Tuesday, July 8, 2008

jacks has moved and will not be returning

i have moved to wordpress! i know! holy sh*t - i have come into the 20th century but have not quite made it into the 21st. still - look at me! my new blog over at wordpress is called the thoughtful spaz. i hope you loves it. here is the link so update your business:


come! see! love! comment!

(there is a new post over there waiting for you)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

jacks is into food porn

during this past week (and a bit) of procrasinate-y goodness, which was inflected with bouts of hardcore writing (my theory chapter of all things), and which resulted in my new nickname: jacks the vamp-paper slayer, i realize that i can multi-task. no. i kick ass at multi-tasking. what are these things i can do at once, you ask? i can watch food network food porn AND write academic papers.

impressive, no?

i have had a recent personal victory. after many, many months of trying to convince t-bone that we do in fact need more television, and not less, as he ridiculously suggests, i managed to score us classic cable. well, more specifically, i trapped t-bone with a cableman and basically forced the cableman to install classic cable while my poor dear love could only politely scowl from the corner. ah, passive aggression. keeps the love alive. there are two points that need clarification here: while t-bone likes television, he thinks it is perhaps mind numbing and that we should do talky/thinky activities instead (noble, but misguided); and classic cable is just one step up from basic cable. the main difference is that with basic cable there is no food network. and no food network means no food porn. you see my dilemma.

so while i have been diligently working away at my theory chapter, i have also been marking time if you will, with copious amounts of food network. i love the southern lady who can't keep food out her mouth long enough to talk to the camera, let alone her many grown sons that she seemingly forces to cook with her. i love the skinny italian woman who makes the richest italian dishes but never seems to gain a pound. i think she's magic. and i also love the really tall atlantic canadian dude who cooks off the top of his head in his own kitchen for his family. how do i get a gig like that? i mean he prolly writes off his kid he's got such a sweetass deal. i once saw him at a winery in the niagara wine region in ontario and i want to talk to him so bad. but i could figure out what to say and knowing me it would have been something really lame like, "dude you are tall. like really tall. taller than you appear on t.v." and then realizing that was stupid i would have gone on to ask him if his relative tallness interferes with his cooking. it would have been seriously humiliating. kind of like the time i was eating at the table next to brian orser and i couldn't stop staring at him. poor dude was just trying to have brunch with his mom and his partner and all i could think about was how i wanted to tell him i wrote a speech about him in grade 5. that he was my hero. i was like 25 at the time. thankfully, t-bone and others saved me from that doomed interaction.

so basically, getting back to food porn, i realized that what your parents always told you is untrue. you can and should watch television while working. more employers need to get behind this idea. especially if it is something that significantly motivates. like yummy, yummy food. t-bone remains puzzled about why i watch hours and hours of the food channel and never cook anything i see on there. never write down a recipe. never reproduce the pornographic goodness that is the food network. i tell him that i am getting inspiration. but perhaps this inspiration is not only food-focused but reaches into the innermost corner of my psyche and makes me productive. i hope i didn't write anything provocative for my supervisor to see. thank gawd my dissertation isn't about food.

for interwebs porn for those of you without the food network (poor darlings) there is this great new blog - patent and the pantry. enjoy!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

movie madness

i have just reached a turning point in my life. i have set a personal record. gone to a place of no return. i watched three movies in the theatre in three days. look at me. a personal best. what movies, you ask? well it is a colourful line-up. first there was sex and the city which i didn't think i was going to see because i didn't think it would translate to film. it did just fine. second was the strangers which i shouldn't have seen due to the fact that i like to be scared by supernatural events but not by roving bands of psychopaths with no clear motive. third was indiana jones and something about a crystal skull. all of these movies were entertaining. one made me want to shop. one made me almost pee my pants. and one made me sing "dr. jones" by aqua every time someone called indie dr. jones. all in all - good times.

