Friday, September 26, 2008

Living in the Past

Hey, everybody! What has two thumbs and no internet access at home? THIS GUY RIGHT HERE. The joke doesn't translate all that well into the medium of text, since you can't see me pointing at myself with my thumbs -- but rest assured that it's much funnier in person.

Anyway, yeah, it's been a good few days since I was able to get online from my basement dwelling. Not good news for me! My internet access has been limited to sporadic bursts of computer time at school, which is troublesome for a variety of reasons. Not having a cellphone out here yet, and with no landline in my building, my contact back home has been limited to emails and outgoing VOIP calls on (quite majestically limited) free trial programs. The Library and Information Science program, being particularly concerned with the continuing advancements of modern technology, has online communication specifically woven into its character; several course assignments have their materials online, are to be submitted online, and/or require online readings and research to ensure an understanding of the curriculum. And you'll recall that I still fancy myself a blogger and Uptown columnist, but research and submission only go about as smoothly as you would expect from a wireless connection that consists of futile flashing lights and Local Only notices.

Hell, just keeping up on the outside world has been a task and a half; I didn't even have a TV until Monday, and I only got my hands on one (for ten bucks!) when I finally found out where the Value Village is in this town. But I got it just in time, mind you: preseason hockey has just started up, and the federal election campaign has hit the part where it inevitably devolves into hilariously ill-thought-out verbal miscues. This is always the best part of each Canadian election, isn't it? Just people going out there and coming up with increasingly ridiculous and terrible things to say. How do you top a Liberal candidate claiming that the Jews had inside info on 9-11, or an NDP star candidate claiming that his favourite animal is the "shut-the-tar-sands-down", or a Conservative candidate insisting that immigrants are criminals? Well! With the granddaddy of them all, of course -- the leader of a recognized federal party openly insisting that another party's crime policies will surely lead to underage buttrape!

These are the people that lead and shape our nation! We vote for these people!

Ahhhh, Canadian politics, what a trip. Where was I? Ah, yes. So I'm currently sitting alone in the dead of night, squirreled away in a graduate lounge on campus just for the sake of being online and actually getting everything accomplished. I've got three (!) assignments and an Uptown column due within the next week, plus the now-tricky task of trying to keep in contact with... well, anybody, really.

Ah, well. Minor setbacks! I'm sure I'll be up and about again in no time.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Looks Like My Weekend's Planned

I was going through the London pictures again just now and re-noticed something that will demand my immediate attention.

This was one of the sights that I'd photographed while out and about the day I took all those pictures, because I was pleased by the prospects of a healthy arts community kickin' around in the city. (It would later emerge that I have evening classes until 9:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which kind of pooches any events on those nights -- but I don't really have the disposable income to be blowing on concerts anyway, so alas and alack.) One particular bill at the time had caught my notice, probably because it was bigger and shinier than all the other ones:

Why, it's LOLA! The London Ontario Live Arts Festival, which I hadn't even heard of until I walked past and saw this poster that day! Scuttlebutt has it that it's a free (!) live outdoor festival, and the lineup looks so intriguing that I can't help but want to investigate.

For example:

Holy Fuck! Yes, the band. (I would later hear fellow students come across the poster, having apparently never heard of the band, and remark excitedly to each other about what a great name that is.) I bring this up because the organizers made a specific point of leaving Holy Fuck's name uncensored, even though anyone of any age or sensitivity threshhold might happen to pass by. That is awesome! I'm so used to seeing it written as "Holy F--k", "Holy F**k", "Holy F@#k" or what have you -- and I saw them written a lot, what with mainstream media sources trying to report on the Polaris Prize nominees -- that I'm actually strangely elated to see the name written out in full, as though the world is a better place now than it used to be. What a marvellously inappropriate reaction! I'm almost proud of myself.

(You'll note I linked to their MySpace above; from the looks of things, they forgot to pay the bill for their website. Whoops!)

Here I was going through the photos, I saw these ones again, and noted -- as you have no doubt already noted as well -- that hey, wait a minute, September 18th to 21st is right now! The promise of free mainstage music and entertainment on Friday and Saturday evenings, plus a walking tour of art installations? They've got my interest!

So, yeah, I've got my weekend lined up. Working on the last batch of photos will thus take a bit longer than I'd originally anticipated -- and I'm no doubt about to be taking new ones, which will only compound the situation. Regardless! These are the noble sacrifices that a young man like me must make, sometimes.

Holy Fuck! Oh boy!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wait, Where Am I (or, Three Quick Posts in One)

I've got a pair of gigantic London picture-posts coming, sometime soon. Big big posts. With lots of pictures, numbering into the triple digits. But those will be sometime soon, meaning not right now; resizing, uploading and webcoding that many images goes about as quickly as you'd imagine. Plus, uh, the part about being a full-time graduate student now and everything.

