A cable or rope used in mooring or towing a ship.
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Saturday, July 30, 2005
As a young child who projectile vomitted constantly, the Garbage Pail Kids were an inspiration to me. So, it was with some trepidation that I watched the movie on DVD. Would it be a charmingly delightful romp, or less than I expected? Well, it did the nearly impossible, my friends. This is one of those movies that is so completely misguided and badly made that it becomes a sort of "perfect storm" of crap filmmaking.
Admittedly, it isn't the easiest thing to do making a film with the Garbage Pail Kids as characters. I mean, how exactly do you give Windy Winston a back-story? The entire joke is that he farts while playing a trombone? How do you make that engaging? Also, how exactly do you make characters whose selling point is that they are revolting parodies of Cabbage Patch Kids into suitable characters in a kids movie? They could have done this like Bad Taste, Peter Jackson's NC-17 all-puppet Muppet parody, and it might have worked. But, oh-no, they decided to make a sacharine kiddie movie based around a character who farts constantly, one who vomits, a girl whose nose runs all the time, a mysogynist greaser and... no, I'm not kidding.
So, the movie stars Mckensie Astin and was directed by Inept Ian... I mean, Rodney Amateau, who apparently cut his teeth directing Gilligan's Island and a movie entitled Son of Hitler before ending his career with this movie and dying of a massive cerebral hemorrage. Nope, not making that up either. Incredibly, he was also a stunt double on Rebel Without a Cause. Anyway, this story is about a kid with no family named Dodger who seems fairly well-dressed for a street urchin. I'm guessing that he has no family because the writers spent all of their creative energys on the garbage pail kids and said "Ah, fuck it. Make him an orphan!"
The Kids themselves landed on earth in a trash-can space-ship from some outer-space planet that the writers couldn't be bothered to name. Why they came to earth is also never explained. I'm guessing that one of the writers here was Cocaine Carol and the other was Blow Bob. It was the 80s after all. Anway, the trash-can lands in the antique store owned Cap'n Mancini (Antony Newley) who dropped out of society because of his horror of nuclear war. No, I swear I'm not making this up! Anyway, the Cap'n doesn't want to open the trash can that appears in his shop, and Dodger has his own problems, being in love with a 30-year-old slut named Tangerine, and persued by a group of thugs, also in their 30s, who want him to give them money, soak him in refuse, and call him "creep" a lot.
Finally, the Kids show up, and they look basically like deformed children with enormous heads and lifeless eyes. Does that sound a bit creepy? Well, I'm guessing more than one child wet themselves in this movie, while adults complained about the fact that the kids' mouths almost never move when they're talking. Aside from that, they look pretty good, and it's worth noting that the FX team that did this movie also did Ghoulies, because the characters essentially look the same. Anway, we have Windy Winston, who has no backstory and well, basically just farts a lot, Ali Gator, who is an aligator child that carries around a lunchbox full of bloody human body parts, Messy Tessy, who is snotty, Greaser Greg, who is a greaser named Greg, Valerie Vomit, who is bulimic, Nat Nerd, who has glasses and terrible acne and pisses himself a lot, and a kid with a big head who has bad breath. Taming of the Shrew this is not. Actually, it comes closest to a remake of Todd Browning's Freaks, but for children.
Anyway, the plot is propelled forward like a drunk falling down a flight of stairs. Dodger has the hots for Tangerine who is a fashionista in the Cyndi Lauper mode, but who is in love with the coke-head Juice, who is head of the thugs who beat up Dodger for no apparent reason. Luckily, the Kids can sew really well for no apparent reason. The Kids teach Dodger about friendship, make clothes for him to give to Tangerine using both snot and sewing equipment they stole from a building with a huge signfront reading "Sweat-shop", and sing a song about teamwork. I'm sorry, but is it any wonder that the director suffered a massive cerebral hemorrage? I feel one coming on just typing about this.
Tangerine and the thugs steal the clothes for a fashion show and send the kids to the State Home for the Ugly, where the physically imperfect are sent to be kept in cages and murdered. The filmmakers try to make this section comedic to, you know, balance out the Holocaust elements that might not play so well in a kid's movie, but it falls flat. Finally, the scary bikers from the scary biker bar that is in every single 80s comedy come to rescue the kids, who they've come to respect because Winston farts a lot. The kids trash the fashion show, a scene which climaxes with Winston farting and the other one vomitting, and there's a happy ending. Well, except for the fact that the other kids in the Home for the Ugly have logically been killed. Dodger decides that he was never into Tangerine at all, although maybe he'd be into her sister Kiwi, and the kids leave to enter a world that apparently will hunt them down and kill them. In the end, it's sort of like the Goonies, except for about deformed vomitting children from outer space who escape from a humerous concentration camp by working together. Ah, a perfect storm...
Friday, July 29, 2005
Eugene, Oregon is sort of like the island of lost hippies; it's where all the broken children of the sixties went when everywhere else in the country was too hostile towards them. The good side of this is the fact that they seem to have learned to do everything. Look around Eugene and there are hippie businessmen, farmers, salespeople, artists, and even hippie plumbers. The downside is the same as what you see in places like Amsterdam- armies of rainbow brained shipwrecks wandering the streets at night, mumbling to themselves.
I guess maybe hippie isn't the right word anymore- let's call them "pastoralists" to be nice. The thing about pastoralists is that I can agree with many of their ideas. For example, the marijuana laws are perhaps the stupidest, most draconian, and least necessary laws in the American legal code. Fine, we can agree on that. But, how do you convince Joe Wisconsin of that fact? Do you:
A) Get a chemistry degree at an Ivy League school, put on a suit, and hold a press conference to state that the conclusion of your years of tireless research is that marijuana is not addictive and causes little to no long-term damage?
B) Dress up like a nauseating, half-naked turtle in a paper-mache costume during an anti-Bush parade and beat a tambourine?
If you answered B, you might be a hippie... er, pastoralist. What has always bothered me about them is that their lifestyle seems less like an attempt to change the world than an attempt to pretend that they don't live there.
There is no better way to convince co-workers that you are happy than to smile as much as possible. Not only does smiling have clear social benefits; it can also lead to greater productivity, as the employee with a ready grin will often be assigned extra tasks from management. Most importantly, smiling is just good form- co-workers do not want to be burdoned with your problems and to do so would be inconsiderate. The Chinese philosopher Mencius once noted that "We are all here to have fun!" Smiling is the engine that drives fun, and fun is the engine that drives productivity.
So, the elephant in the higher education living room is how expensive university tuition has become. This should be a middle-class cause already, if it isn't, because it's really middle-class families that are most likely to be bankrupt by spiralling tuition fees. There's also something deeply ironic about the constant talk of "social justice" on college campuses, when they are increasingly places that only a certain class can afford access to.
Walking around the University of Toronto the other day, trying desperately to get myself properly registered in the class that I've been taking for the last few weeks, I started to realize what the problem is. Now, admittedly Canadian universities have far lower tuition rates than American universities, but U of T and SUNY Buffalo have the same basic structure. Between us, me and Claire have been to six universities, and they've all been the same, with the exception of William & Mary, which has a smaller student body and structure than most universities. Basically, most Universities have an organizational structure that is entirely too top-heavy. To get anything done, you generally have to go through three secretaries and an administrator. Who, incidentally, usually don't want to have to deal with you.
Most departments have two forms of dead weight:
1) Unnecessary administrators and secretaries. I think the norm is two secretaries and three administrators for each department. In most cases, these positions could all be handled by one person. At UB, professors do handle many of the administrative positions, but we still have plenty of dead weight. Again, William & Mary is the only university that I've attended that had very little waste in this area, probably because they are tragically underfunded.
