Thursday, 29 October 2009

subjective imbecility

The title of this post holds no relevance to its content.

In today's Beethoven lecture, our teacher recited a quote about subjective imbecility. As well finding the phrase funny, I found the content interesting also: Beethoven was queried by a critic as to why he considered a recent composition as "music", and Beethoven responded "it's not for you to understand, but for future generations". I found this incredibly smug, but also interesting because he realised that he was composing music beyond the comprehension of the current era.

Anyway. The content of the post:

On Sunday, I was offered by Alex to move in to Huron. It was proposed that we'd share a room, and split it in half along with the rent. At first it seemed like a hairbrain scheme, but it began to gather momentum. Alex asked various people associated with the house whether it would be ok, all of whom said yes, and I told Eva about it and she said it was ok too.

So 4 days later, I moved in!

Pretty much. I still have some stuff at the other place, and have to take some bedding back that I've washed and leave my key, but the bulk of my stuff is here now. We bought a bed up from the basement and stuck it in the bedroom, rearranged the furniture to accommodate two people, and that was that.

It's great here. Tonight we had a toast (sparkling wine!) to my moving in, went to get some food from the NEARBY shops, then came back to watch the IT Crowd and Peep Show. I then went to sleep without the need for an hour journey home.

Good times :)

Monday, 26 October 2009

day (and night) of the dead

Yesterday was awesome. The 7th annual Toronto Zombie Walk combined with a Zombie Party at Huron resulted in a day of zombie-fuelled fun. In terms of fancy dress (or costume, in Canadian), I was aiming for something different to the hundreds of generic zombies I'd envisioned. I decided on the "well dressed zombie" look:

Lots of grey, white and black paint later (and a dash of red), this is what I looked like:

(Note - I still haven't managed to get the red paint off of the collar. One of my favourite shirts too!)

We wandered to Kensington Market to catch the procession, and ended up getting a pint in a nice bar while we waited. This was when I realised how weird it actually was being dressed as a zombie.

Shortly after, a commotion seemed to be stirring outside the bar; we went out, and were confronted with a scene similar to the one below (this was actually taken just up the road):

This was when I realised how scary it would actually be to experience a zombie apocalypse. Even thousands of costume zombies was an unnerving sight (especially some of the "famous" zombies we saw (Jesus was my favourite (the first one; I saw 3))).

We got into character (lurching and grunting), then joined the tide of the undead and made our way through the streets of Toronto. It was hugely fun: uninfected people were taking photographs and everyone was trying to act sufficiently zombified as to attract their attention, people were frolicking and other such activities, and the wardens/security were dressed as Umbrella officers which was a nice touch (Umbrella is a fictional anti-zombie organisation from a video game for those who don't know!).

Although most of the crowd were generic zombies, some people had put a lot of effort into their outfits. Some a little too much. Here are my favourites:

And here's my least favourite (call the RSPCA!):

The walk went all around the back streets of Toronto, mostly around Bathurst area and through the annex. It finished in the alley next to Bathurst Station, and the huge amount of zombies in such a small space made for a really atmospheric moment. It was awesome.

Then, just as the walk came to an end, I saw this. Something that managed to out-awesome everything else I'd seen and taken part in thus far:

The Burger King and Jesus, two of the most important figures in history, in the same frame. As zombies.

After the walk we went back to Huron, making the most of our zombie attire on the way (looking and banging on windows, lurching, pretending to eat people's brains etc (the usual)). As we walked along Bloor Street, a Red Bull car pulled up, and was mobbed by zombies (zombies can detect free samples, you see). As a reward we all received a can of Red Bull, which I added to the tower of beer cans I was assembling as part of the Wizards drinking game (every can you drink, you sellotape it to the top of the previous can, until eventually you have an enormous tower of empties).

The party was good, although I'm not going to go into as much detail. Pumpkins were carved (I carved a tiny one about the size of an apple, and it was awesome), decorations were put up, zombies arrived, and festivities began.

I even got a kebab.

Friday, 23 October 2009

the last few days, in a nutshell

This was going to be part of 'generic update #7 (Silver Dollar, bluegrass)', but I changed my mind.

Apart from 2 academically orientated posts (1 of which is still unfinished... gah!), I've slacked a bit with the blog in the last week. This post is just a basic summary of what's been going on (a fair amount of which has been somewhat quirky):

On the way home after Friday's lecture, I saw an old woman in St. George dressed as a strawberry. I wasn't proud, but everything she was wearing (shoes, socks, trousers, blouse, jumper and hat) were all BRIGHT red and it was hard not to laugh.

I'd a busy schedule for the day (lecture, home, Skype, tour, home, eat, TRANZAC), so it was practically inevitable things wouldn't go to plan. And although I wasn't convinced it was temporally possible to fit everything in, I didn't expect things to turn out quite the way they did:

The lecture finished early, giving me a head start. I rushed home, and took a "short cut" that ended up taking 20 minutes longer than it's longer contemporary. I was still ahead of myself, but some technical glitches with Skype put me unwantingly back on schedule. After a nice conversation with my Grandparent's and a rushed lunch, I headed Downtown, ahead of myself once again, to catch the ISXO Harbourfront tour.

As I prepared to cross the road to campus, however, an elderly man asked me to help him across the road. Taking him across the road turned into walking him across the campus, and a 5 minute walk ended up taking 40. I have no problem with this whatsoever, and I don't want it to sound like I do. I accepted that I wouldn't make the tour, and instead spoke to the old timer (Bill) about UofT, London, how things had changed since the olden days, and much else, before leaving him at the University College book sale.

