Is Mike Myers’ *The Love Guru* Salvageable?: Part 1

Lately, dear readers, I have been on a bit of a bad movie kick. It started a little over a year ago when I watched the so-called best worst movie in the world, Troll 2. In terms of a movie being so bad it’s good, Troll 2 definitely takes it. Since then I’ve taken time out of my days to watch Master of Disguise, Battlefield: Earth, Contracted, Teeth, and a bunch of other examples of bad cinema. For me, there are two categories of bad films: the first is the low budget films one expects to be bad, intentionally or not. Sometimes — as in the case of Troll 2 — the film’s lack of self-awareness of just how bad it is can give it a sort of beauty, like the horrible idea that drives the market for outsider art. Other films like Sharknado are fully aware of their place in the oeuvre: bad films intended as bad films. The second category of bad films are the films that are not just bad for the sake of being bad. These films are made with significant cinematic pedigree so they’re actually worse than bad, they’re disappointing and you can’t help but feel duped when this happens. To wit, Master of Disguise, Battlefield: Earth, and, the subject of this particular post, The Love Guru.

I readily admit that I had gone into watching Master of Disguise and Battlefield: Earth with preconceived notions that these were, in fact, bad films. I had given them both a pass during their initial cinema runs and largely ignored them until my recent fascination with the world of bad film. The Love Guru, on the other hand, I saw in its first week of cinematic release without any preconceived notion of what it might be and without having read any reviews. I was (and am) a Mike Myers fan so I simply trusted that I’d go sit in a darkened theatre for a couple of hours and see what his new character, Guru Pitka, had to offer in terms of laughs. I have always been aware that Myers’ comedy isn’t highbrow but that he somehow manages to connect with audiences. I’ve often thought about Myers’ comedic style and his obvious talent for negotiating what will please audiences at any given moment. What I really mean by this is that Myers’ comedy is of its time and doesn’t necessarily age well. As much as I love(d) Wayne’s World and Austin Powers, the humour hasn’t aged all that gracefully. I laugh because I suppose there is a kind of nostalgia in my brain about how funny “we’re not worthy” or “oh, behave” used to be. I’m as guilty as anyone else who came of age in the 1990s of spouting Myers’ catchphrases in earnest to actual laughs from my peers. If anyone were to do that now, they’d be the creepy guy in the trilby hat and neckbeard stewing about why he’s always being ‘friend-zoned’.

What I expected from The Love Guru was more of the somewhat ephemeral brand of easy humour I’d been accustomed to from Saturday Night Live onwards in Myers’ career. I want to paint the picture of why The Love Guru was so disappointing to me at the time of its release. For reasons already mentioned, I’ve never neglected to see a Mike Myers [comedy] film. I’m a fan. When The Love Guru was released in 2008 and I was living in Australia with my wife while she attended medical school at University of Wollongong. Wollongong is a city about an hour south of Sydney cradled by a beautiful escarpment on one side and wonderful beaches on the other (pay no attention to the industrial nightmare scene if you turn your head southward). When I lived there, there was only one small cinema in town with limited selections of films screened. If you wanted to see other films, you’d have to travel out of town to the multiplexes. I had decided that it was well worth it to travel somewhat inconveniently by bus to Warrawong on a Saturday afternoon to see the newest Mike Myers film. I convinced my wife that it’d be worth it, even though we really didn’t know where we were going and our journey would involve a couple of transfers and probably take us over an hour each way. Off we went, however, to the multiplex housed in a large but outdated shopping mall. Though I can’t find any decent photos of Warrawong, just know that it is not designed for pedestrian traffic. It is essentially the Australian version of the business park where North Americans would expect to find Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and the like. It has one major thoroughfare choked with traffic that is horrendously difficult to cross if on foot. No matter, we were there to see The Love Guru, not take a walking tour.

