The Manchester Arena bombing was not about feminism

The May 22nd bombing of Manchester Arena during a concert by Ariana Grande was a major atrocity and should be resoundingly condemned by anyone morally sane.

As ought to be the case whenever major atrocities occur on the soil of Western powers, especially when enacted by official state enemies, our anger is better to yield to our grief; since we are all in general unaccustomed to glimpsing, on our own streets or those of our friends, the violence we routinely inflict on vast portions of the world, the brisance of Monday night’s bombing should hopefully provide space for reflection. These actions cannot be forgiven or excused – but perhaps they can be understood.

Reflections are not all equally or equivalently valid or useful – to say nothing of factually sound – however.  Among the latest of the “hot takes” is a theme of wearying, propagandistic moralizing and pro-Western liberal jingoism best summed up as: the Ariana Grande concert bombing was an attack against women and feminism by primitive, misogynistic Muslims.

Continue reading

Why did the Theatre Centre Publish this Terrible “Reviewer’s Gaze” Article?

On March 30, the Theatre Centre released a weird document written by one Charles C. Smith, in which the poet/essayist rendered a kind of meta-commentary on the reviews of the Theatre Centre’s November production of Jackie Sibblies Drury’s We Are Proud to Present…, to the effect that Toronto’s establishment theatre critics had been “limited by a ‘gaze’ that left them short-sighted when it came to Black and White bodies on stage.” The doc’s weird for a number of reasons, not least of which being that it was released three months since the production closed and the reviews themselves vanished from public memory (perceptive readers will observe that this essay is itself several months late; well, I write for free and make a living serving food to rich people for marginally above the minimum wage. This will stand as an excuse). That in itself is a shame, because anyone who’s ever taken pains to read the output of Toronto’s critical elite knows that it only occasionally rises above the level of the average term paper, and certainly warrants a good old-fashioned meta-ing (I myself have never encountered a meta-anything I haven’t liked).

If critical analyses of mainstream theatre reviews are wanted and needed, then you can perhaps understand my bitter disappointment that we didn’t get a better one than the one we got. Which isn’t to say that there’s exactly nothing redeeming or worthwhile about Mr. Smith’s essay – just that there’s also a great deal wrong and confusing and also just dumb about it. I’m referring mostly to Mr. Smith’s neurotic obsession with authors and their specific (and, apparently, knowable) intentions with respect to their plays’ meanings, and his totally unfounded implicit assumption that there exists some causal link between those intentions and those meanings. In the parlance, this is called the “Intentional Fallacy,” which phrase was coined in a 1946 essay co-authored by the aesthetic philosopher Monroe C. Beardsley and someone named William K. Wimsatt who’s remembered somewhat less.

All of which is to say that, despite the machinations of history, the Cult of the Author is evidently alive and well in the Torontonian theatre scene, our stages awash in the blood of sacrificial ungulates like so many gleaming ziggurats. Like the Mormonism, it’s a relatively recent phenomenon; like Scientology, it’s extremely silly.  Like the superstitions of certain other reactionary monotheisms whose names I won’t mention, its arguments have been shown to be patently fallacious, repeatedly, yet still it won’t go away.

Continue reading

Christina Blizzard is wrong about Black Lives Matter…and everything else.

My wife-to-be has gone off on tour to the collection of fractured feudal states into which the United Kingdom is destined to decline. My days, therefore, are taken up in large chunks by playing Dwarf Fortress on my computer, cultivating a sense of self-contempt, and sobbing drunkenly into my cat’s furry, warm belly. Being a creature of habit, obstacles to my indulging in any one of these three are extremely irritating, and none more so than the Toronto Sun, about which I have to dedicate twenty minutes a day to feeling angry, in order that I might avoid such medical inconveniences as ulcers, headaches, and constipation, which might in turn further encroach on my time.

