Urban Exploration: there is an app for that, but what does it mean?

Balaisis poster - final

When the English Department Reads for Fun…

all-my-puny-sorrowsI asked a few faculty and graduate students about the best non-work related book they read this summer. The results are great fun. –JLH

Bruce Dadey, Lecturer
This summer I read—yes, for fun—The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman, a classic book on how designers of objects meet or fail to meet the needs of their users. The fun thing about the book is that Norman writes for the most part about very mundane, everyday things, like doorknobs or telephones, and because all of us have at one time or another pulled when we should have pushed a door or cursed while trying to figure out the numberless features of our office phone, it’s very easy to understand and appreciate the points he makes. The book is older (1988), but the faults Norman points out are as relevant and common today as they were then (Hello Windows 8!). Also, I can’t look at anything now without wondering how I might design it to work better or more intuitively.

Andrew Deman, Lecturer
My pick:  Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection by Gail Simone and Ardian Syaf.  As someone who has studied the (often terrible) portrayal of women in  comics, I found it really refreshing to see comics’ foremost female  scribe beautifully tackle an iconic superheroine, and create a  portrayal that is compelling yet relatably human at the same time.

Michael Hancock, PhD Candidate
My favorite book this summer was Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation, the first book in the Southern Reach Trilogy. I think the book is best described as H. P. Lovecraft meets the Russian film Stalker; the plot is that a small expedition of women have been sent to investigate a strange, new area of the United States where the laws of physics and causality no longer hold sway. Like Lovecraft and Stalker, the core concept of the book is interrogating the fragility of our notions of rationality and scientific understanding, but with a more nuanced consideration of gender and the individual.

Alysia Kolentsis, Assistant Professor
My favourite book from Summer 2014 was Miriam Toews’ All My Puny Sorrows. Why? Well, perhaps unexpectedly for a book about grief, loss, and the maddening tangles of family life, it is grimly hilarious, and beautifully observed. It has so many devastating sentences — astonishing needle-pricks of truth — that cause you to look up from the page and think, yes. Also, the characters of Yoli, Elfrieda, and (most of all) their mother, stayed with me for a long time after I finished reading.

Murray McArthur, Associate Professor
This summer I read One Three One:  A Time-Shifting Gnostic Hooligan Road Novel by Julian Cope, once frontman of the post-punk The Teardrop Explodes (I have no idea who they were) and the author of The Megalithic Europeans.  Set in Sardinia around the central 131 Highway (hence road), the novel explores intersections between revenge for the English disasters on Sardinia during World Cup or Italia 90 (hence hooligan) and the networks of neolithic or megalithic  stone portals (hence gnostic and time-shifting).  Can’t really recommend it, but it was fun

Virginia Shay, PhD candidate
My favourite leisure book this summer was Americanah by Chimamanda  Ngozie Adichie. It’s a novel about Ifemelu, a woman from Lagos,  Nigeria who moves to America to complete her university education, and  starts a blog about her experiences being a non-American black woman  in the United States. It’s a really insightful and humorous book, and  features many of her blog posts, with titles like “Why Dark-Skinned  Black Women–Both American and Non-American–Love Barack Obama” and “A  Michelle Obama Shout-Out, Plus Hair as Race Metaphor.” Absolutely  loved reading it!


English Professors talk Sony Playstation

sony playstationThe Games Institute invites you to a talk by Colin Milburn, Professor of English, Science and Technology Studies, and Cinema and Technocultural Studies, University of California- Davis, in DC Room 1304 on Thursday, Oct. 16, 1:30-2:30pm. After the talk, we will be heading back to the Games Institute situated at EC1 (formerly known as Blackberry1) for refreshments where you can converse with Colin who is also a part of the IMMERSe network. We ask that you kindly register on the Eventbrite page.

