Friday, November 28, 2008

Of odd moves

Strange? Yeah. Jay Currie's got a theory though:

PM: How bad is it, Jim?
JF: Ugly. Not so ugly in most of Canada, horrible in Ontario.
PM: Suggestions?
JF: Well, other than diverting a few of Bernanke’s helicopters. Not much. Problem is that unlike the rest of the world we have a functioning banking system and a relatively small national debt. If we start pumping money in all we’ll do is make the debt bigger and create inflation.
PM: But the Opposition keeps demanding bailouts. Our own guys want us to be seen as “doing something”.
JF: Sure. We won the election and all.
PM: No we didn’t. That’s the Hell of it. We picked up a few seats.
JF: We’ll get our majority next time.
PM: Not if next time is on the other side of a full scale 15% unemployment recession.
JF: Not going to happen.
PM: You know that, I know that, but the Toronto Star is howling for deficits right now! You know Jim, it might not have been a bad idea to have lost the last election by a few seats and let Stephane carry the can.
JF: Well that could be arranged…
PM: How Jim, tell me how.

Angry opposition parties holding coalition talks

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Whinging has been light in this space and might very well continue to be so for a bit. So if ever there was a time to catch up on your EMG and EMG, now's it!

Who and who, did I hear you ask?

You've never heard of EMG and EMG?! The lo-fi/low-rent Odd Couple?! That inscrutable pair of do-nothings, described variously as "... the dumb one and the angry one ..." by Kevin Grace of The Ambler, as "... erm, thanks for sharing, but ..." by Nicholas Packwood of Ghost of a Flea, and as "... ..." by Jay Currie?

Yes, that EMG and EMG!

The Acceptable Usage and The Movement are the most recent episodes. The rest can be found in the sidebar under the 'zazzy heading "EMG's audiotainment archive".

Très pants, bitches!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Obama as kitsch

An outstanding essay from Dennis Dale about Barack Obama and the politicized sentimentalism that has seen him into power:
The appeal of Barack Obama is best understood as kitsch.

The Obama campaign, as any, is more a work of art than of argument. It is (present tense, for it continues) a narrative blend of hagiography, historical fiction, mythology and propaganda. Like any work of art it may blend various genres and themes, but it is ultimately of one specific type. All political movements rely more or less on kitsch, but the Obama campaign, stripped to its essence, is kitsch.

This phenomenon-as-political movement is a masterwork of improvisational, interactive environmental theatre, with the electorate as its participatory audience. But a political campaign is no mere work of fancy or fabrication. When power is the end for which the narrative is the means, one cannot refuse his role in the play, even in opposition. We are all players now in Barry's melodrama.

What do I mean herein by “kitsch”? Not the common usage that has rendered the word little more than a synonym for "inferior." Nor any of the only slightly narrower meanings of unsophisticated, anachronistic, culturally irrelevant or crude. I do not mean merely that it is sentimental; though sentiment is its active ingredient. I refer specifically to that self-conscious and obliquely self-referential aspect of kitsch; of kitsch as the celebration of a given sentiment as its own end and justification, as an ennobling thing it its own right.


It would be unfortunate if one political faction or other were to successfully fashion [kitsch] into an adjectival anchor to weigh down their adversaries, creating a new term of calumny to go with "fascist", "communist", "racist", et cetera ad nauseum. But we're well served in better understanding it, so as to better understand ourselves and that vast area of effective human behavior that is neither wholly rational nor studiously moral, but desperately and sometimes dangerously emotional.

What makes kitsch bad art, its unearned catharsis, makes it the most effective demagogy. It requires nothing of us other than acquiescence to the sentiment. Because kitsch is the willed absence of doubt, it acts as a neatly closed emotional system, impervious to skepticism and hostile to introspection--herein lies its political genius. Through propaganda, kitsch arouses revolutionary ardor and imposes totalitarian control. Kitsch fires up the rabble and cows the mass.

Well worth the read.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Who wrote this drivel?

A trifle, yes, but too niggling of a one to be ignored.

Today, in an editorial entitled "Is virginity 'essential'?" the National Post examines the case of a French appellate court overruling the annulment of a marriage between two Muslims, on the grounds that a false claim of virginity cannot be treated as a deal-breaker. The piece goes on to say that it is the position of the Post editors that they are "conflicted" over the ruling: that the state shouldn't be seen to be enforcing bizarre religious traditions, but neither should it be interfering in matters freely contracted.

Here's where they lose me:
Assuming both parties in a betrothal agree to such terms, why should their contract be torn up simply because the underlying Victorian view of sexuality has fallen out of favour?
French court. Muslim couple. Sorry but--how the hell did the poor bloody Victorians get blamed for this?