I don’t, however, like to spend any more than twenty minutes feeling angry about the Sun, and Christina Blizzard ruined my weekend. As I woke on Saturday morning, brushing salt-and-vinegar chip-crumbs from my beard and stumbling hungover to my computer to once again repel an invasion of filthy kobold child-snatchers, a deuce of Blizzard’s awful columns announced themselves in my inbox, both regarding the Black Lives Matter protest at the Pride Parade last weekend.

Blizzard’s arguments are characteristically confused, often internally contradictory, and supported by evidence which is mostly demonstrably false. This is an unconventional way to approach political writing, but is I guess what we can expect from a columnist more willing to criticize our Prime Minister for daring to take photographs with certain Hanoverian usurpers than for his selling of $15 billion worth of weapons to a regime which publicly beheads gay people. But never we mind.

Continue reading

From Fun to Ruined: the poetry of Brock Turner

turner

The poet, in custodiam.

Too often, we men (and women! It can no longer be doubted that the female mind is, under certain circumstances, able to subvert its whimsical nature and contribute substantively to the catalogue of intellectual endeavor) of letters perform our criticism with a chisel, rather than a flower (with the obvious exception of the great Brazilian critic Manuel Oliveira, whose geranium-based critique of Pound is among the most elegant – and fragrant – in the field). We have reached, it seems, a downward turn in the Freitagian pyramid of scholarship in the humanities, in which upstart postmodernists and “historians” of Bolshevik character are content simply to deface the monuments of our most learned minds with so much electronic graffiti.

It is a pleasure I reserve for myself, then, to undertake a first serious analysis of the poetry of former Stanford University student Brock Turner, whose debut long-form work of free verse appeared in public yesterday, to the delight of poetry lovers everywhere. Keats once said of Byron: “He describes what he sees – I describe what I imagine.” Turner has struck a kind of miraculous fusion of the two, in which what he imagines and what is actually the case become indistinguishable from one another. Whatever my failings as a literary critic, I consider myself grateful that, in future years, I will be able to recall that I, alone among scholars, was the first to plumb the inner reaches of this budding genius’s surreal and abstracted universe.

Turner dedicates his 11-page, untitled work to Aaron Persky, the Californian judge whose mercy has since spared Turner from several decades in state prison. The poet has endured a profoundly traumatic past year-and-half; on January 17th of 2015, he fell victim to a bout of alcoholism, upon which he accidentally had sex with an unconscious female. No doubt shaken by the experience, he turned his pain into verse, and has produced the magnificence to which we turn our attention now.

Continue reading

The time has come, my little friends…

“The time has come, my little friends, to talk of many things – of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings; of whether the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings…”

So as it turns out, a daily news post was a tad ambitious. Not to say that nobody read it (but then, what do I know about who reads this thing of mine), but to say that I have to eat and live and sometimes sleep, and working a full-time job whilst doing theatre stuff on my off hours has had a deleterious effect on my ability to regurgitate news media, I’m sorry to say, I know you miss it (no I don’t). I’m going to try to do my best to post a weekly round-up every Saturday or Sunday, which’ll sort of curate the week’s bizness into digestible chunks, for your reading displeasure.

Continue reading

News round-up for 07.09.2013,

1. Surveillance

  • Latest revelations from Glenn Greenwald (using documents leaked by Edward Snowden) show that the NSA spends millions of taxpayer cash to fund programs designed to hack into the encryption software of “the big Four” – Hotmail, Google, Facebook, & Yahoo.
  • In response, legislation is being proposed by Rep. Rush D. Holt Jr.
  • New documents show the NSA’s targeting of Mexican & Brazilian presidents.

2. Egypt

  • Hours ago, the Egyptian military government attacked what they described as “Islamic militants” in the Sinai.
  • In an eerie echo of Morsi’s government, the military regime has decided to “dissolve” the opposition Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Egyptian Minister of the Interior survives assassination attempt.

