<$BlogRSDURL$> Spontaneous Things: Karina Sumner-Smith's Blog
Thursday, October 30, 2003
The Beautiful Were Never Meant to Suffer
Or, Oh Great, Another Cryptic Title Stolen From Song Lyrics
Or, General Unclassifiable

So last night I went out with Carly and her boyfriend to see Clem Snide play at the Horseshoe. Has anyone else here ever heard of Clem Snide?

I have trouble describing the music I enjoy. People ask me what I like to listen to and I reply, "I, um ... well, I, um ..." (With such clever utterances, I should clearly be a writer.) It's not that I don't know, it's just that I sort of pick and choose from all over. Yes, I like some rather mainstream/unsurprising things. But even then, they're sort of an odd collection: REM, and Alanis, and Counting Crows and Paul Simon. And then there are the groups that don't even fit into one category on their own.

Take right now. As I type, I'm listening to my favourite Miranda Sex Garden song, "Gush Forth My Tears." Miranda Sex Garden has been classified as rock, pop, gothic, classical, folk, new age, dream, miscellaneous and "general unclassifiable." Lovely. Very easy to sum up. But how else do you describe a group that sings unaccompanied madrigals and loud, electric guitar types of songs?

Clem Snide is another of those groups that doesn't fit nicely into one category. They're rock, folk, country, blues and "general unclassifiable." Fantastic lyrics, and the lead singer has such a lovely-distinctive voice. One of the guys plays a banjo with his hands, a violin bow, some sort of laser-type devise and his teeth. It's just astounding. And even more so when you're watching it live.

If you haven't heard Clem Snide, you should. Just try. My favourite song of theirs is actually a short, quick one (that they played as one of their encore songs--woohoo!) called "Ice Cube." Hard to download, though. But I guarantee you that there are a great many copies of "Moment in the Sun" floating around there on the internet, as it was the theme song to Ed during season 2. (Ah, a show that squandered all its potential goodness, that's what Ed is. Even the cute Canadian "if I wanted water" guy couldn't save it, I'm afraid.)

It was a fun evening. The marriage proposal during the show was a bit surprising, and I'm pretty sure that we could have convinced them to do a second encore but everyone else in the crowd apparently decided that as it was 1:15 AM it was high time to go home and just turned around and left. Sniff. They were probably right though, because as it is I only got about 4 hours of sleep. Which would explain why this sounds the way it does.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 9:43 PM (0) comments

Why I Should Not Write Email at 7:30 AM

So late on Monday evening, Sarah sent me an email inviting me over to watch Inuyasha on either Tuesday or Wednesday. I got the email early Tuesday morning. Now Tuesday is my busiest day of the week, with seven and a half hours of class without a break plus over two hours of commuting, so I rarely do anything Tuesday evenings other than collapse into a chair and eat snacks. However, I knew that Wednesday I was going out with Carly and her boyfriend to see Clem Snide, so Inuyasha night was going to have to be Tuesday so long as it was okay that I didn't arrive until about 8 PM. Sent Sarah an email to this effect. She said 8 was fine, which was great, and then I was out the door and hurrying to catch my bus.

The day went like this: Commute. Class, another class--ooh, a sandwhich!--another class. Commute. I got home at a bit after 7, sent Sarah an email to say that I was on my way and should be able to make it there by 8, and ran out the door again. Commute. Get off the subway, wait for streetcar. Wait for streetcar. Bugger, where is that streetcar? Wait for streetcar. I swear, I could have been there by now if I just walked. I've done that walk before. It's not a long walk. And at the rate this is taking I could have walked there and back without any--ooh, streetcar!

I arrived at Sarah's and there she was, with Pyewacket. "You do know that it's Tuesday, right?" she said to me.

I looked confused. Of course I knew it was Tuesday. Why else would I have eaten cookies for dinner? "Um, yeah," I said.

"You said that you were coming on Wednesday," she replied.

Oh. Bugger. To make matters worse, Sarah had just had her flu shot and wasn't feeling particularly good, and had just been planning on isolating herself for the evening. Oh, yes, I felt like a moron, and an inconsiderate moron at that. But it was fine, she assured me, and so we hung out and talked, and watched Inuyasha, and played with the squirrel-like cat, Pyewacket. And yes, it may be selfish of me to say, but I was really happy that everything worked out fine because more than anything I just needed a few hours to talk to someone, and laugh, and watch some good, fun anime.

She showed me the email that I'd sent her at about 7:30 that morning. I could see what I'd meant to say, really I could, but it still said that I would come over on Wednesday. I've always said that I'm not a morning person, that I have difficulty stringing together words into coherent sentences before I've been awake for at least an hour. This is just more proof.

... On the way back to the subway station, I walked instead of taking the streetcar. I was right: I can walk there faster than a streetcar. Ha! Take that, TTC!

