Sunday, July 24, 2011

Badcritic in Chicago

More publishing news! My short piece "They Call Him the 'Moskeeto' " is now featured in Chicago's Untoward Magazine. Click here to read and then be sure to check out the rest of the features collected by editor-in-chief Matt Rowan.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Badcritic in the News

My short piece, "A Waqui Way of Knowledge," is now published in Toronto's Dragnet Mag, Issue 2. Click here to read it online.

(And Part Two of my knee-slapping saga on Colombian performance artists can be read here, on badcritic.ca).

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Women Ain't Funny

The old adage touted
Never to be doubted
Is Women ain't Funny
Be she wench or nunny

-Amanda, badcritic

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Huffington Porch



The Huffington Porch, Issue 32

This is our thirty-second issue of the Montrose Avenue Porch Sitters. After an interim of 6 months, I am pleased to announce the return of porch-sitting weather and to report some encouraging developments in that direction.


THE EARLY BIRD SPECIAL: A special salute (and a one-year subscription to this newsletter) for Randy, of 416 Montrose Avenue, who beat us all to the punch this year with his record-breaking March entry. Randy's porch-sit was the earliest of the Pre-Season Submissions. The following eye-witness report expressively captures Randy's March 6th victory:

"Randy just stepped outside," Joan writes, "in nothing but a track suit and house-slippers. I thought he might have been going to see if the raccoons had been at his garbage bins again... He didn't even look at the garbage bins. Randy brushed off the snow and unfolded some Loblaws flyers onto his chair. I think he sat out there for six, even seven minutes. I told my husband that this was why we should keep a camera near the window, but he still doesn't think so."


PORCH ALERT: Montrose Avenue Porch Sitters are advised to be on extra high-alert this summer with the arrival of new tenants in Montrose 375. I received word through an intermediary that the strangers are a family of Portuguese with "a lot of badminton equipment." Unfortunately a number of well-meaning individuals succumb to this tasteless hobby, but as you may recall (MAPS issue 7) we cannot condone any aerially propelled yard sport. Porch Sitters reserve the right to confiscate any and all tennis, basket-, dodge-, base-, and bocce-balls that fall into their yard or, worse, collide with the Porch Sitter's person (MAPS issue 10). Badminton birdies, though lower in velocity, have caused just as much injury. To address the Portuguese family, the following dispatch was suggested:

PORTUGUESE, I AM DELIGHTED TO WELCOME YOU TO THE NEIGHBOURHOOD. WE ARE A CLOSE-KNIT COMMUNITY HERE AND SO I DON'T MIND TELLING YOU THAT WE HAVE INSTITUTED A BAN ON YARD & RACKET SPORTS. THERE HAS BEEN HEAVY-CROSSFIRE FROM OUR SEMAPHORE FLAG LEAGUE AND WE COULD ONLY KEEP ONE OR THE OTHER SO, YOU KNOW. RECYCLING IS ON TUESDAY.

PORCH-SITTERS MEETING: Our first meeting of the summer was a rousing success. There were nine Montrose porches in attendance, our highest number to date, and communication was especially clear thanks to Gomez's new walkie-talkies. We all agreed that the weather was very fine this week but last week's had been better. Following Joan's suggestion, we sent Gomez's son around to deliver the minutes to the porches. Beginning with old business, we reopened the matter of small dogs versus big dogs and which kind was more satisfying to spot on the sidewalk. Randy declared that big dogs were more enjoyable to watch "cause they're not in a hurry," but Helena thought smaller dogs looked "like little people, especially in their sweaters." Tensions were soon running high but eventually both parties agreed that outfits looked nice on both small and big dogs.

Conversation then turned to new business and the new eyesores in the neighbourhood: the gravel driveway of 406, the dinosaur stickers on the STOP sign, and the compost heap in 152's yard. Oswalt thundered over his walkie-talkie: "152? More like One Hippy Jew!" The motion to adopt Oswalt's language carried unanimously. More eyesores were added to the list with increasing rapidity until petty insults precluded further discussion.

