Friday, June 26, 2009

Local flavour, local talent

I know, I know. The burning question on all of your minds is: what's EMG got on his iPod?

And the blistering answer, you weanies, is: what am I, a strawberry-flavoured-cigarillo-smoking tween?! The day I buy an iPod is the day I eat an iPod.

If it's not coming out of my stereo, it's the music of Toronto's feeble excuse for urbanity that serenades me through my various routines. My half-wit neighbour cursing out her kids for the seventeenth time today, for instance. Or the Super across the alleyway cursing out the bums who've made a jolly old common area of his orderly heap of bed-bug infested mattresses. (I know the mattresses are infested with bed-bugs because the Super spray-painted "BED BUGS" on them--in, what would be big, unmistakable letters, but for the bums' bums planted exactly there, so that they read BE[bum]GS now.) Or the hum and smash and (again) curse and crash of the economy-defying condo that's being built around the corner.

But I'll tell you what I've got in my stereo that's of note, both of them Toronto-ish bands:

The Junior Boys, from Hamilton. Part of the electronic scene here, which is, I gotta admit, pretty wicked.

And Timber Timbre, from Toronto. This is from their last album (Medicinals), which (album) I highly recommend:

--In spite, that is, of the tedious and twee theme of the video. (A better track is "Patron Saint Hunter", but for the life of me, I can't find a version of it anywhere.)

... Of course, there are three trays in my CD player, and the third still holds this album (by non-Canadians), with this still-awesome song.

Selley on what stinks

... Today, however, I’m not clear whether union leaders give a damn about public opinion—or indeed, the public. Whenever there’s a public sector strike, you’ll hear people say ruefully that Tactic X—say, blocking taxpayers’ access to municipal buildings, parking garages and the hell-on-earth waste transfer stations they’ve been forced to drive to precisely because of the strike—won’t win them any support. But surely even union leaders can’t be deluded enough to think it will.


[C]learly the labour movement is not on an upward trajectory. It’s in a corkscrew dive. Its automaking brothers and sisters are giving up salary, benefits and old age security like candy on Halloween. People urging CUPE members to surrender their obscene sick leave entitlements are citing precedent in cities all over the country and continent. The picketers I saw this week chanting “fee-fi-fo-fum, we won’t give up what we’ve already won” under the crack of an organizer's whip looked dispirited and embarrassed, and rightfully so. It’s difficult to see how any of this is helping The Worker, writ large. And yet these unions still have the time to operate as a sort of leftist pamphlet made flesh: Palestine this, abortion that, free sex changes for everyone! To people of my generation and younger, they might as well be alien life forms speaking in extraterrestrial riddles. We literally have no idea what the hell these people are on about.

In short, I think it’s incumbent upon the labour movement and its component unions to justify their continued existence to Canadians—to explain how they’re not, perversely, a force for inequality in society. If they’re around solely to protect their members’ entitlements (or, at least, their senior members’) no matter now ridiculous those entitlements are—if they’re just the last, scrappy vestiges of a cause that’s already admitted defeat, or perhaps even victory—then there’s not much reason for Canadians to support them. There’s sure as bloody hell no reason to support them if they actually turn against those Canadians, whose taxes, after all, underwrite the entitlements.

Chris Selley, The labour movement needs to justify its existence

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Out of the mouths of babes and suckers

This year marks the 150th an- niversary of the Catholic Children's Society (West- minster) and the Mass was an opportunity to look forward, taking the theme of "Faith in the Future".

Children were invited to write a word on a paper brick which represented what they would like to change about the future.

One child said "fam
ily" another said "hope" and another "trust" and another "justice". The bricks were used by the children to build a wall before the altar, which was designed to symbolise the foundations their faith provides for the building of their future and the future of the world.
So, wait a second. These (very clichéd) children want to change family, hope, trust and justice? That's not quite right, is it?

Something dicky with the phrasing of the question, I think. And anyway, from a Catholic perspective I should've said that the little swots had already got their wish: the concepts of family, hope, trust and justice have all been irrevocably changed.

As has, apparently, the proper object of faith.

h/t Orwell's Picnic



It just occurs to me: these words were written on "paper bricks"? Paper bricks? Indeed.

