Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.


This book is one of my favourites and I had to reread it for my class and essay. I read it first a couple years ago while I was going through a major dystopia fling that started with the iconic 1984. So I read it alongside Huxley’s Brave New World, Zamyatin’s We (another book I had to reread for the same class), Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, and maybe a couple others. I don’t like rereading books very often because it feels like I’m taking time away from new books that I haven’t yet explored but I did enjoy the very quick reread of this book in an afternoon and I just fell in love with it some more. What I found interesting however is hearing how vehemently some people hate this book. Perhaps it’s the genre of dystopia or that is focuses on women’s issues but a number of people said they absolutely did not like a single thing about this book.
            I am a fan of dystopia yet it also terrifies me because I can see how these types of regimes would really not be that hard to implement. Atwood is clear in interviews and in the author’s note that other than the synthesis nothing in her book is entirely original. Absolutely every one of these policies or situations has been used at some point in history and that is what terrifies me. My mother would probably dislike this book because she sees it as unrealistic yet I think the power of this sort of books is their realism. You just have to look back to the United States after 9/11 to see a society that is willing to give up a number of their freedoms in exchange for the (false) feeling of being secure. People were willing to allow a police state to take over and for civil liberties to be suspended for an unknown amount of time because they were told it was for their own protection. How hard would it be to install a totalitarian regime in the wake of the suspension of civil liberties? The graphic novel and film V for Vendetta, explores the possibility of a nation’s own government causing the initial panic in order to create a complacent society that would gladly accept a protective overarching regime.
Atwood criticizes many of the right-wing American religious centred lobbies that are undoubtedly misogynistic. The pro-life ( more appropriately anti-choice) lobby is criticized in this novel because the forced birth type society is their ideals taken to the very extreme and they don’t like what they see. I think one of the most important secondary characters in the novel is Serena Joy. She was a religious evangelist who preached that the position of women was in the home and that the new feminist movements were actually anti-women, she hypocritically wasn’t confined to the home but she said that was a sacrifice she had to make to serve god and help people. But when her preached ideal society based on the morals she previously avowed came into being she was then relegated to the home and it is clear she is not happy with her new passive and powerless position.
Another important aspect of dystopias that cannot be dismissed is that this type of society is not completely unrealistic. Atwood’s writing of the novel was influenced by what she was hearing about monotheocracies in the Middle East, especially Iran. One of my goals in life is to write a dystopian novel but instead of a Christian basing, mine would have its foundations in the teachings of Islam though I have a hard time thinking about how one could write a fictional novel where the oppression of women is more extreme than what currently happening in the Middle East and parts of Africa. The only hope I’d have for it would be that if the oppression was relocated to a familiar setting of North America or Europe, some people might finally open their eyes to the true horridness of Shar’ia Law and its clear foundations in the Qu’ran and the Hadith.
Anyways, that’s enough of a ramble, if you haven’t read The Handmaid’s tale yet go and do it because it is fantastic. If you’re not frightened - you’re not paying attention.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Agalloch concert and Rules of the Metal Moshpit

So this past Friday (March 25th) I headed to London Ontario to see the American folk/black/doom/whatever metal band Agalloch.
Summary: Fucking Great Show
 concert 1/20 from 1001 days project.
Openers:
Musk Ox:
Acoustic neofolk musician from somewhere in Ontario (can't remember where he said). His music was beautiful and haunting. Reminded me a lot of Empyrium or some of Ulver's acoustic stuff. I thought it was a great way to start off the night. Great to have Don Anderson from Agalloch to come out and do a song with him. Kinda wish I had bought a cd from him now. 

Worm Ouroborus
I'm not exactly sure what genre these guys were, I think they said psychedelic doom metal or something like that. They were interesting, the type of band I didn't exactly like but I didn't dislike them either. It would probably be nice music to have on in the background while reading or studying or trying to fall asleep but not exactly something I want at a live show. I was focusing more on how much I wanted to sit down because my back was hurting than focusing on the band. The heavier parts of their music sounded better. I might check out their stuff for background music.