Monday, November 17, 2008


(Click and click)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dulce et decorum est

Douglas Coupland would appear to be under the impression that his is a fresh, innovative, and daring light shed upon The old Lie.

Douglas Coupland, needless to say, is a twit.

Diogenes Borealis gives us a rather more enlightening demonstration of the effect of a flame-thrower on Styrofoam:
Today's Hideous Public Art draws your attention to an eyesore that was recently unveiled in Toronto. Erected a musket shot away from historic Fort York, Douglas Coupland's Monument to the War of 1812 is not only gimmicky, childish and banal, but it is in astonishingly bad taste for a sculpture meant to commemorate a formative event in our nation's history that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people and the burning of the city of York (now Toronto). Not only that, it panders to an unfortunate tendency in Canadians to go out of their way to thumb their noses at our American neighbours - it's a $500 000 flip of the bird disguised as art. But what can one expect from Douglas Coupland, the writer and aesthete who gave us Generation X - the novel that elevated that nihilistic slacker generation from mere annoyance to cultural icon?


Surely this is a joke. Someone from the Christmas-window display team at the downtown Bay store is using up some leftover Christmas decorations for a seasonal display, right? This can't be a monument to an actual war where people died to protect their country, can it?


Excuse me, Mr. Coupland, but didn't we lose the Battle of York? If this thing is installed a few blocks away from the site of the garrison that failed to protect the city from destruction by an invading American army, isn't it a bit, oh, I don't know, arrogant to show a British soldier victorious over a fallen American? I guess history is a fluid notion and it can be rewritten after all.

What do Americans in Toronto think? A spokesperson from the American Consulate politely told the press that the Consulate had no comment on the monument, but said the U.S. government is committed to freedom of speech.

You know, the War of 1812 used to be a big deal in Canada. We used to take pride in the fact that the British army and Canadian militia held the attacking Americans off for almost three years and preserved Canada as an independent nation. The men who died in that war used to be considered heroic figures. We used to erect monuments to them that were, well, monumental and heroic ...
Well worth the read. As indeed is all of Eric's (ongoing) series "Hideous Public Art"--a rollicking jaunt through some of the more excremental of Canada's commemorative spaces, à la James Howard Kunstler's "Eyesore of the Month".

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I support Policy Resolution P - 203

One of the proposed resolutions of the CPC Convention--to be held in Winnipeg, the 13th through the 15th--reads:
The Conservative Party supports legislation to remove authority from the Canadian Human Rights Commission and Tribunal to regulate, receive, investigate or adjudicate complaints related to Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
A number of hard-working citizens have put together the following statement of support for the resolution:
"We strongly support those members of the Conservative Party of Canada who seek to repeal Sections 13 and 54 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Sections 13 and 54 of the Canadian Human Rights Act are a direct attack on the freedom of expression guaranteed to us under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The provisions of these sections allow the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to prosecute anyone alleged to have said or written something “likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt” whether there is a living, breathing victim or not.

Vague concepts such as speech or writing “liable to cause hatred or contempt” are the basis of expensive state-funded prosecution of individuals. The statute provides no objective legal test for “hate” or any objective means of determining what constitutes “contempt”. As a result, the CHRC is used by various groups and individuals, as a risk-free taxpayer funded method to silence their critics and those they disagree with. CHRC investigators have testified that “freedom of speech is an American concept” and therefore not valid in Canada . Such statements are contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms but are standard operating procedure at the CHRC.

Commissioners of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, who are not judges and are often not even lawyers, have held that “truth” is not a defence against prosecution under Section 13. Intent or fair comment are also not defences. In fact, there is not a single listed defence under Section 13! Because of the lack of any defences, the Tribunal has a 100% conviction rate since 1978. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal routinely ignores the principles of fundamental justice, such as the rules of evidence, and these kangaroo courts, even allow hearsay evidence. The CHRA provides for each Tribunal to make up the rules as they go.

Every journalist, writer, Internet webmaster, publisher and private citizen in Canada can be the subject of a Human Rights complaint for expressing an opinion or telling the truth. Given the ambiguity of Section 13, it is virtually impossible for any individual to determine if they might be in violation of Section 13. Arbitrary censorship and punishment are wrong, and cannot be justified in a free society."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Getting around Prop 8

These chaps are going about this all wrong.

Rather than pushing for the redefinition of marriage, what they want to do is start modest. Get a movement going to redefine some other word--say "apple"--to mean 'a legally recognized personal union entered into by a man and a woman.'

Hardly a biggy, what with the definition itself still being intact. Only crazies would make a fuss over that.

Then what you want to do is raise a big stink about how the state of California refuses homosexuals apples!

