felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)

I'm about one-third through my first heavy edit of the novel. This run-through is to a) make sure it's detailed and excurciatingly historically accurate (the novel takes place over 114 years and in three cities), and b) to make sure it's internally consistent.

To this end, I've been reading dozens of histories, pored over hundreds of documents, gathered a huge collection of photcopied photos, and (in Montreal) visited the locations I'm writing about, and tried to reconstruct what they would've looked like at the time.

I've researched things from the development of phone technology (to know if a person in downtown Montreal in 1945 would need to talk to an operator to make a long distance call), to urban growth patterns (to know what existed in 1900), to the origins of place names (it turns out that the name of the Vancouver neighbourhood of Kerrisdale means "little throne").

I've read up on the lives of saints, on how logging was done in the BC bush in 1890, and what songs were popular in 1974.

After this, I'm going to do a quick edit to make sure it all fits together still, then a deeper edit to enrich the language.

The Future Has Kittens

I graduate in 17 days, and the last Harry Potter book comes out in 54. I'm not really sure which one I'm looking forward to, more.

And the photo of Nietzsche-Cat makes me wonder, is the cat making the statement, or is it the abyss staring back...?
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I'm back, and it's been a good 24 hours. I finally got official confirmation for graduation, so the ceremony will be in June.

And this morning, before work, I finished the massive re-write/re-structuring of my novel. Now I've got about two close edits and one quick edit. I'm taking a break from it for a week to work on short stories and do research.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Well, it turns out I passed my exam, so I have all my requirements for my Master's degree.

This means I've completed all my requirements to get my Master's in English.

This means I'm (not-yet-officially) a Master of English. So eat your hearts out, all you peons of English!

Of course, the inability to do anything with an MA in English is proverbial. Can't teach it in high school without an Education degree. Can't teach it overseas without a TESL degree. Can't teach it university without a PhD.

But it's not entirely useless. It can be used to smack people over the head with when they disagree with me about the interpretation of a novel. Then I can say, "Do you have an MA in English?"

I can attend seminars on endangered and extinct languages, and the troubles some languages face against the onslaught of English -- and wave it around, yelling, "Woo hoo! We're number one!"

I believe it also gives me the right to have people who misuse the word "ironic" executed. We have a secret English ninja deathsquad for that.

So it's really not all that useless after all.

Of course, the best use is making people squirm. Even before I got it, saying, "I'm doing my Master's in English Lit" made 90% of the people I told it to either a) list all the books they read recently, to prove they read, or b) offer their excuses and apologies as to why they weren't reading as much as they should. We make people as nervous as priests once did!
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I'm still laying low -- though not quite as low as I had been during my months at school. I'm very slowly getting caught up on my friends' pages.

I've just been recovering from my last exam. I've started entering detox from my academic factory -- even though I don't yet know the results of my exam -- and easing myself back into the real world.

Today I started reading for pleasure again, the Mabinogion, the cycle of Welsh mythology. I've borrowed stories (stories I've read second-hand) from that book, so I figured I ought to get the stories right from the horse's mouth. I picked up a great, very modern translation while I was in BC, and it's been sitting on my to-read shelf ever since.

Mostly, though, I've been able to throw myself into my novel in a way I haven't been able to while I was going for my master's. I've been writing mostly original material this last week, balancing out some of the stuff that's been cut. I usually do my best work while I'm in BC, but this is stuff of the same quality. I think school was the source of the blockage.

This week, my work schedule is wonky, owing to the once-a-month attendance drive falling on Easter weekend. The gist of it is that I have today off, then work two days, a day off, work two days, a day off, and then work two days :/
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
It's cold but bright day outside. The temperature has dropped far below zero, again, and there's a fair bit of snow, but it's sunny.

I wrote my comprehensive yesterday -- my last, I hope. Four hours writing three essays on nine works (chosen from a list of a 100 works we're supposed to have read), without knowing the topics before hand. Hopefully, it's over for good. I'll probably know next week.

