Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Send in the clowns

Is it a full moon? I go months without a comment on this dumb site, and then all of a sudden I've got me a troll.

They're sort of fun to kick in the belly, but I feel a little guilty about picking on the poor thing.

ADDED: Just so's we're clear - trolls are not people wishing to tear a stripe off me or make fun of dumb things I say - those people are welcome; the more clever the putdown, the better - rather they are sad, obsessive idiots who can't understand jokes, but know jokes are being made, and so respond with the verbal equivalent of a wet fart and a pirouette that ends with them tripping over a chair. And since they are trolls, they will always pick themselves up from the floor, pull the sodden underwear from the cracks of their asses, and say, "Had enough, sir?"

(If you be really, really quiet, you might even spot one in the comment thread to this post. Shhhhh...)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Gone Readin'

Headline from the NYTimes Fashion & Style section:

E-Books Make Readers Less Isolated

Isn't that a strike against them?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rex Murphy to Muslims: take off the mosque!

In the National Post, Rex Murphy - who, as I may have noted before on this site, looks like the twin brother Tom Hanks tried, only partly successfully, to eat in the womb - has a go at the dreaded Ground Zero Mosque. You know, the one those bastard muslims are planning to built RIGHT ON THE ASHES OF THE TWIN TOWERS. Or, a little bit over, but still in sight of Ground Zero. Or not in sight, but within a short walk. Okay, it's two blocks away, but still: it's a mosque!
On the matter of the Islamic centre set to be built near the site of the downed Twin Towers...
Hang on, the towers were "downed"? It is still strange to see the Manhattan skyline without the World Trade Center hovering there above it.

Anyways...
On the matter of the Islamic centre set to be built near the site of the downed Twin Towers, I dismiss utterly what New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg seems to fear — that Americans will carry the mark of intolerance unless they permit the building to go forward.

From 9/11 onwards, from the White House to main street, Americans have made it sunshine clear that the attacks of that day were not going to warp their country’s values, were not an occasion for raining abuse or vengeance upon America’s Muslim citizens.
It was an occasion to rain down missiles and cluster bombs on many non-American Muslims, but abuse? Never. Well, sometimes. Actually, a lot, but at least the country's values were not warped and everything was kept "sunshine clear." (I usually associate sunshine with brightness, not clarity, but Murphy's the big-time writer here, so oh well.)
George W. Bush himself, with the full weight of his office (and, I’d add, at some political risk to himself) was without stint in proclaiming Islam a “religion of peace.” He even went to a Washington mosque to underline solidarity with American Muslims and their peaceful co-religionists all over the world.
Bush then, of course, declared war on two predominantly Muslim countries within a couple of years, but let's move on...
Which strips all force from Bloomberg’s lukewarm pleadings that there is now, a near decade on, the need for a 13- or 15-storey homage to Islam but a shadow away from ground zero, to supply some sort of architectural instantiation or proof of that tolerance.
Mr Bloomberg, your lukewarm pleadings have been stripped of all force! And some of their heat, making them utterly cold pleadings! That's right: we stripped them of all force, then left them on the counter to cool - they are now gazpacho pleadings, and nobody likes that.

