Another Obit

British DJ John Peel, whose many “Peel Sessions” contain some of the best tracks by my favorite 70s and 80s bands, just died. He was a hugely important force on Radio 1, and a couple people have lamented to me that they think Radio 1 is doomed without him.

A Theory of Canadian-American Interpersonal Communication (1)

It’s more of a hypothesis, really. Anyway, the theory was developed after several drinks at a divey bar in Mile End sometime around 2am last night by three Americans and a guy from all over. It goes like this:

Canadians, in general, will ask incredibly personal questions in a matter-of-fact way that will cause one to spill one’s deepest, most personal stories. For Americans, this will seem like self-disclosure, confession, or expression of a deep confidence. For the Canadian in question, this will seem like idle conversation. Possible explanations:

1) Americans hold onto stuff emotionally in a way Canadians do not.
2) Americans have a stronger sense of entitlement to happiness, and so are less matter-of-fact about unhappy events in their lives.
3) Americans have more ressentiment.
4) Canadians generally don’t have the same Protestant ethic regarding material, interpersonal or professional success.
5) Canadians are more rooted and therefore more emotionally stable.
6) Our sample is screwed up somehow.

That’s incredibly general for someone who just showed up two months ago, but it was a collaborative work (the exact nature of my contribution is unclear, other than writing it down and prompting the discussion) and it’s interesting enough to go with for awhile.

In other news, I appear to have a social life. Three nights in a row, I actually stopped working after dinner (or right before) and went out for edification, rock, and socializing in various combinations.

I was going to do a whole separate entry about the …and you will know us by the trail of dead show, and the title was going to be:

In the Name of All That Has Rocked or Ever Will Rock

but the show did have a disappointing side. They didn’t play much from Carrie’s two favorite albums, Source Tags & Codes, and Secrets of Elena’s Tomb. Nevertheless, the live show ranged from fierce to savage, and they do the two-drummers thing very well (avoiding the too-many-drummers effect I like to call “shoes in the laundromat”). We both liked the guy that sang more than the guy that screamed a lot, but they were all awesome performers and the show was well worth the price of admission. Highly recommended if they come to your town, and you seriously enjoy rocking. The show was bookended by awesome Jamaican food (cheap! The Corridor) and a surprisingly good raspberry beer at a microbrewish bar, and good company.

The other major event of the weekend was the [CTRL] conference, which was entirely organized and put on by Communication grad students at McGill, Concordia, and probably U of Montreal and UQAM as well. Rather than doing a grad conference, they just did a full-on conference and got people to come in from all over. I didn’t attend much (too much other stuff to do) but I enjoyed moderating my panel, and hanging out with people at the after-party. This was also bookended, with bars on both ends. Luba Lounge was cool with its posh chairs and froofy martinis, but there was something about the tough-guy rap playing that was disjunctive with the otherwise chilled out atmosphere. It’s like I needed some gold jewelry and then could spout stupid-sounding lines (at least when they come out of my mouth) like “we’re kickin’ it gangsta style.”

I’m hopelessly behind in my work, but since that would have also been the case had I stayed in, I’ll take the mental health that comes with a social life.


At some point in graduate school, I realized that I could be happy living almost anywhere as long as I had good friends and a good work situation. What I have discovered since moving here — and three nights out this weekend really brought it home — is that while that statement is true, there is something very special about living in a world class city for the places that you can go and the things you can do, all other things being equal.

(1) title edited from “a theory of Canadian interpersonal communication” to more accurately reflect what I’m talking about.


I reported the existence of vegetarian haggis to Carrie, who at first made a face. Then she said “you only want to make it because you think it’s funny.”

Then I showed her the recipes. Now she’s intrigued.

Procrastinating My bin Laden Essay(1)

Yesterday, I attended my first ever McGill University lecture, a History of Science talk by Peter Dear, which was that splendid sort of talk where the author does close, careful readings of somewhat esoteric texts to make an interesting argument. I won’t bother you with the details because it’s the experice that was worth mentioning. Afterward, we retired to Thompson house for drinks. Thompson House is that very strange animal — a graduate student union in a lovely old, well, house. Drinks are relatively cheap, and it’s just a nice environment to hang out with people and chat. Apparently, faculty can crash it, which was news to me. I even discovered that Cornelius(2) has become an “associate member,” which I guess is like the “professor’s auxiliary.” I was eventually persuaded to go out for dinner. The whole thing was an absolutely wonderful experience, exactly the kind of thing one imagines academics are supposed to do: listen to papers, discuss ideas, and then dine, drink, and let the conversation range a bit.

