Monday, November 24, 2008

What happened to just doing it?

Here is an upcoming event at McGill:

McGill Centre for Research and Teaching on Women
Seminar Series

Ellen Waterman
School of Fine Art and Music
University of Guelph

Naked Intimacy: Improvisation, Eroticism, and Gender

Wednesday, November 26, 2008
4:00 – 6:00 pm, Leacock 927

Eroticism is the realm of our most urgent desires that leads to the transgression of boundaries, ecstatic identification with others, and ultimately a confrontation with the self. Creative improvisation is an experimental and collaborative form of musical performance. What do these domains have in common? Both are characterized by an incessant confrontation with now that leads to the “naked intimacy” of intense communication. What are the roles of bodies, instruments and performance spaces in constructing representations of the erotic, and how are they articulated through improvisation? How do musicians negotiate representations of the erotic in their work? When and how are these representations gendered – and with what effects for musicians? Drawing on dissonant theories of eroticism by Luce Irigaray and Georges Bataille, this presentation explores a “feminist erotics of creative improvisation” through the fascinating music of violist Charlotte Hug.

I love when the topic of sex becomes completely intellectualized. It makes me think of the first cinematic collaboration between Dudley Moore and Peter Cook - the little known "Bedazzled". Here is the scene that never fails to crack me up. I think we've all been there:

I have to admit; the Dudley Moore of the swinging 60's in England seems infinitely more impressive than the slapstick comedian who would become famous in movies such as "10". I guess the Brits were a little more sophisticated, given their penchant for witty comedies. A nice take on the tale of Faust, that most people probably missed. Ignorant as I am, I can't place the Irish intellectual Moore is imitating, but I imagine it to be an amalgamation of several authors, poets and academic types. Such is life on a busy Monday after an active weekend, when I am looking to revamp the glib devil in me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Passing of the New Man for the New Age

I still remember this e-mail address, fifteen years after using it for the first time. In 1993, the World Wide Web as it was known, was a new phenomenon. In the basement of the bookstore where I worked,my fellow luddites spoke of the new techniology that would allow for communication from computer to computer, adding a sense of dynamism to what was viewed by most of us as a dull, static piece of office equipment. I would soon change jobs and have a chance to use this new tool, and Emru Townsend was the first person I knew to have his own e-mail account. We were never close friends, but I saw him on occasion until marriage and fatherhood pushed us closer to our families and closest friends, and further from people in our single male periphery who would be great to have a beer with.

I remember a night on a Bishop Street bar, when Emru and I spoke of past loves and current interests, and the remarkable anarchistic personality of Bugs Bunny. He was funny and brilliant, and his enthusiasm for the technological world helped to spread the word to those of us who saw it as the domain of cybergeeks, computer programmers, and isolated gamers. He made "tech" cool in a lot of ways, largely with his enthusiasm for the subject, which he expressed with candour, knowledge, and an understanding of his less well informed audience.

In the past year, I followed Emru's fight to receive a stem cell transplant closely, receiving weekly updates from a Facebook group run by his sister Tamu, someone I had also fallen out of touch with this decade. There was so much drama, as he beat the impossible odds to find an appropriate donor only to have Leukemia claim him last night at the age of 38. Thirty-eight. It is ridiculously unfair to take such a smart, funny, decent guy and loving father, not to mention husband, son and sister away from us. I think of his wife and child and all of the people he touched over his short life. I think of Tamu and all of her efforts, and the number of people who signed up (and still can) to be potential donors of stem cells because of the campaign "Heal Emru".
I also think of the Bush administration and the roadblocks they placed in the way of research in order to satisfy the evangelical zeal of many of their supporters. As they are ready to leave office, I hope only that their influence fades with the end of a disastrous legacy, while Emru's memory lives on. Thanks for the time, even if it was ever so brief.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Issue of Quebec Politics of Division, or Why Mario Dumont is an Asshole.

