The Pixar/Augustine Mashup You Knew Was Coming

There are four perturbations of the mind—cupidity, gladness, fear, sadness…Yet none of these perturbations disturbs me when by act of recollection I remember them. And even before I called and reconsidered them, they were there. (Augustine, Confessions X.xiv.22)

So my sister dragged me to see Inside Out, which was pretty great. While she, a former psychology major, was pleased to see Disgust included among the primary emotions in accordance with current theories, I couldn’t help but compare Pixar’s mind-model to the philosophers’. Inside Out’s most visually enchanting moments are of long-term memory as a massive storehouse — a concept which would be instantly familiar to ancient and medieval thinkers. Returning once again to Augustine’s discussion of memory in Confessions: Continue reading The Pixar/Augustine Mashup You Knew Was Coming

Women’s Measures

Who will believe thee, Isabel?
My unsoil’d name, the austereness of my life,
My vouch against you, and my place i’ the state,
Will so your accusation overweigh,
That you shall stifle in your own report
And smell of calumny. […]
      As for you,
Say what you can, my false o’erweighs your true.

Measure for Measure

A story like this is a password. Once you say it out loud, doors start to open,” wrote Toronto poet Emma Healey recently, on telling her friends about her experiences with a predatory male professor.

I heard stories from other students, other friends, people in the same literary community as me. A few of them were about this person, but most were about other men across the country in the same loose network – writers, editors, teachers. I heard about rapes and assaults. I heard about violations of trust and instances of gaslighting. I heard about men who had threatened women with legal action to stop them from talking about what had happened between them.

Without exception, every single one of these men is still working—writing, publishing, editing, teaching—today.

In her recent Globe and Mail piece, fellow writer Stacey May Fowles explains,

These conversations are not new. It’s just that we’re finally having them out in the open. While some of these predators have been operating for years without public acknowledgment or punishment, there has long been a shared back channel amongst women in Canadian literature – coded warnings relayed privately, chatter about who can be trusted and who is safe to be around.

She continues: “Is there something so broken in our literary culture that it encourages, sanctions and protects this kind of behaviour?” Continue reading Women’s Measures

A sombre What I’m Reading

Pat Capponi, Upstairs in the Crazy House (1992)

A memoir of the author’s post-institutionalized life in one of Parkdale’s infamous boarding houses, with flashbacks to her abusive childhood and the roots of her depression. She chronicles poverty, fleas, abandonment, addiction, and the determination to assert one’s humanity in the face of a system bent on denying it.

Capponi has since become a prominent mental health and housing advocate here in Toronto, making the city a little more humane. Once, after a spell of suicidality, I was able to stay in the Gerstein Centre which she had a hand in establishing. It helped restore the dignity that the P. E. S. U. strips away from you; I’ll always be grateful.

Stevie Cameron, On the Farm (2010)

The book on the Pickton case. Seriously, there’s nothing I’ve read about in the news from the ongoing inquiry that isn’t in On the Farm.

Cameron focuses on the lives and personalities of the missing women throughout, an emphatic unspoken assertion that they were not “disposable”, they were not worthless, they were talented and vivacious and loving and loved women—their relatives fought for years to get the Vancouver police to take the disappearances seriously. In some cases the VPD flat-out lied to the families to get them to go away; and upper brass refused to let top profiler Kim Rossmo help investigate. To the VPD, women who were poor and addicted and prostitutes and (it’s impossible to deny this had an influence) Native weren’t worth finding.

(Slutwalk is happening right now; stayed in and wrote this up instead. Is SW relevant to impoverished mentally ill women? To addicted Native women in sex work? I suspect not but I’d love to be proven wrong.)

Sunday in Toronto

Last week I met up with G. and D., two friends I hadn’t seen in a while. We went out for dim sum, which was excellent, though we had to wait a while to get a table. Highlights included curried cuttlefish (G. and I are fans of Life and took the opportunity to explain cuttlefish mating habits to D.) and chicken buns—BBQ pork buns will always be my favourite, but the sharp green onion-spiked filling contrasts very nicely with the sweet steamed pastry. From there we wandered to a nearby Chinese bakery and then into Kensington Market to pore over potted herbs and spices and fruit.

G. suggested a trip to Riverdale Farm, which none of us had visited yet; it’s a long walk from Kensington, but it was fine weather. We meandered down College—G. works in the area, but D. lives in the suburbs and only comes to campus for classes, and living in the West End I don’t often visit those parts of town, so a walk through the downtown core (crowded, happy and unhurried as it can only be on a really beautiful Sunday afternoon in Toronto) is a rare treat.

We stopped at Allan Gardens to coo at the dogs in the park and wander through the greenhouse. The park’s lovely right now: tulips and daffodils still out, the maples adorned with spring-green spangles. Inside it’s an idyllic seasonless garden. (Took lots of boring up-close photos of flowers and such. My favourite room was the one with the cacti, though.)

From there it wasn’t that far from the farm, which is tucked away at the end of a sleepy residential street east of Parliament. It’s not really a farm, it’s more like the zoo in High Park but with farm animals; there’s barns you can wander through, with fowl and rabbits and baby animals, and outdoor enclosures with horses and goats and a donkey and such. There’s also little trails through the woods by the Don and lookouts over the trees and the wetland, where we sat for a while in the sun eating egg tarts and sesame balls and singing cheesy 80’s and 90’s songs, till the farm was closing (5 p. m.) and we walked back and went our separate ways.

I took the subway down to Queen Street and took the 501 west. There was a man sitting a few rows behind me in the very back of the streetcar, playing a peaceful melody on acoustic guitar. So I took out my earbuds for once and let the music and the city’s background noise soundtrack my way home.

What I’m Cooking

Close-up photo of a shiny red candy apple on a plate.

Candy apples! My friend G. and I made them before, and there were some ingredients left over so I made a batch by myself. I used this recipe and it was fairly easy, though preparation and waiting for the candy mixture to heat up takes a lot of time, and you have to watch it like a hawk or else it’ll burn. Things we had to get specially: candy thermometer, corn syrup, sticks.