It was an experience to say the least. My favourite part was walking (very slowly) past the Varsity Arena, whereupon a team practice was taking place. As some sort of motivation for the players, "Eye Of The Tiger" was being played at full volume through the Arena's PA System. The image in my head was of what me and Bill must have looked like to onlookers.

Here the day fell into disrepair. I ran to the ISXO and told the story of why I was late. It was greeted with awe, and I was praised for doing such a selfless act (a bit over-the-top, I think). They gave me a number to ring and request to join the tour late, but I decided against it on account of being starving. Instead I went home, ate, and missed Hugh's thing AGAIN.

Luckily though there was a party at Huron, to which I went instead.

The weekend wasn't hugely eventful, and it wasn't until Monday that I didn't anything of note outside the house. It was Ceara's birthday, and she'd planned a celebratory meal at an Italian Restaurant downtown. I arrived late again (I'm rubbish at being on time recently...), but they'd changed the dining plans while I was on my way anyway. Now we were headed to Sneaky Dee's, a restaurant that had been recommended to me by Laurie on arrival in Toronto.

Sneaky Dee's is a restaurant come concert venue, but we limited our activities to the restaurant section. The food is Mexican, and I had two enchiladas and a taco. All were delicious, though not spicy enough despite vigorous lashings of jalapeño sauce.

After the meal and post-meal conversation, we went outside and decided what (if anything) to do next. Some people left, but the bulk of us headed to the Red Room for some drinks. I really liked it in there, it felt sophisticated. There were bookshelves dotted about, the waiting staff wore cardigans, they had lamps lighting the place rather than overhead lights, and it was just a really nice atmosphere overall. We lowered the tone a bit by playing "who can skim the salt and pepper pots across the table and get them closest to a predetermined point" for a while.

That was fun.

After lots of beer had been consumed by the rest (I'd ran out of money), we headed home. It was late, I was tired, and it was time for bed.

♫ I've been thinking...

and I've been known to think too much ♫

Some lyrics there from Newton Faulkner's "Lipstick Jungle". I think they're currently applicable to myself (and a lot of people a lot of the time). You can listen to the song below, thanks to Australia's 2dayfm:

I've never knowingly used lyrics as a post title before. I have thought about it, but they've just not seemed to fit properly until now. These lyrics are suitable because, as maybe evidenced in my previous posts, I've been thinking (and worrying) about a lot of things recently: money, flights, courses and people at home are amongst them.

Not letting these things hinder my enjoyment of my time in Canada has been my prime concern, and it's worked for the most part, although it's hard to put things out of your mind completely (especially when you're so far away from the people you'd usually speak to about things).

Today though, as I laid in bed trying to get to sleep, it hit me: there's no reason to let these things stress me out at all. Obviously they're important, and require my attention, but it doesn't have to be negative (and is probably more beneficial if it isn't).

Money isn't ideal, but I've got a budget I can live by. The flight situation isn't ideal, either, but it will be sorted soon and it's a lesson learned. Courses are already sorted, so I don't even know why it's still on my mind, and although things are hard for people at home, they're all capable of looking after each other and themselves, and while I'm not there physically I'd do whatever I could to help from here and it's reassuring to know that the feeling's mutual.

Another thing I've been thinking about is where this is all leading me, and whether I've made the right decisions along the way. I've come to the conclusion that no, I haven't always done so: some things in my past I could and should have done differently, but this is all in retrospect. If I'd done them differently then I wouldn't be where I am now, and even though the aforementioned things aren't always ideal, they're part of me as a person and part that I wouldn't want to lose.

From all of this I've gained a second wind: before I was just thinking "things are so bad, I wish I could go back and change them", and now it's closer to "things aren't even that bad, stop being such a whiny bitch and get on with making the things that are bad better".

This, combined with what I've always thought about mistakes (that as long as you learn from them, it's ok to make them), will hopefully lead to some positive changes in the way I think about and do things. I don't want to spend my life dwelling on past mistakes and become someone I don't want to be later down the line.

Anyway, please excuse the heavy going post. I plan to get back to my old blogging habits asap, and to include more pictures so you can see what I'm up to instead of sifting through reams of text for the good bits!


Thursday, 22 October 2009

generic update #7 (Silver Dollar, bluegrass)

The title refers to the venue name and genre of a 'concert' I went to tonight. I put concert in 's because it was more of a bar with a house band playing. Either way, there was live music and I was there.

The evening began with an intended hardcore revision session at Robarts. I went there at around 7, with the intention of staying until I'd covered all material for my upcoming PSY270 exam on Friday. Unfortunately this plan fell out of fruition when I realised I had none of the material available to me: I'd left my notes at home, the course website wasn't working, and the course text wasn't in the library catalogue.

A disaster!

Luckily I was saved from perpetual boredom by a text from Laurie, inviting me to a bluegrass concert at a nearby pub/club/bar/establishment. I accepted, invited a few other people, sent out a desperate email to the PSY270 TA (teaching assistant) RE the course website, then headed to St. George for a hotdog.

Upon arrival, the hotdog vendor was engaged in conversation with another patron. They were discussing arbitrary things and I'd arrived midway through the exchange and so had no intention of interrupting, but I did hear something interesting: the hotdog vendor was fluent in 4 languages, and had a PHD (not sure what in). He said he hated when people judged him based on his job, considering he's probably smarter than 90% of his customers, and made the choice to do that job himself.


Anyway, I loaded up the hotdog with all the usual artery-clogging goodness, then made my way to Spadina. A subway and a streetcar later, I arrived at the Spadina and College, and realised that the Silver Dollar was in fact the pub/club/bar/establishment next to the REALLY seedy looking hotel. Oh joy.

