The Walrus Blog

Monthly Archive: August 2009

Membership Has Its Privileges

PARIS—You’d think a professional organization of journalists that just celebrated its 85th anniversary would have some sort of process by which they, I don’t know, vet prospective members to insure that they’re not accidentally accrediting half-baked Canadian web hacks who think that penning a list of the ugliest footballers in the world constitutes ground-breaking sports reporting. You’d think.

And yet, as of the precise moment that the La Poste factrice rang my doorbell this morning (at the ungodly hour of 9am – what do they think I am, a professional journalist?), and had me sign for the registered letter she slid into my hands, a letter that contained a credit-card-sized piece of hard plastic with my name and photograph on it, I became an official, card-carrying member of the Association Internationale de la Presse Sportive. (more…)

Posted in Sportstrotter  •  1 Comment

The CBC on The Walrus‘s new Video Trailer

Dadaist Dining

In 1909, Italian editor and theorist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti wrote an article for French daily Le Figaro about his new work The Futurist Manifesto, which announced that militarism, speed, youth and industry were en vogue and that museums, libraries and art galleries were the maudlin addiction of dinosaurs. It was an article that launched the idea of Futurism: a rejection of 19th century sentimental Romanticism and an embrace of the early 20th century’s passion for technology; the modernization of the cultural and intellectual avant-garde. Not surprisingly, Mussolini was a big fan.

While perhaps not a shock that a European man was busy writing grandiose manifestos in the first half of last century, much more peculiar is his other Futurist publication. In 1932, Italy gripped by depression and fascism, Marinetti attempted to revive interest in his ideology with the publication of The Futurist Cookbook – recipes like Dadaist performances with food as artistic medium. Though there was one brave restaurant in Turin willing to debut the cuisine in 1929 – La Taverna del Santo Palato, or Tavern of the Holy Palate – it unsurprisingly did not spark a trend and closed soon after. But every once in a while, a futurist banquet still does pop up around Europe.


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Posted in The Haulout  •  No Comments

Infinite Summer: Required Reading

Our blogger updates on his progress with David Foster Wallace’s behemoth novel of ideas

“A few members of the online discussion kept referring to it, like it was the Bible or something. A definition of the zeitgeist, one person had written … So he was reading it to catch up. He was reading it to be educated, which was, along with self-reliance, his current great aim. To be able to comment knowledgeably on one of the voices of his time … If only it weren’t quite so long, he thought … Maybe he could read just half of it? Would that be enough?” – The Emperor’s Children, Claire Messud

“God some people are such pussies. ‘Oh it’s so long…’ ‘Oh the words are too big…’ Just read the damn book. Read it. (Read the goddamn book.)” – CraftyJack, Onion AV Club Commenter

The Infinite Summer bookmark calendar I printed off a couple of months ago tells me that I should be well past page 600. I’m nowhere close. In my first post about Infinite Summer, I described the seventy-five pages per week schedule as “entirely feasible.” I still believe this is the case, though it’s certainly more difficult than I’d imagined. Part of the reason I’ve fallen so far behind is a wide array of distractions, but the larger reason is that I’d figured I could read the requisite weekly pages in a couple of brief sittings. I’ve always been a slow reader, but Infinite Jest has decelerated my already leaden pace. Because of the labyrinthine sentences, because of all the words I need to look up, and because I’m convinced enough of Wallace’s genius to pore over the novel with nearly monastic zeal, I read, almost without fail, ten pages every hour. This means that by the time I finish (and unlike all but one person I know who’s attempted to read it, I will finish) I’ll have spent more than one hundred hours with IJ. That’s more time than most Christians I know have spent reading the New Testament.


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Posted in The Haulout  •  2 Comments

Just an Ornery Citizen

How a cranky senior became a unexpected newspaper publishing success story

TORONTO — LeRoy St. Germaine is a cranky old senior citizen who’s probably going to be sued by a Toronto city councillor for doing what cranky old men have been doing for ages: complaining. What makes St. Germaine uniquely qualified to be the first-ever target of a City of Toronto-funded libel lawsuit is how he marshaled the power of citizen journalism to make sure his complaints and accusations couldn’t be ignored. He didn’t just write a letter to the editor. He didn’t just complain to family and friends. He started two eccentric, anti-establishment free newspapers and blogs (Ward 31 and Ward 32 ) and a channel to publish his allegations that councillor Sandra Bussin’s involvement in a Beaches-area development was corrupt.

We’re not going to reprint St. Germaine’s allegations. Neither The Walrus nor I have any evidence that they’re true. It’s his use of media that interests me. When huge news conglomerates are in rough financial shape, eulogies for print news are printed frequently and old media doesn’t trust new media to pick up the slack, there’s something heartening about watching a regular guy start up two local rags, filled to the brim with ads, without the hand-wringing and doomsaying that’s been dominating the news – even if it’s going to get him sued.

