A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for May 2004

[NON BLOG] Job Search, et al

I think I’m doing a reasonably competent job of the activity in the title: Have compact, well-structured resume; have printed off mass copies; am dropping off said copies at a variety of interesting job prospects (bookstores and the like) down Yonge and Bay Streets, with the intent of crossing over to Queen Street West. It should work. Any other advice, apart from supplicating the gods (with or without sacrifices)?

In other news, I’ve added Patrick Banks’ blog Martian Dreams to the SHWIer blogroll. I’d like to mention Patrick’s participation in the Albanian Daily Bulletin, a daily compilation of English-language news about Albania.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 31, 2004 at 4:19 pm

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[NON BLOG] More Things

I’d forgotten to mention recent ventures into music.

I bought, at HMV, the most recent greatest hits collection of Siouxsie and the Banshees and David Bowie’s Reality CD. I haven’t listened to the latter album yet. The former, though, I have listened to, and I think I enjoy it. I’d downloaded some mp3s–“Israel,” “Kiss Them For Me,” and so on–a couple of years ago, and I was curious to get a bit more of a taste.

Last night, also, I attended the Rainbow Voices of Toronto‘s show at St. Luke’s United Church on Sherbourne and Carlton from 7 to 9, after I met with pauldrye. It was a good show, with a nice selection of music and excellent singing. Mark Cassius of The Nylons featured in the song “A Cappella,” which was good. The selection of songs from the Arrogant Worms was also effective:

I’ve heard the screams of the vegetables (scream, scream, scream)
Watching their skins being peeled (having their insides revealed)
Grated and steamed with no mercy (burning off calories)
How do you think that feels (bet it hurts really bad)

This afternoon, I’d coffee with James B. in a Timothy by the Summerhill TTC stop. Good to see him again. It reminds me that just as in New York City two years ago (God, that long ago!) so must the Toronto TINC of SHWI meet.

That’s pretty much it. My energies now will be directed towards the job hunt. Anyone got anything?

Written by Randy McDonald

May 30, 2004 at 4:18 pm

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[NON BLOG] Recent Events

I’ve got an apartment! (More on this later.)

After I made last night’s two entries, I ended up heading over to the Wellesley TTC station. En route, I got a Polish sausage (with mustard and sauerkraut) from a stall on the southwestern corner of Church and Wellesley, staffed by a woman from Plovdiv and winner last year of an award from fab for being such a good stall. I was happy enough that tonight coming from choir I bought another sausage from her. And yes, this one was good too.

The critical fact today, I think, is that I managed to close lodgings. Northwest of the intersection of Queen and Ossington, it’s actually fairly small–smaller than my dorm room, actually. Still, it’s a room, the house’s facilities are well-equipped, there’s some very nice cats living about the place, and it’s in a very nice neighbourhood. It’s good for starters, I think, and besides, how wrong can you go for 400 dollars?

One thing that I keep doing again and again, though, is arriving scandalously late to meetings with fellow LJers. Yesterday I inflicted 25 minutes’ tardiness on schizmatic; today, I inflicted a half hour on pauldrye. I’m just thankful that he waited for me; I really have to internalize the fact that, yes, city blocks in Toronto are substantially larger than even Kingston’s if I’ll be living here. We sat down, ate, had a good chat about matters Traveller.

I suspect I’ll stay in Toronto until Monday. I’d like to meet with another couple of people, and, well, just bask in the joys of Toronto. So, until next–

Written by Randy McDonald

May 29, 2004 at 10:28 pm

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[BRIEF NOTE] Two Articles on Migration

From the New York Times, Kevin J. O’Brien’s article “Poor Economy Is Driving East Germans From Home” goes into detail about the increasing depopulation of the former East Germany:

As the former East Germany enters its 14th year of double-digit unemployment, jobless residents are emigrating west and leaving behind an eerie still-life landscape of shrinking cities, depression-level unemployment and 1.3 million empty apartments, according to the Verband Deutscher Makler in Berlin, the German real estate agents’ association. In Berlin alone, 100,000 apartments are vacant, most of them in the former East Berlin; further south in Leipzig, 42,000 are empty.