Today, it's a quiet day. I've gotten writing done. I really have to go out and get some things done, but the lull of cold weather and the comprehensive are making me feel like a hermit.

I've been ignoring people -- I haven't even checked my friends' pages in weeks, for which I apologize. I didn't want to let myself get lost in cyberspace before my exam. I'll start trying to get caught up tomorrow.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
The Evil Santa Claus

So, I've been exploring the origins of Santa Claus.

I knew his earliest origins were in the god Odin, who'd pass over the world on the Solstice and reward children with candy if they left out carrots and things for Odin's horse Sleipner.

But today I stumbled across the story of a horrific, bestial demon who accompanies Father Christmas on his rounds and sometimes delivers the presents in German folklore.

There are many slightly different versions of the myth from place to place. The most astonishing version is Krampus, a demon who descended chimneys to dismember little children in their sleep. He fought a battle with the Turkish Saint Nicholas, who bound him with holy shackles that belonged either to Christ or to some imprisoned martyr.

Krampus in some tellings repents, and in some tellings is simply enslaved. Either way, he's forced to give presents to make amends. 'Course, who knows what he'd do if he ever broke his shackles.

...and that's the version that should be told to children planning to stay up late to see Santa ^_^


My grades for my last course of my master's has come in. So of my 9 courses, I received 8 A's and one A-.

Now I just have that test in March and I can leave academia behind.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So, I've set myself an impossible task for the essay I'm writing. I have to prove that Renaissance isn't as queer as people like to think.

Ever since Foucault's History of Sexuality, people in literary studies (and even some people in the real world) have been turning the Renaissance into some kind ambisexual utopia where everyone was bi and limited only by their imaginations.

That may have been life onstage, in Shakespeare's theatre among others, and for a few nobles and their favourites who were protected from prosecution. But the reality is that the Renaissance was the probably the most brutal period in Western history for the homosexually-inclined.

The Middle Ages only started killing men for having sex with men very late (about the 13th century), and this massively increased with the Early Modern Era. It was only the Enlightenment that gradually put an end the executions. In between -- the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Age of Reason -- is one of the bleakest eras of queer history. The statistics historians have begun to gather about what he'd now call homophobic violence in the period are frightening.

Ganymede triumphed onstage, and in the court. He lost at the gallows and in the streets.

And I have about two pages to convince my professor that everything he's read on the subject by Ivory-Tower academics is wrong, so I can go on with my analysis of the texts themselves. A limit of ten pages is an unnecessary straitjacket.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
You know, two literary forms have all but vanished from the West: the tragedy and the epic. The tragedy lingers on in romance novels, and the epic occasionally surfaces for air in science fiction or fantasy, but on the whole they've been banished -- especially in mainstream media of any kind.

The explanation for tragedy is that we're addicted to happy endings, and don't want anything depressing. As for the epic, a professor of mine offered this explanation:

"Epics are about nations, societies, and peoples. We're too self-absorbed to care about anything on that scale."

But I don't think either is necessarily true. I can't help but wonder if the incredible popularity of Japanese pop culture -- anime, manga, and video games -- is in part because the Japanese are not afraid to work with tragedies and epics.

And the same pleasure that's always haunted these two forms is still very much there.

I got to thinking of the later Final Fantasies as visual epics -- and got to thinking that maybe that's deliberate. The grand scale of events, the beginning in media res, prophecy, the elements of tragedy mixed in. Even the summonings are like periodic invocations of muses.

And in Final Fantasy 10, at least, there's a deus and quite a few ex-machina ^_^

Seriously, though, it's not as farfetched as it sounds. Video games are very slowly drawing the attention of people who are willing to look at their literary qualities -- though most critics are still thinking of them as empty escapism, the way novels were thought of 300 years ago when people were told not to waste their time with them.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Just a little post to say that I'm not dead. It'll be a bit of time before I have time to go through friends' pages, tho.

