Sunday, August 23, 2015

Communication 001

Whoa. So. Communication.

It's not an easy thing to apply in everyday life.

I'm pretty good at it, but I have so much more to learn.

before i puslibsh htis

i publish too quidckly

thankfully, this place is where i am free

truly free

this university

i wish for it

to flourish

and i cannot seem to communicate well

with the right people

all the time

some of the times

i communicate with the completely wrong people about all the right things

and sometimes

i talk too much



Monday, August 3, 2015

Review of Julius Caesar in High Park

[Headmaster's note: I did not attend this play; too much caffeine and sugar, basically.]

Blog Post #4 – Review of Julius Caesar in High Park by Eric Stober, B.A. from Queen's University, Ontario.

·         From June to the first week in September, there are “pay-what-you-can” Shakespeare plays in High Park, rotating between Julius Caesar and A Comedy of Errors
On August 1, I checked out the production of Julius Caesar
·         I arrived an hour early and got settled next to a family of avid readers
o   Note that you should arrive at least an hour early to find a spot to sit, as it quickly fills up
·         Before I knew it, a man was shouting poetry in the middle of the audience, and a woman who apparently was celebrating her 50th birthday went on stage and put her bra on the title card
o   It wasn’t until a man in a volunteer shirt began talking Shakespeare style that it was apparent that these shenanigans were all part of the act, an introduction to the theme of political power and oppression that came up throughout the play
·         That theme of how political power is exercised is no doubt one of the most interesting aspects of the play, and what I will focus on
o   For the first part of the play, Julius Caesar is an ambitious man leading Rome, with the potential to become a tyrant
o   That potential can not be stood by a group of conspirators, lead by Cassius, who plan to kill Caesar and restore liberty to Rome
·         After killing Caesar, what follows could be considered more anarchy than liberty and freedom, and instead of a more just political system replacing Caesar’s cult of personality, a military system is put in place by Octavius, with Mark Anthony at his side
o   Riot police come into the scene, and Octavius in the end gains control of Rome through his calculated military power
·         The production clearly made a connection between Octavius’s heavy handed rule to the current government of Canada, where fear and a strong police presence creates order for a population seemingly more concerned with catchy electronic dance music and texting their friends than the freedoms that are slowly being take away [Headmistress' note: Emphasis mine.]
o   I appreciated this connection from an ancient Roman political story to Canada’s current political climate, although it was a tad heavy handed

·         Overall, Julius Caesar in High Park sent a message in the end that got you thinking about the current state of affairs here in Canada and how they may have gone somewhere we never wanted to be

Friday, July 31, 2015

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Hello, my name is Eric. For my first post in the Illustrious University I would like to discuss a subject that has entered my mind recently, and that subject is money. Given that I have recently graduated from university with a Bachelor of Arts, I have come to the point where I need to start thinking about what it is in life I would like to achieve.
Many might say money is something to achieve. They go to university as a kind of training for a job which will gain them financial security. To do what? Perhaps have a family, become independent, afford to have a car, etc. All of those things sound great. But maybe it is my privileged middle class brain talking, but is that all there is to life? At the current moment, although given I am not paying rent or for groceries, money is not at the core of my thought. I get a paycheck, a little number goes up on my computer screen- I buy something nice, that number goes down. It all seems fairly inconsequential to me.
Then what is it that one should be striving for, if material success does not quite cut it? I recently read a book called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (a decent read I would recommend). That book talked about Quality, where there is a somewhat rational, but in other ways irrational sense of what makes certain things good, perhaps better than other things. It seems to me that this idea of Quality, of achieving excellence, is a good goal to achieve. But what is excellence? I believe some part of it is rational, that when composing a product you should take care to make sure every part works together, that nothing is wildly out of place, that you have not said more than you need to. This rationality is like composing a good argument, and what often leads to achieving As in essays.
Another part of achieving Quality I believe is not completely rational, it is an element of passion and care you place into the work you do. It is a feeling within yourself that what you are doing is worthy of your time and energy, and thus placing extra worth into the product. Maybe you could call it the multiple editings of your work to make sure it is as polished and exact as possible. Care seems to me to be an important part of Quality, for I could attempt to write the most rational, well composed piece on something I have no interest in, but many would likely agree that it will always be inferior to a product I put care into, that I have invested myself into.
Overall, this post has been a contemplative one about what one might want to strive for in life. Although it seems western society tends to place an emphasis on doing what is necessary to obtain wealth, which many use as a measurement of their own success, in my view there comes a point when having more nice things is not what I want to live for. I am pretty sure that as soon as I start going out for dinner more, have my own place, or become completely independent and not reliant on birthday money, money will be much more important to me. However, right now I’m lucky enough to be able to go all philosophical on the whole concept. So instead of looking at money as the end all be all, I have outlined the idea of Quality, the care and thought one seemingly should put into their efforts. I would like to explore more the irrational side of Quality, what makes one care about one thing over another, but perhaps that will be for another post. Until then, I hope you found this a little interesting, and please leave your thoughts on the subject below.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The business of education, Part One

Hey! Welcome to class. I'm Professor Gabe.
What - are you angry that I get to call myself a professor?
If you're reading these lines, there's nothing stopping you from being a professor here... except my cunning and cruel entrance exam. There are also openings for assistant professors and layout design (i.e. web designers), but there's not much money in it for you. Actually, I can't really pay you, being a broke university student myself. Maybe I could give you private french lessons or something.

Anyway (wait, let me turn off Call me maybe... there we go. It's been on repeat for the past 15 minutes), let's get right to business.

Education is big business in Canada. We pride ourselves on our education system, as we rightfully should. Education is universally recognized as a measure of success (well, at least in my world). Money is also a measure of success - but then what is success? What does it mean to be "successful"? I'm not here to answer that question, as I'm not really at a stage in my life where I can successfully answer that question. I prefer to save that question for when I'm feeling more philosophical.

No, today I'm going to be talking about:

  1. The relationship between universities and money - specifically pertaining to UofT as this is where I am most experienced
  2. Why Academia Illustrae is nothing like the big-box universities and finally
  3. My dream of creating a symbiotic academic institution
Let's get right into it. 
Two nights ago at the most primitive of hours, I was on Facebook talking to a relatively new friend of mine about the course we were both talking at UofT. I've been doing fairly well in this particular (history/canadian literature) course and was perhaps gloating a little too much about my recent accomplishments to him when he dropped something on me: "Gabe", he said, "I've talked to Professor R. and I'm dropping the course. No matter how hard I try, I can't seem to even get a B. I've evaluated my options, and my best course of action is just to drop it and take it again in September after working on my grammar and history analysis skills." After trying to dissuade him for a little bit, I understood his point of view and wished him the very best for September. I should mention he's a bright person, same age as me,  different socioeconomic background, and we easily became friends out of a common fear of our teachers.

This specific course that I'm talking about is pretty intensive. Yes, it's very much like a first-year university course, but with a small class size and probably a bigger workload than the average course you'll find at 1st year level. There are about 50% fewer students now than when we started in January. So it's not surprising to still see people dropping out this late in the game.

But here's where it gets interesting. Today, after yet another boring rehashing-type of lecture where we vaguely hear about random facts that pertain to Canadian history (if you care, we're in the 1930s), I was talking to this particular friend of mine (this time in person), and he dropped a bombshell: He wasn't dropping the course anymore - not because he really changed his mind... but because he could not get a penny back from UofT. 

As you might be aware, most universities have a "refund schedule". From the moment you pay a registration fee and go through all the hoops to be enrolled at a public Canadian university, you start losing money. You can get a lot of it back, of course, through proper time management, bursaries and scholarships, but it's a huge hassle and it's not necessarily easy. Life gets in the way, sometimes.

So my friend is now going to stay in the class because it'd be a total waste of money not to. He's not particularly passionate about the course itself or the teacher, even though he and I both find Canadian history somewhat interesting. He'd much rather switch to the English lit course.

Anyway. What's the point of this whole anecdote, you might ask?
It's simple, and it's a realization I came to a few years ago after hearing so many of my student friends bitch and moan about how expensive tuition is, and how annoying some of their profs can be.

Universities in this modern day and age, regardless of whether they're "private" or "public" are businesses.
It shouldn't be this way.
Education should be free from economic restraints.

Universities (and colleges etc.) function like businesses. Now, I'm no business major, but they might even classify as corporations as far as the law is concerned. That doesn't sound right.

And boy are they good at getting your money. There's fees for using such and such a service, student union fees, athletic facilities access fees, club fees etc. And there's the books, too, but that's a whole other can of worms. In fact, we have one student here at this very institution who is quite well acquainted with the absurdity of the textbook situation at her own school and who can probably elucidate that question much better than I can at this present moment in time.
But that's not all. As my father recounts to me: if you're an alumni of a university, you get pestered to "donate" money to the cause every year. You give them money once you're in there, and get hustled for money once you're out. Pretty good business plan.

Why are universities out to get your money? Because they can. If you don't have money, but you have a very, very smart brain, they also like that because it brings them money in the long run, too.

Why are universities so cash-strapped? Are they? I don't know the answer to this question, but I/someone might explore it some other time.

Once you're done paying huge sums of money to a university, you get a piece of paper that shows employers that you've done a lot of theory (and perhaps some practice too) in your field and that you're qualified for the job. Maybe. And then once you land that job, you can start family planning and buying houses and boats and cars and all sorts of material goods.
Or you can live the life of an academic and write papers and theory and get paid by the business that just robbed you blind.

But it's so backward. At the poorest stage in your life, you impoverish yourself to make money later on in life. There should be a completely different status quo, and that's why I founded Academia Illustrae.

Well, I'm quite tired and I have some reading to do for my "real" class, and I have a midterm coming soon, so the other two topics I mentioned earlier on will get their own post another time.