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 9:18 PM (0) comments

Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Sweet lord, it's already 6:30? Here I was going to sit down and tell you about the chaotic day that was yesterday, but it's already so late that I'm about to leave again. Two evenings in a row that I do something that does not involve school books? Unbelievable. So, tomorrow then ... after I get back from class.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 6:30 PM (0) comments

Monday, October 27, 2003
Good Things Only

I have been very up and down this past week and a half, wavering between cheerful (or at least content) and wallowing in the deep pit of blackness and despair from which no light ever shines. (Unhappiness is like a black hole in that regard.) Some days you (and by you I mean me) just have to grab at anything and everything that might make you happy, and remind yourself about it with some frequency. Today, I am reminding myself of the following good things:

1. Curtains. They are thick and dark blue and block out the light. I am so, so glad to have curtains in my bedroom. I've had a bamboo blind since we moved in, but the bamboo blind is only good at night for blocking out the black square that is the window, not at stopping others from peering into my room. This was something of a concern, as my window is at eye-level. Plus, any time the security lights went on during the night (like when a raccoon would walk by, or a cat, or a car would drive down the lane) I'd jump awake. Not good. And, I admit it, I was truly sick of getting changed either in the dark or in the bathroom. (Though, really, it only takes putting one's bra on inside out once to make one sick of getting dressed in the dark.)

2. Strudel. I just ate some. It was yummy.

3. Reading YA fantasy novels. They are my rewards. I'm returning to Anna Karenina after ignoring it for about two weeks, and have The Banality of Evil: Eichmann in Jerusalem and Survival in Auschwitz waiting for my attention. Not to mention yet more of Arctic Dreams. I'm going to need a fun movie night, and soon. (Any good/fun movie recommendations, anyone? Please, take pity on me. ... And if someone recommends Schindler's List, there will be issues.)

4. I wrote a few hundred words today. It is not much, but sometimes anything feels like progress.

5. Last in the list, though very definitely not least, Fruits Basket. Sarah gave me a few episodes of this anime last time I was visiting her and it has since become the highlight of my month. I love Fruits Basket. It makes me so happy! I've even got a Fruits Basket-themed background for my computer right now, just to remind me of its goodness and make me smile. And when I'm not watching Fruits Basket, I am actively obsessing over the open Kazaa window: is the next episode done yet? How about now? Now? What about now?

If all goes well, I have half an hour until my next Fruits Basket episode is downloaded. So, until then, Anna Karenina.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 4:42 PM (0) comments

Friday, October 24, 2003
Attempted Salvation

So Wednesday is one of the days that I have class. Two classes, in fact; however, the first class ends at 11:30 and the second doesn't begin until 2:30, giving me three hours to eat, visit the headache-inducing library, and generally just sit around passing time. Usually I end up in Vari Hall sooner or later, on one of the two upper floors, where I sit on the floor along the wall or by the big floor-to-ceiling windows. (The windows, however, are prime sitting-spots and can be difficult to claim. Many battles have been won and lost over these small patches of linoleum.)

Yesterday I'd found myself a good patch of window linoleum and was plowing my way through Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez (the first five chapters are little attempting to wade through knee-deep snow, I swear), when two women approached me: one woman in her mid-thirties and a girl who was obviously a fellow undergrad.

"Hi," said the older woman. "We're from one of the clubs on campus. We're not bothering you, are we?"

I assured them that they were not. (I would have welcomed about anything that was not Arctic Dreams at that point.)

"We're from the Campus Crusade for Christ," she continued, and explained how their club was a non-denominational group of students who had accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal savior. I noticed that she was wearing blue eyeliner that was the exact same colour as her sweater, and that she'd applied it only on her lower lids, in a thin line that ran right beneath her eyelashes. The eyeliner/sweater blue was a few shades brighter than her eyes, which were paler and more gray. Her companion was dark haired and smiled, but did not speak. Both were wearing jackets.

"Do you mind if we talk to you for a little?" she asked.

It's easy, I think, to have a "let's mock the crazy people!" attitude towards people who are attempting to speak to random strangers about God, religion and salvation. Easy to mock, or become offended. And, really, let's face it, some of these people are both crazy and offensive. I know it, and don't pretend otherwise. But most people are good, nice people, who would really just like to take a little bit of your time to sit down and talk about Christ. And while my reaction is usually, "Thanks, but no," yesterday I was curious. Yesterday I wondered what they'd say to me, given the opportunity, and so I welcomed the two to my little corner of floor by the window and listened.

