The Walrus Blog

Monthly Archive: March 2008

Ask an Angry Man
Advice from a fictional character for a real party leader.

DEAR ANGRY MAN: I’m the leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in a mid-sized, soft-power country in North America. Since winning the leadership of my party, I’ve had a bit of a bumpy ride: there’s constant rumbling in my own party that I’m the wrong man for the job, and the jock who sits opposite me seems to enjoy openly mocking me.

The problem is that the polls never seem to turn in my favour. I’m sure my party could form a great government if only the voters would give us a chance. Our party has played it pretty cagey this last year—we constantly have the opportunity to defeat the government and force an election, but instead we’ve outsmarted those bastards by refusing to vote on confidence motions. We just get up and leave the House to refuse their bullying (heh, heh!). But the people of my mid-sized soft-power North American country, however, aren’t getting the message; the polls are still indefinite. Or worse. Now, apparently I’m running fourth in my own riding. What should I do, Angry man? What should I do?

Lilly-livered Liberal

P.S. I have publicly acknowledged that I am not a particularly eloquent English-language speaker. (English is one of the two official languages in my country.) Yet people still make fun of me about it. How do I get them to stop?

Ah, Lilly. Come here so I can smack you hard enough that your testicles descend. You’re making me physically ill over here, you freaking infant. You pantywaist. You quivering puddle of pablum. I understand English ain’t your strong suit so let me and Google translator make it easy for you: Actez-vous comme un homme! Un homme! Comprendez, mon ami? (more…)

Posted in Act Like A Man  •  3 Comments

The Academic Rickroll


This week I gave a thesis talk. I outlined my chapters. I gave an overview of significant definitions. And then my most significant discovery started to fall together….

Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you

Love for certain ideas got me into academia. Ideas that were so significant to humanity and yet—due to the isolated nature of the academy—just as distant from its mass. My obsession with transliterating these theories into action drove me to write produce and co-direct a horror film. The film was a distillation of my beloved theories and chock full of genuine cow brain and sheep intestine. To give you a hint: it was a remake of The Breakfast Club only all the characters were female inmates. (you know, feminist-type junk).

How splendid and ridiculous.

This blog is my new horror film. I sneak in a glop of critical theory (Let’s Get Low Low Low) and historicization whenever I can. But I try to make it smooth. So it goes down easy. Only this time I’ve got Mary-Kate Olsen and Facebook standing in for bovine innards. Don’t get me wrong: I love gore. I worship Mary-Kate (those round Chanel glasses cleave a hole in my space-time). I’m no user. And it goes both ways. In my thesis, horror movie superstar The Candyman eviscerates the flaws in academic theory.

A feedback system, for it goes both ways. It is a process, pulling these realities—both in need of each other—into the proximity that they and we all deserve.

Oh how it can burn though. Like Ben Affleck falling for Sacha Baron Cohen’s new character Bruno. After explaining to people who study popular culture what microblogging and Twitter is I feel I’m just like Rick Astley. You see, he is going on tour to take advantage of the rickrolling—from Anonymous (Scientology protesters) to Perez Hilton—Rick Astley is whoring himself out on his own naffishness.

Read my thesis, open my blog.

Isn’t it all just one great big fat autoloading Chantelleroll?

Posted in Web 2.0 Museum  •  No Comments

Interview: Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan’s new book, In Defense of Food, has an air of summation about it, drawing on years of research to make an argument that is both profoundly radical and embarrassingly simple. In Pollan’s estimation, many of the epidemics facing our corner of Western society have little to do with, say, the ratio of saturated to unsaturated fat in our diet. Instead, the problem is the nature of our diet as a whole, and the fact that we eat way too much of it: too much red meat, too many refined carbohydrates and sugars (usually including an array of chemical enhancements) and too little of everything else.

Partly to blame for this is the rise of nutritionism, a particular branch of food science that has spent decades casting about in an attempt to blame some evil or other for the reality that many of us are overweight. Pollan’s book is as much a defense of food as it is an indictment of the mindset that has seen us reduce food from being nutritious to being comprised of particular nutrients. This tendency, Pollan argues, lies behind our societal fetishization of the latest black-balled ingredient, a focus that allows us to ignore actual nutrition, which would just tell us to eat more vegetables and fruit, and less food overall.

