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. 

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?

Thursday, 4 August 2016

#AMREADING Maylis de Kerangal, Mend the Living.
Translated by Jessica Moore as Mend the Living
The subject is clinical, but the language is lyrical and asks the existential question: What does it mean to be alive or dead?

Simon is in a coma after a car accident. His heart (or rather the machine to which he is hooked up) keeps pumping blood, a life of ebbs and flows, of valves and flap gates, a life of pulsations. On the night when his heart slips from the grip of the machine, it was bone-crackingly cold on the estuary and in the Caux region, while a reflectionless swell rolled along the base of the cliffs, while the continental plateau drew back, unveiling its geological stripes.

Dr. Revol informs Simon’s parents of his death. One needs time, of course, to catch one’s breath after uttering such a thing, time to take a pause, stabilize the oscillations of the inner ear so as not to collapse in a heap on the ground. Gazes dissolve. Revol ignores the beep beep at his belt.

He gets ready to speak to the parents about organ donation. He prepares for the conversation the way he prepares himself to sing, relaxing his muscles, regulating his breathing, conscious that punctuation is the anatomy of language, the structure of meaning, and he visualizes the opening sentence, its musical line, and gauges the first syllable he will utter, the one that will cleave the silence.
The parents give him permission to transplant Simon’s heart.

Before leaving the hospital, Simon’s mother turns around one last time toward the bed and what freezes her in place then is the solitude that emanates from Simon, from now on as alone as an object, as though he had been unballasted of his human aspect. Simon is dead, she says these words to herself for the first time.

Thursday, 28 July 2016


I just read about an app that scans your skin and suggests products that you may not even be aware of. There’s definitely an educational factor. There’s an entertainment factor. But at the end of the day, it’s really helping with the need for instant gratification, says Jennifer Tidy of ModiFace, the leading provider of Augmented Reality Tech. Ooh, that’s so cool. Now I too can look like a model or a film star. But wait: Will I get paid like a film star?

No, you little idiot. This isn't for real. It's augmented reality, and it's the tip of an ad trend: Spend like a professional even if you are paid like a peon.