Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Banality of Evil

... the excruciating banality:
I went to Tate Britain to see my drawings; a fleeting sense of glee filled my heart when I saw them hanging on the walls. I smiled and thought to myself: who would have ever thought my drawings would be hanging in the Tate? And immediately, my mind was thrown back to 1990, coming round from the anaesthetic after having my abortion, and that overwhelming sense of failure, failure as a human being and failure as an artist. If only I had known then that I would have my drawings hanging up in the Tate; not giant dominant works of art, but delicate, spindly line drawings that are so recognisably mine.


Most mornings, I wake up at about 6am. These days, I have a flask of hot tea by my bed; I turn on Radio 3, crush three pillows underneath my neck, and lean my head back at a 45-degree angle. I roll my eyes into the back of my skull, as far as possible. I then stretch out my hand, knowing that I should pick up my book but I always pick up my BlackBerry. I have this thing called the 6am club. There are a handful of people whom I can text or email at 6am, and they will reply to me immediately. Their thoughts will not be minor; they will be weighty, profound and somewhat philosophical. This is the morning time when the darkness is outside, but we still have the fantastic feeling of being alert in our womb-like nests. It's a safe place from which to send out these deep thoughts.

This morning, my friend emailed me, saying: "I met a 58-year-old woman who was very happy, really genuinely deep-rootedly happy, and I said to her: 'Why?' And she said, 'Because I have never had an abortion, that's why I can live without having children'. She said she had tried to have kids but had never got pregnant."

I emailed him back, saying: "My Dad said I must never have another abortion, because after three you start going mad. I've had two and I'm borderline. As it is, no one has ever wanted to have a child with me.

"Makes me feel cynical when I think about making love, and I sometimes have to ask: what is love? I would have been so much happier had I not had the abortions, but I truly believe that I would have been so much unhappier if I had had the children."

These are the kinds of conversations I have before dawn has broken. These are the kinds of thoughts that fill my mind before daylight comes. I'd never have believed that I would say or think this, but as I get older, it's becoming more and more obvious that my children are hanging on the Tate Britain walls.

When I first started becoming successful, I was filled with strange guilt and misunderstanding of myself. I felt that my abortions had somehow been a Faustian pact, and in return for my children's souls, I had been given my success. I am not a Catholic, but I have a profound belief in the soul. It's only now, now that I know that it will never be possible for me to have children, that the guilt has finally lifted. I give a lot out into the world, and I care and love for all that I create. It's a really big endeavour that extends much further than just the ego of myself.

I'm very lucky and very happy to have reached the point in my life that I have. There will never come a time that I will have to live with the fear of burying my children. We have only had to witness the atrocities that have happened in Palestine over the last few weeks, so many children being buried every day. With these images, I felt so grateful not to be the kind of mother who gave birth to a human being, but the kind of mother who gives birth to a creative notion, a creative idea, something that isn't evil and could never have that capacity. The man that pulled that trigger is somebody's child.

Sometimes, when I reach for my BlackBerry, I don't email anyone, I just roll on to BrickBreaker and try to get a better score.

Sounds terrible, I know, but I can't help gathering from this that Tracey Emin's suicide is inevitable.

Not, though, as the fulfillment of the above vocoded howl into the void--where, you'll notice in particular, the abortionist-come-artist kitschily spoils her ironical "womb" simile by splattering on a "nest" metaphor too. Rather, it is more likely to be as a career-advancing move. A despair-as middle-class-affectation-as-apotheosis-of-real-genuine-despair kind of thing. An anti-anti-masterstroke.

I pray, though, that if she does try to top herself, that it will be with a pistol loaded with blanks. Not just because it would be artistically consistent, but because Ms. Emin is "somebody's child" too, after all.

h/t Orwell's Picnic

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The calculated assault on tradition

The Flea, re. this:

To be clear: This is Year Zero stuff. Human rights commissions in Canada have nothing to do with human rights. Human rights commissions in Canada are a calculated assault on tradition. The idea is to erase the small pleasures that define us as human beings such that the ensuing void of soul may be filled up with whatever fashionable lies suit our political and cultural establishments (including our supposed conservative political establishment). I still rage at the thought of the forced imposition of metric and weep for my ancestors at the thought of small businesses in Quebec hounded by the language police. This is why. This is where it starts. This is where we give permission.

It is not that we are barrelling down a very slippery slope (though we are). It is that whole generations have made their way through a "university" education knowing nothing of their country's history, its basic political structure or the principles upon which it was founded and built. They have no formal grasp of basic English grammar. They do not know a word of Latin. They cannot name a single French painter or Italian composer or German philosopher. They are made know nothings. They have no pole star and consequently are at the mercy of whatever flickering lamp of evil is held aloft by some ascetic priest.