What they did was ask me a lot of very broad questions. "What do you think sin is?" "What do you know of Jesus?" "Do you feel you have a relationship with God?" And the thing about me, with my no set religion, is that it can be difficult to answer these questions in 25 words or less, never mind while sitting by the windows on the second floor of Vari Hall, sipping the watery remains of a Coke bought from Wendy's. But, being me, I did my best, and attempted to be as honest and open as I could, and somehow slipped dark matter into the conversation. Because, really, what's a conversation about Jesus without at least one mention of dark matter?

(No mocking. Bad me.)

All in all, they ended up speaking to me for a bit over half an hour. There was a little confusion on their part, I think, with my explanation of my mildly Quaker upbringing and with the concept of a Quaker Meeting for Worship in general, but it wasn't a big stumbling point. There was at least one point where I wanted to question the implications of one of the things that they said, but instead asked for their opinions, and sat and listened. I realized that I really did want to know what they had to say, and not because I was considering a conversion (or is it a creation? Can you convert when you're not anything to begin with?) but because I simply wanted to know. I wanted to understand.

I now have in my possession a little booklet called "Would You Like to Know God Personally?" and all the contact information for the Campus Crusade for Christ, just in case. It was, in the end, a pretty interesting experience.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 12:58 PM (0) comments

Freewriting Quote of the Day

I watch your eyes twitch in sleep. I cannot help but reach out, fingers searching for that soft, warm flow of breath, in and out, gentle warmth on callused fingertips. Winter comes, falling upon us like broken glass. We shudder together, united now only in this.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 12:57 PM (0) comments

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

I find myself spending a lot of time these days playing Solitaire. This is strange to me, because I dislike Solitaire. Not in the way that I dislike blind patriotism, or senseless cruelty, or the time when the landlord refused to turn on the heat to save himself a few more pennies, but a dislike still. It is a quiet irritant, a passing smell in the subway, tea gone cold before the first sip.

What's worse is that I can't even get it right. I don't have a deck of cards; I spend no time thinking as I shuffle, there are no paper numbers in my hands. Just a free computer program that came with Windows, and lingers in the corner of my Programs menu. I am restless in this predictability.

It is not that I don't have anything else to do. Tasks pile up, emails and entertainments and assignments cueing for my attention. And yet I find that mouse-driven arrow veering unerringly towards Solitaire, and myself playing one game, two games, twenty. I've switched it to Vegas style scoring with the cumulative total option on, simply for the odd fascination of being able to say, "If I was stupid enough to try this at a casino, I'd have lost $240 today." Imaginary money flows through my index finger.

Sometimes I shut the program down in the middle of the game, savagely clicking the corner X in a fit of annoyance. More times than not, I have relented and gone back within half an hour. I try to hide the Solitaire window from my roommate, but I'm not fooling either of us.

I don't like playing Solitaire. It has simply become another thing that I do by default.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 6:33 PM (0) comments


Was up at 6:30 this morning, to catch an early bus so I could meet with my Professor for my sparkly-new YA Fantasy coursea at 9:30. I actually arrived a little early, so I wandered around, picked up a free copy of the Toronto Star, read a little. I finally wandered up to her office at about 9:20 only to be told by her secretary that she'd just called. She couldn't come in today because she's sick. Ack! I'm certainly not angry at her--lord knows, I know what that's like, and I really have no desire to catch a cold--but, well, ack! So I went, discovered that my usual bus does not run after 9:00 AM (unless I wanted to wait until 3:00 PM) and so I hopped on another bus and took the subway home. It's freezing outside, and windy.

So I'm home again now, and have the day stretching before me. I have lots of things that need my attention, especially an essay that I need to write for tomorrow, and yet all I can think about right now is how fantastic it would be to take this clip out of my hair, crawl into bed and sleep for another hour.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 11:41 AM (0) comments

Monday, October 20, 2003
Yesterday on the bus ride back to Dufferin Station, two women sat beside me. They were somewhere in that confusing range of ages between one's late thirties and late forties; their hair was dyed and styled, their eye liner neatly applied, yet they wore their clothes as if afraid of being too brightly dressed, and tried to hide the wrinkles of their skin beneath concealing layers of flesh-toned makeup. They were Russian, and spoke in that loud, carefree manner that people have when they know that they can say what they like and not be understood.

One woman settled in beside me while the other eyed me in my seat, clearly wondering if I would rise and let her sit beside her friend. I considered it, and stayed seated. Seeming mildly irritated, she clung to a nearby pole as the bus rocked back and forth in its stop-and-go way up Dufferin Street. After a bit, she held out her hand, palm up; her friend took her hand in her own, and pulled it further forward, closer to the light from the window.

With one painted nail, she began to read her friend's palm. I watched casually, not letting my eyes linger but never losing track of their interactions. The one friend talked while the other laughed; the one friend ran her fingers across the other's palm again and again. I imagined the swish of dry skin over the sound of traffic and the rumble of the bus's acceleration. They compared palms. The palm reader kept saying one word over and over again; for a time it seemed I knew the Russian word for "line."

