The Walrus Blog

Monthly Archive: August 2008

Listening to Obama

Last night, I watched Barack Obama’s acceptance speech, streamed over the Internet to my room in Toronto by Al-Jazeera. I was thinking of my younger sister, who lay in a delivery room in America at that moment.

See our gallery of photos from Obama’s nomination night, by Salimah Y. Ebrahim

She gave birth to her first baby girl at 9:51 p.m. last night, nine minutes before Obama took the podium at Mile High Stadium. I was thinking about how this man will have a disturbing amount of influence on my newborn niece’s life. That 8-pound-6-ounce baby girl doesn’t have the power to mitigate carbon emissions, find alternative sources of fuel, or repair a broken financial system. Opening her eyes for the first time, she has no idea what she’s being born into. She’s relying on Obama and his promise of genuine leadership to create a situation in which she can live a decent life. It’s the current policymakers, more so than her hardworking parents, that are going to decide how bad climate change gets and where our energy comes from and which wars, if any, we are embroiled in. Of course, the US is ostensibly a democracy, so it is impossible and unfair to put the burden on Obama’s leadership alone: it requires all US citizens to support him, influence him, challenge him, and go beyond him. (more…)

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Posted in The Haulout  •  3 Comments

Armchair Political Consultant

With this plush political device, Chris Ellis will conquer the minds of the G8.
I am not going to lie — the more turbulent the political world gets, the more I like it. Like many of you, I am a newsfreak, an armchair political consultant. Let’s be clear, I would never want to be an armchair politician. Rather, I want to the person sitting in the shadows, in an armchair, whispering sweet nothings into ears of world leaders. So, in fact, I am an armchair-armchair political consultant.

After all the hem-hawing over Russia’s latest chess move, an article has finally come through that sets out who did what to whom. Quite interesting — from the Moscow Times.

Posted in How to Read  •  No Comments

I’ll leave the Doug Wright Awards alone soon enough, I promise, but first I wanted to briefly consider each of this year’s winners, since winning an award is supposed to heighten a book’s profile, right? And I try to play into people’s expectations whenever possible. Today we’ll look at Southern Cross and The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam, the Best Book category’s honourable mention recipient, and winner, respectively. (more…)

Posted in Four-Colour Words  •  1 Comment

Baby X

A couple of weeks ago, and with bittersweet irony, on the day I found out that one of my favourite aunties had passed, this photo (above)Sivan's niece or nephew. She'll be an aunt, not an uncle.

“If you must put me in a box, make sure it’s a big box. With lots of windows. And a door to walk through.” —Dan Bern

A couple of weeks ago, and with bittersweet irony, on the day I found out that one of my favourite aunties had passed, this photo (above)—cyber-bounced around my family—made my own impending aunthood a reality. So in the spirit of looking at how far we’ve come, baby, and within the real-meets-conceptual space that this genderless creature exists, I’m wondering: when, how, and why do we ascribe gender?

It seems appropriate that this photo would find a semi-permanent home on the Internet, given that it’s likely had more web-fame than most unborn babies have (can I get a fact check?). And though said fetal celebrity has been mostly confined to my family, that’s not always as simple as it sounds. (To get a glimpse of her great-grandfetus, my eighty-five-year-old grandmother, for example, had to track down her computer teacher to unlock the shared computer room* on her kibbutz, but I digress.) Once we all successfully sorted out how to get a hold of this black and white blob—the question on the tip of our tongues was, without hesitation, Is it a boy or a girl? (more…)

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Posted in The Haulout  •  6 Comments

Love Letters Part 2: The Tragedy

Time and space is filled
without disapointment

One should always be concious
of ones space, and others.

Space to stretch
Space between your ears

Space, the constant to fill
Think to much to feel!

To bissy filling
Think thaough compair give take
Shair thaught felt!

Lest you be cranking up your angry commenting energies to attack the editor, let me clarify: this is a verbatim love letter to me written fifteen years ago by someone I hurt. And remembering it is painful.

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Posted in Web 2.0 Museum  •  4 Comments

All Points West Draws on Coachella, Radiohead

You and whose army?
It was in spring that I heard about the inaugural All Points West Music & Arts Festival. I was examining Radiohead’s website in hopes their tour would bring them close to my locale (then Winnipeg), within a couple of thousand kilometres even. I looked to August’s North American schedule and was puzzled to see not one but two dates booked at something called All Points West. Two consecutive concerts in one place—that must be something special, I thought, before looking up the festival. Little did I know that I would make it to New York—via Toronto—for those very shows. But while they may have been the festival’s biggest attraction, All Points West (APW), August 8-10, was more than a double dose of Radiohead. (more…)

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Posted in The Haulout  •  No Comments

The Games Are Over. Now What?

The Hudson Bay Company presents its tasteful range of Olympic wear.

BEIJING—It’s just after 7:30 am on the day of the closing ceremonies and we’re counting down the hours at the CBC studio. The Games are almost over, and thank the good Lord for that. It’s not that I’m happy for the Olympics to end (rather glum, actually), only that I want to sleep past sunrise again. The folks here are almost giddy for things to wrap up. “I’m getting drunk tonight,” is a common refrain. Hear, hear.

