Thursday, February 22, 2018

Billy Graham & Archie Bunker

The great stadium preacher of the 20th Century has passed away, and now the great dispenser of sacred public opinion is weighing in with an even division of "Likes" and "Dislikes." To some he is a saint; others pillory him as, at best, an unwitting political stooge.

I have my own, largely conflicted, thoughts regarding the man and his life's work -- I may yet get around to telling of my single encounter with him. But this is not about that. This is about the nature of public opinion.

Funerals are enlightening experiences, for those who pay attention. When my friend's pious father passed away the kids jumped at the opportunity to get in the last word. In their eulogy they noted how, in his later years, he slowly transformed from being reflexively judgemental to being a man of consideration and compassion.

I thought, Jesus -- here's hoping the kids can manage the same trick.

The eulogy struck my daughters as a bit strange, but they couldn't quite put their finger on why. Ever the helpful blowhard, I took a stab at explanation and said, "If you truly believe in Hell -- truly believe in Hell -- you will do everything in your power to steer your precious little children away from its gates."
Maybe you'll even force them to listen to music they don't like...
One of the most freeing bits of wisdom I received from a friend when the daughters first appeared on the scene was, "The question isn't, 'Will you fuck up your kids?' The question is, 'How will you fuck up your kids.'"

There isn't a parent alive who doesn't believe in a Hell of one sort or another. The bulk of my childhood Sunday School class grew up to believe the worst Hell imaginable occurs when Fundamentalist Dogma gains a stranglehold on human imagination. They're only half-right (doesn't anybody read Nietzsche anymore?), but the limited scope of appraisal and perspicacity that brought them to this conclusion is an understandable self-hobbling.

It is even forgivable.

Luther's corpse takes a whipping from me on this blog, but I am grateful to him for the following exhortation: "Be a sinner, and sin boldly -- (etc.)"

If you're having trouble with that, watch Archie and Meathead trapped in a storeroom -- again.
Was it Archie Bunker or Jean-Paul Sartre who said...?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

We're all "fans" now (God save us)

A curious development in Star Wars fandom -- a very loud and possibly large contingent of us actively wants the forthcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story to bomb -- dreadfully.

Sez Joe Vargas of The Angry Joe Show, "I was thinking maybe if it does bad, Disney will be smarter with how they do these future things." (Joe, you do realize, of course, that has never been Disney's business model. When a franchise under-performs -- and they set the metrics, remember -- they drop it and bury it and walk away. Where's that Home On The Range ride we were expecting in Frontierland?)

Joe's is a mild utterance -- almost benign, were it not for its evident passive-aggressiveness. Here's the stronger stuff, courtesy Dani Di Placido for Forbes: "I want Solo to bomb spectacularly at the box office, mercilessly mauled by critics. I want an army of furious Star Wars fans out in force, furiously Tweeting with their finger firmly on the caps lock button, launching wave upon wave of angry reaction gifs. [It] doesn’t matter how good the film is, frankly, because I hate the idea [emphases mine]."

The idea alone merits unfettered vitriol from the masses -- maybe I'm out of step, but I think it's fair to slot this sort of emotional response in the "irrational" category.

Moving on to another, uh, beloved franchise, here we have Amelia Tate's New Statesman article, "J.K. Rowling created an army of liberals – now they are turning against her." It seems to one very loud and possibly large contingent of Harry Potter fans that the author might not be quite as "woke" as the characters she introduced to the world, and thus is an artist to be publicly renounced by one and all.

Most readers over the age of 50 (and, I would normally have hoped, over the age of 20) understand that authors of beloved works are almost sure to disappoint when encountered on the street. In fact, for most of my life it was understood that our most popular authors were truly odious people whom you hoped you'd never encounter personally. Now it is the authors who need to look out, because their readers are all a bunch of Annie Wilkeses.
"Let me enlighten you."
This all seems of a piece with the current political moment, which manages to invoke feverish rantings from all sides -- including, most grievously, the side I've habitually cheered on and stumped for.