Then the bus stopped at the station and I got out while they remained. I whispered my Russian word and again became lost in the crowd.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 7:41 PM (0) comments

Sunday, October 19, 2003
I Am (Not) Scissors Shirt

Took a trip downtown to Queen West today for Canzine. Took me a little while to figure out where on Queen Street I had to go, but thanks to a handy map I had everything figured out by the time I actually left the apartment and found the place without any problem. It was far more crowded than I expected, and I think (upon blog reading) that I missed one of the downstairs rooms of zines (goddamn!), but I still spent about an hour and a half wandering through the crowds and tables, flipping through zines, looking, reading. The crowd was more of a political and/or underground music/art sort of group than I'd been hoping for, and I think I may have stuck out from the crowd a little (though I did get a few compliments on my Om shirt), though it was still fun.

I ended up paying the voluntary admission fee and getting a copy of Broken Pencil at the door. I argued with myself over this fee. On one hand, I want to support the people and the event; on the other, the donation was actually more than I usually spend on lunches for myself all week at school. (I will say, though, that I am seriously cheap and at times choose hunger over shelling out for yet more York food.) No debate over the issue of Broken Pencil. For someone trying to find new and interesting zines, it's perfect.

One of the first tables that I found was giving away absolutely everything for free. I did not realize this at first, letting some seriously interesting zines and magazines slip away. Once I figured out the deal (by asking, curiously enough), I, well, took:

1. Room of One's Own: Celebrating the Best in Women's Literature.
2. The winter 2002 issue of The Malahat Review.
3. An issue of This magazine (their slogan: Because everything is political.)
4. And the summer 2003 issue of the Ryerson Review of Journalism. Don't know what inspired me to pick this one up and keep it, but I did and here it is, on my desk.

I picked up samplers and free issues wherever I could. Upstairs, however, there were tons of things that I wanted to buy, and I had to keep myself under careful control. I ended up buying:

A hand-sewn zine called syn: desultory. Oddly shaped, aforementioned sewing, illustrations--all cool, but what made me leap at the chance to buy it was that it's freewritten. Or at least it reads like freewriting to me. Fantastic!

A wacky cloth-covered collection of pages, complete with sewn-on magazine picture. It's a journal.

Issue #14 of Highest Population of Rock Stars, which reads as part journal, part freewriting, part illustrated wackiness.

Also by the same author as HPRS, Issue #1 of Pumpkin. Small, purple and wrapped in a red ribbon.

A paprika button. Random loveliness and spice combined.

A sequin-and-bead bird on a small spring. It was 25 cents, and a totally understandable purchase from someone with a strange obsession with small birds.

I headed back downstairs for one last look around when I stumbled across something new on a table I'd already visited. It was a black T-shirt with a small white picture of an open pair of scissors. Lord only knows why I wanted this shirt so much, but I did. The scissors shirt somehow encompassed everything cool and quirky that I enjoyed and excluded everything that I did not. I was scissors shirt. Scissors shirt was $15. After a desperate search through my bag I discovered that I had $12 and some pennies. No go. And the only ATM that I could find was out of order. It was a sign.

"Damn," I said. "That's what I get for giving donations."

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 11:49 PM (0) comments

Saturday, October 18, 2003
A Distraction That is Not Solitaire

I've been working off-and-on since late this afternoon on my essay/seminar writeup on Emily Brontë and the writing of Wuthering Heights. My main problem seems to be that due to all the reading I did for this, I've internalized this information. I have written a few thousand fact-filled words on Emily without cracking a book, which is all fine and good except I have no idea which book each point originally came from, so properly footnoting this is going to be delightfully fun.

I've also discovered a fun fantasy-brain glitch: I keep mistyping "Gondal" as "Gondor." Oops.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 8:32 PM (0) comments

Freewriting Quote of the Day

We will not falter, we will not dream, but march forward with decisive steps, the hit of heel on ground the only needed declaration of our intent. Step, spit, pause. I do not taste your blood. That scent is not foreign to me, merely an intrusion that I choose not to recognize.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 8:06 PM (0) comments

Friday, October 17, 2003
Good Things to Read

So yesterday evening I started reading for my brand-new YA Fantasy course. Though I only had a little while to read before going to sleep, I managed to polish the book off in short order upon waking. (Not surprising, considering the word count.) Can I just say, I love my genre? Because I do. After spending over a month so far reading pretty much anything but fantasy or science fiction, returning to SF is such a total joy.

Which isn't to say that I haven't been enjoying the other books that I've been reading--some more so than others, of course--only that there is something about reading a good work of speculative fiction that grabs me and pulls me in in a way that other books just don't. (Yes, I should rewrite that sentence but I'm too sleepy to bother.) It's fun to get lost in these books, even if the book is so short that it vanishes like a candy. Such a lovely sweet aftertaste.

And continuing this lovely-goodness, I've just been told by E. L. Chen (who also has a story in LCRW 13) that this Sunday is Canzine, which is a giant zine fair, among other things. Admission is free--zines are not. I am excited by the lure of all these potentially cool publication, and fear for my achingly thin budget if I go. And yet, how can I not attend? I ask for zines, and here they are! This is yet more encouragement for me to just get those damn essays written on Saturday so I can do something entertaining.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 11:55 PM (0) comments

Thursday, October 16, 2003
A Day's Reading

Today I decided that I was going to finish The Painted Bird (by Jerzy Kosinski), no matter what. This book, a novel about an unnamed boy struggling to survive during the second World War, is perhaps the most difficult thing I've ever read. The professor warned us about this book, saying that we should probably watch a fun, mindless movie after reading this, and telling stories about how while reading it herself she'd had to put it down and walk away on more than one occasion. Considering that this is in a course on Holocaust literature, this was no idle warning.

This novel is, in a word, brutal. Not in the writing itself; if anything, the narrative flows easily, quickly, like a very cold stream. Rather the story itself … I don't even know what to say. I've read some rough things, but this one tops them all. Murder, rape, incest, bestiality, torture, abuse, vivisection--on and on, all described in quite some detail with a child's unique detachment. During the three-hour break between classes, I was determined to read this book and read it all, just so that I don't have it hanging over me anymore. I did it, too. But as a result I was mentally in a very strange, very dark, very unsettled place.

A fun movie would have been a good idea, but not an option. Instead I settled for watching a few Friends repeats while I ate my dinner, then settling down with my knitted blanket in my chair and reading a zine called "I Was a Teenaged Mormon."

This zine is something that I borrowed from another professor of mine, who brought it to class as an example. It's small, densely packed, and totally absorbing. It's just one woman's story about her experiences growing up in the LDS church and the events that led to her decision to leave it, and it's totally fascinating. I'd recommend it to a friend, but I really have no idea where you can find a copy or if you can find a copy or how much it costs or even the author's full name (her first name is Caitlin). But I'm now officially on the lookout for other cool and quirky zines, with the hope that they'll be even half as well written and interesting as this one was. (And hey, LCRW has never led me astray, right?)

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 10:14 PM (0) comments

Wednesday, October 15, 2003
Karaoke Karina and the Series of Rants

So I just finished today's book, Karaoke Nights, which is an ethnography about karaoke bars. A rather fun book, actually, and enjoyable to read; however, as a result I found myself singing rather constantly throughout the day. ("Mr. Jones" was the favourite I returned to again and again, though I wandered as far into dangerous territory as to sing part of a Whitney Houston song. What can I say, except that it's fun to listen to the echoes in a bathroom where every flat surface is tiled.) Here I'd usually say something about how I can't sing and it's good that there was no one around to hear me, but parts of that book have me pondering this constant "oh, I can't sing" thing that you'll hear from 98% of the population of North America. Is everyone out there really so terrible at singing? Of course not. What we really mean is that we're not spectacular singers, that we don't come close to professional standards, that we are, in fact, average.

So as I was singing my average singing and reading my entertaining book, I realized that I'd like to have a go at karaoke. I wouldn't ever be a karaoke regular or anything of the sort, simply because music in general does not play a pivotal role in my life. (Though I am sad that I don't have a CD player here and that this laptop only has dreadful speakers, I spend most of my time here content with the silence.) And yes, it would take some prodding and giggling and a whole lot of support to actually get me up on some little stage somewhere to sing, but I think it would be fun.

Yet at the same time I know that that's very, very unlikely to happen, simply because I would want a group of friends to go out and enjoy this with, people I could prod onstage in turn and laugh about it with afterwards. And damn if I can think of a group of people around here who would like to go karaoke singing with me. (Here is where I wave sadly to all the friends who would go karaoke singing with me and are scattered throughout the United States.)

It's sort of like dancing. I don't say this a lot but I really, truly love going out dancing. And this happens maybe twice a year at most. Which isn't to say that there aren't dance clubs here in Toronto--quite the opposite--just that I don't know where to go, or when, and there's no way that I'm going out there alone. So somehow SF-gatherings tend to be the only place/time that I can find people to go dancing with me.

This year my dancing opportunities have been Ad Astra and Torcon. (And seeing as I still haven't posted anything resembling a con report, I'm sure that latter one comes as a surprise to some people.) Convention dances are … well. Yes. And yet they're fun simply because people there are so nonjudgmental, and are there simply to have a good time. The music sometimes leaves something to be desired (there was a really bad run for a while there at Torcon before things got going), and I always seemed to be hit on by the least desirable people (con crashers at Ad Astra, that older biker-pirate guy at Torcon--I'm all for nonjudgmental, but really) but they're still fun.

