The Walrus Blog

Monthly Archive: March 2010

Visions of Vancouver

Announcing the results of our “Make Your Own Walrus Cover (of Vancouver)” contest

Photograph by Charles LangdonCongratulations to Charles Langdon, winner of our “Make Your Own Walrus Cover (of Vancouver)” contest. We considered opening the results to online voting, but Charles’s image of Vancouver was such a hit at Walrus HQ that we have instead called an audible: he’ll be receiving a prize pack headlined by a half-dozen books about Vancouver from Douglas & McIntyre; each of the seven runners-up in our online gallery — which you can launch by clicking on Charles’s photo at left — will receive a complimentary one-year subscription to The Walrus. (We’ll be in touch via email to arrange the details.)

Thank you to everyone who entered. Now, who’s hungry for Chinese?

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Posted in Contests  •  3 Comments

On Steven Heighton’s “Bystanders”

Or, how The Walrus excerpts fiction

Illustration by Benbo GeorgeSteven Heighton’s new novel, Every Lost Country, will be referred to as his Tibetan book, for understandable reasons: it opens with a 2006 incident on the China-Tibet border, and the ensuing action traces the reverberations of that event across both countries. But like all of Steven’s work, it will be remembered in a much more complex way than such simple epithets allow, cherished for its characters, who are numerous, challenging, and deeply alive; for its precise and beautiful language; and for its ambitious (and successful) effort to grapple with issues that are central to the way we live in a world of ever-increasing moral ambiguity.

Steven and I started talking about the possibility of running a section of it in The Walrus last summer, when we were working on his story “Noughts & Crosses: An Unsent Reply,” which ran in our November 2009 issue. Editing fiction for the magazine means reading an incredible number of stories each month, so I leapt at the change of pace of Steven’s manuscript. I read Every Lost Country while travelling in Turkey, and, as I told Steven on my return, the highest compliment I can give the book is that it gripped me so much that I stayed put for an entire day to finish it.

I knew we had to excerpt this truly exceptional novel, but wasn’t sure of the best way to do so. Every Lost Country follows several different main characters, and is told in a sort of third-person limited omniscience that alternates among them. So to isolate one section of the book is necessarily to cut off many voices; viewing something through the eyes of just one of them fails to represent the nuance with which the novel constructs events. The opening scene, for instance, is viewed repeatedly from different perspectives. It’s only after seeing it these many times that the reader begins to understand the complexity of what’s happening, an interconnectedness that subtly suggests the way in which we all become, to some degree, dependent on those around us as co-builders of our lives.

I originally wanted to use a section of the novel in which Lew Book, the Toronto doctor whose minor heroics are seen at the end of “Bystanders,” plays a Nepalese strategy game called bagh chal with Kaljang, a sherpa. For me, it contained so many layers, and stood alone as a wonderful set piece. But it occurs too far into the novel to make sense on its own. In the end, we settled on a slightly adapted version of the novel’s opening, in which we see the border event for the first time through the eyes of Sophie, Lew’s daughter. I love the clarity of her perspective, the way in which she dissects this deeply confusing event, parsing its component parts and attempting to make sense of it. I felt that it resonated with the experience of the reader (and thus is a clever way to open a book). And I loved the section that followed, in which we return to the past and to Toronto as we recall through Sophie her father’s intervention with the high school kids. For me, Lew’s assertion that “there’s no such thing” as bystanders speaks not only to the preceding section, but addresses the major dilemma of the novel that’s to come.

Every Lost Country will be released in early May from Knopf Canada. Hopefully you’ll pick up in the book where we left off in the magazine. Watch this space — we’ll be giving away a few signed copies in this space to help with the transition.

(Illustration by Benbo George)

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Posted in The Shelf  •  1 Comment

Cold Blooded

An interview with Norwegian crime novelist Jo Nesbø

Jo Nesbø, photographed by Håkon Eikesdall
Picture this: it’s a cold, snowy November evening; you arrive home after a long day at work to find a snowman on your front lawn. After greeting your husband and son, you compliment them on their charming, Frosty-like creation in the yard. They are confused — they didn’t build a snowman at all. But if they didn’t, who did? And why is it facing the house?