But Rex is right: When it comes to Ground Zero, mosques must be kept more than a shadow away. (In this case, "a shadow" equals "two city blocks" - this form of distance-charting probably meant more in the days when the WTC was floating up there throwing shadows on our eyes.)
How tolerant America has been on this issue is further shown in the near insouciance and ease which which the proponents of the Ground Zero mosque (as it’s become known)...
... by bigots opposed to the mosque or cynics intent on whipping up said bigots, but go on...
...make their proposal. They think it’s the most normal, casual thing in the world to propose such a building next door to the greatest terror operation ever unleashed in America, executed by Islamist fanatics in the dead heart of America’s greatest city, and involving the murder of thousands, the desolation of families, unspeakable mental and physical sacrifices by first-responding fire and police personnel — not to mention the cataclysmic financial repercussions the destruction was also designed to achieve.
Don't those Muslims know that 9/11 was very bad? More to the point, do they know that it was very, very bad? I would not be at all surprised if those gentlemen were not aware that it was, in fact, very very VERY bad. Don't they know that when bad things happen, all activity stops for a decade? There are people in New York still waiting to resume Central Park chess games that were interrupted by the attacks. It's the first rule of horrific terrorist acts: you can't do anything afterward. Except invade countries not related to the attack. Other than that: nothing. Don't even warm up dinner. 9/11 is like the eternal Sabbath - keep the lights out and don't use tools.
It is an almost boundlessly tolerant city and society — New York and America. But we must make a note on this point: A tolerance is being, and has been, shown, toward Islam, which Islam emphatically does not show to other creeds in regions or countries where Islam is predominant. In some Muslim places, a mere Bible in a suitcase is an indictable offence.
Rex was doing okay until this point - and by "okay" I mean, he had not gone full-on ignorant and offensive - but arguing that "we" don't have to be nice to "them" in our countries (which are really also "theirs" since they are all US citizens) because "they" are not nice to "us" in their countries is a bit of a dead-end. Some muslim societies do a lot of things we don't plan on adopting. Anyway, I'm sure he will move on from this point.
What is the numerical gap, I wonder, between the number of mosques in Western, nominally Christian cities, and the number of Christian churches or cathedrals in predominantly Muslim ones? In New York alone, there already are at least a hundred mosques. How many Catholic cathedrals, shinto shrines or Buddish temples in Saudia Arabia? On the subject of religious tolerance, that grand old rancid imperialist Kipling is still au courant: East is East and West is West, and ne’er the twain shall meet.
Oh, that is his point. We don't have to live up to our ideals because they don't live up to... our ideals. Makes sense.
Islam has a voracious appetite for tolerance when it is the suppliant; when it is, so to speak, a sojourner among the infidels. It is aggressively, even imaginatively, vigorous in availing of the democratic rights of societies to which some of its followers have migrated. It has acquired an admirable expertise in taking advantage of the institutions and practices of host societies, from politics and the media, to protests and the courts, which aid the full pursuit of those rights.
Islam is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It is also like the Mafia. So why do they think we're intolerant? (Interesting intellectual exercise: substitute "Judaism" or "Zionism" for "Islam" in that paragraph to make your own Nazi propaganda!)
This commendable agility finds no mirror in most Muslim societies. Tolerance received or enjoyed by Muslims in the West does not seem to awaken a concordant impulse to afford a reciprocal tolerance from Muslims to other religions in countries where Islam is dominant.
They suck, so we should get to suck, too. Never mind that we're talking about actual U.S. citizens, here - they are the wrong kind of citizens, so fuck 'em.
So, again, America has nothing to prove in this domain. And if New York authorities are going along with this proposal because they are afraid what people outside America might think, they are being, needlessly, both callow and cowardly.
As opposed to being needfully callow and cowardly. I'm just guessing, but maybe the authorities are going along with the proposal because it has every right to go ahead. Because there is not reason to stop it other than "Islam = 9/11".
But if the Islamic centre is built; and if it is to be, as professed, a bridge to understanding and reconciliation, there are a few tests we could apply — a few thoughts or suggestions for what might reasonably be found in such a strategically placed building, shadowed as it will forever be by the spectral dust of 2001.
There's that shadow again, though now it is filled with spectral dust. There may be some ghostly ashes, too. Spirit powder? Otherworldly detritus?
For example, a mosque in deliberate proximity to the scene of the Ground Zero slaughter will surely — unavoidably — have a section, a room, or a display, perhaps a miniature museum, on the events of that horrible day — giving some interpretation on what happened and why: what that day said, and did not say about Islam.
Maybe even a little miniature plane that flies into a miniature twin tower, except instead of a massive fireball, all that comes out is a little flag that says, "Do Not Want!"
Could there not be, for example, photographs of the 19 fanatic terrorists? They could be presented in some sort of stylized rogues gallery: Here are those who plotted and executed evil jihad against America.
How about "Wanted" posters? Oooo, that'd be so cool. Maybe one of them Muslims can work something up on Photoshop - though, come to think of it, those guys are so backwards, they probably still use CorelDraw...
Underneath, there could be a statement of categorical condemnation: These were a band of betrayers and corrupters of Islam, who did perverse deeds in Islam’s name. We Americans, Muslims all, in this holy place condemn and scorn their deeds and motives. Maybe this could be accompanied by some work of art to commemorate the dead — those who died in the attacks themselves, and those who died during the attempt to rescue people within the towers.
You know, I don't think I'll be calling on Rex Murphy for interior decorating tips anytime soon - that dude is grim. Or maybe pictures of a few thousand dead people next to a group of nasty terrorists and a plaque noting that terrorists are bad is exactly the kind of thing that'd spruce up my living room.
If it is to be in the vicinity of 9/11’s wreckage, it must pay respectful and felt homage to 9/11.
Just like the "Check out these twin towers!" display at Thunder Lingerie and More.
A mosque, that by its installations and presentations, derided the mischiefs done in Islam’s name, which in its declarations and stated understanding of 9 11 actually turned out to be a thorn in the side of fanatic Islamists everwhere, would be a worthy adjunct to the precincts of the now absent twin towers. It would be a work of understanding.
Just like all those churches with whole sections dedicated to the "mischiefs" done in the Christianity's name.
So, maybe the question now is not “Should it be built?” But, “What is to be built?” And if those who speak of understanding and reconciliation are serious, following a few of the suggestions here, or others from people much closer to this affair than I, could disarm all criticism and reproach. This should be, in this sense, if it goes ahead, the most American mosque ever.
As American as apple pie, baseball, gun-and-liquor stores, and racially motivated lynchings.
If instead, it retains a purely claustrophobic Islamic character...
Ha, cuz you know, so many North American mosques are located in basements - that's what he means, right? "There is no god but Allah, just like there is no goddamn headroom in this place!"
... if it is just an Islamic centre physically very close to where the towers once stood...
In other words, if it they build what they want, and not what muslim-haters want...
....but intellectually or civically remote and aloof from its all important site, it will be a failure.
EPIC Mosque FAIL!
... if it rejects any show of explicit condemnation or does not offer tokens of memorial, then I think the case of the critics will be immeasurable strengthened: that is, that this project is a none-too-subtle provocation, a tacit baiting of an already wounded America, and — worst of all, a kind of gaming of that precious tolerance to which it makes a spurious and offensive appeal.
In other words, if the mosque is not built according to the express wishes of bigots and cynics, the terrorists have won.

