we've got going*.

I think that people want to believe that the path we carve out for ourselves is mostly etched out with hard work and foresight. Maybe we can control some aspects in this way, but there's no accounting for how much luck plays into our various lots in life.

I was speaking with my dad the other day while out fishing. He spoke to me of how when he was in my position (young, searching for a career etc...) that he noticed a big difference between how he (Italian by birth) and his native Canadian peers moved through life. North Americans (according to my dad) are too pre-occupied with the future. The reason he feels that his Italian-migrant brethren did so well in 1950's era Toronto was that while everyone else was busy worrying about the future, he and his fellow countrymen were all much more tuned in to the present moment and making decisions around opportunities that were currently available to them. In his case, for the most part, this meant going straight to work in construction.

Dad chose to turn his back on the big business, multi-million dollar construction companies that many of his Italian friends would eventually build and run. Instead he opted to take his small business up north, building cottages and summer homes for the Italian community that had now become quite wealthy in the city. Having had the good fortune of meeting my mother, they built a nice house in a great area and I had a pretty idyllic youth there. Good on ya dad, good on ya.

One of the great things about the stories and anecdotes that dad tells me is that there is no clear 'lesson' that he drives home. These stories have lessons, no doubt- and important ones at that, but exactly what they are he tends to leave up to his audience. When I was younger I took this as a sign of his my perspective is much different. I think there is something to my dad's 'build on what you have in front of you' approach to life that seems so simple when you hear the words, but in reality is so hard to put into practice.

My own life, lately, has seen its fair share of change. New place, new city, new people, new direction. Will it work out? Who's to say. There are certainly elements in this new shuffle of opportunities that I sincerely hope will blossom into something great, but, taking dear old dad's sage advice, I'll do my best to move forward with what does, and relent on what doesn't.

*This is not to say that I am fatalistic, or believe in any kind of pre-destination. I still think the world is essentially random. This is just to say that, upon reflection, the events that we ultimately deem "life altering" come at us in a manner that is different than we typically expect.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Existentialists say that when people are confronted with the fact that the world is essentially random, cold, and unfeeling, they invent a narrative to fill that void with mythologies about benevolent forces, Gods, and afterlives to escape dealing with the fact that we are utterly and completely finite and alone. If mystic or spiritual narratives don't cut it for you, then, they argue, there is always commodity fetishism to pick up the slack.

A few days ago I came home to an apartment that had just recently been vacated by my roomate. As I scanned the room (and pondered my new air-conditionner, TV, and set of drinking glasses), I realized that those crazy existentialists were right on the money--literaly.

I may be an agnostic, but I sure seem to have a lot of faith in the sustaining power of commodity. further my sense of alienation, I realized shortly after that my phone and internet connection had been cut, along with our TV. Rob and I had planned for the TV being cut off, but not the other two. Mix in the fact that my exhaust system fell out of my car the day before, and you have one agnostic who has become slightly nervous about the possibility of there actually being some force guiding us, demanding worrship, and smiting those whose hubris dares to question the existence of the one true god.

This involuntary sequestering from the world and from cyberspace did make me realize a few things though. In particular the 'transcendental certitude' of change, and that my initial feeling of isolation grew out of a hyperstimual dependancy (can 'hyperstimual' be a word?) built on years of absent mindedly using the web, the phone, and TV. I walked over to friends to make phone calls and to send out any necessary e-mails (mostly job related stuff). In a strange way I sorta feel like I caught a glimpse of what life may have been like before telephones were around. If I wanted to talk to someone, mostly, I had to be physically proximate. My communicative activities (especially in terms of the mundane communications) all had a phyical marker to locate thier reality in time and space. Of course I was only too happy to get the phone back after a couple of days...and I quickly jacked myself back in.

After re-connecting, I had the distinct feeling that the series of badly timmed inconveniences that I superstitiously turned into some ominous cosmic payback seemed to dissipate. I was surfing again, my car was fixed and life was good. Then, after work the following day I came out to find my car blocked in by two unmannered motorists who left me with about 2 inches of wiggle room at each bumper. Certain at this point that I should really think harder about all of this church stuff, a total stranger made a passing comment about how he has the same car as me and its rusting in the same spots. This in and of itself may not seem let me preface this by saying that I drive a '94 teal-green sunbird. EVERYONE owns this car or its GMC equivalent (the omnipresent Cavelier). This means that I've passed a million people with the same car, and the same rusting rocker pannels, but this dude picks this moment to mention to me something that has been obvious to millions of people for the past 10 years. A bit dumbstruck, I give him some advice about patching a hole in the floor (another common problem) and he helps me Austin Powers my way out of that spot. now I have a choice: do I continue to feel peevish about those irresponsible motorists? or do I instead feel thankful that by some random accident a person decides that he'll tell the owner the 50th rusted sunbird he's seen that day that his car rusts in the same spot? When I think about it, its hard to rationalize any kind of cosmic guiding force, but at that moment it was hard to ignore that perfectly timmed stranger who came and helped restore some sort of 'luck' balance that had been sorely out of whack the week before.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Aging is a funny thing. Joking with a friend of mine we established that at 26, my status as a 'young person' is steadilly transitionning to a 'person who is STILL young'. There is a difference. A 'young' person (if he/she has the means) may drift around aimlessly and expect little to no reisstance from the people and forces who will soon bear down on them in an effort to shoehorn them into some niche in society where they will eventually become one of those people and part of the force that organizes future 'still young' people into similarly shoehorned niches--and so on... I grant that there are probably many MANY people out there with more focus and drive than me, so its possible that my ominous casting of the inevitable assimilation of the 'still young' might seem a little melodramatic.


