Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Happy Yule, Eid, Solstice, Christmas, and The Kitchen Sink, from Canuckistan. . .

A special Seasonal Greeting from one of our brave soldiers, in a faraway place:

The horror that caused me to flee Canada to spend the holidays in Costa Rica:

The thing I'll miss most, spending Christmas away from home: Beer Nog.

Back in the New Year. Warm regards to all.

Michael Totten: "The Kurds are friendlier, and more pro-American, than Canadians."

"The Palestinians aren’t the only people in the world who seek and deserve a homeland of their own. But the squeaky wheel gets the grease. The Kurds do not receive billions of dollars in Western aid. The Kurds do not receive endless media attention. There are no rallies on Western campuses demanding their freedom, nor does the United Nations Security Council require that a state be created for them, although--unlike the Palestinians--they fought honorably against their enemies and have already carved out a moderately prosperous, free, and functional de-facto state of their own. They are America's allies, but most Americans know nothing about them."

That's from Michael J. Totten's expansive analysis, No Friends But The Mountains, available in full here, from this month's Azure magazine.

Years from now, when historians look back on the journalists who made the greatest contributions to a public understanding of the conflicts in Iraq and the Middle East during the first few years of the 21st Century, Michael J. Totten, a blogger, freelancer, and independent reporter from Salem, Oregon, will be on the shortlist.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Genius Huckabee: "Congratulations Canada on Preserving Your National Igloo."

This guy could very well be the next President of the United States:

Meanwhile, avante-garde American left-wing journal Counterpunch exhorts masses to support right wing, tax-cutting, anti-abortion Texas Republican Ron Paul.

More: Mike Huckabee is "a smirking hick. . . an unusually stupid primate. . . who does not have the elementary intelligence to recognize the fact that this is what he is."

Friday, December 14, 2007

This Means War, Of Course. It Means War To The Knife, And The Knife To The Hilt.

To prevent this:

We must do this:
Harry's brilliant. So is this crowd: As the Canadianists are emboldened by their French allies, their saber rattling grows louder and we can ill afford to continue to brush them off as quaint maple syrup producers who end declarative sentences with rising inflections.

I will be able to tell my grandchildren I was there when the first shots were fired.

UPDATE: In the Ottawa Citizen, John Robson has mounted a most scurrilous attack on certain members of
the Asteraceae family. He shall be hearing from my solicitors.

UPDATE II - If Mark Steyn is right, and demography is destiny. . .: More than 8,000 Americans immigrated to B.C. between 2001 and 2006, a number that has doubled since 2001, surpassing immigration from Iran, Hong Kong, or Pakistan.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Today's Lesson From The Koran: How To Turn Your Worst Enemy Into A Folk Hero

Mark Steyn is a belligerently right-wing essayist and author whose great gift is his ability to make you laugh your head off even while he's explaining to you that the world is going straight to the dogs and it's all because of liberals and there's nothing you or anyone else can do about it and we're all screwed.

He's just now found himself at the vortex of a freak show that promises to keep us all amused for quite some time to come, and that's what I'm on about in my Tyee column today.

No Canadian embassies have been burned down yet, but everything's up for grabs: Islamophobia, hate speech, political correctness, multiculturalism, big government, and the freedom of the press. Everybody's invited, so put on your shiniest iron breastplate, bring along your greasiest trebuchet, and choose sides.

You can team up with the neoconservative, waterboarding, immigrant-loathing Islamophobes over on one side, or with those moonbats who don't understand that here in the West, free speech is a bedrock, absolute right, over there.

Or you could could just calm the hell down, because if you do, you just might notice that the game is rigged. That's the way it looks to me anyway, and I try to explain why in my column.

It's already too weird for words.

Here we have Canadian Islamic Congress bigshot Mohamed Elmasry dragging Steyn and Maclean's magazine, in three separate proceedings, before three separate human rights tribunals, when it wasn't so long ago that Elmasry was singing a different song: "In a democratic society, all voices should be heard - even ones whose viewpoint some of us might oppose."

Of course back then, he was arguing for a Canadian broadcasting licence for Al-Jazeera.

Meanwhile, who was the federal politician that came rushing to defend Steyn, whose career includes a bulging portfolio of columns and essays slagging off multiculturalism? Why, none other than Jason Kenney, Secretary of State for Multiculturalism.

As for Steyn's demography-is-destiny theory, it's all well and good, except when he's trying to make it fit, in practice. Steyn gets a bit of a thumping about that here. Christopher Hitchens is skeptical, but admiring. When Johann Hari crunches Steyn's numbers, they don't add up.

So sit back, watch the show, and enjoy it while you can, but be warned. I have a nagging feeling that no good will come of any of this.