2) Unnecessary Professors. Every department seems to have one or two professors who teach only one seminar a semester, or even a year. Paradoxically, these are usually the profs who have the best salaries in the department. This seems to borrow from the corporate CEO model, in which someone has worked hard and accomplished much, so we reward them by paying them ridiculously high salaries to do almost nothing. But, it isn't suited for academia, and parents eventually have to realize that they are sending their kids to study in departments that have "big names" who are almost totally inaccessible, and whose presence drives the tuition through the roof. Again, this is not the big problem at SUNY Buffalo, but I'd be lying if I said that it wasn't a problem here too.
I think the general problem is that universities have "expanded" in ways that don't make much sense: adding departments and offices to an already bloated administrative structure that aren't really needed, sponsoring conferences that only a handful of academics will attend, holding retreats and meetings that go nowhere, and generally building upon their own "prestige" rather than the body of knowledge that we all contribute to. Now, this is not exaclty a "critical" problem. There are still plenty of academics who work extremely hard and produce first-rate work, and who, more importantly, see teaching as a sacred duty. But, it is a problem that can't really be ignored anymore.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Okay, so I added one of those traffic trackers to this site about a month ago.
The good news you discover when you do this is that people do visit, they just don't leave any comments, for the most part.
The weird thing is that a lot of them get here because some text on this page matches terms that they were searching. But, the tracker gives you their search terms. So, it's with great pride that I announce that people came to Grad Student Madness this week looking for:
"european sex party"
"chapters indigo sucks" (glad someone else thinks so)
"selma hayeck and snake"
"student sex party"
"sucks to be a grad student"
"hitler and the pope"
"plethysmograph homolka" (my absolute favorite combination of search terms hands down! Why isn't this the name of a punk band yet?)
"Sex student party" (I should remind you that I did a post about Canada's political party known as the Sex Party)
"Giant penises" (and about frat boys who dressed as giant penises)
"Where's Karla" (about four times)
"University of Iowa" and "Philosophy grad student"
and, alas, "Private sex party".
So, it's gratifying to know that people are looking to me to find out where this sex party is. But, I just don't know, man!
Okay, here's the sort of "scoop" that blogs are supposedly known for... the first review of a record that comes out Aug. 23rd.
The Makers have been playing rock'n'roll music for about a decade now and opinion always seems to be divided about them. When they were young juvenile delinquents playing rock that sounded like The Pretty Things gone punk, the hipsters couldn't stand 'em and the punkers asked if they were really as tough as legend had it. They are. When they started playing more glam sounding songs, they got a bit of attention from the mainstream rock press and the punks lost interest in them. Then, the "garage rock" scene broke open with bands like the Strokes and the Hives all over the radio, and the Makers were busy recording a very somber and slow glam rock masterpiece called Strangest Parade. Lots of people thought they'd blown it because they were one of a handful of bands that characterized "garage rock" in the early 90s (see also: The Devil Dogs, the New Bomb Turks, the Gories) and now bands that were heavily inspired by the Makers (and in the case of The Hives heavily inspired) were reaping the rewards that the boys themselves should have taken home. Then, they recorded a covers album of their older songs entitled Stripped, which may seem self-indulgent but actually works well because their early albums were recorded in no-fi. It's also a hell of a party album. Of course, I've heard lots of people claim that band is trying to recapture their old glory a bit too late and blah, blah, blah.
Of course, there's one thing that all the debates about the Makers' style miss out on- the band writes really fucking good songs. Whether or not you like the direction that a particular Makers album is going, you still have to notice that Donny can write a melody and Michael can really sing quite well. And, actually, that wasn't exactly evident when they were young punks. Every single song on Everybody Rise! is catchy as hell, and there's a surprising joy to the album that was needed after the more morose Rock Star God and Strangest Parade concept albums.
Matter of Degrees is probably the first single and an ode to loyalty. I suspect it's first to get across the fact that this will be a more stripped down album right off the bat.
Good as Gold starts off a bit weak and then hits you with a chorus replete with harmonies! In fact, there's a surprising amount of harmonizing on this record. Producer Jack Endino has called it "Pet Sounds on a budget", but it's a bit louder than that. Still, I don't think I would've expected this much harmonizing back when the Makers were recording albums like Howl.
Everybody Rise could probably be another single. The sing-along chorus actually does remind me of Brian Wilson. Pretty great song. When it really gets going, you realize that, once again, the band is doing exactly what they want on this album.
Run With Me Tonight sounds a bit like a late 60s love song, complete with ba-ba-ba harmonizing. I actually thought of Jan and Dean, which was another surprise. But, it works.
It Takes a Mighty Heart sounds a bit more like the rockers on Psychopathia Sexualis with a very strong gospel content. One can actually picture Mike Maker as the lewdest evangelist since Lux Interior in Hot Pool of Womaneed.
Sex is Evil (When Love is Dead) is another straight-ahead rocker, and could probably be the second single.
Ordinary Human Love sounds like a closing-time song, or even better, a Prince number. I've long said that their song "Texture of a Girl" is a great ballad and this one's pretty good too.
The Story of You and I is another surprisingly poppy number. The whole album sort of plays as the recovery from the Strangest Parade funeral. Don't get me wrong- I think that Strangest Parade was the band's masterpiece. But, it's a tough one. The band was dealing with the deaths of some people who were very close to them. I think the point of this record is that they made it through.
Tiger of the Night actually was a single already and fits the album pretty well. It's also become our cat Lola's theme song. Ti-ti-ta-ta- Tiger of the Night!
She Walks in Color has a great bass groove, which isn't always the highlight of a Makers song. Sort of odd considering the bass player writes the songs. The lyrics reflect the 60s psych influence. "And her heart has eyes/ And her eyes are skies."
Promises for Tomorrow sounds like it should be the closing song.
Goddamn, this is a great album! Why don't those stupid kids who buy every lousy Oasis album listen to this at least once? Why doesn't the radio play any one of these songs? ...Oh right, payola. Anyway, the Makers have got to be the most unappreciated band in America.
We spent much of today going through the house we are soon to be buying with our building inspector. Everything checked out, although there are some minor altercations that we will be making for safety reasons. Anway, it's tremendously exciting for us. I know it's not exactly the most exciting news and perhaps qualifies as self-centered blogging. But, a lot is happening these days and it helps to keep track of them.
From a Letter to the Editor of Salon:
"I have the right to express myself!" I'm sure she'd claim. But I have the right to say that I find the entire phenomenon of blogging, with its staggeringly adolescent focus on the One and Only Me, to be indicative of an utter disregard for other people, a fraternal-twin to the phenomenon of cellphone users who screech away on the street without any conception that they are forcing others to listen.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
I rather like both of these paintings by the artist Alisa Lowden, and I thought I'd post them here to share them with you. We really have to search out good artwork these days, as it's hidden. Nevertheless, I think it's worthwhile looking for it. The titles are "Green Devil Car" (1998) and "The River" (1991).
Monday, July 25, 2005
I bought a book at the Sylvia Beach Hotel called "When Technology Fails" and we hit the road.
The fifth day of our honeymoon was spent largely in driving to Eugene. Indulging my need to wander, Claire planned a day of just that. We went to parks and wandered amongst trees that stretched like green spires into the heavens. We crawled over the rocks and searched for polished bits of wood in the foamy shores. We stared at fat sea lions, rolling around like water balloons on the warm rocks. It was my favorite day because we got to discover things. I wonder if the internet generation will every know what it's like to discover something instead of just accessing things.
I felt happy to have no idea what was going on in the news or on the net. Why do I usually feel this pathological need to keep up on current events when society is, at best, a flimsy hiding place, and I have no idea about the longer and steadier flows and ebbs of nature? Why do I feel "irresponsible" when I'm not up-to-date on who blew what up in what place I'll probably never see this week? Why do I care about who the President is, or think that people who don't know who the President is are less intelligent than I am? Moreover, why am I so "wired" to a world that has less and less to offer me?