Don't think it'll work? Well, here: you ever ask a person to explain to you the word "equality"? (You know: that word that has entered so disproportionately into the conversations of just about everyone and their grandmother. At a guess, I'd say you hear it used, or use it yourself, no less than 3 times a day--to match your daily intake of apples, perhaps!) Did you notice, when you did, that for some reason they gave you the definition of "equity"?

How'd that happen?

This is totally doable, folks.

Hitchens Proper on Obamanation

The swooning frenzy over the choice of Barack Obama as President of the United States must be one of the most absurd waves of self-deception and swirling fantasy ever to sweep through an advanced civilisation. At least Mandela-worship – its nearest equivalent – is focused on a man who actually did something.

Just look at his sermon by the shores of Lake Michigan. He really did talk about a ‘new dawn’, and a ‘timeless creed’ (which was ‘yes, we can’). He proclaimed that ‘change has come’. He revealed that, despite having edited the Harvard Law Review, he doesn’t know what ‘enormity’ means. He reached depths of oratorical drivel never even plumbed by our own Mr Blair, burbling about putting our hands on the arc of history (or was it the ark of history?) and bending it once more toward the hope of a better day (Don’t try this at home).

I am not making this up. No wonder that awful old hack Jesse Jackson sobbed as he watched. How he must wish he, too, could get away with this sort of stuff.


Perhaps, being a Chicago crowd, they knew some of the things that 52.5 per cent of America prefers not to know. They know Obama is the obedient servant of one of the most squalid and unshakeable political machines in America. They know that one of his alarmingly close associates, a state-subsidised slum landlord called Tony Rezko, has been convicted on fraud and corruption charges.

They also know the US is just as segregated as it was before Martin Luther King – in schools, streets, neighbourhoods, holidays, even in its TV-watching habits and its choice of fast-food joint. The difference is that it is now done by unspoken agreement rather than by law.


If the nonsensical claims made for this election were true, then every positive discrimination programme aimed at helping black people into jobs they otherwise wouldn’t get should be abandoned forthwith. Nothing of the kind will happen. On the contrary, there will probably be more of them.

And if those who voted for Obama were all proving their anti-racist nobility, that presumably means that those many millions who didn’t vote for him were proving themselves to be hopeless bigots. This is obviously untrue.


As I walked, I crossed another of Washington’s secret frontiers. There had been a few white people blowing car horns and shouting, as the result became clear. But among the Mexicans, Salvadorans and the other Third World nationalities, there was something like ecstasy.

They grasped the real significance of this moment. They knew it meant that America had finally switched sides in a global cultural war. Forget the Cold War, or even the Iraq War. The United States, having for the most part a deeply conservative people, had until now just about stood out against many of the mistakes which have ruined so much of the rest of the world.

Suspicious of welfare addiction, feeble justice and high taxes, totally committed to preserving its own national sovereignty, unabashedly Christian in a world part secular and part Muslim, suspicious of the Great Global Warming panic, it was unique.

These strengths had been fading for some time, mainly due to poorly controlled mass immigration and to the march of political correctness. They had also been weakened by the failure of America’s conservative party – the Republicans – to fight on the cultural and moral fronts.

They preferred to posture on the world stage. Scared of confronting Left-wing teachers and sexual revolutionaries at home, they could order soldiers to be brave on their behalf in far-off deserts. And now the US, like Britain before it, has begun the long slow descent into the Third World. How sad. Where now is our last best hope on Earth?

Peter Hitchens, The night we waved goodbye to America

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Leave Ellison out of it

Robert Fulford makes a serious blunder today in comparing one successful black man to another:
Invisible Man, published nine years before Obama was born, is among the books he's read with care. He connects with Ellison in at least one crucial way: Like Ellison, he's a proud black American anxious to transcend all the tired rhetoric of racism and victimhood. Speaking to a nation poisoned by racial division, he simply and decisively changed the subject. He fashioned himself into an answer to the problem that Ellison's Invisible Man posed. A frame of mind that was possible only for a fiction writer during the 20th century became a professional politician's successful strategy in the 21st.
I still can't make out how those last two sentences follow from one another, but never mind ... It may very well be that Barack Obama "connects" with Ralph Ellison in this "one crucial way" of "decisively chang[ing] the subject" (though all indicators are to the contrary--I'm sorry, Bob, but have you been trapped under a stone the last four months?!). But the more obvious comparison to be made, in so many other crucial ways, is not between Obama and the Invisible Man's author, Ellison, but between Obama and the Invisible Man himself ... That is: at the point at which the Invisible Man finds himself around, roughly, the 300 page mark (of a nearly 600 page long book).