So I called St. Germaine to find out how he does it, and I hoped to hear some good news about journalism. Some highlights, below the jump:


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Posted in The Haulout  •  9 Comments

Absinthe and Dreams

TORONTO – Productions like Montparnasse remind me that I need to keep more booze in the house. When Mags, an American model living in 1920s Paris, awakes mid-day in her slip and looped pearls (a rare clothed moment) and grabs the champagne bottle by her bed as she begins to relate the spasmodic, erotic details of her previous night’s tryst with a celebrated painter, I think—I need to get out more. What am I doing, sitting here thinking about how I’m going to write about this later? I shouldn’t spend my time typing! I need to live, like Mags! Go, Mags, to the corner bars and nightclubs, to the studios and bedrooms of grossly talented and sensually obsessed men. Go mostly for your plugged up roommate, Amelia, newly arrived would-be painter, escaping the Christian Temperance Union America but not yet ready to enter the raunchy haunts you inhabit, where inspiration wets the walls and is more easily absorbed than a soixante-quinze cocktail, liberally poured. Go for Amelia, but also for us who want so badly for art to exist in these places, these dark, smoky, stinking, dizzying, only half-real dens of urban dawn, where nothing—beauty, morality, freedom—stands up to examination. It’s too dark in there, and everyone is too drunk. (more…)

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We visited Kimmirut yesterday, a tiny community on southern Baffin Island, where we were given a warm welcome by what seemed like every one of the hamlet’s 400-odd residents. We were the first large vessel to visit this year. Kids mobbed us as we entered the harbour. An elder shared a seal that was caught that day, carving it up and dividing it in front of us. My verdict? The same as the Governor General’s: seal’s pretty great, a tender red meat with a subtle seafoody flavour. Like surf ‘n’ turf, but all within a single delicious animal. You could make a killing selling it as “Inuit Sashimi” at trendy Manhattan restaurants. (more…)

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Posted in Arctic Adventure  •  2 Comments

Students on Ice

LYUBOV ORLOVA, FROBISHER BAY, NUNAVUT — Throughout this Arctic trip I’ve been trying to get a few minutes with Geoff Green, the expedition leader and founder of Students On Ice. But the man’s been busy – up on the bridge urging our captain to anchor in uncharted waters, down in the presentation room, talking to the sixty-odd students about the need for positive action.

This seems to be his usual state of affairs. Since his first expedition in 2000, Geoff has turned a rag-tag group based out of his basement into a serious organization. On this trip to the arctic, he’s taken 60 kids, from every province and territory including about 20 students from across the north. About eighty percent of the students are fully funded through a mish-mash of corporate, government, and charitable funding. Finding the money to do this is probably one big reason Geoff is so busy.

We finally found time to talk yesterday afternoon, after landing at Shaftsbury Inlet. Compared to the other places we’ve been, the place was incredibly lush, the ground covered in white heather and ripe blueberries. Two loons flew overhead while an ungodly number of mosquitoes and black flies formed clouds around us. It felt like Ontario in August. (more…)

Posted in Arctic Adventure  •  No Comments

Five Great Time Travel Stories

Sponsored Blog Post: The Time Traveller’s Wife is released in cinemas nationwide tomorrow, August 14. (Other countries’ release dates are listed at IMDB, here). After the break, the Book Club talks about five other great time travel stories in television and movies. (more…)

Posted in The Haulout  •  1 Comment

Pynchon and comics

In his new novel, Inherent Vice, released last week and reportedly self-promoted here (though I have my doubts), there’s a part where Thomas Pynchon has a character say, “I am aware of the Freak Brothers’ dictum that dope will get you through times of no money better than vice versa….” Later, another says, “Listen, I came up in Temecula, which is Krazy Kat Kountry, where you always root for Ignatz and not Offisa Pup.” Now, I haven’t finished the book just yet, but still I got to thinking about Pynchon and comics. (more…)

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Posted in Four-Colour Words  •  6 Comments

Sea Pigs

The walrus is a deeply undignified, almost repulsive animal, a ball of fat

LYUBOV ORLOVA, HONTSCH ISLAND, NUNAVUT – Above is the walrus, as captured off the coast of Baffin Island by my neighbour onboard the Lyubov Orlova, photographer Lee Narraway. We saw over eighty of the creatures yesterday, lolling around on ice floes in all their wrinkled glory. And it must be said: the walrus is a deeply undignified, almost repulsive animal. I don’t know what the founding editors where thinking when they named the magazine.

Picture a Volkswagen-sized ball of fat squeezed into a lumpy, ten-foot sausage casing. Attach a tiny pinhead, some bristles, warts, and those stumpy, perpetually wet-looking flippers – “the asset” as David Foster Wallace would call them – and you’ve got the walrus.

And the smell. Imagine the smell of pig shit. Now let’s say that pig weighs four thousand pounds and lives on a diet of mollusks. Now imagine five or six of these monster sea pigs, wallowing together out on an ice floe, burping and farting and generally rubbing up against one another, as is typical of this disgusting, highly social animal. Does this sound like an appropriate name for a high-brow, general-interest magazine? (more…)

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Posted in Arctic Adventure  •  7 Comments

Arctic Teddies

LYUBOV ORLOVA, HONTSCH ISLAND, NUNAVUT – Joshua Illuaq was six years old when he killed his first polar bear. He was hunting with his uncle and cousin out near Pond Inlet when they spotted the animal out in the snow. “Me and my cousin both tried to shoot it, but I’m the one that got it,” he told me. “It was my bear.”

Since then, for the past fifty years, Joshua has taken a polar bear each year. He took one this winter near his home in Clyde River, hunting by himself on a skidoo. He’s killed dozens of bears with a rifle and three with a harpoon. Once, a bear surprised him while he was sleeping in an igloo. “He knocked the wall down and my rifle was out by the sled,” Joshua casually told an audience of slack-jawed students yesterday evening in the ship’s presentation room. With no other option, he took out his knife and stabbed the bear – once, just under the arm and into the heart. That was the first time he had to kill a bear with a knife. Years later, a bear caught him while he was up on a cliff, away from the rifle in his boat, and he was forced to do the same thing. “With a polar bear, as soon as his head is sideways you have to move away from the jaw side,” he told us matter-of-factly, while the students took careful notes – “if in hand-to-hand combat with polar bear, avoid jaw.” “The other thing is you have to look out for the claws,” he added. (more…)

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Posted in Arctic Adventure  •  1 Comment
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