Nonetheless, I went in. After having my ID thoroughly scrutinised, I was permitted entry, which I celebrated by paying $2.75+tax for a can of Coke. I met Laurie and Chris, was introduced to some of their friends, then sat talking for a while until Ceara arrived.

Bluegrass music banging on in the background, Laurie explained the occasion behind tonight's gathering: her friend's father was moving to Thailand the next day, and they're fans of the Silver Dollar so decided to throw an informal goodbye party here. I felt a bit out of place being there considering I didn't know anyone apart from Laurie and Chris, but they assured me it was ok. The guy who was moving to Thailand spoke to me with interest about England, too.

When Ceara arrived we spoke some more, then headed to the dance floor to have a look at the music. Ceara's friend Ori (sp?) taught us how to "stomp", then him and a drunk lady demonstrated very energetically. There was a guy with an amazing beard (something like the image below) dancing around too.

Laurie dragged me to the dance floor after a while, and we danced. Ceara joined in too and I think we all did the dosey doe (sp?). It's hard to tell. There was a lot of spinning around and stomping involved though, and it was fun!

I left fairly early to go back to the library, and ended up not doing any work again... It was a fun night though!

academic update

Firstly, please excuse the recent lapse in posting. I've had a stressful few days and blogging has to take the backseat when that happens or I'd probably have a breakdown in blog form. I won't bore you with the stressors, but tell you instead that things are picking up now: maybe it's correlational with the fact that tomorrow is the last of midterms.

I'm trying to think what's happened in the 6 days since my last proper post (3 if you count the temporary post I'm yet to redraft), but sadly it's not been much. This is one of the stressors, although I intend to stick to my earlier statement and not bore you with it, but tell you instead that I've planned to do more things from now on, to prevent it becoming stressful again.

So here's what I've got in the way of post content:

I've watched a lot of videos on Youtube. It would seem that last year's Peep Show grind (5 seasons in just over a week with Simon) was not a one-time-only occurrence, as this week I've watched the last 2 seasons of The IT Crowd, all 6 episodes of Garth Marengi's Darkplace, and the first 3 episodes of Peep Show season 6. On brief calculation that's 8 hours 24 minutes of videos, which could be considered slightly shameful.

I don't consider it so, however. The videos have been interspersed with high amounts of academic activity, and have acted as a barrier between it and insanity. With midterms, assignments and staple reading and note taking, I think it's healthy to have a break now and then!

On the midterm front, 2 of 3 exams are now done. I feel they both went well: I got 80% in Abnormal Psychology, which I'm happy about, and I mentioned my positivity regarding the most recent exam a couple of posts back (I'll see if it's well founded when the results are given out next week). Tomorrow's exam, though, I'm not feeling so positive about: I've been a bit too casual with revision to feel completely confident, and annoyed at myself because that's a lesson I should've learned by now.

No matter, though. I'm revising now, have done so earlier today, and intend to do so again for the whole of the time I'm awake until the exam. I can draw upon a lot of what I learned last year at Keele, too, which I knew from the start and think is part of the reason I was casual in the first place.

So although the stress, high-volume video watching and qualms about exam preparation don't suggest the best mental state, I'm feeling good. Being here is teaching me a lot about myself and life, and they're lessons I'm happy to learn. I figure it's best to learn them and feel crap temporarily than not learn them 'til it's too late and feel crap for ages.

I'm sure if I put some more thought into that it could sound more philosophical, but as long as it gets the message across it'll do for now!

Friday, 16 October 2009

my juices are flowing

Creative ones, that is.

I got an email from Keele about a film competition for exchange students. The brief is as follows:

"We invite you to submit a short film (of no more than three minutes) that captures an interesting aspect of your study abroad experience. Subjects may include - but are certainly not limited to: a video-diary reflecting on new challenges/adventure; a short documentary recording a typical day or a special event at your PU; an interview with another student, etc."

And luckily:

"[I] don't have to use the latest technical equipment, a mobile phone or digital camera will do just fine!"

For some reason, I'm hugely excited about this. I've got no prior experience with film making, nor any idea whether my ideas are even doable, but I'm going to try anyway. I've got some film making software on my laptop, some ideas in my head, and a camera that's ready to be used!

If this project comes to fruition, I'll post the video on Youtube for all to see!

And if I win the £150 prize, I'll post a picture of me with the cheque up here!


Thursday, 15 October 2009

second exam

This is odd. I just signed in to write a post and found this draft, but I have no recollection of writing it. Maybe my future self signed in and backdated the post to now so I'd remember writing it? Or maybe I'm just a numbskull.

Regardless, I'd like to begin with a brief financial update, illustrating why Natwest rocks:

[12 Oct 2009 - Interest - £0.01]

That's the date, reason for and amount of an incoming transaction. I only had £780 in my account at the time, too. That's a corking interest rate (~0.01%!) if I may say so myself.

Now, for the meaty part of the post.

Today I had my second exam. I say today as in since the last time I woke up, not according to the clock, otherwise it'd be yesterday. It was about Beethoven, and consisted of a listening section, a short answer section (S.A section) and an essay section.

It's weird how S.A section and essay section sound the same aloud, when they're such different things.

I think I got 72% on the listening section, but it could go either way. There is speculation among my friends as to what the answer for one part is, so depending on whether I'm in the right or wrong, it could give or take another 20% to or from my score.

The S.A section and essay section were, upon reflection, fairly easy. The questions weren't unexpected, and so I'd revised the topics sufficiently to pull a passable answer out of the air. I used a lot of big words too, and that's always a good sign.

