The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Why Why Why?

I went to the unoffical graduate pub on campus called "Cafe Nostalgica." I'd been there once before: they serve a great Quebecois beer called "Blanche du Chamblais" which tastes an awful lot like Hoegaarden (in other words, not like beer at all). If you haven't tried it, give it a taste.

I only realized last night that every last friday of the month at this venue, pitchers are 7, yep, 7 dollars CDN (I can see J is lining up to buy the next train ticket up here). During the evening I was conversing with some pretty friendly and animated folk (mostly guys, but I'll get to that in a moment), when something funny occured (I mean funny in the existential, Samuel Beckett sense, which isn't really funny at all). One of them, who looked like a mix between Conan O'Brien and Doogie Howser, complimented me on my look (I was looking slightly sharp and neat). As far as I can tell, this gentleman did not "swing that way," but it's not the first time it has happened: every now and then a perfectly straight male will come up to me and compliment me on my look (not to be confused with lookS). My question is, why is it always guys? Can I just once have a sane woman come up to me with the same utterance? Is that too much to ask? Reminds me of when I had my semi-legendary beard: guys would compliment me on it all the time, but the ladies didn't like it. Boy, if I were gay, I wouldn't have any trouble... :)

I must return to my work: for my Foucault class (which I'm enjoying, by the way), I am presenting on Ferdinand de Saussure's notion of the linguistic sign on Monday. One a side note, I've been doing a lot of reading on the side, which probably isn't wise during school, especially considering that my "pleasure" reading is pretty heavy stuff: Derrida, Paul de Man, and most recently, Emile Benveniste, whose critique of Saussure is never mentioned. Maybe this is why I have trouble sleeping...

I sometimes wonder whether I should have gone into linguistics instead of English. At the same time, I often hover somewhere in between as too much of one makes me repine for the other. If only i could succesfully synthesize the two...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Here we go again

Yet another Muslim uproar over absolutely nothing. As this issue has probably been discussed ad nauseam, I will be brief and point out the ridiculousness of the situation

1) It goes without saying that the Pope's speech was egregiously misinterpreted. Why? Because

2) we have crooked and corrupt Muslim leaders (whom I blame for all the current problems re: Islam) rile up their congregations, who are for the most part illiterate and simply don't know any better, by saying "look at what this guy said about us." I mean, when you have Imams in Europe (not Saudi Arabia) offering million dollar rewards for the murder of cartoonists in the year 2005, eyebrows must be raised.

3) It is a case again of the uninformed Islamic (as opposed to enlightened Islamic) double standard: "you can't do xbut we can." Case in point: the Pope can't even mention in passing what someone happened to say about Islam 600 years ago (which wasn't the point of his speech anyway), but this doesn't prevent Islamic leaders from preaching hatred towards Jews, etc.

4) Finally, as my cousin from Britain mentioned: if only those same people who get riled up over nothing would got just as incensed when there is a terrorist bombing, but of course they don't.

5) As a side note, I found it funny that Iraqi muslims (Shia and Sunni) were burning German flags a few days ago: apparently they took time off from killing each other to do this.

Humorous, literary videos

I am offering two videos today to my faithful readers (all two of you). I assure you they are neither lewd nor vulgar; they are in fact very witty.

The first is a brief skit from Monty Python on the poet McTeagel. I first saw it in my 2nd year, about 5 years ago. I remember disliking it (or "not getting it") the first time, but found it hilarious on a second viewing. It's a humorous send up of the reception of certain poets/artists.

The second is a brief sketch from what appears to be Blackadder Live. I own the recent DVD set, which has every episode including some "hidden" ones, but this is the first time I've seen this.
Warning: the skit can only be appreciated by those who are familiar with Hamlet. If you're not too familar with it, then I suggest having a copy of the famous soliloquy "To be or not to be" from Act III sc. I (or better yet, read the play).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Dog's Dinner

I had a mini-presentation of sorts today on "Formal Verse Satire vs. Menippean Satire" for my "Jonson and Middleton: Elizabethan Satire course." I probably did far more research than I needed to, but I knew quite a bit already about the latter, thanks mostly to Frye, one of the few critics/theorists to go anywhere near the subject (Bakhtin is the only other one I know of, and he predated Frye by about 20 years). In the course of my reading, I again came across and finally the Apocolocyntosis of Seneca, a very obscure work of antiquity. Its title means, roughly translated, the Pumpkinification (of Emperor Claudius).

The other is, of course, Petronius' Satyricon, the only extant part of which is the Cena Trimalchionis, or, Dinner at Trimalchio's. To be completely honest, there are elements of Menippean satire that are missing from that section (too numerous to go into here), but it is an interesting piece. One critic called it the first realistic novel in Europe, and I'm sure Auerbach has similar things to say about it.

I'd like to share one brief, humorous moment from this scene. Here's the context: Trimalchio, a wealthy guy who throws parties, is sitting on his couch when an acrobat boy/slave falls on his chair. This was at a time in history when slaves were beaten or killed for far less. The narrator is expecting some heavy reprisal, but

instead of punishment, there came an official announcement from Trimalchio that the boy was free, so that no one could say that such a great figure had been injured by a slave

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Culinary Update

I made my first real meal here in Ottawa tonight: an attempt at stir fry noodles with pork and egg. It wasn't bad, and I'm still here, so it wasn't toxic. I love Oriental food (i.e., far eastern, not Middle Eastern).
I've been reading lots of Deconstruction texts during the past couple of days. Don't ask me why: I'm not even taking a course on it; as much as it confuses me, I still must read it.
This week, I must make a short presentation of Menippean Satire and/vs Formal Verse Satire. I'm having a lot more trouble with the former than I thought: Frye seems to say some strange things about it, and it is a "genre" that is rarely discusses and very obscure.