I don't have any answers.
Maybe I need to wander more often.
Sunday, July 24, 2005
When famed philosopher Jacques Derrida died last year, numerous academics blew a collective gasket over the NYTimes' "disrespectful" obituary to the man. There were countless angry letters to the editor and eventually a webpage was set up to collect these angry letters to the editor. What was funny about the response, aside from the fact that the letter-writers were outraged that Derrida had been, quite accurately, called an "abstruse theorist", was that academics like Judith Butler suddenly seemed to have decided that something should be sacred.
Derrida was never quite understood in the United States, even while he became a celebrity here. Academic conservatives made him out to be a wild-eyed radical who wanted to overturn all of our ideas of truth and our society along with them, an appraisal they seem to make of everyone to the left of the Michigan Militia. Academic leftists, for their part, saw his work as a weapon for use in the idiotic culture wars, or even worse, tried to sell him as an Einsteinian genius who taught us that everything we knew about language was wrong. The documentary in question is actually hyped with the question: "What if someone came along who changed not the way you think about everything, but everything about the way you think?" Which is an interesting prospect, but one that Derrida could have delivered on about as quickly as he could have performed brain surgery. Derrida was an accomplished footnote to Heidegger, but not an earth-shaking one. Perhaps it is best to see his work as the French do; a worthy response to structuralism (remember that America discovered structuralism and post-structuralism in the same year) and an interesting take on some of the problems of phenomenology and linguistics, but nothing too terribly life-altering. American academics seem to find this sort of stuff to be life-altering, but mostly because they seem to be constantly looking for things to alter their lives.
But, the big question about Derrida has always been whether or not he was a bullshit artist. Certainly, his work was more firmly rooted in the western philosophical tradition than his detractors have been willing to admit. The problem is that too much of it boils down to : "This thing that I am sitting on is defined as a chair; therefore the thing that I am writing with is 'non-chair'." Fine, but so what? And what about terms that have no logical "other"? Ultimately, any documentary on the man has to explain why we, the viewers, should care one way or the other about him.
Unfortunately, the filmmakers assume that we're already part of the deconstruction cult and so make little effort to explain what deconstruction is, or why anyone should care about it. In fact, they decide that we'd rather get to watch Derrida make his breakfast in long, loving takes. It is certainly admirable that Derrida, the man, spends so much time trying to prove that Derrida, the documentary, can never be accurate. Some of the most amusing bits in the film come when the filmmakers try to get the prickly old man to say anything substantive about himself or his ideas. Sadly though, they ultimately fail.
Leslie Fiedler said that Derrida was a mensch, and so I take that to be true. Also, he was never the anti-western radical he's been made out to be. The problem with Derrida the man is that you have to understand Plato, Aristotle and Heidegger before you read his work, but when you do understand them, you're not too terribly impressed with Derrida. The problem with Derrida the documentary is that it assumes we'd much rather skip over all of that and get to watching the man make his breakfast or walk down the sidewalk. After about an hour of this, I went for the "other" option and took a nap.
So, it still sucks after a day. Hard to believe, eh?
There is a church down the street from us that has had to close its doors. For some reason, I had the impression that churches never close; probably because they never pay taxes I figured they were protected by the state. Apparently not.
So, they had to close. I'm guessing the rents went up. High Park has gone very yuppie as of late and a lot of people are getting priced out of the neighborhood. Also, apparently, yuppies don't go to church. Theism is such a working class thing, isn't it?
Anyway, the Church is just a gorgeous old building. Not quite gothic, but in a semi-gothic style, built around the turn of the last century in solid stone. It'd be a pity to demolish it. So, the real estate company is building condos inside the church and selling off the stained-glass. Isn't that cute?
Many of us who aren't particuarly Christian might still be unnerved by the crass bourgeois arrogance of trying to buy a religious site. But, I can accept that times have changed and the vaules of consumerism have seemingly replaced all other human values. What can ya' do? At least, yuppies know great architecture when they see it, right? But, what gauls me is the ad line they're using to sell the condos. I quote:
"_______ Condominiums: A Whole New Temptation!"
Get it?! Haw-haw-haw! We have no dignity at all! And we're way too rich to respect anyone else!
Go ahead. Feel free. Celebrate the death of affect.
Again, I am trying to edit out the boring parts of the vacation, so I will just say that we ate the "world famous" clam chowder at Mo's in Newport. I liked it, but Claire was not impressed.
Then, we went back to the Hotel and Claire napped while I did homework and wrote a letter to my grandfather.
That night, we are dinner with a violin-maker and his wife whose lie about violins we only caught because Claire's Aunt is a touring cellist. Also a teacher and her husband whose daughter miraculously survived being buried alive by an avalanche last year. They were all quite nice, and thankfully, more relaxed than the previous diner.
Then, we walked on the beach and went to bed.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Shot in 2002, and yet to be released in America, Ken Park plays out like a degenerate anthropological study of our own backyard. Its images of teenagers engaging in kinky sex games and drug abuse have made it unsuitable for American consumption, which is a shame; I'm not sure other cultures can really understand this film or the places in America that it shows. Laura Clifford, who saw the film at Cannes and hated it, reported overhearing an English journalist telling an Italian colleague: "I love watching films about fucked up Americans!" There certainly are a good number of them, including the majority of Larry Clark's own films, and they're getting to be as tedious as a Norman Rockwell collection, but minus the craftsmanship. This film is set apart from Clark's other films by having a point and, unexpectedly, a heart.
Clark began working as photographer in the early 70s with portraits of drugged out horny teenagers in small-town America and he has stuck with this subject ever since, moving closer and closer to child pornography with each work. Many critics have accused him of being a provocateur, which misses the point. What he's capturing in his work is there for effect, but it's not dishonest. Others have accused him of being a pervert, which is a tougher nut to crack. Certainly, most of the great artists have been perverts, and Clark shares the artist's obsessive need to winnow out every image from his fevered brain for the world at large. But, there is something a bit kinky about a man in his sixties filming his twenty-something girlfriend performing oral sex on a young male. But, for once in Clark's ouevre, there seems to be something more to the film than just kink.
Kids (1995) was Clark's breakthrough film and portrayed a subculture of amoral and bored skateboarders. As such, it was about as dull as the thousands of other films that have been made about amoral and bored teenagers. I can say that it is dead-on in its accuracy. But, it also ambles on without any particular direction or message other than "jeez, these kids are screwed-up, huh?" With Bully (2001), Clark seemed to have a point, even though it was a rather fatalistic one, about how peer pressure can come to replace parental involvement for aimless kids whose parents are accomodating, pushy or worse. Critics were distressed by the amount of teenage sex in the film, and Clark indeed seems intent on obeying his own demons. Again, so are all artists. Teenage Caveman (2001) was a surprisingly satisfying attempt to remake a 50s B-movie in Clark's own style. The made-for-HBO film played as Clark's sci-fi porno version of the Pied Piper and established Clark as an auteur, albeit a perverse one.
Ken Park finally deals with Clark's dislike for suburban parents; a dislike that isn't exactly unique. However, the film succeeds because his hatred is so deadly accurate. There are plenty of parents exactly like these ones, powerless in an economic and social sense but wielding a near-dictatorial control over their own children. Gradually, they become the real focus of the film and we begin to realize that their varied attempts at creating what Frank Zappa called "replica children" have damaged these kids, perhaps beyond repair.
