Dreaming of Geneva

My stress is pretty low right now, for me, at least. But that doesn’t mean it’s non-existent. During the school year I operate at a sort of baseline-level of “could use a holiday”, and never take one, of course. This year is a little more intense in that I’m simultaneously working on PhD and grant applications, coordinating reference letters and transcripts and all sorts of things that make me go on mental vacations on a regular basis.

I asked myself this morning where I would go right now if I had the choice. The UK is always an easy pick for me, and I’ve got visions of travelling to a non-drought-ridden LA, but these are not what I settled on. Geneva came to mind as a supervisor I had last year sent me some photos of his holiday there. I’ve never been there myself, but I found I was looking through photos online today.

Meeting of two rivers. Photo from Wikimedia, click thru for more info on it.

Perhaps it’s all my time spent reading Mary Shelley’s works, since she conceived of Frankenstein by Lake Geneva back in 1816. The novel certainly hits all the right notes for my holiday mood, despite all the unlawful science and murder. Scenic lake, mountains, forests. And a dash of city thrown in. I’m fully saturated on the seaside right now, having spent most of the last three years in the Maritimes with daily views of the ocean. Don’t get me wrong, take me away for long enough and I’ll be fully depleted and need to stare off at the sea for a good long while before I feel better. But right now the tank is full, so to speak.

Have any of you been to Geneva? Is it as lovely as I imagine? Thinking about it reminds me that I’ve been meaning to work on my French. Learning all the grammar in elementary school has served me very well but there’s a point when I no longer need to know how to ask where a pencil sharpener is, and need to ask if a dish is vegetarian, or where to buy Advil, because I inevitably forget it every time I travel. Oh well. That’s what duolingo is for…and google translate. Ugh, I better get some better resources.

Botanical Garden. Photo by Norbert Aepli, Switzerland. Click thru for more info.
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Best Things About Acadia, MUN, and Guelph

Have you guessed that I’m a little busy with school? That is, unfortunately, to blame for my lack of daily posting on my blog. I’ve got a bunch of deadlines and a lot of rather large projects on the go. But nevermind that now!

I’ve been thinking about all the Canadian universities that I have been to, and decided that in retrospect I would tell you what the absolute best parts of each have been. Why not the worst parts? Well, I don’t want to be that kind of pessimistic person today. If you want to know, ask me in the comments, I’ll let you have the real scoop.

UNIVERSITY OF GUELPH
Attended: 4 years

Guelph had tons of school spirit and a really strong community, unlike any other place I’ve lived/attended. The town was separate enough from the campus that both seemed to exist independent of one another, but still intrinsically linked. It was a real organic scene there and being vegetarian was so easy. Food on campus was unreal. Class sizes were big for general first year courses, small in the upper years. Lots of places to hang out, socialize, and study on campus. Bus pass included in tuition so that was easy and great. Access to Toronto was awesome. And finally, having the agricultural side of the campus meant I could go see horses and dogs and pigs whenever I wanted!

MEMORIAL UNIVERSITY OF NEWFOUNDLAND
Attended: 2 years

Such a well-funded university. Tons of opportunity for research and teaching experience on campus, and a really big community of graduate students. I was given a lot of free reign to follow my interests here. The city was really pretty during some parts of the year, seeing icebergs come into the harbour in the early summer was awesome. Downtown culture was fun and going out was a great time. Really diverse academic community, seems to attract students from all over the world. Generally nice people everywhere. Also, fantastic library.

ACADIA UNIVERSITY
Attended: 1 year (still going!)

Small campus, easy to find everything and access resources. People remember who you are because there’s not that many students running around. Really pretty town and great access to trails and the Bay of Fundy. Everything is pretty much within walking distance, Main Street has most things you would need. High academic standard and good reputation. Real focus on teaching skills that will be useful going forward in academia.

I’m sure I can add to the Acadia list after a few more months of being here. But I’m pretty well satisfied with all my experiences at university… at the end of the day, they’ve all been great. Don’t remind me of things I said when deadlines were looming… I can’t be held accountable for judgements made under thesis stress!!!

Greece and Rome in Science Fiction?