So begins The Snowman by Norwegian crime novelist Jo Nesbø (pronounced Yo Nezbah), the seventh novel in his Inspector Harry Hole (pronounced Huarry Hooola) series. Harry is a character who lives in the tradition of the hard-boiled detective. A recovering alcoholic who keeps a bottle of Jim Beam under the sink in case of emergency, he is, in Nesbø’s words, “morally dubious.” You’re never quite sure whether he will make the right choices. But you know you want him to.

The Snowman, originally published in 2007 under the title Snømannen, is the fifth of Nesbø’s novels to be translated into English. The book follows Harry as he tracks a serial killer through the streets of Oslo, Bergen (Norway’s second-largest city), and the Norwegian countryside. At the scene of each murder, the killer leaves a snowman as a calling card, beckoning Harry to track him — or her — down. The technical construction of The Snowman is an impressive achievement in itself; Nesbø keeps his reader guessing until the very end by avoiding gender pronouns for the killer until the big reveal.

Nesbø is one of his country’s most popular authors, having sold over 3.5 million books worldwide. Born in Oslo, his family moved to the small town of Molde when he was eight years old. Returning to Oslo after university, Nesbø rekindled his love affair with the city. His “romantic” feelings for the city are evident in The Snowman, where it becomes a second main character. In addition to the Harry Hole series, Nesbø has written two stand-alone novels, a collection of short stories, and a series of children’s books. A man of many talents, he also fronts the popular, but mostly defunct, Norwegian band Di Derre and has worked as an economist. I recently interviewed him on a park bench in Toronto. (more…)

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Posted in Chapter and Verse  •  2 Comments

Weekend Links No. 15

Recommended reading from The Walrus Blogroll
Nawlins by Casper Balslev

1. “Picture Show: Nawlins” | GOOD Blog
A week after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in the summer of 2005, Danish photographer Casper Balslev visited the city to document the storm’s aftermath — not because he was on assignment, but because he felt it was necessary. The result is “Nawlins,” a collection of battered cityscapes that has become no less powerful, moving, or haunting with the passage of time.

2. “Stuever: Obama speech edits photo ‘thrilling, gratifying, and also terribly frightening’” by Jim Romenesko | Romenesko
If George W. Bush was “The Decider,” make Barack Obama “The Editor.” Romenesko points to a longer post that deconstructs a remarkable photo from the official White House Flickr stream: the current POTUS is seen reviewing a heavily marked transcript with his director of speechwriting, Jon Favreau.

3. “The Word of the Day: Anthropomorphism” by Butter Chicken | Food Court Lunch
The Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines anthropomorphism as a noun meaning “the attribution of human characteristics to a god, animal, or thing.” The good folks at Food Court Lunch plea for another word to specify forced examples of said attribution — such as the Snuggie™ For Dogs.

4. “Eating Well on Food Stamps Holds a Lens Up to Our Own Attitudes About Poverty” by Sharon Astyk | ScienceBlogs
The US Food Stamp program is often derided for encouraging “junk” diets and unhealthy eating habits among its users. There is, however, a growing movement of young unemployed who are purchasing high-quality ingredients with their stamps. Surprise: they’re being criticized, too.

5. “Will 90 be the new 40?” by Karl Bates-Duke |
Over the past 170 years, life expectancy has grown at a rate of six hours per day in countries with the longest average life spans. This means that most children born after the year 2000 will live to see their 100th birthday. What will be the social consequences, Bates-Duke asks, as more and more of us live past the century mark?

6. “Who wants to read some Afghan detainee documents?” by Janyce McGregor | Inside Politics
On Thursday morning, the Harper government tabled 2,628 pages of heavily redacted documents pertaining to Canada’s Afghan detainee scandal. The press and opposition have been scrutinizing them since then in an effort to find anything revelatory. Why let them have all the fun? Here, Inside Politics provides every black-markered page for your perusal. Happy hunting.

7. “Greenpeace Releases 20-Year History of Climate Denial Industry” by Jim Hoggan | De Smog Blog
This week, Greenpeace released a comprehensive report that accuses polluters of deliberately misleading the public for over two decades by creating and investing heavily in “the climate denial industry.” According to the report, companies like ExxonMobil have created anti-science, right-wing think tanks for the purpose of confusing lay-people and muddying up the climate debate with false information.

