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Don’t Talk So Good, Not Dumb.

By N. Zelt

Ever speak with someone and not understand a single word they say to you? Then their incomprehensibility leaves you feeling like an idiot, and the other person treating you like one.  Trouble communicating is a failure of both parties, not just the confused one.

Being a student at McGill gives me countless opportunities to interact with people from a plethora of diverse backgrounds. And while English may be an official language in many countries, only a little more than 5% of the global population actually speaks it. Even fewer than that speak English as their native tongue. The result: there is no small number of people in this world who don’t speak English, or don’t speak English well. That’s not even considering that we live in Quebec, where 80% of the population are Francophones. (more…)

Why Montreal is Magnificent for Master’s Students

Photo by Aleks Budarick.

It’s official: Montreal was recently ranked as the best student city in the world.

I’m not surprised. While I’ve only been a post-secondary student in two other cities (one in Ontario and one in Australia), both of which I liked very much, Montreal is the perfect city for my life as a master’s student. Why, you may ask? Well, let me explain some of my reasons.

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Solidification of a story

Gradlife Instagram photo by @steezsister

McGill Gradlife Instagram photo by @steezsister

 

Literally, the word “solidification” means making or becoming hard or solid, making stronger. I like to think of this word as a phase change, like from water to ice, or from magma to crystals or marble. The story that I have told so far in “The beginning of a story” and “Successes: the story continues…” has a liquid status that this text aims to solidify. A character without name will get one, a spatial location will be drawn around his body, a past will carve out his shape throughout the page. (more…)

Being digital humanists….

McGill GradLife instagram photo by @lyly.man

McGill GradLife instagram photo by @lyly.man

Before coming to McGill, I did not know what the expression Digital Humanities means. Now, one year and a half after, I’m focusing my research on this field. I presented it at the last Digital Humanities Showcase that this year took place at McGill on January 26th. It was not only an occasion to share my work with other scholars, but also an example of how this field has become paramount for the curriculum of any graduate student.

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Laura’s Adventures in Montreal: The Opera

Photo by @MustangJoe / @pixabay

Photo by @MustangJoe / @pixabay

Well it’s been a while since my last adventure, but next week I’m off on my next one. This time I’m heading to the opera! Now I know opera is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it gets a bit of a bad rap. Or maybe it’s just people don’t often have the opportunity to experience it. Well I’m here to tell you that it’s more accessible than you might think.

I attended my first opera during my undergrad. It was an university production at the University of Ottawa and a bunch of us went, mainly because we didn’t have other plans and it felt classy. But I was surprised how much I enjoyed the spectacle of it. The music, the vocals, the drama, it was astounding! And thus began my interest in opera. Since then I’ve been lucky enough to attend a number of performances both here in Montreal and elsewhere.

So, if you feel like checking out an opera, how do you go about it? Well I have 2 recommendations for you; Opera McGill or Opera de Montreal. I’ve seen several performance by both companies and not only were they spectacular, but they both offer student discounts for the budget-conscious grad student. (more…)

Successes: the story continues…

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @yogipetals

Instagram @gradlifemcgill Photo by @yogipetals

At the end of The beginning of a story, the story was left open on purpose. Hope, possibility, opportunity, chaos, chance were the words that concluded that post, but now it’s time to add chaos to the unfolded life of that character.

The phone was ringing loudly. The noise annoyed him. He answered to just stop it and did not even speak. On the other side of that coded and decoded connection through which a human voice was reaching him, a man was producing sounds with his mouth. The sequence took form and meaning, became denial of purposes and ideas, refusal of something that the guy had sent to the journal whose the man was an editor. You don’t know anything about what you are writing, do you? You should read this and this and this and I will write everything down but your article was so…empty that I preferred to call you to vomit all my disappointment on you. Sounds, meaning and delusion. 

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So you submitted your thesis… What’s next?

