My guest today is Dragon, a dear friend and Uber Fan of the British television Series Gentleman Jack. The series is based on the actual diaries of the landowner Anne Lister, who lived in early 19th century in Halifax, England. She lived, as much as 19th century England would allow, as an openly queer woman. There may be some debate about what queer means, but I would define it here as someone living against the expected gender roles and sexual norms of the time. She documented, in her own secret code, her private thoughts, opinions, and romantic escapades with a score of women. At more than 26 volumes it is a fascinating chronicle of the life of a female landowner in a time when options open to women were extremely limited. Dragon enlightens me on why Anne Lister’s story is so important to British history and what makes a Gentleman Jack fan.
Today, I have a conversation with one of the bravest people I know. Buck Angel is a transman who began his transition from a woman to a man twenty-five years ago amid personal turmoil, against the tide of social convention, and during a time when little was understood about how to medically transition from female to male. He was a trailblazer in the pornography industry and became famous for his work in that space. He was then and still is an activist. Today, he considers himself the Tranpa and an elder of the transsexual/transgender community. He spends his energy working with the LGBTQ+ community, with youth, the homeless, and others. He has developed sexual and other wellness products exclusively for the transman community and has a cannabis business in California.
We talk about how he feels about this time in American history, possible ways to heal the divide, and what his fears and hopes are for the country and for the transgender community.
In this episode I talk with long-time friend and pod-colleague Madge Weinstein, of Yeast Radio, who happens to be my cousin about 30 times removed. After all, we are both descended from the same 350 people that may have originated from the middle east and settled in eastern Europe around the fourteenth century.
Keeping roses in cold water. Trump. Biden. Pence. Harris. Authoritarianism. Ancestry. Eudaimonia. The end of democracy. Lack of critical thinking skills. Yuval Noah Harari. Global Warming. Marvin the Depressed Android. 23 and Me. Being kicked out of the middle east because we ate with our mouths open. Shtetls. Audio tech. Genderqueerness. Stonewall. The fly on Pence’s head. Political theatrics. The narrative is what it is. Nonbinary should extend beyond gender. Don’t stay in your ideological bubble. Health Care Terrorism. Canadian Health Care that we pay for with our taxes which I completely omitted to say – so sorry to mislead. ObamaCare. Money talks. Activism. Direct action. The end of democracy. The Green New Deal. Did I say, the end of democracy?
Shelter In Place, Physical Distance, and Wash your Hands Unless Otherwise Instructed
Last week a friend sent me a link to a removed YouTube video and the question, “Censorship?” That sent me on a search for the video by Drs. Erickson and Massihi, two Californian physicians who want sheltering-in-place ended in their state. The doctors provide unsubstantiated claims about the virus SARS-COV-2 and one even goes as far as suggesting that there will be gun violence about this issue. This video is full of misinformation, pseudoscience, false hopes and fear-mongering. You are free to watch it, do your own research and make up your own mind, but I give you this rant in any case on a sunny cool spring day during my lockdown. Let me know what you think. (Have I ever said how much I love spring in Canada?)
I read Life Hacks by Keith Brandon so that you don’t have to. There are 1000 so-called life hacks in this book. I share my review that is more of a rant against misinformation that Brandon is guilty of shamelessly spreading.
Extra Info you may want to know:
Link for hack number 317: “Daytime naps help to improve your memory and cut the risk of heart disease” can be found at ynquiz.com.
Despite the disclaimer that the author and publisher accept no responsibility for misadventure caused by following any of these hacks, this reader thinks that it is extremely irresponsible and unethical to publish this book without rigorous fact checking. There is no excuse for propagating false, incomplete, or misleading information. And the author shouldn’t be profiting from it. If he wanted to maximize his credibility, citing sources and proof would have helped. Save your money and time and skip this one altogether.
November 11, 2018 was the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, the war dubbed as the war to end all wars. In honour of the Armistice, Special K and I went down to what we, in Toronto, call the old city hall, where the Cenotaph, one of our war memorials, was erected in 1925. In this country, more than two generations have lived in a time of peace and have no first hand knowledge of the realities and horrors of war. What would another world war look like? In the face of some 14, 000 nuclear weapons spread over nine countries, one deployed bomb would almost certainly result in the deployment of many others, decimating the world population and ending civilization as we know it today. Sobering. So I think it is important to reflect on the sacrifices made by others and past generations to mitgate the ravages of military confrontation.
During breakast at a local cafe, Special K and I had a chance meeting with a woman who was from Sweden. We struck up a conversation with her and found out she had never experienced a Remembrance day event. We invited her to join us and I think we may have overwhelmed her with our non-stop anecdotes of Canadian history and military efforts.
This Sunday November 11, at the Cenotaph, we observed the customary two minutes of silence at 11:00am followed by poem recited in English, Oji-Cree, and French, a thought provoking address by our Mayor, and a reading of the poem In Flanders Fields, written by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae in 1915.
Have a listen to my sound scene audio of an historic remembrance day.
Part of the program is reproduced here:
Committment to Remember (read in English, Obi-Cree, and French)
They were young, as we were young,
They served, giving freely of themselves.
To them we pledge, amid the winds of time,
To carry their torch and never forget.
We will remember them.
Address by Mayor John Tory
Hymn to Freedom
When every heart joins every heart and
Together years for liberty,
That’s when we’ll all be free.
When every hand joins every hand and
Together moulds our destiny,
That’s when we’ll all be free.
Any hour any day, the time soon will come
When men will live in dignity,
That’s when we’ll all be free.
When every man joins in our song and
Together singing harmony,
That’s when we’ll all be free.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
I am an avid and passionate art appreciator. If there is a genre or artist I like that’s being shown in my city (or anywhere I’m visiting), I’m in. But I should have known better in this case. I should have realized and read the fine print. I should have paid attention when posters read “unauthorized”. As soon as I stepped into the Banksy Exhibit in Toronto, I saw it right away. The so called 80 original pieces, were mostly photographs of Banksy attributed works taken in various cities. At worst they were photographs of other people’s photographs. There were very few original pieces. I dutifully went through the spaces in the warehouse wondering whether anyone else was feeling the way I was. Special K was feeling the same way. So was Drag-On. I asked Drag-On. She didn’t want to talk about it in public. I wanted to spread the word that we were all being ripped off. Forty-four hard-earned dollars to see how an opportunist exploits someone else’s art for profit. Well maybe it was partly my experience at the Yayoi Kusama exhibit. That was massively well attended and disappointing for many who wanted more time in her infinity rooms. Now there’s someone who got the last laugh. But that’s for an entirely different podcast. Then there is the question of the theft of a piece of the art just three days before the opening. Some are reporting that it was a hoax. A publicity stunt to entice people into the show. Well I don’t know. All I know is that I wasn’t expecting mounted photographs out of context.
I wonder if he is just using Toronto to see if it’s viable to take it elsewhere. I guess we’ll find out at the end of the summer. This is just a money grab by Steve Lazarides, So, please don’t waste your money if this hits your town. Stay away. Here is my sound scene audio of our visit to the event and how we reacted to it. Enjoy or rather buyer beware.
People’s Names I forgot: Samuel L. Jackson
Details I left out: Everything I saw at the Banksy exhibit you can easily find, for just the price of your data provider, on the internet.
Titles of this show that ended up in the Bit Bucket:
There are so many things happening in the news every day, that I can’t keep up. I’m not even going to try. But what I can do is explore how the big picture is shaping up, because it will unfold regardless of the rapidity of the day to day events that are confounding, confusing and unrelenting. I hope that my podcast today will be an historical record of a failed prediction.