UPDATE: I blew a gasket here this morning.

Review in 3:AM - The Lost and Left Behind "...is non-fiction, but not as we know it."

"With the unstoppable glut of pop-biology books arriving in time for Christmas (notably Do Ants Have Arseholes, currently dominating bestseller lists), it would be a wonderful jolt in popular opinion if The Lost and Left Behind were to feature as the must-have Christmas title. It’s fascinating, informative and quirky enough to knock its rivals off their perch; it’s also extremely relevant, bringing attention to a phenomenon that lives under the shadow of its more fashionable ethical peers. Books like this are rarer than the Madagascar Serpent Eagle, and we should do all we can to keep voices like Glavin’s alive."

A very kind review from 3:AM Magazine, a literary magazine based in Paris, London, and New Orleans. Er, mainly, anyway. Also Dublin, Cleveland, Manchester, Lincolnshire, and New York. 3AM is one of the best webzines I've ever come across. Right up there with Democratiya, but very different.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Lost Coast: A powerful "environmental plea"; Also what used to be called a novel

In The Lost Coast: Salmon, Memory and the Death of Wild Culture, Tim Bowling sets out his methodology by declaring: "It is not the facts I want, it is the details. Facts are the stuff of history, details are the stuff of life." A beautiful piece of work results. But sometimes the reader is left to wonder where the real world ends and the imagined world begins, and this is a difficulty I raise in my review, in today's Globe and Mail.

Facts are also the stuff of life, and facts change everything. They define the difference between fiction and non-fiction, for one thing.

Bowling is a terrific storyteller, and I highly recommend his book. I also harbour a great deal of empathy for Bowling's grief, having watched the same universe implode, from a perspective just a bit upriver from Bowling's Ladner, up around Annacis Channel and Annieville. It was a working-class world of fishboats and farms and sawmills, and almost overnight, it was buried under subdivisions, freeway turnpikes and malls.

The "memoir" occupies a murky netherworld between autobiography and the novel, and its backwaters, where a writer can so easily stray from the main channel of fact into the sloughs and side channels of fiction, should be navigated with great care. I tend to side with Timothy Garton Ash on the subject: "Writers often cross this frontier because they think their work will be enhanced as a result. Reportage or history will become literature. Paragraph for paragraph, that may be true. But as a whole, the work is diminished."

Approaching the same fog-shrouded shoals from downriver, in the context of the novel, Simon Jenkins sounds the same caution: "Despite Humpty Dumpty, words do not mean anything we choose. Facts are still facts wherever they are used, and should be honoured in fiction as in history. The dictionary offers no exemption to novelists."

But don't let this deter you from Bowling's The Lost Coast. It's a fine piece of work, and it deals with a phenomenon few writers have adequately explored - the global phenomenon of ecological collapse and the vanishing of distinct communities from landscape and memory, with all the deracination and disorientation that results.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

What do the words humdinger, gimmick, doozy, and baloney all have in common?

Along with the words scam, hokum, and grifter, they all owe their origins to words in the Irish language, says Dan Cassidy, winner of the American Book Award for his How The Irish Invented Slang: The Secret Language of the Crossroads. A nice idea, and handy for the brag, but each of these words you are also likely to hear from reputable linguists, lexicographers and language historians when they are talking about Cassidy, and about his book.

Reviewed favourably by Corey Kilgannon in the New York Times, the book is more sensibly treated by Michael Patrick Brady, who considers Cassidy's endeavour a worthwhile pursuit that gets "lost among the wreckage" of Cassidy's lousy scholarship (or perhaps more precisely, Cassidy's contempt for scholarship in general).

According to Grant Barrett, "Cassidy’s theories are insubstantial, his evidence inconclusive, his conclusions unlikely, his Gaelic atrocious and even factitious, and his scholarship little better than speculation. In short, his book is preposterous."

The point of the American Book Awards is "to recognize literary excellence without limitations or restrictions," and How The Irish Invented Slang is published by Counterpunch. Why am I not surprised?

And is it not enough that the Irish saved civilization?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Democratiya 11: On Cultural Relativism, Apostasy, Neoconservatism, Democracy. . .

Fear is the most powerful of human motives, and a willingness to rationalize the irrational is a fatal liberal weakness. Add in the despairing and reactionary turn modern leftish thinking took after the collapse of socialism, the tolerance of the intolerable inculcated by post-modernism and the doubts about democracy in the liberal mainstream, and I hope you can see why so many could not oppose totalitarian movements of the far right or even call them by their real names.

