Tuesday, 18 October 2016

#AMTHINKING It’s fashionable to apologize.
Naomi Klein and Mirko Zardini at University of Toronto

Yesterday I attended a discussion about the environment between Naomi Klein and Mirko Zardini. The moderator began by apologizing that they had neglected to invite an indigenous speaker.  Well, why didn’t they? They could have invited an indigenous speaker if they had wanted to. So what’s with the apology? I guess it’s fashionable to apologize. And much easier than taking action.  Preferably you apologize for mistakes made by your forebears because they are dead and don’t have to worry about being re-elected or being kicked off the career ladder.

And while we are on the topic, I’m thinking: Why doesn’t anybody apologize to me? I want an apology from the Catholic School Board because they didn’t give me maternity leave in the 60s. I want an apology from the government because they didn’t provide me with accent-removal courses when I came to Canada and from the public at large because they made me feel uncomfortable by referring to my accent. Do you know how hurtful it is to be asked “And where are you from?” without a trigger warning?  And most definitely I want an apology from my mother for giving birth to me during WWII, a shitty environment, let me tell you, and from the Austrian government for obliging me to emigrate because they didn’t provide a suitable economic environment in those post-war years. Finally I want an apology from my late husband for dying on me and leaving me to deal the authorities, requiring me to supply a hundred copies of his death certificate and his probated will and listening for hours to canned music while waiting for the next available representative. Where are those apologists when you need them?

Thursday, 6 October 2016

#AMREADING Michel Houellebecq, Platform. 

This is a book about travelling and sex -- friendly tourism, as one of the protagonists calls it -- but in between the clinical descriptions of foursomes and other procedures that might challenge the less acrobatic among us, there are some keen observations about the professions.

  • The Police. He must have had to meet people from all walks of life in his profession, no area of society could be completely alien to him. Police work is a truly humanist calling.
  • The Travel Industry. I liked holiday brochures, their abstraction, their way of condensing the places of the world into a limited sequence of possible pleasures and fares.
  • Farming. They had dedicated the best years of their lives to a hopeless task. They lived in a country where, compared to speculative investment, investment in proution brought little return.
  • The Public Servant: I managed information, facilitated acces toit and disseminated it. In a word, I had worked in the service sector. It would be easy to get by without people like me.
  • The Reader (Not a profession, you say? Well, I spend enough hours on reading every week to call it a profession). Not having anything around to read is dangerous. You have to content yourself with life itself, and that can lead you to take risks.

Monday, 26 September 2016

#AMREADING The Evening Telegram of 9 November 1939.

McLaughlin-Buick 1939
I’ve moved into an old house that has recently been renovated. Among the debris cleared by the renovators was a pile of yellowing Toronto newspapers from 1939. Page One was all about the “Huns” threatening to invade the Netherlands, and we know how that scenario unfolded. It’s history written large. The back pages of the paper contain the small stuff, the microhistory of Toronto. Can we draw any conclusions about the city from the Classifieds? For one thing I’d say the inhabitants were tired. There are a number of ads promising to perk them up:
Wake up singing! When you awaken with a “dragged-out” feeling, take Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery, and according to the testimonials, you will feel as good as ever before.
But maybe you want to feel even better than before. Then we suggest you take
Scott’s emulsion, a valuable tonic for run-down condition. The illustration accompanying the ad features a man dragging a large fish. Go figure.
Perhaps you feel alright, and it’s your car that needs perking up. In that case you’ll be glad to hear of the new miracle of gasoline chemistry, New-Blue Sunoco, which will provide you with knockless power and sure-fire quick starting.   
But if the miracle of gasoline chemistry isn’t doing enough for your car, go out and buy a Buick. You’ll get a big, beautiful, brawny car styled to knock your eye out!

Knock my eye out?? Clearly, cars have become a lot tamer since 1939, and that’s fine with me. 
(Image: www.oldcarscanada.com)

Monday, 19 September 2016

#AMREADING Michel Houellebecq, Submission. Or What Men Think of Women.

Paris 2022. The Muslim Brotherhood has won the national elections by a landslide. Is this a futuristic novel? Not sure. Human relations seem as complex as ever. Plus ça change, I suppose. Here are some musings on sex by the novel’s protagonist , François, a middle-aged lecturer at the Sorbonne.

For men, love is nothing more than gratitude for the gift of pleasure, and no one had ever given me more pleasure than Myriam. She could contract her pussy at will (sometimes softly, with a slow, irresistible pressure, sometimes in sharp, rebellious little tugs).

François suffers the same frustrations as Huysmans (the subject of his thesis) a century earlier: He wanted a good little cook who could also turn herself into a whore, and he wanted this on a fixed schedule. It didn’t’ seem so hard, yet he sought this woman in vain.

In my twenties, when I got hard-ons all the time, sometimes for no good reason, as though in a vacuum, I have gone for [a cougar]. It would have been more satisfying, and paid better, than my tutorials. Back then I think I could have performed.

In middle age, François’  body started to let him down. Old age, he feared, would be a jumble of organs in slow decomposition…When you got right down to it, my dick was the one organ that hadn’t presented itself to my consciousness through pain, only through pleasure. Modest but robust, it had always served me faithfully. In the end my dick was all I had.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

# AMTHINKING: The happier I am the less I write. I remember a cartoon in an Argentine newspaper: A poet begging his girlfriend not to make him so happy. It gave him writer’s block. Without a tragic love life, he couldn’t write tango lyrics.

Ditto when I’m leading a busy life. The more I move, the less I think. Friends, I never thought I'd say it, but I’m actually looking forward to a little boredom. #AMTHINKING: Boredom is good for the soul. Are there boredom classes? Should I start a new trend for all those people who are tired of yoga and meditation?