Having no real prospects when you are 'still young' is alot like running a yellow light. 'The Man' won't write you up, but he'll stare you down and let you know that you were seconds and meters away from a smackdown. Thinking about this ('this' being the future and my place in it) brings me down. Expectations from my family (and the ones I impose upon myself) animate the most pronounced fracture in my personality. I've noticed that what I consider to be viable options for my future are substantially influenced by what I think will be acceptable, logical, and understandable by those who take an intrest in my life. In an effort to shift away any personal responsability I might ask myself if I would be more disposed to be less normative if my parents were less normative. But this is a waste of time, I feel. The real question on my mind is what I am going to do next spring if I find myself not being welcomed back into the comfy bosom of academia where I can ignore questions about the future for another 4-5 years....what effing then?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


I've spent a lot of time thinking about the blogverse. A site like Post Secret reminds me that a very small number of these pages do indeed have the kind of potentially life altering, perspective providing material I think they do. So many blogs (like this one) are entierly selfish. They are places for people to TELL the world what THEY think. Few blogs foster any sort of interactive conversation. I don't count comments as part of this interaction. Often these are elicited in some way, shape or form. But as much as I seem to be crapping all over 'personal' blogs -- I write one, so I must like something about them.

Beyond the narcisism, I enjoy making some things public. Once its out there, you are accountable for it --I like that. In this spirit I am putting out there something rather outrageous...something that I have never done before. I am telling you out there in cyberspace that I will be writing something creative over the summer months that I will attempt to publish. The time for thinking and hiding is over. Now is the time for pen and page.

I am looking forward to this with great enthusiasm...even in the event that my work is unilaterally rejected. I'll keep you posted.


Sunday, March 19, 2006


wow, that was really cool. how did you come up with that. you play so well. your pictures are breathtaking. you've really captured something here. your insights are profound and original. it comes so naturally to you, you sing beautifully. this book is awesome, that song is soooooooooo good, that movie blew me away, that show was moving. I am so inspired. I am so inspired. I am so inspired. I am so inspired. I am so inspired. I am so inspired.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Today was one of the bad days. I hadn't slept much the night before, and in my third period photography class, I made a student cry. Certainly not one of my finer moments. As I was strolling away from work though, somehting great happened while I waited for my train: the TTC maintenance worker collecting grabage was whistling. In print, a dude whistling doesn't seen nearly as magical as it was at that very moment. He was a very good whistler, and the manner in which he was pushing out the notes (along with his garbage cart) conveyed such satisfaction and peace with the world, that one could not exist there in that moment without feeling a little bit better about being alive. I suppose it was fitting that I had closed out the day with a short lecture on Romanticism. People have told me since I was about 12 that I was a Romantic. By the time I learned what this actually meant (21), I found that I did indeed identify greatly with these emotional, impulsive,priveleged,and paradoxical people called 'Romantics'. As I moved into my M.A. year however, the cynic in me took hold. Idealism just seemed too immature. I wanted to grow up. Besides, the 'real world' was knocking at my door, taking me out to dinner, and fondling around in my sub-conscious. Gladly, my love affair with reality didn't completely obscure my ability to find joy and inspiration in the small moments that typically go unnoticed. For that brief time in the TTC, even after the day I had, I not only imagined this whistling wonder to be symbolic of all of the elusive happiness and peace of mind that I have been seeking; but I also imagined (for the briefest moment) that I could find that as well.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Day the Music Died

I told my students that if the conservatives won a majority that they would not have to do their homework as I would be quitting to go underground and form a resistance. On Monday February 6th 2005, Stephen Harper will be sworn in as our new Prime Minister --thankfully not with a majority government.

One of my friends made a good point: for the first time since I've been old enough to care, or to really have a concept of the ramifications, the Liberals are not in power at the federal level. What does this mean for Canada? My guess is that this won't mean much for the short term, but the long term consequences could be huge.

I don't think the conservatives will have much wiggle room with such a thin minority, but if Harper plays his cards right it could work to his advantage. Being held in check by the rest of the Liberals and NDP, the Conservatives may not be able to completely destroy what remains of public health care and education. Heck, they may not even be able to keep 'the gays' from getting married this time around...and this is my point. At first I thought this would be great--strong oppositional powers keeping Harper's more sociopathic ideas in check. But then if that works too well, Canadians may get a skewed sense of what the conservatives really stand for. This skew could cause a whole bunch of normally center-left leaning Canadians (who also tend to be swing voters) vote conservative in the next election and GASP! give the conservatives a majority thus unleashing the large throbbing republican spirit that pulses blue in Harper's veins.

4 years of federal conservatism is bad, but 8 years would be much worse. Add four of those years as a majority gov't and the result is bad for Canada in every conceivable way. I'll be the first to admit that Canadian politics are literally and conceptually problematic. We're hardwired into the U.S. economically and ideologically. Our objections to various US policies are facilitated by a position of privilege. We can get away with saying 'we disagree' without compromising our lifestyle. I've often wondered why Canadians don't suffer more backlash than they do for being in such a comfy spot. I suppose that yet another benefit of living nextdoor to the world's superpower. But these problems can't be allowed to silence our voice of dissent. Canadians need to be vocal now more than ever. I'll lead by example: "Hey Canada! Yeah you! Starting tomorrow you need to make it clear to Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper that the only reason his party was elected was everybody was pissed off at the Liberals. The Conservatives represent what happens when we 'settle' rather than 'choose'. "