So all in all, I'm feeling pretty good about it.

After the exam, I picked up my UHIP Card, so I am now covered financially in the occurrence of any horrific injuries. I then caught a streetcar across to Yonge Street, and went into HMV to do some research. I got sidetracked while trying to find the World Music section and ended up discovering Chickenfoot: a band consisting of Chad Smith, Joe Satriani and two other noteworthy musicians who I made a note to look up later.

A shop assistant with an awesome ginger beard set me up at a listening booth, where I listened to the "cockbluesy" stylings of Chickenfoot, and played with the album packaging. It was heat sensitive! When you touched it, that bit changed colour. Very impressive stuff. The music was ok too.

I also glanced by chance at the World Music section while I was listening, and had a look through its contents afterwards. I'm doing an opinion piece on World Music for a course assignment, so in case you're wondering, looking at CDs is valid research.

The rest of today was spent writing letters, washing up, playing Civilisations in the library, and eating Chinese food. A good day by my thinking.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

in this crazy world in which we live in

This post doesn't really have a main point to convey. It should probably be generic update #7, but I thought of the title on the streetcar today and it made me laugh.

Notice how I used the word "in" 3 times in one sentence.

But yes. Today was a productive day indeed. Some aspects, however, were just plain crap. I got up at 7.30am, which constituted "plain crap". Then Eva gave me a lift to the subway, which acted to quickly restore the equilibrium of my day. I had an interesting lecture about Chinese music upon arrival on campus which added another "good" point to my day, making the score 2-1 in favour of good.

Regarding the previous point: did you know that Chairman (l)Mao's wife started a "cultural revolution" in China in 1966, in which all music, aside from 8 pieces with her seal of approval (8!) were banned? Fascinating.

Notice how I used the word "in" 3 times in that sentence, too.

After my morning lecture I wandered around for a while, trying to see some of Toronto that I hadn't seen yet. I walked through Victoria college and a picturesque cloister, onto Charles Street, which I followed East to Church Street. There was nothing much of note, except a big green building towards which I was walking. Upon reaching Church I turned South, walked along to Carlton Street, and turned West towards Yonge. At Yonge and College I got a streetcar to campus, and walked up to Robarts with the intention of doing something useful.

I browsed a book sale, ate my lunch, tried and subsequently failed to put to paper a comical idea for a cartoon I had earlier, then left because I couldn't think of anything else to do. Once outside I remembered my intention to drop AST210 - Great Moments in Astronomy, and so headed towards Woodsworth College (nearby) to find out how to do so. I was advised to log in to ROSI and do it from there, but unfortunately I'm a cretin: I returned to Woodsworth twice during the day with queries on how ROSI works, until eventually they gave up and did it for me.

I now have one less exam to worry about.

The rest of the 7 hours until my next lecture was passed mostly by wandering around aimlessly. I went to Chinatown to pick up some postcards for people at home and a T-shirt for Finn, and took some more photographs while I was there. I went to the library again to procrastinate online for a while, and realised just how much of a colossal timewaster Facebook is. I tried to recruit James to come study in the library with me, but we quickly realised we'd get more work done alone. I also gave him the response "it's an inquisitive remark. used in that context it's a prompt for an explanation of your previous statement" when he asked what I meant when I said "what".

With my options exhausted, I ended up panicking about how much revision I hadn't done for tomorrow's exam yet and heading home with blatant disregard for my evening lecture.

Since arriving home, I have revised. I have eaten chicken noodles, which were delicious. I have spoken to Bean on Skype, which was great! And replied to a couple of emails (need to do a couple more before bed). I've eaten more chicken noodles, and drank a can of Coke. Currently I'm playing Civ with James, and I intend to be asleep by midnight in order to get up and squeeze in some more revision on the morrow.

That'll be it for now, goodbye!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

generic update #6 (sometimes I'm a lazy bastard)

You may have noticed from my recent inclusion of the "posts in progress" box, as well as referring to posts yet unpublished in other posts, that I'm falling a bit behind with my blogging.

Obviously this isn't catastrophic: there are more important things than online recordings of my time in Canada, but I still find it distressing. I have 42 drafts in my posts list, most of which I have removed from the blog or have no intention of publishing at all, but the 6 of those I do intend to publish (at a quick count) are anywhere between half written and not yet started.

I think it's because when I fall behind in something, my immediate reaction is to STOP (!), plan how to catch up, then implement the plan and eventually catch up. Usually however this process takes longer than it would to just sit down and grind whatever it is that needs to be done until it's done, which strikes me as slightly counterproductive. But ah well, that's just how I work I guess.

ANYWAY. That's the end of my rant. It's none of the readers concern how I operate, and I haven't had any desperate post requests (or any whatsoever, in fact), so I guess it's not a huge issue!

Today however, in an effort to undo some of my lazy-bastardness, I got quite a lot done. Despite unfortunately missing today's only lecture (I was at the wrong university when it started).

I read and replied to a few emails that I've been meaning to attend to. It's so nice getting an email from home: it makes me feel all goofy although it makes me wish I was there too...

I also browsed the UofT Clubs Directory once more, and emailled a few societies and clubs, including 2 campus newspapers, the Lego engineering club, and the French and Japanese student societies. I am aware that I am neither French nor Japanese, but they welcome anyone with an interest in the respectively represented cultures.

There's a chance that I may be able to contribute content to the student newspapers I mentioned, too, which would be cool. I submitted some of my photos, as well as a link to this very blog, so that the higher-ups may get a taste of my, well, photography and writing.

Also on my list of things to do was tidy up my room, which I half did, and do my laundry, which I half did as well.

