Hear, hear!

When I was first admitted to my PhD program, a good friend of mine – who had completed her dissertation a few years before – gave me one of the best pieces of advice: “find yourself a friend”. Which is not to say I didn’t have any friends at the time (!), but she meant that I should find at least one kindred spirit to share in the process, to read each other’s drafts, to support each other when it hit the fan, and to keep each other company in an exercise that can become quite lonely at times.

I was lucky enough to find such friends each step of the way, and for that I am thankful. I have also discovered that it is possible to share in the doctoral process not only on terra firma, with students from my program, but also in online fora. This is a new experience for me, and the exchanges I have had with others in the same situation as mine have brought me much comfort and have encouraged me to advance my project. Also, simply writing about the challenges I am faced with and putting them out there in the universe, in a way, helps quite a lot.

So, “hear hear” to finding a friend… and to being one in return!


What lies ahead

August feels like one long Sunday… and Sundays are for relaxing… and also thinking about what lies ahead… I have been doing that of late – reflecting on the past and trying to clarify my thoughts about the future – all in the company of my sidekick Zsa Zsa (yes I named her after the actress Zsa Zsa Gabor (!)). There she is under the ficus tree on the balcony:


Happiness just might be a cat curled up at your feet and a good book in hand… 🙂 Therefore, as I am looking toward what will come this fall, I’ve put together a reading list for the next few months (other than academic). I’ve also started a bullet journal, which is also – in a way – about lists… well… in truth, both these initiatives have more to do with goals than lists. They are tools to think with. They are about moving forward with purpose. So, in this spirit, here is my reading list:

  1. Anil’s Ghost, Michael Ondaatje
  2. Naked Lunch, William Burroughs
  3. Prozac Nation, Elizabeth Wurzel
  4. Player Piano, Kurt Vonnegut
  5. For Whom The Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
  6. Play It As It Lays, Joan Didion
  7. Imaginary Friends, Alison Lurie

It was quite a challenge to come up with these seven titles; there are so many more on the long list! And so many other academic reads to delve into. However, not only do these books represent excellent writing, but they also address themes such as identity, morality, technologies, and drugs. I hope these will inspire my own writing, for that is also what lies ahead…











Of seduction and drug-objects

I love receiving parcels in the mail. I consider it one of the little joys of life. I love finding them in my mailbox, the sound and smell of the paper envelope when I open them. I especially love when they arrive from far away places, with exotic stamps and foreign alphabets on the return address.

This week I received one such parcel. I ordered a copy of For Whom The Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway. I recently read The Sun Also Rises and became more curious about Hemingway. So much of doing research is writing about it, so I thought it would be a good exercise (and also pleasurable) for me to read great works of fiction on my off-time…

On the flip side, my academic reading this week has focused on Sherry Turkle’s Life On The Screen: Identity In The Age Of The Internet (1995). I have read through the first chapter, and I am completely taken by this book. It addresses our complex relationship with computers-as-objects. Turkle writes: “Computers would not be the culturally powerful objects they are turning out to be if people were not falling in love with their machines and the ideas that the machines carry.” (emphasis added, p.49)

Falling in love with their machines. Exactly. Turkle also refers to the “pleasure of opacity” (p.44), or, as I understand it, the excitement of entering in a dance with something (or someone) we cannot completely understand, or analyse. Instead, we can only know “by feel”. I cannot help but find parallels between computer-objects in Turkle’s work and drugs-objects. Drugs too are seductive. We cannot completely explain their effects. They also, as Turkle mentions concerning computers, “give people a way to think concretely about an identity crisis” (p.49). Indeed, drugs – notably psychoactive drugs – allow reconsidering one’s sense of self by opening the mind to “new ways of thinking” (p.49).

This made me recall a post I came across on one online discussion forum (also part of a paper I published here):

” An ode to Adderall (a 6 month love story)

Adderall, I love you.

I love your warm fuzzy buzz.

I love how you give me the strength to start otherwise daunting projects, the focus to keep moving forward on them, and a brightened outlook that helps me feel OK about it when I don’t finish them. I’ll wrap ’em up tomorrow. You’ll be there for me.

I love how you make me feel awesome, giving me a confidence that projects to other people, and amazingly every once in a while makes THEM think I’m awesome too.

I even love how you push me into risky sexual behavior. You only live once.

I love how you cut my lunch intake in half.

I love how you empower me to endure through meetings without being that guy who sits in the back of the room and hope nobody notices when he has to pace around or sneak out.

I love how you help me power through boring, repetitive cardio workouts that would otherwise drive me nuts.

I love the soft, happy glow you leave me as you gently set me back down to reality at the end of the day.

You’re awesome, Adderall.

See you tomorrow.”

And it also reminded me of a recent trip I made to Montreal’s Museum Of Fine Arts, where I found this beautiful bronze statuette by canadian artist Louis-Philippe Hébert, entitled “The Nicotine Sprite” (1902):


She entices. She seduces. A siren call. Nicotine.

And so it goes…