Unlike Ralph Ellison, unlike Ellison's Invisible Man by the story's end, Obama has most assuredly not transcended the injustice of his existential 'invisibility'. Rather, he is at the stage of wallowing in it. Indeed, if we are to take the novel as our model, he is at precisely the crux of a far greater horror, of which Ellison and all great humanists warn: an inward invisibility. Of becoming a man whom everyone sees, perhaps, but no one knows. (Least of all himself.)

For it is crucial to the resolution of the novel that the Invisible Man rejects, of his own conviction and initiative--and at great personal cost--the race baiters (in the character of Ras the Exhorter) and the militant social engineers (Brother Jack etc). He was not, let it be clear, compelled so to do for reasons of political expediency, as was Obama to condemn (though, surely, this was only a lip-service) Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers.

Indeed, it is worth noting that the very left-liberal establishment which has seen Obama so decisively into power, has already abandoned Ellison (lynched him, says Joseph Epstein) as a racist.

Fulford opens his piece with a short quote from Mr. Ellison about his book--to which I should like to add this better from the text itself:
... A pressure of guilt came over me. I stood on the edge of the walk watching the crowd threatening to attack the man until a policeman appeared and dispersed them. And although I knew no one man could do much about it, I felt responsible. All our work had been very little, no great change had been made. And it was all my fault. I'd been so fascinated by the motion that I'd forgotten to measure what it was bringing forth. I'd been asleep, dreaming.
Let us hope that Obama is still capable of the depth required to realize this himself.

Monday, November 03, 2008

From: Snook (The Elder) at Home

Of the intimate made explicit

I suppose I've been very spoiled in all my decades as an apartment dweller: that the peace offered by our three storey, twelve unit brownstone has never been disturbed by more than the occasional screaming match, or late night stereo blaring. But I don't think, in spite of all our good fortune, that it could ever be said of Lenore and me that we are oversensitive neighbours. I can recall only one time ticking-off a fellow--2B I believe he was--for giving his couch cushions their seasonal beating directly beneath our windows at 3:00 am.

And I don't think I'm too much of a prude, either. Not when you consider that I was among those subjected to the middle months of 1969; when you couldn't go ten paces through one of our public parks without catching a glimpse of some twenty-year-old's private parts (even if they gave more the impression of sporrans hung on kiltless Highlanders).

... Which is all to say that you would be mistaken if you thought I was moralizing when I relayed the following to you. I'm not troubled by it so much as I am simply puzzled by it.

The facts then:

Lenore and I were awoken the other night by a deal of shouting that seemed to be coming from the other side of our bedroom door. I quickly armed myself with Great Uncle J.T.'s swagger stick--which has a nice solid head on it--and looked out the door. The noise was louder there, to be sure, but no intruders.

The shouting, in fact, was coming from the apartment across the hall. Our new neighbours, it turns out, are rather noisy love-makers.

But not noisy in the sense you would expect. Not in the sense of squeaking bedsprings and barely muffled cries. Not even noisy in the sense of excited expressions of approval and encouragement. Not just, anyway.

No. Rather this noise was more in the nature of prattle. Running commentary. Narrative. Loud, relentless, and detailed to the point--I should have thought--of a mind-numbing obviousness and tedium.

I won't repeat what they were saying, of course, but to give you a better sense of what I mean, imagine the following exchange in, say, a smoke shop:

CUSTOMER: I'm going to buy a packet of Winstons!

TOBACCONIST: You like Winstons, do you?

CUST: Yes! I'm going to buy a packet of Winstons! The exchange of money and goods is going to take place over this countertop!

TOB: This countertop?

CUST: Here's my money!

[CUST hands TOB money.]

TOB: That--

CUST: Oh, I'm just about to buy a packet of Winstons!

TOB: That's a lot of money! You are so wealthy!

[TOB retrieves packet of Winstons from display.]

TOB: Do you want me to pass you your Winstons now? Over the countertop?

CUST: Right over the countertop! Oh, I'm buying a packet of Winstons!!!

I'm told that, to many, it is titillating to overhear the amorous tumblings of others. Which, no doubt, is quite true--and I don't imagine that I'm any different than anybody else in this respect. So you'll appreciate my extreme disappointment when, in the end, far from feeling the need to stop my ears against the suggestion of a perverse impulse, it took a serious effort of will not to blow a resounding raspberry and shout "Booo-ring!" at the top of my voice.

And I thought these hypersexualized youth I've been hearing so much about were up to something clever.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Equality of Obtuseness

Sometimes I wonder if America doesn't actually deserve Obama ...

I'm sorry, but doesn't this suggest that if Hilary had won the Democratic nomination, that this election would then be a referendum on gender? (As, apparently, the Dem. nom. race was?)