I presume I'll do the other half of both things tomorrow, or on Sunday at the latest.

Now, however, I'm going to bed. It's Thanksgiving weekend this weekend, and Eva has invited me to her family's celebration, which I'm looking forward to greatly! I need to be up and ready in 12 hours, and I've got a lay in planned.

I'll leave you with this invitation to participate in a research study that I found on the Psychology Society's main page.

"We are currently seeking volunteers to take part in a positron emission tomography (PET) study at CAMH. Persons eligible for a screening interview must meet the following criteria:

  • [Be] 18 to 35 years of age
  • Use [...] cannabis/marijuana at least three times per week and hear voices or feel paranoid while using"

It seems to me to rely heavily on the trust of potential participants. I hope for their sake that they remain anonymous, otherwise there isn't much incentive to take part!

Friday, 9 October 2009

Keelite out night

I got an email a couple of weeks ago about the upcoming travel plans of a Keele professor. He was coming to Canada to help set up an exchange program, and wanted to meet the Keele students here on exchange at the time.

Me, Tom, Abi and Sammy arranged to meet aforementioned professor (Wynn) at York University yesterday evening, and to have a meal afterwards. We were going to go downtown but decided against it, because we still hadn't decided on a restaurant the day before we were supposed to go.

Unfortunately I arrived late, half way through the main course to be precise, but it was still nice. We spoke about Keele, England, and all the problems we've all had since arriving, then Wynn paid the bill and said he had to go. We all thanked him for the meal, said goodbye, then talked amongst ourselves for a while.

We decided to go to a Blacklight party at a club on the campus, and so headed there. We got VIP tickets for $2, but unfortunately they weren't valid for non-York students (i.e. me). I had to upgrade my ticket (and the cost), and also persuade the bouncers that my ID wasn't fake just because it wasn't Canadian. After showing 3 separate photo IDs they let me in, where I was fully frisked, charged a $15 cover, and forced to leave my jacket in the cloakroom ($3).

So, $22 later and we were inside!

We headed to the bar, got some drinks, then found a booth and sat talking for a while. Some of their friends arrived shortly after, and I was introduced, then they were incorporated into our conversation. We were given glowsticks before we came in, so we were messing around with those, and more drinks were bought.

After a while most people headed off to dance, but me and Sammy sat at the table. Bouncers came around periodically to check we still had our wristbands (apparently someone was shot in the club last year, which is why the security is so tight), and my visitor wristband attracted some sour looks. The night went on like this 'til just before 2, when everyone regrouped and we headed out.

I'd inadvertently missed the last bus from campus, and even the security advised me against walking up to Keele and Finch to get a bus from there. Thankfully Abi and Sammy's friend Areeb offered to let me crash in his room. We met him, then headed over there. It was in a big confusing building (which proved difficult to get out of the next day), and I had to sign in at the reception as a guest and was given a temporary guest permit accordingly. We then got in the lift and went up to his room.

I was given the bed, despite my insistence that he should have it, so I got a good nights sleep and headed out at around 10.30am to try and find my way back home. I wandered around for a long time looking for the bus stop, got some pancakes, then finally found it and ate them on the bus home.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

generic update #5 (Beethoven and Coke)

This is in the same vein as generic update #3, in that a large portion of it is about my Beethoven lecture. It's also been edited since I first posted it, so if you're reading it for the second, third or any other subsequent time, you may notice a few changes (for the better I hope).

Firstly, and nerdily, I'd like to explain my recent blogging tendencies. I introduced the "generic update" posts to cover any posts made up of a collection of smaller things that don't really warrant full posts. I feel generic updates #1 through #4 were successful, however as of this one (#5) I'll be adding subtitles to hopefully make the title (and subsequently the posts) slightly more appealing.

Now, the (delete as applicable: boring/nerdy/riveting) stuff is out of the way:

It's getting really busy here at the moment. All of my exams bar one are over the next two weeks (the aforementioned one was this week), and revision / panicking have ensued. I've spent two late night sessions in the library; both have been quite fun however due to the combination of working and video games.

It's not all work and no play however: tonight for example I'm meeting Abi, Sam and Tom (fellow Keelites studying at York University (North of Toronto)) to go to dinner with a visiting Keele professor, which should be nice. I'm not sure where we're eating yet, but I'm looking forward to it anyway. The professor is here to help set up an exchange program with the school of nursing, from what I can gather.

I'm pleased to say that my budget is still holding up. Sort of. I moved from a daily budget to a weekly budget because it's easier to keep track of, but I may have to move to a monthly budget soon as I've spent over my weeks budget this week and I need to get back in the swing of things. There's so much to do here though it's hard to conserve money! Luckily most museums are free on certain days, there's a lot of free / cheap stuff on and around campus (including sports), and the city is still new and interesting enough to wander aimlessly around without spending a penny (in the financial sense at least).

Now, the large portion of this post related to my Beethoven lecture follows:

MUS202 - Beethoven, is my favourite course here at UofT. It's the only one (shamefully) of which I've attended all the lectures, and also the only one I find it truly interesting. If you hadn't guessed from the title, it's all about Beethoven's life, music, and interaction thereof. The lecturer gets really involved, and is really quirky as well.

Good (or at least weirdly intriguing) things seem to happen before/in/after the lectures, too. Last week was the woman invading the mens toilet incident, and this week a vending machine malfunction gave me 2 bottles of Coke for $1.75 which delighted me to no end (and therefore falls into the "good" category of things that have happened before/in/after MUS202).