3. Syria

  • Tony Burman on why bomibng Syria is a bad idea (& what can be done instead).
  • EU urges the US to reconsider its position on Syria; Catherine Ashton correctly observes that an attack would be a “violation of international law.”
  • Stephen Harper, ever the US’s obedient dog, makes the case for military attacks in Syria.

4. GITMO

  • A powerful new documentary, “Life After Gitmo” remains unavailable to viewers in the United States:

 5. Quebec values Charter

  • Good piece on the PQ’s proto-facistic new legislation.
  • Apparently, according to Frau Marois, people “in England…throw bombs at each other because of multiculturalism.”

6. Keystone XL Pipeline

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper sends Obama a personal letter offering joint action to reduce greenhouse emissions, in an effort to “win” the pipeline.

News round-up for 05.09.2013.

1. Syria

  • Obama wins support of the House Foreign Relations Committee for a strike on Syria.
  • UN warns that a US military strike without UN approval would be illegal under international law.
  • John Kerry misrepresents the number of dead in chemical weapons attack.
  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper is, apparently, a “reluctant convert” of military intervention.
  • From DemocracyNow, as superb interview with Rep. Alan Grayson:

2. Chelsea Manning

3. Domestic surveillance

  • A primer in what Canadians need to know about CSEC spying.
  • Despite protest, the government is still strying to keep its spying program in the dark.
  • Fantastic overview from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

4. Mining

  • The international community condemns Barrick Gold’s attempt to prevent rape victims from seeking justice

 

 

News round-up for 30.08.2013.

1. David Miranda

  • The partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald (who is the primary reporter on Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks) will go forward with an injunction against the UK government in response to his 9-hour interrogation at Heathrow airport.

2. Legal aid

  • The Canadian Bar Association releases a report criticizing the current legal aid system as being “too costly,” “too inaccessible for most Canadians,” “and too reliant on pro bono work.” (N.B.: these are not direct quotes.)

3. Syria

  • The BBC has a horrific report on an incendiary bomb whichh was dropped on a school playground.
  • In the wake of a “No” vote on military intervention in British Parliament, other countries scramble to form coherent strategies.
  • French President Francoise Hollande is determined to intervene in Syria, with or without British/US support.
  • In the lead up to a possible military strike, the US Secretary of State John Kerry tried to actually call off the UN probe into the putative use of sarin gas in Syria.

4. Chelsea Manning

  • The New Yorker has a great piece  on what prison would mean for the transgender whistleblower.

5. Toronto Police

  • The head of the Toronto Police Department’s SIU harshly criticized chief Bill Blair for ignoring reports that officers were obstructing investigations.

 

News round-up for 29.08.2013. (update)

1. Syria

  • UK Prime Minister David Cameron continues to push for a military strike, without giving indication as to what, exactly, would be struck.
  • Not “news” precisely, but important to bear in mind, at at all times, the sheer magnitutde of US hypocrisy.
  • US Intelligence admits there is no “smoking gun” to link the Assad regime with the chemical weapons attack.
  • UK & US remain skeptical about blaming Assad, saying “it is not a slam dunk.”
  • From the above article, a graphic of potential strike targets in Syria:

syria

2. Egypt

3. Fraser Institute inanity

  • A new report from the Fraser Institute concludes that all immigration of “parents and grandparents” be ended, so as to ease the “fiscal burden” of immigrants & refugees. Make of this what you will.
  • MP Niki Ashton deconstructs a recent report from the same which concludes that the minimum cost of raising a child is $4000/year. Yup.

4. Poll: Half of Canadians say government surveillance is OK

  • Too depressing for words: here.

5. The Most Astonishing Headline of 2013?

(Update – 11:33am)

  • French prosecuters have launched a criminal investigation in to the NSA’s PRISM spying program

(Update – 2:29pm)

  • Using documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the Washington Post details the top-secret US “Black Budget,” the goals, expenditures, & logistical history of never-before-scene global spying apparatuses.