The Main Event: Agalloch
Fantastic. As my friend Brad said: they played a couple songs live better than on the album. When do you ever hear that? They played super tight and everything from them were awesome. They were super nice and hung around with the fans for ages after the show, signing stuff and chatting. A lot of bands run right off the stage and it's a matter of luck and chance whether you get to meet them but these guys made it a priority to hang around until most people had left.
The Crowd:
They made the crowd go crazy- actually the audience was the only bad part of the show. I really don't know what was up with people and I'm pretty sure a couple of the guys in the pit were high as fuck on something. I personally didn't even expect a mosh pit. I expected a lot of headbanging and cheering and all that carry-on but not an actual mosh pit.
A couple of the main characters of the pit:
1) blue shirt guy: One of two guys who I'm not even sure likes metal, he certainly did not look like a metalhead nor look like he knew how to act in a mosh pit. He also must have been very fucked up on some sort of drug because he was not natural. It got to the point where whenever he was near me I has punching/elbowing/pushing him as hard as possible- and I was not the only one, and he seemed impervious to it all. He also seemed to be doing something close to a hardcore dance type thing too. He was just fucked up and pissing off most of the people around who noticed him.
2) Leather jacket guy: another guy I'm pretty sure was fucked on something. He definitely was a metalhead and he knew the general rules of the pit. Other than the fact I don't think Agalloch is much of a moshpit show, his behaviour in the pit was fine. Any other heavier more crazy show he would have fit right the fuck in. The thing about him that was most annoying was he and his friends kept trying to get him up to crowd surf. Major problems there fucktard. Firstly there was no where near enough people. As the name 'crowd surfing' might suggest you need there to be a crowd to surf upon, not 2 rows of people in front of you. Also there wasn't a barricade, there was people against the stage. The problem there is that even if you get someone up onto the crowd there's no where to go other than on to the stage. This is highly annoying for the band as it often causes people to knock over important equipment, get in their way, or generally piss of the band by making stupid faces and poses beside them on stage. Over than lying on the stage between the crowd and the monitor this guy didn't actually get up there- why? because two of the band members pushed him off the stage with their feet. Yes you were literally kicked off stage by the band and verbally told by them to not do that so DON'T DO IT AGAIN. Oh, not to mention the 2+ failed attempts where his friends dropped him....HA.
I eventually got to the front of the stage where it's actually much safer than a row back because while you have people crashing into your band you are a lot less likely to go flying. He was behind me for most of the time I was up there and every time I turned around his eyes were closed and he was swaying around/ leaning on me. That's the main reason I thought he was fucked up. His friend wearing a Drudkh shirt was kinda hot but a bit of a douchenozzle in terms of behaviour but again he would have been fine at a bigger/crazier show.
 3) greek guy? This was a short fat balding middle aged potentially Greek man. Maybe Italian? I dunno, he just looked like the stereotypical little fat balding Greek man wearing a white wife beater and a sweater zipped super low exposing nasty chest hair. This was the other guy that I'm not sure was a metalhead.He was an angry mosher and had the bad habit of pulling people into the pit with him. He dragged me back and through the pit once which I was not happy about but meh, I wouldn't be at the front if  couldn't handle a little bit of pushing.


 Rules of the Metal mosh pit
It's really hard to explain what appropriate mosh pit behaviour is because to an outsider it looks like violent chaos anyways, but actually it's not.

 Don't be a douchebag. You don't actually punch and kick anyone. You are not in a fight. It's more like the concentrated act of letting go and running into other people who are running into you. If you do elbow or hit someone, expect to be hit back. Regardless if it is a circle pit or a moshing pit you flow with the energy of the people around you and that coming from the stage. If someone falls in the pit you immediately try and get them up as soon as possible.You don't just take a running start and jump into people that are not in the pit. You don't actually start fights with people who are not in the moshpit. You don't drag unsuspecting people into the mosh pit. Don't go into the pit or pit area unless you don't mind being pushed around. People along the rim of the pit should push the people who fly out of the pit back in. Try to avoid wearing overly spiky bracelets of shoulder spikes that can gouge eyes out. Men: don't grope girls. Women: don't expect guys to go easy on you (though I find they sometimes do).