I've been yacking a bit about this with Prairie Mary -- here's an excerpt of an email I wrote in response to CULTURE SHAPES NATURE:
The current politics are indeed profoundly weird. What I find especially bizarre/fascinating/abhorrent is all the "virtue signalling" involved. In my lifetime I can't recall this level of fervently expressed moral absolutism coming from anybody but the Religious Right. The Left has always had its causes, but the general tenor of its evangelism was usually of the "Put yourself in their shoes" variety -- the liberal ideal we learned from being wide and deep readers of Important Texts. 
Now the Left has wholly embraced the tactics of the Right: there IS a moral order, and anyone who questions it is a troglodyte, or worse. I do not see this drum-beating marching the mob in a happy direction. 
It's simplistic of me to say, but my sense of the generational attitude among those of us who came of age in the 80s was "We're figuring it out, just bear with us." Exceptions allowed for, of course -- I was a pious and socially docile youth for most of that decade. But we'd witnessed the razing of mores in the 70s, watched as families split up and reconfigured in unusual formats, fended off (with varying degrees of success) the adult solicitations for sexual favours while we were still pre-teens, mostly steered clear of drugs that weren't visibly rooted to the soil, etc. Sometime in the last 30 years there occurred a "Eureka" moment, I'm thinking probably among the post-modern set I left behind at the University -- THIS is what is morally acceptable; THIS is absolutely NOT -- and I missed it. I'm still trying to walk it all back and figure out how we got here. 
The Hero's Death -- every kid has to live through it and come to terms with it herself, but I think what made the 80s different was the common acceptance that there was an entire tier of Heroes expected to behave execrably. Rock Gods received an absolute pass -- movie stars and the like came close to it also. Famous authors, etc. Rise high enough in the public consciousness and illicit behaviour is approved. 
Disappointment occurred when someone was perceived to be a decent person, only to be revealed as the antithesis. Nobody my age thought Harvey Weinstein was a decent guy. Charlie Rose, on the other hand -- he was NPR, so probably not too out-of-whack. So Rose elicits disappointment. 
With the kids these days the stakes are so much higher. I was reading this morning that an entire generation raised on J.K. Rowling is disappointed (or more likely incensed) that she is not as "woke" as they. Yeah, but she's my age! And a novelist! She's still figuring it out, expecting the challenge will remain there to puzzle over long after she's laid to rest. 
Not so, the kids.
No grand overarching conclusion from me -- I'm still scratchin' my head over it all -- so this is where I sign off. Supply your own conclusion in the comments, should the Spirit so lead.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Harvest Commission

It pleases me greatly to have a couple of features published by The Harvest Commission.
Paying gigs are always nice, and working with this bunch in particular is super-delightful. There is a gentle curiosity at work here, yielding delicious results -- it is a treat and a privilege to throw in with the noble, epicurean cause.

I've got two pieces with them: a bit on local seed libraries, and more recently a meditation on culinary history and my Oma's incomparable tapioca pudding. Please check them out, and do a little exploring while you're there. Oh, also: Brad Long On Butter is an exceptional book -- one of those surprisingly rare cookbooks that makes a revelation of culinary fundamentals. Highly recommended.

Friday, February 02, 2018

"Who's writing the script here?" Following breadcrumbs on the Splinter-Net

POTUS 45 delivered his first State Of The Union (SOTU) address. I paid as much attention to it as I've paid to all the others delivered in my lifetime  — little to none.

But this year it finally dawned on me what this bit of absurdist theatre most closely resembles  — the average person's Facebook feed. Every third sentence uttered elicits a dog-whistle Standing O, hate-clapping, dramatic miens of perplexity, etc. One can only speculate as to what any of this achieves, but one fact is abundantly clear — as with your Facebook feed, the SOTU situates a near ideal triangulation of desire. More about this later, but first some links.
  • Over at Medium, Umair Haque delivers his own SOTU: Why We're Underestimating American Collapse. Says Haque, "America has always been a pioneer  —  only today, it is host not just to problems rarely seen in healthy societies  —  it is pioneering novel social pathologies never seen in the modern world outside present-day America, period." He lists five, and makes a largely compelling case.
  • "Those familiar with poststructuralist social theory will understand the shiver of alarm I felt on reading recent interviews in which the billionaire Facebook investor Peter Thiel celebrates the work of the philosopher Rene Girard." This is where the triangulation of desire comes in — Thiel evidently payed VERY close attention to Girard, and ran Girard's concepts in a direction that would have, I suspect, delighted and horrified the theorist in equal measure. Guy Zimmerman unpacks the unsettling significance of it all, here.
Be well. Be kind.  — WP/dpr
"We're all Neo-Pagans now, Henry."