Ken Park is a skateboarder who shoots himself in the head three minutes into the film; we don't find out why until the end of the film. Certain aspects of the character (such as his nickname "Krap Nek") point to the Harmony Korine screenplay, but his epiphany at the end, while not exactly Joycean, is remarkably poignant, especially for a character who has about ten minutes of screen time. The other characters are Ken Park's rough social circle. Shawn (James Bullard) is dating his neighbor's daughter while secretly having an affair with her mother. His obediance to a bored bourgeois suburbanite who clearly sees him as a zipless fuck is also strangely moving. Tate (James Ransone) is perhaps the least necessary character; a teenaged psycho who kills his grandparents for cheating at board games. Claude (Stephen Jasso) is the most sympathetic character in the film, a kid who is constantly bullied by his drunken redneck father (Wade Andrew Williams) for being a "sissy". The scenes in which he "spots" the goon while he does bench-presses are heartbreaking- the father is clearly a worthless creep, but he has control over this one human being and so he exerts it. The same goes for the fundamentalist father of Peaches, played by Clark's girlfriend Tiffany Limos. We begin to understand that these children are second-class citizens. They have no say in their own lives, and so create their own perverse oases outside of society.
Clark clearly oversteps at points. A scene in which the aforementioned bored housewife leaves her daughter alone watching soft-core porn on television is more laughable than shocking. Also, Clark and cinematographer/ co-director Ed Lachman linger on close-ups of ejaculating penises and Limos's vagina for blatant shock-value. The shocks are a bit too obvious and mechanical and more ambiguous touches, such as a scene in which the redneck father urinates while downing a beer, or grimly watches the Jerry Springer show as if it was just another painful reminder of his station in life, are more devastating.
But, the teenager's threesomes, drug use and the like seem less dreary and pointless than in other Clark films, and more as if the kids are doing the best they can in a terrible situation. There is perhaps a reason that our culture uses the phrase "being treated like a child" as a euphymism for being treated without respect or honesty.
I have tried, thus far, not to include a lot of boring "tourist stories" in this blog. I've left out all the dull stuff and tried to write in a better way than usual.
So, I'll say little about our day in Newport. Just this:
People at the Hotel had suggested very elaborate days out for us, but I was feeling pretty shagged out after three days of wandering. So, we just drove a few miles to the piers and looked at the boats. Did you know that the tides are much stronger on the West Coast than the East? It's true. Their boats are much sturdier than my father's lobster boat and they use these huge 100 lb. metal traps, while he uses 5 lb. wooden traps. I think this is why the crabs are so huge on the West Coast. I asked my father about this when we saw him and he agreed that, yes, the tides are a lot stronger and the waves a lot bigger in Oregon. "I don't know if I'd want to get out in those waves at all," he said.
Anway, we looked at a lot of craft stores run by old hippies, further cementing my theory that hippies are good at crafts. Actually, they seem to hearken most of all to pre-industrial pastoralism. Not nearly as radical as one might think. It explains why so many Oregon farmers are old hippies. Sort of a turning back of the historical clock. And, given the materialistic psychopathology I'm used to in Toronto, it's starting to seem pretty inviting at this point.
Here is surely the Second Worst use of Woody Guthrie. An NYU professor worries greatly about boarding a plane with a laptop that has a sticker with "This machine kills fascists" written on it.
"If I were pulled aside, would the security staff see me as a genial professor and frequent flyer?"
"Or would the staff see me as a man with a long, foreign name, olive skin, a goatee and an attitude?"
So, he takes the sticker off the computer and boards the plane. His concern is certainly understandable; after all, most security personnel are unlikely to appreciate a reference to the words that Woody Guthrie wrote on his guitar.
"After I got through security, pangs of guilt hit me. I don't really want to live this way. I don't want to censor myself from making harmless statements during sensitive times. What will I do when I have to make serious statements during difficult times?"
Excuse me? Does he really think that Guthrie's statement was intended to be harmless? It wasn't for the singer. He really did mean to kill fascists. Which was why he signed up to fight in World War II. He was a part of the anti-fascist left. Remember them?
The author then decries the increased security and paranoia in contemporary America, which Guthrie would certainly have decried as well. But, he really lost me with this line:
"The state of mind in the United States for the past two years is a strange mix of arrogance and paranoia. We are confident that we can defeat something as nebulous as 'terrorism', yet we panic over the smallest hint of risk."
This is where Woody Guthrie would have rolled over in his grave. The whole point of his line about killing fascists was that he would in fact kill fascists. There wasn't a question about it for him. "Terrorism" isn't in fact "nebulous"; it's quite easy to define. And the use of terrorism to force others to conform to your political beliefs is fascism. This isn't a question. It's bold-faced fascism, and even worse, it's theocratic fascism. Is there any question that Woody Guthrie was talking about fascists like the ones who blow up subway stations? The ones whose politics seemingly boil down to a revoltingly mysogynist, fundamentalist, anti-gay, psychopathic view of the universe? The left has a tradition of fighting, and even killing, these sorts of fascists. Or, at least, we did until the New Left decided that fascism doesn't count unless it's American fascism.
But, this too is fascism. And even if it isn't speaking to us in a southern American accent, we should still be able to recognize it as such. Sorry, to have to phrase it this way, but I joined the left because I felt that the only good fascist is a very dead one. This doesn't mean that I support the arrogant drunken stupidity of the current administration, but it does mean that I see "terrorism" as the language of fascism.
Now, back to the vacation.
The Smithsonian is gearing up a exhibit on fences in American history. According to my inside sources, the exhibit is going to be pretty rah-rah- mostly about how fences have made America the great nation it is, and little on the long debate over fencing, illustrated in old folk songs like "Don't Fence Me In".
Perhaps the most egregious part of the exhibit though is a section that uses a recording of Woody Guthrie singing "This Land is My Land" to extoll the virtues of private property. According to one of the display builders, the song is edited so that we only hear the chorus, and are supposed to assume that Guthrie was supporting private property, in spite of the fact that the song has exactly the opposite meaning of the one suggested. It's a song against making land into private property.
Here's a delightful essay on the flattening of literary affect and relative joylessness of most mass novels. It's a nice piece because it reminds the reader of why we enjoy certain novelists, even as we might fume that he should have mentioned them. This line in particular reminded me of the joys of reading J.G. Ballard:
"By some perverse twist of intellectual history, the very reason we once read novels- to be liberated from solemnity and absurdity, to be engaged in a merry war with everything around us- is the very reason we won't read novels which perform such a service now."
Maybe that'd why Ballard's books are so hard to find in North America.
Friday, July 22, 2005
Before bed, we wandered along the beach in front of the hotel. It seems poetic that hourglasses fill with sand. Beaches are like the accumulated refuse of time. I feel the same way everyone does on the beach; relaxed and soothed, but also a bit lonely. The ocean is so massive and impersonal that we feel the immediate urge to walk into its waves and merge with oblivion. This need to connect with the universal while being obliterated is at the heart of all selfless endeavors. So, perhaps the heart of all selfless endeavors is a return to the liquid realm.
A few days ago, while pulling into our driveway in bumper-to-bumper traffic, a yuppie screamed at Claire and I because she failed to make the correct signal. Since we were barely moving, this seemed a bit excessive. Nevertheless, she has used her blinker since then.
Today, in the same situation, we were honked at simply for turning right onto our driveway. Someone was apparently in such a hurry that Claire merely putting on the turn signal and then turning to the right was too much of an inconvenience for them.
Today, we finally bought a house in Hamilton. Toronto can continue with the smog and yuppies and traffic and bullshit without us. We'll do fine without it.
Dinners at the Sylvia Beach Hotel are served in the Tables of Content Restaurant on the lowest level. You eat at tables with other travellers and share stories and delicious food with them. It's quite social and reminds me of how much of our evolution as individuals comes through conviviality. The self develops through social self-hood. We are literally social animals.
They suggest that the diners play a game during dinner in which each person says two truths and one lie and the rest of the table has to figure out which was the lie. I was terrible at lying, but Claire told a passable lie about breaking her brother's finger as a child. Our companions were an engineer and his wife who both seemed overjoyed to be there and a couple from South Carolina who had been married for 25 years. The husband was an excellent story-teller and, impressively enough, fooled us all with a story about winning $41 million in the lottery.