A true test of character is often demonstrated by how one acts when they are under stress or in an uncomfortable situation. In the case of the two oppostion political parties in Quebec - the Action Democratique (ADQ) and the Parti QuebeƧois (PQ) - character is certainly not at a premium. With both parties fairing poorly since Liberal Party leader Jean Charest decided that people in Quebec have a perpetual election fetish (not), he decided to break the deadlock in minority rule, provincial politics by calling an election on December 8, hoping that only the rich and powerful (many of his supporters) will feel enfranchised enough to go to the polls, while people whose lives are essentially unaffected will stay home. While this may prove to be an example of disatrous folly (another naked emperor, Robert Bourassa, did the same thing in 1976 and ushered in the first PQ government), it has also picked at the scab of the debate on reasonable accommodation that seemed only recently to be healing.

With a new Quebec school curriculum promising courses in world religions, ethics, and culture, ADQ leader Mario Dumont has decided to reopen the aforementioned debate by challening the effect it will have on children who will be deprived of an understanding of their own origins.

"The people who thought up this course are the same people who fight through all kind of roundabout ways to ensure there aren't any Christmas trees in the classroom," Dumont let fly to a room full of parents opposed to the new course.

"Children in primary school must first forge their own identity. You must learn about yourself to then be open towards others."

Funny, this never worked in the past. Many people who had a wonderful sense of their own history and culture used this as a springboard to destroy those who they felt did not belong. On November 11, we honour those who have died in past wars on Rememberance Day. Wars are often fought for money and power, but also to vanquish a perceived enemy who does not share cultural and religious values. It is also the anniversary of Kristallnacht , another example of how a dominant people, despite having a perceived strong sense of their own identity, used this as a conduit to destroy a minority whose religious and cultural values differed from theirs. Identity is not the issue - I would bet self-esteem has a lot more to do with it. Monsieur Dumont should concentrate on examples of how Quebec has demonstrated tolerance and acceptance in the past as a sprinboard to understanding how the knowledge of other cultural and religious norms should be part of a sense of being truly "QuebeƧois". Funny, for a man who attended the wonderfully multicultural Concordia University in Montreal, one has a sense that his politics of division reflect less his own experience and personal view, and more the cynical vision of a power hungry politician who feels his unsophisticated electorate cannot handle anything else but the tired old "us vs.them" scenario. Sadly, I have met many West End Anglophones with the same ideals, not to mention English Canadians and their view of Quebec in general. I think we all need to take the new course in question - it might help us to understand how our collective vision of ourselves and the world is fundamentally the same.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Who's Got Time to Write?

As I write this, I am listening to "The Current" a CBC morning news show that covers interesting current events and newsworthy topics. Typically, one day before the American election, they are discussing it in depth, including the local (Montreal) radio show that "pranked" Sarah Palin:

A political junkie, I can't keep away from this election, checking Google every now and then,
I am full of hope for a change in government that will affect the world profoundly, and envision myself walking through the streets of NDG, looking at smiling faces, happy to see the end of both Republican and white hegemony in American politics. I am trying not to be subsumed by paranoia and fear, knowing that political abnormalities appeared in the 2000 and 2004 election results. I am also trying to get a grip, knowing how elections can be compromised. I remember voting in the Quebec referendum in 1995, watching as voters in my federalist riding waited in line for hours as poll clerks took their sweet time stuffing ballots, finding a loophole (speed) that was not mandated by their job descriptions or electoral law. I am glad at least that many Americans - canny voters used to intimidation and inefficiency - have voted early. Let's hope it works and regardless of the result, it was a real consensus. I also hope the percentage of those who vote increases, as more people feel that their voice can count.

On the weekend I saw "Scorched" a play about the horrific results of civil war and how lives are destroyed for generations. It was riveting, so much so that many sublime, grey haired patrons of the Centaur Theatre left at the end of the first act. This was not a play to be celebrated with tea and a sandwich at a quaint Old Montreal cafe afterwards. My wife and I drove home somewhat relived that our son will hopefully never raise a machine gun in anger, or commit acts on a woman or child unbearable horiffic to contemplate. We also felt eternally grateful that circumstances led our respective families to settle in Canada, where we enjoy the democratic freedoms of our neighbours in the US. Many aspects of true democracy have been compromised no doubt, as there are voices in both countries that are condemned to the silence that comes with a lack of political or economic power. Still, there is much to appreciate and one hopes tomorrow's results will be a testimonial to that. I can't wait.