“….for now mine end doth haste.
I run to death, and death meets me as fast.”
Whenever, as yesterday, I start to feel too sorry for myself and I can sense my sorrow turning toxic, I try to snap myself out of it by reminding myself that as bad as my life got, at least it never reached Cornell Woolrich levels of bad. I take great comfort from knowing that as bad as things were, there is still so much further to fall before I find myself at full and abject Cornell Woolrich despair.
Pity Cornell, (Yes, also Chris Cornell who took his own life in May of 2017 hours after performing with Soundgarden—but at least he didn’t spend the majority of his adult life living as a recluse in a series of seedy motels, just him and his mother, that was all the other Cornell) Cornell Woolrich, arguably the greatest stylist of all the mystery writers of the first half of the 20th century. Cornell wanted to be F. Scott. Fitzgerald went to Princeton, Woolrich went to Columbia—but only for a year. He dropped out to write serious, literary jazz age novels. They didn’t catch on with the general public; but they were well-written and they caught Hollywood’s attention.
As with F. Scott before him, Cornell, newly married, moved to Hollywood in his 20s and tried his hand writing screenplays. His screenwriting career never had a chance. In Hollywood, Woolrich discovered and explored vigorously his homosexuality, which ended his marriage and earned him a reputation. He moved back to New York where he moved back in with his mom and pretty much disappeared from public view. He drank way too much: he got a leg amputated because his shoe was so tight it rotted that whole leg. He weighed less than a hundred pounds when he died in 1968 at the age of 64. His life after Hollywood sounds miserable. Maybe that’s the way these things work: in misery, Woolrich wrote better mysteries than just about anyone ever had before him. Happiness never did Cornell’s talent much good.
The quote above is the epigraph from Rendezvous in Black (1948), the last of the six mysteries Woolrich published with the word “Black” in the title. Most of these titles remain out of print, even though all of them rank within the best 100 mystery novels ever written.
Black Angel, the novel from 1943, was made into a film of the same title in 1946 with Dan Duryea and Peter Lorre starring and the whole Hollywood everything. Reportedly, Woolrich hated--hated!--the movie. It did not do his despair or his drinking any real favours. But, I don't know, I like it. Most of all because I still haven't found a copy of Black Angel to read so I don't have the source novel with which to compare the film. I can, me, myself personally, watch Peter Lorre or Dan Duryea in anything. Who else has ever been like either of them? It's a good movie.
My dad was a proud man, you know? That was as close as he was ever going to get to saying sorry. He wasn't the kind of guy who could admit he was wrong. He was convinced he’d done God’s bidding in sending his kids to an abusive boarding school in a foreign country and then, for the next several decades, blaming them for not emerging socially well-adjusted and zealously Christian. He had convinced himself that he’d given us a unique opportunity: children of missionaries were the lucky few. He thought we should thank him. He blamed spiritual disobedience for my subsequent, long-term maladjustment.
“If I could do it again, I would do things differently.” Those words wrenched themselves out of my dad just a couple days before he died: even on his deathbed, apologizing did not come to him easy. I never heard him say the actual word “sorry.” He did not think he had to ask my forgiveness for anything he’d done. So he didn't.
Would things ever have been different? I don’t see it. My dad believed what he believed. Age only made him more adamant. I think if you gave my dad nine more chances, nine re-dos, in all nine of them my brother and I end up, held incommunicado against our will, in a foreign boarding school, while my dad, unencumbered by parental responsibilities, blossoms for the Lord.
It was two years ago today that he died. I didn’t attend his funeral. I couldn’t sit in another architecturally horrendous, evangelical church with another Christian-kewl bearded pastor presiding, buttering up my dead dad as a man of God, a saint, one of the chosen. Are any of us divine emissaries? Are any of us supposed to be? It’s dangerous stuff thinking you’re more than what you are. My dad was a human; and, like the rest of us, he did not have a fucking clue what he was doing. The people who kept filling his head with this bizarre idea, that he was a divinely-appointed emissary unbound by conventional social and scientific constraints, are the ones who really did him in.
A pair of Okanagan Snowsells: My dad liked to take me on wine tours when he would visit. He had a good palate or nose or whichever one it is: his wine knowledge was impressive and his taste well-developed. The Okanagan wine tours weren't really about the wine for my dad, though: wine tours were opportunities for him to tell tasting room staff up and down the valley who the Snowsells were, why they were important and formidable pioneers, and that they were fortunate enough to be in the presence of one, ok two, but only sort of.
On one of my last flights out of Kelowna Airport, the WestJet check-in agent complained to me about my name. She lived on Snowsell Street, newly named, and she was none too pleased. Before being named Snowsell Street, it was called Glenmore, and she resented the change. "What kind of a name is that?" she scolded me. "No one can even pronounce it! It's so annoying, like, every time you have to tell someone where you live, it's just...!" Unlike my father, I have no problem apologizing. Indeed, saying sorry for things I didn't do is a specialty of mine and so I said sorry for my name.
Frank Snowsell was the last of the Canadian Snowsells to be born in England—in Cirencester, an old Roman town in Gloucestershire, more popularly known as the Cotswolds. He came over to Canada as a baby: the rest of his siblings were born Canadians. I know this only because Frank took it upon himself to be the family historian: without his account of our arrival—first in Sedgewick, Alberta, and from there to Glenmore, now a suburb of Kelowna in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley—I doubt if it would be knowable. The Snowsells were farmers, they weren't documenting things all that much. It was just Frank who wrote, and wow, did he write a lot. He wrote hundreds, maybe thousands, of letters to the editors of the Kelowna Daily Courier. Frank had a reputation: he was always outraged about something. He wrote a book warning about the future consequences of post-war American foreign policy. He wrote another about liberating the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen, which he did in his capacity as an intelligence officer with the RCAF, what Frank did during the war. A letter he wrote home from Belsen has previously been published in the Vancouver Sun. It reads:
“The camp stinks, not the rich odor of dead men, but a sticky rancid fetid odor which tastes as well as smells.
"Scattered around among the trees and workers and on the little slopes in the sun are bundles of rag, which move. Three are lying in the sun just beside the fence; they are women.
"On the hill inside the camp not far from the buildings are the graves—great holes on the hillsides dug by bulldozers. The sign on Number 1 grave says, “5,000, April 1945.” Another, No. 2, 2,000. Not one grave has less than 1,000 bodies. Two signs read, “No. 9, number unknown.” “No. 10, number unknown.” No. 11 is now being filled."