Friday, September 15, 2006

For Adults Only

I found this classic list today that I originally read years ago. It's a funny reminder of everything porn has taught us.

I know this is academic, but I simply couldn't refuse. I especially love the one, "Asian men don't exist."

Strange Sighting

Laudator tells us Oriana Fallaci has died (John?). His post, interesting per se, reminded me of something I saw yesterday as I was walking down beautiful Elgin Street in Ottawa. I've seen maybe two or three orthodox Muslim women in Ottawa (i.e., the full garb), which is even more conspicuous in Ottawa. Anyway, I saw an older Muslim woman with the full garb getting a light from someone (her son? a stranger?) and smoking a cigarette. As far as I can remember this is the first time I have seen that combination, and to be honest, it looked somewhat amusing. Are orthodox Muslim women even allowed to do that? I'd be surprised.
(If I had photoshop and any artistic talent, I would have doctored a photo, but alas...)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Update from Ottawa, vol. II

I had my first TAship session last night for that Technical Writing class. Turns out I'm only going to be marking assignments, which is fine by me. The prof. does all the teaching, and I get a stack of material that is fairly easy to grade: no essays, but mere 1 pg. reports and things like that. The prof also seems like a really cool guy: good humoured and affable. I told him he reminds me of Michael McDonald from MaDTV: you be the judge. At the end of class, perhaps in retaliation, he said I looked like Matt Lauer. No one else has ever made the comparison, but he's not far off (this is the best picture i could find, and of course, he meant with the shaved head).

My friend downstairs just brought an envelope from U Ottawa: it looks like a cheque/deposit slip. Can't wait to see what it is.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


You may think I watched this (another clip from millionaire) video with sardonic satisfaction, but I actually felt really bad for the guy. It's almost painful to watch.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

How evil am I

Did this brief quiz to find out that I am

How evil are you?
. Try it yourself

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

It begins

Yesterday was the departmental welcome day at U Ottawa where I finally met some people with whom I had corresponded over email as well as some professors. Afterwards most of us went to an expensive bar near campus (6.80 for a pint of Hoegaarden, and 6.25 for Keith's). By the end it was only 5 of us including me, i.e., the hardcores.

I also found out what what form my assistantship will take, viz., a TA for "Technical Report Writing." I know it sounds lovely, but I'm told that I will likely only be grading stuff (fingers crossed). Most students have been assigned to a class known only as English 1100, an Essay writing class which most undergrads in all disciplines take. I can't say at this point which is better, but I will keep you posted.

That's one strange thing I've learnt about Ottawa, i.e., the TAships: at York, most TAs would teach a literature class. Apparently that's a rarity at Ottawa, for whatever reason. Again, I can't say which is better since I have no frame of reference, but I do know this: Ottawa gives the opportunity (sometimes) of actually directing a class, which sounds pretty neat.

Racism in Calgary

I'd like to post a serious video, for once.

It's extremely unsettling to know that this stuff is going on in the world, let alone in one's own backyard (this takes place in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, not South Africa). I would like to think that we don't have these problems in Canada, but there ya go.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Voice Wreckognition

It's always funny when a compnay like Microsoft spends millions on a product and they can't even get the basics right. 'Tis a fitting post for today as it was one of those days where I questioned the sanity and intelligence of computer designers. Take my laptop for instance: at one point I was forced to turn it off. Does it have a reset switch? No. How about a power switch? No. Gee, that makes sense. I had to take out the battery and remove the AC adaptor. It makes one wonder how these companies are so profitable.

Apart from that, computers (at least Microsoft Windows) themselves are riddled with problems, and it always amazes me that computers actually go out of their way to create problems for themselves. This lends credence to my idea that science fiction has it all wrong: something like Terminator Rise of the Machines would never happen because, if computers got to such an advanced stage, they would simply fall apart within minutes.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Who wants to be a millionidiot

I can't believe I missed this clip from what could very well be the most disgraceful performance at a game show. Part of me feels bad for the guy, but my ego's laughing. As Homer said, "It's funny 'cuz I don't know him":

Humour of the Day

Read this amusing joke that borders on the bawdy. There's something to be said for humour/writing that falls into that category but remains circumspect. As Dryden said of satire, it's one thing to butcher your enemy and hack him into pieces; it is something else to be able to cut his head off in one shot and leave him standing.


A lonely woman, aged 70, decided that it was time to get married. She put an ad in the local paper that read:

On the second day she heard the doorbell. Much to her dismay, she opened the door to see a gray-haired gentleman with no arms or legs sitting in a wheelchair. The old woman said, "You're not really asking me to consider you, are you? Just look at you.... you have no legs!" The old man smiled, "Therefore I cannot run around on you!" She snorted. "You don't have any hands either!" Again the old man smiled, "Nor can I beat you!" She raised an eyebrow and gazed intently. "Are you still good in bed?" With that, the old gentleman leaned back, beamed a big broad smile and said, "I rang the doorbell, didn't I?"