I’ve already mentioned that I’d avoided reading any reviews of the film before deciding to go see it because the currency of Mike Myers was reason enough for me wanting to see it; however, the fact that the theatre was almost entirely empty only a couple of days after the film’s initial release should have been a warning sign for me. I remember, sitting in my seat as cinema trivia flashed across the screen, thinking about how Australians probably just didn’t get a lot of the humour in a Myers film and that was the reason for their paltry turnout on this otherwise unremarkable day that was perfect for seeing a film. As the film began rolling, I sat back and prepared to be entertained for the foreseeable future. Instead, what I remember is a constant vigil in my head, holding out hope that this film has got to get better. As short-lived as some of Mike Myers’ previous jokes had been, they were at least funny at the time and this just…wasn’t. I was completely deflated by the time the final song and dance (what was with all the singing and dancing?!) played and knew that, even though I hadn’t made this film, I would be rightfully assigned the blame for wasting an entire Saturday by suggesting we see this film. I tried to rationalize some of the film’s failures: “It was cool to see hockey in a film, though, right?”, “There was a lot of regional humour there that of course I got, but others might not”, “Maybe I missed something on the first viewing. I’ll watch it again when the DVD comes out maybe”. That maybe never came, though. Until now.

After listening to Marc Maron’s recent interview with Mike Myers and the conspicuous absence of any conversation at all about the latter’s most recent starring role, I got to thinking about it. Mike Myers has been strangely absent from the world of entertainment since then (as has his comedic partner, Dana Carvey, since his last starring role in Master of Disguise) and I got to thinking about what a lost opportunity — approaching irresponsible — it is to have an hour of Mr. Myers’ time and not ask him about The Love Guru. Maybe Maron did ask and edited it out. I don’t know. To be fair, the interview didn’t touch on the unmade Dieter movie that had some controversy around it either. I did find a GQ interview where Myers said:

I just make stuff, and sometimes it does well. But there’s a lot in that movie [The Love Guru] comedically that I’m really, really proud of. I completely recognize it didn’t meet an audience.

The interview quickly went onto other topics, but not before Myers added that he had “tried [his] hardest” on that and all of his films. I, for one, am inclined to believe him. I simply cannot get on board with accusing any artist of creating something they don’t believe in. Similar accusations have been thrown toward Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Kanye West, and eternally unlucky director Terry Gilliam as making art that ‘dared’ audiences to like it, but I just don’t see it. Of course, you can try your hardest at something and still have it suck. We’ve all done it. And this is why I have decided to give The Love Guru another shot. I’m going to watch it again and see if hindsight, maturity, or context can rescue it de profundis.

Luckily, my local video store's copy was available.

Luckily, my local video store’s copy was available.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this post when I will discuss my second viewing of The Love Guru and see whether Kevin Steincross and I can find any common ground. I wonder if he meant the psychiatric definition of ‘hysterical’ — “shallow, volatile emotions, and attention-seeking behavior” — when reviewing this film Because, from memory, at least two of those apply to this film. Let’s wait and see.

“Recommended but not Funded” *UPDATE*

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Earlier this year I learned that the result of my SSHRC doctoral award application was “recommended but not funded,” which essentially meant that my project was good enough to be funded but there was just no money left in the pot. You can read the original post here (I have also copied it below).

I woke this morning to an unexpected email with the subject heading “2014 – 2015 SSHRC Doctoral Award Offer” detailing my successful application being funded. It was and is great news.

I continue to hold my conviction that this does not mean my project or anyone else’s that receives funding is somehow better or more deserving because of it. To further illustrate this idea I’ve provided a handy visual non-sequitur.

Original Post 30 April 2014
This was the result of my most recent kick at the federal funding can. For those unfamiliar with the Canadian system of federal scholarships for doctoral work, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council is the major funding body for this type of academic research in Canada at the graduate and professorial levels. If you’d like a bit more about this process see my post on grant proposals. What exactly ‘recommended but not funded’ means is that my proposal was accepted and good enough to receive an award, but there was nothing left in the pot to actually consummate that marriage. I am lucky because I am in a position — thanks to my department and family — where my continued pursuit of a PhD does not hinge on SSHRC funding. It would be nice to hold a SSHRC scholarship because that opens more opportunities for funding things like overseas research. I would be remiss to mention that ‘recommended but not funded’ does not mean the same as ‘no.’ On the contrary, it means that there is still a chance of an award if another is declined for any reason.*

At any rate, this post is not a whinge or a sour grapes kind of thing. I have plenty of friends and colleagues who have received this funding and that’s an incredible thing. I know how hard it is to make it in the academic funding game and anyone who makes it should be applauded. I hear plenty of griping around funding season about projects that didn’t ‘deserve’ to be funded but were. That kind of crap doesn’t help anyone and is petty beyond belief. Does every funded project ‘deserve’ its funding? I don’t know. Someone thinks so. There’s a subjective element to funding decisions that is going to make it a necessarily flawed process but, hey, that’s the Humanities, folks (I’m sure this is the same for other disciplines too).

