An icon of the incompetence of the American Left

Tuesday night. I’ve been back in Montreal for less than a full day. I spent my day catching up on email and all that stuff that one catches up on upon returning from a trip. I had planned to attend a protest against Bush at 5:30 at the lovely plaza at the corner of Peel and Rene-Levesque.

But there’s a lot of catching up to do, you see. So I fudge. I’ve been to my fair share of protests, and I know that they always begin with an hour or so of speeches from all the various coalitions involved before you go marching off and waving banners and yelling slogans(1). That’s how it was done in Minneapolis, Chambana, Pittsburgh, and Washington D.C. So I do a couple more things, since post protest, we’ve got dinner plans and then will go see the very heavy ISIS.(2) I then head down to the Metro and over to the protest. I get to the square at 6:15. It’s dead quiet. A TV truck is packing up. There are no stragglers, no stage or podium left behind. Not even signs dropped here and there. The protesters went off a-marching long enough ago that I can’t even hear them in any direction(3). Wow. I am totally disappointed and I feel stupid. I’d really looked forward to participating in a massive protest against Bush post-election. It seemed like it would mean something.

So much for prior experience. And the stereotype is all wrong. Sure, Canadians (and residents of Quebec, especially) may have a reputation as laid back, but don’t show up to the protest or the rock show late, or you’ll miss out.

So what does one do when one misses a protest? Well, I didn’t really have enough time to go home to do that last hour of work I need to put away before I start meeting with people tomorrow morning. So I went shopping and picked up some new covers for my earphones (yeah, a big $5 expense, but you wouldn’t believe how many places I’ve tried in the last couple weeks before someone actually had them in stock) and now I’m sitting here blogging and feeling slightly like a dumbass. Plus I told a bunch of people I was going to go protest, so now I’ve got to tell this tail-between-my-legs story a few times.

Summary:

Plan: Work, Protest, Dine, Rock, Blog

Reality: Work too long, go shopping, blog, dine, rock.

It’s not like that’s the difference between radicalism and consumerism, but there’s a pathos to it.

Ah well, next time, I’ll be on time.

In other news, Pittsburgh was wonderful and less weird than you might imagine. While I love my new Montreal friends, it’s also true that you can’t hurry the process of making old friends. So it was a real pleasure to see people and to catch up. I also got a little space to think, which is harder to get than you might imagine. The semester is like one long sprint, and I got enough distance to think about other things, like how to talk about disciplinarity, and with the help of my former colleague Pete Simonson, what changes I should make to my big lecture style for this new course in the winter term (4). I’m not sure that blogging one’s vacations works that well, though Charlie Bertsch has managed it. I’ll try again over winter break.

***

(1) Actually, I wouldn’t be yelling anything since I’ve lost my voice. Too much fun and/or talking in Pittsburgh, I guess.
(2) You’d think from reading this blog that I’m a headbanger or something. The fact is that I do like to rock, but I also like to groove and a whole lot of other things too. But there is something special about a live rock show. Plus, ISIS is reported to sell their own special earplugs.
(3) Yes, I’d taken the iPod earphones out of my ears by then.
(4) No, I did not type “spring” and then fix it to winter. I’m learning.

The Great Questions of Our Times

Should one blog one’s own vacation? Isn’t that sort of beside the point?

I don’t even know what to report. We’re here having a good time and relaxing. Most of our time has been spent at Carol and Mrak’s place (yes, it’s Mrak, not Mark) with occasional excursions to see other people, which will now increase in frequency over the next couple days. There is a good deal of eating, watching videos, and witty conversation. Doesn’t sound like much, but we’ve been doing it for 11 years now and it’s a family ritual of sorts.

Yesterday, Carrie and I ran errands around Pittsburgh for consumer products we had not yet found in Montreal. It was all silly stuff like a nutritional supplement for one of our cats, bath products (must be a smell issue) and a few spices. Still, there was just a touch of the whole “third world travellers in the US to buy blue jeans” phenomenon.

In football news, apparently people here are perfectly happy to speak of the Steelers (pronounced “Stillers”) going to the Super Bowl. Mrak refers to them as the “Super Bowl Bound Pittsburgh Steelers.” I’m a little surprised since last time they looked this good, they got creamed in the AFC championship game. But perhaps it’s just as good to have the feelings out in the open as to harbor secret hopes. I will say this town is football crazy. It’s sort of like I imagine hockey fandom works in Canada. Then again, how would I know?

In a free moment I found myself rereading parts of Bourdieu’s Homo Academicus, which is a real trip. When I get back to Montreal, I need to finish a short paper on disciplinarity in digital media studies (is it even scholarship when you’re just commenting on the development of the field) for a special journal issue on the subject. Bourdieu doesn’t on the surface have a lot to say about disciplinarity, but he’s very interested in how people control the means of academic reproduction, and that ought to be fun to write about.

Pittsburgh Bound

For the next five or six days, it’s going to be “An American in Montreal in Pittsburgh.” My hosts, Carol and Mrak, should have wireless internet access up and running in their household, so I should be capable of remote blogging. Yes, another example of how I’m not yet fully assimilated (like that would even be possible after 4 months) — I’m taking off for American thanksgiving. And Pittsburgh for thanksgiving is actually a tradition in OUR household that predates my employment there.

I’ve even got a prospectus defense for old times’ sake. Actually, I’d planned on about four different defenses the week after thanksgiving, but they mostly fell through for one reason or another. It will be a busy spring.

I really need this vacation, even though I’m bringing work along.

Football Update

A certain McGill professor to whom I shall heretofore refer as “Anonymous Football Fan” asked why I hadn’t blogged more about the NFL. I guess I haven’t had that much clever to say. First, let me make it clear that:

a) Listening to Chris Berman call out the highlights is one of the supreme pleasures of sports spectatorship.
b) I totally agreed with Carrie, and
c) I caught crap for it today from my colleague Darin Barney, though he acknowledged that sports fandom might be the last rather than the first frontier of my assimilation to Canada.

Fantasy football update: after winning like 5 games in a row, our fantasy team, Delirium Tremens, has lost two and is poised to squeak out a close one this week against one of the weaker teams in the league. That’s what we get for having an injured Priest Holmes. We were in second place and now we’re like in 6th place in the league. Still more wins than losses, though, and if all goes well this week we’ll be at 7-4. Otherwise, it’s a scary 6-5. And to think I *almost* picked up Nick Goings earlier this week. Ah well. I’ve got him now, in case he posts another good game.

NFL thoughts: the Vikings are once again in a midseason slide. They won this week, but I have to wonder if there isn’t a Dolphins parallel where the team starts out in front and then slips back as the season goes on. sounds like a conditioning thing to me. But as of yet, I’m still thinking that Dennis Green was a better coach than Mike Tice. You think Tice would have the Cardinals at 4-6, with all their WR injuries and an unstable QB situation? I think not.

Final thought: it’s a good thing the Chiefs have a charismatic coach, otherwise, we’d have to listen to the announcers go on about what a genius Bill Belichick is. I’m so sick of that.

Extra final thought: Steven Rubio’s gotten me interested in this whole “new paradigm” of statistical analysis in baseball. I wonder if there’s something analogous in football.