In the opinion of some journalists, historians and philosophers, America is headed towards authoritarianism and dictatorship. As Timothy Snyder points out in his book On Tyranny,“…no doubt the Russians that voted in 1990, did not think that this would be the last free and fair election in their country’s history which thus far it has been.” The situation unfolding is not about this president. He is merely a symbol of what has been percolating for decades in the United States. Snyder’s book On Tyranny provides twenty lessons designed to help us cope with this time. These lessons draw on the historical record of the twentieth century. With the book, he is attempting to prevent dictatorship and all that goes with it, the suppression of the media and free speech, control of the judicial systems, control of policing, control of education, suppression of the arts, a crackdown on dissent, oppression and violence directed against targeted minorities and other scapegoats.
Dictatorship happens in small steps, so that each step along the way becomes normalized. As freedoms, rights and privileges are removed, we become acclimatized and complacent, until we are taking part, colluding, and consenting. It’s happened before many times. There is no reason to assume that it will not happen again. Snyder is not alone in his thinking. Critics such as the educational theorist Henry Giroux, journalist Chauncey DeVega, and retired American naval Chief Petty Officer Malcolm Nance have similar views. And their views are informed by many others who have written about the loss of freedoms and the dangers of authoritarianism. These others include the political theorist Hannah Arendt, psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, sociologist philosopher Zygmunt Bauman, and activist poet Abdulmajeed K. Nunez just to name a scant few.
We must stop focusing on only the president as the enemy of freedom. We must also stop discounting him as a buffoon. Now is the time and it is more important than ever to keep these things in mind. The president is the noise. His tweets and missteps are the shiny pennies we keep turning our attention to while forces around him, including Russia, attempt to dismantle American democracy. He may be signing bills and executive orders, but he is not drafting them. And, everything we know about him tells me he is not even reading them. He is, however, as Malcolm Nance said, “[P]art of a wrecking crew that appears to be designed to destroy the government for a foreign power and for his own personal gain.” It is that wrecking crew against whom we must resist. Our vigilance must not wane regardless of the fate of the president himself. Maybe he will be impeached. More probably he will not, but should he be brought to account for his behavior, actions and irresponsibility, it still won’t be time to breathe a sigh of relief. At that point, the fight may only be starting in earnest. There are those in his circle, flying at and under our radar, who are harboring ways to turn America into a one-party, totalitarian state that suits the purposes of homophobia, misogyny, racism, antisemitism, anti-intellectualism, anti-truth, climate change denial, and oligarchy. They would continue to be a threat we don’t recognize until it is too late.
Snyder reminds us that the founding fathers of America installed the checks and balances not as a one-time, fait accompli prevention measure, but to ensure that Americans are ever vigilant against the destruction of democracy, freedom of the press, equality, and free speech. The current regime wants to dismantle those checks and balances one by one until what is left bears little resemblance to the protections Americans are used to having. We each must defend the freedoms we enjoy. Each can be taken away in the blink of an eye.
Snyder hopes that he is wrong, that his book will have been cautionary advice. I hope so too.
There are three podcasts I urge you to listen to: First, listen to episode 127 of The Chauncey DeVega Show. In it, DeVega talks with retired naval officer Malcolm Nance. Nance is a cryptography expert. He has written extensively on terrorism and ISIS. Next listen to episode 133 where the educational theorist and cultural critic Henry Giroux looks at the current situation in America and frames it culturally and educationally. For him, how we teach our children, the language we use, and the culture we create can all contribute to effective acts of resistance. Also listen to episode 79 of the Waking Uppodcast hosted by Sam Harris in an interview with historian Timothy Snyder. Chauncey DeVega also speaks with Timothy Snyder is episode 134 of his own show.
All these men and the scholars and experts they refer to warn against what they think will be inevitable if we don’t keep resisting, reacting, writing and talking. To do my part, I am going to tell you what I found most compelling about what I heard and how it resonated with me. Henry Giroux in episode 133 says a lot of things. Halfway into the interview, he invokes Zygmunt Bauman and says, “There is no society that is just enough.” He is not suggesting that there is a perfect solution – just that there are solutions and we are obligated to work towards them. “This administration,” he says, “is about terror and terrorism.” Chauncey DeVega wants to know what we should be doing to force issues. They discuss the merits of active disruption such as general strikes and nationwide protests. What, Chauncey DeVega muses, does the future hold? Giroux is clear that he believes that “every facet of society…will be criminalized”. The state will become a punishing state. He quotes the poetry of Abdulmajeed K. Nunez from Occupy Belmopon II, when he tells that we have already “tipped over into neo fascism…” It’s just more subtle. Neo- Fascism. Neo-fascism comes in different forms. What about “mass ethic violence?” DeVega asks. Giroux tells us that “…neo Nazi and white supremacists are already in the highest reaches of government. What is the end point of that?” Will there be mass “…learned helplessness of the public?” He drops what I wonder is his favorite phrase, “public pedagogy”, “…a term he coined to describe the nature of the spectacle, the new media and the political and educational forces of global culture,” according to Wikipedia. Pedagogy, if you don’t know what it means, is the method and practice of education. DeVega says that he is “…trying to write for history.” Simply put, he wants it on record that he has tried to fight this unjust regime. He wants his descendants and future citizens to know that he did not sit by watching or implicitly collude. I’m not sure that it is true, but Giroux says that there is “no precedent for what has happened in America” now. I am confident instead that history will show that there were similarities with movements in Europe and elsewhere in the world. One thing is certain, there are danger signs and we all must face them. One of the main danger signs is that the president has never stopped saying and doing things that give the public license to express their distrust of facts and hatred of other groups, promote ignorance of economics, the current health care act, and environmental issues. Giroux says that we must face the dangers. And make peace with the consequences. Giroux reminds DeVega that “…as a public intellectual…” DeVega is “…a model for others…” He tells him “…[l]ive with dignity. Don’t turn your back on the requirement for justice, on the question of justice.” He is telling all of us this.
They talk about the media. Because media is driven by profits, Giroux suggests that we go to web sites that “…demonstrate dignity and courage.” Some websites he mentions are Salon, Truthdig, Counterpunch and Alternet. Giroux wonders what has happened to historical memory. What a great question. Snyder in his book shares an editorial that appeared in a German Jewish newspaper in 1933:
We do not subscribe to the view that Mr. Hitler and his friends, now finally in possession of the power they have so long desired, will implement the proposals circulating in [Nazi newspapers]; they will not suddenly deprive German Jews of their constitutional rights, nor enclose them in ghettos, nor subject them to the jealous and murderous impulses of the mob.”
Indeed, this is exactly what happened. The quote continues:
They cannot do this because of a number of crucial factors hold powers in check…and they clearly do not want to go down that road.
They did. The quote ends with:
When one acts as a European power, the whole atmosphere tends towards ethical reflection upon one’s better self and away from revisiting one’s earlier oppositional posture.
Ethical Reflection?! Naïve and chilling.
Giroux says we must “apply matters of the past to the present in ways that offer a new language”, a new political language that mobilizes people. For example, he believes we should not be using terms like fake news or alternative facts. Call it out for what it is: “lies”. It is very Orwellian to make up names to sanitize, negate or distract from the true meaning of what someone is saying or claiming. To call something out as a lie means that sooner or later the liar will have to defend that something. That requires work and research. According to Giroux, Paul Ryan and the rest of the cabal “…are not looking for literature that informs them. They are looking for literature that confirms them and their existing ideology.” He continues, “The new model is American Psycho. Ayn Rand’s model was Wall Street and that’s over; about celebrating heroes that moved up the ladder and didn’t care about other people. Ayn Rand was [entirely] about self-interest. Today it’s about sadism and cruelty and psychopathology. Things that only Wilhelm Reich understood.” When DeVega mentions the Purge series of movies, Giroux links it back to how we might be soon living, in a “…cage-like existence in which fear becomes the only commodity that matters and then gets translated into a kind of violence that is so spectral that it actually captures something about the soul of a society that can no longer exist, in a way, except through sadism, a kind of precarity, and an unwillingness to even remotely examine itself, in terms of its own potential for social and political responsibility.” According to Wikipedia, The Purge franchise is a series of American dystopian action horror films written and directed by James DeMonaco. There are three films in the franchise: The Purge (2013), The Purge: Anarchy (2014) and The Purge: Election Year (2016).