They were both quite charming to eat with, but I have to admit that the fellow sort of rubbed me the wrong way as the meal wore on. His conversation became quite limited in that he just kept relating to us how totally scandalized he was by those crazy non-conformist kids today. He kept getting louder and more indignant and pausing before every word to emphasize how shocking these facts were that he was relating. I'll try to transcribe the speech pattern.
"So you went to Portland? Man, do they... ever... have... their... freaks!!"
"We saw people there whose arms were... Covered... By... TATTOOS!!"
"And how the HELL do you think you can get a job with those tattoos?! HUH?! Where we come from, They. Will. NOT. Hire. You. With. TATTOOS!!"
(So, tattoos are still quite the scandal in South Carolina. Since, you know, they were only invented a few years ago. But, that's not all...)
"You live in Canada? I heard that people were running up there because they were afraid they'd get drafted to go to Iraq. And that's. Just. Not. Right! Where I come from, They'll. Come. Git. You!! YOU DON'T DO THAT!"
(Actually, nobody does do that. There's no draft on. But, I didn't want to interrupt.)
The conversation varied from these theoretical draft-dodgers who outrage him, to people with tattoos who outrage him, to France, which outrages him (naturellement!) , to (I'm not making this up) teenagers who outrage him by having parties. There is this psychological need I used to see in people when I was in Virginia to be defenders. They would get obsessed with "bums" or "liberals" or "homos" or whoever it is that is undermining our society this week and they would talk in exactly the same way about horrors like teenagers bleaching their hair or reading strange books as they would about al-Quaida. There was no nuance, just a continuum of "no-good-bums" versus the "good folks" like them and they were the front line in this war to preserve provincialism.
But, what do you possibly have to look forward to in life when everything outrages you?
In case I've never said it before, I believe that people should never be afraid to think things that make them uncomfortable, or say things that make others uncomfortable.
Finally, we arrived at the Sylvia Beach after having driven through Pacific Northwest forests that seemed ready to swallow our car at any moment. The Hotel is charming; every room is designed after a different famous author; there is a Melville Suite with an enormous bed, an Edgar Allen Poe room with a Poe bust, working pendulum over the bed, stuffed raven and a bricked in "door", an Oscar Wilde Room with floral wallpaper and orchids, and so on. I have no idea why they don't have a James Joyce Room though. We took the Lincoln Steffens room for two reasons:
1) My great-grandfather Guy Hickok was friends with Steffens while they were both newspapermen in Paris. He's mentioned in the Letters and Autobiography,
2) He was actually much better friends with Hemingway, but that room was taken,
3) It was either that or the Dr. Seuss Room, which had a child's bed.
Our room was beautiful. It reminded me of a guest room at an older relative's home. It had comfortable reading rooms, no clock and a charming cat who came into our room to sniff us out and climb around our bags. It also had an old typewriter like the old newspaper men used. I love the old typewriters with their metal exoskeleton and machine-gun rapport; they're like the war machine of linear thought. The Hotel is a shrine to the craftsmen who patiently constructed sentences in the old fashion.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Thoughts while driving from Eugene to Newport, Oregon:
1) If you "adopt" a highway, is it yours? Could you, say, close the highway for an evening? "No, I'm sorry. You'll have to turn around. I'm having a party here tonight." Claire tells me that this idea was on Seinfeld.
2) Hippies seem to excell most of all at arts and crafts. They do know how to do quite a bit of labor though. Maybe they're evolving. Still, certain jobs should not be left to hippies. For example, hippie assassins would not do well.
"Ah man, I think you just grazed him!"
"Ah, this is a drag, man. Let's go get high."
"But, he's still alive."
"Dude! If we let you live, will you be cool?"
3) Hippies are actually quite different from the wild-eyed Marxist proto-fascists we had in DC. I dare say they're almost fundamentally different. You couldn't see a hippie lining anyone up against the wall when the revolution comes. They seem totally harmless. This contradicts all that I've ever heard about hippies forming the "treacherous fifth column". They seem ineffectual instead. Compare, for example, the psychos in International ANSWER and hippies at the local crafts fair. One wants to violently overthrow the state and the other wants to go skinny dipping, perhaps while playing the flute. See what I mean? Like night and day.
4) What beautiful land they have in Oregon. A golden crew-cut of farmland that stretches out in all directions. Occasionally, flocks of birds rise up and blow away like dead skin. The road is dotted with garden nurseries and produce stands. Hills roll by like shipwrecks. Oregon lucked out.
5) It's still weird asking for directions and introducing "my wife" to people. I just love Claire as Claire. Have to get used to this new appellation. I do love how happy older married couples get when they hear that we're on our honeymoon. I look forward to feeling the same way when I meet newlyweds.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Not surprisingly, we returned to Powell's and bought a few more books. Also, I got to see the rare books room upstairs, which was quite nice although it didn't have Lamartine's Voyages en l'Orient, which I'm looking for. Also, the prices were fairly high. There was a first edition Dawn Powell for about $250, for instance. Powell was a genius, but she can't be that sought after.
Anyway, the people at Jake's had asked us if we were "bookers" and I said that I guess so. I think "bookers" must be short for "book collectors" although book collectors should logically have enough time and patience to say both words. At any rate, "recorders" is short for record collectors, and I've been called that too. Actually, given our love of food, Claire and I could be called "foodies" too. Perhaps, we should also be called "walkies" since we love to go on walks, or "sexies" for obvious reasons. I think I'd be happiest to be called a "lifie". We love the world, her and I. I think that's it. We love living in the world.
It's strange, this need to consign one's loves to the status of a hobby. "Resign yourself to a job you'll hate. Get a hobby - but keep it in the garage." -Jello Biafra. "Hobby" seems to be a euphamism for the means by which a person keeps themself from killing their boss. I want my loves to fill my life. I think it's why I'm trying to go into academia- so that I can be a "booker" for a living and a professional enthusiast.
The next morning we got up early to go to this healthy food place called Bijou, Cafe for breakfast.
(132 SW 3rd Ave, Portland, Oregon. 503-222-3187. Yes, it's spelled with the comma.) It wasn't exactly cheap, but man was the food good. Claire and I are both quite fond of food. We like to cook, and we love to eat. We have absolutely no "food issues" other than an overwhelming urge to eat the best food we possibly can. So, when we find a good place to eat we can talk almost non-stop about it. Claire has claimed that this was the best breakfast she has ever had, which is really saying something. I think she had the raspberry muffins and buckwheat pancakes. Anyway, mine was really good too, but I was getting a bit jealous as she went on and on about this being the best breakfast of her life. Perhaps that's petty. Anyway, we came back later and I had the absolute best brioche french toast that I have ever eaten. So, then we were even.
Spicy dinner at a Thai restaurant. The food was great, as was the company. On the other side of the joint, a group of girls was apparently going wild. After you've been in Canada for an extended period of time, you start to notice how LOUD we are in the states. Canadians will go out and get drunk at the local pub, of course. But, according to Claire, they will certainly not do so at the local Thai restaurant. Also, they don't feel the same need that we do; we are out in public with our friends, so we absolutely must get drunk and make a lot of noise, or we won't be having fun, and we absolutely must be having fun at all times. There's something a bit pathological about it. A sort of obsessive fear of silence.
Anway, we had to call and make sure our feline princess was happy with Claire's brother. I worried about Lola. Would she have adjusted well to her new environment? Was she eating?
She was fine. In fact, she was biting his fingers when we called. She was not letting him get any sleep either. Eventually, he would learn who was the boss.
Next, we headed into town to shop. I suppose this is the heart of tourism- a field trip for shopping. Guy Debord has called tourism "a by-product of the circulation of commodities... a chance to go and see what has been made trite." I thought of this when we entered a store with a kitschy Asian theme where there used to be a museum (according to our guide book). There was furniture from Malaysia, Chairman Mao bookends, Ganesh notebooks, everything translated into the language of ironic modern condescention. Your culture is our knick-knacks. Does it still exist if we can't buy it?