If God did not exist still our days would be the better for thanking Him. Now Her Majesty's servants are forbidden from praising the source of Her sovereign power and the justification for our country's constitution. But with Orwell's nightmare made manifest, our bureaucracy is above all that and has made a god of itself.

This has to stop or there will be nothing left of us.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Girlfriend

Inspired by (and not for the first time) my wife, and dedicated to her on the occasion of her birthday:

EMG explains to EMG how he came to break up with "the Panther". (Click the image, press play)

(Incidentals: 1. Just the one f-bomb. 2. The song in full can be found here--for, like, a buck--track four.)

Run time is just under 4 minutes.

Others of EMG and EMG's exploits can be found in the sidebar, under "EMG's Audiotainment Archive".

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rev. Joseph Lowery on a Greener America

This--from the Rev. Joseph Lowery, delivered following the new President's swearing in--is being interpreted as a prayer for racial harmony:
"We ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow ..."
Seems a little fatuous for the Presidential inauguration, though. I think you'll find that the good Reverend was in fact just outlining President Obama's environmental policy. So to recap: not only should Americans be allowing the yellow to mellow, but--and I think I'm reading this right--the brown is not to be flushed down now either.

Change truly has come to America.

h/t SDA

Monday, January 19, 2009

I liked being fooled by you the first time, Barack Obama, but please don't fool me twice ... or something

Heather Mallick sort of expresses some wariness ... or hope, is it? ... or something anyway:
Barack Obama is making me nervous. "Be the change," his official inauguration poster urges. Until recently I would have done anything the man suggested. But could he be more specific?


I'd expect this amorphous self-improvement sloganeering from inauguration evangelist Rick Warren and his "purpose-driven life." Or from Oprah and her daft "live your best life," but it seems odd coming from a sensible person like Obama.
A sensible person like Obama whose friggin' campaign posters read, simply, "CHANGE". Hmm, good call, Heather. Definite shift in tone there. The Tourettes Syndrome theme has been dropped for complete sentences. Very suspicious. What's smarty-pants up to? Are we to expect that he'll be dropping the "timeless creed" of "Yes we can!" as well for this bizarre and ambiguous Heideggarian formulation? For starters, which does he mean: is it big-b "Be the change" or little-b? Very suspicious.

Ah well, Heather. When in doubt just load up the blunderbuss of your pen and blast your page full of incomplete thoughts, totally inconsistent sentiments, and a lot of banal, semi-coherent wank:

So I should be high on happiness right now, no? The second Gilded Age is dead. People are thinking hard about the health of the planet.

In my own little universe, I finally have the birch tree in my garden I've longed for since childhood. I have eyesight, a pile of new books to read and am hearing rumours about a new nine-inch computer screen for reading big fat newspapers on my lap. That screen might save the industry I work in.

I'm finally teaching the university class I want to teach to the students I want to teach it to. I can spend the year watching Malia and Sasha Obama and their rivers of laughter and curiosity as they explore the White House and the world it opens up.

There will be a new season of Mad Men on TV and Bruce Springsteen has a new album coming out. Much pleasure and interest lies ahead.

Hark at me, trying to pump up enthusiasm in my own personal head. Yes, we were right. The thing is, though, I'd almost rather have been proved wrong.

I feel no triumph whatsoever and the triumphalism of the inauguration poster leaves me wary. It's redolent of wartime. I don't feel giddy. I just feel tired.

Uggh, God! ... Oh, but don't forget the gays!

Obama invited to his inauguration a man (Pastor Rick Warren) who has openly preached that gays are lesser beings, unfit to marry and raise children.

When I initially decided to overlook this politically pragmatic invite, I felt like a bully, which is the worst thing a person can be. It's easy for me to let Obama off the hook on Warren, but then I'm not gay.

That's better.

Still, for all that, I thought this observation inspired:

As for the poster itself, I don't question Shepard Fairey's motives; he's a fine artist whose work was invaluable to the Obama campaign and his Banksy-like aura is entirely of this era.

"All artists are magpies," Fairey rightly says. The poster catches the moment all right. But it reminds me of James Fitzpatrick's classic portrait of Che Guevara, a man who, like many of us including George W. Bush, didn't know when to stop and came to a bad end.

I thought the observation inspired, note, not the manner with which it was expressed. I mean, suggesting that the Butcher of La Cabaña's problem was that he didn't know when to stop is not understatement, it's just complete stupidity.