It may also be worth defining precarity. Precarity is a condition of one’s life that lacks predictability, job security, material or psychological welfare. According to Judith Butler, all human life is one of precarity regardless of government, economic, or historical context. All life to her is precarious, because we depend on each other from cradle to grave, on a global scale. I discuss this more extensively in my review of her Frames of War, that you can find on my site or on Goodreads, so I won’t repeat it here. Giroux continues. He mentions the movie Elle, for which Isabelle Huppert was nominated for an academy award in 2017. It is about a woman who eventually enters into a relationship with her rapist. It is, in his words, “…the ultimate expression of the assumption that the only path to intimacy is through violence… [it’s a] …celebration of sadism.” DeVega refers to another movie, Blue Demon,apparently a self-reflective B-movie about narcissism and fashion. Giroux asserts that “[w]e live in a culture of precarity.” DeVega changes the subject by musing, “Teaching is a political act.” Giroux responds that “Academy is an enemy of the Trump state.” Well that’s perhaps an understatement to be sure.
At the beginning and end of every Chauncey DeVega podcast, DeVega vents, rants and otherwise muses on whatever subject he pleases. At the beginning of podcast 133, he asks, “Trump!? Is it madness? Is it incompetence? Is it incompetent genius? He has surrounded himself with white supremacists…plutocrats…He will never be impeached. Jeff Sessions, a product of Jim Crow, enemy of the…rights of black and brown people. He’s dangerously effective. Mainstream, so called liberal, corporate news media focuses on trivialities, foolishness.“ At this point, let me give you a taste of some of the things that Malcolm Nance, retired naval officer, who I mentioned earlier, had to say in episode 127 of the Chauncey DeVega show. Nance tells us: “Moscow has a three-point strategy:
The dissolution of NATO
The breakup of the EU and the common market
The belief that Russia should be able to whatever it wants in Eastern Europe”
“Russia,” he goes on “[practices a] neo-soviet capitalism.
[they practice the] management of dissent
It is a dictatorship
[they practice] perception management” and,
“[they practice] the weaponisation of information”
He goes further. “[It’s an] uprising of the stupid…we are living the first step of [an] idiocracy… [Russia is] a mafia with atomic bombs.” We want to make note of Aleksandr Dugin, “a political philosopher, the Rasputin of Putin, [wants] to bring down democracy…Trump controls 4,000 atomic weapons. Trump is part of a wrecking crews that appears to be designed to destroy the government for a foreign power and for his own personal gain.”
I am going to cycle back now to minute 26 of Podcast 133 where Giroux continues to talk about what is wrong with America. He says, “…the left has refused to really engage this discourse in ways that embrace the comprehensive politics that get beyond the fracturing of single-issue movements and [he] began”, Giroux says, “to understand both what the underlying causes of this authoritarian movement and what it might mean to address it. This thing with Hillary Clinton that went on in the face of Trump. This Hilary bashing, [not that he supports or supported HRC]…there was something much darker on the immediate horizon that should have been addressed and that while the policies that the democrats produced, this complete blindness to that issue and to the notion of education.” What he means by education is that America has to have a pedagogy that supports critical thinking and a relationship to the truth – provable truth. Then he invokes that political theorist Hannah Arendt. She “was a German born Jewish-American political theorist…often described as a philosopher. She rejected that label on the grounds that philosophy is concerned with ‘man in the singular’ and instead described herself as a political theorist on the grounds that ‘men, not Man, live on the earth and inhabit the world’.” That was from Wikipedia. Giroux says that Arendt said that there is, “…the notion that thoughtlessness is the precondition of fascism.” He asks us to think about the following things: “What are the forces at work in the United States around civic culture? Around celebrity culture? Around the culture of fear? Around the stoking of extremism and anger about issues? About a media that creates a culture of illusion? About the long-standing legacy of racism and terror in the United States? Around the self-interest, the unchecked individualism? How did that all come together, in a way, to produce a kind of authoritarian pedagogy that basically isolated people, made them feel lonely? As Hanna Arendt would say, ‘loneliness is the essence of fascism’. People need a movement. They need to belong to something. The debate around fake news and fake facts – that’s nonsense. The real issue here is that the populist movements like this, they don’t care about whether something is right or wrong. All they want is a coherent fictional narrative that they can belong to. So, whether it is right or wrong is irrelevant. What’s really important is all of a sudden they find themselves in a community of believers in a public sphere in which they can affirm themselves and no longer feel that they are isolated.”
DeVega intervenes, “Regardless, Trump voters voted to hurt people.”
Giroux seems to agree, “It was about racism, white supremacy, white nationalism. It was about inflicting pain on people. It’s about taking away social provision that even they would benefit from in the name of false appeal to freedom and liberty. One. What’s the form of the culture that turned these people into barbarians, in some ways? Two. They are responsible.” By this he means the voters. “Three. What would it mean to figure out what it is that drove them, so these questions can be addressed in ways in which these people are not simply dismissed as victims, but actually become capable of being mobilized in a very different way?” It seems that there is no mechanism or appetite to tackle this. Republicans and other representatives would have to agree with Giroux’s line of thought. There would have to be an answer to how to mobilize them in a very different way. What would convince them? How would the politicians get them there? I am assuming that it would have to be the politicians. But voters are not listening to educators and certainly not academics or the science community. He continues, “If they don’t become part of the script, the transformation, then we’re done. It’s not going to work.” Absolutely. “The polarization will be too great and the possibility for violence will be outstanding…how do we make the political more pedagogical while at the same time not painting the people, who in fact voted for Trump and put us into this place, simply as dupes? I want to know how agency got constructed in the name of fascism – neo-fascism. That’s really the central question. That doesn’t absolve them of responsibility, but it does place an enormous burden on all of us who are concerned about these issues, about how we address it.”
DeVega responds, “…at least at this moment in the U.S. context, the left has an inability to craft a powerful narrative in terms of the use of language. The republicans didn’t vote against [the Obamacare repeal] because it was morally objectionable and cruel. [They voted against it because] …it wasn’t cruel enough. The media failed us in not recognizing this. The media is playing checkers and the regime is playing chess. Media and liberals and progressives and democrats are no better. The media cannot win if they think they are dealing with reasonable, rational people who believe in empirical reality.” We see glimpses of it, for example, when the media recently kept saying “you mean Russian hookers”, when people interviewed insisted on calling it by the more watered-down term “salacious material.” I wonder what it would cause or look like if the media did what DeVega is suggesting. Would it be powerful and raise awareness or would they be suppressed, controlled, and threatened by the regime? Are they afraid that this would give the regime an excuse to shut them out of press briefings? The way the media has been behaving, it certainly looks that way to me. How far can they push Spicer before he just stops answering or ignores the press more than he does now?
Giroux continues to address the problem of public transformation, “We need an overriding vision. We need to talk about radical democracy. We need to name cruelty when we see it. These people are killing people. Language translates in policies that affect people in very specific ways.” America has a “crisis of civic literacy, crisis of cultural literacy, agency, civic, culture…commercial interactions are the only ones with meaning…Anti-intellectualism has taken over the country. Critical reflection becomes not just simply an object of disdain, but an object of contempt.”
