felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
It's been a good week. [livejournal.com profile] montrealais is back from Europe. Tickets to Tori arrived in the mail -- thank you [livejournal.com profile] em_fish! Elections Canada is on my back about Ts someone else forgot to cross, but I think that's going to work out.

Writing is on schedule, too. My goal is to send this monster out no later than the first week of September. I was kind of wonder if those who have a copy of version six had a chance to read it yet..? If not, it's fine. I was just curious.

Also, every Canadian or Canadian aspirant needs to listen to this podcast. It's about Canada, and the First Nations, and who we are. And it's classic Saul -- brilliant ideas in plain English, with humour and with no punches pulled.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Happy Canada Day! It's been 142 years since Confederation, and depending on how you count, we could four hundred years old or longer. John Ralston Saul argues we're effectively thousands of years old, because our usual way of counting leaves out aboriginal peoples who contributed so much to this country.

But still we like to think of ourselves as a young nation, naive in everything we do and likely to fail at any time.

I've done very little lately, aside from writing and working and researching -- I've half-written another article for my historical website. This heat has made me feel sluggish.

I've also been playing a fair bit of the Persona series. The third was brilliant -- one of the best endings of any game -- and the fourth game is even better, and even stranger. For example, I just defeated a giant decaying teddy bear that kept quoting Postmodern philosophy and hurtling bolts of pure nihilism at me. I defeated it with game's patented Jungian psychology combat system.

Using Jung to beat Foucault -- I doubt John Ralston Saul has ever played a video game, but somehow I think he would have approved.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
John Ralston Saul, my favourite philosopher, was on CBC's Q this morning saying that Canadians were right to feel envious of the US -- not because of any specific policies, but because unlike any prime minister we've had in more than two decades, he knows how to use language and knows its value.

(To Saul, democracy is about words and language and argument, and the victory of language and argument over brute force. It's hard to overstate the concept of peaceful transfers of power actually is, and how radical it was when democracy first started to spread.)

It's surprising how simple the actual swearing is. All he does is but his hand on a Bible, "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." It is tradition, but not required, to add "so help me God."

Obviously, some presidents take that stuff about the constitution more seriously than others. I strongly suspect that George Walker Bush just tapped that Bible with an old stick and said, "I solemnly swear I am up to no good."
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I finished John Ralston Saul A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada last night. It's a brilliant book, although with a lot of tangents that don't seem to quite fit -- Saul is a little like that brilliant professor who tends to ramble off down brilliant side roads and forget what he's lecturing on.

But still, all Canadian progressives need to read this book. His basic argument:
Cut for length )

Saul said in an interview that Canadians who read this book say he put into words something they'd always felt but could never put into words. I concur.

The most interesting criticism is that people have accused him of romanticizing or misrepresenting First Nations people, or of oversimplifying the relationship between them and Europeans. Interestingly, none of these responses seem to be coming from First Nations people, and he's leaned heavily on their own words over four centuries for his arguments.

There are problems here, though. Saul is a little too much a booster of capitalism for this socialist to handle. I thought he'd given up on that after The Collapse of Globalism. Interestingly the book was finished just a little before the credit collapse, and I notice he's downplaying these elements in his interviews.

I also wonder what's up with him and gay people. He only seems to mention us dismissively in passing, whereas he has no problem championing other marginalized groups. This in spite of the fact that the relatively easy time we've had in Canada compared to other European countries (no recorded use of capital punishment for the 270 years when it was punishable by death) would seem to support his arguments.

Still, it's a great book, and highly recommended. Saul writes about history and philosophy in plain, easy-to-understand English, so it shouldn't be intimidating for anyone.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
To keep to my writing schedule, I'm waking up at four in the morning now. I realized that the best thing would be to wait for the daylight time changeover, and simply not alter my schedule. Though today I woke up early at three and couldn't get back to sleep.

So far I've managed to keep to my five-page-per-day quota, an appropriate number for the fifth edit of my fifth version. So life is good. Also, I'm reading the most recent work of genius by John Ralston Saul, so expect to have your friends' page spammed with brilliant quotations.

I'm at work today, listening to CBC while I do data entry. It was a beautiful misty morning, both in Verdun and downtown. I'm in the heart of the business district here. It's abandoned at this hour on a Saturday, and the tops of all the tall buildings are shrouded in fog.

ETA: Saul was on Daybreak this morning on CBC, talking about his book, about colonialism, and Canadian history. He talked about Obama, too -- said that he really likes him, and considers him a good leader in the European style.