It’s been a good ride for me (although I think I’ll always harbour a grudge against the CBC for the early wake-ups), and above all a learning experience. Here are some tidbits I picked up over the last sixteen days:

— Since China made its Olympics debut in 1932, the names of practically all of its athletes have been pronounced incorrectly. This year was no different. For future reference, Wang is pronounced “Wong“, “Zh” is a J sound, and Liu Xiang is not “Lu Jang.” You’d think networks would have given their on air people a few lessons in pinyin since the games were being held in, you know, China, but I guess that wasn’t in the budget. (For the record, I thought most of CBC’s talent, particularly the hosts, did well in this regard. I have no reason to lie — CBC isn’t hosting the next two Games, and it would take a miracle to get me to work another Olympics anyway). (more…)

Posted in Letter from China  •  No Comments

Not Your Mother’s CCTV

Rendering of CCTV's headquarters in Beijing

SHANGHAI—The New York Times has an article this morning heralding the arrival of CCTV on the world stage. Turns out the Beijing Olympics has awakened advertisers to the vast viewership enjoyed by the state network—an eighteen-channel conglomerate—in the world’s most populous country. The finals for women’s table tennis, for example, drew more viewers than the entire US population. As a result, multinationals are finally starting to take CCTV seriously—and ignore its role as a vehicle for propaganda. The NYT article yet again underscores China’s rising demographic influence. But I’d credit CCTV for a different reason: the Olympics has suddenly made its programming relevant. (more…)

Posted in Letter from China  •  1 Comment

Q&A: Seth

Seth draws back the curtain on the “solitary pursuit” that is cartooning Seth, from Down the Stairs. Click to view.
In the September issue of The Walrus, Seth draws back the curtain on the “solitary pursuit” that is cartooning. In the process, he also manages to speak to how we experience our own daily routines, and what it’s like to be alone with ourselves. He was kind enough to respond by email to questions about memory, time, and, of course, cartooning. The second part to this Q&A will follow in a couple days.

Q: In your article “The Quiet Art of Cartooning,” you mention that when you’re drawing and inking your mind is often visiting the past in some manner, and that these reveries often find their way into your work. Do you think that all cartooning might somehow relate back to this sense of memory, or to the act of looking back? Is memory somehow connected with cartooning in a way that isn’t true of other art forms?

An illustration by Thoreau MacDonald. A: It is hard for me to generalize on other mediums but I do feel a unique connection between memory and cartooning.I started to formalize some thoughts about this when I was studying the life of Thoreau MacDonald (the son of Canadian painter J.E.H. MacDonald). Thoreau mentioned in an interview that he never drew his pen and ink drawings of the rural landscape while actually out in the field. Instead he would go for a walk and look about and then, when he came home later, he would sit down and draw the scenes from memory. Thoreau understood that he couldn’t capture the reality of the natural world in black and white ink drawings but he could replicate the memory of being there. This struck me. (more…)

Posted in Four-Colour Words  •  6 Comments

Working Class 2.0

Working Class Web 2.0

I just had to take a quick break from re-writing the movie Red Dawn (it’s a rush job to shoot it before Patrick Swayze passes away and before everyone has jumped on the Cold War resurgence bandwagon) to talk about my Twitter heroes, the truckers.

Early adoption of GPS was mandatory for truckers given their destination-driven vocation. So they have taken to the location awareness services like Brightkite that we 3G iPhone users are just getting into. The iPhone can pinpoint your exact location and, using Brightkite you can check in at that location. (more…)

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Posted in Web 2.0 Museum  •  No Comments

Tears and Loathing in Beijing


BEIJING—Last Saturday something incredible happened in the Bird’s Nest. Usain Bolt, the aptly named Jamaican extraterrestrial, demolished the world’s fastest runners with a swagger, cutting three hundredths of a second off his own world record. I was fortunate enough to be there, and I’ve never seen anything like it. The stadium was on fire.

Two days later, just before noon on Monday, something equally incredible happened at the Nest, only the reaction was polar opposite. In a matter of seconds, the energy and excitement of Bolt’s run was sucked out of the stadium—and the Olympics—into a black hole of national sorrow. As famed hurdler and virtual Chinese god Liu Xiang pulled out of the 110-metre hurdles, the crowd of some 80,000 gasped in disbelief, mouths ajar, as they tried to figure out just what the hell was going on. Many broke into tears, including journalists, and an unsuspecting country went into shock.

It’s difficult to put into context the gravity of Liu Xiang’s exit from the hurdles competition. One of the CBC tech guys said it was akin to Wayne Gretzky, in his prime, gingerly skating out for a Stanley Cup game seven warm up, and then failing to show up for the opening face off. Really, though, that’s not even close. Canadians love their hockey, but I doubt the Great One could bring reporters to tears. (more…)

Posted in Letter from China  •  1 Comment

The Kampala-based press corps in the remote region of Karamoja
KARAMOJA REGION, UGANDA—We took the hospital by storm—half a dozen cameras, twice as many reporters, all zooming in on a few scores of malnourished children and their petrified mothers. Someone was supposed to have told the hospital administration that the press corps from Kampala was coming with our video recorders and tripods and tape players and questions.  But the message got lost somewhere between the town where we were staying and the place where we arrived. (more…)

Posted in This Is Not A Safari  •  No Comments
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