Monday, March 21, 2011

101 Things in 1001 days

So I did one of these lists a couple years ago and I was actually able to accomplish a lot of the goals in the time. The project is from http://dayzeroproject.com/about/
1001 days is approx 2.75 years so it's a more realistic goal than a one year list or a general bucket list.
Coming up with 101 things is actually pretty hard but here's mine to be completed before December 15th 2013:
School
  1. Finish Undergrad degree Walking across the stage June 8
  2. Get Master's degree
  3. Get PhD
  4. Get published
  5. Get a job in the medieval field (in a university, library, archive, museum etc)
  6. Pay off student loans
  7. Make at least one person realize the relevance and value of metal in academia
  8. Apply to all my top grad schools Applied and was accepted to.

Fitness
  1. Become more muscle than fat- fuck the scales
  2. Work out regularly= 4+ times a week, every week
  3. Start running.
  4. Swim once a week
  5. Increase flexibility
  6. Do yoga regularly again

Life
  1. Travel to at least 5 new countries (1/5 Denmark)
  2. Travel to 10 new countries
  3. Travel to 20 new countries
  4. Teach English overseas
  5. See the Northern Lights
  6. Do a castle tour of England
  7. Castle tour of Ireland
  8. Go dogsledding
  9. Bungee jump
  10. Skydive
  11. Try couchsurfing
  12. Hitchhike
  13. Write a fantasy novel (with Vikings)
  14. Get that book published
  15. Read 50 books every year
  16. Read 10 books set in Scandinavia (1/10)
  17. Read a book by someone I disagree with (the following two don't count)
  18. Read the entire Bible
  19. Read the Qur'an and the Hadith
  20. Write up critiques of the three
  21. Become fluent in Norwegian
  22. Learn Old Norse - in progress
  23. Read the Eddas in original- Never going to happen.
  24. Go to Svalbard
  25. Swim in a fjord
  26. Learn Finnish
  27. Live in Finland
  28. Learn how to properly sword fight
  29. Complete my chainmail hauberk
  30. Get my Viking ship tattoo
  31. Live 'off the grid'
  32. Get a vertical labret piercing
  33. Go on a cruise- kinda, I've been on two single night cruises.
  34. Try 10 new beers (10/10: Kozel, Faxe Premium, DAB Original, Victory Pils, plus several ales and meads at Kalamazoo)
  35. Learn to really like wine
  36. Drink mead  Completed May 15, 2011 at Kalamazoo
  37. Bake a homemade apple pie
  38. Get my driver's license
  39. Get my motorcycle license
  40. Ride on a motorcycle
  41. Eat reindeer
  42. Get over my fear of new foods
  43. Go to a Viking festival
  44. Learn how to properly scream (as in metal screaming)
  45. Attend Wacken Open Air
  46. Attend 20 000 tons of metal
  47. Attend a metal festival I think I'm going to combine 61-62 by saying I went to a Black metal festival. Hole in the Sky 2011.
  48. Go to a black metal show
  49. Touch a rare manuscript (with gloves on of course)
  50. Pet a wolf
  51. Don’t speak a single word all day
  52. Meet Mathias Nygard and nerd out with him
  53. See Turisas live
  54. See Satyricon live Hole in the Sky 2011
  55. See Marilyn Manson live
  56. Learn how to do tablet weaving
  57. Make an authentic Viking woman outfit
  58. Not go online for a whole week
  59. Go kayaking
  60. Camp 5 times
  61. Go winter camping
  62. Buy a proper backpacking backpack complete August 9th 2011.
  63. Hike up a taller mountain than Mount Bitihorn (1607 metres)
  64. Go to 20 concerts (9/20)
  65. Drink only water for a week
  66. Get a Kindle July 18th 2011, Mom got me one for my birthday
  67. Do something different with my hair
  68. Watch 20 new movies- I haven't been keeping track but I've must have seen 20 movies by now.
  69. Watch all LOTR movies in one day (preferably with wolfpack)
  70. Try snowboarding again
  71. Make Irish soda bread (Feb 2012)
  72. Volunteer for a secular organization
  73. No Coke for a month
  74. Whiten teeth
  75. Buy new pants
  76. Donate to a rat rescue
  77. If not in a position to own another rat then foster one
  78. Watch every episode of Dr. Who
  79. Eliminate 'like' from vocabulary
  80. Cook someone else a meal
  81. Avoid getting a defibrillator for as long as possible
  82. Have a real relationship (hah!)
  83. Private
  84. Private
  85. Private
  86. Get someone else to do a 101 things in 1001 days list
  87. Be awesome! -complete 