I've been working a lot on the non-novel, and I'm past the thirty-page mark, which means it's not going to be a short story.

My last course is going well. I'm still settling on an essay topic. I read John Lyly's Gallathea -- a source text for Shakespeare's As You Like It. Gallathea posits that two women can find happiness and true love together, and should be alowed to marry so long as a deity descends to turn one of them into a man.

This rather contrived ending allows Lyly to sidestep the problem of two women being in love in Renaissance society. After all, if one of them doesn't get turned into a man -- which neaither wants -- he's got a true love story without a marriage at the end. And a comedy is "a play that ends in marriage," so with five minutes left in the play, the goddess Venus decides to zap our two young lesbians into heteronormativity.

I've decided to call this the "penis ex machina" ending.

And I keep picturing Peter the Alchemist's Apprentice as Ed from Fullmetal Alchemist.


Nov. 10th, 2006 10:02 pm
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I've mostly bounced back from Tuesday's news. Things are returning to quasi-normal.

In a crisis, I explode. Then I put the pieces back together very quickly. I've mentally reorganized the next half-year, and quietly gone back to writing and working, which seems to be my life.

I've gotten ten pages written on the not-novel, and thinking about how I'll revise novel #1 when the second copy returns my way.

Tonight, I'm happy. I read A Midsummer Night's Dream -- Shakespeare's most fun comedy. And the anime we're watching would probably make anyone feel better about their own life.

I got a lot of writing done. I'm feeling appreciated at work. And -- and this will only make sense to 7 people on my friends-list -- I've learned a trick to dodging lightning. Sadly, this trick requires me to have my eyes open, which is more than I can manage tonight, so I shall have to save it for tomorrow. I can't seem to get past 60 bolts in my sonambulant state.

There shall be no game this weekend because [livejournal.com profile] montrealais will be at an NDP conference helping to hammer out the gay socialist agenda ^_^

If my erstwhile players are interested, I could go for another round of that game we played last time.


Nov. 8th, 2006 10:46 am
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I'm doing a little better after yesterday's jolt, but I've come to loathe academia so much that I don't even want to finish this last course of mine.

Even before this, I'd gotten to the point where I was thinking that the best thing we could do for the world would be to cement up the doors to the universities like something out of Edgar allan Poe.

I'm exaggerating of course -- there a lot of people who learn perfectly good, real-world skills at universities. Not in English, of course, where once you've learned to write coherently as an undergrad, you don't learn anything else practical -- indeed, they first teach you how to write coherently, then work hard to break you of that habit.

At the end of my university career, I feel some shadow of what a person must feel on their deathbed after they've wasted their life. I'm flailing about for some kind of value in the experience, and there's none. I've educated myself enormously over those years, but mostly on my own.

In fact, trying to hold on to my love of reading, to my spiritual strength, and to my sense of beauty in the world has mostly been a struggle against academia.

I'm $14,000 in debt, and I want the last ten years of my life back. If an English degree can get me either of those things, it might be worth it.

But if there's any value to it all, it's this: all my life, I've been struggling against my need to write, because I'm really a practical person at heart and writing is a very impractical career. Since the thought of becoming a professor now makes me nauseous, I should quite trying to hide behind other, potentially more stable professions and go for what I love.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
A Happy Samhain to those who celebrate it. Now the wheel of the Pagan New Year begins another turn.

I saw [livejournal.com profile] terren_divided last Saturday for the first time in years, which was great. and last night, I spent Samhain dining out with [livejournal.com profile] em_fish, [livejournal.com profile] jenjoou, [livejournal.com profile] maidenofirisa, [livejournal.com profile] montrealais, [livejournal.com profile] rougemacabre, and her husband.

Otherwise, it's been quiet. I've been writing. I spent the morningworking on an essay about how Twelfth Night is Shakespeare's "fuck you" to the Puritans (I didn't phrase it like that, naturally).