“And treason!” DeVega adds.
Giroux continues, “What happened to the formative culture that offered resistance to that? In what way are the schools contributing to this? What does it mean when language succumbs to the esthetics of idiocy and vulgarity? What does it mean when celebrity culture confers more authority than higher and public education? What does it mean when happiness becomes a private right – or when people can no longer translate individual problems into larger public issues? This is a crisis of civic liberty…you’re talking about mass produced ignorance…when a formative culture disappears that makes self-reflection possible, then you get people saying and doing things that are incomprehensible with respect to the question of reason.”
DeVega finally says what almost certainly is a shared reality, “I think Donald Trump has unleashed something that has been bubbling beneath the surface.”
Giroux addresses this in terms of violence. “Violence becomes the cohesive element that brings people together. Violence becomes a sport. Violence becomes policy. It’s a spectacle. Violence is the language of disposability. We just get rid of people. Violence becomes the driving force which is one of the few forces left by which people can feel anything. Violence and idiocy – a lethal combination. Agency will be weaponized.”
DeVega feels that, “Donald Trump is the crystallization of everything that is wrong with this country.”
Giroux expands on this sentiment. “He is the distillation of an attack on democracy that has become more cruel, more virulent, more poisonous, more militarized and more violent since the 1970s. To simply view him as eccentric…as some kind of clown, who now has tapped into a certain element of culture is really to miss the point. Flawed democracy has been transformed into a new form of neo-fascism…You combine the authority that a celebrity culture confers with the utter isolation that people are feeling and the precarity that people now finds themselves – a neo-liberal culture – couple that with a culture of spectacle – of immediacy and entertainment and man there is really not a lot of wiggle room for democratic formative culture to emerge in a way that have resisted them. “The regime has people like, “…Bannon and Gorka driving policy. Trump doesn’t have the attention span to think through policies like this. [The m]ainstream press won’t call them out…in the next two years, they will attempt to destroy, with a vigorousness and aggressiveness, every major element of the social contract and every provision, policy, social relationship, public good that basically the corporate elite sees as a burden on their own resources. If the left fails to take up and develop a commanding vision, a new language about civic culture, about the possibilities of democracy and gets away from the…fractured politics that they’re involved in and be able to build a social movement, an educational movement, we may get somewhere.”
Giroux’s offers a recipe: “Liberals have to bang home that Trump is elite. There is no politics without identification. Policy goals to win over voters: National Health Care Plan. Social Wage – Guaranteed minimum income plans. Jobs programs. The commons matter.” Ok. There are two things I’d like to provide a definition of. First here is how the Oxford dictionary defines Identity Politics: “A tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc. to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional party politics.” What that means is I’m gay so my political positions are informed and influenced by my interests and perspectives with respect to my identity as a gay person. I agree with Giroux that my identity is completely reflected in my politics. How can it be otherwise? What I think has importance is how we respect each other’s identities so that we can come to shared and fair public policies and visions. Second a refresher on what the commons are. According to Wikipedia it is, “the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water and a habitable earth.” It’s not a leap to suggest that we as a species have struggled to protect and share our commons and may be losing that battle.
Giroux continues in a passionate way, “Bernie”, he starts, “argued for progressiveness within a party that is actually reactionary. He didn’t get the power of the Democratic party to embrace the third way…third way equals neo-liberal…Democrats [are] not liberal. [They are] very conservative…party of the neo-liberal capitalism…erasure of historical memory. Historical memory does not matter…in our culture of short term gains, being the only thing that matters, culture of immediacy. Speed has overtaken the possibility for thought itself… [It’s a] very dangerous scenario…anti-intellectualism and cruelty…lapse of being able to draw any relationship between action and social cost. Our age [is characterized by t]he politics of disappearance…” He then lists all the things that have or will disappear in his opinion:
“Disappearance of memory
Disappearance of racial justice
Disappearance of immigrants
Disappearance of young people who are poor
Disappearance of people who don’t buy into the logic of capitalism
Disappearance of intellectuals
Disappearance of media who have the possibility of holding power accountable.”
And in what I think is a natural extension of these ideas is as DeVega responds, “Phil Zombardo says we can ‘other’ people. ‘Othering’ is necessary for evil.” You can find more on this by reading Judith Butler’s Frames of War and Precarious Life.
Giroux agrees, “In a criminogenic society, that society is organized for the production of death; that civil society is organized for the production of violence. We have so individualized these problems.” We act as though the president is the cause and not the system or society. “Trump as eccentric, just stupid – it’s a diversionary tactic. The press picks up on the diversion. Who’s going to die? Repealing of Healthcare, rolling back environmental protection. State violence is being produced. “
And DeVega feels that, “Our media lies to us. We have a culture of spectacle and disposability…lack of civil literacy.”
Giroux picks up on this by talking about the importance of education, his specialty. He tells DeVega, “This is where the question of education and literacy becomes crucial. We have produced a culture that is contemptuous of truth, leading to a situation where democracy cannot function. We can’t hold power accountable because there’s no such thing as the value of argument. There is no such thing as ability to know when people are being fooled, when they are being used as fodder in the interest of concentrated power, that basically will say anything to create a cohesive narrative that allows people to believe somehow that narrative benefits them when actually it’s just the opposite.” I don’t think Giroux feels that the media is necessarily complicit and without courage. Media has just been corrupted by wealth. They are driven by profits and what gets me to their media outlets be they TV, the internet, newspapers or magazine stands. Giroux continues, “Youth can’t just criticize culture. You have to be a culture producer.” Finally, Giroux tells a marvelous story of how his father taught him about appreciating diversity. “You ought to realize,” his father had said, “that different people be in the world in different ways. They have different languages and different skills. When you realize that your language is not the only language, then you’ll be able to listen to people and you’ll be able to understand where they come from.”
Are we looking at the end of democracy, at a new western dictatorship? At some dark dystopian future? I don’t know. In today’s world, I think we have a duty to be courageous and fight to protect the freedoms we have come to know.
“Imagine all the people living life in peace.” Photo taken Sunday September 21 2014.
On Sunday September 21 2014, Special K and I attended the first international People’s Climate March. It was an event held around the world with a special focus on New York City two days before the U.N. Climate Summit was set to begin. It was organized by 350.org an environmental group founded by writer and activist Bill McKibben. 350 represents the parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that scientists say we need to stay at to keep further climate change at bay. Earlier last year there was a point where the parts per million of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere was recorded at 400ppm.
Wikipedia records an estimate of 311,000 people attended the People’s Climate March. There were numerous staging areas for different groups that started at Central Park West at 59th street and went as far as 86th street. Special K and I ended up joining the designated area for the generational groups at around 66th street. Among the participants we marched with were families, the elderly, and students. It was intended to be a peaceful march and it was. I interviewed several people: One of the peacekeeper volunteers, some students, a carpenter, an urban planner and a TV film editor. Join Special K and I as we take you through the march on that humid cloudy day. Enjoy the show.
Listen up (36m45s) :
Other things discussed:
Hegemony – “…is the political, economic, or military predominance or control of one state over others.”