Friday, January 26, 2018

Bible Wars!

2018 began with a bang, for that vestige in the West still vested in New Testament studies. David Bentley Hart (US American, Orthodox) took it upon himself to issue his personal translation of the New Testament; N.T. Wright (British, Church of England, with his own translation on the market) took it upon himself to throw a little shade on the project and the man. Hart's response was . . . predictable.

Anyone who enjoys watching a couple of erudite blowhards flame each other will find this to be high-octane entertainment indeed. Both dudes are deeply learned, of course. That they've greatly benefited from the US church's appetite for swallowing whole any pronouncement spoken (or, in Hart's case, written) with a British accent shouldn't be held against them -- but, I confess, I do. Hey, Johnny Rotten's got the accent and is a wanker of the first order -- you're in highly esteemed company, Perfessers! Long may the flaming continue.
"Let's begin with the Synoptics, shall we?"
The Apostle Paul (née: Saul of Tarsus) is the sticking-point for these gentlemen, as he is for most modern readers and more than a few ancient ones as well. Wright has helped me come somewhat to terms with Pauline thought, but he didn't make it easy -- I found Wright's "layperson guides" circuitous and baffling; his pro-scholar stuff slightly less-so. Wright would probably shudder, but this is what I took away from the protracted exercise of reading him.

And Hart would probably clap palms to scalp in dismay, but that's pretty much what I'm getting from his POV on Paul as well. In any case, where Wright is working to encourage and uphold, Hart is working to rekindle the provocation of the original texts, and sow a little holy mischief in the process -- and I'm kinda diggin' it. More later, perhaps.

Links: Christianity Today coverage.

Friday, January 19, 2018

"It keeps me young!" And other weirdness.

I'm trying to figure out why this video makes me glum.
Hey, it's their song -- they came up with the guitar riff (which is catchy as hell) along with all the rest of it, they have the absolute right to play this song into the ground. They appear to be having fun, I'd say -- that's good, no?

Still and all, the optics depress me. And maybe that's 100% my bad -- I enjoyed the Led Zeppelin one-off a couple of years back. They'd have been roughly this age. Happily for them they're still trim dudes with manes of hair intact.
Another element at play is the "bubblegum" nature of Foreigner's work, in contrast to the "serious" content vis-a-vis the "rock gods" of Olympus. Bubblegum is for kids; seriousness is for adults -- I've swallowed the lure, alright.

I dunno. Anymore if I want some re-connection with my own increasingly distant youth, I turn to Nat King Cole. I was probably 30 when I picked up the first CD, which is that "optimum" age for a guy -- young enough to glory in strength, experienced enough to make a good first impression, and moving gently with intent toward a horizon where memories should be (he hopes) predominantly pleasant.

Friday, January 12, 2018

David Cayley

A recent forehead-slapping moment: how many in-depth Ideas episodes did I listen to (over how many years) before I approached Google and asked, "Uh . . . does David Cayley have, like, a website or something?"

Answer to first question: probably three series' worth plus an individual one-off, making a total of 15 hours (if I count only the first listen and discount subsequent returns).

Answer to second question: seven years.

Answer to third question: honestly . . .
Although Mr. Cayley is in arrears in his blogging, 2016's "The Apocalypse Has Begun" seems to gain pertinence by the hour. But it is his archive of podcasts that is the true treasure to be mined. I've sung Cayley's praises for introducing me to René Girard and Charles Taylor -- I see now that not only is Cayley responsible for introducing me to Ivan Illich, he has another 10 podcasts that are further devoted to the man and his thought. I hope to get to those soon, but first I need to catch up on Northrop Frye, George Grant and . . .