Have a good night.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Music as a language

My name is Kaylie, or Kee, or Kimi.... or whatever, and I'd like to consider myself tri-lingual. English, French (although my french does need a little polishing), and Music. Wait, what? I know, I know, not a real language Kaylie, but what I'd like to know is WHY NOT?

Google defines language as:

1.The method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.
2. Any nonverbal method of expression or communication: "a language of gesture and facial expression".

So I guess Music doesn't really fit into the 'spoken or written' part of that definition, but a nonverbal method of expression? Sounds quite a bit like Music... and painting...and dance...and I could go on. Hm. Okay, I see that a line needs to be drawn somewhere.

Well, let's look at arguments towards Music being a language:

  • There is a written form that takes time to learn to read and write. And with this written form someone can get the almost exact replica of what the writer was intending, all that is missing is the emotion.

  • This written form of music has proper grammar. Yep, a right way and a wrong way to present this written Music... there are even exceptions to these grammatical rules.
  • I suppose the spoken language of Music is that which is played by an instrument. This language, instead of expressing ideas from the mind, takes a different route and goes for emotions from the heart. Communicating in emotions eliminates the potential towards language barrier, except of course towards those who struggle with emotions.

  • More people understand Music than speak it, more people speak Music than read it, and more people read Music than write it. Just like a spoken language.

And here are some reasons why Music might not be a language:

  • It cannot communicate clear ideas. (although spoken language often struggles with this, also)

  • The emotions communicated are open for interpretation by the receiver of the message.... no, actually that one belongs in the arguments for Music.

  • An instrument is necessary to communicate...although using vocal chords is a possibility, and hey, who says vocal chords aren't a tool? Or hands while communicating through sign language.

Yeah, I find it slightly difficult to argue against my own argument, can you tell?

I have spent years studying Music, longer than I have studied French, in fact, and at a certain point, if throughout the years there has been a well rounded studying (not just reading, or playing by ear) eventually it clicks, and an understanding of music is achieved. 'It's amazing how you can pick up an instrument like that!' I am told, but no it really isn't. I understand the language, and although I am expressing it through a different instrument, it is still the same language... it's like I am using a different dialect. It shouldn't be more impressive than me speaking to an Trinidadian in English (although, to be honest, understanding them is kind of impressive.)

And this is the end of this language lesson, next time I will be tackling painting as a language... no not really. But maybe.

So, Music as a language? I think so.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I cannot possibly continue teaching at this institution without first addressing the issue of philosophy - what is it, why do we care what it is, and perhaps more important for students, why is it useful?

Firstly, I should talk about my credentials, for though I resent the overuse of titles in the modern world (e.g. I have a Ph.D, so you clearly know nothing!), I do not deny that they are incredibly beneficial in allowing one to trust knowledge, which is one of the chief aims of philosophy and perhaps more specifically, epistemology.
I lazily graduated high school in 2008, but with a minor lack of credits and low marks, I decided to travel around Canada first and volunteer, living with 10 other teenagers in three different provinces. It is through Katimavik that I realized the benefits of experiential, or informal, learning. I would consider myself a well-traveled Canadian, but not a well-traveled earthling, having yet to escape Canadian boundaries on any of my journeys.

I took a night school philosophy course after Katimavik was over, and it is there that I first met my true educational love. All the other high school subjects I had taken thus far, though interesting some may have been, seemed to lack... depth and purpose. Why did I care that the endoplasmic reticulum was near the mitochondria? Why did it matter that Macdonald was the first prime minister of Canada?

This philosophy course was different from all other courses, because it actually answered questions that had plagued me since my childhood. And if it didn't completely answer all of my questions, it at least made the attempt to address them.
Suddenly, I actually cared about school. I cared that I was making myself smarter. I thought "Hey, if I could earn a living doing this, I'd be pretty damned happy!".

Of course, the common joke since probably the early 20th century (or perhaps since Socrates' time) is that philosophers don't find jobs. One cannot be hired as a "philosopher" in this modern day and age, because there is not a need for them. Really?
I would argue that the world needs more philosophers right now, people who can think and who encourage others to think instead of working a regular 9-5, for "das man", as Heidegger might put it. If people used more philosophy in their daily life, they'd be happier. Happier people benefit society more than sadder people (although economically speaking, depressed people bring a lot of money to the table, especially for rich healthcare companies that profit off others' misfortune).

So here I am. An undergrad student with a passion for philosophy, but with no Ph.D to show for it. Still, I think I have a lot to offer if you care to continue studying at Academia Illustrae. Philosophers, even philosophers-in-training such as I, can teach just about anything. They can even teach it well, especially in the modern day with the help of the internet, as long as they transmute information into knowledge and do not merely dish out facts.

And that is, quite literally, what philosophy is. Love of knowledge. Love of wisdom, to be more specific. Philo means love, and sophy means wisdom.

So really, I am a philosophy student, and a master of my own knowledge, which may or may not be wisdom.

That's the lesson for today. Philosophy!