When did you first learn about ancient Greece and Rome? Think back to when you were a kid; I think most of us would answer that it was from a movie or a television show. For most people in the Western world I think that’s a fairly common experience. Maybe it was watching Xena or Hercules, or Disney’s animated Hercules movie. Or maybe it was a television show completely unrelated to Classics, but they had that one episode where the characters go back in time, or visit a planet with a strangely Greek culture, or face off against monsters from mythology. This is how we have become familiar with these ancient cultures.

Spock and Alexander in the episode ‘Plato’s Stepchildren’. Image from Memory Alpha.

I just wanted to explore this topic briefly on here as I am doing research into Classical Receptions right now for my PhD work. The fact that children today, and all of us who have grown up with access to television and media, first access the Classics through these venues is a really significant thing. What kind of impression of the ancient world is given through these mediums? And how have the stories and characters from Greece and Rome — the gods, Cyclopses, Medusa, Atlantis — gone from being the subject of dusty mythologies to being common media tropes?

In part we have literature to thank. There’s a long history in the English lit tradition of including references to the ‘pagan mythologies’: just look at Milton, writing such a strongly Biblical text as Paradise Lost. He makes references to so many myths in order to evoke a particular feeling, a lesson, or an image. For a long time this is how the Classics were carried along to the general public – often not even the general, but the educated public. It wasn’t accessible to everyone.

But it seems around the mid-1900s (and an argument can be made for earlier) things really started to take a turn with Classics in media. Of course there are the films Ben Hur, Quo Vadis, and I, Claudius. Films and shows that are set directly in Rome or Greece with characters from that time are definitely interesting and worthy of study in Classical Reception. But I’m really interested in the other instances — the original Star Trek, in the episode Plato’s Stepchildren, when the crew visit a planet of telekinetic beings who have adopted Greek culture and the teachings of Plato as their own, for instance. Doesn’t it seem strange that in a series set in the distant future, where they travel space and see impossible sights, strange alien cultures, and other fantastic things, that they would look way back to the Greeks for a plot? Why look back and forward in history at the same time?

That’s a big question to try and answer. And I would encourage everyone reading to give it a thought. Why would science fiction so often use the ancient world in stories? What does looking back and forward simultaneously give us that is so appealing? It happens in so many shows and movies, and not just ones meant for adults or for children. It’s across the entire spectrum.

I’m really interested in having this discussion. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think about it!

Some vlog footage! Sept 28-30th

Hey everyone, I finally did some vlogging and posted a video over on my youtube channel. It’s three days worth of footage in one video, I’m not sure if I’d rather be compiling them into bigger chunks like this, or if smaller is the way to go. I’ll probably experiment with it for a while. I’m also trying to figure out video editing and sound balance…so be kind and patient with me for now!!

Are any of you youtubers? Leave me a comment and I’ll check out your channel — I’m woefully undersubscribed to fun channels right now. Extra points if you do vlogging too!

Music Monday’s Cut to a Wide Shot!

Happy Monday, blogging pals. Are you ready for another busy week? Last one of September! I can’t believe that. This month totally flew by for me.

I have big writing goals every day, currently. What are you all working on right now? Let me know in the comments because I am truly curious.

Just for all you writers out there, I made a playlist suitable for writing big dramatic scenes. Probably because I’m writing some of those myself! You know I have other playlists out there too for calmer moments. But today, I think bigger is feeling better.

Student Film Friday – “Brume, cailloux et métaphysique” by Lisa Matuszak

Friday again! I was so inspired by the watercoloured style of last week’s video that I found another for today. Brume, cailloux et métaphysique by Lisa Matuszak is such a visually wonderful piece. It doesn’t have a story, per se, but it does have narrative.

It’s a real aesthetic experience, so I won’t waste more time with words, just take a look:

Brume, cailloux et métaphysique from Tshaw on Vimeo.

Gives me a peaceful feeling. How nice!

Storytelling

I’m really interested in this right now. Maybe it’s the effect of this English MA starting to take hold of me, but I think it’s always been on the periphery of my mind. The practice and tradition of storytelling is fascinating and I want to try and engage in some dialogues about it here on Otrera. Would this interest anyone else?

I finished a near-final draft of my thesis proposal this evening so I think that’s got it on my mind. But I have a really interesting book of Lacan’s Seminars so once I get further into that I think I’ll be inspired in a direction for some posts about it. We’ll have to wait and see where it goes.

I’m currently sourcing photos for my posts about Roman clothing, so have no fear, they’ll appear soon!

Hope you’re all having a great start to the week! xo