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Showing posts from November, 2009

Almost as if God gave each one of us a brain

Literary awards are more than just ego boosts these days. As the critic James Wood observed a few years back, "prizes are the new reviews," the means by which many people now decide which books to buy, when they bother to buy books at all. There are some 400,000 titles published per year in the U.S. alone -- one new book every minute and a half -- according to Bowker, a company providing information services to the industry, and there are fewer people with the time and inclination to read them. If you only read, for example, about five novels per year (a near-heroic feat of literacy for the average American), you could limit yourself to just the winners of the NBA, the Pulitzer, the National Book Critics Circle, the Booker Prize and then, oh, a Hugo or Edgar winner -- or even a backlist title by that year's Nobel Prize winner. You'd never have to lower your sights to anything unlaureled by a major award.On the other hand, if you've just self-published a book on p…

The Wild Things ate my Freud, and ain't my friends

Freud is not my co-pilotWhen Max is asked in the film what is the cure for loneliness, he responds that "a little loneliness is good."There's a sadness and a beauty in the way Max manages his loneliness by using his imagination. He takes himself to a place we've all visited, where our greatest fear is being eaten by a monster, and our greatest defence is becoming bigger than any other person, so big that we become confidant and advisor to monsters.When Maurice Sendak's book was published in 1964, a dumpster bin-sized amount of literature spewed out, upchucking explanations for the monsters as oversized, morality play characters, each representing a basic human emotion. In Jonze's film version, monster Carol (James Gandolfini) could easily be read as a transvestite with an insatiable sexual hunger, hence his voracious appetite for past kings. The asexuality of these creatures could make for a Freudian buffet of psychoanalytic opinion. The book has been said to…

Things are not as they seem: thoughts on Obama / Palin

snlNow that her Oprah appearance is over – and boy, did Oprah let the liberals in her audience down; what a waste! – let me confess to my own Palin fatigue. I just can't take seriously the idea that she'll ever be president, even after her moderately successful softball game with Oprah. Palin sealed that fate when she quit being governor (although maybe she can run with Lou Dobbs on the All Quitters ticket in 2012). She'll never obtain the record or the reliability she needs to run credibly for president now that she gave up the modestly challenging job of running Alaska. I don't see her ever having the self-discipline or the humility to admit how very much she'd need to learn to be remotely qualified. (Joan Walsh, “I have Palin fatigue already,” Salon, 16 November 2009)Intuition: I wonder if it will end up that Pailin is to Obama, as McCain was to Bush? That is, despite it all, I am not actually convinced that those who support Pailin actually hate Obama -- I thin…

Salon as a ritual site, to enact the birth of the righteous

Regardless, I found myself doing the baby boy victory lap.I was excited about having a boy, but I was also excited because I had endured a good deal of ball-breaking from my guy friends before the gender had been determined. My buddies ribbed me about having a yucky girl baby. One friend went so far as to assure me my wife and I would only have girl babies for future pregnancies as well. It would be a plague on my house -- a plague of girls.When it turned out the curse had been lifted -- or, more precisely, that it never existed -- I admit: I crowed.After that opening salvo of macho banter, I began to wonder if we speak about the sex of our impending children in vastly different ways and if the reservations about baby girls were not just limited to juvenile 20-something dudes. But it wasn't until we were expecting our second child, two years later, that the question transitioned from a passing curiosity to a legitimate concern. (Aaron Traister, “And may your first child be a femin…

"What's with this rabble?" bores

So he's come. Prince Charles, the man who, against my will, I had to pledge allegiance to, the future King of Canada. Like all naturalized Canadian citizens I had to take the citizenship oath or be denied. The oath says I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen. Trust me no American wants to plege allegiance to the English monarchy but at least we were warned. (Matthew Adams, “Prince Alarming: Why Charles’ visit should make us royally sad,” rabble.ca, 6 November 2009)But weren't all the dragons killed off in the 13th-century? I could understand having knights around then, but I don't quite see their use now. But I guess if they've got all that royal blood, there's nothing to be done about it.Actually, what are doing with "nations"? Isn't that an…

The left is seeing folk, when they should be seeing mosaic

A book finds same-sex couples produce perfectly healthy offspring. Is this the best argument for marriage equality? (Tracy Clark-Flory, “Gay marriage:Good for the kids?,” Salon, 9 Nov. 2009)In Canada, some on the left are beginning to favor imagining "their" constituents as more everyday folk than components of an urban mosaic. That is, there's a switch to imagining them as hardworking, traditional-minded, unpresuming and humble -- and therefore deserving of employment, etc. -- away from imagining them as urban, artistic, complex, diverse. It's a move to the right, in my judgment -- toward the German volk, in fact -- by the less evolved in the left, by the newly devolving on the left. In British Columbia, for instance, Save our Rivers does great 'cause "they" portray their movement in a way Cdns are ripe to accept and therefore not question -- as good hearted, rural folk, that is -- whereas anti-Olympics does poorly 'cause the country is beginning t…

Anti-olympicers destroy dreams, but should not be shot

Civil liberties are never in question unless they are exercised in a way that the majority of the population disagrees with -- and that's when they need to be defended. That became evident Friday, when anti-Olympics protesters in Victoria succeeded in blocking a small portion of the Olympic torch run.[. . .]Predictably, the media focused not on why 200 protesters occupied an intersection to voice their opposition but on thetorchbearers who were unfairly deprived of their opportunity to run the flame.More predictably, media featured a young man with cerebral palsy who could not take his turn. Fortunately he later got his chance in Nanaimo.[. . .]Last Wednesday a group called Moms on the Move held protests in 20 communities to protest B.C. Liberal cuts to funding for special needs kids, including to autism, fetal alcohol syndrome and mental illness treatment programs.Despite the obvious importance of their plight, the protests received next to no media coverage, with less than a doz…

Shaken, not stirred: How to make slaughter cool again

Rootless CosmopolitanToo suave for Bush, who fit so well with Hussein’s cartoonish pomposity, Bin Laden is just right for 8 years of Afghan chess, with classy Obama.There is something in Obama's patience which does strike one as near deliberate withholding, as wiser-than-thou, empowered demonstration of maturity and wisdom. What comes to mind is that Clint Eastwood film, "Heartbreak Ridge," where all the new recruits sprint past Eastwood, as he jogs slowly along, but find themselves later passed by as they exhaust themselves with their full-on burst of speed. His character ends up claiming all of their respect, in the end. Obama might do the same -- though perhaps, not with Brooks -- as he did when he finally did triumphantly win his election contest over Hillary, making himself seem casual, savy, inevitable, and his doubters, impulse-ridden children. Withholding is sadistic, but can be a demonstration of one's strength, many of the bullied will recognize and end up …