Star Child (Taken at the Kubrick Retrospective at TIFF Lightbox November 2014)
I am not an expert on these matters. I merely know what I like and what I don’t like. And though there were movies of his that I absolutely did not like, I cannot ignore the profound impact his movies have had on me. I don’t know anyone who will deny, if they have seen the movie, that when they hear Also Sprach Zarathrustraor The Blue Danube they can think only of 2001 – A Space Odyssey. There are those of us who saw A Clockwork Orange who will never be able to see it again because of its assault on our morality, senses, and emotions. I have a friend who can’t listen to Beethoven’s 9th, Ode to Joy, or theWilliam Tell Overture anymore after seeing the movie without seeing the most vicious and disturbing scenes in her mind’s eye. We don’t understand what some of these movies were about but we simply cannot forget them. He arguably redefined the relationship of music to American film, camera work with American film, and even redefined how to tell a tale. He turned the ghost story on its head with The Shining and confused us about war and violence with Full Metal Jacket. I am speaking of course about Stanley Kubrick, one of the greatest American filmmakers of all time. He made only sixteen movies in forty-eight years, three of which were documentary shorts made very early in his career. Fans waited eagerly for years between movies. Disappointed or not by what I saw, I know that there was great depth and thought put into every inch of film he shot. There is so much to say about him as a filmmaker, that I could probably study him for years and still not understand his films or his process. But I cannot stop being compelled and drawn to his work. In November 2014, the Toronto International Film Festival, mounted a retrospective of his work at the TIFF Lightbox location in Toronto. I eagerly attended and was surprised by the mashup curation of the main exhibit. I got a new perspective on the man and his movies and learned about some I had yet to see. My show today is separated into two parts. The first takes place in the main exhibit. I sometimes compete with the cacophony of music that surrounds me, and try to provide a sense of how the exhibit takes you through his body of work. The second takes place in a quieter section of the exhibit where various people share their opinion on select works by this master.
The Twins Costume from The Shining (Taken at TIFF Lightbox – Kubrick Retrospective)
It took me more than two years to get through this book. I put it down after page 42 in 2012 because of its dense content and academic language. I am a fan of Judith Butler because she has some unique and thoughtful ways of looking at difficult questions. In this book of essays, (some of which she gave as lectures), she is looking at how we frame war and violence to justify it and give it meaning. She touches on how the media manipulates our emotions to reinforce or create our sentiments. This is not a new idea. Of course we all know the power of propaganda. But she has more to say about how we frame the idea of war so that we can bear its negative affects.
According to Judith Butler, each of our lives is “…always is some sense in the hands of others”. She points out that we are nothing but social creatures that depend completely on each other for everything in our lives. And she means everything. From the survival of each infant born to the food on our plates to the infrastructure that provides the food on our plates including the plates. Each of our lives is necessarily dependent on others. She makes a case that our global social entanglement shapes how we view each other as human beings. Or not. Consider that she makes this observation:
“…war [divides] populations into those who are grievable and those who are not. An ungrievable life is one that cannot be mourned because it has never lived…it has never counted as a life at all.”
In a war where the one side (say Hamas) stores armaments in schools, community centres, and houses of worship, the destruction of those armaments means that the people in those places, be they children, women, holy men or teachers do not have grievable lives. Their lives have and had no meaning because they were already dead before they were born. They are not alive and never were. We may believe that the people in those places are being used by the enemy as human shields. Therefore if the enemy does not give their own people the status of living beings worthy of being mourned, missed or valued, why should anyone else? So the bombing of these places becomes justifiable. Butler makes the entire idea of killing ludicrous when seen from this point of view. She is coming from the position that all human life, all interconnected on this planet, is grievable. Yet,we divide the world into those who are worthy of being grieved and those who are not. Otherwise we cannot justify war and violence. In one of her many brilliant statements she writes,
“…war seeks to deny the ongoing and irrefutable ways in which we are all subject to one another, vulnerable to destruction by the other, and in need of protection…[via]agreements based on the recognition of shared precariousness.”
She goes on to assert that “[w]ar is precisely an effort to minimize precariousness for some and maximize it for others.”
Apart from these ideas and some interesting discussion of the impact of media and photography, the essays for the most part left me cold and wanting. I was distressed by her use of language. For example, she uses the word alterity at one point when otherness would have made her point much more accessible. There are also statements and ideas that I found completely incomprehensible. For example, I could not make sense of this:
“The point is not to celebrate a full deregulation of affect, but to query the conditions of responsiveness by offering interpretive matrices for the understanding of war that question and oppose the dominant interpretations — interpretations that not only act upon affect, but take form and become effective as affect itself.”
If you can decipher this, I’d love to know what it means.
I was also shocked that she actually used the (non)-word irregardless (page 178 for anyone that cares). I will give her the benefit of the doubt and consider that an incompetent editor or grad student made the slip-up.
In matters of our global attitudes to war, violence, hatred, and non-tolerance, accessibility of her ideas is important for real change in my opinion. I am not sure she is interested in changing the world so much as she just wants to explore it philosophically and for the fun of it.
(note: this review, slightly edited, was cross-posted to Goodreads on Aug 31 2014)
“Why can’t we just do everything we can while we’re here for one another?” – Pearl Goodman, 2013
On today’s show I interview Pearl Goodman who has written Peril: From Jack Boots to Jack Benny. In 300 pages, Pearl gives us portraits and vignettes of what it was like growing up in the nineteen-sixties and seventies. This was a time when many holocaust survivors had ended up in cities like Toronto putting geographical if not psychic distance between them and the horrors of World War II. Everything about her childhood is coated, clouded and influenced by her parents’ experience during the war and after.
Her parents were survivors of the Nazi’s attempt to exterminate the European Jews. The remainder of their lives was infused with this terrible knowledge, the death, the suffering of entire family members, friends, neighbors and many others left behind. As we roll ever closer to the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the numbers of survivors who can still remember and tell us anything of those times are dwindling to a precious few. All the stories we can find, first-hand, must be sought out, recorded and shared. And those who can relay much of those untold stories and insights, as the survivors of World War II pass on, do so as translators, interpreters and paraphrasers of the original tellings. Ms. Goodman and other children of survivors must speak for them because they no longer can.
It is said often that we are doomed to repeat history if we do not learn from it. Indeed, genocide has been attempted and succeeded many times to greater and lesser degrees before that war and after. And Jews throughout history have been no stranger to attempts to being eradicated and removed from everywhere we have ever called home. We see the story of the holocaust repeated over and over again in small and big ways in the modern era in such places as: Cambodia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, The Congo, and Pakistan.
In that sense, Ms. Goodman is not just telling her parents story and her own, but the story of all survivors and immigrants trying to overcome the persecution and oppression of their birth country. Join me in my conversation with the author, on a pleasant spring evening in a local restaurant on the very street that Pearl grew up on.
My neighbour, a Vietnam vet, has always watched American politics very carefully. This year he is especially interested in the upcoming American Election and wonders how the Republican party got to what he thinks is a very sorry state. He and I have a conversation about the debates, Democrats, Republicans, the Tea Party, Romney, Reagan, and Obama. We talk over coffee, in his rec-room office, amid ambient noise, on October 29 just a little over a week before voting day.
Just because I give it three stars out of five does not mean I didn’t love it. It was the concepts I loved, not the writing. Because it’s an academic book, it was slow going and plodding. Like all works written by some academics, the sentences can be dense and full of meaning that require multiple reads of the same sentence or paragraph. I hate having to look up words like liminal, preliminal, hegemony, deconstructionism, and postmodernism. It makes my head hurt. But look them up I did, if only to try to get inside the mind of Judith Halberstam, the author.
Here is what I think she is saying and it’s wonderfully trailblazing and original. In no particular order: First, she suggests that the queer way of life establishes an entirely unique, reasonable and freeing alternative to the tyranny of the heteronormative (look that one up) timeline of the mandatory passages that the heterosexual lifestyle requires: birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, marriage, career, children, grandchildren, old age, and finally death with all the attendant obligations, constraints, and rituals. An alter-normative life imposes no such constraints. Adolescence can last as long as you want. The ushering in of the age of child rearing doesn’t have to happen until you are good and ready or never. That’s the queer time part.