Anyway, as it turned out, the selected joint was called au Pie du Cachon, which means “the pig’s foot,” known for its fine meats. This poses a problem only insofar as I am a vegetarian. Usually when this happens, the place comes up with some solution for vegetarians, which ranges from awful to decent. I’m happy to report the waiter was kind and the solution was more than decent. Anyway, I only tell you this because the fact of my vegetariansim — combined with the fact of people sitting next to me eating duck, steak tartar and blood sausage — occasioned an interesting conversation(3) about food, which included two main topics: vegetarianism and weird (to me) meat-based food from the Europe. I raised the issue of Haggis, as I am wont to do in such conversations, only to learn an astonishing fact from Nick Dew(4).

Vegetarian haggis exists.

Now, I have relied on the haggis as a staple of food humor for many years. I believe it was Mike Myers who once said that “all Scottish cuisine was created on a dare.” This was done with the expectation that I would never have the occasion to actually eat haggis. And the whole concept of stuffing an animal’s stomach full of food and then eating it is kind of funny. But then Nick says “oh yes, it’s quite good. And most of the stuff inside is vegetarian. You’d just need a different pouch.” So I go online and discover the following items:

–a company that sells prefab vegetarian haggis
–a recipe to make your own vegetarian haggis

I would merely direct you to my google search on the topic.

I am seriously considering making a vegetarian haggis. It looks time-consuming, so it’s probably a winter break thing. But I’m always up for a challenge.

Other fun fact: I discovered yet another NFL fan in Montreal. I will not name the fan in order to protect the identities of the innocent. We have the critical mass for a super bowl party now.

OK. Back to work. I am seriously trying to finish this short essay on the circulation of Osama bin Laden’s voice in the Western media. I plan a longer version too, but we mustn’t be greedy.



(1) I am now numbering footnotes so I can include more. Doing it by hand sucks, but the word processor on which I wrote my undergrad summa thesis also did not have a footnote function, so I did those by hand as well. What a bloody hassle! There must be a way to do it right. I am advertising for an undergrad RA next week and I am going to list xhtml as a desired skill.
(2) Cornelius Borck, my colleague in Art History and Communication Studies.
(3) this very blog also came up later in conversation
(4) Nick Dew, a historian who is my colleague on this History and Philosophy of Science Committee. Actually, Cornelius is on that, too.

Template Talk

This blog is officially back in effect.

I have decided, after careful consideration, that the New York Times has only ever published two basic articles about cultural theory, from which an almost unending series of variations are possible. Op-Ed pieces authored by Stanley Fish do not count.

1. “Theory is stupid.” This article debunks cultural theory by purporting to demonstrate that theory a) is stupid, b) is pompous, c) leads to silly paper titles at the Modern Language Association or d) is a sham or otherwise is a sign of the excesses of academics, who aren’t real intellectuals like hard-headed, clear thinking journalists.

2. “Theory is dead.” This article argues that while theory was once important in the humanities and some social sciences, the good people are all dead, their American acolytes have run out of ideas, and that young scholars are back to “serious scholarship” where people really study stuff and ground their claims more carefully.

You can also have a mix-and-match arrangement. When the Sokal Affair broke, for instance, the NYTimes claimed that the hoax demonstrated that theory was a) a sham and b) dead.

I only say this because Derrida has led to a flurry of newspaper articles. The best example of #1 so far is Jonathan Kandell’s asinine front-page obit. The best example of #2 appeared yesterday and is entitled “Theory of Everything, RIP.” What does it all mean? Commenting on the Sokal Affair (back when it happened), Bruce Williams at the University of Illinois said it best: these people represent the last professional class fraction who believe — or are required by occupational norm to act as if they believe — in naieve empiricism. I like that explanation, though I have no idea if it’s true. Best I’ve heard yet.


It was 40 hours in 4 days on the tenure file, and I don’t mean finishing up unfinished articles. It’s just a bear to assemble, though it might have been easier to do if I’d been more organized (some stuff was at home, some stuff at the office; guess sthat happens when you move). Still, it makes a sufficiently loud sound when you drop it. I’m not celebrating yet*, as once the departmental committee has a look, they can ask for changes. Even if they don’t, there’s another nine copies to make and place between dividers in 3-ring binders. It’s like arts-and-crafts class, only the stakes are higher.

Tomorrow, in addition to class prep and marking (as they say up here), I intend to get a little academic writing done. It’s about time!

* My friend Greg Dimitriadis (who is no doubt reading this — name check!) used to give me crap about celebrating every little accomplishment. I’d send off a paper to a journal for review and say “let’s go get a drink” and he’d be all like “what’s the big deal?” apparently not realizing that it is merely a pretext to socialize.

I’m starting to get interested in this footnote function. Do other people put footnotes in their blogs? Has anyone written an xhtml routine to insert footnotes into a blog? this could be cool.