In other news, I'm still waiting for my results back for my Comprehensive Exams -- the last serious barrier to my Master's degree. They're being marked by a woman named Bina, whose classes I've been avoiding because she has the reputation of being the school Arch-Postmodernist. Her course descriptions sound like they were all cribbed from Foucault.

Apparently, she'd so late because she's writing a grant proposal. And here I thought she'd just decided marking essays was "bourgeois".
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So last night was a lovely birthday party at [livejournal.com profile] rougemacabre's, who was a marvellous hostess as always. The dinner was marvellous, and I had curry for the first time.

I'm gradually coming out of Internet detox, though it shall be some time before I can catch up on all my friends' pages. I've been moving slowly through, but I'm about two weeks behind for everyone.

I've been mostly procrastinating, but I am still ahead on my Shakespeare course, and I've been playing around with a fantasy short story that wants to grow into a fantasy novel. Trying not to get too far ahead of myself, since I still have another novel to revise once all the feedback comes in, but it's just too tempting to go ahead and write ^_^

Looking forward to seeing [livejournal.com profile] terren_divided on Saturday, and to our first game in many an age on Sunday. I'll give advanced warning that there will be no game the week after, because I have to work the first weekend every month.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
This has been a good day already, and it's scarcely mid-morning. I did 20 pages of editing very early, and I'm now about a half-a-week ahead of where I need to be in school. I'm reading goood books, getting plenty of hours at work (but not too many), and gradually getting my space in order again.

I'll likely be finished my novel before Mabon (Solstice).

Now if only I could get my PS2 and computer monitor to speak the same language, things would be perfect.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I finished my exams today -- I think I did better on today's than on my last one. There were only two questions, and they were on works I'd studied well.

Now I just have one easy class before I graduate -- the easiest class I've done since my undergrad years. Smooth sailing -- assuming I pass the comprehensive exams.

I've been speed-reading a lot of good books.

A couple of short author reviews -- Irving Layton, Rohinton Mistry, and Michael Ondaatje )
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
The worst of my two exams is over. The test was really difficult, but I think I did well on two of the three essays, if slightly incoherent. There were only four of us in the room, including a friend of mine.

I found out after the test, though, that it shall be marked by Bina, the program's most extreme postmodernist. I've been avoiding any class with her name attached to it, mostly because they're about postmodernism, and not really about the books studied in those classes.

Now I have to read a few thousand pages for next Friday. Right now, I've reading a very, very sincere 700-page novel by Rohinton Mistry about an unusual friendship that strikes up between two upper-class Parsis and two Hindu untouchables.

It's a good (though thorough) novel. But I really just want to watch anime right now, and I've got "Cloud Age Symphony" stuck in my head (Grainy video with SOUND here).

Anyway, we're considering a party and a D&D game next week, after my last exam (probably the last of my academic career, ever). The game will probably be Sunday, as per usual, but I'm happy to take suggestions for the party.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)

Well, today's the day -- the nastier of my two exams. I've prepared about as well as I can, and my brain is brimming over with dates and facts.

Now I just have to hope to get lucky with the questions, which we don't know in advance -- there's a certain random factor here that really makes me feel like my academic career is being bet on a poker game. These are the only exams at the Master's level, and I forgot what it's like to be at the caprice of an exam-drafter.

Of course, with most exams, you've been in class, know the professor, and only have a few books to cover. I have about 40 or 50 authors to cover, only about 15 of which I'll need on the test. I've only read about 30 or so -- hopefully I've chosen well.

They say no one fails the comprehensives, but I know a guy who did.

On the other hand, I had the first class of my final course on Wednesday. Looks like it's going to be a vacation. There's almost no reading, no in-class presentation, and the final essay is a mere 10 pages -- that may as well be a grocery list, or an essay in haiku.