We paused for a bathroom break, and then it was time to welcome new members. A very grey and grizzled man, who had been spotted on his Montrose porch as recently as last week, was leaning against his porch guardrail.

"My name is Bjoern," he said into his walkie-talkie, "and I want to know who took my chair."

This question prompted extensive debate, leading to the inevitable accusations of subterfuge and stopping only when Helena moved that we change the name of our group from "Porch-Sitters" to "Porch-Stand and Sitters." The motion was defeated, and we voted to adjourn.

Gomez closed the meeting by asking for his walkie-talkies back so he could change the batteries.

-Amanda, badcritic

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How I Read Rejection Letters

Dear Amanda,

Thank you for your interest in Gallery YYX Hyphen OZ. Unfortunately we have decided to go with another candidate, but we thank you for taking a bus, two subway transfers, and another bus to meet with us. We are especially glad that you didn't let the particular locality of our office space put you off, and that even after mistakenly ascending two flights of stairs, you were successful in finding our two rooms. However this was in fact your only success, and as I mentioned you did not get the job.

We didn't really enjoy meeting you but we'll write that we did anyways.

Irene McJosephine, Director of Abstraction and Contemporary Knee-Capping

+++

Dear Ms. Abdelhadi,

We appreciate your interest in the Art Dealers of Art Gallery Information and Associates Institute ©, and the Communications Assistant Promotions Coordinator Associate position © for which you applied. Thank you for taking the time to meet with us, it was a pleasure to get to know you better. We are faced with a difficult decision and regret to say that your last name is a little too long for us at ADoAGIaAI.

We wish you luck with your job search and hope that in the future you do not come to visit us and see our new associate, because that would be kind of weird.

Sincerely,

-Amy, Damask, Twig, and Pilot

+++

Dear Applicant,

This is an automated message. Please do not reply to this e-mail. Please do not contact us to inquire whether we have received your application. Please put all of your good faith in our AOL e-mail inbox that is opened every full moon after the Spring Equinox.

+++

Hi Amanda

Unfortunately at this time we have offered (not you) the position to a bunch of other people (not you) and they (not you) have accepted (not you).

I'm not sure if we mentioned this in the interview but we only interviewed seven of nearly 1,000,000 potential applicants. So you made the top tier but that is a very bad consolation in lieu of a job, so I'm going to ease out of this e-mail.

-John, Really Sorry Again Director at Gallery Cool Guy

+++

Amanda,

I hope this finds you well.

We received your application for the position of Assistant Evian Water Sprayer for Thirsty Performance Artists. If you are still interested in the position, I'd like to ensure that you are qualified for the foundation before moving further, as our ability to offer this position is contingent on funding through the Hell's Angels.

Can you please confirm with that you are a Quebecois citizen, returning to a penitentiary in September 2011, and are licensed to operate a stolen ice-rink zamboni?

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Quendra
The Foundation for Thirsty Performance Artists

+++

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Friday, April 29, 2011

La Vie Bohmmm

On the afternoon of the fourteenth of April, I was sitting dejectedly by the window inside the Sicilian Sidewalk Cafe. I had just ended a terrible bargaining session with a visual artist and was stifling my frustration in double espressos, which give me a head-rush. To my surprise, my Colombian spirit animal manifested near the entryway in a cloud of smoke and cologne. He had a deer hunter's eye, with a glance about the room noting one empty table and two pretty waitresses. I waved him over to my collection of espresso cups.

Before I was able to say hello, he sat down and cut in hastily "Do you have any salt?"

"Have what?"

He repeated: "Any salt?" I reached across the table to hand him the salt-shaker. In a swift economy of gesture he unscrewed the lid, produced a ziplock bag from inside his coat, and poured the contents of the shaker into the bag. With pinched fingers he sealed the bag and returned it to his breast-pocket. This done, he directed his attention to menu and murmured, "I can't believe it, no Cherry Coke."