But there is definitely something to this. And I strongly suspect, now that Ms. Mallick mentions it, that a considerable number of people took their first notice of Obama when the Fairey posters arrived on the scene. "Our very own Che!" and the clatter of dropped acoustic guitars and gaming consoles resounded across the nation. "Our very own t-shirt guy!"

In any case, if Ms. Mallick really wants to know what can be expected of an Obama presidency she would be well advised to read James Delingpole's recent piece in The Spectator:

‘But of course!’ I realised. ‘It’s like May 1997 all over again. Same euphoria. Same sense — even among many Conservatives — that this time it’s different, that this guy’s The One who’s going to change everything. Same subtly bullying, post-Diana’s-death-style atmosphere where if you don’t subscribe to the popular consensus you’re a freak and a cynic and you’re wrong and you should probably be shot.’


Obama, I very much fear, is [Tony] Blair Mk II.
Who, himself, was just an unbelievably efficient Bill Clinton.

So expect a further heaping upon the heap of the self-interested socialism of market democracy (All the riskiest and most irresponsible aspects of free-market economics, with none of the social conservative safeguards!). Conservatives will have to content themselves with sucking on sops à la the Telecommunications Reform Act. Liberals can book their tickets for Community Reinvestment Act II: Revenge of the Killer Community Reinvestment Act!

Rest assured though, that the social degradation, the cultural bankruptcy and the economic despair will know no boundaries of partisanship.

Viva la pesadilla!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Canada's Inferior Citizens

As though it isn't bad enough that everybody in the entire world isn't granted automatic Canadian citizenship at the moment of their births, the government has gone and made things even more fascist:
Proposed federal regulations unveiled in mid-December seek to prevent children born to or adopted by Canadians outside the country from passing citizenship on to their children if they also are born abroad.
Swear to God, dude! Your foreign-born, adopted kid is chllin' in Saudi for a decade or whatever, squeezes off a nipper of his own there, and it won't be considered a Canadian citizen! Can you imagine?!

Donald Galloway, UVIC immigration law professor, best captures the terrible injustice of this new regulation:
"You now have to worry about where your kids are born."
Honestly! It's like we're living in the Dark Ages! (Or, anyway, just about any country other than Canada in the 21st century that is inhabited by responsible adults!)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Suburbanpup Impoverished

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I cannot believe that Jian Ghomeshi gets paid to write. Though, I will admit that I don't think I've looked at a single one of his columns since the last one I mentioned here. It could just be bad luck, I suppose, that I only ever happen to read the most insipid mush that he is able to ladle out with 20 minutes' notice from his editors.

But--and this is assuming that his columns aren't all rubbish--when they are, they really are.

First paragraph:
Two events of significance occurred for brown people around the world on the weekend. The first is an unqualified demonstration of the East gaining acceptance and admiration in the popular culture of the West. The second is a royal reminder that we probably ought not get too uppity and optimistic about the first event.
"The first" he mentions here, refers to the recent critical success of the film Slumdog Millionaire:
The excellent little Indian-film-that-could is now a frontrunner for the Oscars. And there is no denying its brilliance. This is a foreign language film, set in Mumbai, and using South Asian actors and storylines. The music is the most outstanding and forward-thinking soundtrack around. The lead actress is arguably the most beautiful woman in the world. It has it all. Westerners are increasingly flocking to Slumdog Millionaire and ... it is uncompromisingly Indian. For that, many of us take a great deal of pride.
I love this. Not a word about the story, just a lot of vapid chictellectual approval of the actors' race, and the film's "forward-thinking soundtrack." ( ... I mean: a forward-thinking soundtrack?! That is: a forward-thinking soundtrack?!!)

No mention either, you'll notice, of the film's director. A Mancunian as it happens. ... But what, after all, does a director really do?

But the really silly part of this business is Mr. Ghomeshi's taking "a great deal of pride" in the success of the film. Why does he take so much pride? Well, because it is so "uncompromisingly Indian," like he says. The fact that he (Ghomeshi) is not Indian is, he continues, totally beside the point. The film is about "brown people" and, because he is a "brown" person he feels a deep and significant connection with it--or anyway, a deep and significant connection with its critical reception.

Pretty shallow stuff, Jian.

Still, he probably could've been forgiven this, except that he goes on to bemoan the sort of cad who is incapable of appreciating "the nuances of the lineage of brown people."*

Eating your cake and having it too, eh?--how you must have identified with the themes of this film!

(I should note at this point that I have it on good authority that Slumdog Millionaire really does achieve a Dickensian level of brilliance. Well worth the watch, apparently.)

