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Autumn Blues?

Fall is a much maligned season. It is the messenger of cold things to come; the dead leaves seem to say in a Starkian voice: “Winter is coming”! If literary works about the season are any indicator (Blake’s “To Autumn”, Keats’ “To Autumn”, Dickinson’s -shorter- “Autumn”), it is the most melancholic time of year. The daylight wanes and the temperature scurries away alongside it.

Given that, it is easy to feel the autumn blues. To be depressed. Another summer has gone by. For a transitional season that is a little summer and a little winter, it doesn’t seem to show its sunny side up much. But I am here to show you otherwise! Fall is in fact my favourite season. Let me tell you how to survive it and perhaps even thrive in it.


The risks and benefits of universal narratives

Classics buffs and economics enthusiasts rejoice! There is a play on at the Theatre d’Aujourdui that is well worth your attention, and quite relevant to stigma and graduate research.

Luc Picard and Sophie Desmarais perform at Le Théatre d'Aujourd'hui. Photo by Jérémie Battaglia.

Luc Picard and Sophie Desmarais perform at Le Théatre d’Aujourd’hui. Photo by Jérémie Battaglia.

Set in 2008 as the US markets begin to crash, the play tells the story of hedge fund agent (Luc Picard) and his relationship with a junior analyst (Sophie Desmarais)—an anxious mathematician with poor social skills who, after going through months of therapy, is learning how to communicate beyond numbers and models.

Her favourite new communication tool? Epic Similes. (Here I mean “epic” in the Homeric or Epic Poetry kind of sense, not the overused version my teenage cousins use to describe their youtube channels.) (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…)

Breaking the Shackles of Freedom

shackles There is a widely-shared perception that life as a graduate student is relaxed, romantic, and carefree. Sure, we might face the occasional stress-inducing deadline, committee meeting, or funding application, but what else do we really have to do? Of course, not all graduate programs are created equal, leading to a valued stress gradient, ranging from those in the Sciences, with their rigid laboratory schedules and tedious calculations, to those in the Arts, who may choose to go to a cafe to work, if they work at all. Life as a grad student (in the Arts), it would appear, is easy-breezy beautiful.

Why then do grad students seem to be so stressed out?


Falling embers

Possibly more than many other cities, Montreal truly comes alive in the summer. The hot, sticky weather and the long hours of daylight signify that it’s (finally) time for picnics in the park, ice cream, late afternoon drinks (which unfold into late evening dinners) on outdoor terraces, sun-bathing and other sports on the gentle slope of Mont-Royal, bustling Plateau streets with restaurant-goers walking with a bottle of wine tucked under their arm, and the countless festivals that Montreal is famous for. When summer rolls around, one of the festivals I look forward to most is the international fireworks competition that takes place every year at La Ronde.


Jacques-Cartier Bridge open to pedestrians. Kristina Kasparian


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?


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…)

Exploring the Montreal Underground

I haven’t been very active on the blog recently, and I won’t even try to make up reasons. Instead, I will just attribute this to the lack of inspiration. Last weekend, however, I experienced something really exciting I decided to write about in our blog. More specifically, I spent Friday night in Montreal’s underground city exploring the “Art Souterrain” exhibition.


Belief, Truth, Perception and the Santa Claus

With the onset of December, my life has spiraled into the nebula known as Chrismasville (or HoHoHo-44554). My desktop wallpaper has been changed, my apartment is garland with lights and green/red novelties, and Christmas yarns and feel-good holiday classics have replaced my usual movie regimen. The most recent addition to this years run being the Santa Clause (1994) {which the MNI will be showing here Dec. 18th FYI}. This movie, along with other recent choices such as Elf (2003) and Prancer (1989) are about Christmas spirit or more specifically, the lack of it.