Photo by @GradLifeMcGill instagrammer @aleksbud

Photo by @GradLifeMcGill instagrammer @aleksbud

On December 7, I submitted my master’s thesis. All of my blood, sweat, and tears that went into this project – the entire reason I’m in Montreal and at McGill – all finished with the simple click of the “send” button on an email.

The lead up to this moment was quite substantial. Up late the night before (and many nights before that) I was completing revision after revision, formatting change after formatting change, and figure sizing after figure sizing. The day of submission, I had compiled feedback from all of the necessary parties, read it over a few more times, and then all of a sudden – it was a PDF document. It was official, I was ready to submit my thesis.

Creating the email, I had to make sure all of the necessary forms were attached (“are you SURE this is the right version?!”), and ensure I included everyone on the email that needed to receive the submission. I stared at my computer screen for a while. Then, I clicked send.

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Conferences & Conferences…

 

Photo by a tiny conference organizer (Paolo Saporito)

Photo by a tiny conference organizer (Paolo Saporito)

In any language of this world, Graduate Life’s translation could easily be “Conferences”. Conferences here, conferences there, doesn’t matter who you fero cum or you want to confer (for those of you who understand Latin)…this is a word whose echo stressed, stresses and will stress most of our readers. Then, if you are one of those who have ever wondered “confer…hence?”, you may want to have a look at this post, where I’m going to share with you the amazing experience of being not a speaker, not a presenter, not a panel spectator who struggles to get more free-food than the others, but a conference organizer, the most grey, banal, yet amazing figure in this world of weird translations.

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Dear Edward Snowden…

Instagram @gradlifemcgill // photo by : @digitalpigeons

Instagram @gradlifemcgill // photo by : @digitalpigeons

“Standing in line to

See the show tonight

And there’s a light on

Heavy glow….”

(Lyrics from The Red Hot Chili Peppers – By the Way)

Verses, words that many of us know, words that came to my mind that late afternoon when nobody-knows-how many students, professors, people of the McGill community waited for hours before listening to Edward Snowden. I was among them and I strongly believe that GradLife should have a page about this event, about his words.

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Laura’s Adventures in Montreal: Les Grands Ballets

balletshoes

Image by skeeze, Pixabay

One of the best things about doing graduate studies at McGill is the fact that it’s in Montreal. Unfortunately, due to the long hours in the lab, I often don’t take advantage of all the great things this city has to offer. I’m sure many of you can relate. However, in my struggle to achieve a good work-life balance, I do try and get out on occasion. So I thought I would share some of my adventures with you. Perhaps I can inspire some of you to get out and explore this city as well. Plus I’ll let you in on some of the deals you might be able to take advantage of.

My most recent adventure involved a trip to the ballet. I love the performing arts, probably in part because it’s so far removed from my wheel-house. Last week I went to see Les Grands Ballets de Montreal perform Romeo & Juliette. It was an amazing performance. Now I don’t pretend to know much about the technical aspects of ballet but from where I was sitting it was a stunning display of agility, physicality and grace. (more…)

“To be or not to be?”: Time and Graduate Life

The two sides of our time...photo by GradLife McGill Instagrammer @falisha.k

The two sides of our time…photo by GradLife McGill Instagrammer @falisha.k

Full name: Graduate Student. When your name is Graduate and your surname Student, you come to realize how the word time gets more and more often into your conversations. It’s always a matter of time: the time you are supposed to spend sleeping, the time for eating and feeding yourself up (yes, it does exist!), the time you would like to invest in hobbies or working out, the time to wake up, the time to love, the time to submit a paper, to get out from the library, to study, to read, to teach, to cheer, to…what?  Although you may find as many ways to talk about your graduate time as David Foster Wallace would do (and have a look at Infinite Jest’s footnotes to have an idea), there is one time that would never disappear, that is the time that we lack, the time that we may need to do all the things that we want to do.