News of the Weird

The more I learn about reality television, the happier I am that I don't have a TV. Survivor has gone racially segregated? Pitting race against race? Normally I don't care enough about TV to be offended by anything on it, but Social Darwinism in prime time is really creepy.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church is clearly worried about competition in the "mindnumbingly stupid" department from ultra-conservative North American Protestants who fill those Illiterate-Parents-Against-Harry-Potter type groups. Garbiele Amorth -- the Vatican's Chief Exorcist (!) -- has declared that "Behind Harry Potter hides the signature of the king of the darkness, the devil."

Amorth founded the International Association of Exorcists, and says that The Exorcist is his favourite film. Someone should really write Father Amorth into some very bad HP slash fanfic, translate it into Latin, and send it to him.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Just a post to announce that I'm not dead.

I've been reading around the clock. I finally crashed this weekend. I only read about 20 poems yesterday, and a third of a novel today.

I calculate the absolute minimum I need not to crash and burn on this exam on Friday is reading 2.7 novels. I'm a slow reader and two of them are long novels, too -- long, but very good. I'd also like to get more poetry read.

I have had a bit of a social life. [livejournal.com profile] jenjoou throws a great party, and anime nights have been fun. I'm enjoying Last Exile.

Better news is that I finally finished my heavy edit ofmy novel, and now I'm doing my final, lighter edit. I calculated this would take about 4 days, but it's going to be more like 20, given my reading schedule.

And on the subject of my writing, my public reading at Zeke's gallery is now online. It includes a few paragraphs from my novel. I'm proud and very embarrassed at the same time -- no one told me it'd be web-accessible :/
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Finishing Henry IV, part 1 is a little disappointing. It was the first time I'd read a Shakespeare play without stumbling across one of the famous quotations or sayings -- no "Romeo, Romeo," no "All the world's a stage," no "To be or not to be."

After a brief stop at Shakespeare's sonnets, I moved on to John Donne. I'm still a little surprised -- given how censored my high school experience was -- that we studied "Batter my heart three-personed God" in high school.

I mean, it ends with Donne asking God to rape him -- "Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me." I'm surprised the guardians of morality that pared sex education to the bone (as it were) at my school didn't have a heart attack over this one.

Now I'm done (Donne?) with the Renaissance, so I'm on to John Milton -- the only truly great poet of puritan England.

Meanwhile, for those who are keeping track, my dentist says that my problem is inflamed gums -- nothing serious, just painful. It's relatively easy to fix, and she told me it's the kind of thing I can wait for, so I'm waiting until my insurance kicks in.

In the meantime, the pain is coming and going in waves.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Reading Henry IV, part I by Shakespeare. I'm loving it. I'm surprised it's not more popular -- I think his use of language is at its height, there, and his characters are even more interesting and better developed than in most of the Shakespeare I've read.

Of course, I've read about that era before because the two greatest works of medieval literature in English -- The Canterbury Tales and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight -- also belong to the era of Richard II and Henry IV (the turn of the 15th century).

Richard II was a bad king -- so bad he inspired a peasant revolt and spent the treasury in a hopeless war with France. But Henry IV really takes a beating in Shakespeare, partly because he had Richard II murdered and his heir exiled.

If Richard II was the Dubya of his age, then John of Gaunt was his Dick Cheney. Gaunt was the power behind the throne, and legend had it was descended from the devil, and Gaunt's third wife, Katherine Swynforde, had been accused of witchcraft.

Interestingly, these old stories continue to inspire good writing. J.R.R. Tolkien was an expert in this era, and it shows in his work.

And J.K. Rowling throws a House of Gaunt into her last Harry Potter. And if there's any doubt that she's hinting at John of Gaunt, the House of Gaunt has "Peverell's Ring" -- Peverell being John of Gaunt's famous ancestor.

(Sometimes I feel like a literary degree is just a license to gather trivia. But it's really fun trivia!)


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