He concludes the piece, in the style of gut-churning-personal-revelation-of-a-racism-afflicted-youth, by expressing his disapproval of Prince Harry, who--in case you didn't know--recently expressed his fondness for a "Paki":
I was reminded of those later early years when news broke that Prince Harry had been caught on videotape calling someone a "Paki" recently. Harry is the grandson of my Queen. The same Queen that was mine in England. I've never thought that she would want to harm me. And Prince Harry has since apologized. But then, using words like that is usually more than a simple mistake. Maybe our road to progress isn't all paved in the gold of the Globes just yet. Two events occurred this weekend. And sometimes some of us still feel like slumdogs rather than millionaires.
To my mind, there are only two things that can be said about this:

1) I don't know which of Mr. Ghomeshi's high school teachers insisted to him that a piece of writing should always end with a dazzling crescendo of emotive synthesis ... I remain undecided in any case as to whether, if I met them, I should prefer to shake them heartily by the hand and thank them for the laughs, or slap them hard across the face.

2) Maybe our road to progress isn't all paved in the what of the whats now?!


*Which is doubly silly given Mr. Ghomeshi's broad (if utterly trivial) strokes re. well-meaning white people.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Where is Canada's Vaclav Klaus?

... Looking for ways out, we should – to use an analogy – strictly differentiate between fighting the fire and drafting fire protection legislation. We have to concentrate on the first task now; the second one can be done gradually, without haste and panic. A big increase in financial regulation, as is being proposed so often these days, will only prolong the recession. Growth in the global economy is falling rapidly, the banks have ceased to grant credit and confidence is ebbing. Radically changing regulation governing financial institutions in the midst of recession is counterproductive.

Aggregate demand needs strengthening. One traditional way to do this is to increase government expenditures, probably in public infrastructure projects, on condition these are available. It would be much more helpful, however, to have a great reduction in all kinds of restrictions on private initiatives introduced in the last half a century during the era of the brave new world of the “social and ecological market economy”. The best thing to do now would be temporarily to weaken, if not repeal, various labour, environmental, social, health and other “standards”, because they block rational human activity more than anything else.


Our historical experience gives us a clear instruction: we always need more of markets and less of government intervention. We also know that government failure is more costly than market failure.

We can also count on the fact that the Czech government will hopefully not be the champion of global warming alarmism. The Czechs feel that freedom and prosperity are much more endangered than the climate. The uniqueness of current levels of global warming is not a proven phenomenon. The explanation of factors that are contributing to global warming is not very clear and persuasive. Moves to mitigate climate change by fighting carbon dioxide emissions are useless and, what is most important, human beings have proved themselves to be sufficiently adaptable to an incrementally changing climate. We should turn our attention to other, really daunting issues.

The world in the year 2009 will not be spared armed conflicts, international terrorism, and territorial and religious disputes which – no matter how geographically distant they may be – will have consequences for all of us. We know that peace cannot be declared unilaterally and that long-lasting solutions are usually not the ones that are imposed from abroad. The Czech government will not support external interventions into the domestic affairs of sovereign countries. We should resist being seduced by philosopher-king ambitions.

The pragmatic Czechs – with all their criticism of European decision-making mechanisms – will not attempt to initiate a pan-European “velvet revolution” but will promote their interests and priorities. We will treat others as we expect to be treated: with respect for different views. We will be happy if a common denominator in – at least – some cases can be found. Reliance on negotiations and on the positive effect of the diversity of views is what makes Europe Europe.


Vaclav Klaus, "Do not tie the markets - free them"

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Still here, don't worry! ... But I seem to have misplaced my mojo.

Ponder this meanwhile:
Of avoiding many Words.

Fly the tumult of the world as much as thou canst; for the treating of worldly affairs is a great hindrance, although it be done with sincere intention;

For we are quickly defiled, and enthralled by vanity.

Oftentimes I could wish that I had held my peace when I have spoken; and that I had not been in company.

Why do we so willingly speak and talk one with another, when notwithstanding we seldom cease our converse before we have hurt our conscience?

The cause why we so willingly talk, is for that by discoursing with another we seek to receive comfort one of another, and desire to ease our mind wearied with many thoughts:

And we very willingly talk and think of those things which we most love or desire; or of those things which we feel to be against us.

But alas, oftentimes in vain, and to no end; for this outward comfort is the cause of no small loss of inward and divine consolation.

Therefore we must watch and pray, lest our time pass away idly.

If it be lawful and expedient for thee to speak, speak those things that may edify.

Evil habit and neglect of our own growth in grace do give too much liberty to inconsiderate speech.

Yet discourse of spiritual things doth greatly further our spiritual growth, especially when persons of one mind and spirit associate together in God.

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (of which a different translation than the above, here)