Frank came back to Canada and there was an urgency about him. The letters he wrote weren’t cuz he’d turned kooky, although this was his reputation in the Okanagan and even amongst his own family: my father, his nephew, told us he was a pinko commie and my mom and dad laughed whenever they talked about him. He wrote so many letters because he cared so much about his country, and because he’d seen with his own eyes, he’d smelled with his own nostrils, what happens when civilization fails. He became a teacher, at first, when he got home from the war. Frank taught high school in Salmon Arm for a good long while. When that wasn’t enough, he tried to make a difference through politics. As a member of the Canadian Commonwealth Federation (CCF), the political party which became the NDP, Frank ran, and won, as an MLA for Saanich in 1953. He lost his seat after a year, tried to win it back two more times, but couldn’t. He was elected president of the B.C. NDP in 1965. When he left politics, he returned to teaching. When he left teaching, he returned to letter writing. This he kept up until his death in 2003.
I only met Frank once. It was in the mid-1990s. Frank was retired, to his home in Kelowna. He lived just off Benvoulin, in an orchard hidden in the middle of the city. I was working at Greyhound in Calgary, and had big plans for a novel about my grandfather, Frank’s younger brother, Jim. Jim had been changed by the war, too. Whereas Frank had been able to channel the horror of what he’d seen into a political urgency (so that tyranny like he’d seen in Germany could never grow and thrive in Canada), the horror of what Jim went through as a POW metabolized after as an anger so intense it consumed him. I drove out one weekend to talk about these things, but it wasn’t his answers to them that I remember. Frank was the first and only Snowsell I’d met who wanted to know about me: our curiosity was mutual and he was gentle when talking about my family and my future like he was the first person I knew who understood the danger of offering advice, no matter how well-intentioned.
I think about Frank Snowsell a lot whenever we’re in election season--wait, when aren’t we in election season? All political speech has become a campaign speech. The inane, incessant flow of mediatized jabber no longer seems to start or stop, it just always is and was as though the dulcet sounds of lying psychopaths exists outside of, or precedes, time itself. What would Frank, for instance, think of the federal NDP as it careens serenely to its own oblivion? What would he make of the incongruous sartorial splendour of the party’s leader in the face of a catastrophic, and possibly irreversible, descent into global totalitarianism? Fuck man!-how should I know? I only met the guy once.
What I do know is that the old NDP, and the CCF before that, was filled with people who’d really seen things and who really cared and who really worked and who really believed. I don’t know who the NDP is now. Do you? If you say you do, I will know you are lying. No one can know this, for they have no identity. It is not possible to know what does not exist.
The NDP is now a party that careens absurdly, each election cycle, exchanging pragmatic lurches to the centre, with revolutionary leaps back to the left. They have moved so often that where they currently sit or stand or position themselves matters not at all because they are nowhere. They are a blur that is about to disappear. Good. The NDP probably needs to die at this point so that a new party can be born from its death. The noxious rot within each and every Canadian political party is too far gone. It has destroyed all within them. Our entire political system is beyond rehabilitation. Why vote NDP? Why vote at all? If you care about change, that is no longer the way.
(top picture) Frank Snowsell, getting his candidate papers signed for the 1952 B.C. provincial election, the only one he won. (above) The Sex Pistols copped a lot of flak for "Belsen Was A Gas." Crossed a line. When you read Uncle Frank's description of the camps, you can see why it upset people so much. It's a pretty gruesome thing to write songs about. But I take the point of Frank's description to be this: that unless you are physically present at an atrocity, it is not possible to understand it. Words and pictures remain inadequate communicators of gruesome experiences. The rock critic Lester Bangs described the Sex Pistols' live performance of "Belsen Was A Gas" as "one of the most frightening things I ever heard."
September 11, 1973. The democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile is ended by a military coup supported and funded by the United States. Special shout out here to George H.W. Bush, then-director of the CIA, now there was a man who knew how to get dirty deeds done.
September 11, 2001a. Pretty much, boom, that’s the end of any attempt to revert to any semblance of global geo-political détente. In the name of stamping out your choice of: a) “Islamic” terrorism; b) American imperialism you can now do whatever you want to whomever you want on any scale large or small and it’s ok as long as you remember first to invoke either “a” or “b”. Good times.
September 11, 2001b. Despite the day being weighted with so much history, what I really most remember about that particular, and fateful, September 11 is that it was the first ever time I stood at the front of a classroom in some quasi-position of authority. I was a teaching assistant. I had to hand out syllabuses. It’s not hard, really. But how was I to know? I’d never done it before and the prospect of having to do it made me nauseous. I didn’t sleep all night. I was already more terrified that morning than I’d ever been at any previous point in my life, and that was before I saw the planes fly into the towers.
“Friends: none. Just a few acquaintances who think they get on with me and would perhaps be sorry if I got knocked down by a train or it rained on the day of the funeral.
"The natural reward for my withdrawal from life has been an inability, which I created in others, to sympathize with me. There’s an aura of cold around me, a halo of ice that repels others. I still haven’t managed not to feel the pain of my solitude. It is so difficult to achieve the distinction of spirit that makes isolation seem a haven of peace free from all anguish.
"I never doubted for a moment that they would all betray me and yet I was always shocked when they did. Even when what I was expecting to happen did happen, for me it was always unexpected."
Fernando Pessoa, “Lucid diary” The Book of Disquiet. London: Serpent’s Tail (1991), pp.152-153.
The late Can Cibelik told me I needed to read Pessoa, the Portuguese writer who died in 1935 at the age of 47. I came across this book the other day. It was in a broken suitcase filled with books that we'd neglected for two years at the back of a chaotic front closet. Our unpacking is still not finished. My life changed so suddenly a few years ago, that we were just relieved to have got out of our last situation alive. Our downsizing was so drastic and so sudden that I’d assumed Pessoa had got lost or been donated along with hundreds of others. We're still sorting it out. I was so happy to see that Fernando, in particular, had survived our great period of attrition; because so much of the book, as with the passage above, reads to me, uncannily, as though it were drawn from my own brain.
I suffer from an abhorrence of outdoor concerts in the sunlight. Everything seems off. The music seems puny. Motivations for attendance are too mixed: people like the sunshine, they want to commune with nature on their picnic blankets, stroll through the carnival atmosphere past the kiosks and the food trucks. The music seems almost incidental and even when the band is trying it’s still hard not to notice that: there’s a traffic jam outside the port-a-potties; goddammit those waffles smell good; have I now seen six different women wearing the same Ramones shirt or is this cup of warm lager stronger than I realized?
