Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

To celebrate, here's a kitten cleaning a bunny. Hope you all have a ton of turkey, chocolate, white wine, or whatever it is that gets consumed in your home today!

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Awl: "What Writing Programs Ought to Teach You..."

A couple hours ago, The Awl published this article. It sheds a lot of light on the problems contemporary writers face. The part about student loans is certainly accurate. As someone who's never fully been in favour of educational programs teaching creative writing (teaching creativity is something I can't get behind, and writing is a component of most arts programs anyway), the idea that someone with a MFA would be a more qualified writer than I am is mildly disturbing. I certainly don't see creative writing as a viable career option, both in terms of the ability to get paid and the motivation for writing. Economic incentives can severely change a writer's output...

...which brings me to suggestion #1, The Unworkshop. I don't like its name, which is too much like Uncollege for my liking, but I love the concept. I'd gladly participate, especially as the person who would stand to gain financially. I wouldn't view it as much of an exercise in improving my writing. It's the industrial relations student in me that would get the most fun.

The Accounting sessions would be good. I'm a huge proponent of financial literacy. As someone who's learned the business of freelance writing through continuing education and found it highly educational, at a fraction of university cost no less, this is something I can support.

All I have to say about the Grant Writing section is that if this statement, "Even more important than your own writing, which is what it is, is your ability to write in such a way that people will give you money", isn't sarcastic, it's alarming. If your goal is to make money, writing's about the last thing you should do.

Charm Classes, Sex Ed, and Concentration Class? Sure, why not.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Shirt Laundry Challenge

I like challenging myself to do all kinds of different things. Sometimes they're ambitious, lofty, or meaningful, like the venerable Book a Week 2012. Other times, not so much. This challenge falls in the latter category.

I last did laundry on March 10th. I imagine I'll be doing laundry again soon. This next time, though, I won't be washing any shirts. Or the next time. Or (possibly) the time after that. The challenge is to see how many days I can go without washing a shirt. Re-wearing a shirt also isn't allowed. On days when I don't need to leave the apartment, not wearing a shirt is fine.

For the record, I own 43 shirts, at least that are with me in my current home. (There are a couple sitting around at my parents' place but that's a four-hour flight away.) They come in a variety of styles, colours, and appropriateness in different situations. How will I allocate these shirts to yield the longest possible non-laundry streak? I'll have to balance this hopefully next month and then some among everything from double-cuff dress shirts to the rattiest band shirts from my younger days. It's easy to have enough shirts planned out when you wash them every two weeks - what happens when you can't?

This might end up being environmentally friendly in the form of saving energy. More likely, it'll result in a massive load of laundry when I finally give in and wash my shirts.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Congratulations to Pope Francis I!

The first pope from my hemisphere becomes the first pope to take the name Francis. As a devotee of St. Francis (I've visited his grave in Assisi), I couldn't be prouder. (Link in French, which is probably the most Catholic language I know.) Also the first Jesuit, which is a nice change.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

February's Book: How to Make Love Like a Porn Star

I finished this book a week ago. I'm finally getting around to this entry now. Sorry and all that.


How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson with Neil Strauss
Autobiography (2004 - 592 pp.)

As with any book with a ghostwriter, it can be hard to tell where Jenna ends and Neil begins. The book is well written, especially as far as the quite interesting plot goes. The ups and downs of fame and abuse recounted in sometimes graphic detail are interesting regardless of Jenna's occupation. The pacing feels a little odd at times, with adulthood and childhood mashed together even when it does not seem topical, but there are enough consistent parts to stop the book from suffering.

Much of the book concerns Jenna's internal strife while her world spun around her. Her childhood diary is dutifully preserved and scanned so you can read her writing. Her various firsts come out in detail, as do topics ranging from her insecurity about her body ("Time's Scythe", Chapter 42) to her need "for someone to love me for myself, not for my looks or body." (Time's Scythe", Chapter 46) One of the more sobering moments, albeit there are many, comes when she reflects upon all that has occurred in the first three decades of her life: "When I look back at the people who had to deal with me, I feel terrible." ("Trophies of Lovers Gone", Chapter 9) Throughout, she refers to then-husband Jay Grdina with nothing but praise; their 2006 divorce would be an interesting subject for a second-edition preface, should she chose to be as open about that as about seemingly everything else.

Life in the porn industry certainly does not look appealing, which is presumably the impetus for the subtitle "A Cautionary Tale". From the human side, there are all ranges of experiences one may encounter, which are told far more effectively than I could venture here. From the business side, there are numerous examples of porn contracts, many with restrictive terms and moderate salaries in the $40,000-$70,000 range. Strippers often make far more, to the point that a 19-year old Jenna earned $1000+ per night - before her big break in porn. Post-break, she mentions buying $3,800 and $5,000 dresses. Make of all this what you will.

The celebrity stories are among the more interesting anecdotes. Want to know what it was like to party with Marilyn Manson in the late '90s? Or to dance for Nicolas Cage? This book can tell you. I was especially touched by her description of dancing at a strip club in Toronto; she was apparently pelted with coins while onstage and then arrested for obscenity. ("The Gentle Closure of My Breast", Chapter 5) My distaste for strip clubs aside, I always fall for when my hometown receives famous visitors.

My favourite line in the whole book is one her father says in reference to the time he spent with her mother: "Even if I had the worst life in the world afterward, I knew I’d always have that." ("Time's Scythe", Chapter 1) That's what memories are for. It really puts the rest of the book into perspective.

Ease of Reading: 10
Educational Content: 2