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.

My Photo
Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I received the following internal letter in my mailbox at the English Department today:

"I regret to inform you that the Dept. of English was not able to recommend your file for the SSHRC scholarship program due to the fact that the documents submitted were not complete according to SSHRC regulations. The application of this SSHRC regulation does not imply in any way a negative judgement on your academic achievement to date or on your very interesting project for graduate study..."

A brief commentary: (I italicized the relevant section)

SSHRC is the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, a major granting agency, and I know for a fact that my letter was customized.
I wasn't surprised to get this because I knew one of my referees (who shall remain nameless, but whose name rhymes with "finish" if you remove the first and last letters) screwed up majorly. First he failed to submit the obligatory checklist along with the letter, then he failed to write the letter on the official SSHRC form. When I told him SSHRC wouldn't accept what he gave me, he got impatient and essentially told me to be happy with what I got. How unfair it is that I actually had a shot this year, and something so stupid as this, which was out of my control, ruined my chances. And people wonder why I rarely apply for these things: something so stupid that's outside of my control usually ruines it for me.

I'm glad I no longer attend York: with few exceptions, profs couldn't be bothered to do things right, and they rarely gave a damn about you. It is very different here, thankfully: for example, I had a respected scholar in my field not only encourage me to apply for SSHRC but volunteered to help me with my statement (the same prof told me I was "in business" with my proposal). In five years at York I never saw anything like that: I would have to hound a professor and bother them for weeks just so they could look at it, and rarely was that of any help. Don't even get me started on procuring reference letters!!
This is in addition, of course, to York's other problems: depressing atmosphere and insane overcrowding.

Hopefully at least I have a shot at OGS (Ontario Graduate Scholarship). As far as I know, there was no problem with document regulations. Knowing my luck, something like the transcripts will be unsatisfactory, because they are out of my control.

Dr. J, now I know what you were talking about all those years; I see the difference.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More pictures

Some more pics of my delightful nephew. My favourite one is kinda blurry, but his eyes are wide open.



Last night my housemate took a video of me doing a few impressions. I do Sean Connery and Aaahnold. They're very brief, but amusing. Take a look.

On a side note, I've been using the newest Internet Explorer (7). As my impression of Connery says, it'sh not baad!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Picture Time

The pirated version of my nephew's photos are out (I still sound strange referring to him thus). I am posting them here for the benefit of my two readers and posterity (or until the 'net collapses). Ike is only two days old now, but these photos were taken on the day of his birth. Still difficult to tell who he looks like. All I know is, that's a lotta hair for a newborn boy! For what it's worth, I looked like an old man when I was born :)
More to come, I'm sure.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

An Uncle? me?

That's right, I'm an uncle now! My nephew (Haig) was born at 16:30 EST in Raleigh, North Carolina.
I think everyone in the family is in shock, myself included: it's very surreal as it's the first time it's happened in my family.
If I ever get my hands on photos, I'll post 'em here.

Now back to my gourmet dinner of flat noodles and beans (I couldn't be bothered).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What oft was thought but ne'er so well expres'd

I just found this video, a segment by (I believe) Keith Olberman on MSNBC. It is perhaps the pithiest, most searing indictment of Bush I've ever heard.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Advertising gone mad

It's official: advertisers have gone nuts with power, and the planet earth isn't enough for them


No, not to me, but to my good friend, Ted T, a former Toronto resident who now calls NYC home. Why? He passed the New York Bar exam, a gruelling 14 hour, 2 day exam which tests one's knowledge on all aspects of law. What's even more impressive is that Ted is Canadian and had next to no background in American law.
The New York Bar is, after the California Bar, the toughest in the U.S.; it has a very high failure rate.

Good for you Ted. I'm proud of you!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Office Space, Recut

For those of you who have seen the movie Office Space, I highly recommend this video. There are some very talented people out there when it comes to editing videos. In this case, the dude turned OFfice Space into a trailer for a horror movie, and it works perfectly!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Diplomacy and Carleton

Quite an interesting day, so I will be as concise and organized as possible. First, my remarks on Carleton (first time I'd ever been there), followed by the lecture by a Turkish diplomat, Mr. Aktan.

The Carleton campus is not without its charms, but it really reminded me of York, that is, the things I don't miss about York: It is in the middle of nowhere, immured by tree after tree. The library resembled an aiport more than anything given the sheer volume of noisy students (again, the parallel to York here). By comparison, UOttawa's library looks more professional, doesn't have cafe in the basement, and has all the noise of a monastery compared to Carleton's. All I can say is that I'm content here at UOttawa, and I would prolly go nuts at Carleton (I'm also told, by people who attend Carleton, that it's not a very intelligent campus, but I'll leave that alone). Although it is silly to argue that any one school (e.g., UofT) is free of idiots, I found their presence far more conspicuous at York. In fact, the main distinguishing feature of the York idiot is that he/she boasts or makes public their idiocy, whereas at UofT, they would not be proud of it. These are, of course, generalizations.