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Go Habs… Go!!! An evening (and not just any) at the Bell Centre.

Tuesday. May 28th. 14:12 minutes into the 2nd period, 21,273 go silent. It is the fifth game in the NHL Eastern Conference Final, and the Montréal Canadiens are up against the New York Rangers. In this 14th minute of the second period of the fifth game, the Rangers have tied the game (again), back from trailing 4-1. The Bell Centre is less than amused. And for a moment, the fear – that fear – is back. The fear that the Habs will not, after all, make it tonight. If the Rangers win, the Habs go home – or rather stay home.

"So how do they etch the symbols into the ice?" ...

“So how do they etch the symbols into the ice?” …

 But they didn’t.

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A silent witness

[Disclaimer: Aspects of this post may cause emotional discomfort]

Monday began like an ordinary day. My alarm clock forced me to greet the morning at five-thirty. I responded to e-mails and penciled a to-do list over three cups of coffee. I squeezed myself onto the ridiculously crammed metro, caught the bus, and unlocked the door to my lab about thirty minutes later. It was an ordinary day of collecting and analyzing neuroscientific data, of meeting my supervisor, and of writing bits of my dissertation. I was busy, focused and pretty reserved all day long. The afternoon was also quite ordinary; I waited for rush-hour to subside a little and left work around six-thirty, in order to have a less stressful time with overcrowded transportation. I recognized the bus driver, got a seat towards the back like I usually do, and was at Sherbrooke metro in fifteen minutes – just like any ordinary day.

When I pushed the heavy door to enter the metro station, I noticed two police-offers were shooing a man toward the exit. “Outside!” one officer yelled in English (which, I remember, surprised me more than the fact that an itinerant was being asked not to loiter). The man began to retaliate, but I couldn’t make out what he was saying, as I was listening to my iPod. “Outside!” the officer yelled again, and added something that sounded like a threat to intervene if the man didn’t comply. I passed the busker who was singing joyously with her guitar, passed the turnstile as my STM pass emitted its routine “beep” to let me through, and walked slowly down the stairs to the platform. As I walked down, I could hear a man shouting something below. A different man than the one they had just ushered out of the station, obviously, but someone who sounded equally distraught. I removed my iPod and continued down the steps. He was loud and sounded upset, like he was venting about something. He did not sound like he was well. Before I even got to the bottom of the stairs, I could tell roughly where he was standing, due to the converging glances of passengers waiting on the track. Everyone was silent – listening, watching, pretending not to listen, pretending not to watch.

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Until the Fat Lady Sings

The Archetypal Opera Singer, as rendered by the author

The Archetypal Opera Singer, as rendered by the author

Many people regard opera as elitist, boring, and on the wane. A relic of past grandiosity that is out of touch with present aesthetics and popular culture. Something that soon will go the way of the dodo or Hostess snack cake

As the saying goes, however, the future of opera is not so easily prophesized. The “fat lady” might in fact be singing, but it most certainly is not over. (more…)

Sur la photographie de rue

Excuse my French. Literally. But there’s a reason for it…

Have you ever discovered a sign, a shop, or even a building that you’ve never seen before, despite having walked by it countless times? I have. Everyone I know has. But why is this? Simple: modern city life is too fast-paced, too focused, too goal-oriented (when was the last time you wandered on the streets with absolutely no destination in mind?) for us to take in all the information and process it. That, my friends, is when street photography comes in. (more…)

Moving in Montreal

   Moving, I find, is generally not a very pleasant experience. Although I am sure that some people enjoy it (I have yet to meet them), I am personally not a fan of packing up my stuff and relocating all over again. I find that moving in Montreal is less evident than in other places say, for instance, in Sherbrooke. When I was looking for an apartment in Sherbrooke I basically went there one day, looked at a couple of apartments and found the perfect one in a matter of hours. I stayed there 2 years but would have gladly stayed for more if I had been staying in the city. Moving in the lively city of Montreal, however, is a different story altogether. For me at least. (more…)

Event: McGill Gets Inspired by TED-Talks

Three Minutes to Change the World

“Fast paced” is practically the antithese of “Grad School.” When you think about explaining your research, doing it quickly is rarely part of the experience. Most of us are prone to panic attacks when our presentations are limited to 45 minutes, discounting the question period as optional.  So what do you think about someone trying in less than 5?