Dancing, though, is another of those things where people feel that they either have to be really good or standing on the sidelines. To which I say, bullshit! (Thereby ensuring that I'll have to delete this blog and all Google archives sometime before I actually become known as an author and people of any importance start reading this and judging my language. When did I start swearing so much here? Oh, yes, when I stopped pretending that every entry had to be interesting and well-thought-out and poetic and what have you, and just started writing what's on my mind whenever I feel like it. ... I should really make that a subtitle. Spontaneous Things: Not Interesting, Poetic or Well-Thought-Out.) If you want to go dancing and you're not good at it, so what? If it's fun, who cares what those drunken morons in the corner think.

Which is where I hit the point where I wonder where I'm writing all this down. It's also the point where I was about to veer off into a rant about categorization and superficiality, which would then lead into my rant about categorization of written work and/or writers, which in turn leads to my related rants about the relationship between the Romance and Science Fiction/Fantasy genres and literary vs. "good reading". Which are all very good rants, I assure you, but not what I'm going to write right at this very instant. Why? Because having finished Karaoke Nights, I either have to start on Mauve or continue The Painted Bird (small squeak of fear) or return to Anna Karenina, or maybe write that assignment that's due tomorrow. And sometime I have to eat dinner. Mmmm ... dinner.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 8:03 PM (0) comments

Books, Books

For those of you who are interested, I have chosen a nice collection of YA fantasies for my course-in-the-making. It has, over the course of my choosing the reading list, become a course in multi-volume YA Fantasy. For those who are interested, the books are:

Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising series
Over Sea, Under Stone
The Dark is Rising
The Grey King
Silver on the Tree

Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles
The Book of Three
The Black Cauldron
The Castle of Llyr
Taran Wanderer
The High King

Tamora Pierce's The Song of the Lioness Quartet
Alanna: The First Adventure
In the Hand of the Goddess
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man
Lioness Rampant

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy
The Golden Compass
The Subtle Knife
The Amber Spyglass

Garth Nix's apparently unnamed triolgy

The books that I considered but didn't make the cut included Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Jane Yolen's Pit Dragon Trilogy, Diane Duane's Young Wizard series, and some standalone novels, Diana Wynne Jones' Fire and Hemlock, Robin McKinley's Hero and the Crown, Neil Gaiman's Coraline.

Thank you to everyone who recommended YA books to me, especially to Emily (whose email address I don't know) without whom I'd never have found Garth Nix. Thank you!! And this list isn't exactly final (I'm pondering adding another book or two for good measure), so if I'm making a terrible mistake or if there's something I haven't considered, etc., etc., let me know! (My email's waaaay down there at the bottom of the page.)

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 3:05 PM (0) comments


I just read over the text of yesterday's entry. My description of my "wicked headache" stood out. Wicked?? Apparently either the headache or the Advil had the power to turn me into a 14 year old boy.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 2:56 PM (0) comments

Tuesday, October 14, 2003
damn if i can think of a title

Oh, thank the lord. Today I met with the professor of one of the classes I had last year to see about having her supervise my independent reading course that I suddenly need to graduate. I’d been worrying about this--not just the whole "I have four days left to pull this off or I’m screwed" aspect but about asking her in particular, simply because she’s one of the busiest faculty members there, period. But she likes me, and would like to work with me, and so has found a way to squeeze this into her schedule.

Huge sigh of relief.

I haven’t been talking about this "ineligible to graduate" issue much, but that isn’t to say that I haven’t been worrying about it. Constantly. Now not all the crucial papers have been signed yet, but I’m so very close. All I have to do now is work up a description of my made-up course, decide what I’d like to read and when, and how I’d like to be marked, and hand everything in. (For those who are wondering, I did decide to do a course on Young Adult Fantasy Novels--that’s what I’m naming my course, in fact--so if anyone has any recommendations for good YA fantasy books for me to read, please send them along.)

The down bit of the day is that I have a wicked headache. The kind that makes me stop in the middle of sentences and stare in confusion. The kind that has made writing this ... interesting. It’s probably because of the weather; it’s pouring with rain right now. And the fact that the landlord has turned off the heat again just as it’s gotten cold probably doesn’t help matters much. So, no more typing and internet for me. I’m going to wrap myself in a blanket, read Anna Karenina and maybe watch a little TV. That is all.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 7:09 PM (0) comments

Sunday, October 12, 2003
Happy Thanksgiving!

I am sitting here, happy and warm, with a stomach full of turkey and mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and apple muffins and birthday cake. After this lovely-chaotic weekend of cooking, baking, unpacking and colouring hair (not mine), I feel somewhat sleepy and lethargic, though content. Family members have gone home, and gone to sleep, and are talking quietly out in the living room. A good day.

Tomorrow is still a holiday but I will be going back to Toronto and back to work. Assignments wait for no turkey-laden students.

(All you honourary Canadians remembered to celebrate this fine holiday, yes? Of course you did.)

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 11:04 PM (0) comments

Thursday, October 09, 2003
Freewriting Quote of the Day (Why Not?)

[Written in the margins of class notes this afternoon.]

We should live here, in this space, cramped and waiting, thinking of all the places that live beyond and lusting for that sameness. Restless feet shaking on the end of restless legs, waiting to start walking. Pack up. Seriously. Come on. That was such a good ending line and your ruined it with your talking. Put on the airconditioner and watch us leave. Wander (stillness), journey (stillness). The subway pulls away. Tick, tick, tick, and my schedule compresses. The end? Oh let it be. Trailing away into boredom.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 9:00 PM (0) comments

A new Maureen McHugh story! Just thought I'd spread the joy.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 8:51 PM (0) comments

Where Do You Buy Lock Picks, Anyway?

So I was thinking about telling the story about what terrible locksmiths Sarah and I are, but she beat me to it (and wrote it far more entertainingly than I would have), so I'll just link to Sarah's entry instead. On more than one occasion I have said, "I'm going to get some lock picks and learn how to use the things." People have laughed at me for this; they are foolish.

The weather both yesterday and today was totally gorgeous. Seems we get some above-seasonal days as an apology for freezing us in our T-shirts last week. I have a three hour gap of time at school on Wednesdays, when I usually find a quiet corner and read; today I was able to lean against a tree and read, and then curled up and rested my head on my bag, feeling warm and drowsy and content.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 7:29 PM (0) comments

Wednesday, October 08, 2003
Things to be Happy About

1. Heating! Though the weather has warmed up to something sane for October, I still take immense joy in having the radiators working. It's a sauna in here, a beautiful, overheated sauna. Lovely!

2. The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Way back in the day I heard that Ellen would be getting a talk show, and it has come to pass. Ah, how I love Ellen's quirky sense of humour. A most lovely thing to watch while eating my breakfast on days like today when I don't have to catch the bus early in the morning.

3. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. We can finally watch this show in Canada! Only one episode has aired so far, but it was fantastic. Part makeover show, part home decorating show, many funny gay guys--what's not to love?

4. People who publish my stories. Just looked over the "proofs" for "Loving the Bomb." It should be out in a couple of weeks. Though I may have learned a lot about writing since I wrote "Bomb," no other story gives me such glee as this one does. Here's to plot twists!

5. I Breathe. A source of joy, confusion and frustration all in one. Initial responses from my readers have been positive, though I have realized that this story is not done. Not by a long shot. I am still being struck by flashes of inspiration in class and on the bus. I don't know what this is going to be, or whether I'll have a short story version to shop around and the "let's see how long this gets" version that I keep working on, but at least I have something.

6. Inuyasha. Off to hang out with Sarah this evening, and watch Inuyasha. I'm telling you, after an afternoon of reading Holocaust literature, I will be in serious need of cheering up. Yay for friends!

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 12:35 PM (0) comments

Saturday, October 04, 2003
Boxes, Boxes, Boxes, Boxes...

Ah, so here I am at New House (where the furnace is broken--ack!), pausing. I came here yesterday to help my Oma and Opa move in, so now the house is full with yet more boxes and partially disassembled furniture. I must say, I am tired of boxes. Boxes should really unpack themselves.

I have been unpacking a lot of my stuff--books, mostly. That was actually fun. I felt like I was getting presents, discovering books that I loved in these boxes. "Octavia Butler books!" I shouted. "Bel Canto! Mockingbird! Ooh, look at all these anthologies!" And it's lovely to see them all arranged on their shelves--and to have a new bookcase, so that they all have shelves for the first time ever. I love looking at the spines of books, all the different colours and fonts, the names of authors and stories. They make me feel grounded.

Now if someone would just like to take care of those boxes labelled "Miscellaneous" and "Everything else" and "Random crap," that'd be great. I know what's in those boxes--I put the stuff there, after all--and it makes me afraid. Very afraid. So maybe I'll just go unpack my Oma's books instead...

I'm also pondering what sort of course I need to create for myself. Something interesting and enjoyable, something smart. Something doable. I'm actually thinking about doing something on YA novels, simply because one of the professors that I liked and who liked me (and who gave me excellent marks) specializes in children's literature. YA fantasy novels, perhaps? Hmm.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 4:40 PM (0) comments

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Well. So. Today's been quite the fucker of a day.