i struggle with movies at times because it seems like it is hard to turn one's critical lens off. i like to say that the study of sociology has forever ruined my full enjoyment of film. there are some movies i can't watch because they actually make me feel stupid. and really, if you think too hard about most films, their strict adherence to formula, their underdeveloped one-dimensional characters, and their incessant "hidden" marketing strategies should make us feel stupid. we morph from citizens to consumers. from collectives to wholes. from humans to currency.

that said, sex and the city infected me with shopping fever. and i don't think it is going away.

i have always been the feminist in the crowd that is wearing make-up. a dress. polish on my toes. as i get older, and more women define for themselves what being a feminist means, i find more long-haired, paint-faced, skirt wearing feminists. but: the women of sex and the city feminist? this is certainly a puzzle as they have the potential to be but it also makes me want to wear heels. real bad. which is ridiculous. anyhoo. i have decided to use my feminist powers for good and provide you with a brief dissection of the sex and the city women from a quasi-feminist perspective:

carrie: she is successful. cute. funny. smart (we think). fashionable. quirky. kissed a women (alanis no less) for fun once. she has made a name for herself in a tough city. she picks a*sholes to date, but we all make mistakes.

samantha: f*cks everything and encourages others to do the same. the woman should receive a medal, or at the very least, a gilded set of anal beads.

miranda: prolly the one true feminist on the show. highly educated. articulate. balances child and career in a no-nonsense way. consistently reminds women of the battles that have been fought for what they have, and can do, now.

charlotte: um. anyone? bueller? forget it.

so, in sum, despite the fact that the women of sex and the city live in privileged white and largely heterosexual monogamous paradise, there is a silver lining.

and it involves shoes.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

i don't actually know what a red herring is

academic projects are, for the most part, red herrings. take mine for example. i say that i study online dating - which is true - but only to an extent. do you feel lied to? deceived? undermined? well you should. but don't be a baby about it. what i mean is that often research topics are vehicles (distractions for the audience) that allow us to study that which truly interests us - in my case again those things are gender, sexuality, technology and media studies. so when one says something like "i study online dating" they in fact mean something entirely different. however, we fear that if we told you what we were actually interested in, you'd stop listening. and in most cases, that would be true. but sociologists are at an advantage. they are the lucky ones of the academic world. they usually study things that people are interested in. of course, this results in people thinking that they already know everything about your work, but whatevs, at least they are engaged.

last weekend i went out with my new favourite neighbour-friends who, amazingly, were engaged by the theoretical direction my project was taking. granted these women are bright. warm. receptive. open. but really, i asked myself, do they really find this interesting? shockingly, they did. and it made me fell all warm and bubbly inside. primarily, i am interested in subjectivity which is really just a way of saying, states of being in the world. with gendered subjectivities we have few options, male, female, and well, at present, that's it. what has always profoundly resonated with me since i figured out what poststructuralism meant in my undergrad is that male and female exist in dichotomous relation to one another, meaning that they can only be understood as a relation - a diametrically opposed relation, where one is what the other is not. what i have recently come to understand about these forms of gendered subjectivity is that men and women are not only related to each other in this binary structure but that the structure itself is intelligible within the broader structure of heterosexual relations - that is, men and women exist, to some extent, in the service of the heterosexual imperative that exists in most contemporary societies.

have you ever wondered why there is only one "appropriate" way for human beings to come together? why only a man and a woman can come together in loving relationships to the exclusion of all others? if that man wants another man, that is something "else" - and needs to be labeled otherwise (thus resulting in other binary forms such as straight and gay), if a man and woman want to engage in sexual relations with others, that too is labeled something "else" - something deviant. unusual. being heterosexually coupled is not simply a choice. it is a compulsory activity. this is not a new idea for me as it has been central to feminist thinking for a while. however, it wasn't until i read something by french radical lesbian feminist monique wittig that it clicked. i had the academic equivalent of an oprah "aha moment." i know - exciting, eh?

wittig argues that:

“...it would be incorrect to say that lesbians associate, make love, live with women, for “woman” has meaning only in heterosexual systems of thought and heterosexual economic systems. lesbians are not women.”