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Spring: nothing like the first time

 The beginning of March often coincides with the coming of spring. Spring: that wonderful season of calm and awakening, music and art, life and beauty. I love the commencement of any season because I enjoy observing the various changes that occur during the transition from one season to another. I consider this past weekend and more particularly Saturday March 9th, to be one such day of transition. Sure, there may be snow once more next week, in two weeks or even in a month, but this weekend feels like the beginning of spring. Saturday morning was quite warm outside: a welcomed 5°C! With the beginning of this transition period came the subtle and less subtle changes of winter to spring, beginning with the switch from a winter coat to a lighter spring/fall jacket. The birds are chirping, squirrels are chasing after each other up and down trees in a more carefree manner, the sun is shinning, the air smells fresh and people seem to be in a happier mood. The snow is melting and slowly disappearing along with winter. Even going to work this past weekend did not phase me! The blissful events accompanying spring are enough to make me giddy for at least a couple of days. (more…)

Winter is around the corner in Montreal!

Being someone that has an optimistic view on life, I am able to appreciate all seasons of the year. Each has specific qualities that make me fall in love with that particular season. The warm air of spring, the terraces and fun times that summer brings along and the beautiful colors of the trees in autumn are just a couple of examples. Although winter is not my favorite season (that would be fall!), it too consists of elements that make it a very enjoyable season for me. The long winter coats, comfy winter boots and cute hat and mittens necessary to survive a winter in Quebec, as well as drinking a mug of hot chocolate at home wrapped in PJs and a blanket while reading a good book are some of my favorite things that accompany winter. (more…)

A feast for the senses

Tired of apples and oranges? Why not take a moment to whet your appetite for

The Fruit Hunters

some nipplefruit, cherimoya, kura-kura durian, jujube fruit or miracle berries?

The RIDM, Montreal’s international documentary film festival, wraps up this weekend. Making its world premiere at this festival was director Yung Chang’s ‘The Fruit Hunters’. Here the young director who vaulted onto the scene with ‘Up the Yangtze’ turns his gaze (and macro lens) towards the wondrous diversity of the world’s edible fruits. This week I had a chance to go down to Cinema Excentris to catch an early screening.

The movie follows several individuals, including Hollywood actor Bill Pullman, who dedicate themselves to the collection, tasting and growing of exotic fruits. These tasting trips range from Florida to Hawaii to Borneo’s jungles in the search for new gustatory sensations.

The passion of the characters illustrates the very special connection that people have with fruit, especially when they grow and care for the plants themselves. The Florida rare fruit council’s meetings and Indonesian market scenes cannot help but draw you in, preying on your curiosity at the astounding variety in comparison to our local options. Picture the look on a child’s face when trying a new fruit for the first time. The amazing thing is that the identical look overcomes even the most jaded adult when they sample the flesh of a novel berry or melon. The number of fruits that have penetrated our common marketplace is a fraction of a percentage of what’s out there awaiting the adventurous taster.

The only real problem in watching the protagonists taste peanut butter fruit,ice cream beans, spicy bilimbis, rare mangos and giant jackfruits is that no words can truly describe the flavour of a fruit to one who hasn’t experienced it. You’re left desperately wanting to try all the ripe and juicy subject matter.

However, the upcoming theatrical premiere can solve that problem for you. For the upcoming Montreal launch, the ticket will include access to a tasting table of exotic fruits. The film will be playing at Cinema Excentris as of November 23rd, and will also be screened at the Forum theatre.

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