It was, of course, totally freezing when I woke up this morning. It is unseasonably cold here, in most yucky and depressing ways. The other day I woke up and it was six degrees outside; walking to and from the bus I can see my breath steaming in the air. And the landlord has decided not to turn on the heat here (these things cost him money, you see) so it's only a few degrees warmer inside than it is outside. (I am sitting bundled inside my winter fleece housecoat over my jeans and turtleneck, my hands off-colour and cold.)

So, yes, freezing when I woke up, and drizzling, and so I ran back inside to get my umbrella and because of this missed my bus. I was so close that I watched it drive away. But it was okay, really, because I took the subway and actually managed to get to my class on time.

I forgot my lunch on the counter.

Hearing strange rumors about degree requirements all of a sudden, I decided that it would be in my best interest to go and get a degree checklist and just make sure that everything is all right. Universities are so partial about these things, after all. So I get the checklist and I fill it out, and looking at the checklist everything looks wonderful, I have everything I need ... except that I don't. I have followed the Division of Humanities requirements to the letter. It's just an additional Faculty of Arts requirement THAT ISN'T ON THE CHECKLIST that I'm missing.

That's right: missing. I need another 6 credits at the 4000 level. With my current courses, I am ineligible to graduate.

I shall not repeat my very long, very involved string of cursing.

This is, I'm afraid to say, totally my fault. At the end of last year I just got myself the hell out of that place, choosing not to go to the totally pointless advising appointment. I mean, after all, I worked at a freaking advising office and had the Division checklist. What more could I need? And though, yes, the advising appointments ARE pointless (there are no advisors, just professors who blink in confusion at all your questions) I should have gone to the Humanities staff—the real people who know what the hell they're doing—and made sure that everything was okay. But I didn't. Great choice, me.

So, I thought to myself, be rational. Be calm. Think this through, make a plan. So I went to the library and looked for 4000 level courses that I can take. To put a complicated situation simply, there are none that I can get into at this point, either because of scheduling, lack of space in the course, or due to the time that has elapsed since the beginning of the semester. I went back to the Humanities office to speak again with the woman there at the counter—the helpful, wonderful woman who knows what she's doing.

I am saved if I manage to find a professor to work with on either an Independent Study or Independent Reading course. The lovely-good thing about this would be that either one would be a topic/etc. chosen by me, with the professor in question's permission. The uncertain thing is who I can find who will supervise me for something that I'd actually like to do.

I'd love to be able to do creative work for this, but that means that I will have to go find one of the Creative Writing people to help me out on this. (Though I am somewhat wary, the prospect of being able to do the project that I'm considering as part of my degree is very exciting, I admit.) If that's not possible ... well, there are options. I'm sure that there are options. I will figure this out, somehow.

Then my professor for my last class of the day didn't show up. Don't know why. Took about 45 minutes of waiting until we decided fairly conclusively that no, she was not coming. Which meant that I'd actually hung around York for a few more hours than was absolutely necessary but ... well. I left, I came here to my lovely but absolutely freezing apartment, where I ate some macaroni. I cannot vote today because I cannot prove that I live in Toronto, and though I could vote if I was in Halton/Peel/etc. (aka. the place where I officially live) I am not there. So I am left hoping that everyone else is able to kick that weasel Ernie Eves out of office.

Now I am going to watch some TV, and read some books, and ponder some stories, and pile as many blankets on top of me as I can possibly manage. If you'll excuse me ...

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 7:30 PM (0) comments

Written last night at 11:00 PM ...

She Just Wants to Be (Somewhere)
Or, Hands Up Everyone Who Doesn't Understand That Title

Last night I had the incredible fortune to have tickets to see R.E.M. at the Air Canada Centre. Thanks to Carly and a lovely series of events, we bought our tickets way back in the day--April or May, I think--and they were, in a word, amazing. Amazing, amazing tickets. We were in the seventh row. Seventh row!! At the ACC!! (It was even closer than our spots at the free concert, and this time we were not standing two feet away from a gigantic, deafening bank of speakers.)

This was quite simply the best concert I've ever attended. And I've seen some fantastic concerts, including Paul Simon and Alanis (fifth row!!) and the aforementioned free R.E.M. concert on Yonge Street. This beat them all, by far. Abso-freaking-lutely amazing. There was such an open, fun atmosphere, incredibly inclusive and unbelievably energetic.

They played songs that people requested, songs from all eras of their career, "Electrolite," and "Walk Unafraid," and "Bad Day," "Everybody Hurts" and "Find the River" and "Nightswimming." Brand new songs, things I've never heard before, and things that it seems I've known forever.

And what will stay with me is one moment, closing my eyes and seeing afterimages and the shine of stage lights flashing through my eyelids, feeling like I was drifting as I sang along, "This is all I want, it's all I need..."

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 7:26 PM (0) comments

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