friggin' profound, no? while asserting that lesbians are not women may on the surface seem exclusionary, when we look deeper, we understand that it is meant to be so - as a radical embrace of that difference, or abjection. but it is also ultimately subversive. to say that lesbians are not women is to question the false cohesion that binds women to men, and to men exclusively. for wittig, the category of woman is problematic insofar as it excludes other modes of being, that is to say, lesbianism for example. but to deny the status of woman opens up the possibility of plurality. different modes of being that are not demanded by a heterosexual imperative. by a femininity - a "womanliness" that is limited, limiting. predestined by virtue of the vagina.

i have made this post unfortunately dense but it has been fun, if only for me. i'd love to hear people's reactions to notions of alternative subjectivities, beings. can we live in a world of "monstrous bodies," as technofeminist donna haraway calls them, of difference not defined within the confines of nuclear families, male/female relations, and intelligible bodies - that is, bodies that "make sense" to us, and engage in sexual relations that are condoned and not condemned, are coherent and "manageable." or do we understand a need for inclusion. of making space. of diverse forms of being that acknowledge common humanities.

just asking.

Monday, June 2, 2008

jacked on spirituality

all right. i can't hold it in any longer. i'm all jacked up on spirituality and i gotta tell somebody. EVERYBODY. now i usually disdain of all things new agey and spiritual while vaguely believing myself to be somehow enlightened through the discipline and sacrifice that comes with ten years of post-secondary education. what indeed comes from those ten years, for myself and my colleagues, is more akin to bleeding stomach ulcers, constant low-level anxiety (coupled with fits of crying over lost youth, having to complete a dissertation bibliography, and the loss of one's "lucky pen") , and if you are really lucky, three-week migraines that require neurological intervention.

however, i digress.

so a loved one bought me a bunch of books about spirituality which of course i disdained of at first (not that i didn't appreciate the gift and the sentiment - i am not that big of an ass). i was like, "all right. i'm not gonna lie. i watch oprah. but is it possible that she holds the key to my spiritual awakening? f*ck no," or some close approximation of that. i'm a cynic. it's in my blood. that is why i am a disdainy-pants. but as it turns out, people are accustomed to staying in mindsets that are safe and require little effort. they believe things like "i am never going to change," "happiness is a fiction," "low-level anxiety is good for my skin," without ever trying to change. because let's face it, change is hard. you have to do stuff. you have to work at it. it is like my relationship with the couch. i would like to believe i have a healthy relationship to my couch. it loves me. i love it. i have even written parts of my dissertation from it. but do i indeed have a healthy jacks-couch relationship? prolly not. the couch's comfy cosiness often prevents me from running, walking, well - moving - and enables television watching which is the antithesis to reading which everyone can benefit from. so although i love my couch, it might just be an easy (and deliciously comfy) excuse not to change habits. not to engage with different dynamics of self, but to think instead that self is set in stone and it is capable of little else, least of all genuine change.

granted, i'm no ekhart tolle. and this moment too shall pass. but even if all i take from my recent spirituality kick is the notion that it is possible to change the structures of my life that seek to limit myself and others (and relatedly to judge, worry, anger, etc.), then it is time well spent, no?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

"proof" that the internets is a scary place to dwell

vancouver is abuzz with the news, and the notion, that a young couple would try and sell their seven-day-old baby on the popular online classifieds page craigslist. this post is neither about the morality of such an act nor an investigation of the act itself. it is about the media framing around the decision to attempt to sell a baby on the interwebs, and how, as always when it comes to media portrayals of the internets, this "proves" that cyberspace is a dangerous, and potentially (culturally) damaging, place to dwell.

as the story goes, on tuesday may 27, 2008, a 60 year-old woman browsing the website came across a ad tagline that read MUST HAVE!!!!!!!!! and upon opening it, discovered the advertised "product" was a "very cute" baby girl. having a number of grandchildren of her own, this woman informed the police in the event it was not a joke or a hoax. police then tracked the couple down in the west end apartment through the cellphone number provided in the ad. the couple was arrested for public mischief and the child has been removed from their care.