8. “Booby Trap” by Hanna Rosin | The XX Factor
British spy agencies are reporting that jihadists, on the heels of last December’s failed underwear bombing, are now attempting to outfit female suicide bombers with explosive breast implants that would be virtually impossible to detect. And for men? Boom-boom ass implants, naturally.

9. “Lost vs. Saul Bass: If Lost was made in the ’60s, here’s what the title sequence might look like” by Brad Frenette | The Ampersand
Saul Bass is a legend in design circles: he created AT&T’s “globe” logo and title sequences for classic films such as Hitchcock’s Psycho and North by Northwest. This week, a Spanish designer who calls himself Hexagonall paid tribute to the master by imagining what the title sequence for Lost would look like if Bass had designed it.

10. “The Coulter saga: The best response is to respond” by Rick Salutin |
What’s the best way to respond to fringe sensationalists like Ann Coulter? “Tell her to piss off, not shut up,” writes Salutin. All of us, he suggests, should follow the example of the young Muslim student who got in Coulter’s face in London, Ontario — when you dislike something, say so. Firmly.

(Photo by Casper Balslev)

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Fighting Words

Breakfast with an Awajun warrior of Peru

Map of South AmericaThe first time I meet S. he talks about the importance of killing: “Only by killing his enemies can an Awajun establish his leadership. That is why we train our youth how to fight.”

He says this because, in his view, Peru’s native communities will never achieve their demands through dialogue alone.

What are those demands? First, to be granted title over ancestral lands — a step the government has agreed to in principal, while in practice signing over just a third of the recognized territory — and second, to be consulted before any industrial activity takes place on those lands.

Last week, the International Labour Organization declared that Peru’s government was obliged to halt all resource exploitation until proper consultation with affected natives and campesinos could take place. This derives from Article 169 of the ILO, which the Peruvian government has signed. The ILO’s demand was quickly, predictably repeated by groups ranging from Survival International, an NGO representing indigenous rights worldwide, to Peru’s own National Coordinator for Human Rights. The government, just as predictably, declined to respond, leaving it to a representative of Peru’s business community to remind leftists that Article 169 isn’t legally binding.

S. and I are sitting in a small restaurant beside the humble Lima office of AIDESEP, the national association of Amazon Indians. He is working through a plate of lomo saltado for breakfast; dressed in jeans and a plain red t-shirt, he’s a slight man in his early forties who speaks quietly, with a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth. (more…)

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Posted in Foreign Correspondence  •  1 Comment

Cape Flats Callback

Revisiting South Africa’s Die Antwoord

Die Antwoord

You’d think I’d know better. After spending the better part of three years examining the course of American pop culture in the Muslim world, I’ve waded into another fraught cultural cage match, thus inviting a second volley of apparently endless, staggeringly well-argued commentary and hate mail. Woe is me, and all that. The reaction to “Cape Flats Calling,” my Walrus Blog post on the so-called Zef-rap outfit Die Antwoord, along with the general interweb frenzy regarding the band, is a reminder that 150 years after Manet outraged the Paris salon with his Olympia remix, art can still get folks hot under the collar. Millions of Die Antwoord–related bits and bytes have been uploaded, a fair bit of actual ink has been spilled; it thus appears that a quick revisit is called for.

Die Antwoord are a white South African rap group, lead by a gangly fellow named Ninja, who channel (or appropriate, or ape, depending on your view of these things) Cape Town Flats–coloured gang culture, creating a mash-up of grime, rave, and old-school hip hop. In early February, after a number of influential blogs picked up on their free-to-download album $0$, they became the first genuine internet phenomena of this brand new decade. Entirely complicit in all the promotional brouhaha, Die Antwoord have surfed the capricious wave of Web 3.0 on, some say, the backs of a marginalized community who will decidedly not be joining them on the stage at Coachella. The band is now negotiating with the home of the Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga, and M.I.A., Interscope Records. Them’s the big leagues.