Next, (well not quite next but I am going to talk about it next), she shows how the queer subculture, the ways we define ourselves in terms of music, dress, film, all forms of art and style, including the way we express ourselves in general, define the particular way that we construct the space and place, psychically and physically, around us. They are as real as the heteronormative popular culture that no one of us can escape. But the success of our art is not defined by conventional fame, celebrity, and money. She uses the world of transgenderism, genderqueerism, drag king shows, dyke slam poetry, and dyke rock to prove that point. These types of expression and lives could serve to represent an undefined and full of possibility midpoint between a threshold and the establishment of new rituals in our culture. A state where definition and space is undefined and being redefined.
Lastly she pays homage to the queers of the mid 20th century and lesbian folk artists of the 70s who paved the way for the freedoms of expressions and rights (at least in some states and Canada) that queers enjoy today. Using the musicians Cris Williamson and Ferron as examples, she engendered in me a new appreciation for their music that I already love so much.
The clod that I am, I’m sure I have missed the finer subtleties of her arguments. But what I did get out of the book completely captivated and fascinated me.
Here are some choice quotes from the book that I particularly enjoyed:
“…we create longevity as the most desirable future, applaud the pursuit of long life (under any circumstances), and pathologize modes of living that show little or no concern for longevity.”
“…formulaic responses to time and temporal logics produce emotional and even physical responses to different kinds of time…people feel guilty about leisure, frustrated by waiting, satisfied by punctuality, and so on.”
“…time has become a perpetual present, and space has flattened out in the face of creeping globalization.”
“…the transgender body has emerged as futurity itself, a kind of heroic fulfillment of postmodern promises of gender flexibility.”
“…Brandon [Teena]’s death…[is]…evidence of a continuing campaign of violence against queers despite the increasing respectability of some portions of the gay and lesbian community.”
“…the brutality that visited Brandon [Teena]…[was]…also a violence linked to a bourgeois investment in the economy of authenticity.”
“Entertainment…is the name we give to the fantasies of difference that erupt on the screen only to give way to the reproduction of sameness.”
“…gender functions as a ‘copy with no original’.”
“…queer subcultures offer us an opportunity to redefine the binary of adolescence and adulthood…”
“Queer youth sets up younger gays and lesbians not as the inheritors and benefactors of several decades of queer activism but rather as victims of homophobia who need ‘outreach’ programs and support groups…[There is] an emphasis that arises out of an overreliance on the youth/adulthood binary…[that]…encourages young queers to think about the present and future while ignoring the past.”
“The radical styles crafted in queer punk bands, slam poetry events, and drag king boy bands…model other modes of being and becoming that scramble our understandings of place, time, development, action and transformation.”
“Ferron…understands herself to be engaged in a collective project that is rewarded not by capital or visibility…but by an affective connection with those people who will eventually be the vessels of memory for all she now forgets.”
In the aftermath of the horror that took place in Norway recently, the headline on the Globe and Mail print version today reads: Can Science Really Explain Evil? Doesn’t that seem just a bit sarcastic to you? It did to me. Let’s have a look at that statement – shall we? First of all the statement belies an underlying assumption about science, in this case, as an authority that makes you sit up and ask challengingly, “Yeah? Can they?” Note that I did not write it. I wrote they. That is because here is another assumption: That science represents the collective opinion of a group of people rather than a system of knowledge. Now let’s imagine that I am ultra-religious. Or even a little bit religious. Or even religious in a tiny way ; in a way that has been unexamined, say the type of faith you have in a belief that you have never bothered to question. Like Christmas: good; Ramadan: makes me feel funny and uncomfortable. In this case the belief is: There is a group of people called scientists that arrogantly believe they can solve the mystery of life, the universe and everything (to turn a phrase). Oh and by the way these stuck up geeks think I caused global warming. This ingrained belief in the truth of what a scientist really is leads me to the next question I then ask myself: If science can’t explain evil, what can? What is the next choice? Oh! Maybe faith? Maybe religion? It doesn’t matter. The question is the hook that makes you buy the paper. If you’re a skeptic like me, the last thing you want to do is fork out the coin. Instead I went to the internet version and read the associated article. Nowhere in the article is there any implication or certainty that science has the answer to this pseudo-authoritative question. I’ll repeat it again – just in case you forgot : Can Science Really Explain Evil? Who said science ever has explained evil? There is only discussion of neuroscience and psychology. In fact one of the more banal statements that is made in the article is that the scientist, who is representing the complexity of this question, reveals that empathy is on a spectrum and that “[t]he spectrum approach reminds us that none of us are angels and none of [us] is the devil [sic] …” Well. Thank you so much for that gem of wisdom. Now I understand everything. You may be wondering as I did, why there is no mention of that other discipline that explores the problems of our day known as philosophy. Oh, but there is. It is explained that the scientist’s “…investigations are more practical than philosophical”. It seems to me – call me a little out of it – that neuroscience and psychology, being rather young disciplines, ought not to have been called upon as the only route to explain the question of acts as disturbing and vile as the recent events in Norway. Using philosophy is wanting because, well, it’s difficult to distill and present the difficult concepts to a layperson – especially when, as a writer, you are trying to make deadline to keep the paper afloat in these times of yellow journalism. And anyway – philosophy is way beyond what most of us can handle in the age of quick sounds-bites and headlines delivered to our already overflowing inboxes.
Was the media ever anything more than yellow journalism? That’s a good question to ask too. And mostly I want all of us to ask a lot of questions.
Why? Because 1+1 gives you the same value in China, or in Japan, or in the U.S. or in Saudia Arabia, Africa, or South America. God is different across cultural, racial, national and individual boundaries.
When the Scarborough Dude shows up, you can bet that the conversation will not be safe for work and the podcaster meetup in December was no exception. We start out discussing C words, the W and T word, J word, D word and F word. We then effortlessly move onto the discussion of violence – domestic and workplace. Talking out of my ass, I refer to bill 184, but what I really meant was bill 168. This bill came into affect on June 15 2010 and amends the Occupational Health and Safety Act specifically with respect to violence and harassment in the workplace. Bill 184 is an act to amend the floral emblem act – not remotely related to workplace harassment or violence. I for one come away less closer than I expected to a working definition of psychological versus physical violence.
So you are forewarned. Don’t play it full blast at your cube or within ear’s reach of your mother or nana.
While Ninja sips her delicious coffee, they discuss the subtleties of cooking beer can chicken on the grill, gardening, yard vermin, gender bending, musicals, queer politics, have the requisite meta-talk about podcasting, social media and Podcasters across Borders. There may or may not spoilers in this show about Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. She didn’t specify which kind of beer she used for her chicken. Broadway Shows mentioned: Hair, Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Classic Canadian Plays mentioned: Hosanna. Canadian small towns mentioned: Picton. Iconic Gay Music mentioned: Madonna, ABBA, Disco Podcamps mentioned: Podcasters Across Borders, Podcamp Toronto
Hellbound Alleee of Mondo Diablo fame gets it right on the nose. There is no rhyme nor reason to the world and this life. There doesn’t have to be. But that is not the subject of this post. I am responding to her episode number 195 of Mondo Diablo where a believer says that the number one question of non-believers is “Why is there evil if there is a god?”. Of course it’s the number one question that non-believers asks because the answer, that normally involves how god gave us free will to test our faith, is incomprehensible. It simply does not answer the question. This whole business of free will and its relationship to evil begs the question of god, as Alleee points out in Mondo Diablo #195 : “What, indeed, do we need god for if we have free will”, she asks. What exactly would be the point?