But why go on? David Cayley is now among my "Intoxicants" -- an induction long overdue.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Gender and Music

A scene in the family kitchen, from about seven years ago -- supper is finished, the dishes are being washed by my adolescent daughters so they get playlist privileges while my wife and I tidy up around them.

Katy Perry's "Firework" comes up.

I roll my eyes.

My wife: "What?" 
Me: "It just gets to be a bit much after a while." 
Her: "You don't like female pop singers?" 
Me: "Well, I have my problems with this female pop singer." 
Her: "Shouldn't we sometimes listen to music that challenges us?" 
Me: "I think I've been challenged sufficiently, thank you. Skipping to another song would be nice. Preferably something not on the Glee soundtrack." 
Her: "So you don't like any of the girls' songs." 
Me: "It just gets to be a bit..." 
Her: "You think it would be better if everybody liked what you liked and didn't give you grief about it." 
Me: "Now hold on..." 
Her: "We should just listen to your music, all the time." 
Me: "Wait, pause the game! That is not at all what I am saying. Let's trade places for a moment. Let's say I'm the breadwinner, and you're the one at home -- only with two boys, ages 10 and 12. And ever since the older boy turned 7 all the two of them ever listen to is AC/DC. "Hells Bells" "Thunderstruck" -- five years later they never get tired of it, that's what they listen to when they wash dishes, when you drive them to hockey or a sleepover, you name it. Nothing else pleases them. You're driving, you say it's your turn to choose the music, and they just stare moodily out the window. But then you put on "Who Made Who" and suddenly they're both singing along -- again." 
[Long pause.]
Her: "That would get to be a bit much after a while."

Alright, let's move on to this bozo.
"I think music has gotten very girly."
I'd rather take the piss than defend him, yet here we are. Full quote:
I think music has gotten very girly. And there are some good things about that, but hip-hop is the only place for young male anger at the moment – and that's not good. When I was 16, I had a lot of anger in me. You need to find a place for it and for guitars, whether it is with a drum machine – I don't care. The moment something becomes preserved, it is fucking over. You might as well put it in formaldehyde. In the end, what is rock & roll? Rage is at the heart of it. Some great rock & roll tends to have that, which is why the Who were such a great band. Or Pearl Jam. Eddie has that rage.
If your social media feed hasn't yet apprised you of the situation, go ahead and Google "Bono" "girly" to see just how much flak he's caught for saying this. And granted, "very girly" is not the wisest choice of words at this particularly fraught cultural moment. But his larger observation, however clumsily expressed, is worth consideration.

You need to find a place for young male anger. I'll sign on to that. Adolescent boys have cauldrons of anger in 'em, and it can't be helped -- they're flooded with testosterone and dozens of other crazy-making hormones that keep them from thinking straight. Here in the Enlightened West the tribal rites-of-passage that once goaded young hotheads past the breaking point and into acknowledging the necessity of the mature warrior committing to communal and maternal expressions of masculinity have been all but abolished. Now take away the circle-pit and see what happens next.
Anyway -- parents of adolescent boys, please enlighten me: are they listening to AC/DC? U2? Katy Perry? Whatever it is, I imagine it gets to be a bit much after a while. That's just the way it goes when you're a mature adult, putting in the work and listening to what others are after.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I've seen it twice. Took the younger to it on Wednesday -- she thought it sucked. Took the elder to it yesterday -- she thought it rocked.