“People are leaving in droves, and most of the ones leaving are young,” said Christine Hannemann, a sociology professor at Humboldt University in Berlin who specializes in the region’s development. “Much of East Germany is turning into a series of ghost towns and enclaves for senior citizens.”

Since the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, eastern Germany has shrunk by 3.1 million residents, reducing the population from 16.7 million to 13.6 million, according to the German Federal Statistical Office. Most leave to find work. In April, unemployment in the former East Germany was 18.8 percent, versus 8.5 percent in the west.

eternityfan has noted on Living in Europe that East German living standards remain perennially below those of the former West Germany. As the European Union consolidates its expansion into more affordable regions of central Europe than the former GDR, East Germany’s fate might indeed be that of becoming Germany’s mezzogiorno. The key difference, I suppose, is that East Germany’s weight within the German federal state would be much less, and less so every year, than the mezzogiorno within the Italian quasi-unitary state.

Ivan Briscoe’s article “Dreaming of Spain: migration and Morocco” at Open Democracy goes into detail about the immense migratory push north across the Mediterranean:

“People flow” northwards across the Strait is driven by a vast disparity in wealth – average income in Spain, at around $15,000, is thirteen times that of Morocco – and currently seems unstoppable. One effect has been to complete Spain’s transition from place of exodus to migratory magnet. The country’s foreign population, now 2.6 million (in a total of 40 million), has quintupled since 1996; it includes around 600,000 Moroccans. Many of the latter are illegal immigrants surviving in the black economy amidst a society wary of their presence and religion even before “11-M”.

Of course, Moroccans–and other Africans–experience an irresistible pull that won’t be answered or halted by stronger barriers against migration:

Spain’s pull remains indestructible. Paul, a Nigerian friend of David, has a degree in economics, but lacks the contacts to get any sort of job. His savings at home totalled only $15, but richer friends invited him on the long trek north due to his language skills. “Our country is not a place to dwell in,” he says. “You cannot feed or clothe yourself in Nigeria. We are going to Europe to uplift our families.” When asked about the risks involved in the crossing, David turns his face haughtily away and wags his finger. “I had a little boy with a 17-year-old woman and I will not go home empty-handed.”


“Everybody knows the risks,” explains Khalil Jemmah, head of a group defending clandestine immigrants (Afvic). “But they say that to die once is better than dying ten times in the face of your parents’ pity.” The boat owners, he says, employ recruiters who haunt the region’s bars, extol Europe’s wonders, and present themselves as “Robin Hoods, social saviours – with a 20% commission on all sales.”

The recruiters invoke all the main tropes of migrant myth, created over decades by a 2-million-strong Moroccan diaspora: the steady job, the presents for the family, the summer holidays spent showing off the car and the girlfriend, the absence of worry. “They invented a dream for themselves, with luminous and radiant memories. This embellished image had to protect them from an unhappy fate” wrote Tahar Ben Jelloun of the early emigrants to Europe in his novel, L’ecrivain public (1983). For women, the choice to flee is simpler. “In this region, a woman is either a prostitute or a slave,” states Jemmah.

Speaking from personal experience, people only leave their homes when they want to, when they don’t perceive that any alternative to leaving exists. If south-to-north migration is to decrease, then it will have to do so through decreasing the attractiveness to move on the parts of both sides of the frontier, in order to be basically just.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 28, 2004 at 9:32 pm

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[NON BLOG] Friday’s Events

I’m thankful that schizmatic stayed around at the Indigo on Bay Street in downtown Toronto for 25 minutes after we’d arranged to meet today at noon. I’d underestimated the length of time it would take to reach said Indigo from North York, I fear; also, I’d slept in since I was put up on a waterbed in my host’s home. I was quite relieved to meet him by the comics in the science-fiction section.

