Thursday, September 17, 2009

good news! god's shitty car fleet and shallow faith.

so it's official. i am a resident of canada until 2011. today i went to the border at sumas. there are all sorts of funny rules about border stuff. one of them is not to be funny. i had one friend who, when asked if he was bringing weapons into the country, said "just these guns" and held up his arms. the border agent was not amused, and said humorlessly, "pull your car over and come on in." they proceeded to interrogate him and his wife for almost 2 hours.

another funny rule about the borders is the sudden change that happens when you exit one building and go into the next. one second, you're in canadian jurisdiction. the next, it's american. anyways, along those lines, when i went to apply for my canadian work visa, i was told that i had to actually walk over to the american building and walk back so that i would be entering canada and then applying. i could not apply unless i was coming in.

anyhow, despite walking to the american side and returning, they told me i didn't have the correct documents to apply and that i needed something called a labor market opinion. unfortunately, that would take weeks, and i needed the visa asap!

i called jill and she, being the wonderful woman she is, scoured the canadian immigration website, and found that i could apply for what's called an open visa (because of her job). so we went down to the border again TONIGHT and got it without a hitch. in the end, it was a better and less restricted work visa. that's good news.

it was also a good reminder that just when i thought my life was going well, little things can throw a big snag into it. and the lesson i learned (and quickly forgot) when our camry was giving us trouble on the road west was "the car doesn't get you there. God does." (to which i'd often add the refrain, "it's a bummer God keeps such shitty cars, though.")

so today while there was a big snag looming, i happened to be listening to david bazan's new album, curse your branches. i've been a fan of bazan's christian/sad bastard act, but his new album marks a definitive break. some have even called it his "break up" album with God. (the title curse your branches should have given that away). i was inclined today to agree with bazan: "all the fallen leaves should curse their branches." but then things ended up working out.

it makes it seem as though i have a shallow faith, to sway so much at the shadow of trouble. reminds me of that verse (oh yea, that verse...) from james about men who doubt being like ships driven around by the waves. men who doubt are unstable.

so, in honor of doubt, and david bazan, i'm going to try and blog what i envision to be a three part review of his album. we'll see how it turns out. could be terrible.

p.s. one last thing: vonage in canada is the bomb. we have an american virtual number, so all our american friends can ring us...and we have a canadian number so our canadian friends can ring us as well. huzzah!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

connoisseur of style (manuals)

as i settle into my new life in langley, bc, i am re-entering a place i haven't been in a while: the academic world of patrick henry college. by that i mean that i'm mostly returning to the basic lessons i learned there and applying them as i begin to teach foreign students who aspire to attend north american graduate school. in my usual cavalier style, i have dismissed most of the stuff handed to me and insisted on reinventing the wheel. instead of looking to one textbook, i am culling through all the collective manuals i have consulted in the past, like strunk & white and my old rhetoric book. i am also taking lessons from other style manuals that are new to me, such as joseph williams's book.

this is not to say that for the last several years i haven't ever consulted the trusty old elements of style, or that the lessons taught to me were forgotten and left unapplied. indeed, dr. smith's rhetoric class was one of the best classes on how-to-BS that i've ever taken (it also taught me about substance, fyi). but i am consulting them more often as i attempt to go about teaching writing myself. it is true, what they say about teaching. you never learn it better than when you teach. this summer, for example, i taught a philosophy class and finally acquired an actual affinity for aristotle that i had been pretending to have for years. going back through these style manuals has really turned me into a beast of style. whether it's a good or bad beast remains yet to be seen.

on a separate note, i wonder what mrs. bergel, my 11th grade english teacher, would say if she knew i were teaching writing. she would probably be proud (and confused). though in truth, my ability to write really has nothing to do with her. in fact, she almost turned me away from writing with her withering red slashes. she was one of those frustrating teachers who would destroy my papers on account of poor writing but never offer a helping hand. now that i think about it, i don't think i ever had a teacher lend a helping hand. i just learned at some point, i guess? i remember my 12th grade teacher enjoyed my writing much more, and i felt empowered. but i don't think i really got a handle on writing until somebody handed me a copy of strunk & white. or rather, made me buy a copy. so perhaps i should thank dr. smith. he had the same withering red pen (i once watched him grade a stack of complex bibliography exercises without ever consulting a manual himself; the man was a certifiable genius), but at least he gave me the tools to correct it myself.

incidentally, i would like to say that having gone through several other style manuals, i still believe strunk & white is perfectly useful. anyone who doesn't take a style manual with a grain of salt should have their head examined. yeah, strunk & white can seem a little bossy at times, but so can the people who excoriate it so viciously.

EDIT: for all you wonderful people who are reading this (none, i suspect), don't take this post as an opportunity to write nasty comments on my style and grammar. it's a blog for strunk's sake!