Things I want to accomplish eventually in life:

  1. Adopt a cat
  2. Get 2 Rottweilers and name them Xena and Ares
  3. Buy a house
  4. Buy a cottage in the Norwegian or Finnish countryside
  5. Laser eye surgery
  6. Get a tubal ligation


So I'll make a post here if I complete any of these goals.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Book Review: Wise Man’s Fear


Book: Wise Man’s Fear
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Rating: 4.5 stars.
Length: 994 pages
Why I read: Because I loved The Name of the Wind and Pat's blog.
Quotes: “There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.”
“No man is brave that has never walked a hundred miles. If you want to know the truth of who you are, walk until not a person knows your name. Travel is the great leveler, the great teacher, bitter as medicine, crueler than mirror-glass. A long stretch of road will teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet introspection”
This book was the much awaited sequel to The Name of the Wind and it was worth the very long wait. The book follows Kvothe through more of his problems at the University with studying, financial issues, troubles with a rich asshole bully, and his heart’s desire. Much of the book is spent away from the University as he waits on important nobles and learns new languages and fighting skills abroad. One thing I love about Kvothe is his love of learning for learning’s sake. He very much believes that knowledge is power but wants to gain as much knowledge as possible regardless of the power it bestows upon him. He just wants to learn- something I relate with very closely considering I never really want to leave school. Regularly I found myself forgetting that he was only 17 years old but I guess it makes sense due to his forced early maturation because of harsh circumstances and since like most fantasy it was set in a medieval-esque setting 17 isn’t that young. It was occasionally jarring to me though in parts where his age seemed unrealistic. But then he’d reveal his innocent side and be bashful around females. Speaking of females one part I thought dragged on wayyyyyy too long as the Felurian scenes- yes so he got to frolic with a faerie and learn a bunch of sex techniques but eventually I got tired of hearing about them romping in the woods or the river or among the butterflies.
            Overall it was a great fantasy novel and did not feel as long as the nearly 1000 pages looked. Very much worth the wait. I am a little disappointed that it didn’t have as much music in it as Name of the Wind. You know how a lot of people attempt to verbally describe music and it just falls flat? Pat Rothfuss is not like that. He is a master at describing music; in fact there was a scene in Name that almost made me cry because the description of the music was so beautiful and powerful.

Going it Alone (?)

Is it really that odd to go to a bar alone? I just got back from a little bar about 5 minutes from my house (Maxwell’s for Waterloo people). I went because a band I liked was going to be playing a show. I know a couple of the band members and they’re good guys and make some awesome music. A couple other people I know said they might drop by but they didn’t but that didn’t matter. I just sat myself at a table and got some beer. Supposedly this is strange? Yeah I know going out and partying are group activities but if none of my friends are interested I’m not going to stop that from me enjoying my night.
            I kinda understand; I used to be terrified to go into a pub or restaurant alone. I would often even wait for my friends outside rather than go in and claim a table and sit there alone. I don’t know if I thought people would judge me for not being with people or something. Now I don’t care. I’ve been to huge concerts alone (it really doesn’t make a difference when you’re front row at a giant metal show anyway), to bars alone, and gotten a table for one at restaurants. It’s freeing in a way, you don’t need to rely on other people to entertain you. For restaurants or bars where I’m not there for music I’ll bring a book and just read while I’m there and it can be a nice change of atmosphere from my basement room. I think some of the fear is of being judged by others, and then I realized that when I go out with friends I don’t see a person alone and pity them, I probably wouldn’t even notice them, so why would people notice you? Even if you are noticed and judged why would it matter? I’ve stopped giving a damn what people think of me and turns out that most people think I’m pretty awesome and I just have to concur (others quite possibly think I’m a bitch but either way is fine with me). I think a lot of this has to do with a rise in self-confidence.  I have to credit a lot of this attitude and confidence to my trip to Norway when I had no choice other than to go alone and I realized it’s not all that bad. Often some random person will start a conversation with you simply because you’re an anomaly. I’ve had a couple interesting conversations with people who I never would have talked to if I were in a group setting (was just told by some random guy that I looked very ‘will of the wind’ as if I were just wandering through a park. He probably mean ‘will’o the wisp’ or something but he was genuinely surprised I was there alone).
            So I challenge you, whoever you are, to go out and party by yourself for a night or go into a sit down restaurant and get a table for one. Bring a book or a laptop or sit around and people watch. It is a little nerve wracking at first but you’ll eventually realize that it really doesn’t matter. You are not the object of everyone’s attention, derision, or pity. If other people notice you they may even admire your confidence for not needing or relying on other people to be there for you. I think of the girls are clubs who can’t even go to the washroom alone and I pity them because they need to be lead around/ followed every moment of their day or else they feel lonely. Embrace being alone and you’ll find that you can be the source of your own happiness.