Congratulations to all those who were awarded grants this time around. To those who weren’t, it’s cool. If you’re doing a PhD, your success is not tied to your ability to receive SSHRC funding. You’re already doing a PhD and an entire department at a university somewhere has your back. That looks like success to me.

For those interested, I’m posting my successful SSHRC proposal below with the note that this was my fourth time applying. So, yeah, it’s harder than it looks.

*Since I don’t know how far down the list I am, I might be in a Prince Charles situation or I might be one of Liz’s numerous titled yet ultimately unimportant grandchildren.

O’Hearn SSHRC 2013

Oscar Wilde’s Questionnaire

Originally posted on Mature Age Renaissance:

My canadian twitter friend @justinohearn (who incidentally researches the rather interesting subject of Victorian porn & lit) last month posted the following questionnaire originally posted by Oscar Wilde in An American Confession in 1877. And as everybody’s favourite subject for discussion is themselves I thought I’d give it a go too….for my own benefit really but perhaps you’re interested in my answers too! I’m a bit strange in that I rather like these sort of things and I love reading other’s responses, which I suppose could be interpreted as just being nosy or, as I rather see it, being genuinely interested in what my friends & acquaintances would answer. So if you feel inclined to do it please add your answers in the comments below!

Your Favourite:  you’ll notice that sometimes I can’t chose just one answer, sorry!

  1. Colour?  red, periwinkle blue, teal
  2. Flower?  pastel coloured roses & peonies…

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Oscar Wilde and I Share a Favourite Subject: Ourselves

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This post on Oscar Wilde’s favourite subject came up on my Twitter feed the other day from twitterer Sarah Ross whose tumblr, Paxvictoriana, can be found here. The post consists of some questions filled out by Wilde in 1877 from something called An American Confession. It’s basically a list of favourite things. I know a guy who likes to talk about himself almost as much as Wilde did, so I went ahead and answered the questions as well. I’d love to see some others’ answers.

Your Favourite

  1. Colour?  blue 
  2. Flower?  fragrant ones 
  3. Tree?  weeping cedar 
  4. Object in nature?  deserts 
  5. Hour in the day?  midday (if I’ve slept till then)
  6. Season of the year?  summer 
  7. Perfume?  varies, but Geo. F. Trumper’s Sandalwood at the moment 
  8. Gem?  the one with the richest colour 
  9. Style of beauty?  art deco 
  10. Names, male and female?  Jack, Priya 
  11. Painters?  Dali, Bosch  
  12. Musicians?  too many to list  
  13. Piece of sculpture?  pass  
  14. Poets?  pass 
  15. Poetesses?  what a strange word 
  16. Prose authors?   Philip K. Dick, Wilde 
  17. Character in Romance?  the knight 
  18. Character in History?  Jack Saul 
  19. Book to take up for an hour?   magazines? 
  20. What book (not religious) would you part with last?  all my books are religious 
  21. What epoch would you choose to have lived in?  none of the past ones. I’d only be comfortable visiting for a short time 
  22. Where would you like to live?  London 
  23. What is your favourite amusement?  unfriending on Facebook 
  24. What is your favourite occupation?  haven’t found one yet 
  25. What trait of character do you most admire in man?  awareness of personal hygiene 
  26. What trait of character do you most admire in woman?  as above 
  27. What trait of character do you most detest in each?  sanctimony 
  28. If not yourself, who would you rather be?  the man who could say things in song 
  29. What is your idea of happiness?  the free pursuit of intellectual stimulation 
  30. What is your idea of misery?  geographical remoteness 
  31. What is your bete noir?  how much time have you got? 
  32.    ”     ”    ”  dream?  pursuing whatever I want without worrying about money  
  33. What is your favourite game?  never given it much thought  
  34. What do you believe to be your distinguishing characteristic?  pessimism girded with confidence  
  35. If married, what do you believe to be the distinguishing characteristic of your better-half?  forgiveness, empathy
  36. What is the sublimest passions of which human nature is capable?  I’ma go ahead and ignore the grammar of that question and say music  
  37. What are the sweetest words in the world?  well done  
  38. What are the saddest words?  Big Bang Theory is such a good show  
  39. What is your aim in life?  to accomplish something I never thought I’d be able to  
  40. What is your motto?  let’s go with something in Latin  