Alvvays, who I went to see recently, struggled to interest the audience at Deer Lake Park in Burnaby. They had a hundred die-hard fans up front; from the blankets beyond they received polite applause in respectful ripples. The audience was there to see The National. The National were touring their latest record I Am Easy to Find. Lead singer and lyricist Matt Berninger has a history with littering his songs with pop culture references. Bona Drag, Nevermind, Let It Be. On the new record, it's R.E.M.'s turn. The song “Not in Kansas" contains the lyric, “I’m listening to R.E.M. again/ ‘Begin the Begin’ over and over.” “Begin the Begin,” is a song from the 1986 album Life’s Rich Pageant, which itself references 'Begin the Beguine” a 1938 song by Cole Porter.
Berninger doubled down on his R.E.M. backing the night I saw him. During The National's five-song encore, he paid tribute to them as one of the great rock bands of all time, as well as crediting them with teaching The National how to be a rock band. In 2008, it was The National stuck slogging its way through all the unsatisfying daylight opening slots on a tour with R.E.M. The National had first played Deer Lake on that tour and hadn’t been back since then. R.E.M. was touring Accelerate, their penultimate studio recording, but the last one for which they toured. It was the last time they played Vancouver.
According to established precedent, therefore, I forecast that Alvvays will be headlining Deer Lake in 2029. It will be the last time Alvvays plays Vancouver so, yes, of course I will be there: dead or alive, I’m coming.
Millar is the husband of Canadian mystery writer Margaret Millar, who I’ve written about previously. Millar (Kenneth) is also Canadian but he started writing as Ross Macdonald to differentiate himself from his more successful wife. Later, Ross became more successful than Margaret so problem solved. Except John D. MacDonald, a contemporary mystery writer, was even more famous than he was and so, for a good long while, the top two mystery writers in the world were named Macdonald or MacDonald so great job on the new name and everything, Kenneth.
Kenneth Millar does not, to my knowledge, have anything to do with the band R.E.M. Kenneth Millar died in 1983. R.E.M. formed in 1980, so I just can’t see it, but there is some temporal overlap, plus the paranormal, so who can say? "What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?" a so-so song not at all about Kenneth Millar, was the first single off Monster, REM’s 9th studio album from 1994. It reached #1 in Canada. The Three Roads (1948) is the last of four novels Milllar published using his own name. It’s as good a hard-boiled novel as you’re likely to read. A movie adaption of The Three Roads was released as Deadly Companion. The year? 1980. THE SAME YEAR R.E.M. WAS FORMED. Coincidence? I just don't see it. No way.
I guess if you were a Canadian prog rock band in the 1970s, you were limited to four letters when naming your band. Rush--you check out. Saga, of Oakville, Ontario, you're good to go, too; only know this: despite five decades of success, over 8 million in physical album sales, and a fan base in Germany that would make The Scorpions envious, no one in North America is going to remember you. They are only going to remember Rush. It's not your fault. It's just that Rush is better than you at everything you do.
You are good at everything you do. Rush is better. Except for your front-man.
Your lead singer, Michael Sadler, is world class-cool. Oh man, is he more fun to watch than Geddy Lee! No offense Geddy, but let's look at the facts and let's try and do it impartially. In 1980, Saga's front-man, is so fucking good at what he does that he gets Saga on MTV in the heaviest of rotations at a time when MTV is everything and the whole world wants to watch it. Nobody knows the name of that dude they're watching. But he defines what new wave looks like to millions. People hear "new wave" and/or "prog rock" they think "that guy in those pants." (The image above is a video still of the official "On the Loose" video, the one that everyone saw.) Michael Sadler, in 1980, remains one of the coolest singers ever based in Canada, and probably as close as we've come, albeit briefly, to our own Freddie Mercury. Of course, it couldn't last. Canada, as you can see below, was about to be hit by a devastating plague of mullets and none of us were immune.
I’ve been called Don Quixote so often—not usually as a compliment, but not really as an insult either—that I thought I should re-read Cervantes, a project upon which I am presently embarked. Similarities, I’ve seen a few. I admire Quixote's madness. Seeing the world around him denuded of both mystery and purpose, he refuses to acquiesce to an existence so banal. He chooses instead to live in a world of his own making, one in which everyone and everything he encounters is assigned unique meaning and purpose. By choosing to be a fool, Quixote gets to live hundreds of imaginary lives, in an age where the passive docility of his peers, their unquestioning subservience, strikes him as a sort of living death.
Today, of course, if we are talking about literature we should be talking about The Testaments, Margaret Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. Oddly, Atwood like Cervantes, seems too to takes aim at passivity and subservience, acquiescence and self-delusion—the great perils of every age. Atwood suggests that an actual dystopia is already well under way. We are all in it. Not wanting to appear mad, most of us have already accommodated ourselves to the new era. In failing to oppose the destruction of democracy, we normalize a post-democratic age. Having done so, we try our best to fit into the new power structure in a way that allows us to imagine we are still not part of it.
“I picture you as a young woman, bright, ambitious,” Aunt Lydia writes, as the end approaches. “You’ll be looking to make a niche for yourself in whatever dim, echoing caverns of academia may still exist by your time. I situate you at your desk, your hair tucked back behind your ears, your nail polish chipped—for nail polish will have returned, it always does. You’re frowning slightly, a habit that will increase as you age.”
Jia Tolento, from whose article the above passage is excerpted, suggests “pragmatic indifference” is Atwood’s true target in The Testaments. As long as the ethical can be bought with a salary, they’ll find a way to keep quiet, to go along to get along. This is not incidental to the onset of totalitarianism: abdication of academic and ethical responsibility is a necessary precursor.
The world needs more fools is, I guess, what I’m saying. More fools, less tools. Let that be this knight errant’s motto. And, since Don Quixote de la Mancha was itself a made-up name, a spruced- and tarted-up version of his actual name, designed to harken back to illustrious noble titles of bygone times, I feel like if you’re gunna have a motto you may as well go full-on fool and give yourself a title and so the next person I see I am going to ask to knight me officially, and, when next we meet, I shall be pleased to be of aid for I am your servant, most humbly and most truly,
Sir Snotwell, of the Dumplings
I had a big boss once, way up the academic hierarchy, who was not much of a people person. He liked the solitude of spreadsheets: crunching numbers was his main jam, and putting faces to names did not help his job at all. On the contrary, it seemed to hinder it since mostly his job was to find slack in the system, and to find legal ways to reduce that slack. I waited for him to stop by and say hello, at first, but soon enough I figured it out: he was a big man and I was just a cheap-ass term professor. I wasn’t worth taking the time to know. No one was. Professors were things to him, not people.