These movies philosophize about children’s innocence and like the Tabula Rosa John Locke once wrote about, this includes a child’s ability to believe in something without empirical proof. This, to an industry based in the North Pole that is powered almost entirely by magic and belief, is quite an important subject. They stress the importance of maintaining a belief in magic throughout our lives, using phrases like ‘believing is seeing’ and children simply know Santa exists. In Elf, belief is the actual energy substrate fueling Santa’s sleigh, provoking the image that a cranky non-believer could actually cause our favorite jolly, apple cheeked gift giver to plummet to earth in a gruesome toy-smothered death. (more…)

50 ways to say goodbye…

    I truly believe that one of the hardest things in life is saying goodbye. Perhaps it is because I am someone that gets attached to family and good friends or because I do not take people for granted, but I have always found it hard to say goodbye. Whether it is classmates, colleagues, family or, most difficult of all, friends, it is never easy. Depending on the relationship and the level of attachment of each party, such a departure can be very overwhelming and even at times unimaginable. (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…)

To Post Grad or Not?

by Tracey Regimbal

Maybe I’m alone in this, but graduate school sometimes feels like a choice between financial stability now and financial  stability in the future. How did I choose? Obviously my passion for sweater-vests and late night cafes made academia a tangible option.

When I graduated from my first degree I really thought employment opportunities would be kicking down my door. I left McGill with an International Development degree and thought I’d be scooped up by the United Nations, GreenPeace, or something alike. This was obviously not the case, although it did allow me to perfect my bartending skills. (more…)

Boss Nova, an alternative to white noise.

As grad students we are always looking for the perfect writing, reading, studying spot. The perfect spaces, places, and contexts in which to have our “aha” moments and get inspired. I’m one who likes change. I need transition. Sometimes I like a lot of white noise in the background. Sometimes I want absolute silence. Sometimes I need constant refills of coffee and snacks. Montreal — as well as McGill – provides all of these locations, a brief walk (underground) or metro stop away from each other, for every student’s taste. Whether  you need a 24 hour café or a lounge with couches, plugs, and wifi during the day, Montreal has it. Just for you. (more…)

To leave or not to leave?

Every few weekends I drive into upstate New York or Vermont to hike or shop or eat at familiar restaurants I am accustomed to. Each time I go, I pass through the border and greet the American guard, forced to define my existence and immediate future. Nearly every time I am questioned, I receive the statement: ‘You’re from Texas? How did you get all the way up here?’

Now what was at first a novelty, has become a vexing question. People seem genuinely curious why someone travels over 3200 km to live and be educated. Each time I leave the border and that question, I find myself too wondering why it seems so odd. Texas (hot, conservative, religious, Primarily english with some spanish) is in many ways, quite literally the opposite of Quebec (Often post-apocalyptic temperatures, liberal, french). So why uproot and start over?

Light and magic


There’s a book I purchased while I was walking in the streets of London on French cinema. It’s an amazing book that explores the rich culture and historical evolution of the country that first established the cinema as the most important mass medium of the twentieth century. I decided to write a few posts about the contents of this book.

The first chapters offer portraits of such key figures as the Lumiere brothers, Georges Melies, Charles Pathe and Leon Gaumont, and examines the early pioneers who transformed a fairground novelty into a global industry. The crisis caused by the First World War led France to surrender her position as the world’s dominant film-making power, but French cinema forged a new role for itself as a beacon of cinematic possibility and achievement.

It is the evening of 28 December 1895, in the Grand Cafe on the Boulevard des Capucines that an audience gathered for the first public showing of the Lumiere Brothers’ Cinematographe. On the programme are ten short films, each less than a minute long. The very first of these, called Sortie de l’usine Lumiere a Lyon, shows the Lumieres’ staff leaving work at the end of the day. The Lumiere brothers for the first time capture the poetry of everyday life on the screen. They filmed the sequence more than once.