I enjoyed myself both times -- mostly because dad-time with the individual daughters-who-are-now-adults is a great privilege, especially when it involves watching Star Wars. But my pleasure was also the result of a bazillion movie people who worked incredibly hard to make an entertaining flick that people would care about -- and my daughters' love it/hate it/no real middle ground reactions are confirmation, to my eyes, that the Sausage Movie Factory pretty much got the mix exactly right. Love it or hate it, odds are you'll be engaged by Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Don't say I didn't warn you.
The younger hated it -- and brother, is there ever a steaming pile of oops! to hate about this movie. There are MASSIVE plot-holes and logical inconsistencies and convenient "We didn't know you could do that" miracles that keep the narrative chugging along. I'll gloss over the bulk of them and train my focus on two particularly glaring missteps:

Leia survives a skinny-dip in deep space. Nobody in the family liked this scene, so my question isn't "How?" but "Why?" This miracle adds nothing to the story, except perhaps to spritz the woman with a touch of gravitas that the actor (God rest) was unable to muster on her own.

And while we are on the matter of the late (and GREAT) Carrie Fisher, it seemed to my eyes that her CGI double was brought in to substitute for a couple of scenes -- her hospital-gown appearance at the breached bridge door is just one example. I disliked CGI Carrie in Rogue One, but I'm slowly coming around on that score. It's probably just another compromise nudged along by the increasingly diminishing standards a viewer must adopt in order to enjoy Star Wars Universe (SWU) story-telling.

The cruiser is completely out-of-gas, but nevertheless makes a Kamikaze light-speed jump through the enemy's biggest ship. Nothing to add, really -- there are other "wait-a-minnits" but this one is a personal peeve.

The elder loved the movie -- and, yes, there is indeed much to love about it. There are a couple of poignant character arcs, particularly with Poe and Finn. I initially thought the romance between Finn and Rose appeared out of nowhere, but the second viewing revealed a persuasive progression. Lessons get learned in a manner that has emotional depth and subtlety.

The action sequences walk the tightrope between adolescent "wow" and adult "yikes." The most emotionally charged fight is the choreographed chop-sockey extravaganza between the Imperial Guard and Rey and Ren. This occurs at the two-thirds mark of the movie, which leaves the final third of the movie feeling a bit slack, but oh well.

2D vs. 3D -- I hate to say it, but 3D wins. It brings out an articulation that heightens the sense of scale and drama.

The Politics -- Star Wars politics have always been of a piece with the story-telling, really: confused and contradictory and utterly vulnerable when exposed to the lightest scrutiny. I mean, in what universe is equating the Vietcong with stick-wielding teddy-bears considered a compliment? If the political statements supposedly* being made (as opposed to the narrative inconsistencies, etc.) are what prevent the viewer from having a good time, then maybe just perhaps we are all feeling a wee bit snow-flaky these days? Just sayin'.
  • A person could argue the films are an impassioned defence of nascent Republicanism, determinedly moored to founding ideals informed by religious devotion. I'm not gonna make that argument, but it would be an easier sell than claiming the SWU is any sort of sustained Neo-Liberal argument for a Marxist Utopia.
Final note: Kelly Marie Tran is officially THE most ADORABLE person associated with the SWU. Somebody please put her in touch with Tom and Rita to keep that approachability alive.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

2017: Sounds

When it comes to my year in music 2017 was less about discovery than it was about catching up. And I have to wonder if that's not the truth right across the board on pretty much all matters.

But let us begin with the discovery. This year my wife introduced me to Alexa Dirks — a.k.a. Begonia.
I tried to find a short video that encapsulates the full effect of this woman, but haven't yet lucked across one. In performances she can be a barrel of laughs one minute, then burning with pathos the next — Prana with a microphone. To be honest, she's not someone I cue up frequently. But once I start listening to her I can't stop until she's finished singing what needs to be sung. This early performance, with Ariel Posen, of Marvin Gaye's “Let's Get It On” is one example of what pulls me in. Why the arrangement so similar to Johnny Cash's rendition of “Hurt”? Where are they — where is she — going with this?

Where is she going with this? is the question that grips me every time I do cue her up. At some point I inevitably stop what I'm doing (the dishes, usually) just to follow along. Here's her most recent video:

Catching Up

MetalGojira's Magma got a lot of love last year. I finally picked it up this summer. Choose your favourite Metal descriptors — “brutal,” “punishing,” “relentless” — then throw in “strangely melodic and approachable,” and you've got an album that's better than anything that came out of the same field this year, too. Also, Hibiki Miyazaki deserves a massive shout-out for the outstanding album art.
This was one of those rare years when Devin Townsend did not put out an album (last year he put out four, so we'll let him Mulligan '17). He pitched in on a track with Comeback Kid, though, and “Absolute” got a great deal of play from me this year. Bonus: this guy does a wicked job of playing along (behind every great bedroom guitarist...)