In Defense of Food is a small book in size, but its scope is massive: a comprehensive study of the ways in which, over the last fifty years or so, scientists and journalists have manipulated what and how we eat. Pollan also looks forward in its call to common sense. “Eat food,” Pollan advises. “Not too much. Mostly plants.” Simple advice, and geared less to a diet fad than a new lifestyle. The book’s overwhelming success indicates its message is being well received. And let’s hope so, for as Pollan suggested in our interview, as more and more of us “vote with our forks,” casting the ballot will become easier, and more delicious.

I spoke with Michael Pollan last week, by phone from his office in Berkeley, California. (more…)

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Posted in The Shelf  •  1 Comment

Blood on the Ice

Image by Erik Holladay of the Flint Journal (

Canadian newspapers (and American sportscasts) last week were full of news about legendary Montreal Canadiens hockey goalie Patrick Roy and his son Jonathan being suspended for their part in a brawl. Here’s video of the incident so we know what we’re talking about:

Roy Sr., “St. Patrick,” is the coach of the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey league. Roy fils, a chip off the old block, is the goaltender. By my viewing of the clip above (and from a bunch of other angles), here’s what happened: (more…)

Posted in Act Like A Man  •  1 Comment

John Edwards Just Can’t Decide

John Edwards

Whatever kind of president John Edwards might have made, a decider he isn’t. The Associated Press reports that Edwards made his first public speech today since dropping out of the Democratic primaries two months ago, and the most important part of the speech was what he didn’t say.

Speaking in North Carolina one week after Bill Richardson, another former candidate, announced his support for Barack Obama, Edwards took the stage as the last former candidate of consequence yet to weigh in on either side. In a deadlocked race, his imprimatur for Obama could arguably have been the blow that ended Clinton’s campaign. (It’s not clear what impact his endorsement for Clinton might have.) (more…)

Posted in Bright Lights  •  4 Comments

PARIS—Is that old saying that “the more things change, the more they stay the same” still current? Because if you ask me, it’s as true in sports today as it’s been in years.

In my younger days—back when men were men and the Stegosaurus was the true king of the jungle—I used to lose my mind over the reprehensibly predictable predictions that sportswriters would unleash on the eve of a new season. “Really, you’re going out on a limb and predicting the Braves to win the NL East again? Booooooring!?

But then I got to thinking: we know that nobody knows anything, that’s why they play the games, etc. etc. So maybe the writer who goes out on a limb before the season and chooses the sexy underdog (“I think the Arizona Cardinals could really surprise football fans this year?) is actually the lame one, going for the glory of being the only one to anticipate the unlikely. (more…)

Posted in Sportstrotter  •  6 Comments

R.L. Stine Rides Again

Is it just me, or didn't Slappy's eyes used to be green?

On Tuesday the New York Times ran a story announcing that young adult novelist R.L. Stine would be resuming his vaguely legendary series, Goosebumps, after an eight-year hiatus. Somewhere near you, a twelve-year-old rejoiced. (An eighteen-year-old did too, I’d wager, as they’ll be the ones with acute nostalgia once they see the new books on the shelves.)

The Times story is charming, the sort of piece about a gently strange man that, when stripped to soundbites, sounds profoundly bizarre: “Along the wall of Mr. Stine’s home office are testaments to the brand’s glory: a ‘Goosebumps’ chocolate Advent calendar’; “Under the name Jovial Bob Stine, he was the author of dozens of joke books in the 1970s and ’80s”; “‘They’re so shiny,’ he said. ‘They’ve got to be shiny now’; and, best of all, “‘I was having a good time killing off teenagers,’ Mr. Stine said.” (more…)

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Posted in The Shelf  •  1 Comment

Strange Crew

Korean uniforms with Joel's fiance Amy. Click for larger.