Thus followed ~7.5 hours of grand fun. We headed over to the in-store Starbucks and immediately began an excellent caffeine-fueled conversation covering a variety of topics. I recommended John Barnes’ SF; he recommended Dan Simmons’; we commiserated about the reality of the underfunding of militaries globally, in the US and in the rest of the high/upper-middle income world; and so on, and so forth, until 2 o’clock when we headed down to Mullins Irish Pub (page down) on 1033 Bay Street at his recommendation. Apparently it’s a place where many medievalists–and University of Toronto students generally, and profs too–congregate. Conversation goes well over multiple pints of Kilkenny and a beef burger with garden salad, particularly once we ran into a few of his medievalist friends including piratehead. Interesting conversations, including the ideologization of the left and right wings beyond the needs and concerns of the individual, descriptions of different RPG universes, and other things ensued.

We’ll have to do this again. In the meantime, an early night for me. I’ve some hope about the searches, I think. More news when hope is manifested concretely.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 28, 2004 at 9:04 pm

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[NON BLOG] Note from Toronto

My presentation-last of my academic career to date, possibly the last in my academic career in toto-went well. I’ll produce a script later, since I’d worked mainly off of what I’d written and my knowledge. I think I riffed well in my presentation, though; certainly, the question period was full. I was tense as I delivered, afraid that I had a halting delivery or an inadequate model, but it seemed to work. Contextualizing Miltonian and Cromwellian attitudes towards the Jews in a pan-European context-in relationship to a potentially hegemonic Spain, to the rival Calvinist-republican Dutch, to the Jews who obstinately failed to recognize the truth of the Christian revelation-strikes me as an essential task. You can recognize the Commonwealth’s Lord Protector and his Latin secretary as quintessentially English if you want, but assuming that they and English culture emerged from the void is just silly. The parallels between the situations in the late 16th century Dutch Republic and the mid-17th century English Commonwealth are fascinatingly illustrative.

Sometimes, I wonder how I blundered my way into a MA English career. I don’t mind my academic path to date; in fact, I’m quite happy with it. Still, given the subject matters of my presentations, you’d think I’d have gone for History. No regrets now, of course, but some wonder.

I’m in Toronto. I drove in, actually, with my co-presenter (incidentally, he did an excellent job examining typologies in Paradise Lost in relation to the Jews) who had already planned to drive to Toronto today. We managed the trip in just over two hours, speeding at 130 and 140 km/h down the 401, switching over to the Don Valley Parkway upon entering the GTA. The conversation and company was fantastic. I’m at my host’s place now, typing these words on my laptop, listening to Red Hot & Blue–the Neville Brothers’ “In the Still of the Night“, actually. Very nice CD, on the whole, though I don’t know what the Thompson Twins are doing on it.

Right now, I feel quietly ecstatic. Despite everything ahead of my, Things Are Good. Do hope to meet with as many people, LJers and otherwise, while I’m here.

2:57 PM, 27 May 2004

Written by Randy McDonald

May 27, 2004 at 7:23 pm

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[BRIEF NOTE] Via polonius

Written by Randy McDonald

May 27, 2004 at 7:02 am

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[ACADEMIC] Tomorrow’s Presentation: Milton, the Commonwealth, and the Jews

This presentation, to be delivered tomorrow at 9 o’clock for my Milton and empire class, will be my final presentation of my academic career. Thus, my desire to write everything down first.

* * *

Milton was both the product and the producer of the revolutionary Commonwealth of mid-17th century England, a period beginning in earnest with the execution of King Charles I in 1649 and continuing, past the 1658 date of Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, to the restoration of the Stuart monarchy in the person of Charles II in 1660. The question of England’s relationship to the Jews took on new importance during this period, both as a consequence of growing interest in Old Testament narratives and Hebrew culture as the keys to a non-Papist Christianity, and as a consequence of growing pressures to formally readmit the Jews to England after three and a half centuries of formal exclusion.