If journalism is literature in a hurry, then web-journalism is literature at warp speed. In my first post, I made a number of errors — since corrected — that somehow escaped the sentinels at my normally impenetrable factual firewall. For those, I was rightly taken to task. Interestingly, a measure of the criticism directed my way comes from a piece on indie music Mecca Pitchfork, in which Ninja called my assessment of their music “quite fuckin’ brilliant.” I have thus been labeled a Die Antwoord booster, as if the brokest band in the known universe sent a Lear Jet round to schlep me off to gigs, softening me up with tik, coconut bongs, and luxury guided tours of Cape Town’s ghettos. There was also some suggestion that Die Antwoord’s popularity was driven mostly by the fervour of people just like me, white South African expatriates who spend their time in Australia, the UK, and Canada trawling the net for: (a) anything that confirms the fact that SA is now an unlivable disaster zone rife with violent crime, thus validating their decision to emigrate, and (b) anything that scratches their paradoxical itch for home. But Interscope does not consider signing bands based on the listening requirements of white ex-Johannesburgers; Die Antwoord must thus be considered a genuine global pop cultural phenomenon. It’s worth considering why that may be. (more…)

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Posted in Foreign Correspondence  •  8 Comments

Readers’ Choice Cover Contest

Voice your opinion and win!
Which exclusive Seth illustration should become the cover of The Walrus’s 2010 Summer Reading issue?


Illustrations by Seth

The Walrus needs your help. To celebrate our upcoming Summer Reading issue, we’re asking you — the reader — to select the cover for us. Anyone can participate, but we’ll need your email address to enter you in a draw to win fabulous prizes, including a framed print of the victorious cover (retail value $99), a Drawn & Quarterly gift pack, and a one-year subscription to The Walrus.

Internationally acclaimed cartoonist Seth (Palooka-villeIt’s a Good LifeIf You Don’t Weaken) has crafted two whimsical illustrations to choose from. You have until 5:00 pm EST on May 6 to pick your favourite here. We’ll announce the winning voters on June 14th — at which point everyone can check their local newsstands to see which cover design prevailed.

RBCSupported by the RBC Visual Art Fund
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Posted in Contests  •  83 Comments

Weekend Links No. 14

Recommended reading from The Walrus Blogroll
Ashley Gilbertson/VII Network for the New York Times

1. “Legacy of War With Perfectly Made Beds” by Amanda M. Fairbanks | GOOD Blog
Saturday marked the seven-year anniversary of the Iraq War. To commemorate the dubious occasion, The New York Times Magazine presented a heartbreaking photo series of the perfectly preserved bedrooms of soldiers killed in action.

2. “Freedom’s Wrong Turn in Afghanistan” by Eric Mang |The Mark
Mang quotes American historian Howard Zinn as an entry point to discuss Canadian complicity in Afghan torture: “How can you have a war on terrorism when war itself is terrorism?”

3. “Canada ‘not closing doors on contraception’, PM declares” by Jane Taber | Bureau Blog
This week, Prime Minister Harper flip-flopped on the exclusion of contraception from his maternal health initiative for the developing world. On Thursday, NDP Leader Jack Layton joined a Parliamentary backlash against the plan’s apparent omission of birth control. Yesterday, Harper retrenched his position. Contraception is still on the table, the PM said, “But we do not want a debate here or elsewhere on abortion.”

4. “AP goes the extra mile to correct decades-old photo caption” by Craig Silverman | Regret the Error
From the department of better late than ever: the Associated Press has issued a correction for a sixty-five-year-old photo that was thought to depict World War II’s hellish Bataan Death March. A complaint from an eighty-seven-year-old US Army vet provoked the AP’s laudable investigation of the error.

5. “The irony of Wente, opinions, blogs and gender” by David Eaves |
This Wednesday, Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente published a piece called “Why are bloggers male?,” in which she stated that she doesn’t blog because “It’s more of a guy thing.” Eaves scrutinizes the statistics in her column and suggests — surprise! — that the blogosphere is actually fairly gender neutral.

6. “Beck and Palin: ‘Violence is Not The Answer’” by Ari Melber | The Notion
Responding to “fringe” elements that advocate armed resistance against the US government, Fox News commentators Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin have decried violence as a solution to right-wing outrage. What’s next, Ronald McDonald and the Burger King coming out against french fries as a delicious snack?