That's from a lengthy post-script in the reprinted edition of Nick Cohen's What's Left? How Liberals Lost Their Way (reviewed here), which appears in full the latest issue of Democratiya.

Among the other splendid essays, reviews and commentary you'll find there: Anja Havedal trounces Elaheh Rostami-Povey's Afghan Women: Identity and Invasion; David Zarnett examines the growing intellectual renunciation of Edward Said; Irfan Khawaja looks at contingent pacifism through the lens of Larry May's War Crimes and Just War; Chandrahas Choudhury revisits Jawaharlal Nehru; David McKnight assesses the rise of American conservatism; Ophelia Benson considers the brave stories of apostasy recounted in Ibn Warrak's Leaving Islam. . .

. . .And on it goes like that. If you 're looking for a more engaging and intellectually independent liberal-left journal of ideas in the English-speaking world, you might as well stop, because you're not likely to find one.

Democratiya is as good as it gets.

Monday, December 03, 2007

He's Back: Eric "The Jews Deserved It" Walberg, in Counterpunch, On About Jews

I see our favourite expatriate Canadian economist is today giving out of himself in Counterpunch, ostensibly about Biblical archeology. But whatever the scholarly merits of the essay, Walberg once again just can't seem to control himself:

"The Zionists. . .have been plotting virtually since the creation of Israel to blow up the Al-Aqsa Mosque and rebuild a replica of Solomon's temple there. . . . the logical culmination of the Zionist project, eagerly fuelled by the official Israeli archaeological establishment. . . Then there's the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which sets out just such a programme in albeit an overtly grotesque form and is solemnly disowned by Zionists as a forgery, though a forgery of what is never made clear."

Ah yes, well, that's the Jews for you. Always plotting something, always solemnly disowning things that are never really made clear, and doing "other shocking things" like pursuing "anti-Christian (anti-human) doctrines," and what with all those "egregious examples of Jews gaining a financial stranglehold" throughout history, it just goes to show why "outbursts of persecution of Jews in history have everything to do with machinations by Jews themselves."

Poor old Eric Walberg. He graduates from the Pushkin Institute in Moscow only to see the Soviet Union collapse before his very eyes. He's then turfed from Uzbekistan, where he'd worked in the office of President Islam Karimov, known for boiling his enemies in oil. Writes euphoric public-relations copy for that gathering of "anti-war activists" with Hamas and Hezbollah in Cairo last May only to be outed by his former associates in Canada, where his former editor at Peace Magazine disclosed to me a few months back that yes, Walberg is one and the same person as Simon Jones, from whom we learn that among the Jews' many unheralded accomplishments are the First World War, Russia's communist revolution, and the "growing alienation and humiliation of the Islamic world. . . right up to the still mysterious collapse of the WTC."

Damn, those Jews are cold.

But don't feel too sorry for Eric. He seems to be getting talking-head time on Press TV, the Iranian Mullahocracy's answer to Fox News.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

"The Silver Lining of Ecological Meltdown": Observer review, Lost and Left Behind

So, Glavin simply travels the world, telling stories. Each chapter begins with a subject such as the Malay tiger, American cougar or taimen, a huge, human-sized fish wriggling in the rivers of Khabarovsk, eastern Russia. Read on and you get hooked. The narrative twists and turns, opening unexpected passages of history, science and anthropology. Before you know it, we are among the Aztecs or listening to Thomas Hardy's views on zoos. We visit the goblin-like aye-aye of Madagascar, engage in anti-McDonald's protests in London or watch Malay tribes lay out food for the macan bumi, the 'village tiger'. Colourful bestiaries constantly leap out of the page and then disappear. . .

Well. A very kind review from Peter Kimpton in the Observer on Sunday (UK).

He's right, at least partly, to say that my "agenda" is to "escape the depressing, desensitising 'language of environmentalism' that characterises headline news." I do indeed counsel against being all dreary and miserable about everything, and I agree wholeheartedly with Kimpton that the "language of environmentalism. . . only increases public guilt, impotence and indifference."

But the reason I argue for the abandonment of environmentalism as a separate category of thought is that what ecologists, taxonomists and evolutionary biologists are now observing in nature is the same phenomenon playing itself out in culture.

In the language of environmentalism, there isn't even a word for that phenomenon. And that's because "environmentalism" tends to presume the reality of certain merely conceptual barriers between nature and culture, between the wild and the tamed, between "modern" peoples and pre-industrial peoples, between the living and the dead, and between the functions of artificial selection and functions of natural selection.

The Lost and Left Behind is published by Saqi. In Canada, it's published by Penguin and its title is Waiting for The Macaws. In the United States, its published by Thomas Dunne / St. Martin's Press under the title The Sixth Extinction.