Cosh on the Taliban So-Cons

Colby Cosh is losing it I think.

It used to be that you'd have only one weird column for every, say, ten normal, good ones. You know the thing: these shrill, air-agitating protests-in-the-face-of-blank-stares, which only ever seem to amount to a plea that everyone recognize in him this rare new breed of political superman who is, get this, fiscally conservative but totally not socially conservative. (World-beating stuff, obviously, and, my God, can somebody help me clean this mess off the floor because my mind's just been blown out my ears!) But lately the ratio has been getting too close to even.

Today he makes the argument that Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan's invocation of "the family" as justification for his controversial legislation--giving terrifying new powers of investigation to the police--somehow reflects on the nation's social conservatives and their fetishistic (nay, theocratic!) notion of the sanctity of "the family". Rather, that is, than reflecting on the abuse of the term by "cynical" politicians. (Cynical? Even that seems like a stretch. Sounds more like political boilerplate to me.)

He says:
No bogus, ill-advised expansion of state power was ever perpetrated on this continent without "families" being hauled out as part of the pretext.
Oooookaaaaaayyyy ...

But Colby, couldn't we also say that no bona fide, well-advised expansion (or contraction--ha ha, just kidding) of state power was ever perpetrated without "families" being hauled out as a pretext, too?

I mean, surely the thing about politicians always (always, always, always!) using the welfare of families to advance their political ends is that ... everyone belongs to one! I mean, you may as well complain that no bogus, ill-advised expansion of state power was ever perpetrated without people being hauled out as a pretext. Goddamn social conservatives and their perverse obsession with fucking "people"!

He continues:
Maintaining a healthy, functioning, non-corrupt liberal democracy would be a simple matter if everyone were immune to the intramural passions that the appeal ad familiam -- the appeal to innocence, safety and the love between a parent and child -- stirs up.
Um. Sorry guy, but I think everyone already is.

I mean, I don't have the stats or anything, but the whole "Won't somebody please think of the children!"-Helen-Lovejoy-cliché is the joke that even Helen-Lovejoy-types make these days. Like I say: this stuff is conspicuously pro forma. (Or I should say, inconspicuously pro forma, as I doubt a single person noticed it apart from Mr.--sorry, Ms.--Cosh.)

He then goes on to compare social conservatives to the Taliban, then says he didn't, then he says this:
But maybe some of you so-cons out there reading this can see that you have a special responsibility to stand up for (and help "conserve") truly essential and time-hallowed "liberal" features of our society, like search warrants, when they are threatened in the name of the "family."
God damn! Yeah, because you can't fling tennis balls by the half-hour in any of Canada's more densely populated areas without hitting a raving, totally unashamed social conservative! But still, this is begging the question. Can somebody tell me who these legions of so-cons are that are so-vocally supporting the proposed legislation?

And please, please, please don't tell me that the Harper Tories are so-cons. Please.

Monday, June 22, 2009

One art, please!

James Howard Kunstler's most recent podcast on "art"--as "therapy" for "amateurs and children"--is brilliant. Indeed, his pronunciation of the word throughout the (20 minute) show is itself somehow evocative of art's present-day essence: a kind of unwieldy concretion of bubble-gum, bauxite and a few balled-up pages from Dadaism for Dummies.

Keep your commonplace book handy as there is much that is quotable here. For instance:
"[So much of the art in public spaces] is a make-work project for people on the margins of the economy, including the artists themselves."

"[This is] art that is not connected to artistry or craft. It is simply the banging together of modular materials."

"It's no longer OK to just protest through self-abasement that we're living in a crap culture. Now we have to get beyond the crap culture and build a real culture."
And note the coining of the phrase "Rape-o-matic public space". Highly recommended.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Mayor on Letterman

Things have been getting a little sweary/crass around here and I apologize for that, but I can't resist this:

... Secondly: David Letterman is an ultra-liberal on an ultra-liberal television station, yucking it up with fellow ultra-liberals in an ultra-liberal state. Why bother trying to fight that nonsense? Pick your battles, you’ll never get through to them on this one.