This week's lecture was not hindered even by a long winded exam talk, in which hints were given as to the possible content of the upcoming midterm. This may have been due to the (theoretically) free Coke I was enjoying, or due to the fact that I feel strangely prepared for the exam after reading half of the course text in one sitting (a freak occurrence by my standards), I'm not quite sure.

One thing I do know, however, is that I feel like a bit of an ignoramus for only just learning which of Beethoven's symphonies is which...

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

first exam!

As the cryptic title of this post suggests, I had my first exam today! It was for PSY240 - Introduction to Abnormal Psychology, and so consisted of questions about how to detect, diagnose and treat disorders of the mind.

Luckily for me, most of the stuff covered I'd studied (or at least been introduced to) at Keele last year. This fact, combined with two intense (ha!) research sessions beforehand and 74% on a mock exam lead me to believe I did fairly well.

I realised immediately after the exam, however, that I'd mixed up two basic principles (Operant and Classical Conditioning, for anyone of a Psychological persuasion). This made me feel intensely stupid, and probably knocked about 5-7% off of my result.

The exam format was favourable. It was a 60 question multiple choice exam, which we had 75 minutes to complete. Me and most others left after about 30 though. The response sheets were so much cooler than those at Keele, if only for the name: Scanotron. Or something along those lines. It felt like sitting an exam in the future.

After the exam, traditional post-exam celebrations were conducted. I met Alex and James at Huron at 8ish (I think that's how I'm going to refer to it from now on by the way, instead of Alex and Neil's house, or any other similar description), and we walked to the bar we went to on the day we met. Last time we were here they were advertising 25c chicken wings, and we were interested in seeing if a) the offer was still on b) the price was accurate c) the wings were worth the price and d) how many chicken wings it's humanly possible to consume in one sitting.

Unfortunately our progress was hindered at a): the offer was no longer on, and so subsequent events b), c) and d) were nullified.


We bought a pitcher between us to be polite, drank it, then went back to Huron via Sam's Supermarket (I think) with the intention of some combination of the following: eating fast food, playing poker, watching The IT Crowd and drinking beer.

A pepperoni, ham, red onion and topping I've forgotten pizza was ordered, along with 10 chicken wings and 4 cans of pop as part of a deal. The IT Crowd was watched while we waited for the food, then we moved upstairs for a casual game of poker afterwards.

All in all it was a good evening, apart from the fact that Alex bought up the fact that I look like a snake. I wasn't insulted, just really confused...

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

generic update #4

A lot has happened in the 4 days since my last post, and so my post frequency has decreased. This is not a problem for me because I've been having a great time, but it may be problematic for my (possibly) devoted readers.

I've just added a "posts in progress" box to my page, which you should be able to see on the right just beneath the title bar. As you may have deduced from the name, this box will show posts that are in progress but are yet to be published.

Keep checking back for them!

Anyway, this post is just a general summary of what's going on; I won't be giving any sneak previews to my posts in progress, so you'll just have to wait for those.

It's Monday afternoon, the first Monday in October in fact, and while my contemporaries back home have only just started lectures, I have my first exam tomorrow. I'm not too worried, it's a 60 question multiple choice exam based on the first 5 chapters of the course text, but it's still slightly disorientating to be thrust so quickly into exams (I also have 4 others over the next two weeks).

Currently I'm supposed to be in the library revising for aforementioned exam, but there's only 1 copy of the book and someone seems to be using it. I had a look in the University Bookstore but it cost over $100 for the book, which I refuse to pay (mainly because that's 2 weeks budget for me!).

I've just returned from a brief visit to the Toronto Music Garden; a permanent installation at the harbour front based on Bach's Suites for Unaccompanied Cellos. It seemed nice, but it's designed to follow the pictorial elements of the pieces, and so I was unable to appreciate it fully without a tour. Luckily there are weekly tours and I intend to go back at some point and join one.

That's it for now, anyway. I'm going back to the library in an attempt to track down the elusive course text. I may also get a can of Orange Crush on the way (it's kind of addictive!).

Monday, 5 October 2009

Nuit Blanche

Toronto's Nuit Blanche, the "all night contemporary art thing", is an offshoot of the European all night art festivals of the same name, whose exact origins are disputed. They began in 1997 in either Paris, St Petersburg or Berlin, and have since spread around the world, arriving at Toronto in 2006.

Me and a group of friends went to Toronto's fourth annual Nuit Blanche yesterday. I missed nearly all of Bea and Belén's pre-festival party because of the Anishinaabe Fall Ceremonies, which was a shame.

I planned to write a proper post about the event, but it's getting longer and longer overdue, so I've decided to just post some pictures of the art instead:

This is a giant silver rabbit shaped helium balloon. I'm not sure what it's called, who it's by or what it represents (it's the same with most of the art shown from here onwards unfortunately), but it was striking. It was also bloody hard to take a good picture of because of it's size. Luckily Windows Live Photo Gallery is good at stitching separate photos together.

This is the "4 Letter Word Machine". Based on the name, I'm sure you can figure out what it does without an in-depth description on my part. Throughout the course of the evening, I saw it say numerous words. Some got better reactions than others, some had people cheering, some were phrases and had people chanting along, but the most notable for me was "fart".

This was the weirdest piece of "art" I saw. It was a 39 man last man standing wrestling match, and as if that isn't weird enough, it was exhibited in a bus station. On one side of the building the cross-country bus service was operating as normal, and on the other, 39 sweaty latex clad men were interacting with each other in a very homo erotic fashion.

After watching the wrestlers prance about for a while, we walked South and saw a guy (presumably with some kind of inferiority complex) juggling an active chainsaw, a hand grenade, and a meat cleaver on the way. The crowd was surprisingly close to him considering his choice of juggling implements...