"That was a strange thing to do," I said.

"What was?"

I made a vague gesture in the direction of his chest, "That little performance with the salt-shaker. Why did you do that?"

He gave a lecherous wink. "Eh, Fundraising."

This dubious answer would have to suffice for the moment since I was too distracted to pursue his erratic schemes of logic. The opportunity to exchange pleasantries had yet again passed so I launched right into the business at hand. "Well, you were extremely prescient in appearing here. I could really use some guidance in matters of spirituality right now. The temporal and material realms have screwed me over."

My spirit animal, who was smoking a rolled cigarette, asked "How they screw you?"

"I have rent to pay and the artist who commissioned my writing has yet to pay for my work. Every time we meet, he comes up with a new excuse. It's driving me nuts! Why don't you tell me some more about the heavens of the Putumajo and that stuff about the currency of the soul?"

He waved away my suggestions. "That is boring to me, a cosmic being, and would only pacify you. Spiritual philosophy is not a cough medicine you take to sleep at night. Today I think we need to embrace your corporeal issues and the tensions they are creating! Besides, you forget that I am also a (performance) artist. My insight into your dilemma will be doubly effective. This," he triumphed, "is a subject close to my heart."

And what subject would that be?

"Money!" He rubbed his forefinger and thumb together meaningfully. My spirit animal began by pointing out that richness doesn't just happen: it is won. "Here is a parable. A man in Colombia, finishing up a six-month long conceptual piece on the synchronicity of postwar bus stop schedules, is so poor that for days on end he eats nothing but leaves and string. He has no private funding source. He thinks: I must create, and food will come later. One day, while giving a meta-performance on the deadening and depersonalized experience of public transit--in the nude--he is thrown off the bus. He lands at the feet of a beautiful woman. She helps him to his feet, gives him her coat, a hot meal, a bath, a bed, a sympathetic shoulder, breast, thigh, a free room in her home, her chequebook, and art supplies. Enraptured by her physical perfection, our flagging Colombian artist is renewed. He creates greater and more complex performance-art pieces until he is given a coveted grant and a key to the Amazon. He has won his reward through integrity and talent."

"Spirit... I'm not entirely sure your moral matches your parable. I don't see how the artist 'won' anything that wasn't first freely given to him by that woman."

The sentence startled him--as though a bird had flown into the room. Narrowing his eyes, he asked: "Amanda, do you know what a muse is? A muse is a woman who makes it possible for a man to carry out his life's work. But muses don't have names like 'Amanda.' "

"That woman in the story wasn't a muse, she was a Dutch bank. And anyways I don't see how this illustrates my dilemma in the least."

"Since I am afraid I do not share your bitter perspective or your particular gift for fiscal aphorisms, I have to disagree. That woman was a muse, and a muse is necessary for all great artists. Muses take care of the inspiration... which in turn creates the cashflow... which in turn trickles down to art-writers like you. Perhaps your visual artist friend--"

"He's not my friend," I corrected.

My spirit animal, who was paring his nails with a Swiss army blade, continued smoothly: "Perhaps your visual artist friend has lost his muse. And that is losing your life-source! We must pity him, Amanda, not harangue him for money. Do you shoot a goat because it no longer sings to the morning sun?"

I hesitated--it was a confusing metaphor.

Over my shoulder, the spirit animal spied the waitress making her way towards us with the bill. He quickly rose, drained my espresso cup, hunched over confidentially, and finished his conclusion in sotto voce: "The goat must sing again, and we must patiently await its return to majesty. Well, excellent discussion again, my pupil," stepping backwards towards the door, "--you've outdone yourself."

As the cloud of smoke settled in his wake, the waitress reached my table and placed the bill face downwards. She eyed the empty salt shaker suspiciously.

