Tuesday, January 12, 2010


It was pointed out to me a while ago that I have a very limited notion of what Canada is: after all I've never been further east than Toronto, nor any further north, nor I have I been any further to the west than Sarnia (which is nothing at all like Narnia or Yarnia). And I will freely admit that my experience moving to Canada has been limited to moving to Southwestern Ontario.

I can further admit that my experience with living here has been pretty much limited to a fairly closed group of intellectual elites whose experiences have little to do with the vast majority of Canadians, Ontarians, or Londoners. This is, of course, probably somewhat true of my life in Nashville, as well, although that is more skewed toward a sub-culture of yarn-lovers than academics. I digress. The point here is this: in the United States, we tend to be aware of only a few parts of Canada: those that touch the U.S., those that appear on U.S. television (i.e. Vancouver, although we are sometimes led to believe it is some faceless U.S. city), Toronto, or places where the skiing is good (i.e. Banff). We tend to ignore the flat bits that provide most of our energy.

Of course we ignore the flat bits of the U.S. that provide most of our food, too. In politics, the middle section of the United States are often called "fly over" states.

I've been ruminating over this for a while. Several months, in fact.

I have recently discovered Project Runway: Canada, and it is fab.u.lous. But here's the thing. It isn't just we Americans who are Ontario-centric. Of the show's 14 contestants, fully half hail from Ontario. Of those 7, 4 are from Toronto, and I'm pretty sure that a couple of the others are from what could fairly be called "Toronto-adjacent," although my geography isn't strong enough to be sure.

My point is if I am guilty of Ontario-centrism, so is the vast majority of Canadian media. Furthermore, I had to call this blog something and "Jess Moves to Southwestern Ontario and Socializes with Elites" doesn't have quite the same ring as "Jess Moves to Canada." Understand that I have only one experience of moving to this vast and diverse country. Someone who moved to Manitoba to farm cattle would have a completely different experience of Canadian culture than I am having.

But making observations about culture is my job, and I'm going to continue to do it. (Seriously, this is what musicologists do. I can't really turn it off. It is a little obnoxious, sometimes.) Just because they don't sell milk in bags in British Columbia doesn't mean that some of the observations I have found about Canadians aren't true across the board, and as true for the dude who makes my coffee as it is for my students as it is for Elisha Cuthbert, Dave Foley or Jim Carey. But there are also other cultures I comment on: for example that of 19-year-olds and that of crabby, sarcastic academics, and that's because this blog is about Jess moving to Canada. I can only report and consider my own experiences, and I'm going to carry on with that.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year's Wishes

I don't think New Year's Resolutions work. I've been a regular gym goer long enough to see what happens around Valentine's day: 6 weeks after they've been all excited about working out, getting into shape, whatever, over half of those enthusiastic people are no where to be seen.

I also found this year that I didn't really want stuff for Christmas. I have enough and my house is full. What I really wanted was to spend meaningful time with the people I care about. And I got that. Don't get me wrong, there is stuff I want or need in this world, but almost none of it would be rendered more meaningful because a friend or family member spent money on it.

So. For New Year's I have some wishes.

1. I am hoping for a sense of academic direction: lately I've felt a bit aimless and lost in my work. Now that I'm done with classes, I'm hoping that rather than becoming a slug person, watching Mad Men reruns, knitting, and eating pasta in my increasingly dirty apartment, I will instead get excited about my work again, and charge forward in a confident research direction.

2. I am hoping for the possibility of living in the same place as my husband.

3. I would like to spend more time with the people who are important to me.

4. It would be great if one of the multiple conferences I have sent abstracts to will say "yes, please come show us how smart you are."

5. I would like to be more goal directed in my fitness. Things sort of fell to bits after the race back in October, and I would like to get that back, without the burn out that I had in the highest mileage weeks before it. I would also like to have energy and fit better into my pants.

6. I would like to not feel guilty about knitting. Not guilty enough that I am able to start knitting with groups of knitters in London. That would be awesome.

Happy New Year's!