Towards the Financial District, the art gradually became harder to understand. Outside the head offices of the banks, someone had put funfair rides. This juxtaposition of work and play was enough to constitute art, apparently. The rides were free though, so we tested the Fun Slide and found the description to be fairly accurate.

Another challenging piece, further pushing the boundaries of what can be considered "art", was this:

A pool of 80 proof vodka, in a bank lobby.

For some reason, as is with any substantial body of water (or vodka) in a public place, people were compelled to throw money into it. There were coins EVERYWHERE. People were trying to skim them across the surface, they were throwing handfuls at a time, some threw them so hard that the coins ended up across the other side of the building. I guess it's both good and bad for the artists, though: they make some money out of it but they can't drink it afterwards.

At this point, my camera died, so the photos will end now.

Throughout the rest of the night, we saw Monopoly being played with real money (by C-List celebrities), a presentation on how your hand shape can help you win the lottery, a lot of radio receivers hanging from the ceiling of a lobby (the feedback combined with the aesthetic was the art), and a really interesting interactive music thing. There were areas marked out by neon duct tape, and cameras high above that picked up when people crossed the tape. When the cameras detected someone, it was processed by a laptop, and triggered a sound. All the sounds together didn't sound too great, but the exhibit itself was really interesting. People were trying to figure out how it worked, and dancing around like maniacs in the process.

After a game of chess in a posh hotel lobby at around 4am, and a while spent wandering aimlessly, the crowds began to dissipate. So too did our group, until it was just me and Alex left at around 6am. We went to the famed exhibit whose name I forget (which had been too busy to get to for the rest of the evening), saw inside, felt disappointed, then went our separate ways. I went home to bed.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Anishinaabe Fall Ceremonies

[click the pictures in this post to enlarge!]

On Saturday I had an opportunity that not many people get. The ISC sent out invitations in the previous week to participate in an Anishinaape (Canadian First Nation) Ceremony, and I was one of approximately 45 exchange and international students who accepted.

If you've read any of my other posts you'll know my budget is quite tight, so I originally debated whether to buy the $35 ticket. I also wrote about the runaround to get the ticket after I'd decided to do so. The result was more than worth both the debate with myself and running around like a madman thereafter.

Anyway, Saturday arrived, and it was an early start. I'd set numerous alarms the night before as not to miss it, and was (un)lucky enough to find out what Toronto looks like at 7am. I arrived just before 8 in a groggy state at the ISC, had a complementary Tim Horton's muffin, and spoke to Yaz and his friends while we waited for the bus.

To my glee, it was an "American" school bus. I say American because it was like the ones you always see in films, but I'd take an educated guess and say that this one was actually Canadian.

After our stuff was loaded, the roll call had been completed, and the bus was boarded, we set off on our way. Our destination was about 2 hours away from Toronto, but I have no idea in which direction. About an hour into the journey Michael talked to us about the Ceremony protocol, then got out a drum and introduced us to the Anishinaabe music.

This increased my glee (if glee can be increased?): I had now been in a school bus, on a school trip, and sang songs. It was what I imagine kindergarten is like, all over again!

Anyway, back to my sane train of though: From what Michael said, music plays a completely different role in the Anishinaabe culture to that of ours. The concept is "hard to grasp in Western culture", but songs are considered to be alive; they are greatly respected, and seen as a measure of wealth. Families, Clans and important events have specific songs written in their honour, which are passed down through generations. You aren't allowed to play a song unless you've been granted permission, and Michael told us that in the past songs were used in a similar way to currency; to secure everything from property and livestock to wives and children.

I found that fascinating.

After the songs, I looked out the window for a while and saw my first glimpse of what I imagine the majority of Canada is like. I remember reading somewhere that a huge proportion of the population live within 100 miles of the Canada / USA border, and most of the rest of the land is untouched. This was 2 hours outside Toronto, and although the previous statistic may not be completely accurate, the transformation was astounding.

Houses were few and far between, and they were evidently rural. There was so much greenery, although the leaves had began to change so it wasn't all green any more. There were rivers and lakes too but we didn't get such a good view of these.

Below are a couple of pictures of the rural houses and not-completely-green greenery:

Nice, huh?

I looked out of the window for most of the rest of the way, soaking it all in, but it wasn't a touch on the place we arrived at shortly after. I think it was referred to as a reserve, basically just privately owned woodland on which the Anishinaabe conduct the Fall Ceremonies (as well as other things). There's another couple of pictures below:

There was some food out, which we ate while the ceremony was being prepared, then it was time to go in. The ceremony was held in a long tent, called a lodge:

This was a modernised one built with timber and canvas, but you can imagine that generations ago they'd look a bit different. I heard it referred to as a teepee at one point as well, I think, so I'm not 100% sure of the name.

I didn't take many photos inside because I wasn't sure if it was allowed, but the picture below is of the ceremonial objects:

The ceremony itself is to give thanks to Mother Earth, and acknowledge that she needs rest over the Autumn and Winter. A big part of it is the interaction of men and women, and the strawberries (red) and blueberries (blue) in the picture above represent those. There's also masks on the ceiling, half red and half blue, and women and men sit on opposite sides of the tent.

The other bowls are tobacco (brown) and cedar (green). Later in the ceremony, the "talking circle" happens, where everyone stands up, gives thanks for whatever they feel necessary, then make a wish. This wish is accompanied by throwing tobacco on a fire, which is followed by cedar to purify any negative aspects of the wish.