Rammstein: Paris — until they decide to visit Toronto, this concert from five years ago will have to do.

RockClutch, Robot Hive / Exodus. During last year's delight in all things Clutch, I somehow missed their 2005 all-killer-no-filler entry. I'm glad I did, because it gave me more to grok on in '17.
Jazz — this year's runaway catch-up field. It's hardly fair to would-be up-and-comers that gate-keepers continually discover Lost Treasures Of The Giants buried deep in the vault. 2017 saw the release of Bill Evans' Another Time: The Hilversum Concert (the follow-up to last year's sensational Some Other Time). Competing with jazz giant Evans was jazz giant Thelonious Monk, with his restored 1959 soundtrack, Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960.

Then Gary Burton announced his retirement, prompting me to give consideration to The New Gary Burton Quartet — Julian Lage (guitar), Antonio Sánchez (drums), Scott Colley (bass) joining Burton on vibraphone. Listeners who dug what Burton did with the likes of Keith Jarrett and Pat Metheny will most certainly clue into what he got up to in Common Ground (2011) and Guided Tour (2013).
If you're looking for new, I'll let you consult PopMatters' yearly list, most of which contains artists who tilt toward the “challenging” end of the spectrum — not my cup of tea, for the most part. Joe Fiedler's Like, Strange is a standout. Loose, punchy fun — the sort of thing you might expect from a Sesame Street musician.

Finally, here are The Top 10 Albums of 2017, according to everyone. I don't own any of them.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Advent Calendar: Ernst Bloch, René Girard

"This is a good essay, imo," said my Facebook friend, adding the disclaimer: "Better than usual for First Things."
Ernst Bloch — an atheist who believed Jesus was the Messiah, a Stalinist who disagreed with Marx, and a materialist who embraced natural law theory — is a guide into the concealed theology of contemporary liberalism, whose outlook remains profoundly, if paradoxically, biblical in one respect. Having rejected a Christian understanding of nature, it retains an intensely Christian understanding of history. 
Our Secular Theodicy, by Matthew Rose
Bloch: "Mine ly-berry has the most colourful books"

Girard: "My Day Ty-MARE has the most boo-KINGS!"
Reading it put me in mind of René Girard, who followed some of the same currents to reach a similar conclusion, with crucial distinctions.
“Today’s ideology consists of presenting the 10 Commandments as the worst form of tyranny and oppression. The Enlightenment would never have done that. Voltaire was making fun of the church, and aspects of corruption in the Church. But today the 10 Commandments, for instance ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ is regarded as the worst oppression. Then everything is oppression. Everything is victimization. And this I think is the totalitarianism of the future. Marxism was only its most primitive form. 
I think there is another totalitarianism, which is to say, ‘Don’t believe Christianity is about defending the victim, it is just pretend(ing) to. And we are going to show you how to defend the victim,’ which is precisely everything we see today. And the idea of Anti-Christ — an imitation of Christ — which would at the same time be a total betrayal of Christianity, I think we have to read much of contemporary history in this light. Of course it’s so controversial and potentially explosive. I would say today what we call ‘Political Correctness’ and so forth is a Super-Christianity” 
René Girard, in conversation, 2001.
My familiarity with Girard, such as it is, is primarily informed by this CBC Ideas series by David Cayley — the best five hours I've spent on the internet in the last five years.

Post-Script: it looks like the Mother Corp has pulled the first episode out of circulation — others may follow. You know who to contact for sound-files, don't you?

Friday, December 08, 2017

Advent Calendar: Cogency of Thought & Deed - The Missing Link

If you act
As you think
The missing link
Synchronicity I, The Police
Back in the late-90s-to-early-aughts, David Frum could be counted on to rook me into purchasing the occasional National Post. The headlines assured me he was present to take on some lefty shibboleth I favoured -- gay marriage, for example. Alright then, I'd think -- persuade me.