Finally: look at the picture I posted. That’s Letterman’s wife. Ya. Imagine, he’s making fun of Sarah Palin, and every night he goes home and has to fuck the dead body of Boris Karloff. No wonder Letterman is angry. If you had to give tender kisses to a neck that has a bolt sticking out of it, you’d be mad too ...

Ah, the contrapasso!

For the record, I'm not a fan of the (I'm sorry, but) decidedly underwhelming, soi-disant "valley trash" Sarah Palin. But that Boris Karloff line kept me laughing for about ten minutes.



Did I say underwhelming? I meant to say so stupid, so devoid of dignity, it's embarrassing. That, or just plain old: exploitative to the point of creepiness. The way she's handled this, I don't know if she isn't in fact worse than Letterman.

Not to speak of her dimwit husband:
Todd Palin issued a statement last week that said "any 'jokes' about raping my 14-year-old are despicable."
Yeah, Todd. That couldn't have gone without saying.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The politics of the personal

Listen to the fucking language coming out of these idiots' mouths:

Calling it an issue close to his heart as the child of an immigrant single mother, Mayor David Miller tonight threw his support behind a movement to extend the right to vote in Toronto municipal elections to non-citizens.

Politically enfranchising newcomers who reside in the city but have not yet attained their citizenship would be a first in Canada but not the world.

“It’s my view that those people who have chosen to make Toronto their home and live here permanently should have the right to vote in municipal elections in exactly the same way as Canadian citizens,” the Mayor said to applause from some 200 people attending a city-organized panel discussion on the topic that was held in the council chambers at City Hall this evening.

“From my perspective you can’t be an inclusive and open government unless all of the residents have an ability to choose that government.”


[C]ouncillor Janet Davis (Beaches East York) ... also approves of granting voting rights to non-citizens, saying it “goes to the heart of ensuring social inclusion.”


Author Alan Broadbent, chairman of the Maytree Foundation, the Caledon Institute of Social Policy and the Tamarack Institute ... [said] “The choice is really this: will we give them shackles or will we given [sic] them wings."
God damn!

And while I have no doubt that all of this is just so much cynical political maneuvering, I know too that somewhere in the back of these twits' minds there's this semi-formed notion that Toronto's "non-citizens" consist of a bunch of undernourished but impishly delightful pickpockets and chimney-sweeps clutching empty porridge bowls and singing in chorus "It's clear / we're / going to get along!" if only we'd listen.

I mean, why is Janet Davis talking about going "to the heart of ensuring social inclusion" rather than just "ensuring social inclusion"? And why is David Miller stressing the fact that his mother was "single" in addition to being an "immigrant"? And where the hell does Alan Broadbent get the idea that this "shackles" and "wings" business doesn't betray him as an hysteric and a fool?

Because they know that no matter how much question-begging puke about feelings they fling at us, we'll lap it up like dogs.

It's sooooo embarrassing.

(I'm reminded of this scene (advance to minute 5:47) from Armando Iannucci's--absolutely-must-must-see political satire--The Thick of It, where the character of Hugh Abbot (Minister for the Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship) is caught in a bureaucratic impropriety. All is set to rights when, at the inquiry, he says of his scrotum-twistingly obvious opportunism, that "It's a personal thing ... But if government isn't personal then what the hell is it?")*

But I quite liked this panel member's contribution to the discussion:

Astrid De Vries, deputy consul-general at the Dutch consulate in Toronto, offered facts on the Netherlands’s three-decade experience allowing non-citizens present in the country five years to vote in municipal elections and even run for office.

She said the origins of the idea came from successive national governments and cut across party lines, gathering support on both the left and right of the political spectrum there and is considered quite successful.
Yes, indeed. Quite successful.