The mat in the picture shows a turtle, divided into red, blue, white and yellow. I think the blue is supposed to be black, as the red, black, white and yellow in Anishinaabe beliefs represent the worlds people, which were created by the Creator to populate the world. Instead of the Adam and Eve idea, they believe that 64 people were made originally, 8 of each gender in each colour group.

The Anishinaabe also believe that the world is split into "generations", but different in meaning toa generation of a family. Each lasts 400 years, and is referred to as a fire (2000 was the beginning of the 8th fire, for example). These were prophesised long ago by elders, and are interpreted as they occur. It is said that one day the 4 colour groups will reunite, and will realise the and fulfill the human purpose (I think, apologies if I'm remembering any of this wrong...).

The human purpose I referred to is our task given to us by the Creator. Everything else in the universe is doing what it's supposed to: Grandmother Moon orbits the Earth, Mother Earth provides sustenance for the creatures upon it, animals provide food for humans and clean the Earth, fish, birds and bugs all do the same. Humans, however, have veered from their path. They have fallen out of touch with nature, and it has affected their lives (and the lives of other creatures) negatively. When an elder spoke at the ceremony, speaking about the above made her very emotional. She said something along the lines of "we all do things that hurt each other, and hurt Mother Earth... We're capable of so much more, but we choose not to do it", which I thought was quite apt.

The talking circle began after a short "pee break", and I found it really interesting. It took about 2 hours for everyone to speak, leading us to miss the later parts of the ceremony, but the things people said were really insightful and inspiring. Most of us (exchange students) gave thanks for cheesy stuff like the opportunity to partake in the ceremony and our families at home and stuff, but the Anishinaabe's thanks were really eloquent and well thought out. I can't remember too much, unfortunately, but it was said that "it's not our job to live in fear", and that "we should not forget our links to nature".

Thanks were also given for things we'd normally take for granted, like the ability to cry (some of the speakers got emotional). It was inspiring and thought provoking stuff.

We were also thanked for attending the ceremony. Someone said that seeing all the cultures together in one place was really special, and that "hearing all our accents makes [her] heart smile". It was also said that 3 out of 4 colour groups were represented, which was good to see.

At the second "pee break", a 30 foot army tent had to be put up for eating space. The men did this, and the women (except those on "Moon time") prepared the feast. A few exchange students (including me!) helped put up the tent, and it's amazing how quickly the beastly canvas was erected. Once the tent was up and the feast prepared, we all tucked in.

Unfortunately no one used the tent, and it started raining really heavily, so we all got wet. Especially on the walk back to the bus!

That's all for now anyway, except for the picture of feast food below:

Thursday, 1 October 2009

generic update #3

This is about yesterday. I starting writing it today (yesterday) but tomorrow (today) came before I could post it.

I've been starting my other generic updates with a brief update on the weather, so I'll do the same here: it was cold today. I think the low was around 9°C. It's weird how quickly it's changed, apparently there's only two weeks of Autumn between Summer and Winter here.

I arrived on campus late this morning, and so missed my Astronomy lecture with the intention of writing up the notes from the uploaded slideshow. I haven't done this yet, I put it on my to-do list and did other things instead.

At around noon I went to the ISC to talk to Michael White (who I accidentally called Mark in 2 emails, even when he signed the first "Michael") about the Fall Ceremony trip this weekend. He told me it's a native Canadian ritual celebrating the harvest which we could observe and participate in, followed by a feast and stories around a campfire.

Unfortunately I didn't have enough money on me, and there were only 7 tickets left, so I had to go on a mission. My final destination was the bank, although I headed for 3 other places on the way (often pirouetting mid-route and heading to the next place). The reason for this is that I'm still not completely familiar with the city, or indeed the campus.

30 minutes and $420 later (I took out money for rent, too), I went back to the ISC and bought a ticket. I was advised to dress warm and bring a blanket, and congratulated for stepping out of my comfort zone to participate in this. What the hell have I got myself in for?!

Naturally I'll let you know afterwards.

Also, while (loosely) on the topic of other blog posts, I still have drafts to publish for the Frat party I recently attended (and the morning after), Keele friends (and Hugh Oliver) and the CN Tower (with views therefrom (I can't believe therefrom is actually a word)).

Back to my day: I ate lunch on the way to Beethoven (one of my courses), then met Mariko outside and went inside. Before the lecture started I went down to the "washroom" to grab some tissue, and when I exited therefrom (woo!), a woman stopped me and asked if there was soap in the gents.

"Yeah I think so" I replied.

"Great, can I go in and get some?"

I wasn't really going to say no: I was leaving and therefore didn't give a crap (I might note that I didn't give a crap when I was in there either).

"Shall I just bring you some soap?" I asked.


I got her some soap. A fairly generous portion if I may say so, but apparently not generous enough. She asked me to check if the urinals were in use, then when I said no she charged in, did a mass apology, stole more than her fair share of soap, and ran away.

I went back upstairs, took my seat next to Mariko, got my books out, tried to put what just happened out of my mind, and got ready to learn. The lecture was good. Our lecturer is really quirky: he said Beethoven "isn't like Rihanna, because firstly, it's not crap ("she really gets up my nose")". And according to him, "music reviews are like soft porn", and "if you play parallel 5ths you can... go into space".

Great guy.

He also noted how the freakiest thing he's ever seen is when he turns the lights off in a lecture theatre, and sees all the laptop-illuminated faces looking at him.

After the lecture I headed home to do stuff. I typed up some notes, spoke to Char on Skype, tidied up a bit, and did some laundry. Eva got home with Chelsea and her nephew Eric (cool guy!), and we all had dinner together which was nice. There were also cinnamon buns for desert, which were delicious!

And now once again, I'm going to bed.