Here is a short description about the talk: Launched in 2006, the Sony PlayStation Network (PSN) is an online network platform that connects millions of videogame consoles, handheld devices, and media servers around the world. This talk will examine the various gamer narratives that spontaneously emerged to make sense of the network outage in 2011. This was when the PSN became a battleground between corporate IP policies and the global hacker community, resulting in a massive hacker attack on the Sony databases that compromised the personal data of many millions of PSN users. It also rendered the PSN inoperative for a month, triggering a surge of anger, anxiety, distress, and woe among gamers worldwide. For more information, please go to the GI website.

Thank you to The Games Institute for the above text. Photo credit: Etsy.

New Issue of The Canadian Journal of Disability Studies

TTC in wheelchairWhat TTC looks like in a wheelchair.

Another new Issue of The Canadian Journal of Disability Studies , housed at the University of Waterloo, and edited by English professor Jay Dolmage, is now live.

Please read, download, share widely, and respond!

The CJDS is an Open Access, accessible journal.  We have now reached 20,897 readers.

Vol 3, No 3 (September 2014) Features:

Living and Working Precariously with an Episodic Disability: Barriers in the Canadian Context
Andrea Vick

“Swept to the sidelines and forgotten”: Cultural Exclusion, Blind Persons’ Participation, and International Film Festivals
Isabel Pedersen and Kristen Aspevig

Disability and Social Work Education in the United Kingdom
MacDonald Judy, Irene Carter, Roy Hanes, Suzanne McMurphy, and Stephanie Skinner

Access to traumatic spinal cord injury care in Saskatchewan, Canada: A qualitative study on community healthcare provider perspectives
Katherine Knox, Noelle Rohatinsky, Marla Rogers,         Donna Goodridge, and Gary Linassi

Resisting Disability, Claiming HIV: Introducing the Ability Contract and Conceptualizations of Liberal Citizenship
Ally Day

Review of Facing Eugenics by Erika Dyck
Jen Rinaldi

Review of Becoming Women by Carla Rice
Kaley Roosen

Review of Disability Incarcerated
Bonnie Burstow

Image credit

Twenty Chapter Book Series with Interesting Heroines for Early Readers, 6-8

Anna HibiscusFollowing the blog post “Fifty Children’s Picture Books with Interesting Heroines,” I was asked about doing a similar post on chapter books. The category of children’s “chapter books” is a relatively recent invention. Aimed at early readers, they feature short chapters with lots of illustrations, and are usually conceived of as part of a series. As parents know, they aren’t always particularly riveting—in fact, they can be quite annoying. (A surprising number of those penned for young girls appear to be junior versions of Mean Girls.) The following chapter books had to meet several criteria: suitable for six to eight year olds; an interesting female lead or co-protagonist; positive reviews from critics and parents; and stories that I anticipate won’t drive me up the wall if I do end up having to read them aloud.

Anna Hibiscus (Atinuke)
Set in Africa, these beautifully illustrated books have earned rave reviews. A fun note: Anna’s mother is from Canada.

Ruby and the Booker Boys (Derrick Barnes)
An African American girl with three older brothers navigates school life, trying to forge her own way.

Violet MViolet Mackerel (Anna Bradford)
A charming and funny series from Australia featuring a thoughtful heroine who lives with her mother and two siblings. They don’t have a lot of money, but the close-knit family compensates in other ways.

The Magic School Bus (Joanna Cole)
A well-known series which teaches children about science.

Heidi Hecklebeck (Wanda Coven)
The heroine tackles the usual schoolyard problems of a girl her age–but with magic.

Daisy (Kes Gray)
A humorous British series about a determined young girl who gets into scrapes. The first book, Eat Your Peas, won a major British award.

Ruby Lu (Lenore Look)
An entertaining series featuring a Chinese-American heroine who has the best of intentions, even if they go awry.

Gooney Bird (Lois Lowry)
A series by an award-winning American author featuring an energetic heroine whose stories turn out to be not quite as outlandish as they initially seem.

quillWendy Quill (Wendy Meddour)
I knocked Stella Batts off of the list after discovering Wendy Quill’s riotous adventures. Fun fact: the author’s pre-teen daughter illustrates the series.

Marty McGuire (Kate Messner)
A spirited tomboy and her adventures are at the centre of this amusing series. Marty is reminiscent of Beverley Cleary’s Ramona.