*The whole series is available on Youtube. I strongly encourage you to watch it.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

My Lady Nicotine

I think part of the delight of smoking for many teenagers is being able to moan on about how hard it is to give it up. Indeed, I think many of them acquire the habit for just that reason. When I was a teenager I remember being very impressed by these types. Such a grown-up predicament, I thought. Of course, I see now that only a teenager could get so little out of tobacco. (Them, and that breed of adult who don't experience adolescence so much as they are infected by it. Like tetanus.)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Dennis Dale makes a few distinctions

... Alas, what remains of the moneyed press increasingly exists not across an antagonistic divide from the powerful, but is fragmented by the same factional rifts and insulated by the same elite prejudices. Big Media is an adjunct of the ruling class. This, combined with its connoisseur's appreciation of the art and artifice of politics, renders it congenitally incapable of distinguishing political maneuver from statesmanship. Which brings me, finally, to the subject.

It's become difficult to tell where the President's political skills leave off and Big Media's credulity begins. The mistaking of platitude for profundity and condescension for compromise has become downright pathological in the age of the Wonder Brother. Never has so little awed so many so much.

This incapacity increases as our democracy matures, a consequence of age, accelerated by the Obama effect, the increasing viability of the Fox News/MSNBC model of advocacy journalism, and the much deserved disrepute into which the Republican Party has fallen. If independence is our measure of health, the fourth estate, having endured a fitful adolescence and the disillusionment of middle age, is entering its dotage. As is the case with the aged, it's intellect is no longer supple and its biases are irrevocably set; it's less and less able to control its utterances for the sake of decorum; it grows fonder of sentimental kitsch. The press' gushing over this or that vaporous issuance from President Obama is the equivalent of the kitten and puppies calendars decorating an old folks' home. Correct that; the various artistic representations of Obama are precisely equivalent.

So when President Obama directly addressed abortion in his speech at Notre Dame, what we witnessed wasn't a brave offer of compromise--the president made certain there would be no change in his decidedly uncompromising support for taxpayer-funded abortion on demand in every municipality in the country. Offering meaningless, self-congratulatory expressions of compromise unattached to substance in such a way is an act more often described disapprovingly as nerve, not bravery.

The relevant thing about the speech was the venue, and the complete surrender of a former bastion of opposition to the cruel, calculating expedience of the president's position, abandoning (to use the president's sort of language) the powerless and voiceless to the vocal and demanding. I presume the president is familiar with Ralph Ellison's concept of "invisibility"; this would be the defining feature of the unborn child (though the president's insistence on abortion goes beyond unborn to unwanted, as he will not sacrifice the good graces of Planned Parenthood to compromise on behalf of children who survive extraction). The president's definition of abortion as a "choice" is unremarkable in our low, dishonest age after all. No; contrary to the adulatory response from the president's vast amen corner, what we witnessed wasn't a marvel of rhetoric or magnanimity, but a decisive application of power.

Condescension is a form of disdain. The president took his position on abortion, a position the church once insisted was unconscionable (some things aren't open to compromise--rather this used to be true; compromise is sometimes a low, degrading thing, just as "unity", another favorite of the president, is sometimes tyranny) and planted it like a flag in the heart of what was once one of its grandest institutions. To the cheers of its children. And what remains of the press, mistaking political gamesmanship for statesmanship, hasn't the ability left to notice.

Dennis Dale, Condescension and Credulity

Monday, June 01, 2009


Lysiane Gagnon is sorta onto something here:

As mean-spirited as they are, the negative Conservative ads launched against Michael Ignatieff will hurt him and his Liberal Party. The ads are not targeting urban, well-travelled voters, but a wider constituency that weighs much more in the polling booths.

Many people viscerally resent those who travel often and in faraway places to boot. At best, these “jet-setters” are presumed to be inordinately lucky, which triggers envy. At worst, there is the suspicion that a cosmopolitan such as Mr. Ignatieff is not a loyal Canadian.

You're close, Lysiane. Very, very close.

But I think you'll find that the purpose of the ads is not to inspire dislike of Ignatieff through "envy" of his jet-setting lifestyle. Rather, I think it is to persuade us that Ignatieff is one of a class of sneeringly obtuse liberal intellectuals who thinks so little of the "wider constituency that weighs much more in the polling booths"* that he--typical of the breed, don't you know--actually imagines them capable of making important political decisions based purely on spite.

The ads are trying to persuade us, in short, that Michael Ignatieff is someone like--well--you, Lysiane.


*And, no, she's not saying that the rural and untravelled are fat. It just reads that way.