7. “Grieving on Facebook” by Julie Hanus | Utne Daily
Is there an appropriate way to mourn the dead online? Facebook thinks so. “Memorialized” profiles of deceased users have become a place for their friends to gather, share stories, and grieve together.

8. “Baby boomers sit atop a ticking pension time-bomb” by Max Fawcett | This Magazine
A crisis is looming for the Canada Pension Plan. When baby boomers retire, the system will be stretched to its absolute limit. But rather than plan for this eventuality, boomers are apparently content to pass the buck to the next generation. Lucky us.

9. “A whole lot of ‘kvetching’ going on” by Rick Salutin |
Tune into the Canadian or American media, and you’ll hear a lot of complaining about “broken” government. Salutin takes an unconventional approach to this topic by claiming that the democratic system hasn’t collapsed: rather, it was built broken.

10. “Congrats Seth!” by Peggy Burns | Drawn and Quarterly
Seth, the great Canadian cartoonist, illustrator, and friend of The Walrus, has been nominated for a National Cartoonists Society Reuben Award in the “Best Graphic Novel” category for his work George Sprott. Congrats, Seth! And keep an eye out for The Walrus‘s Readers’ Choice Cover Contest featuring his artwork, coming to tomorrow.

(Photo by Ashley Gilbertson/VII Network for the New York Times)
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E-Publish or Perish

Lessons for aspiring e-authors

Beasts of New York by Jon EvansThree years ago, when the Amazon Kindle was little more than a gleam in Jeff Bezos’s eye, I wrote an article for The Walrus called “Apocalypse Soon: The future of reading.” In it, I lamented how my book publishers had prevented me from releasing my debut novel online, and predicted an e-book revolution, the rise of e-readers, widespread e-piracy, the demise of many publishers and booksellers, and, ultimately, a world in which readers would decide whether to pay for books after reading them.

Now seems like a good time to follow up. Not least because my predictions appear to be coming true. E-readers like the Kindle, the Nook, and the iPad (with its associated iBooks app) are spreading everywhere; the market share of e-books has already eclipsed audiobooks, and continues to grow like bamboo; local bookstores are vanishing by the hundred, Amazon has gone to war against publishers over e-book prices, and Borders is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Meanwhile, the publishing industry has been sufficiently shaken that hardly a day goes by without one of its dinosaurs penning another tedious navel-gazing essay about this terrifying brave new world. (Most such claim that piracy won’t be a significant factor, from which I conclude that the essayists in question are either smoking crack or in deep denial.)

But the important question isn’t What does this all mean for the book business? What matters is What does it mean for books? (Though authors, and aspiring authors — a group which, so far as I can tell, includes approximately half the human population — tend to also tack on What does it mean for us?) Answers are hard to come by. My friend Jo Walton recently wrote a blog post about her personal experience with online publication entitled “Some actual information about ebooks”; it ends with, “I’m posting this because it’s not handwaving or airy speculation, it’s actual data, of which there seems to be something of a shortage.”

She’s quite right. And so, in a similar vein, I’d like to tell you about my squirrel. (more…)

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Posted in World Fast Forward  •  1 Comment

Sticks and Carrots

Canada, Peru, and the perils of free trade

Map of South AmericaIn the March 2010 issue of The Walrus, Arno Kopecky’s article “Law of the Jungle” took a hard look at Canada’s recent free trade deal with Peru. A few days ago, Kopecky flew back into Lima, Peru’s capital, en route to the country’s northern jungle. During the months to come, he’ll be “piping up semi-regularly” from the region with notes on local effects of the Canadian government’s so-called Americas Strategy. This is his first post of the blog series to come.

It seems that strategy matters to the Harper Administration, which made sure the proposed Free Trade Agreement with Colombia was the first bill Parliament saw after prorogation. The issue of free trade always inspires colourful debate, but this one is particularly heated, in light of allegations linking Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s government to an impressively wide range of human rights abuses. CBC’s The Current ran a good piece on the issue in late February; writing in the Globe and Mail a few days later, Campbell Clark suggested that our government’s motivations in signing the deal have less to do with money than power. After all, he noted, Colombia only buys about 0.2 percent of our exports, so what’s really going on here is a snub to Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, arch enemy of Prez Uribe and all things fair and free.