interestingly, the immediate local media coverage of this event focused on the woman who reported the posting, who was said to believe in angels and who was being touted as a heroine. much of the emphasis on this woman neglected the fact that craigslist is a self-regulating community meaning that members (users) flag posts for any number of reasons from level of appropriateness to general maintenance and organization of the site. no doubt this woman did the "right thing" in reporting inappropriate behaviour, but her actions reflect what is expected of craiglist users. as an "internet user" (the identifying label under her name explained), this woman was held up as an exemplar of the regulating morality the internet is understood to lack. thus, the wild west imagery associated with the internet persists while self-regulating communities like craiglist have been operating since pre-web days.

my frustration with this story reflects a broader frustration with popular culture notions of the internet as a scary place, and moreover, a place where social rules and mores are somehow non-existent. we do not become different people on the internet, we bring our identities, our problems, our life circumstances online with us. there is no break between ourselves online and off. the fluidity of our experience is captured in our presentations and representations online. this young couple is having a bad time. their baby was unexpected. instead of dumping it on a hospital doorstep, or setting it free on a bed of reeds, they turned to another everyday aspect of their lives, the internet. this does not reflect the depravity of contemporary existence. it reflects the different ways that people have to do what they have been doing forever - even if it reflects a part of humanity that makes us uncomfortable, that is the fact that some children are unexpected, and ultimately not wanted.

this story has a particularly gendered and normalized aspect to it as well, which ultimately accompanies any critical investigation into constructions of technology. it is better therefore, to think of this young couple as "known to police," familiar with drugs, and generally monstrous - and taking that monstrosity to that place of anonymous, dangerous, unregulated danger: the internet - than to think about the structural conditions of their lives. the poverty that would lead them to such an act, the desperation they must feel. the internet is a place to blame that doesn't talk back, that will remain a place of fear until we recognize that we are the internet. the constitutive force behind the technology we produce, enable, and use.

technology is the humanity of today, not the danger of tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

vegas almost killed me

instead of being dead, my bloggy friends, i am just suffering from a seven-day migraine which was post-vegas induced. here are a couple of things i have realized in the past two weeks (four days spent in vegas, and the remainder spent in a post-vegas induced personal headache hell):
  • the united states is indeed a place of overindulgence. i know cause huge food portions, 24 hour a day oxygenation, and vats of alcohol almost killed me
  • the desert is hot
  • i don't like to gamble. it makes me feel nauseous like when i spend too much money on jewelry
  • migraines are not the thing of myths and fairy-tales like i once thought. migraines are the devil
  • that if indeed my headache was brain-tumor-induced like i originally thought (shut up - you're a hypochondriac) i would call my brain tumor paul
  • cirque de soleil is perhaps the most spectacular thing i have ever seen. i have no idea what gave me the impression that it would be like an expensive circus. wait. maybe it is an expensive circus. but sooooooooo cool.
  • i can eat and digest most of a 99 cent half-pound foot-long hot-dog. pretty impressive, right?
  • migraines are a good excuse not to write my dissertation
  • i don't own anything skanky enough to truly fit in in vegas
  • i like mexican inspired beer that already contains salt and lime. i also enjoy walking around with alcohol even though when i first arrived in vegas and saw people walking around with necklace-like contraptions resembling the eiffel tower full of booze i was like, "classy. i would never do that." my resolve was gone by day two
  • i equate smoking indoors with pissing in the corner. all indoor smoking, even in one's own residence, should be banned. it is perhaps the worst thing in the world. 'cept for migraines
  • i prefer sitting by a pool to the following: sight-seeing, walking, drinking, talking to others, experiencing something new, BUT not to eating. yup. eating wins.
that is about it. i am going to go off and feel relatively sorry for myself. however, my migraine has turned a corner so i think i might live. that is, as long as paul remains dormant.