Alas, persuasion was not his intent. He'd throw down a string of contentious ideological canards that led to a final put-down punchline mocking the opposition as moral and intellectual invalids. The ploy struck me as a youthful aping of William F. Buckley -- or Ann Coulter, talking in her sleep.

Don't waste time or intellectual energy on cogency of thought -- "defend" your ideological presumptions with a ceaseless barrage of invective against the opposition. To my dismay, this has become the default setting not just for Canada's Intellectual Left, but for aspiring advocates for the Disappearing Center as well.

Say what you will about Jordan Peterson (please), but cogency of thought is a big deal to him. When giving Peterson their consideration, however, this is precisely what our nation's last surviving prestige print platforms are having difficulties with. The less said about Tabitha Southey's "nyah-nyah-a-boo-boo" for Maclean's, the better. The Walrus parks itself left-of-centre, but should be intellectually robust enough to issue a vigorous critique. Ira Wells takes a crack at it, but good Lord, I hope he (or his TA) does a more careful job of grading his students' essays than his editor did fact-checking Wells' presumptive claims. Over at The Globe & Mail, Simona Chiose struggles mightily and spills a tonne of ink to reach a balanced POV on the controversial prof. Alas, the headline and sub-heading give away the game:
"Jordan Peterson and the trolls in the ivory tower: In the fight for 'free speech,' a university professor has found himself backed by the Internet's most ruthless denizens while students cry foul."
If you need help parsing the rhetorical structure of those two sentences, let me know.
This photo, OTOH, presents a challenge.
Full disclosure: if I had to guess I'd say I've devoted 12 hours of my life attending to Peterson's words. I am on-board with some of his claims; others I would question. Occasionally he drops some flat-out rubbish (commit yourself to that much open disclosure on the internet and lapses are bound to happen). If I could magically get three or four of those Peterson hours back for the purpose of reapplying myself to the life and times of Donald Duck, I'd cheerfully accept.

Peterson leads with his chin, he's willing to engage seriously and respectfully with the dopiest of slavering acolytes, and he will take care articulating his line of reasoning so as not to be misunderstood. Ironically enough, the person he most reminds me of is the late Christopher Hitchens. And as with Hitch, while I deeply admire Peterson's candour and rhetorical command, it is his temperament that occasionally chafes.

But I'm glad he's around. If his opponents took a proper stab at emulating his rhetorical method, the ensuing discussion could be enlightening and might actually get us somewhere.

Endnote: need help with that? Jay Heinrichs leans left and he's got a book for you (some tips contained therein (hm - "Heinrichs." There's just something about that name...).

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Whisky's 'Advent Calendar' Begins!

If we share
This nightmare
Then we can dream
Spiritus Mundi
Synchronicity I, The Police
Forgive me, but I'm trying my utmost to avoid referencing that other mention of Spiritus Mundi.
Spiritus Mundi by Drecksen
During a recent glance through my browser history I was struck by how much time I spent giving consideration to explicitly religious matters. What happened to my obsession over underground comix and dumb rock songs?

Such are the times we find ourselves in. This business about "passionate intensity" -- enduring and maybe even surviving it -- seems to be the locus of concern (for me, at least). I'm tempted to dump a bunch of links in one post, but most of them are long-reads so I hope instead to parcel them out one day at a time -- like an Advent Calendar! Only packed with intellectual nutrition!

Speaking of Advent, let's begin with this short comic by Mike Dawson: "Keep Christ in Christmas, or just admit it's a shopping holiday, one or the other please." You know me. You know I get feisty when hit with "Either/Or" propositions. But Dawson is so charming and thoughtful with his, he doesn't just get a pass from me -- he gets my heartiest recommendation. Go and read!