"Fundraising," I explained.

-Amanda, badcritic.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

They Call Him the "Moskeeto"

April 2011

In a series of unattended lectures at the University of Toronto, art critic Douglas Moskovitch read from his self-titled anthology of art reviews. The man who had crystalized the "vague appraisal," as he termed it, was given a vague appraisal of his own--an abstract audience. Empty chairs and untouched coffee dispensers. It is perhaps ironic--or, as Douglas Moskovitch put it, "not ironic at all"--that his first talk should have been scheduled at the exact hour when Noam Chomsky was across campus lecturing to a sold-out hall of enraptured university intelligentsia. Nonplussed, Moskovitch decided to proceed with his planned two-and-a-half hour address. He even provided his own "Q&A" dialogue by running back and forth between the lectern and theatre-seats. This mishap should not prevent the general public from experiencing the profundity of the critic's works, even if they decided they didn't want to experience it the first time. With Moskovitch's permission, we reproduce here some choice excerpts from his most iconic exhibition reviews.

May 1962, Bulling Around at the Lascaux Caves!

The French child that I have hired to be my guide from Brive-la-Gaillard has made away with the five francs which I paid in advance. I spend four hours waiting for him at the door of my lodgings until I hail the driver of a rickety old cart full of somber farmhands and caged chickens. I embrace the au naturale scents of my journey! I am dropped at my destination with only thirty minutes to spare before the cave's visiting hours are finished for the day. I enter among a fresh wave of tourists. Mud-coloured bison, horse, cattle, and bulls flicker on the walls around us. A strong theme, but very one-note. The artist only seemed content to depict the entrée of his menu. I long for the greens of his salad, the berries of his dessert! His fluidity of line really is impressive, though, and overall I look forward to seeing more from Monsieur Lascaux.

June 1970, Barbara Hepworth's Family of Man

Hepworth's bronze block pieces are scattered about a hilltop in the Yorkshire Sculptural Park. As I wander past the haphazard totems, I can't decide whether the English dame has constructed an abstract tour-de-force or a very lazy Stonehenge. Like so many other homages to the genealogy of man, Hepworth's message takes a positive course. We are all the same! her sculptures cry. This would be a sound and valuable sentiment, perfectly expressed, if we were all shaped like great big heaping blocks of bronze. 

January 1953, Jackson Pollock in New York

Pollock's newest solo-exhibition makes me worry that the artist is losing his touch. His past three showings have all been lacking in variety and this presentation is no exception. Everywhere the same gradations of blue and green and red and yellow and brown and orange and purple and mauve and pink and taupe and grey; splatters and drips, sand and glass, in this new Pollock exhibit the only colour is that of a single spectrum trying to encompass all the hues of the rainbow. Try as he might next season, his reputation in New York has been shaken.

-Amanda, badcritic

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Waqui Way of Knowledge

The great editors at Toronto's Dragnet Mag have picked up this short fiction for their second issue. You can read the story online (for free!), in all it's hilarity, as a flipbook or e-book.


(And Part Two of my knee-slapping saga on Colombian performance artists can be read here, on badcritic.ca).


Readers of this site will have noticed my irregular writing schedule. My absence from "Blind and Dumb Criticism" was due to a week-long vision quest, during which I was visited by my 'spirit animal.' My spirit animal is a Colombian performance artist and documentary film-maker, based in Toronto, whose schedule is very inflexible so I have to take what I can get when it comes to journeys of self-discovery. 

He materialized late one evening in a cloud of cigar smoke, hat awry, arms full of Super 8mm film, a TTC token in his teeth, and an unread poem tucked under his belt like a sword. He looked as masterful as a pirate and chock-full of gusto.

Practically devoid of social graces, he wasted no time spreading his own gospel. "Well, I am here to illuminate you once more, Amanda. Also I don't mean to treat you like a waitress, but could you make me a cup of coffee?" 