He said he met Obama when they were on a discussion panel together and Obama was an unknown senator. Saul admitted he was worried he wouldn't be able to remember the man's last name (since Saul's first novel was entitled Baracka, I doubt he'd forget the first name).

He was impressed when Obama spoke, though. He said he told his wife -- then-Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson -- "Today I met the first black president of the United States." I wouldn't buy a boast like that from anyone else, but Saul's ability to predict future events is almost uncanny.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
I finished Naomi Klein's No Logo yesterday. Like so many other books, it's one I've read a couple sections during my undergrad and post-grad years. Now, post-school, I finally had a chance to read it.

I'd been expecting either a radical, head-in-the-clouds manifesto, or a sincere-but-agonizing-slog through the myriad horrors of neo-liberal economic fanaticism. What I got was clear-headed, clear-eyed, careful analysis written in plain English and backed up with heavy research and personal interviews.

It's less a manifesto, and more like a history book, documenting the successes and failures of recent anti-corporate movements, trying to figure out what works and what doesn't, and where to go from here.

She uses much of the same ideas and explores the same concepts about commons, democracy, and the public good -- the same non-secular-but-humanist perspective -- as a group of other Canadian thinkers that risen to the fore in progressive circles: John Ralston Saul, David Suzuki, and Linda McQuaig. I think at this point we can pretty call them a movement -- the Canadian Humanist Movement sounds nice to me.

Of course, we aren't going to call them a movement, because that might imply we have a culture, or that it might matter - peu importe they're all internationally-recognized names in lefty political circles. Meanwhile, in other circles, the Conservatives have just finished gleefully eviscerating the arts -- this time explicitly killing arts projects that don't fit their neo-con worldview. And I'm sorely disappointed by the lack of outrage I'm seeing.

Last year, Margaret Atwood said of the Harperites' view on artists and writers, "They basically just hate us. You know it’s people who have never seen any arts in their own lives — they would rather not have gardens, they would rather have parking lots. They just think it’s a frill probably."

The problem is, the People-Who-Would-Rather-Not-Have-Gardens have power. Let's hope we can topple them before they turn this rich and wonderful country into a parking lot for their SUVs.

On that note, anyone who's in the three by-election areas -- Guelph, Westmount-Ville-Marie, or Saint-Lambert, please get out and vote. It's September 8th, unless Harper calls a general election. Remember, any vote not cast counts as an de facto endorsement of the winner.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)

In a society devoted to image, the image assumes three more or less dangerous forms.

There is the image that the creator knows to be untrue, but expects to convince the public is true. This is a straightforward lie and can be dealt with because it is precise. A pin stuck in at the right moment and it deflates or explodes.

There is the image that the creator knows to be untrue and does not expect to fool the public; just to distract or disorient them. This can be dangerous because it suggests that meaning does not matter. It is increasingly common, feeds off technology and makes a mockery of the idea of civilization and language.

Finally there is the image in which the creator comes to believe. Whether the public is taken in or not, this is the most dangerous sort because it inolves the denial of reality by those who have a direct impact on reality.

--- Humanist philosopher John Ralston Saul
I'm trying to figure out which of these three categories Harper's public image fits into. We've been sticking pins in at every possible moment, and it's not the first category.

I think it's in the second one. I think the moderates (non-evangelicals) voting Conservative know, on some level, that everything being said about Harper's agenda is true, and that's the reason they deny it so passionately -- the reason they refuse even to entertain the possibility.

If they're distracted or disoriented, is it even possible to bring Harper moderates back to equilibrium before Monday?
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] jenjoou's end-of-school party was last night, so we had dinner at an actually authentic Japanese restaurant downtown. The food was delightful. And of course, thanks must go to [livejournal.com profile] jenjoou for providing my latest fix of Kyou Kara Maou -- I fear I'll have to take the next shot intraveneously, like any true junky.

I'm nearing the end of The End of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World. Excellent book. John Ralston Saul tracks the history of the Globalization movement -- the movement to weaken government and put the power in the hands of corporations not bound to any environmental and human-rights standards.

He chronicles the gradual end of this economic fashion, declaring it officially dead, and how governments are just beginning to realize they weren't powerless after all. He studies the rise of citizen anti-globalization movements, as people realized they had the power to fight back.

Of course, Canada's current prime minister and leader of the opposition are both priests and true-believers of the Globalization religion, so we'll probably be the last country in the world to leave it behind.

I'm re-reading the Harry Potter books simultaneously (one week today!), and trying not to get the plots confused. It was Joseph Stiglitz who spied on the Death Eaters to the Order, right? And Voldemort was the one arguing for the deregulation of money markets?


felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)

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