So, you have three choices in the park: go see the Rose Garden, go see the Japanese Garden, or go to a Holocaust Memorial in the garden. I've commented before on the increasing tendency of museums to reduce all of human history to the Holocaust. But, I have no idea why a park in Portland would need to remind visitors of the same. This need to make every public gathering an occasion to feel species shame is utterly Christian in the worst possible sense.
The Japanese Garden was also beautiful. It was constructed in such a way that its man-made elements mimic nature and play off of the natural forms around it. Koi swim beneath bamboo bridges that seem to have grown out of the marshes. Every piece pleases the eye and soothes the soul. I've dreamt of places like this and we both wished that we could stay.
We spent much of the afternoon in Portland's rose test garden. There are thousands of roses here in dozens of varieties. The sheer diversity of flowers attests to the complexity and majesty of the natural world, even though many breeds were "unnaturally" selected. Claire and I lingered in the perfumed breezes and imagined spending the day napping there.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
"One day the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in the United States will tear down the artificial scaffolding of Christianity. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter."
-President Thomas Jefferson, 1823.
We set out to wander around Portland and argued about the use of guidebooks. Claire is Type A and requires certainty, while I need to wander. I disagree with the old adage; to err is divine.
Portland is certainly fascinating to roam; there are wild roses on the highway medians and feral hippies in the shopping districts. Ludicrously ostentatious yuppies brush up against an equal number of otherworldly vagrants in some sort of social chess game. The class divides are almost unreal here. Extreme poverty and extreme luxury share the same blocks. Canadians joke that America believes in God, guns and gated communities. But Portland revels in feudalism.
The next morning we ate breakfast at the Hotel Mallory where we were staying. I had eggs benedict and Claire had french toast and a migraine. This was aggrivated by the shrieking infant near us and she eventually went back to our room to rest while I paid. I think that there is nothing in this world more beautiful than a mute child.
We had dinner at a place called Jake's where I ate a huge crab about twice the size of those that we catch on the east coast. When I was a child, we would eat bushells of crabs from the Chesapeake Bay. It would take so long to get a miserable pittance of meat from the bloody things that you would be perpetually hungry. My parents solved the problem by swallowing gallons of beer.
Next to us were a man and a woman from Detroit who create ads for the automobile industry. Contrary to what that might suggest, they were quite charming and smelled not-at-all of sulfur. He was middle-aged and talked almost non-stop. I found him quite affable. She was in her twenties, quiet with a shaved head, and came off like an aged punk rocker. Perhaps she was getting even with society through advertising.
That first evening we went to Powell's Books, the largest bookstore I have ever seen and, apparently, a reward for some kind act I committed in a previous life. There are something like 3/4ths of a million books at Powell's, new and used, and a majority of them are inexpensive. By a superhuman act of willfullness, I only bought eight books that first day. But, we spent a few hours browsing, and I covered the key areas thoroughly. Toronto has a bookstore that calls itself The World's Largest Bookstore, but it is owned by Chapters, known liars. The Strand in New York City is also impressive, but by my estimation, is only about a third the size of Powell's. Every reader should come to Powell's once in their lifetime, like Muslims to Mecca.
We land in Portland after a considerably more relaxing flight without children aboard. Upon arriving at the car rental office, we notice that the sky is cloudly and it is drizzling. In front of us in line are a middle-aged hippie couple in town for a conference on Bahaism or the unity of world religions, or something of the sort. I have not seen a hippie in years; they have been hunted to the edge of extinction on the east coast. A few small pockets survive in Maine, remnants of a lost world. Hippies and drizzle will be reoccurring motifs in Portland.
Monday, July 18, 2005
Sailing over the Rocky Mountains, we looked down on some of the same places that Claire staked out as a child; mountains now with trees shaved off in chemotherapy clumps. Clear-cutting is scientifically-proven to be good for the environment; at least according to those people who wouldn't profit otherwise. As you reach Vancouver, the buildings, roads and factories proliferate greatly. It's hard not to be gloomy. If mankind is a pox on the earth, it's hard to believe it's not yet fatal.
Toronto to Vancouver, cross-country, in four hours. I was surprised to find the jet lag did not bother me much at all; I have a strange sleep schedule anyway. It took four hours to fly and we went back three hours. Simple.
The only catch was that we had a mother and her five young children in front of us. The kids would simply not stop moving, banging their heads against the seats and shrieking. We spent much of the flight discussing how much we would pay extra to be on a child-free flight. Our final concensus was $100-200. Despite the inevitable outcry from sanctimonious parents, some airline could make a fortune.
We headed out at 5:30 m to Pierson Airport in a cab driven by a small Italian man who looked and acted like a character in a Martin Scorcese film. After checking our luggage, we sat in a coffee stand and attempted to resucitate our still dormant brain cells. La jetee was painted in a dully soothing grey and largely resembled a mental institution; it uses the same architectural effects to shield its inhabitants from the passing of time. It is pointedly ahistorical. The people it was designed for are coming and going to various locations, but they are, ideally, all fugitives from history.
Sunday, July 10, 2005
Saturday, July 09, 2005
Hakim Bey is as free as water and as undefinable as the taste of absynthe. The pen name of Peter Lamborn Wilson, Bey has written a number of essays on topics varying from pirate utopias to pederasty to Irish hashish users. There are deep strains of anarchism and sufiism running through his work, tied together by an interest in spiritual growth outside of hierarchical structures. Bey tries to attest to all the sorts of freedoms we would be allowed in a world if Nietzsche and the mystics were equally correct and his works are about as challenging as that might suggest.
Here Bey continues picks up on some of the themes from his book Temporary Autonomous Zone, trying to figure out how to live an unmediated life in a mediated society. His argument is that artists have a particular responsibility to eschew the further mediation of high-technology and capital and should be aiming for a more secretive way of exchanging art, similar to a clandestine quilting bee. The idea that all experience is mediated is, of course, nothing new; in fact, it goes back, at least to the Romantics. In recent years, it has become something of an accepted fact in the academy, due to "French theorists" such as Michel Foucault or Jean Baudrillard. Bey shares some ideas with the theorists, but completely sidesteps their more dismal conclusions. He yearns not for the "peak experiences" of violence, but for the peak experiences of intoxication or religious or sexual transcendence. There's a pragmatic aspect to Bey's work. He seems to believe that, okay, we will never live in a way that is unmediated or completely free of someone else's control. But, there are numerous cracks, uncharted regions, in which true ludic freedom can occur. If we chose not to explore those spaces, we can blame no one else. Unlike Foucault, whose ideas seem to offer no hope aside from the delirium of random violence, Bey sides with the secret societies, potlucks, potlatches, gypsies, home schoolers, Kallikaks, and countless others who have lived outside of control without even realizing what they were doing. He'd rather be a smuggler than a sadist. Therefore, his work is infinitely more enjoyable to read than the theorists.
Essays here include the title essay Immediatism, Bey's manifesto calling for a sort of art that would be free of capital or technology, and therefore all-but invisible to most of society. He explores secret societies by detailing the little-known Chinese organization The Tong and plans An Immediatist Potlatch. There's a humor to these essays, but their goal is serious; Bey is not ironic and actually rightly describes Baudrillard as "an ironic hyperconformist". Bey wants real freedom; right here and now, and has little time for cynical jokes or boring meetings to discuss and plan the new society that will never come.
This has put Bey at odds with several leftist writers. Murray Bookchin wrote a devastating review of T.A.Z. in which he argued that Bey's ideas amount to lifestyle choices with little outside impact. This is valid, but I think Bookchin overlooks the aspect of the writing that corresponds more with centuries old gnostic religious ideas than 1950s leftist organizing. Bey has no interest in a "dictatorship of the proletariat" or a dictatorship of any sort. He has no interest in the clashes that are always called "inevitable" or even in the (always postponed) revolution. His books seem to most anarchists to be about "lifestyle" because they're about living.
A second criticism of Bey's work is much more difficult to answer; namely, he takes Max Stirner's position that the libertarian should exorcise all his own moral beliefs to its logical, but troubling conclusion by advocating gay male relationships that are indeed common in certain Sufi tribes, but which amount to pederasty. There is no mention of "boy-love" in this collection, but some have argued that... well, Wilson really meant what he said is T.A.Z. and is indeed a pedophile. The question troubles me because I find molestation repellent, but to this date, Wilson has never been accused of any actual incidents and the book can still be read for its own merits.
This is a fascinating book, and perhaps the easiest way into the oeuvre. The writing is gorgeous and reads much more like Ginsberg than Kropotkin. Bey is the spiritual heir to the beats, the surrealists, the shaman and the cave painter. Like them, he challenges us to recreate our own reality in a more vivid key. Bey believes that art has the power to remake the beholder, and attempts to teach the reader how to remake himself however he would like.
I've told Claire about how Canadians seem to think that I've witnessed a lot of shootings in the states, but she has no idea what I'm talking about. So, either Canadians really do think that Americans see a lot of shootings or it's just that I look like the sort of person who's been present at a lot of murders.
Is there a Canadian belief that Americans have all seen someone get shot?
I've been here for a year and a half, and I think I've had five people up here say to me, "Yeah, the states are very nice. But, isn't it scary walking down the street and seeing people get shot?"
Well, I... uh, assume it would be...
I love Canadians. I really do. (Actually, I think that's the first time that fact has really sunk in.)
But, I think that's the funniest misconception people have about the US. Remember Canadians, that there are ten times as many of us in the states, so often, we just hear about shootings second-hand. If you want to see somebody get shot in the US, you really have to plan for it!
Friendster's tag line is:
"The fun and safe way to stay connected with your friends"
I'm sorry, is there an unsafe way to stay connected with my friends? Is there some way of visiting friends in the real world that could lead to sudden death or spontaneous combustion? Do I have to relegate myself to communication through the pseudo-world or risk being eaten by wolves?
Thanks, but I still prefer the other way.
(Yes, I realize that they mean my information is protected. Just being a smart-ass)
Friday, July 08, 2005
Claire's mom got me some sturdy cloth bags like the ones she uses for groceries! I was complaining about plastic bags recently. Every time we go to the corner store, we end up with two or three plastic bags. Then we hold on to them, thinking that they'll serve some useful purpose someday. But, they never do. So, we end up with like 5,000 plastic bags under our sink. They annoy the hell out of me.
So, she bought me three large cloth shopping bags, which was very helpful indeed. I'm glad I married her daughter.
Okay, so Gokal and Sheila were minorities in Afghanistan because they were Hindus. Fearing persecution by the Taliban, they came to the US in 1997 seeking political asylum. The immigration judge in the case clearly had no idea what he was doing and the hearings were a mess; the Newsweek article on the case is pretty mindblowing. Anway, the Keystone Homeland Security Kops jumped into action and quickly had the 70 year olds arrested and squirreled away into the sort of "detention center" that used to be unheard of in a free country. Nobody knows why, or can find out why. Transparency, eh?
Incidentally, you can easily click that last link to see the family's webpage, and if you're an American, email your elected representatives through the page. So, please do.
I just mentioned Karla Homolka in the last post as an example of extreme hubris. For the unknowing, or just basically non-Canadians, Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo were two cute suburbanites who kidnapped, raped and tortured three teenaged girls to death, including Homolka's own younger sister. Pretty horrific, huh? Now, were this the states, she'd be pushing up daisies right now. But, since Canadian justice is entirely too polite, she has been freed after 12 years in jail. There was a plea bargain (known here as the "deal with the devil"), there were loopholes, etc. etc.
As for her utter arrogance, well get this... instead of just being happy to be free, retiring to Montreal and waiting to get shot, she's been giving interviews for the CBC in which she bitches about how the media has treated her! Apparently, they haven't been considerate enough to someone who drugged her own 15 year old sister so that she and her boyfriend could rape and torture the girl to death two days before Christmas! Maybe they could have sent her a "Good Luck in Your New Life!" card from Hallmark or something. So, she tried for months to get a "media ban" along with the inevitable police protection, and then, on her first night out, did a televised interview for the media! Anyway, she's pretty much the textbook definition of sociopathic hubris, and an especially whiny Canadian criminal.
One freedom that Americans take for granted is our freedom to say stupid shit. In Canada, you can be fined heavily, or even go to jail, if you say something stupid that "incites hatred" . So, imagine if you got fined everytime you said something stupid that made other people hate you. Brittney Spears would be in a debtor's prison by now! If I was a Canadian and I said that I hate parking attendants, that I think they are the lowest form of vermin and are not fit to lick the shoes of lepers, just for example, I could be fined, or even jailed. Which would make those damned parking attendants really happy I bet.
Anyway, the link is to a story about an aboriginal leader, and freelance moron, named David Ahenakew (gesunheit!) who decided, like so many other morons, to share with us all his thoughts on the Jewish people, something a Saskatchewan aboriginal is in a position to know a lot about. Anyway, he said some truly repellent things about the Holocaust in that funny Saskatchewan accent and promptly got charged with inciting hatred. The judge has reduced his fine and decided against jail time, so as not to make him a "martyr" to other stupid people. Ahenakew has claimed that this proves that aboriginals cannot get justice. Maybe so, but it might not be a good time to point that out after your jail time was thrown out. We have some bitchy criminals here. Let me tell you about how ballsy Karla Homolka has been lately!
Anyway, as much as I hate bigots, I'm sort of glad that we don't jail them for saying stupid or repellent things. I don't like the idea of "dangerous speech" one bit. Especially becuse it's just what those parking attendants want.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
Oh Jesus, another bombing kills 40 and injures in London! What bloodthirsty cowards these terrorists are! The Mayor of London had this to say:
"This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty or the powerful ... it was aimed at ordinary working-class Londoners." Take out the name of the city and it could be true of any terrorist attack. Any one of them. It's always the civilians who are attacked. Always those who can't fight back or defend themselves. Mad about the policies of Israel? Why not blow up little children in a pizza parlor? Hate the G8 summit? Why not blow up unarmed people going to work? Disagree with the abortion laws? Why not shoot a doctor on the way to his car? Pissed off about Waco? Why not blow up an office building? Terrorism is a violent celebration of the abyss; a scream of nothingness by those who can't create so they destroy. What a waste! What a tragic, horrible waste! If your "God is love", he's got a really shitty way of showing it!
What would Voltaire say about this? Didn't he warn us that religious fanatics would be the Mongols storming our gates? Didn't he warn us about those, of all religious persuasions, who can only see God as a bully? Those who ask the faithful to commit mental suicide before committing the other sort? Those whose loathing for life is informed by their disbelief in death? How would the old man make jokes about people whose books tell them to cherish life and who respond by kindly murdering anyone who hasn't read those books? Or even those who have?
What a shrewd distinction Voltaire made with the word "fanatic"! Because there are wonderful human beings of all faiths; at our wedding we had some of the nicest Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists you would ever want to meet. But, there has never been a wonderful or kind fanatic of any sort. Every one of them is willing to let some dead book fill in for their personality, to outsource their thinking, to let poetry justify intolerance. Every one of them worships death, craves the abyss, and yearns for the apocalypse.
The left is wrong: These people have no sane reason to do what they do, and won't stop killing until they are dead themselves. The "roots of terrorism" soak in bloody fanaticism not in the economic inequality that we hate, or anything that we can even understand. Palestine should rightfully be a state, but its founding as such will not end the killing. In fact, nothing short of accepting slavery to the Caliph of the Week will end the killing. This is fascism, not protest.
The right is wrong: There is no stable or happy nation in the world that is founded in religious law. The founding fathers separated Church and State because they were afraid of fanatics. You have no right to force your cretinous beliefs on the rest of us. Be it through bombs or laws. We are not in a war between Islam and Christianity. We are in a war between pluralist tolerance and religious fundamentalism. And the fundamentalists will lose.
Voltaire was right.
Here's another lefty blogger complaining about the Supreme Court's Kelo decision, even going so far as to compare it to manifest destiny. Some of the other bits on the blog are a bit tired, but good to see much of the blogosphere so opposed to such a flagrant violation of individual rights.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Palestinian academic arrested for saying aloud on television that the Palestinian Authority isn't doing a good job of keeping order. Meanwhile, groups like Hamas who are actually responsible for the chaos in Palestine are still walking free. So, in Palestine, apparently the law is that you have to complement the Emperor on his non-existent clothing whenever possible.
An article about something I've often wondered- if so much great art, Blake and Dostoyevsky and Aristophenes and such, could be roughly considered "political", why is so much "political art" so lousy?
Specifically, the author is talking about "political theatre" which has seen a resurgence similar to "politcal documentaries" in recent years. Honestly, the documentaries that have come out could perhaps be called "propaganda" if it weren't for the fact that propaganda usually paints an all-too-rosy picture of someone in power and a bleak picture of someone else. These ones just paint an all-too-bleak picture of some Republican or other and call it a day. Not surprisingly, most of them are fairly boring and devoid of nuance. Maybe the best word for them would be "Slant-u-mentaries". You heard it here first.
As for the plays, there are quite a few which seem to resort to "She's tied to the railroad tracks!" melodrama, but with Donald Rumsfeld or the President in the "villian" role. If you've seen any of the recent "political theatre" you know that they pretty much expect the audience to be "progressive" in the most knee-jerk unreflexive way. The President is evil. The people are good. Mix, stir and serve. This actually comes from a long tradition in the theatre of boring political art. "Social realism" may have been interesting in the 1920s to communists, but have you ever tried to sit through one of those things today? They usually can be summed up as "Tom: the Boringly Goodhearted Factory Worker Who Gets Betrayed at Every Turn". Zzzzzzzz...
But, I think the problem is that we're living in a post-nuance age. Everyone seems to need a group to belong to, or a church of some sort to outsource their thinking to. But, the artist has to thrive on nuance, as well as beauty. Remember beauty? The President would make a great theatrical character; even though I disagree with many of his decisions and ideas, it's not hard to recognize that he is a human being who is doing what he thinks is right. There's almost something Faustian about his methods, but mixed with a belief in the goodness and freedom-searching of other men that could be considered, dare I say it? Rousseaunean... What a great character in a play. But, it's as if people can't think at a level above "comic book" anymore. One gets the feeling that a director today would return Beckett's work with a note like, "Okay, but what race is Mother Courage? And how does she feel about gays?" The problem doesn't just effect theatre. Have you watched any movies lately? Art requires nuance and challenge, or it's boring. And quite a bit of contemporary art pats us on the back and tells us what we'd like to hear... and is dutifully described as "challenging" by the art-world press.
To be fair, plenty of contemporary conservatives seem to be liberals who were mugged by reality and are now doing everything they can to make sure it doesn't happen ever again. The complacent simplemindedness of "Why do they keep harping on torture? It's not like bin Laden wouldn't torture!" is breathtaking. But, conservatives don't write plays, and aside from passion plays, they don't seem to stage any. "Progressives" do, and if they don't start staging plays that reveal even the slightest level of thought, they're going to keep sending their audience home whistling the cant. But, not me.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
So, we loved the house and made the offer and the owners accepted....
Then, they started causing trouble for the real estate agent, and claiming that they couldn't find anywhere to move, and their financial problems started coming up again and again.
So, she told them to release us from our deal.
Meaning that we have to start looking for a house again. Starting tomorrow.
Well, with the blessings we've had lately, this really is nothing to complain about.
Okay well the article about this study in the New York Times seems pretty fascinating. Apparently, researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto have called bisexuality into question, arguing instead that bisexuals are just gays who aren't ready to come out. I think plenty of us have known gays who went through a "bi phase", so it's somewhat convincing. Also, Claire works at the Centre, so we know they're good people.
But, I'm not convinced that this study has really proven that much, or that it has "called true bisexuality into question". The first qualification is that it hasn't called female bisexuality into question, as women who claim to be bisexual become aroused when they see all-male and all-female porn. Secondly, the group studied included only 33 men who claimed to be bisexual, which is just ridiculously low; at least 1,000 would be the norm. Thirdly, the group was drawn from men who took out personals ads looking for men to have sex with. This isn't exactly the "general population" nor is geographically diverse. Fourthly, there was no control group. Fifthly, how can you atomize human sexuality and reduce it to arousal at a porn video? Sixthly, there's something perverse about judging the entirety of human sexuality through the plethysmograph reading.
Lastly, why would the NYT publish such a lousy study and claim that it calls Kinsey and Freud into question?
Sunday, July 03, 2005
I'm exhausted, even after napping. I will post more soon, but mentioning Daisy reminded me that I should also mention that our friend Becky was there and I got to meet her for the first time. She is just adorable; so sweet and funny. Also along for the ride was Mr. R, our very kind and dapper German friend.
Also, I want to mention that it's been only one day, but I feel very much in my element as Claire's husband.
I also just want to say that we're sorry Daisy couldn't make it to the wedding. Poor girl missed her flight and got shafted by the airline and had to stay in Chicago. Daisy, we were both quite moved that you tried to come up from New Orleans to our wedding and we want you to know that we were thinking of you. It meant a lot to us that you wanted to be there.
And how memorable it was to get married in Toronto on the same week that Spain made gay marriage legal and Canada got a lot closer to following suit! This is the march of history, even if it is going in the opposite direction of my own country, which is frankly seeming more and more obsolete each year. They say that when you get married you start to see every marriage as more romantic. Well, there's something charmingly old-fashioned and romantic about gay marriages! These aren't people who are trying to get someone elected to public office, or hurt other people or to score some political points. They simply believe in the institution of marriage. And how wonderful it is to see people standing up to say that they believe in marriage, and that moreover, they believe in the love behind marriage. They simply want the chance to say "I choose you to spend my life with because I love you" and to have that be acknowledged as love too. Those who would oppose that are on the wrong side of history. But, they're also on the wrong side of human decency.
Well, it was the best day of my life, hands down. A year of planning and stress and joy came down to a day of pure joy. The weather was incredible, Claire looked gorgeous and it felt just absolutely wonderful to have so many loved ones around us. The day was over so quickly, and yet I have so many memories.
I remember when I was a teenager being very down on marriage. (It's much easier to be down on things when you're a teenager and have very little idea what you're talking about!) I just thought it was so unromantic to legally require someone to be with you. Me, I was going to be a lot more punk rock than that. You'd never see me walking down the aisle.
Well, what I have learned is that the legal stuff is a technicality, an accoutrement. The day is a celebration of the fact that, even though we all grow old and die, we somehow find someone to walk through the world with. It is nice to have the approval of others in this, but what it means most of all, to me, is that I have said to Claire, "I choose you to spend my days with because you mean more to me than anyone else on earth." And I hope that came across yesterday. I think it did.
Moreover, it is a day to spend together with the ones we love, eating and drinking, and laughing together. It is one day that has nothing to do with money or technicalities or any of the other things that we worry about. It is just there to spend together in each other's company enjoying the fact that we have loved ones to bear witness to our lives and our love. It is, fundametally, a day to enjoy each other's existence. I think everyone should be so lucky.