While I don’t doubt Harper’s enthusiasm for the Great Game (and hockey too), I do think it’s important to consider what we might want to buy, and on what terms, from an oil-sodden country filled with precious woods and metals. So far, there’s little evidence that even the most benevolent intentions from Ottawa and Bogota can enforce human rights and environmental regulations in Colombia’s hinterland.

I haven’t been to Colombia yet, so rather than wade deeper into speculative cynicism, I’ll refer to an experience I had last fall in another resource-loaded, regulation-deprived country now linked by free trade to Canada: Peru. Speaking off the record (sigh) with a Canadian diplomat in Lima, I asked why Canada had refused to publicly criticize Peru’s government for a lethal clampdown on native protesters in the Peruvian Amazon last June — precisely the kind of action everyone fears in Colombia. (The Peruvian protests were a direct response to free trade and resource extraction on native land.) This seemed as good a chance as any to hold our trade partners accountable for human rights. The diplomat, however, assured me that conversations were taking place behind closed doors, and that to raise the issue publicly would be counterproductive.

Really? Then why did Peter Kent, our Minister of State of Foreign Affairs for the Americas, immediately and publicly condemn Chavez — with whom Canada is not even considering a FTA — for shutting down six television stations in January? I don’t ask that question to endorse Chavez or his tactics. But as Canada starts hurling sticks and carrots into Latin America, I wonder how carefully we’re watching where they land. Sooner or later, folks here will start throwing them back.

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Posted in Foreign Correspondence  •  2 Comments

Weekend Links No. 13

Recommended reading from The Walrus Blogroll

1. “Every Japanese Arnold Schwarzenegger commercial ever made” by Ron Nurwisah | The Ampersand
The Japanese have advanced the surrealist form of advertising more than any other culture. In this spirit of innovation in the field, I present this video post. Really, it’s not just because listening to Arnie attempt to speak Japanese is downright hilarious.

2. “Avatar and the politics of our time” by Rick Salutin |
Salutin, a former seminarian, ponders why, in the current political discourse, left wing equals secular and right wing equals religious. Is there no room in the middle?

3. “Toronto’s Disenfranchised Voters” by Myer Siemiatycki | The Mark
Toronto is gearing up for municipal elections this October. Come voting time, however, only a third of eligible electors will turn out at the polls. Is it time to let the city’s massive non-citizen population — about one in seven residents — vote in local elections?

4. “Rogier van der Zwaag” by Jeff Hamada | BOOOOOOOM!
And the belated Oscar for Best Direction of an Incredibly Complicated Music Video That Looks Like CG, But Is Actually an Animated Sequence of 4,085 Photos goes to… Rogier van der Zwaag, for “Grindin’” by (Dutch electro group) Nobody Beats the Drum.

5. “Gracias, Sean!” by Michael C. Moynihan | Hit & Run
After his incoherent speech at this year’s actual Oscars, Sean Penn kept up the craziness by appearing on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher and suggesting that critics of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez should be jailed for their “biases.” Um, Sean? You’re not exactly known as Mr. Fair and Balanced.

6. “French village went insane after CIA spiked its bread with LSD” by Cory Doctorow | Boing Boing
Fifty years ago, residents of the French town Pont-Saint-Esprit became temporarily insane after eating bread from their local bakery. Five people died, and dozens were sent to the asylum. The mystery of the “cursed bread incident” is finally solved. Uncovered documents reveal that the American CIA spiked the bread with LSD: yet another of its notorious tests of the drug’s efficacy as a weapon.

7. “Is Torture a Leading U.S. Export?” by Scott Horton | No Comment
This week, a former director of the British Intelligence service MI5 made a surprise public accusation about US motives for interrogating captured Al Qaeda members. “Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld certainly watched 24. The Americans were very keen that people like us did not discover what they were doing,” said Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, reigniting a fiery debate about the allied countries’ treatment of terror suspects.

8. “Liberals take another shot at Tory ‘Bonnie and Clyde’” by Jane Taber | Bureau Blog
Lately, her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition has likened former Alberta Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer and his wife, junior cabinet minister Helena Guergis, to the infamous crime duo because of his sweetheart deal to dismiss a cocaine possession charge and her blowup at the Charlottetown Airport. Taber points out the illogic of the association: Bonnie and Clyde paid for their crime spree with their lives.

