You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2009.
I am working on a new story, Chat Perdu.
In other news,
Find out more about what the USA got up to in the “War on Terror”. Still 10 months after his election, Obama has not ordered the criminal investigation of any senior member of the administration responsible. And for all we know, the same atrocities are still happening — albeit more discretely — under Obama.
Glenn Greenwald breaks down the issue surrounding the release of the CIA report concisely:
“To those blithely dismissing all of this as things that don’t seem particularly bothersome, I’d say two things:
(1) The fact that we are not really bothered any more by taking helpless detainees in our custody and (a) threatening to blow their brains out, torture them with drills, rape their mothers, and murder their children; (b) choking them until they pass out; (c) pouring water down their throats to drown them; (d) hanging them by their arms until their shoulders are dislocated; (e) blowing smoke in their face until they vomit; (f) putting them in diapers, dousing them with cold water, and leaving them on a concrete floor to induce hypothermia; and (g) beating them with the butt of a rifle — all things that we have always condemend as “torture” and which our laws explicitly criminalize as felonies (“torture means. . . the threat of imminent death; or the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering . . .”) — reveals better than all the words in the world could how degraded, barbaric and depraved a society becomes when it lifts the taboo on torturing captives.”
Whole article is worth a read.
I have not seen Inglourious Basterds, but I’ve read so much about it to have become disconcerted — yet again — by Quentin Tarantino’s propensity to turn violence into sheer entertainment. I’m beyond thinking it’s harmless fun. Brad Pitt’s monologue on the film trailers, where he smirkingly barks to his men that he wants to terrorize the Nazis and take their scalps pretty much encapsulates the spirit with which Tarantino approaches every project: utter irresponsibility. He doesn’t have anything to say about anything. He simply wants people to enjoy gratuitous bloodshed and laugh at brutal violence. It might have been excusable in some crime caper like Pulp Fiction, but when applied to a world war, it makes one question the seriousness of the audiences and critics everywhere that heap praise on him.
It must be a human instinct to try and find a narrative for our existence, a hallmark of which is to define the borders of a certain time of life and call it something. We say, “That was a great summer for me,” or “2005 was an awful year.” It is only in retrospect that we feel we can complete the picture of all that happened; whilst living it, everything is simply confusing. Tomorrow might be better than today; maybe it’ll be far worse.
Because of spending many years in school, I often measure the years from September 1 to August 31. In which case, I am nearing the end of another year – and boy, what a year. I mark the beginning of it from when Monika arrived in Montreal, we went together to the SPCA to adopt a cat, and two weeks and $1000 later, the cat was dead from panleukopenia. I quit my fulltime job; I attempted to work freelance, I scrounged for money, and finally I ended up working for the National Film Board – but only for a three month contract. Then I ended up freelance again, living mostly on the meagre earnings of Villeray Communications, again scrounged money anywhere else I could, and now I’m back to mix of salary work and freelance. I feel very lucky to participate with a theatre project at Porte Parole, and if I can draw anything from the year that’s been, it’s that opportunity is always out there – even in a Craigslist ad!
Since I’ve arrived in Montreal, life has seldom been dull. I was determined that life should be different here than in Edmonton, and in that respect, I’ve never been disappointed. When times aren’t the best, I try to remind myself that if you take big chances, you shouldn’t be surprised if sometimes you feel like you just landed flat on your face.
Then there are the moments when you think luck is finally going to your way; you want to feel energized and happy, then blammo! Something kinda crappy happens. Like this week, I’ve been laid low with a mild form of “le gastro.” Yesterday I spent almost four hours at the doctor’s office. It seemed like everyone got in before I did, including people who had arrived much later. I felt very aggrieved. At least the doctor, when finally I saw him, was pleasant and professional. He gave me a prescription, told me what to eat and drink, and sent me on my way.
This morning I wake up and – gross bit coming – there are maggots in my garbage. This is the second time this has happened this summer. I’m appalled by it. Makes me seem like I’m the proprietor of some outpost of the third world. Or an exceptionally filthy human being. But I am neither! Frankly I don’t understand the maggot thing, I really don’t. On both occasions, they’ve hatched within 24 hours of my changing the bin bag. The food they live on has only been sitting there, decomposing, for 24 hours. How do they generate so quickly? It’s disgusting. I’ve changed my system now to try and thwart these blighters. I’m using a new garbage container that has a lid you can lock down tightly. Nothing is getting in there. Nothing! This weekend, I’m doing another big clean of my entire apartment. I thought it already was pretty clean, but clearly the critters think different. Foul beasts.