Once I had fixed his order, he settled himself pleasantly in my armchair while I took the seat opposite him. Though my spirit animal has been visiting me for a few months now, he tells me that we have not yet reached the heights of ecstatic revelation. As such, every cigar-filled visit brings fresh anticipation of clairvoyance and an increasing list of confectionary requisites. 

The silence grew longer as my spirit animal sipped his beverage while gazing about the living room. The blood pounded in my temples as I waited for him to initiate our transcendental journey. It always begins with his fresh obliquity of expression.

He started: "If the hardware store was closed, could the wise man tell a handsaw from a hack?"

Though my animal spirit has phrased this as a question, I know better than to take this as an invitation to speak. We found out early on in our meetings that my premature replies interrupt the flow of his argument, and always make these opening epigrams seem less profound. 

"The modern North American could not, they could not tell a handsaw from a hack," he answered. "They are an ignorant people, and need to be educated in tools and tool-usage from the very providers of these items. They do not know how to effectively handle a hammer, screwdriver, or power-drill until they have been lectured by the sales assistants in hardware stores. By comparison, the Colombian is a strong, intuitive master of crafts--he fashions his own tools out of other tools, tools he has made or inherited from the ancestor spirits. The Colombian knows; this is why he is a natural guide in matters of enlightenment. But the North American does not. He is slow, unwilling, and special. The North American must walk into these hardware stores and be shown how tools work through a 'demonstrative display.' In each store there is a wall with these tools, pre-assembled, hanging and waiting to be tried so that our North American can learn. The wall boasts opportunities to push with a handle, pull with a handle, and twist with a handle. The North American gravely pushes, pulls, and twists." I nodded.

"What this means," he continued, "is far greater than you can fathom. This demonstrative display is the last sacrifice on the altar of human fallibility. The last indication that the modern North American can never quite trust the cosmos, and that he dimly suspects that some day, in the maze of well-regulated electric-powered drills or tools, something will go completely crazy--something awful will rebound and strike him in the face, or the saw will come tearing through his garage door, mowing down his faithful and meek family."

My eyes widened at the imaginary scene which he had conjured before me, a tableau of horror and agony evocative of Picasso's Guernica. Meanwhile my spirit animal, nursing his cigar, seemed pleased--both with my rapture and his own narrative bologna.

"Could we take the matter further," I suggested, "and say that the Colombian just might be more naturally suited to hard labour?"

"That," he replied, "is a common misconception." The spirit paused long enough to notice that his coffee cup was now empty, and he tapped its rim a few times as a signal. I fetched the coffee pot from the kitchen and poured him a refill. He then continued: "The Colombian is a spiritual creature, rather than an earthly being."

"I'm sure there are spiritual North Americans too," I said.

"None that have tasted the otherworldly delights of paradise," he replied.

"You mean the paradise that I'm supposed to be reaching with these vision-quests?" I asked, slightly irritated.

"The paradise that you will reach once we have made sufficient advancement in your enlightenment," he retorted. "Which at the moment looks to require several meetings yet."

"I'm sorry, spirit. It just seems a little futile when you make remarks like that. How can I even be certain that this paradise exists?"

"Of course it exists!" he cried. "I can give you the exact geographic coordinates if you want, but for now imagine something like the Colombian Amazon. Besides, how can you doubt me? Which one of us is the spirit animal apparition?"

I conceded that he was, in fact, the spirit animal.

"You have no notion of the amazing wonder and beatific magnitude of this paradise. Holy spirits, holier than I, mingle in awesome radiance across verdant plateaus, occasionally showered in a kaleidoscopic rain which never gives you a head-cold. I swim all day with fish and lie in the grass with beautiful women who feed me fruit. It is beyond comparison, beyond comprehension. When I'm not here, visiting you in this city, I am in that paradise."