www.bravurametal.com for the band I went to see.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A 137 year old book! :D



        I’m so excited about this. I was wandering around a used bookstore because I was an hour early for a bus and I found The Gods and Other Lectures by Robert G. Ingersoll, published in 1874. I’m pretty sure it’s a first edition. People keep asking me if I think it’s worth any money but I really don’t care all that much. It’s an awesome book. I haven’t read much of it so far but if you know anything about Robert Ingersoll you know he was quite a controversial person back in his time. He was one of the main personas during the “Golden Age of Freethought” and promoted agnosticism. They wanted him to run for political office but only on the condition that he conceal his agnosticism which he refused to do on the basis that he thought concealing information from the public was immoral. Considering now, at least in American politics, a person who was openly atheist or agnostic would never be able to run it prevents those who are best suited (statistically more intelligent) and honest from leading the most powerful country in the world. Even though religion does not play nearly as important role in public and political spheres here in Canada, I don’t think I have ever heard of a political leader announcing his atheism.
Some quotes:
  • “Give me the storm and tempest of thought and action, rather than the dead calm of ignorance and faith. Banish me from Eden when you will; but first let me eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge.”
  • “The notion that faith in Christ is to be rewarded by an eternity of bliss, while a dependence upon reason, observation, and experience merits everlasting pain, is too absurd for refutation, and can be relieved only by that unhappy mixture of insanity and ignorance, called ‘faith’.”
  • All that is necessary, as it seems to me, to convince any reasonable person that the bible is simply and purely of human invention—of barbarian invention—is to read it. Read it as you would any other book; think of it as you would of any other; get the bandage of reverence from your eyes; drive from your heart the phantom of fear; push from the throne of your brain the cowled form of superstition- then read the holy bible, and you will be amazed that you ever, for one moment, supposed a being of infinite wisdom, goodness and purity, to be the author of such ignorance and of such atrocity”.
  • “These devils generally sympathized with man. There is in regard to them a most wonderful fact: In nearly all the theologies, mythologies and religions, the devils have been much more humane and merciful than the gods.”
I could go on forever. None of this is new for me just simple common sense but it’s amazing to think of how revolutionary this must have been in 1874, hell many people today would be horrified by the ridicule with which he treats their most sacred ideas. But as he says “the instant we admit that a book is too sacred to be doubted, or even reasoned about, we are mental serfs”.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hello

This is a continuation from http://toosloandbeyond.blogspot.com/ because I can't get into that account for whatever reason. It is appropriate though since that blog was specifically made for my trip to Oslo this past summer. This blog will be larger in scale. I'm at a very exciting place in my life right now and have numerous things planned for the future. I'm in the final term of my undergraduate degree and currently applying for grad schools far far away from here including Oslo, Iceland, Denmark, England, and a couple Scottish schools. Forgot to mention, I will be studying the Vikings aka the most badass people in history. Then the backup plans if I don't get into grad school are even more insane including teaching English in Russia or Eastern Europe, working on a cruise ship, or farming in Scandinavia. All I know is that my future is completely up in the air at the moment and it's exciting.

This blog will be a mixture of a travel blog, book blog, school blog, and personal blog.

Disclaimer: I do hold numerous controversial opinions that will be delved into and I want to make it clear from the very first post that i will not compromise on those opinions. I will not censor myself to avoid offending people and I can almost guarantee that I will offend people.

I will probably eventually link this to a youtube channel because sometimes it's much easier and effective to talk and rant rather than type.
A real intro follow soon.