Is this a good time to note that there are not only two mosques already in the neighbourhood, but one in the PENTAGON as well? And that the U.S. has enshrined freedom of religion in its founding document? And that said freedom does not come with a proviso stating that one's place of worship must be decorated like the basement of a disaster fetishist?

Perhaps if someone were to mention these facts to Rex, he might revise his opinions, inshallah.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

These self-flogging scars are starting to heal a little

After a year or three of painful, halting forward progress - frequently interrupted by boring life dramas and sudden losses of faith and direction that resulted in tens of thousands of words being assigned to the "Scraps" folder, the name of which barely conceals the true nature of its contents by putting an "S" at either end - Unloveable Novel #2 has finally passed the 80,000-word mark and is still purring along happily. The end is in sight at last. (After which comes the painful, but still much more enjoyable, period of rewriting and editing.)

Not all that impressive a feat, I know, but after a couple of annos horribilis, I will happily take what I can get.

As the King of Swamp Castle knows, sometimes you just gotta keep building until one stands up.

(And even better: Unloveable Novel #3 is already starting to percolate and accumulate random jottings. Hurrah.)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Karma is a Hitch

Is is it so wrong that I cannot manage to care at all about Christopher Hitchens' current battle with cancer? Having recently read (and reviewed) his memoir - along with too many of his flatulent, boorish essays and columns, too many of which hew to no moral or political standard beyond impatience, Hemingwayesque man-of-action fetishism (what used to be called "existentialism"), and a searing desire to always be seen as "tough-minded" - I find the current widespread lighting of candles for this asshole to be more than a little rich.

Yes, yes: it would be nicer for all those who (for whatever reason) do love him for him to pull through, and death-by-cancer is always a nasty business, but really - this is Christopher Hitchens we are talking about. It's hard to work up any sympathy for a man who saw nothing amiss (and certainly nothing to apologize for) in the clumsy, bloody, illegal, unprovoked, and utterly stupid destruction of an entire country. This is a man who likes to align himself with Orwell, but who has done little more than hump the leg of Orwell's corpse - when he is not shitting in its moustache.

Which really just goes to show that I am even less of a Christian than he is.


NB: the original title of this post - as you can see from its URL - was "Am I going to have to choke a Hitch?", which is funnier, but less relevant.

More hygienic

"Why, she wondered, was Edward always trying to get her into soapy water? It must have some connection with his days at boarding school; he probably thought it more hygienic to do it in the bath.

She didn't know why she felt so despairing inside. All the big issues were over and done with - it wasn't likely now that she'd get pregnant and even if she did, nobody, not even her mother, was going to tell her off. She didn't have any financial problems, she didn't hanker after new carpets. She didn't hanker after anything - certainly not Edward with a block of soap in one hand and that pipe spilling ash down her spine."
- from Injury Time, Beryl Bainbridge (1977)



I haven't been around here as much lately, I know - blame life and the realities of paying rent - but I do sometimes find time to embarrass myself @nathanwhitlock, so join me there, if'n you like.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro

My review of Alice Munro's newest is over at the CNQ site, which was also recently the scene of some minor theatrics I had a dirty hand in.

ADDED: A few months ago, at a Harbourfront thing I was hosting, I spoke to Douglas Gibson, who is Munro's editor at M&S. Within minutes, I was thoroughly embarrassing myself by outright begging the man to make sure she wrote another book. I felt like a middle-aged Rush fan buttonholing Geddy Lee's accountant at a party. Sad.