As a bit of transition (or filler, depending on your outlook), I'll post up a few of the pictures I took during the big ooh-life-changing plane ride over here. Winnipeg to London is only a couple hours or so, but I hadn't been on a plane in a good couple of years -- note to self, renew passport -- so everything seemed new and exciting all over again. Hey, do we get a meal, or--oh, uh, cookies. Thanks, they're kind of like food, I guess.

I left Winnipeg on September 2nd, so as you'd expect from Winnipeg in early September it was twelve degrees and raining. I did make an attempt to get some shots of the city as I left, but you can judge for yourself how well that went.

If you squint a little, you can--ha ha, no, no you can't. Don't bother.

Modern aircraft technology is such, of course, that they have goofy little satellite TVs in the back of each seat. It's a pretty handy feature, if you're the sort of person who prefers to watch sports highlights or whatever instead of looking out a window or reading or napping or thinking to yourself. I'm sure they're a hoot, but I didn't really get to check them out.

This was what my screen did for most of the flight, with brief and intermittent bouts of working properly so I could watch this instead:

Hey, guess what? This is better picture quality than I've ever had on any TV I own, so I'm pretty galled by the idea that these things are what the company is buying with my money. This is the same reason why I don't go into Tim Hortons very often, incidentally. If you've got twin widescreen LCD televisions installed in the menu for the express purpose of showing me what a sandwich looks like, what the hell do you need my two dollars for?

Anyway! I digress. I wasn't up there to watch TV anyway, so no great loss. I'm a pretty big proponent of window seats, after all.

Ah, scenery, good times.

The airport in London is a pretty teeny place, so it didn't take too long to find my ride; the woman whose lease I was taking over came to pick me up and drive me to my new apartment, because I was taking over her lease and she probably wanted to make good and sure that I got there to take it.

So, dropped off after a good long drive, there I was. Plunked down in a basement apartment deep within an unfamiliar city, not a friendly face for miles around, no transportation, no phone, and no idea where I was or where anything was located in town. What was I to do in such a situation? Well, write an Uptown column, of course!

(Killer segue! Yes! I've still got the magic!)

Uptown Magazine! Remain seated until seatbelt light is extinguished!

Here's my column from last Tuesday, and it's a pretty good column if I do say so myself. I'm still in talks with the editorial staff about further contributions, because writing for Uptown is one of my very favourite things ever; in the meantime, I'll keep sending in columns like always (albeit maybe not as solely Winnipeg-themed as before) and then wait to see if they hit print. Here's hoping!

So, yeah, great big London posts will be forthcoming. Before I go back to that, though, let me show you a notice that I got a kick out of when it was posted on campus:

I have no idea what this says, of course. Aside from the few helpful clues like "B.B.Q.", "LONDON JEIL CHURCH" and "When", I'm pretty much useless in the face of this poster.

However! As a unilingual Anglophone, I'm well accustomed to working around language barriers by gleaming information from visual cues. And what have we here, in the bottom right corner of the poster?

Why, Picnic Jesus, of course! And look at how happy he is, the little scamp! He's got his ladle, and his soup, and what looks like a little burger... what a cutie! The robes say "I died for your sins", but the hat says "I could sure go for a pick-a-nick basket!"

"Hey, c'mere," I said to a classmate who happened to be passing by. "Is that Jesus in a chef hat?"

"It... yeah, it looks like," he agreed. "Wow."

"Pretty cool!" I gushed. Then, after a second: "Can you imagine if it were Mohammad instead?"

"Yeah," he said, "I really don't think that would go over too well."

And he's right, it probably wouldn't. Still, though! Picnic Jesus! Don't you just want to scratch his little beard? What a great guy.

Anyway. Tomorrow's another big day, so I'd better get back to the books. You'll all hear from me soon enough.

Monday, September 8, 2008

An Introduction

Good evening. My name is James Howard, and this is will be my blog for the next sixteen months or so.

You may recognize me (ha ha no you don't) as a blogger and columnist, a figure of great repute high regard passing notice in my frozen and dangerous hometown of Winnipeg. But that was last week! This week finds me alone and isolated, many miles from home, sniffing hesitantly at my surroundings to get my bearings in an unfamiliar new environment.

Just last month I was accepted by the University of Western Ontario into their Masters of Library and Information Science program, and it's been a lot of scrambling and scraping since then; it was just over this past week that I packed up a computer and clothes and moved to the bright lights and big city of London. Ontario, that is. The other London.

So here I am, abruptly a graduate student in Ontario, and here as such is my second blog. This blog won't be updated as often as my last one, or at least it really shouldn't be -- because I'm here as a graduate student, after all, and graduate students traditionally have a lot of work to do. So this site can be considered a sidestory, or a second season, or a blog-away-from-blog. Take it as you will.

I'll get further into the details of the city later; this post is just here to get the ball rolling, because everything has to start somewhere. I'm a graduate student, you guys! Yeah!