My immediate boss, the middle manager separating me from the big honcho, had it in for him. Big League. Our mutual big boss had been the head of the union before crossing the aisle and joining administration. To my immediate boss, also an active officer in the same union, this was unforgivable. How do you go from protecting vulnerable professors to helping senior executives axe them? To show her displeasure, her solidarity with the union, she made up a secret nickname for him. My big boss had, in her estimation, an uncanny resemblance to a famous magician. Behind his back, she referred to him only and always as “Reveen.” She put so much scorn into the word when she used it. “God, we’ll have to ask Reveen, I guess.”
A couple of years later, my immediate boss entered the much higher-paying world of administration. Solidarity is fine and all that but family vacations to Paris cost more money than unionism can safely provide. She is now the right-hand of Reveen. They are a team. I’m guessing she is a lot more careful about using that word now than she was before.
Hypnotist Peter Reveen was Australian, but he made his fame and fortune in Canada. Reveen was a household name, a legend. The jingle, "The man they call Reveen," has been stuck in my head since the early 1980s thanks to the ubiquity of ads such as this.
All popular music was forbidden in the dorm: therefore, heavy metal was extremely popular. If you are going to get expelled for listening to secular music, all forms of which are banned, you damned well better not get expelled for listening to Supertramp or Menudo. The transgression needed to suit the threatened punishment, and so The Scorpions, Def Leppard and Van Halen were the strong meat that a lot of missionary kids sought most often. I’m supposed to be embarrassed, I think, that my first foray into popular music resulted in Van Halen. But I'd thought about it plenty and Van Halen was exactly how much I was prepared to rebel. Honestly, I was afraid of heavy metal. I have never owned an Iron Maiden record. They are too scary. Iron Maiden is playing Vancouver shortly and their posters are up all over town and I wish that they weren't because Eddie still makes me very uneasy. Van Halen did not scare me.
Fanciful at best, the idea that you could prohibit music and make it stick. Music always finds its way in. We were still in the city, and on occasion we would receive permission to spend an afternoon after school walking around Quito. Iῆaquito, our ‘hood, sounded like traffic congestion, cumbia and Quechua; but further along, other parts of the city were more Westernized and a twenty minute walk would get you within earshot of Madonna, pizzerias, video arcades and a record shop, where I bought Diver Down (Warner Bros., 1982), my first ever record. The record I bought I did not buy to play: I did not own a record player. I just wanted to know what it felt like to touch an actual record. I did have a Walkman, and a friend made me a copy of their record and I listened to it on tape all the time. Diver Down, which I no longer own, is a covers record: there is not anything heavy or metal about it. I don't know if I even liked it, but I do know that David Lee Roth is the only singer in the world who has ever come on stage like this...
...and that still ought to count for something. Happy Trails.
Vasek Pospisil's win yesterday, in the first round of the U.S. Open, probably felt better to Vasek than winning the doubles at Wimbledon. Coming back from a long-term injury this year, Pospisil had exactly no wins--zero--on tour this year before casually beating the #9 seed--Karen Khachanov of Moscow, Russia in a five set match lasting just under four hours. That kind of mental resilience is hard to come by. What a way to get your first win of the year. First win EVER over a player ranked in the Top 10.
Next up for Vasek is Tennys Sandgren. Even non-tennis fans might remember Tennys. Not just because of his implausible name, given his profession (he's named after a relative named "Tennys" as in Sir Alfred Lord Tennyson. It's an old-timey name: but it is also, let's be honest, a sort of spooky coincidence). Last year, Sandgren went on a deep run at the other major played on hard courts, The Australian Open. He'd just upset Dominic Thiem of Austria in the fourth round--far and away the best result of his entire career. At what should have been the happiest post-match press conference of his life, he found himself instead facing accusations of being a full-blown alt-right sympathizer. Tennys got roasted for having been found in the past to have forwarded tweets from disreputable sites, InfoWars or some shit. Even Serena Williams showed Tennys shade.
In the ensuing brouhaha, an unlikely figure weighed in out of nowhere. Glenn Fucking Greenwald, apparently himself an avid amateur tennis player, contacted Tennys directly to offer support. Sandgren flew to Rio, where Greenwald lives, and the two became buds. Greenwald even took to twitter to decry Sandgren's public shaming. These posts, which Greenwald revealed later to have been about Sandgren, surprised many at the time. Why wasn't Glenn just piling on like all the other good and righteous people? Beat up on the baddies, Glenn!
Vasek and Jamie: Mila Pospisil, Vasek's Mom, ran a daycare in Vernon, B.C., the city where the family settled after emigrating from what was then still Czechoslovakia. Jamie Friesen, pictured above in the "All-Stars" jersey, attended this daycare. She seems pretty immune to Vashy's charm, but I don't want to rush to conclusions over a single picture, not after posting those tweets from Glenn Greenwald, I don't. His nickname is "Glennzilla." He is not someone you want to tangle with ever. Tennys, you check out, but I still hope Vasek creams you in straight sets.
We got a lot of Bible thrown at us in those dorm days. It wasn’t just the double dose on Sundays, the mid-week chapels, “Bible” was also a subject taught in school—mandatory. There’s a lot of ways you could teach that subject, do it justice, it's not exactly a boring book like it gets good and gruesome in parts. There’s plenty in that book for any modestly competent teacher to work with. If not, Bible Baseball. It’s a trivia card game. You can go for a single, double, triple or home run. The complexity of the questions increases accordingly. We got a lot of Bible Baseball.
If there’s a more effective way of making the Bible boring I’ve never met it. An hour of Bible Baseball was the slowest and longest part of every day. The inanity of it reached intensity levels that stopped the passage of time dead. I was thinking about Bible Baseball the other day and I was wondering if maybe it wasn’t The Bible so much that bothered me, but the idea of turning a super-important book into a fucking baseball card game. Using existing Bible Baseball questions as my template, I have sketched out a few rudimentary and preliminary sample questions for Foucault Fastball, in order to test this hypothesis.
Question: When the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken, Jonah was found...
a) In Tarshish
b) Eating a meal
c) Assisting on deck
d) Fast asleep
Question: After the condemned French prisoner DAMIENS had his flesh torn away with red-hot pincers, and had his wounds covered in molten lead and boiling oil, what happened next?
a) Benedictine Monks granted him a reprieve.
b) Drawn and Quartered, successfully: Four strong horses—a half hour. Damiens’ body comes apart easily.
c) Drawn and Quartered, unsuccessfully: Six strong horses break all the bones in Damiens’ body, but his limbs remain attached. Damiens dies intact.
d) Drawn and Quartered, brutally: Six strong horses, aided by several choice hand-selected pre-cuts from the executioner’s knife (to help the severing along), and finally Damiens pops. But, even after all severed limbs have been successfully pulled clean off the body, Damien’s torso still breathes and speaks until it is thrown onto the fire, where the rest of his limbs are already burning.
Question: Hundreds of years after the death of King David, God said that he would raise up David to reign over the seed of Jacob. This promised `David` actually refers to whom?
d) Jesus Christ
Question: Michel Foucault argues that, in a society that claims to value liberty above all else, the prison is the most effective and egalitarian punishment in that deprivation of community is not just punishment felt across all classes, it is, equally, opportunity to retrain prisoners so that they are able to comprehend what liberty truly means, what it means to all of the other free and hard-working at-liberty people who are living their lives freely and to the fullest: free to work, in the futile occupation of your choice, for the rest of your life—or end up in prison. Foucault’s thinking about prisons was formed by the writings of:
a) Brigham Young
b) Ron Jeremy
c) Lester B. Pearson
d) Jeremy Bentham
Question: What does `Boanerges` mean?
a) Sons of laughter
b) Sons of thunder
c) Children of Boaz
d) House of light
Question: What does “Romulus” mean?
a) Roman Holiday
b) Enemy of Spock
c) To build big and strong
d) Name of preferred bathhouse
Question: What epistle closes with the words, `Greet the friends by name`?
a) 2 John
b) 3 John
Question: Which influential 20th century television show is set in an actual Panopticon?
a) The King of Kensington
b) Welcome Back, Kotter
c) Danger Bay
My pain threshold, yeah, I’m not actually sure I have one, because most days I just walk around the house exclaiming “Ow!” Preemptively. When I perceive that my toe could be stubbed by the chair, I wince and hiss, “Ow!”—in advance and just in case. When I open the oven and steam fogs my glasses, that’s an “Ow.” When I think that I’m about to nick my neck shaving yet don’t, “Ow!” all the way. I shout ,“Ow!” at dough: just knead already, ok? My arms are killing me.
I suppose it’s no surprise then that I have a hard time keeping quiet when a whole lot of needles are getting pricked into my extremities. Acupuncture, I’ve been twice now, and so far I don’t think I’m very good at it. My acupuncturist operates out of a community clinic. It’s a single room with capacity for ten patients simultaneously, and on Saturday morning the clinic was full. I don’t think the needles actually hurt, but my mind’s muscle memory does not relent and mostly just out of habit, I found myself having to bite off an “Ow!” inside my own mouth at the penetration of each needle. There were a lot of needles. And I definitely kept quiet through some of them. But mostly I couldn’t help it, I could not refrain from releasing a deep and muffled “Ow!” over and over again which sounded otherworldly in that dark room filled with prone strangers filled with needles—not the sound of language, but more like grunting from another planet. They play relaxing spa music—harps and the sound of water falling—and I’m hoping a lot of my wailing got drowned out by that, or, if not, that maybe it sounded like I was providing guttural and restrained background vocals, I have always wanted to sing.
I rate, as objectively as a subject can, my own sensitivity level as both hyper and ultra. I decided as a child that I did not want to develop tolerance to pain. I decided instead to avoid pain entirely and forever—at all intensity levels. Perhaps this accounts for the way I remember growing up in the dorms in Quito as opposed to how others do. Many people I grew up with remember the dorm fondly. Lots of other missionary kids go to reunions and reminisce about their collective upbringing as the time of their lives. They miss it. They’d do it all over again if they could. I think it is entirely possible that everyone was right about me and that I was, in the parlance of the time, a “wuss”; and that a “wuss” I remain. Worse, I’ve become a way worse wuss than I was. What’s all the commotion?! Boys play rough sometimes, so what? No one punched me, at least not in the face. I ate regularly. Holy shit, that is a lot of cilantro. A boy has to learn how to take a sucker shot in the arm when he’s walking down the hall, teaches him to stay on guard, keep your head on a swivel. Any kid has to learn how to get held down on the ground by a group of others who laugh while someone else sits on top of you and gives you a good old-fashioned pink belly. Learning how to take it builds character. Teaches you how to be a man.
A.B. Simpson (pictured above) founded the Christian & Missionary Alliance, in 1877. Born 1843 in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, Simpson became a superstar minister, one of the shit-hottest Presbyterian preachers in North America. The young man from Cavendish got such a name for himself that he was able to snag top-dog position at the Thirteenth Street Presbyterian Church in New York City. New York City! After just a couple years, Simpson grew disenchanted and quit to help impoverished immigrant communities instead.
No, the Alliance Academy (AA), the boarding school in Ecuador which I attended, was not like the one Boris Johnson went to. It could not have been more unlike Eton. We were not ultra-posh aristocrats, a short distance away from our ultra-posh families, destined to one day rule the world. No one envied us. No one would have switched places with us, not for all the money in the world. Yet when I say boarding school, Eton is what people seem usually to want to see.
I suppose that this has suited me. Mostly, I have allowed, and even encouraged, my friends to imagine that my upbringing, although unusual, was still largely in keeping with the English public school tradition—proper and well within normal social bounds. I’ve found overall that people don’t want to know, anyway. Even if you try to tell them, they keep not wanting to hear it. Nobody wants to try and imagine what it was like. Which, I get it: empathy is not my generation’s strong suit.
Thoroughbreds (Cory Finley, Dir., 2017), a film about a young woman who conceives a plot to murder her step-father to prevent him from sending her away to a correctional boarding school against her will, indicates maybe that subsequent generations get the horror of it all much more keenly. What's a non-posh boarding school? A prison—for children.
I received my education inside a guarded compound at a facility in a foreign country with no oversight from any national government. Where communication with our parents was prohibited, and outgoing mail was censored. It is absolutely impressive that the Christian & Missionary Alliance got away with it for so long, and that they have managed to escape any repercussion of consequence. I imagine that most of its members and adherents don’t know, and don't care to. As Charles Edwards Jones notes the most remarkable thing about the Christian & Missionary Alliance is its adaptability, that the denomination “has provided for its people a bridge over nearly every rift in the revivalistic evangelicalism of the past century.” The C&MA knows how to survive: since the 1880s, it has shown the savvy to manoeuvre and thrive amidst the theological feuding that has claimed most of its kind. One massive, decades-long, child abuse scheme, more or less, please—it’ll take a lot more than that to slow the Alliance down.
Anya Taylor-Joy (pictured) plays Lily in the semi-comic, and actually not very good except for the boarding school revenge fantasy part of it, supposedly sort of indie film Thoroughbreds from 2017.
 Foreword, in Sandy Ayer—longtime archivist for the Canadian C&MA--The Christian and Missionary Alliance: An Annotated Bibliography of Textual Sources, n.d. (Available online: https://ambrose.edu/sites/default/files/albib_0.pdf)
This one time I went to watch the Davis Cup tennis live—Canada v. Chile. Frederic Niemeyer, of Montreal, was in the middle of his serving motion, he’d already tossed the ball in the air, when someone sitting in the rows above me suddenly yelled out into the still silence of the Corral in Calgary, “Osti de crisse de tabarnak de câlisse!!!!” Which caused Niemeyer to double over laughing. The ball fell to the ground. Fredric took a moment to compose himself. You don't hear that phrase shouted in Calgary every day. And not usually while serving.
“Host of Christ, tabernacle, chalice!”
Strong words, my Quebecois friend, that is how you do it. Wikipedia says the phrase (Osti de crisse de tabarnak de câlisse) carries the approximate weight that “Jesus Fucking Christ” does in English. In that sense, the Quebecois phrase seems similarly malleable according to context of usage and vocal intonation etc. You can say it in anger, you can sigh it in frustration, you can say it while laughing. The timing of the unknown comic heckler’s delivery was impeccable, that’s why I still retain the memory. I was also left envious about the specificity of profanity in Quebec. In English you can put the word “fucking” in the middle of any other two words and make it vulgar. Robin Fucking Black. Mashed Fucking Potatoes. Nova Fucking Scotia. It’s fun that never stops. But not super inventive. In English it’s hard to vulgarize specific objects, make the name itself so nasty you have to be careful how you say them. If we did--and if we turned religious artifacts and traditions with which we grew up, but which now strike us as loathsome, into our strongest swear words--I would like to submit the following for new swear word contention, and show how easily they would work in everyday use.
“Pulpit, offering plate, megachurch! that was a good dessert."
And then, when I was getting so frustrated I couldn't take no more I'd let loose with:
“Televangelism, baptismal tank, communion cup! how many times do I have to tell you the answer is no!"
I think you would probably have to wash out your mouth with soap if you said that last one, People are going to be offended.
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Jagmeet’s Singh's ties are impressive. His tailor deserves sincere gratitude from the Canadian public for elevating the fashion sense of the House of Commons floor from its overall Midwest Banking Manager Convention vibe to its present glory—now we’re at the level of Alright, At Least One Person Gets It. That’s where all acclaim for Jagmeet stops. Abruptly. Like the vanishing lines of Swiss-made Zegna Couture. Singh has not lived up to the promise of his suits. Lately, it’s not him wearing the suits so much as the suits wearing him.
I had hoped that Singh’s election in the Burnaby by-election in February would raise his profile, give him the national media platform he, and his tailor, deserve. A small bump maybe, but nothing Singh could sustain. When SNC-Lavalin hit, the federal NDP leader was absent or timid in his response. He called for an inquiry. We got one. He called for an apology. He kind of got one. It is difficult to even gauge Singh’s response to SNC-Lavalin. Either he doesn’t speak on it often or what he says isn’t memorable. His local constituency is noticing. Chris Campbell, for Burnaby Now on August 14:
"Singh needs to use his much-touted communications skills to rise above this and be the one voters turn to on Oct. 21. He must do more than just criticize what Trudeau did, but convince voters he is someone they can trust to not do this kind of thing.
"The time is now. The situation is desperate for the NDP, who are also struggling to raise money with just over two months to go. We’ll see what Singh does with this opportunity."
Nothing turns out to be the answer we can safely report, one week later. If the leader of the political left can’t make political hay out of the alarmingly anti-democratic and authoritarian behaviour of the government, then what’s the use of that leader? No opportunity better than that to offer yourself, your party and your platform to the Canadian public is ever going to present itself and buddy, you blew it. And it’s not just you who is going to pay.
Until a few weeks ago the political tracker blog 338 Canada listed Kwan’s seat in Vancouver East as Safe NDP, meaning 338 Canada projected that, according to an aggregation of all major national and regional polling, Kwan had zero (0) percent chance of losing. Kwan’s seat had been rated Safe NDP for months, so long that I’d stopped checking regularly. Presently, 338 Canada lists only one seat—across the country—as safe NDP (Windsor-West, Ontario).
Everything in Vancouver, the NDP’s last great urban bastion, is now up for grabs. In Vancouver East it’s a contest now, a pretty close one, between NDP and Green. Kwan, statistically, still retains a 75 per cent change of winning. Should still be enough to see her through. But how did it even get close? At a time when the party should be in the ascendant, instead the federal NDP appears about to go over, albeit quite stylishly, a cliff. Any competent leader on the left should have been able to boost their party’s fortunes during a democratic crisis as serious as SNC-Lavalin. Worse than missing an open net.
To be sure, Kwan has done her own campaign no favours. She’s embroiled herself in spending scandals. She doesn’t live in Vancouver East, one of Canada’s poorest districts. She lives in Kitsilano, much swankier, in a home purchased in 2014 for a reported $1.9 million. Flashiest socialists I’ve ever seen. Sometimes it’s almost like the NDP doesn’t want to challenge Trudeau, they just want to be him next.
As my mind churned in tumult at the realization—oh, about three years ago now—that my days as a teaching professor had drawn to an end, I realized also that my ambition for any other sort of public position or acclaim had died with my professorship. Almost the entirety of Canadian public life—particularly in the academic and cultural sector, but not exclusive to it—is choked with such insularity and mediocrity, as well as the pathologies such characteristics inevitably produce (envy, spite, group-think), that aspiring to join, or re-join, their society is absurd. The self-serving self-deceit that is necessary to sustain the delusion that cultural and academic life in this country isn’t just infirm, it’s also degenerative and highly contagious, comes at too high a cost. It’s past the point where any one individual can do anything about it.
In their present form, the sectors are not worth saving. I doubt even if they’re salvageable over the long-term. They might have been twenty years ago, but they’re lemons now, that’s for sure. They might look good in the showroom, but under the hood nothing is good. Or, as The Barr Brothers sing, “Once you strip the paint you find it everywhere you go.”
I mention The Barr Brothers for two reasons: 1) to note, obviously, that the Canadian popular music sector is exempt from this criticism. It’s the writing and the writers I don’t like, as well as the entire academic dispositif. Canadian music is Alvvays (too much? I get it.) ok by me; 2) as a way to wind my way over to one of the last Canadians writers I admire, for their paths are similar. The Barr Brothers, are Montrealers by way of Massachusetts. The Canadian cultural sector has previously been improved by Bostonians coming up to Montreal. Among them, Carol Dunlop. Dunlop came to Montreal during the Vietnam War and became a Canadian citizen. From Montreal, Dunlop moved to Paris, where she ran into the Argentine writer Julio Cortázar. The two of them became a thing. Cortázar and Dunlop co-authored Autonauts of the Cosmoroute (1983), a tale of their trip, by VW van, from Paris to Marseilles. I’d take this one book over the entirety of CanLit from 1990 on.
“Cartography of the country of a tree: why not? We’d just need a series of precise photographs and the patience to flatten the spherical, like Mercator, like the makers of portolans, here’s the north or the east, here’s the top or the bottom, the tree’s Everests and its Mediterraneans.” –(Cortázar and Dunlop, 1983, p.115)
Sundays still aren’t good for me, sad to report: are they good for anyone? It isn’t a day of rest anymore, it’s not a religious holiday; a lot of people in retail and service have to work, and so, outside of eating frantically prepared eggs at a overcrowded brunch service somewhere, Sundays seem to have been stripped of all meaningful purpose.
We have decided, therefore, to use them in a reverse traffic sort of way. Where do large groups of people go on Sundays? Besides brunch, the pool. Therefore, we eschew, in addition to brunch, all Sunday pools. Which part of town, otherwise annoyingly busy with commerce and traffic, is deserted of all non-tourist lifeforms, and therefore easier to navigate? Robson. Naturally, we take no pleasure in going to a part of town so utterly past it that mostly you feel sorry for it, that you don’t even gawk after a few blocks, instead you avert your eyes at all the shuttered and struggling real estate: it’s just embarrassing for everyone. But sometimes you still need to look for something and the idea is to get in and out as quickly as you can. Robson is now unpleasant fatigue duty—the urban equivalent of cleaning latrines. Yesterday, we drew that short straw. This is my report.
(Upper) Robson (the downtown and shopping district part) no longer feels like a real version of the city. It feels like a simulacra of what once was, like the Waikikification of that part of the city is well and truly under way. In the same way that Honolulu seemed to exist to house the staff needed to operate the fake tourist city of Waikiki, East Vancouver now seems to exist to house the staff required to operate the fake city of Upper Robson Vancouver. It’s the Disneylandification of Vancouver. Its final Fake-assification. If you will. Robson now boasts all the urban charm of The West Edmonton Mall.
Chi-Lites, first ever band booked on Soul Train.
Today is a big one, but not in a good way, for Portland. I like that city, I think. It’s eight hours away by train, and that’s still a no from me so no, I don’t really know if I like it or not. I've never been. I’m holding on until 2055. 2055, that’s the year the high speed train linking the three Cascadia cities is supposed to be up and running. Portland will then be less than two hours away from Vancouver. You'll be hitting speeds of 400 km/h. That gets you down to Seattle in under an hour. No one will need to drive East for anything ever again. That's a future we can all get behind.
Portland today, I don’t know—I think I’d give it a miss. Today's the day the alt-right is supposed to “descend” on Portland in numbers projected to approach or exceed one thousand. It’s for an event organized by Proud Boys an organization which was founded by Canadian Gavin McInnes. McInnes is a co-founder of Vice Magazine, a magazine, originally from Montreal, that made its money by making fun of people, and by butts--lots and lots of butts. How does a nice fellah from Ottawa go from social style shaming and boner fetishism to forming and funding a predominately American, heavily armed, civilian paramilitary force devoted to protecting what they call “western chauvinism"?
Yeah, I don't know, but maybe someone from Rose City Antifa, one of the leading Portland organizations expected to meet the Proud Boys today, can pose that very question when they see Gavin. Oh hey Gav, what's up.
The following is an excerpt from Rose City Antifa’s website. It explains why direct protest is the correct way to engage over civic disagreements in the public sphere. Rose City Antifa reminds us that any action which harnesses the power of the state, or its institutions, to censor ideas with which we disagree and to punish those who say them, is wrong and ultimately self-defeating: strengthening already powerful institutions, by enhancing their already massively far-reaching and utterly devastating disciplinary powers, chills dissent and discourages open and free discourse.
“We aim to address issues of racist and extreme-Right organizing within communities, not to trust or engage the courts, or to ask for government action. We oppose calls to fight fascist movements through increases of state power, as this firstly treats the state as an allegedly neutral tool and conceals institutional racism. Furthermore, increases in state investigative and prosecutorial power against alleged “extremism” can facilitate crackdowns on protest and social change movements in general, which we oppose.” (emphasis added)
From the tent city of Oppenheimer Park to the Hollyburn Country Club in West Vancouver: these are probably the two polar extremes of Vancouver’s wealth disparity. Oppenheimer Park, which I wrote about recently, has increased in size even since then, with some estimates placing the number of tents now at around 240. The City of Vancouver is almost certainly, in the interests of “protecting” the poor and defenseless residents of the park, about to forcibly evict the lot of them. Many will end up transferred to available rooms in one of the nearby Single Residence Occupancies (SROs);. There’s a reason the tent city developed. Conditions in SROs are sub-human. I imagine many tent city residents have already tried them. Thanks, no thanks. Sleeping in a tent in a public park seems like a better way to live: at least the air isn’t fetid or the threat of violence always present. A real community has developed in the park. People have lived there a long time. They’ve made friends, as was evident yesterday, as residents of Oppenheimer staged a demonstration. They marched and shut down traffic at Hastings & Main. It’s probably the best act of resistance available to them. It definitely disrupted traffic and caught the city's media attention. But the City of Vancouver is going to do what it wants to regardless. It's got businesses to think of, a public image to maintain.
Yesterday, while the residents of Oppenheimer protested, we spent the day in West Van, at Hollyburn watching the tennis. I’ve lived in the city now two years and this was my first time crossing the bridge over into North Van and West Van. I see it every day from my window, and mostly this has been as close as I have felt I have needed to get. But, as I have mentioned on more than one occasion, tennis is a sport I credit with me not already being dead; it is the only sport I still play; and watching live tennis is always way better than you think it’s going to be. So, as the hedonist Greek philosopher Pherocubus wrote in 23 B.C., “If the tennis will not come to you, go ye henceforth to the tennis.” We crossed that fucking bridge.