Friday, December 01, 2017

"My Sad Cuisine," Continued: Indomie Mi Goreng Instant Noodles

Another staple in "my sad cuisine" -- Indomie Mi Goreng Noodles.
Vegetables not included.
I've been a sucker for instant noodles for as long as I've been able to boil a pot of water. I started with a leftover box of KD I'd scored from a Boys Brigade camporee, and quickly moved on to the cheaper, more nutritionally-suspect Asian varieties, most of which park substandard farina noodles in a steaming bowl of MSG brine. Indomie Noodles beat that scene by an Indonesian mile.

Roger Ebert turned me on to them. Similar to KD, they are a coated noodle -- but that's where the similarities end. When your three minutes of onerous prep is over you have a modest serving of noodles coated with a combination of chili paste, sweet soya sauce and dried salty stuff. Dee-lish!

I never stop there, however. Invest an additional five minutes and you can quickly flash-fry a few of the veggies threatening to spoil in the back of your refrigerator. Add some shrimp and Asian fish-balls (the salami of the sea!) and you've got a dish that's passably nutritious.
Results may vary.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Whither the TV Dinner?

"TV dinners -- they really can't be beat" - ZZ Top
I recently had the house to myself for a couple of nights. Consequently, I found myself in the frozen food aisle at the local grocery store -- not because I can't cook for myself, but for all the usual Freudian reasons.

Back in the '70s, if the parents wanted a date-night, the promise of TV dinners usually got me and the sibs onside with staying behind. Scorching one's fingertips whilst unwrapping the foil and straining to catch the subtle variations of The Muppet Show theme-song became a deeply embedded rite-of-passage.

As for the food, the veggies were a bust -- young consumers in-the-know choked them down first, allowing the mashed potatoes to cool from fourth- to third-degree-burn-inducing temperatures. The pressed turkey was passable, flavour-wise. But the deepest gastronomic delights -- what accounted for the texture, the somehow familiar yet impossible-to-identify flavours? -- were to be found in the dressing and the mashed potatoes. Sometimes even the cobbler dessert was deemed the second thing to go, as it rated a "meh" in both texture and flavour.

I recounted these epicurean adventures to my daughters once, when their mother was off on business. They were keen to get in on the goods (as I expected) so we indulged that very night. Lemme just say, nobody ever clamoured for a repeat of that foray -- perhaps because the dinners themselves repeated for several hours after consumption.

This time around I was considering frozen pizzas. I'm told scientific advancements have made several brands a passable pleasure. Beholding the glossy, "steaming" images, though, I knew well enough that the final product was not going to live up to the promise of the photo. I would eat said product out of a culturally-ingrained sense of thrift, and nothing in my body would be grateful for the discipline.

Instead, I went home and made my go-to comfort food -- Spaghetti Aglia e Olio, one serving. To make it a true TV dinner, I scarfed it down while watching Godless.

There are countless variations on this recipe -- its simplicity begs for improvisation. The "sauce" is essentially extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and parsley -- I throw in slivered sun-dried tomatoes and black olives and usually splash it with Pain Is Good hot sauce during the pasta-to-pan phase. The dish hits all the right childhood/childish "comfort food" flavour notes, cleans up easily and sits well.

Chop some garlic (no fewer than one clove), chop some parsley (I prefer curly to flat, but whatever), chop a sun-dried tomato (packed in oil, natch) and two pitted black olives. Boil some pasta (spaghetti for me) in salted water. Heat a glub of EVOO in a pan, with ingredients, plus some flakes of chili pepper. If you have to remove it from heat to keep the garlic from browning, that's fine. As pasta edges toward al dente splash a little of the pasta water into the pan, drain the pasta, then throw it into the pan and finish the cook. Transfer to plate, add Parmesan -- and take comfort.
Results may vary, depending on camera (and photographer).
Ironically, Spaghetti Aglia e Olio happens to be the first dish I associate with adulthood, as I didn't know of it until shortly into our marriage. We learned of it from Giuliano Hazan's The Classic Pasta Cookbook (Abe), one of those rare cookbooks I consider indispensable.

End-note: what, or who, is responsible for the demise of the Swanson TV Dinner? This guy says it's the microwave oven. This guy says it's those darn Millennials!