The Walrus Blog

Monthly Archive: April 2007

The Global Soul

I am sitting in a panel discussion in a tiered hall at the University of Toronto whose theme is Pico Iyer‘s ecstatic tribute to multicultural Toronto in The Global Soul. At one end of the long table, with its microphones, its demoralizingly polite allotment of bottled water, is Pico himself, who interrupted a sojourn to a monastery in Santa Barbara, California, just to come to Toronto, sprite-like and preternaturally young in his pressed grey suit despite his legendary jet-lag. In between is a buttoned-up, Hong Kong born political scientist, vaguely embarrassed for having sported a green tie; a university research chair in film and media who has an off-hand casualness born of familiarity with the avant garde; an afro-Canadian performance artist; and a moderator from Bombay who had reported on the aftermath of the Cambodian genocide for a newspaper in Singapore. The global soul, wounded and encompassing, encapsulated. (more…)

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She Got The Picture

The Globe And Mail, National Post, and Toronto Star have proved that personality trumps policy. Faced with two big stories on Wednesday April 11 –- Belinda Stronach taking her leave of the federal Liberals and a couple more Canadian soldiers struck down in Afghanistan –- all three papers awarded Stronach the lead story and a large picture for their Thursday editions. The national dailies rendered their judgment and ensured one thing: Belinda Stronach’s celebrity would endure.

The decision was understandable. Mere days earlier, six Canadian soldiers were snuffed out on the killing fields of Kandahar province and, while a difficult, troubling matter, not much more could be said about another two good men lost in the fog of war. The Stronach story, on the other hand, dripped with convenience. The news copy essentially wrote itself or could be easily recycled, and the hoary details of a presumptuous and avaricious woman provided ample ammo for “I told you so” editorials, also recycled. With another strong, forceful, and unpredictable woman, Barbara Amiel, temporarily providing no theatrics (and the Conrad Black trial slipping into the yawn-inducing miasma of non-compete agreements), the search for fireworks settled on Stronach. (more…)

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History’s Wake

This past weekend’s Globe and Mail was a revelation. History and contemplation made a comeback in the form of Rex Murphy’s clever description of the “nexus” between religion and high art, and in his angry denunciation of Victoria Philharmonic Choir artistic director Simon Capet for bowdlerizing the masters and warping Biblical stories to serve craven artistic ends. “For it is certainly mischievous to take an Old Testament Jewish hero, from a time when there was no “Middle East” and there were no suicide bombers, and to turn this biblical Jewish figure into the prototype of modern-day sectarian slaughtermen,” wrote Murphy. All things, and certainly history, are subject to revision, but when relativism, righteous or not, is the order of the day, Murphy and his honourable ilk will have to fight uphill. Nonetheless, his question remains a good one: “Do we think either of these genuine artists, Milton or Handel, would be pleased to see their creations clotted and maimed with the superaddition of some dilettante and superficial conceit three and four centuries later?”

It is time to revisit not only Milton and Handel, but also Bach and Samson, to brush off some of the old books and discs, to get lost in the past and in high art. (more…)

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Talk of The Town

It is everywhere, in this morning’s Globe and Mail, overheard last night at a downtown bar, on the subway ride into work this morning: “If Harper forces an election…” Exactly how the prime minister will do so is little considered, not part of the speculative sport of the day. Instead, it is assumed that Harper has near absolute power, that he can easily orchestrate his party’s defeat and, subsequently, “force” a spring vote, that the master planner has mastery over all things.

Strange fruit, this talk. For the moment at least, the only way Mr. Harper could achieve his maximalist aim of an election followed by majority Conservative rule is to do something truly inane and, in so doing, scupper his own chances and well-managed credibility. For an election call one of two things must happen: either the opposition parties defeat the government in a non-confidence vote in the House; or, Harper takes a trip to Rideau Hall and says to Michaëlle Jean, “The country is ungovernable, I must relinquish the job of prime minister, dissolve Parliament, and ask the people to elect a new government.” (more…)

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