Magic Tree House (Mary Pope Osborne)
Two children travel through time to different periods in history.

Amelia Bedelia (Herman Parish)
The chapter books feature a contemporary school-age Amelia and her friends. Readers who like jokes will appreciate the literal-minded Amelia.

The Kingdom of Wrenly (Jordan Quinn)
A prince and the daughter of a seamstress go adventuring, and meet all the usual magical creatures: trolls, mermaids, giants, etc.

Cobble Street Cousins (Cynthia Rylant)
The girls live with their aunt while their parents travel with a ballet company. This is a gentle, happy series. Rylant’s Lighthouse Family series is also worth a look: the lighthouse keeper is a female cat who rescues other animals.

cowgirlCowgirl Kate and Cocoa (Erica Silverman)
An amusing series, set on a ranch. Cocoa the horse is a bit of a shirker.

Young Precious Ramotswe (Alexander McCall Smith)
A well-written mystery series, set in Botswana.

Harriet Bean (Alexander McCall Smith)
Another mystery series, nicely plotted, with lots of humour. Harriet lives with her father, the classic absent-minded inventor.

Mimi and Maty (Brooke Smith)
A mystery series about two friends who rescue animals.

Iggy and Me (Jenny Valentine)
A British series in which the heroine recounts the antics of her irrepressible little sister, Iggy.

Daisy Dawson (Steve Voake)
An absolutely lovely series about a little girl who can talk to animals—and they talk back. Parents love this series.

Canadian Flyer Adventures (Frieda Wishinsky)
Children travel in time to experience Canadian history.

There are obvious absences here: many people like Ivy & Bean, Junie B. Jones, Clementine, Judy Moody, Just Grace, Sophie the Awesome, Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew, etc.; others find the behaviors of some characters a bit too much and/or not appropriate to the age range. (Since these are people who seem to like Ramona Quimby, they clearly aren’t opposed to spunky girls). It is worth reading reviews on sites like Amazon to decide what might be appropriate for your reader. As always, feel free to add suggestions in the comments. For additional multicultural titles see here.

Thank you to all the absolutely amazing people who sent suggestions!—JLH

What is in the Stratford Festival Archives?

promptThe first meeting of the Waterloo Renaissance Workshop will be held Thursday, October 9, from 4-5 p.m. in Hagey Hall 232. Toby Malone, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Waterloo’s Department of Drama and Speech Communication, will discuss his current course of research, which involves the digital, parallel-text codification of the prompt-book collections at the Stratford Festival Archives. Toby will speak to the history of the project and will outline the practical and dramaturgical opportunities that arise from considering theatrical archives as sites of generative work.

Toby Malone holds a PhD from the University of Toronto’s Graduate Centre for Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies (2009) and is an alumnus of the University of Western Australia and Massey College. He has worked as a professional theatre artist with companies which include the Stratford Festival, the Canadian Stage Company, Young People’s Theatre, Soulpepper, the Australian Shakespeare Company, the Shaw Festival, Driftwood, Poorboy Theatre Scotland, and the Arizona Theatre Company.

The Waterloo Renaissance Workshop is a new forum for the presentation and discussion of research on early modern English literature and culture. It will offer opportunities for students, faculty, and independent scholars to share their work with other specialists in a more relaxed setting than conferences and formal lectures normally provide. The format will vary, but meetings will usually begin with a 20-30 minute presentation, followed by discussion for the rest of the hour. Conversations may continue beyond this, aided by refreshments.

Thank you to the Waterloo Renaissance Workshop for the text of this post.

Congratulations to PhD candidate Tommy Mayberry

Tommy Mayberry - Double Portrait-1

Congratulations to English Department PhD candidate Tommy Mayberry, who has received an award supporting his dissertation research from the Social Sciences and Humanities Resource Council of Canada. Tommy’s project is titled “The Gaga Academy: Drag Bodies in/as Subjective Scholarship.” For those interested in learning more, Tommy was a participant in Waterloo’s Three Minute Thesis competition: