Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Just think of all the Spidermen and Incredible Hulks!

I don't think tracking down 30,000 people should be that difficult ... Oh, and do me a favour? Have a couple thousand of these posted in every international airport you can think of:

And get Spain, Germany and Greece to make up some for themselves ... I swear, nothing good ever came of raw fish or airplanes!

(Credit: Mrs. EMG)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Angus Wilson On The Transatlantic Envy

... Envy wears an uglier face than lust's bloodshot eyes, or gluttony's paunch, or pride's camel nose, or avarice's thin lips.

This can be seen in the most distressing, foolish Envy of our time--anti-Americanism in Western Europe. To me European anti-Americanism is plain silly because it is suicidal, but there are, after all, not only Communist but tolerably argued neutralist views about this, and at times American policy inclines one to sympathize with such views. There are grievances against America which deserve consideration from everyone. But anti-Americanism is quite another thing; it is an impotent Envy which does nothing but disgrace the speaker. Listen to any county Englishman or his wife who in dislike of the changed social order seeks refuge in anti-American talk, hear the silly bray of their laugh, the frightened note that underlies their jokes about American brashness or crudity. Or, almost worse, hear a group of rich, beleaguered French or Italian or Spanish describing the necessity for a civilized Europe where American barbarism cannot interfere. There are few more nauseating sounds in the modern world; nauseating because like all envious sounds they make one feel ashamed for the emotions the speaker is betraying ...

That, of course, is why Envy is so unenviable a dominating emotion. All the seven deadly sins are self-destroying, morbid appetites, but their early stages at least lust and gluttony, avarice and sloth know some gratification, while anger and pride have power, even though that power eventually destroys itself. Envy is impotent, numbed with fear, yet never ceasing in its appetite; and it knows no gratification save endless self-torment. It has the ugliness of a trapped rat that has gnawed its own foot in its effort to escape.

Angus Wilson "Envy"

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The World According to...

Much as I would love to take the Toronto Star seriously as a left wing newspaper--and I am not incapable of taking some left wing newspapers seriously--I can't. Not the Star. It's bumwad.

The matter's well past being one of determining at what point the Star and I part ways to pursue our respective courses. There can be no parting of ways between bodies, respectively, in different universes. The world the Star describes is unrecognizable to me at the most fundamental level. Indeed, and what amazes me more: while Toronto Starland is a quite fantastical place, it is somehow also entirely devoid of a sense of romance; it is a place of shrill, awkwardly and toothily grinning busybodies--relentlessly chattering away in their native tongue, Pedantian, in spite of the absence upon their heads of ears--stuck in a never ending bid to outsuccour the other members of their überclass for the grunting approbation of the masses over which they have absolute charge. Savage, irreligious, slavering elephant-men to a man, these masses ...

Today, it (the Star, I mean) makes its case against income splitting:
At first blush, income splitting seems to bring more fairness to the system. Where someone who earns $80,000 and has a stay-at-home spouse now pays about $3,500 more tax than a working couple each making $40,000, income splitting would leave both couples paying the same.

But one person's fairness is another's pain. Consider a single, divorced parent who also makes $80,000 and pays child support for four children to a former spouse. That person would pay $3,500 more in tax than either of the income-splitting couples, even if they have no kids. Income-splitting sure wouldn't strike the divorced parent as fair.
Um, okay ... Except that under the present system the given divorced parent is no better off anyway. To say, then, that "one person's fairness is another's pain" with respect to this particular inequity is to suggest a causal relationship between the two that doesn't, I'm afraid, exist. So ... erm ... what was your argument again, Mr. Star? That my neighbour--Javier--and I both used to get screwed, but only I get screwed now, does not make Javier responsible for my ongoing, and certainly not increased, screwedness.* I'm supposed to be ticked off that he, a father of two, gets a tiny bit of a break from the grind of making ends meet because I don't? Could I ask you perhaps, for the sake of my dignity and lest my neighbour think considerably less of me, to mind your own goddam business?

But this concern for divorced parents making eighty grand a year paying former spouses four children's worth of child support strikes me as a bit of a blind. Given, that is, that the Star would prefer that both Javier and I continue to be screwed under the old system, and that all of our tax dollars go to the "1.2 million children [who] live in poverty" in this country. Never mind what exactly constitutes "poverty" in a nation with a robust welfare system and universal health care--the implicit suggestion being that these people, daily, undergo hardships of a Dickensian magnitude**--let's just focus on the fact that the Star believes that the responsibility of a democratically elected government, so elected (I hasten to remind you) on the basis of a platform promising that the specific interests of a majority of the electorate be dealt with in exchange for their votes, is to ignore, entirely, those interests once elected.

Such is either the insultingly low estimation the Star has of the average intelligence of its readership, or such is the extraordinary stupidity of its editorial staff that not only do its arguments hinge largely on such embarrassingly transparent logical fallacies (i.e. If married people receive an advantage over divorced people then it must follow that the difference be payed entirely to a third party, who do not, dare I mention it, have the lion's share of interest in the national wellbeing as do the first two types) but they reflect a fundamentally anti-democratic--so, anti-Canadian presumably--expectation of how the nation should work.

Mr. Star: ignoring a mandate from the masses--the majority shareholder in the nation's stock--to ease their tax-burden cannot be the behaviour of a responsible government. Even, and this is important, even if it is the moral thing to do (which, I hasten to add, this wouldn't be). Privileging the interests of the few--even if they are those adorable, 1.2 million cockney-accented rascals, driven to a life of chimney-sweeping to keep a regular supply of porridge on their tables--over the interests of the many is, I'm so very sorry to tell you this Mr. Star, a tyranny.

How is it that Canada's "largest daily newspaper" doesn't actually grasp this?

*I leave it to Andrew Coyne to explain the elementary and obvious fairness--given the relativity of that term (which the Star itself (somewhat bizarrely) concedes, i.e. "The fact is, no tax system can be considered fair to all people. There is always some arbitrariness built in.")--of income splitting.

**I don't pretend that real hardship doesn't exist in this country, but the idea that all 1.2 million children (3% of our population apparently) are poverty stricken for the same reason--i.e. the diabolical machinations of the privileged (erm ... the middle, that is) classes--does strike me as being a trifle hyperbolic.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

McLuhan on Chesterton

All profound truth, philosophical and spiritual, makes game with appearances, yet without really contradicting common sense. That is why Mr. Chesterton accuses the Victorians of believing in real paradoxes, such as expecting all men to have the same morals when they have different religions, or supposing that it was practical to be illogical. A little attention shows how he consciously causes a clash between appearances in order to attract attention to a real truth transcending such a conflict. There is no hint or hue of meaning amidst the dizziest crags of thought that is safe from his swift, darting, pursuit. We return safely and lucidly from the exhilarating chase of an idea to its logical conclusion. Such a world, rigid with thought and brilliant with colour, is the very antithesis of the pale-pink lullaby-land of popular science. It is the difference between a cathedral window and blank infinity. That is why modern life, thoughtless and unpoised, has degenerated from a dance into a race, and history is regarded as a toboggan slide. But Mr. Chesterton has exposed the Christless cynicism of the supposedly iron laws of economics and shown that history is a road that must often be reconsidered and even retraced. For, if Progress implies a goal, it does not imply that all roads lead to it inevitably. And today, when the goal of Progress is no longer clear, the word is simply an excuse for procrastination.

It is scarcely necessary now, when philosophy and art have been revitalized b
y the study of medieval achievements, to explain that Mr. Chesterton does not want "to go back to the middle ages," and never did. "There is none rides back to pick up a glove or a feather." But the merest reference to anything prior to the Reformation starts a clockwork process in the mind of the nineteenth-century journalists who still write most of our papers: "Mr. Chesterton is a medievalist; and he is therefore quite justified (from his own benighted standpoint) in indulging as he does in the sport of tearing out the teeth of Jews, burning hundreds of human beings alive, and perpetually seeking after the Philosopher's Stone." Without these automatic and irresponsible reactions to anything resembling serious thought, there could not be that vast and increasing mountain of printed paper which indicates that progress is proceeding. For, as Stevenson noted, man does not live by bread alone, but by catchwords also. It all began with Luther's anathemas against Reason, and Descartes's expressed contempt for Aristotle and Aquinas.

Marshall McLuhan "G.K. Chesterton: A Practical Mystic"

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

As some day it may happen that a victim must be found...

She's got a little list, and they'll none of 'em be missed!

No sooner was that hectoring hack of a harpy, Carolyn Parrish, given Mississauga's Ward 6 than she was after the 9% of Mississausages that dared to vote for someone other than Hazel McCallion. "Ten percent of the people in this city are foolish," she said to Ms. McCallion in a telephone conversation shortly after their respective victories ... This, during the same call wherein Ms. McCallion happened to pronounce that "We have to respect the voters."

Alas, Parrish's vulgarian legacy lives on. And while I have no doubt that she really is a small fish in a small pond--and take some small consolation from the fact--neither is so small that this casual, brook-no-dissent attitude can be entirely ignored. Her prototype of the Liberal shooting first into the 21st century does not, it should be clear, believe in tolerance; she believes in consensus.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Oh, the United Church of Canada! Are they just wankers, or are they apostates? A vexed question, I guess, as they are clearly both. It is worth noting, though, that their wankerdom has finally come to be directly proportionate to their apostasy. The Globe and Mail reports today:
The United Church of Canada is launching the largest advertising campaign ever by a Canadian church in an attempt to spark debate about religious issues and encourage people to come back to the pews.

The series of advertisements poke fun at some traditions and tackle controversial topics such as sex and gay marriage.

One includes statues of two grooms on a wedding cake and asks, "Does anyone object?" Another features a can of whipped cream with the question, "How much fun can sex be before it's a sin?" Still another depicts a bobble-head Jesus on a car dashboard and asks, "Funny. Ticket to hell. What do you think?"
Reverend-cum-Marketing-Executive Keith Howard explains the United Church’s reasoning for undertaking a campaign whose monetary cost must be at least as considerable as the toll it takes on good taste:
"We have become aware that particularly for people in the 30- to 45-age group, many of them do not even know that the United Church exists, much less what we stand for."
A simple enough problem, Reverend. People don’t know that the United Church exists for the rather simple reason that, really, it doesn’t. Or it does, but its quality is so nebulous, so diffuse, so insubstantial, as to constitute more of a religious gas. A kind of post-Christian flatus: intangible, but somehow still offensive.

That people don’t know what the United Church stands for is rather easily explained by the fact that it doesn’t stand for anything. Or, strictly speaking, I guess that isn’t true. But what it does stand for is entirely superfluous given its, erm, target market ...

Check dis out, aight?!

Let me hear all y’all 30- to 45-age group holla back, yo!

We love gays and are totally down wit’ recreational sex! We watch Friends too; see how irreverent we can be ‘bout a bobble-head JC (da S o’ G)! We belidat all y’all should just be allowed to chillax—not worry ‘bout some chuch tellin’ all y’all what to believe. We just want to provide all y’all wit’ a forum in which to discuss issues of a deep and personal nature; things you don’t get to talk about otherwise. Like global warming and whether or not Madonna is a saint.

But it seems to me that there isn't a lapsed Christian, Jew, Muslim etc. that isn't already at least a, as it were, spiritual member of the United Church. It would be far more in keeping with the miracle of its conversion, then, that the United Church not seek to fill the seats of its own, now defunct, churches, but itself move to its natural place of worship: the rec room of an age-restricted condominium.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

From: Conversations with Snook (The Younger)

But dude! Life is full of these telling little contradictions! I mean: explain the term military intelligence. Why you drive on a parkway and park on a driveway. Or: doesn’t it seem a little odd to you that there’s no word that rhymes with rhyme?

I mean, if you look close enough,
nothing makes sense after a point.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Mea Culpa Est Sua Culpa

I spent last Friday evening at a friend's house—setting the groundwork for what was to be a hangover the length and breadth of Saturday—where I happened to overhear this:

"I guess I really should read the National Post. You know: that I might better know mine enemy."

The remark made me uneasy for a number of reasons: I am myself a reader of the National Post and, indeed, was known to this gathering to be so ( ... it's a condition, you see. Like leprosy. Your approach is sounded by bells); it (the remark) elicited from every mouth at once (except, obviously, my own) a, it seemed to me, pointedly vehement expression of approval (though, to be fair, the drink has a habit of making me a little paranoid); and, most jarring of all, it came from a person who, to the best of my knowledge, has never had especially strong or divergent political views—or if he does, he's never been at all vocal about them before.

I asked the obvious question.

"How do you figure that the Post is thine enemy when, as you say, you never read it?"

"Well ... Whenever I visit my brother he's got a copy hanging about. I take a look at it then."

"And what exactly makes the paper so terrible again?"

"The reporting's awful!"

"And you consider shabby journalism your enemy? What Canadian newspaper isn't your enemy then?"

"It's the slant."

"The slant?! Have you ever read the Toronto Star?"

Here he paused to give the others of our group a cheeky grin, then turned back to me. "It's the particular slant. It's an extremely right wing newspaper."

Ach! Well at least he didn't say that it was conservative.

It was an irritating conversation to say the least. And one that, I must confess, I bowed out of quite quickly.

Why? Well, firstly, defending the National Post isn't so much a losing battle as it is, unfortunately, just a lost cause. For while I do read the Post, I can't say that I'm much of a fan. It's true that, daily, I read it before I then read the Star, various of the Suns, then the Globe and Mail ... But I'm under no illusions as to its pedigree. Indeed, I might go so far as to say that it's been getting progressively mediocre-er with every passing month. I'll admit that I once had a preference for its op-ed pages over those of the other rags on offer—back when the likes of George Jonas were making more than once weekly appearances, and the likes of Warren Kinsella were making none. But this past preference isn't enough for me to risk the likelihood of a MillerTime pariahdom in defense of a paper that's managed somehow to retain all the dogmatic disapproval of Canada's 'educated' majority, without ever managing to be especially conservative. (A friend recently bemoaned to me that the Post hasn't even been able to muster the momentum to nail down an Arts and Letters niche—short of, that is, the prolix pissings of that androgenous dwarf.)

But none of this makes the Post substantially worse than any of the country’s other newspapers. Indeed, I would think that it rather puts it on a par with them. But you’ll notice the conspicuous absence that night, in the persons concerned, of even a recognition of the kind of double standard necessary to condemn a newspaper without ever actually reading it. Mea culpa, after all, est sua culpa in the 21st century's ever-revising compendium of conventional wisdom. Who am I to try standing fast against such a tide?

I’m hardly making any novel or original observations when I say that this sort of stuff is typical of the Canadian philosophical disposition. (If it can be called that. Given that it’s more of an anti-disposition.) It’s not so much that we’re Canadian (don’t like the idea of nationalism, thank you very much) as that we’re not American. It’s not so much that we’re Liberal (labels are so confining, don’t you think) as that we’re not Conservative. It’s not so much that we like the Globe (it’s still awfully conservative, don’t you know) as that it’s not the Post.

That, culturally, the golden standard by which we measure ourselves is not only American but, I would suggest, more American than American (hence our constant failure to be even successfully derivative of our neighbours in this respect—sure, you invented the wheel. So what?! Don’t you see that this wheel here is even wheelier than yours … No, it’s meant to be flat in that spot!) … That, politically, we are so far gone in the counter-intellectual throws of materialism that we’ve actually undertaken to insist that the difference between liberalism and conservatism is not one of degree but one of kind (hence the prevalent, desperate equation of conservatism with fascism) … That it is quite literally impossible for this country to produce so contrarian a national newspaper for it to be actually, reasonably considered hostile or opposed to the status quo, but that we’ve made as much of what inoffensive little we’ve got anyway … That any of these things are the case is, quite simply, immaterial.

What isn’t the case, chappy? Now there’s a question. Tell me what it's not, and I’ll tell you where I stand.