For people who love the cinema, this spot must be a special place. Today, the old factory is home to the Institut Lumiere, which is devoted to celebrating what the Lumieres started. It’s perhaps some measure of the French cultural arrogance that the road outside the Old Lumiere factory was renamed the rue du Premier-Film. It requires only the most cursory acquaintance with early film history to know this to be litterally untrue.

The first “film” – as opposed to photographic plate – was first introduced according to the book by George Eastman in 1889 for his Kodak camera. Many attempts were then made by various inventors both in Europe and America to use that film to record moving images, but it was the Edison Kinetograph camera that in 1891 first employed perforated celluloid film for the accurate registration of images and transport through a camera. It was the commercial appearance of Edison’s Kinetoscope in Europe in 1894 that then caused Auguste and Louis Lumiere – who both worked for the family business of manufacturing photographic materials – to conduct their own experiments in moving images.



Summer summer summertime….

I’ve had a slight blogging delay due to certain reasons which I won’t go into detail about. Certain things are new to me this summer of 2012. (Well, summer technically hasn’t commenced, but you’d think it has with the humidex and the weather today. Unbelievably hot!) I’m not sure if they’ll stay that way….but I’ve observed a few things.

Grand Prix weekend wasn’t at all what it used to be. (more…)

Thinking outside the box: Your PhD conveyed through a photo … or dance!

A topic that has come up several times on our blog this year is how to make your PhD research accessible to others who do not share your lab-space, or your brain, 24/7. My fellow GradLife blogger Crystal challenged us PhD students to explain our research with an audience of ten year-olds in mind, while Zsofia challenged us to “explain the subject we eat, sleep and breathe in only 124 characters”. In fact, communicating our work to the public is an immensely important skill to develop. Why else do we do this research, than to advance scientific knowledge and have this knowledge impact the community at large?

While we are constantly encouraged to write “lay summaries” of our work (and, let’s face it, they never turn out to be completely free of scientific jargon, do they?), or “keep an interdisciplinary audience in mind” when putting abstracts together for conferences, the real challenge is when we are forced to think even MORE outside of the box!


News of the Croisette

The projection of  my short film “Saudade” took place on May 20th, and most of the attendees were filmmakers from the Short Film Corner, or producers. People appreciated the movie a lot, and gave me very positive feedback at the end of the projection. They were touched by a lot of scenes, found the movie very poetic and subtle, and the message was conveyed adequately. As a filmmaker this was the most important thing for me, and I was really overwhelmed to hear that. It was by far the most amazing experience I have ever had, especially that it was my first projection.

I decided to shoot the movie “Saudade” after my uncle’s death, because my emotions of anger and melancholy were at their paroxysm then, and I thought it would be sort of a catharsis to calm myself down. It indeed worked, and I feel more at peace now. Some of the actors in the cast have also been affected by cancer, having witnessed a relative or friend suffering from it. I thought they would be ideal for the roles since her performance would be genuine and would perhaps serve as a catharsis for her as well. They indeed had a very poignant and truthful performance, and everything felt so real.

So overall making this movie was not an easy journey. The scriptwriting was actually easier than the directing. All of this touched me a lot, and I think a lot of patients living with cancer and / or their relatives could relate to the movie’s emotive content.

I left my heart in Cannes

Cannes is even more than what i expected it to be. A gigantic industry, a bee hive. So many things to do, from networking to watching movies to attending workshops…

The Short Film Corner is a platform where business and art merge together, and allows you to sharpen your business acumen and marketing skills in a very steep curve. You really have to put forward your differentiating factor in order to distinguish yourself and try to attract distributors, buyers or industry professionals that would be interested in distributing your current project or financing your next one.

It was for me an amazing opportunity, since it enabled me to meet so many great filmmakers from all around the globe, to promote my film among elite distributors, agencies and television chains, to pitch my ideas to producers there and to attend a wide range of master classes and conferences. One of the most interesting one in my opinion was the conference given by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the winner of the Palme d’Or in 2010 for “Uncle Boonmee”.

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