Even in East Van, where we live, you get immune to the sight of luxury cars on Vancouver city streets. There’s more per capita in Vancouver than anywhere else in North America. It is a baller’s paradise. But no, as it turns out, I only thought I was immune. In West Van, it’s a different game entirely. In the round-a-bout outside the club, on our way to park, our Mazda was nearly trapped and devoured by an entire prowl of Jaguars. I felt like I was suffering heat stroke already, imagining the whole thing, wealth like this could not possibly be real. But it is. West Van is the wealthiest neighbourhood in Canada. The average price of a West Van home is $2.8 million.
On the grounds of the club proper we were treated like peasants, right up there with dirt. The reason? We had a day pass. Seemingly, this made us the lowest of the low. The brightly coloured re-admission bracelet they put on you felt more like a scarlet letter than a privilege. We were not allowed in the club, or near the club. Its entrances were all guarded and all the guards were in it for the long haul. I heard a dude dressing down an obviously extremely wealthy woman for trying to sneak a +1 in during the tournament: she was told, firmly, that it simply wouldn’t do.
There was no shaded seating for the day-passers, and nothing but wooden benches. Above us, club members--the current membership fee is a flat and non-refundable $50,000—sipped wine under canopies and studied the spectacle below. I think they were more curious about the poor people their club had to let in this one week (you need an audience for a televised event) than they were interested in the tennis. Day-passers could choose to indulge themselves in anything, ranging from “Coney Island” hot dogs to beer. The menu for the club is so exclusive it is password protected. You are not even allowed to know what billionaires eat, ok? Day-passers are denied access to the indoor restroom facilities of the club. Day-passers were instead directed to rented un-air-conditioned port-a-potty trailers. They’d parked them in a remote field so no one at the club would suffer the disgraceful sight of poor people and their disgusting bodily needs.
Despite taking all the necessary precautions—sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, hydration—when we left our skin was crisp and pink, and by the time we got back to East Van, we felt the burn all over.
The stadium court is one over. The benches there are the same. Uncomfortable and nothing but sun.That's Malek Jaziri, of Tunisia, out there towelling his face. It was hot. Malek lost in three sets, to Liam Broady of Stockport, England. Everyone kept referring to Broady as "Bro," which I guess must be his nickname, but wow did you hear the word bro a lot. I doubt you'd ever hear the word bro as much in a single afternoon in any other setting that is not frat party at an ivy league school.
Excerpted from today's Guardian:
It's true though, eh? Doesn't matter who you are, what you teach or where: if the correctly-phrased, en vogue, politically and culturally charged accusation is lobbed at you in the right way by the right people, good luck with that. No one is immune--not even, apparently, full-ass English profs at the New School. Pretty much close to a purge what's happening these days.
Yes, Feargal, I fear they could even come for you, the world is that fucked up. Feargal Sharkey, everybody! Show some respect.
Waikiki was getting to me a little, the one time I went there. There wasn’t anywhere to go to get away. Wherever you went commerce kept crowding you, and the beaches were where you went not to relax, but to really get your Hawaii on, Mai-Tais and a pack of Marlboros. That was fine, at first, but the next day I thought I’d stroll the high street instead. That was much worse. The street was charming, like a mall with a view. The restaurants were chains: you couldn’t find pho if your life depended on it. The third day, determined to find some vestige of cool urbanity in the city, I chose to walk from Waikiki into Honolulu proper. Online, I’d found the address to the only vinyl store the city seemed to offer. It was like an hour’s walk, which I did at mid-day, and, by the time I got there, the tourist spectacle was very far away. The record shop was on the third story of a cinder-block mall. Upstairs, it was a small shop, staffed only by the owner. I was the sole customer, and I was drenched in sweat.
I picked out a few records: all of them were Hawaiian. I was convinced I had outsmarted the world once again, by getting only the purest Hawaiian music, picked directly from the source. As I checked out at the front register, the owner asked me where I was from.
I said, “Vancouver.”
The owner nodded and said, “So you’re staying at Waikiki?”
I nodded back.
“You walked here all the way from Waikiki?” This time he snorted, a distinct snort, and shook his head. “Who comes all the way to Waikiki and then doesn’t go to the beach?”
I said nothing and looked towards the exit. The owner handed me my records, and my debit receipt. “I was just in Vancouver,” he said, “I got all those records there in Vancouver. Always good Hawaiian music there.”
Yes, so it was a sort of homecoming for Larry Rivera, the best of the records I picked up that day. Larry Rivera hung out with Elvis Presley during the shooting of Blue Hawaii (1961). Rivera was the Elvis of the Islands, a star in his own right, only Larry mostly wrote all his own songs. Rivera, presently aged 88, still performs. The video below is of Rivera in 2018 performing “Coconuts” from the record I purchased that day, “Return to Hawaii” with The Songs of Larry Rivera (Coco Palms Record, n.d.). I love this record. It was probably just about worth the trip, even the return part of it, during which I cursed my own stupidity the whole way: how hard is it just to lie down on a beach and like it?
Who's that cool guy who burnt his face off hiking two hours into downtown Honolulu and back, while wearing long pants and no sunscreen, to buy a record he could have got back in Vancouver for a third of the price and none of the humiliation? A real sleuth genius detective, that's who.
In the Soviet Union, and its immediate and chaotic Boris Yeltsin aftermath, the joke was “We pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us.” In Canada, presently, academia rests on a similar, universally accepted principle. We’ll pretend to learn, if you’ll pretend to teach us. The entire student-professor contract at post-secondary institutions across this country has become farcical.
Students need the credential—diploma or degree—to advance in a society that won’t let anyone advance until they’ve anted up. The knowledge supposedly taught is superfluous: no one needs it and everyone knows it, especially the professors. Professors need the money. They also need academia, no matter its degraded, technocratic, highly commodified form, to persist: they are as much a part of the institution as the bricks and stone, or, as is usually the case in this country, the slabs of grey concrete. They cannot oppose what they have become. They must assume their share of the overall degradation. It's a duality of structure thing.
It is always safe and sensible to shut up and get along. I've been told that's what it means to be an adult. You have to be pretty much a bonehead, a real fool, a dumb kid, to decide to note, and in public, that this isn’t education, it’s a simulacra of what education was. 1) You can’t teach anything to people who don’t want to learn it. 2) If the only way your society allows people to advance is by forcing them to pay dear in order to pretend-learn about the Humanities, it shouldn’t be difficult to figure out what happens next. Anyone with half an imagination ought to be able to anticipate the foreseeable outcome of having produced a whole generation of kids in on a farce.
I note here that Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin is really a band--a twee one from Springfield, Missouri--and, not only that, they're also a band signed to Polyvinyl, the same label as Alvvays, and now I have mentioned Alvvays again, cool.