The whole question of a free will and the fallen world is very foreign to all other non-christian religions because no other religion has this concept of original sin. Why bother to create an Adam and Eve if they’re going to disappoint you and once they’ve disappointed you why not just destroy the world and all its sinners and start over? Oh sorry. Is that what is supposed to happen with the coming of the apocalypse and Armageddon? One might argue that the ways of the superior being are not understandable to us. Then why bother at all believing? If his ways are not penetrable, then why should I waste one moment on it? I’ll tell you why: because there are only about 1.5 billion of us in the world who are self described non-believers in a god and the rest believe in one (or many), much to the puzzlement of non-believers, who spend a considerable amount of time defending ourselves against this offense to our sensibilities called “belief in a god and all that it means.”
Alleee hits another one right on the sweet spot in that episode. I have to say it again because I love it: “The search for comfort is not the same as the search for god.” These are indeed and importantly two very different things. A god is a very terrible thing to believe in. A “bubba meisis” as my mother would say, “an old wive’s tale”, a scary monster thing to tell your children to keep them in line. And then we tell them that it’s ok to believe in the scary monster because they’ll be rewarded when they die by some other fabrication called heaven or resurrection or rebirth as a brahmin, or with virgins in an afterlife that they can rape with abandon.
On the other hand I would like very much to remind Alleee how she got here – Her wonderful show Mondo Diablo, that I have been enjoying for 4 years wouldn’t even exist if it were not for someone’s belief in god. How’s that for a slap in the face?
On Friday night Special K and I went to see a film and were amazed to be sitting beside a rather largeish fellow who pulled out a deli tub of corn nuts before the movie started and began to eat them. He dug his hand into the tub, scooping out handfuls of nuts, repeatedly. Using his fist as a funnel, he closed his eyes and poured the nuts into his upturned corn-nut hole. This prelude was followed by fierce crunching noises as he chewed while the rest of the us around him looked on in a mixture of amusement, fascination, horror and derision.
Do you have any idea how a corn nut crunch sounds in a darkened quiet theatre? He proceeded to eat the entire tub without regard for any of the other members of the audience. Several people moved away in disgust, others were looking back at him or over at him and yet, the fellow remained oblivious. When he finally finished The Tub, Special K said, “Thank god it’s over”. “Oh it’s not over. Not by a long shot. I think that bag there with him is full of food.” I don’t know if he got the message, but he was fairly silent throughout the film except that he shifted around noisily and pulled out several plastic bottles of water. One by one, he held these above his head to pour down his throat.
I think these people believe it is actually ok to behave in public as though they are alone in their living rooms.
Billy Bob Thorton acted like a petulant, spoiled child on April 8 during a CBC interview with Jian Ghomeshi to promote his new band and musical venture the Boxmasters. Or is that the Mixmasters? Boxmatches? Boxcutters? I don’t know. In any case, for whatever reason, Thorton seemed to be overestimating his importance and talent in the matter. I think that he fancied that he was punishing someone by checking out of the interview. It has been a long time since I have had the misfortune to witness such arrogant self-importance. If you haven’t seen or listened to this insulting train wreck of unfathomable immaturity, you can catch it on at this youtube link: Jian Ghomeshi interview with Billy Bob Thorton. Special K and I deconstruct his behaviour and then move on to discuss two movies about political figures. It’s been 30 years since the White Night Riots after the city politican and gay activist Harvey Milk was murdered by Dan White. We talk about the movie and how we feel about what happened during that time in gay history. We move on to explore our reaction to a movie very difficult to make since it focused completely and solely on a conversation and a very difficult one at that. We discuss the portrayal of David Frost and Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon.
And finally I give you my first and original mashup of Billy Bob Thorton’s most annoying utterances from his April 8th excuse of an interview on CBC radio.
Harvey Milk - Gay Pride 1978 - Photo by Terry Schmitt
On Sunday Morning the weekly CBC televsion newsmagazine, a Montreal actor and dubbing director, Michael Rudder, was interviewed from his hospital bed in Bombay. He’d been shot at least four times last week in the Mumbai attacks. He was shot in the arm, the leg, the buttocks and as of this writing, there is still a bullet lodged in his stomach. Eating in the Oberoi hotel restaurant, he had heard shots and asked about them. He was told by restaurant employees, that it was only gangsters. A strange remark indeed. (As strange as the remarks made during a Mexican murder aftermath in 2006. Then, Mexican officials publically declared that an Italian couple killed in a resort near Playa del Carmen was the work of Canadian mobster hit women from Thunder Bay. That murder is another act of violence that outrages me.) Rudder doesn’t understand why, but assumed he and his party were not in danger. Moments later he and the patrons found themselves in a hailstorm of bullets. He believes that extremism is on the rise. I think that this is nonsense. Extremism just is and sometimes it causes loss of life.
With innocence still and perhaps naivety Rudder continues in the interview, ” ...as long as people think that their hatred is more powerful than the wisdom that their mothers’ would have taught them…they will respond in such ways.” This sentiment, of course, assumes that their mothers have a wisdom that prevents hatred. In my skepticism, I am not so sure that is true. I could exercise a generosity of interpretation and suppose that “mothers’ wisdom” is a symbol for an attitude of peace, love and nuturance. In that case his statement is very much worth thinking about. But who is teaching the attitude? I am not sure that human nature has changed in all of recorded history and I fear that the chance of that happening is very slim. Every second a new baby on this planet is born, a stranger in a hostile land, a tabula rasa that his or her culture and economic position will imprint itself on, forever repeating the same patterns be they for good or ill.
Einstein said thatinsanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That’s humanity. That’s what we do generation after generation. We hate and fear the other and seeking vengence for real or perceived affronts is very human. The philosopher, Judith Butler, discusses revenge in a 2003 interview in The Believer Magazine. She says that when choosing non-retaliation: “Many people consider that refusing to strike back is a masochistic way of handling oneself when one is in a condition of injury, or that such a refusal is tantamount to political paralysis, but I actually think it is an adamant and vigilant stand, a difficult stand against violence itself.” She reminds us that:
“War begets war. It produces outraged and humiliated and furious people…it is precisely because we’re constituted with aggression, it’s precisely because we are capable of waging war, and of striking back, and of doing massive injury, that peace becomes a necessity…[Peace] is a commitment to living with a certain kind of vulnerability to others and susceptibility to being wounded that actually gives our individual lives meaning. And I think this way of viewing things is a much harder place to go, so to speak. One can’t just do it alone, either. I think it needs to be institutionalized. It needs to be part of a community ethos. I think in fact it needs to be part of an entire foreign policy.”
I think these are the things we should be teaching our children.
Put simply, net neutrality means non-discriminatory treatment of traffic. That is, outside of limited exceptions such as spam and known viruses, the companies that deliver information over the internet have treated all information the same, delivering each package of information as quickly and efficiently as possible (often referred to as the “best efforts” internet). Under this regime an internet user is free to use any equipment, content, application or service on a non-discriminatory basis without interference from the network provider. Network neutrality means that the network provider’s only job is to move data – not to choose which data to privilege with higher quality service.
Legislation against net neutrality is not as simple as censorship if governments get their way. Censorship is just an evil by-product. It’s all about making a buck. The less net neutrality we have, the more ways to charge me for use of the web. But since there is more than one way to solve a problem, I shall just wait for the hackers to get around it. And get around it they will. In the meantime – please help save our net.