Let’s not start on the question of money. Banks were hounding me this week. I think I’ve sorted a way out of my hole, and by October, I should be feeling less desperate. My car will be paid off! Five years of $462/month payments. Over! I suppose if I’d never felt scarcity in Montreal, I wouldn’t be getting the full experience. Only a privileged few are affluent here. Most people scrape by much more modestly. I don’t know what the stats are, but I’ll bet average incomes are 20% lower here than in Alberta. The town is probably better for it. Although a little more affluence spread around in the health care system would certainly be warranted!
But to conclude, really, my own feast-or-famine earnings notwithstanding, do I have much to complain about? No I don’t. If two years ago, someone would’ve told me that by the summer 2009, I’d be onto my third professional contract, working in a bilingual environment – in a second arts-related position to boot – I don’t know if I would’ve believed that fortune teller. Nope. It is really, all in all, a splendid place to be. Montréal, je t’aime plus que jamais, malgré que tu sois quelquefois cruel.
Just a brief and idle speculation today – what if the English-speaking world actually listened to foreign-language music as much as the rest of the world listens to English-speaking music? Before moving to Québec, I never gave much thought to the hegemony of the English language, and especially not in the realm of music. But now I realize that English created a rather airless vacuum between me and the outside world, cutting me off from amazing musicians like Malajube, Karka, Stefie Shock, Arianne Moffatt, Gatineau, I could go on and on. I resent it. I have no idea why radio stations from coast to coast will play Nickelback but they won’t play Malajube. Do English-speakers really get that freaked out by the sound of a language they might not understand?
With Michael Jackson obviously established as a global phenomenon, it raises the question, when will Manu Chao become a truly global phenomenon?
Ever since this genre started showing up – I believe SAW is credited with being the first – I knew I wanted to avoid it. Only the sickest people would want to sit for two hours, enjoying popcorn, their loved one snuggled next to them, watching the spectacle of people being tortured slowly and lingeringly, until, in some cases, they are dead.
Yesterday, because I was transcribing an Eli Roth interview for a friend, I decided to take a break and check out some clips from his films. If you’ve not watched torture porn, don’t start. Ten minutes of this stuff was all I could take. In the most misogynistic and gratuitously sick scene, a young woman is literally strung upside down and gagged. Then, another naked woman reclines in a bath underneath her, and uses a scythe, I believe it is, to slowly carve her victim open and bathe in her blood. The female victim is like a butchered pig in an abattoir. With the added perversity that Eli Roth makes a woman sadist stand in for his own masturbatory pleasure.
There is no amount of “subtext” that this artistically illiterate director can invent to excuse himself from a gross dereliction of responsibility to audiences everywhere. We’re at the point of serving up human suffering-as-entertainment on a grand scale not seen in the western world since the dying days of the Roman Empire. At least in the medieval times of public hangings there was some vague notion – however primitive – that justice was being served. But once you venture down the road of enjoying the torture and death of complete innocents, via an entire plot seemingly stitched together to achieve nothing more, you find yourself in a very, very dark place indeed.
Let’s not even start on Quentin Tarantino, from whence all these peddlers of twisted, teenage fantasy smut get their inspiration.
Here is Susan Sontag on the connection between popular culture and the passive acceptance of imperial powers that visit real-life torture upon the world.
In the first 35 pages of Huckleberry Finn, our child hero is kidnapped by his drunkard of a father, imprisoned in a log cabin where he is left for hours (even days) on end, and frequently beaten. Oh, and his father also chases him around with a knife, threatening to kill him. Even in the more child-friendly prequel, Tom Sawyer, our hero almost starves to death in a cave (and the evil “Injun Joe” actually does starve to death); Tom also witnesses a brutal murder and poisons a cat.
Children’s classics are not only often incredibly violent in comparison to their saccharine modern-day counterparts, the reader must also contend with a good deal of racism, too, as this article explains.
Personally, I would prefer we keep reading the classics and actually have a frank discussion about the discomfiting things we find, rather than simply censoring them because they upset our delicate 21st century sensibilities. Should Dostoevsky be ditched because he was a frothing anti-Semite? Will Conrad’s The Nigger of the Narcissus get yanked from bookshelves because of the dreaded n-word?
Books are social documents that reflect the world in which they were created, and for that, we should allow them to endure.