9. “World’s Richest Man: The Carlos Slim Story” by John Hudson | The Atlantic Wire
Forbes has released its annual list of the world’s wealthiest people. At the top of the heap this time is Lebanese-Mexican mogul Carlos Slim Helú, worth an astonishing $53.5 billion (US). His companies are responsible for about 7 percent of Mexico’s entire economic output.

10. “How Cars Are Killing Us” by Andrew Price | GOOD Blog
It wouldn’t be Weekend Links without an infographic. This one, using data compiled by the World Health Organization’s global status report on road safety, shows how cars are killing us with more than pollution.

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Weekend Links No. 12

Recommended reading from The Walrus Blogroll

1. “The State of the Internet, in Infographics and Video” by Patrick James | GOOD Blog
So many good infographics out there. This one, by creative agency Jess3, condenses the net’s mind-boggling growth into a handy four-minute video.

2. “Gender-neutral O Canada: An idea whose time already happened—130 years ago” by Luke Champion | This Magazine
Introducing gender-neutrality into the lyrics of our national anthem is not a new idea. Calixa Lavallée and Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier’s original French version was sans bias, and R. Stanley Weir’s 1908 English poem includes the line now being proposed to replace “in all thy sons command” — “thou dost in us command.” Personally, I think we should adopt “The Maple Leaf Forever” and be done with it.

3. “Neil deGrasse Tyson, The Epilogue: Why Educators Need A ‘Cultural Utility Belt’” by Linda Holmes | Monkey See
Neil deGrasse Tyson is probably the most charismatic astrophysicist alive, as evidenced by his numerous Daily Show and Colbert Report appearances. In this account of a speech he gave to 2,000 physics teachers, he argues that to really connect with students, teachers must be attuned to young people’s cultural reference points.

4. “Does Google Books Do No Evil?” by Mark Leslie Lefebvre | The Mark
In a deal struck between Google and the Authors Guild of America, writers will receive a paltry $60 (US) per book available for unlimited viewings on Google Books. According to Lefebvre, this agreement could lead to the company gaining monopolistic control over digitized literature. Does that sound like its informal slogan: “Don’t be evil”?

5. “Shorts Program: Animated Oscar Edition” by Jandy Stone | Row Three
The Oscars air this Sunday, and once again I am woefully behind on seeing the films up for best picture. But, thanks to the fine folks over at Row Three, I’ve now caught up on the nominees for best animated short.

6. “Polytechnique leads the Genie Awards with 11 nominations” by Melissa Leong | The Ampersand
With so much interest focused on the Oscars, our very own Genie Awards may, once again, get swept under the rug. A shame, because truly great Canadian films like Polytechnique (eleven nominations) and Nurse.Fighter.Boy (ten nominations) deserve our attention.

7. “Michael O’Donoghue Is Plunging Steel Needles into His Eyes From the Grave” by Matt Welch | Hit & Run
Welch laments what he sees as Saturday Night Live‘s fall from anti-establishment greatness and loss of cultural relevance. You may quibble with his assertions, but this post is worth it for the Ron Howard–directed presidential reunion sketch starring current and former SNL greats — created for Funny or Die, not the venerable TV franchise.

8. “Open your wallets for plastic cash” by Steven Chase | Ottawa Notebook
Perhaps the most surprising element of Stephen Harper’s new budget is the announcement that, starting in late 2011, plastic will replace paper-cotton as the material of choice for bank notes. The polymer material is apparently very hard to counterfeit, and will allow for more complex designs and security features.

9. “Marketers can (literally) read your mind” by Karl Bates | Futurity
Advertisers have been experimenting with a technique called “neuromarketing,” which uses brain scans to detect a consumer’s reactions to various products. Basically it’s a high-tech focus group, but I think it’s the first step down a slippery slope that leads to commercials being beamed into our dreams à la Futurama.

10. “Changes at Chatelaine” | Masthead Online
Thursday was a brain drainer at Chatelaine — six employees were laid off, including most of the editors who handled the magazine’s newsiest articles. The title has recently slipped in both subscriptions and single-copy sales, but lobotomizing its content seems like an odd plan to reverse course.

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