[Aug 02 2012] Lehrer is now a fallen angel, my neuroscience hero no more. But I can’t take back anything I wrote here in 2008. His first book was an idea stimulating read for me. Before reading my review here read the one that was done in 2007 on Salon.com. That reviewer wasn’t as impressed by the 20 something wunderkind as the rest of us were. Perhaps Lehrer should have stopped there and not tried to tempt the fates, but hubris got the best of him and he ended up believing the hype about his persona. How does a 20 something write a book like this anyway? I have asked myself that question many times since reading Proust was a Neuroscientist. When it comes to his most recent attempt at wowing us for the umpteenth time, it just seems to me that it takes many more years of reflection, self-reflection, observation, and honing, refining, searching and research to really tackle a subject as complicated as imagination’s connection to neuroscience. I admit, I never intended to read Imagine: How Creativity Works from the moment I heard about it. Somehow I felt that for a few years now he hasn’t said anything new, different or as interesting as the material in his first book. Any subject worth exploring and especially ones he was attempting to explain for laymen sometimes need a lifetime of mining and nurturing. He should have stopped when he was at the top. Here though is my 2008 review. You may find some ironic comments given his current situation:
I give Proust was a Neuroscientist an 8 out of 10 for its ability to provoke thought in me and allow me to contemplate on my own assumptions about creativity, genius and the mind/body split. If I ask you to visualize someone who is creative and/or brilliant what sort of person do you think about? Special K thinks of Leonardo Da Vinci. I think of some young mathematician. Often I think of some young person who burns out his or her flame brilliantly and quickly – like Rimbaud, Michael Jackson, or Boy George. Athletes often fall into this category. Their talents are external. They are so obviously dependent on the ability of their bodies to perform according to a range of activity that is almost never available to our aging shells.
In Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks writes about a forty-two year old man who after he was struck by lightening, becomes a musical prodigy. Sacks loves to write about people who, at various points in their lives, because of neurological changes, develop talents previously unknown to them. In Proust was a Neuroscientist, Lehrer instead focuses on established artists who reveal neuroscience through their art. He explores where the body ends and mind begins and vice versa. He asks what it means to be aware and conscious as human beings. Personally, I tend to think that we are just a random collection of protein. And that there is no distinction between the mind and the body. My mind is in my toes and heart as much as it is in my brain. My brain is simply where the electronics gather to interpret. About our experience inside ourselves, Virgina Woolf said: “We are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself “. And in reponse to this process, Leher is comfortable asserting that “…only the artist [is] able to describe reality as it [is] actually experienced”. Here are some of the other ways that Lehrer describes that same experience:
…the mind is not a place: it’s a process.
The self is simply…the story we tell ourselves about our experiences.
Reality is not out there waiting to be witnessed; reality is made by the mind.
When it comes to the drama of feelings, our flesh is its stage.
Yom Kippur is known as a time of renewal, meditation and reflection. It means literally the day of repentance or day of atonement. The intent is for observants to reflect on the past year and look forward with hope and a fresh outlook to the new year. The new year begins in the autumn season in Judaism. Ninja shares some quotes, a short tale for you to think about, and then a soundscape recorded during the canadian thanksgiving weekend.
There seems to be a lot of criticism leveled against the passengers of the Greybound bus traveling en route from Brandon, Manitoba to Winnipeg last Wednesday night during which a man was brutally murdered and his body defiled. The criticism seems to be that they did not do enough; did not try hard enough to stop Li. I cannot imagine in my wildest dreams, or perhaps nightmares, how I would have reacted had I been one of the passengers. But I do know one thing: Garnet Caton, the bus driver, and the truck driver who stopped to help them, are heroes. Caton, it seems, acted according to what his instinct dictated in the moment. He and likely several others did what they could only do as a reaction – get off the bus and ensure the safety of all the remaining passengers, including themselves. Then once off the bus, and when the truck driver stopped to help them, a regrouping and reassessment seemed to have been done. Caton, the bus driver, and the truck driver reboarded the bus. By this time, Li was already in the process of decapitating the victim. What else could Caton’s party then do? It was too late for Tim, a horror beyond tragic. The three had to exit and ensure the safety of everyone else, until the RCMP arrived, by securing the door.
There is a tendency to compare this situation with other events where a more positive result may have occured, but even as one blogger says,
“…the way that people will behave in these situations is, well, situational. The choices that are possible depend on where you are and what is happening. There’s no overall story of civilization to be told here. In both cases, the victims and witnesses did the best they could in the circumstances in which they found themselves. They all acted remarkably bravely; but the differences in the situations permitted them a different set of split-second decisions. It’s really, I think, as simple as that.”
It would not surprise me if Caton is consumed with guilt that he could have done more and that his thoughts are filled right now with “What ifs” and “If onlys”. The circumstances and development of this situation, dictated the ethics assocated with this one: Do what can be done to ensure the safety of the rest.
There is not one of us, who, when imagining this event, can say for sure what we would have done in any of those passengers’ places.
Over the coming weeks, Caton may be inclined to share more of what he saw, heard, and did – if he can.
I left a comment on Leesa Barnes blog : http://www.leesabarnes.com/happiness-is-a-choice-not-an-emotion/ after she called for all of us to write about happiness. Happiness is completely overrated. Don’t you think? It’s a scam – it’s something the priests and rabbis and American revolutionaries say you should pursue at all costs. Why? Why can’t I be miserable? I love my misery. I love my pain.
Yeah well this is what I wrote:
“Three percent of the world’s population (check snopes and wikipedia – do not trust ninja) are naturally happy. Money or good health apparently have nothing to do with it. Just gobs and gobs of serotonin jumping from neuron to neuron I imagine. For the rest of us happiness is choice. And for everything else – of course – there’s mastercard.
Not to diminish any of the other comments, but we women are famous for believing that doing for others makes us happy – that going within and finding our inner strength and loving ourselves are the keys. The men of the species don’t have to bother with all that because, at any age, a red sports car and a looker on their arm is sufficient to make them happy. They really know how to live in the moment don’t they? (at least 3% of them anyway). I kind of like being a curmudgeon – that’s what makes me happy.”
Leesa made me happy tonight because she gave me this opportunity to gush about my despair.
We broke the plastic bag holder. It’s not the one with the tartan pattern. I gave that one to Charlie. She really wanted it even though so did I. The tartan one was a gift and I liked it better the one we already had. She didn’t want the canvas one Special K and I brought for ourselves in Sydney, Australia a few years ago when we went to the gay games. So I gave her the tartan patterned one. Now the canvas one from Australia broke. Well it didn’t break and so that all the bags came out. The rope holding it up on the hook in the bathroom tore away from the bag. I yanked it off the hook actually and it fell to the ground like a dead weight. Well not a dead weight. A dead weight doesn’t roll. A soft dead weight that rolled. “Oops – shit”, I said. Now we’ve got a plastic bag holder that we can’t pull the bags out of because we can’t hang it up. So I took it to Special K. “Can we put it back together?” She turned it this way and that. She examined it. She examined the rope. “I think what’s really happened is that I tore the hem that may have been holding the rope in.” She continued to contemplate the condition of the bag and how to repair it. To be honest with you I walked away soon after I lost interest in her forensic exercise. Special K does not give up easily. I checked in on her progress a few hours later. “This rope was stitched into the top of the bag,” She announced. “What do we do?” I asked. “Help me. We’ll staple it.” She brought out her mini-stapler. “Wait,” I responded enthusiastically, “I have an office stapler. That’s more heavy duty. Let’s use that.” I stapled and she held the rope in place. “Was there any other option?” I wondered aloud to her. “Well we could have sown it.” “Hmmm. Nah. Lesbians don’t sew. What are you talking about? We had no other option.” Didn’t we?