After this impassioned speech, I couldn't help but agree that it did sound like a pretty wonderful place, and worth the many trips to replenish my coffee cupboard. However, one small thing bothered me. I asked my spirit animal what there was about this city, Toronto, what mysterious property, that had lured him back from the heaven that was the Putumaja.

He thought for a minute. Then he said, "In Toronto, you can buy things so late at night."

After that, the spirit was off. 

-Amanda, badcritic




Thursday, March 10, 2011

Quiet Please Murder

Surround-sound systems, Netflix, creaky bedframes. The modern apartment-dweller is a dangerous threat to the mild-mannered hermit of today. The neighbours upstairs, a duo of loose personal habits, are such shadowy figures. Their leaden footsteps can be heard thumping upwards and downwards, one foot in-front of the other (which they find the most effective means of walking!!) They never slumber, except in bed and at night. Sight, sound, and smell, we are as conjoined twins in a freak fair.

My inner thoughts are not so present to me as the constant and muffled throb of their bass stereo and television. Commercials, when disembodied, take on an especially spooky and mystical presence. With no vision to guide us, our piecemeal narrative is cobbled together from the characters' alternating shrieking and dulcet tones. A girl breaks out into song but you just can't pin down the source of her lyrical passion. It could be love, it could be something that comes out of a microwave. A man is summoned to his court martial or a Coors Light Yacht Party. But we always recognize the ethereal voice of the toothpaste harpy, who broods dreamingly along while writing the long, long drama of mouth hygiene.

We long for the simpler times of rented housing, before the industrialized high-rise but some point after the reveil of a bugel in the Prussian army. I reckon the precise sweet spot was 1925, Little Portugal (or as it was known at the time, El Fuego del Toro). This was the golden age of louse-leased apartments, when a landlord was a landlord, a tenant was a tenant, and a homeless man a nuisance. The latter could rise to the former, and the former could fall off a ladder, but none could be all three.*

-Amanda, badcritic


*Except Rango 'The Banana' Seagoon, who ascented, plateau'd and descent'd the social rungs in a burst of spontaneousness and high blood pressure.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Excerpts from a Male Art History Student's Notebook

The following excerpts have been retrieved from an abandoned Five-Star notebook lying beneath the conference table in the graduate seminar room, Sidney Smith Hall, Toronto. We debated posting its contents but, after our Craigslist ad was not answered, proceeded with our investigative reporting into the male psyche.


Jan 14th - Class introduction, Professor [illegible--many umlauts over letters]

Today was my first art history seminar and, judging by the attention I received from my class-mates, I am pretty confident that I will be getting my seat again.

Even after surveying the more casual attire of my younger classmates, I did not regret my outfit: a three piece Sears suit which had seen me through twenty-two years of investment banking, and five of those years as an investment banker.

I seat myself at the far end of the seminar table. As a man familiar with the cut-throat tactics of midrise buildings, I act preemptively. I make sure to look everyone straight in the eye for ten seconds, unblinking.

The professor enters and begins his address. He has a thick European accent which I often mistake for one of joking humour, so I laugh at regular intervals to show my attentiveness.

My seat-mate passes me a copy of the course syllabus and I cannot contain my shock at its being free. Always wary of hand-outs, and mindful of the old maxim 'Nothing in life is free,' I ask and ask often.

I do some mental math. A free syllabus...(x) For every student...(y) In every class...(=) At this rate the university will be in financial ruin!

Apparently my last musing was not just written, but audibly spoken. I hastily explain myself and, for good measure, mention my previous career.

People are now asking for my networth. It's hard to say since all of my money has been invested in pancake batter, which is a very volatile market.

Editor's note: This is the last sentence of the page entitled 'Class introduction,' and also the last legible sentence of the notebook until March 4th. The bulk of the notebook before March is either marked with coffee stains, chicken scratch (and chicken feed), or crudely drawn caricatures of fire-breathing females (presumably classmates) with the word 'feminist' variously misspelt above their heads.