JEJU-DO—One of the weirder things about living in a country as ethnically homogenous as Korea is that you constantly, and in earnest, get to refer to people as foreigners. As in, “Can you believe what that foreigner is wearing?” or “This place is lousy with foreigners!”—statements that would easily get you branded as a racist or a bigot or just a prick if you uttered them in Canada, but which sound completely natural here when used to refer to oneself and anyone else who doesn’t consider pickled radish kimchi to be a perfectly reasonable breakfast food.

This can be partially attributed to Koreans’ own tendency to call out foreigners whenever they encounter them. Walking along the street on Jeju-do, it’s common to see a Korean person look at you with mild surprise, turn to his or her friend and exclaim something like, “Oh my, a foreigner!” then giggle like they just farted in church. The Korean word for foreigner is 외국 (pronounced “Waygookeen”), and since it’s one tidbit of Korean that most foreigners recognize, this practice is roughly equivalent to walking around, say, Spadina and Dundas in Toronto and exclaiming, “Whoa, check it out—Chinese people!” then tittering conspiratorially to your friends to express the utter strangeness of such a thing. (more…)

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Posted in World Famous in Korea  •  3 Comments

President for Life, Hooray!

Click for larger image and more Kenya photos

Earlier this week, Robert Mugabe announced that it would be “a wasted vote” for Zimbabweans to cast their ballots for anyone but him when they go to the polls this Saturday, March 29th. “It will never happen for Tsvangirai to take over government here—never,” the 84-year-old said of his chief rival, Morgan Tsvangirai. This wasn’t mere boisterous optimism; it was a military threat.

Zimbabwe’s army chief, its chief of prisons, and the commissioner general of the police had previously declared their refusal to take orders from anyone but Mugabe, regardless of who wins the election. The old man hardly even needs to rig the ballot.

In honor of the Zimbabwean leadership’s tenacious dedication to political inertia, here are…

Ten Reasons For Replacing Democracy With A President For Life:

  1. Kenya’s 2007 election.
  2. (more…)

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Posted in Notes From Vancouver  •  1 Comment

Weekly Toast: March 27th 2008

Weekly Toast
The New York Times takes a shallow look at the dynamics between youth and online news , with focus on the elections in the US… of course. Link.

Hello Sir, your table will be available in early 2010 — from Portfolio. Link.

Ahhh, The Morning News, one of the best sites, is hosting The 2008 Tournament of Books. Link.

Sweded films…. I am glad that term has found its way into the lexicon. Lord of the Rings for your pleasure. Link.

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Posted in How to Read  •  No Comments

Quantifiable Libel

Lawyers will soon have to brush up on their web stats analysis.

As I typically graze on news early in the mornings, I’ve been finding it remarkable that retractions and corrections in news sources are completely live. Some of my friends, being journalists, always check the letters sections of a newspaper or magazine and review the corrections—to see who screwed up and how badly.

Now that most news sources have websites with up to the minute stories, opinion, and media like video, the approach to retractions has changed dramatically. Gone are the days of hiding or shying away from editorial carelessnes—online directors have turned their ‘problems’ into value-added content and proof of the health, immediacy, and integrity of online content. (more…)

Posted in How to Read  •  1 Comment

Speaking Briefly

Boxer Briefs

Suddenly everyone cares what’s under our pants.

So as you may have gathered from my previous posts, I’ve been thinking recently about adulthood and responsibility and my own navel. Out there on the infowebnet superhighway though, people are deep thinking about a different manly subject: what’s under our pants. No, no–not that, they’re always on about that; I mean what’s worn over it.

Hamilton Nolan over at Gawker was preoccupied a while back with the European trend “that threatens to erode the American way of life: Evolution of the luxury men’s underwear market.” The metrosexual advertising of package-presenting tighty whities makes him fear for a future where all become “Australian man-whores” and has him begging:

We beg you: do not allow yourself to be mesmerized by the perceived sexiness of these products. Think of the men. Underwear is one of our final refuges from the rampaging gods of luxury. America is not David Beckham; America is Ralph Kramden. And nobody wants to see Ralph Kramden’s jock, wonder or otherwise. (more…)

Posted in Act Like A Man  •  1 Comment
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