England’s relationship to the Jews was shaped by its peculiar relationships to three cultures: the Spanish, producers of perhaps the first world empire; the Dutch, pioneers of the first mercantile Calvinistic republic; and the Jews, pioneers of monotheism and the Abrahamic tradition. All three cultures did receive a certain amount of respect in post-Reformation England, as pioneers of certain key concepts. However, particularly in the era of the Commonwealth, which was influenced by a combination of a strong English nationalism linked to millenarian sentiments which dentified England as the culmination of world history, these cultures came under particularly close and critical examination for the sin of having pioneered concepts key to the Commonwealth narrative of English national identity but not having taken them to their logical conclusions. The Spanish may have constituted a world empire, for instance, but in practice it utterly lacked any Commonwealth-era concepts of tolerationism, while the Dutch may have been both republican and Calvinistic but they were excessively mercantile and failed to see the logic in a merger with the Commonwealth. The Jews, of course, failed to recognize Christ as the logical culmination of their tradition. (Incidentally, the Jews encountered by the English–marranos and Sephardim based in Amsterdam, mostly tracing their origins to Spain or to Spanish-occupied Portugal–happened to combine traits from all three cultures: Hispanic language and culture; Dutch-based commercial and mercantile networks; and, a well-articulated definition of their ethnic and collective identity as Jews.) Competitive emulation of these cultures was a major trend.

Consequently, the Commonwealth-era English reaction towards Jews was complex, marked by a desire for a greater knowledge of Hebrew culture and its sequelae and only reluctant assent to the presence of open Jews. Milton’s references to Jews, for instance, are marked by a combination of an admiration of Old Testament narrative and of Hebrew heroes and condemnation for their failure to recognize that narrative’s fulfillment in Christ and the irrelevance of their laws. A comparison of the approaches of Menasseh ben Israel to Cromwell seeking the formal readmission of the Jews, and of Fell’s addresses to the Hebrews welcoming the Jews on the condition that they accept conversion, reveals the ways in which Commonwealth England perceived the Jews (and was perceived as thinking about the Jews). Official England, in turn, largely perceived the possibility of a legalized Jewish presence inasmuch such a presence could increase England’s competitiveness towards its three enemies (expanding the imperial and commercial energies of England, allowing for the fulfillment of England’s Christian mission).

In the end, the decision to allow for the admission of the Jews by simply declaring that no law existed to bar their immigration–as opposed to the specific declaration which ben Israel had hoped for–represented England’s fundamental ambiguity towards the Jews, the failure of Commonwealth England itself to live up to its theories.

* * *

Well, thoughts? I’ll post a draft of my speech later tonight, but above is basically the gist of it.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 26, 2004 at 5:49 pm

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[MEME] One last silly thing

Via Europundit:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

From “The Portuguese Community in 17th-Century Amsterdam and the Ashkenazi World” by Yosef Kaplan, in Dutch Jewish History 2 (Jerusalem: Institute for Research on Dutch Jewry 1989):

“In Amsterdam, they found a well-established Spanish and Portuguese community, which, at the end of the second decade of the century, was organized into three congregations.”

To bed now.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 26, 2004 at 3:45 am

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[BRIEF NOTE] A Rather Disturbing Film

Originally from Virginia Hefferman, in the New York Times:

“I strangled her,” an ordinary-looking man says evenly, his eyes fixed on an interviewer to the left of the camera. The confession is not extracted but volunteered. The man, Saeed Hanaei, is a serial killer, and pleased. This is going to be bleak.

“And Along Came a Spider,” a documentary that will be shown tomorrow night as part of Cinemax’s “Reel Life” series, tells the disjointed story of an Iranian man who killed 16 “street women,” 15 of whom had done time for prostitution, in the name of ridding his country of vice. As if the crime weren’t grim enough, various people, including Hanaei’s wife and son, hail the murderer as a hero. One man says, laughing happily: “He did the right thing. He should have continued.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Randy McDonald

May 26, 2004 at 3:37 am

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