March 4th - Lecture Number.... [a prime number]

Today Professor Sauerkrautsucker spent thirty minutes of class trying to load a youtube video via the university's dial-up network. The video was meant to elucidate his lecture on Mycenaean pisspots. It was a thirty-second clip of Mayor Rob Ford touring the ROM's Greco-Roman collection, clearly confusing a red-figured pot for a Ming Dynasty vase. All the students agreed that it was the most amazing thing they had ever seen, and not at all stupid or annoying.

I have taken most of their precious remarks about this thing or that thing and I have taken them lying down. But no more. This is the last straw that poked the eye of the camel. I didn't get fired from my office just so I could listen to a room full of fire-breathing liberal artisans who claim they have a "sense" of humour yet reject my recitation of last night's Letterman monologue (do you know how hard it is to memorize those?). I didn't read a horoscope in the Metro four months ago telling me to reinvent my life and take up a new calling just so I could sit at the far end of the conference table in their precious little Mycenaean pisspot seminar. I didn't sign up to lead a presentation on an article in a language I couldn't understand just to be told by someone that my voice probably sounds much sexier in my head.

These are all things I did not ask for, and men who look for love by attending the seminars of emotionally unavailable women in the art history department should be ashamed of myself.

Editor - Amanda, badcritic

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

You Can Lead A Horse to Water and Other Sociological Functions

I have often wondered how graduate programs go about preparing students for academic stardom and fame. An answer came just the other day, in a roundabout form. It came from British Columbia, via their University's Department of Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies department--there was much fighting about the order. They have issued a call for conference papers in the following theme. I quote: "Water."

WATER IS BEST: THE ROLE OF WATER IN THE ANCIENT WORLD

To Thales of Miletus, water was the source of all things. Pindar exclaimed that water is best. In Genesis, before the creation of the world, Elohim sweeps over preexisting waters. Water is an omnipresent element and theme throughout antiquity. lt is a source of physical life, an element that nurtures and unites cultures and civilizations, and a force that defies control. The dual aspects of Water, as a Provider and as a destroyer, are reoccurring themes throughout human history. Water is depicted in literature and art, monumental architecture was built to carry it, and it was often used by religious groups as a symbol and as a part of rituals. Water was harnessed to supply cities, to cleanse sins, and to represent political power, but just as easily it can sweep away cities or even whole civilizations, be a setting for Warfare, and become a stormy obstacle for travel. Whether controlled by man or in its natural state, water flows through all aspects of civilizations, from the physical to the spiritual world.

We are seeking graduate student papers on any topic related to this theme. Suggested topics for papers include:


-Sociological function of water
-Symbolic use of rivers
-Water as landmarks/barriers

-Political philosophy of water
-Transportation
-Symbols of purification
-Non-utilitarian uses of water
-Water as a literary motif
-Religious significance

I have reread this statement a dozen times, probably in the faint hope that I, or the conference panel behind it, have misunderstood something of each other. But there it stands--the department has asked something of us, and that something is a brief history of water, widely regarded as the broadest substance outside of land. But what exactly can be said about water under the duress of brevity? I don't know how things are over at the Department of CNERS, but I think I am safe in saying that nothing takes up more of a person's time than explaining the relevance of our moist brethren. It is the most time-consuming thing there is. In order to deliver the kind of paper this department wants, our scholar must try to encompass as many sources on his subject as possible so as not to underemphasize the "omnipresence" of this element. And, to collect this knowledge (which ought to be first hand knowledge, don't you think), our scholar will need to go a step further and require himself to be immersed not just figuratively but literally, and then a step beyond that and require that our scholar sail around the Cape Horn in imitation of Jason and his argonauts. This leads to infinity, and to no essays. Which might well be the goal of the clever panel in the first place.

Under such aquatic preconditions, the conference then becomes the paragon of human intelligence, breeding Jacques Cousteaus instead of Jacques Derridas.

-Amanda, badcritic