On to the political part of my day. I've copied and pasted my reflections (as well as my involvement) that I sent to a friend via email, which were written very quickly, so please forgive in advance any spelling errors:

Remarks on Mr. Aktan's lecture today

The lecture was attended by approximately thirty to forty people. As far as I could tell, there was not a large Armenian contingent: apart from myself, there were three others, two of whom...were very vocal, thus making up for the disparity in numbers.

Mr. Aktan's lecture was interesting but, as especially Aris showed, flawed and full of contradictions. Being a diplomat, Mr. Aktan had an answer to just about every question, but often an unsatisfactory one (in some cases, he would change the subject somewhat).
I didn't take copious notes, but I did make a note of some of the problems of his lecture (I think Aris did a pretty good job of noting the problems). Here are some of the ones I noted:
-He started by saying the word Genocide was coined decades after the genocide, and that Armenians "discovered" it in the 60s. Of course this is ridiculous: the term "Holocaust" did not exist in 1945. Did the Jews also "discover" it?Mr. Aktan was right about one thing (something I was already aware of): the Armenian Genocide (AG) was not the first of the 20th century: the German massacres of the Harraris of Africa took place in 1908. Still, this, like many of Aktan's arguments, were irrelevant.

-Aktan made the mistake, like so many other deniers, of conflating the concepts of genocide and conflict. He would constantly refer to a "conflict" that took place between Armenians and Turks.

-When it came to numbers, Aktan was irrelevant and contradictory. He demonstrated that Armenians themselves are not sure of the population of Western Armenia at the time. According to Turkish statistics (collected for tax purposes), he placed the figure at about 1.3 million. Thus the claim that 1.5 million Armenians perished is exaggerated to say the least. As I'm not a historian, I couldn't argue this, but he himself went on to demonstrate that in the former Yugoslavia, a mere 8000 Bosnians were massacred, and this in fact constituted Genocide. Thus, if the number killed is irrelevant, it seems strange that he would spend so much time on this issue (Vahe brought this up, and Aktan didn't have a good response).
Aktan claimed that there was no anti-Armenian sentiment in the Ottoman Empire around WWI. During question period, I told him that Fatma Gocek, a Turkish in the US, spent half her lecture in Toronto last year demonstrating the opposite.

For my second comment to Mr. Aktan during question period, I told him that he failed to mention the International Association of Genocide Scholars, an impartial, non-political body of scholars, which, earlier this year, had sent a letter to PM Erdogan, telling him that the body believes as uneqivocal the historic truth of the Genocide. Aris Babikian furthered my point by telling Mr. Aktan that, although he constantly referred to third party intervention, he was ignoring the IAGS, which is a perfectly suitable third party.

On the whole, the event was interesting and both sides parted amicably. Questions and comments were raised without any antagonism.

For what it's worth, there were a few people (one of whom was Kurdish, and the other possibly Turkish) who expressed hesitation in believing Mr. Aktan's version of history. They were also suspicious of Turkey's side given their recent dealings with Kurds, etc.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I'm off to the library at Carleton University tomorrow (there is a free shuttle 
service between UOttawa and Carleton).  I plan on consulting an edition of a 
very obscure play I am to present on in about a month (Thomas Middleton's 
"Game at Chess," 1624).  It's odd enough that Carleton has a copy of the said
edition and UOttawa doesn't, but it's even stranger that UofT doesn't have it.  
Institutional libraries are strange.

As fate would have it, a Turkish diplomat (whose name I forget) is planning 
on speaking about the "Armenian Controversy" at Carleton tomorrow.  
Needless to say I will attend and, if given the opportunity, ask tricky questions.  
I'll let you know how it goes.  If the organizers are smart, there will be no
question period.  

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Child is the Father of the Man

Since this is a family blog, I decided to link to this video:

As the commentator on the host site said, if this doesn't put a smile on your face, nothing will.
The video reminded me of the quote from Wordsworth (the title of this entry, and probably my
favourite Wordsworthian line).
It promts the following question from me: why does the baby laugh? What triggers it? etc.

Eeza nice, ah?

I'm planning on seeing the new Borat movie next week (it seems that everyone and their mother is going to see it).  I just learned this evening that Borat has a sidekick (Azamat?), and he happens to speak Armenian of all languages!  I find this hilarious and makes me want to see the film even more.  
Anyone out there seen it?  Leave your impressions herein.