The PhD Process: Passing Qualifying Papers

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It’s been about a month since my last post. That post was about the culture and procedures of academic funding in Canada — and I guess they could be extrapolated to academic funding in general. The thing that I forgot about was why I had started this blog lo those many almost two years ago: namely, that I wanted to try and make the PhDing process somewhat less murky for others who found themselves in the same position as I was (and still am) in terms of the unavailability of examples of things like qualifying exam reading lists, qualifying papers, and the like.

Well, good news: now that I’ve finally reminded myself of my initial mission* I’m posting my successful qualifying papers for your perusal. I say they are the ‘successful’ ones because the first go round I had to do some revisions on one of them. At UBC English you get two chances to submit your qualifying papers before your oral defense. This means that, at the discretion of the graduate committee, I was instructed to take that second chance and was offered plenty of feedback as to what the paper was lacking.

I haven’t reformatted the papers for consumption here and you will notice the dates differ on both papers. The later date on paper 1 represents the date of the final revisions’ completion. After both papers were accepted, the oral defense was scheduled at which my committee plus a representative from the graduate committee asked questions about my papers and the direction(s) of my future project. That took about an hour and my committee automatically dissolved (as per the rules of UBC English). I am not quite a PhD candidate yet, as there is still the next stage — the prospectus — to deal with before I’m set free to work on my dissertation. To bring us up to the present, however, I am currently sorting out my dissertation committee and working on my prospectus. Expect another post like this nearer the end of the summer when that bit is all said and done.

Feel free to have a look at the PhD work I have posted thus far here. It might give you a better idea about the process in the Humanities, even though every program is going to be different.

*’Initial Mission’ would be an awesome band name. You can have it if you put me on the guest list at your shows in perpetuity.

Qualifying Paper 1 Erotic Memoir

Qualifying Paper 2 Pornographic Print Culture

“Recommended but not funded”

This was the result of my most recent kick at the federal funding can. For those unfamiliar with the Canadian system of federal scholarships for doctoral work, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council is the major funding body for this type of academic research in Canada at the graduate and professorial levels. If you’d like a bit more about this process see my post on grant proposals. What exactly ‘recommended but not funded’ means is that my proposal was accepted and good enough to receive an award, but there was nothing left in the pot to actually consummate that marriage. I am lucky because I am in a position — thanks to my department and family — where my continued pursuit of a PhD does not hinge on SSHRC funding. It would be nice to hold a SSHRC scholarship because that opens more opportunities for funding things like overseas research. I would be remiss to mention that ‘recommended but not funded’ does not mean the same as ‘no.’ On the contrary, it means that there is still a chance of an award if another is declined for any reason.*

At any rate, this post is not a whinge or a sour grapes kind of thing. I have plenty of friends and colleagues who have received this funding and that’s an incredible thing. I know how hard it is to make it in the academic funding game and anyone who makes it should be applauded. I hear plenty of griping around funding season about projects that didn’t ‘deserve’ to be funded but were. That kind of crap doesn’t help anyone and is petty beyond belief. Does every funded project ‘deserve’ its funding? I don’t know. Someone thinks so. There’s a subjective element to funding decisions that is going to make it a necessarily flawed process but, hey, that’s the Humanities, folks (I’m sure this is the same for other disciplines too).

Congratulations to all those who were awarded grants this time around. To those who weren’t, it’s cool. If you’re doing a PhD, your success is not tied to your ability to receive SSHRC funding. You’re already doing a PhD and an entire department at a university somewhere has your back. That looks like success to me.

For those interested, I’m posting my successful SSHRC proposal below with the note that this was my fourth time applying. So, yeah, it’s harder than it looks.

*Since I don’t know how far down the list I am, I might be in a Prince Charles situation or I might be one of Liz’s numerous titled yet ultimately unimportant grandchildren.

