Saturday, December 26, 2009

Wintry Weather

Driving in wintry Manitoba I realize I do not have a sufficient vocabulary to describe Manitoba winter weather. For instance I do not know the word for the weather condition where the wind blows the pre-existing snow across the road in front of you causing you to be unable to see. I am also uncertain the term for when the wind literally begins to blow you off the road. In fact I'm not even sure the word for the type of snow they get here which is so devoid of moisture it is more like white dust. The drive to Winnipeg took me 3 and a half hours instead of 2 and a half. I am glad I left early enough so it wouldn't be dark when I got here. The streets were full of Boxing Day traffic. I found my cousin's house relatively easily and made myself some eggs for dinner. The cats looked at me suspiciously when I entered the building. We are good friends now though. I tried to sleep because I have to be up around 3 but just couldn't do it. Finally I gave up and played some Sudoku and read part of one of my books for next term. Then I found an internet signal. I will have to plug in my laptop soon though.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Monday!

Here is a picture taken from the hallway window outside my sixth floor room. One of the advantages of living in the tallest building in town is the spectacular view. (Although the view from the hall is very much better than the one from my room right now as my entire window is covered with a thick layer of frost.)

Currently we are sitting at a comfortable -22 Celsius (-8 F) with a windchill of -35 C (-31 F). The sun is setting and it is beautiful. It was quite windy earlier in the day and when I went to retrieve my x-country skis from the car (I didn't have enough hands last night) the cleaning lady was washing floors and looked at me with a horrified expression, "You weren't actually skiing were you?" I assured her I was just bringing the skis in from my car. I am sure my face was bright red from the wind. Certainly I would have worn a few more layers under my down jacket had I been skiing! And a scarf across the face!

We are currently in 22 hour lock down at the University until the end of the week. (Meaning all hours except between 5pm and 7pm must be absolutely quiet so people can study for exams. The loudest noise is the wind beating against the building and people's keys jingling when they unlock their doors.)

This morning I picked up most of my books for next term except 2 that haven't come in yet. I am thinking I better bring a couple on my flight home later this month judging by the stack!

I am thinking I should go find some dinner and then work on some drawings. I am trying to design a bookmark for my boyfriend to go with the book I bought him for Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's Growing On Me

There is something wonderful about living here despite the cold. I know that whenever my path pulls me away to warmer climes I will be forced to leave a part of me behind. There is something truly magical about watching people pull toboggans full of groceries home from the corner store, snowmobilers taking an evening ride, the way during winter dusk the white of the sky blends with the white of the snow on the horizon so it feels you are driving a narrow strip of asphalt into a place between earth and sky. It is truly spectacular how the snow drifts like a swirling smoke across the road and the way the trees are bare and white with frost. The way the air shimmers with ice crystals and the horizon goes on and on forever leaving you with an exhilarating sense of freedom. Yes, it will definately be hard to part with this strange landscape. But for now it seems if all works out I may be given more than ample opportunities to stay here for another 1-4 years. If I finish my teaching degree here and then work here as a teacher for two years it sounds like the government will reimburse me for my schooling. And that would be wonderful. But for now baby steps. We will see how I deal with January's -50 Celsius weather before considering that too hard!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Good Literature

Today in Literary Criticism class our professor asked us each to come up with 2 books we thought everyone should read. They could be fiction or non-fiction. (In some cases they were identified by author not title.) Here was what we came up with...

Official suggestions:
The Bible
The Making of the English Working Class
Huckleberry Finn
Aesop's Fables
Jane Eyre
East of Eden
Oscar Wilde
Infinite Jest
White Noise
The Hobbit
The Communist Manifesto
Crime & Punishment
Brave New World
Slaughterhouse Five

Unofficial Suggestions:

Fight Club

Our Prof then asked us to look over the list. He asked whether we thought we would get a good education taking a class that had these works for the book list. We all agreed we would. I thought to myself it would be a very heavy course!

Looking at this list there are a lot of religious, social and political themes. However, I feel a lot of areas are unrepresented. This seems like a very useful book list in a course based in a Caucasian, Middle-Class, Western neighbourhood. For sure we are not being biased just to look within the Christian faith for our texts but how far are we willing to expand these limits? The Qur'an is not that far away from The Bible in many senses. Also there is very little literature representing women, people from different culture groups, gender minorities or even local or Canadian authors. We might learn a lot about the classics, about European and North American history... but what type of education are we really receiving by reading this book list? A good one we say... but good how? Good because from a viewpoint of a literary critic these books are important milestones in literature? Good because these are some of the titles that we would expect to see appear if someone asked you what books you think everyone should read? Are these books good for expanding our horizons and making us more open to our fellow man? It is important to ask ourselves these questions I think.

It is also important to realize that of these books there is very little pop. fiction. Most of the books are intellectual or literary landmarks, many are classics. If you asked me my favorite book it would not be on this list. However if you asked me what book I thought everyone should read I would hum and haw for a bit (just as I did) and then say (as I did) Huckleberry Finn or Aesop's Fables. These aren't my favorite books. They were good books for sure and significant landmarks in literature. But what does that mean exactly? I certainly would not have said Harry Potter or Twilight or Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or The DaVinci Code or any book of that nature when adding to this list... the question is why. I think perhaps literature is still stuck in an elitist notion. Good literature is about structure, aesthetics and big ideas that are portrayed in an intelligent and well thought out manner. Good literature is art. Pop Literature is entertainment. Basically literary critics are book snobs and terribly biased. Something important to think about. Or at least I believe it is.

What two books would you choose?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's that time of year again...

Snow is everywhere, the air is cold, people who didn't do their holiday shopping early are stressing and I'm stressing over end of term stuff. It is this time of year that I turn to my favorite online seasonal stress reducer game: Penguin Baseball. So if you are feeling stressed at this busy time of year take a whack at it! (pun intended)

Have a great Sunday and hope your weekend was fabulous!