O’Hearn SSHRC 2013

The Decision

Originally posted on Archimedes' Archive:

            I’m taking the time to write this in the – likely misguided – hope that it will prevent me from having to repeat myself with all of you: I have decided to withdraw from the PhD program at UBC. This was obviously a really difficult decision to make, especially given the fact that I received a tremendous amount of personal and institutional support, and that my performance in the program had been promising. So why does someone walk away from something so significant that he or she has invested a tremendous amount of time and energy in? It should go without saying that this is a deeply personal decision and I think my reasons are quite different from many others who have done the same thing. What follows is my attempt to clarify my reasons for getting to this point.

            First of all, I…

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The Library Recall War

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The spring 2014 semester has been the semester of the recalled library book for me. I have had no fewer than seven recalls, the latest one being merely five days ago. I can’t help but feel these are somehow personal attacks on my research by malicious hordes who fear my exposing the truth about Victorian pornography. I’m pretty sure big pharma/data/oil are all in on it.

If I can be serious for a moment, though, I need to flesh out this whole culture of librarying. Now, the reason I think I am taking these recalls somewhat personally is that I don’t live within a reasonable distance of my institution and so I’m having to return the recalled books via post (you know, that thing that costs money). I don’t expect that there is any way those recalling the books can know this, nor would I expect them to care if they did…so long as they really needed the book they’re recalling. It’s every borrower’s right to have access to a given library’s materials. I get that. I do. My fear, however, is that some recalls may be haphazard. It takes more than simply spec for me to recall a book. I have to make sure that it is something I really need. Some of the books that I’ve had recalled this semester were available online — which helps me out because I still have access — had multiple copies available, or were borrowed and returned almost immediately by the recaller. Imagine my surprise when I planned on waging a fully spiteful recall war in an effort to give the inconsiderate recaller(s) a taste of their own medicine only to find that the items were listed as available in the library stacks. Zut alors!

As such, I’ve got a couple of tips for those who may recall first and ask questions later.

  1. Ask yourself if you really need this book.

Maybe you feel like you do because it lists a keyword for the thing you’re researching? That’s not really a good reason. When I don’t have immediate access to a particular item but I found it during a keyword search or some other ephemeral thing I’ll try and find someone else who’s read it. Chances are, if the book is at least a few years old, there’s a review or two floating around out there that will help you decide whether the book is really what you need. Or, alternatively, ask someone else who knows shit about the topic if the book is worth getting and will add anything to your work/research. Who? You’re at a university, use your imagination (hint: not the swimming coach).

2. See if it’s available electronically.

I have colleagues who manage to never step foot in a library. I envy their electronic research kung fu. I myself have only the most tenuous grasp of finding things online, but even one as incompetent as I can usually find at least a snippet of things online, if not a full text. Newer texts will usually have some sort of online presence as publishers try and make their wares available on every platform and, more often than not, university libraries will have electronic copies of new and/or key texts. It seems like a contradiction for me to be telling folks to find a text electronically before recalling the physical copy, and that’s a fair point. Please note, however, that these are simply steps to take while deciding whether recalling the work is the necessary thing. I do this myself. I have to convince myself that it is absolutely necessary for me to obtain a physical copy of a text, which most likely means that someone will have to make a special trip to the library. A minor inconvenience, to be sure, but it’s only polite to consider others when making requests. This is not to mention also that I find most electronic versions of texts cumbersome, especially if I can’t download a pdf version that I will print out as a last resort.

3. Recall the book, but don’t abuse the privilege.

As I mentioned above, nothing is more disheartening than thinking items you’ve gone out of your way to return have not been used thoroughly. But, hey, maybe you really only needed half a chapter of a specific book. Who the hell am I to judge your work? I’m nobody. Could you do me a favour, though? Make a show of it. Keep the book for longer than a couple of days. It’s cool. Most libraries send you courtesy emails telling you that your book is coming due soon so you don’t even have to rely on your memory to know when to return the thing. Can’t return it when the library reminds you nicely? No problem, it’s 2014 now and you can renew that shit online. No human interaction required. If nothing else, please make the recallee feel that their efforts to get an item you have recalled have not been in vain. If there were an academic library episode of Seinfeld I feel it would have covered the social conventions of this interaction succinctly. Since there wasn’t an episode like that, all you got is me. Sorry about that. I feel I could use a guy like Mr. Bookman sometimes, though.

 

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