The Walrus Blog

Monthly Archive: June 2010

Drinking With Men Who Are Not Russell Smith

One woman’s perspective of the price of loving the culture we call “books”

On sexual harassment and publishing: one woman’s perspective of the price of loving the culture we call “books”

Publicity Girl
Via Creative Commons

Last Wednesday, the Globe and Mail published a column by Russell Smith in which he offered his unique and slightly controversial take on what the paper calls “Penguin Canada’s sex scandal.” I say “slightly” because the reactions I witnessed were divided into enthusiastic nodding, Hey, that’s not the whole story…, and sarcastic remarks about the columnist congratulating himself for not being a creepy douchebag. Smith gave a synopsis of the industry those of us inside already know well — young, nubile ladyfolk get hit on by older, entitled, lecherous dudes, blah blah blah, mostly because we all drink a lot, go to bed real late, and write about sexy things. Oh, and we’re hot. Smith explains that yes, he’s oft been tempted by “shockingly beautiful” girl-flesh, but he abstains because he’s smarter than everyone else. His conclusion can be summarized as “Canadian publishing is full of hotties, but be like me and keep it in your pants!”

Someone more rational than I (and incidentally a fan of Smith’s writing) pointed out that my cynical reaction to the piece probably stemmed from the fact that I had lived the very things it describes. While Smith’s argument is a simplistic overview of a complex and dangerously flawed industry, a band-aid proposal that doesn’t examine the expectation that women are required to be up-for-anything, flirtatious bombshells with graduate degrees (uglies need not apply), I actually appreciate his sentiment. This idea that we can actually try not to be jerks. And it’s inspired me to write my own personal overview of Men Who Are Not Russell Smith.

I don’t consider myself a “total unbelievable hottie” by his description, but after a decade in an industry where I’ve played the roles of novelist, publicist, editor, and marketer, I feel like I’ve been trained to successfully navigate and tolerate the tricky drunken terrain of strategic innuendo and ass grabbage. Admittedly, I am also a relentless flirt. I’m not sure if I was like that to begin with or if publishing has made me that way — I’m guessing the latter. (A therapist once asked me, with genuine concern, why I was “out until four a.m. with strange men,” and the only response I had to offer was, “’Cause that’s my job.”) Sadly, the late-night cocktail of flirtation and suggestion seems to be the lubricant that gets book deals done. (more…)

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Posted in Chapter and Verse  •  20 Comments

Weekend Links No. 26

Recommended browsing from The Walrus Blogroll

Recommended browsing from The Walrus Blogroll, featuring Ocean Therapy, Canada’s unlocked iPhone 4, and G20 a gogo The Old Union Station, G20-Style

Alden Cudanin

The Old Union Station, G20-Style” by Alden Cudanin | Spacing Toronto
Cudanin, a Toronto artist and local history buff, presents an image of how the G20 security barricades that currently surround his city’s downtown core might have looked circa 1907.

Reusable grocery bags carry E. coli” by Jennifer Fitzenberger | Futurity
A study has found that reusable, woven polypropylene grocery bags can be rife with dangerous food-borne bacteria. Researchers at the University of Arizona have learned that most people are unaware of the need to wash or bleach their bags between uses; the data also suggests that as more people use the bags, the practice will begin to pose a serious risk to public health.

Shapiro: Say farewell to fly-on-the-wall journalism” by Jim Romenesko | Romenesko
This week, Barack Obama took U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal’s resignation in advance of a Rolling Stone profile of McChrystal that includes derogatory comments about White House officials made by the General’s aides. While the article is a testament to the continuing power of hard-hitting, mainstream journalism, Romenesko spots columnist Walter Shapiro warning that the aftermath could spell an end for the reporting access that made it possible.

BP Starts Using Kevin Coster’s [sic] Oil Cleanup Gizmo” by Andrew Price | GOOD Blog
You know things have become desperate in the Gulf now that BP has turned to Mr. Dances with Wolves to assist with the disastrous cleanup of its deep-sea disaster. Hopefully, Costner will be The Bodyguard for the people of the Gulf Coast, and his Tin Cup contraption — nicknamed Ocean Therapy — won’t be a Field of Dreams, meaning BP can return the Gulf’s Waterworld to normal in less than Thirteen Days… aaaaaand I could go on like this for a while.

Unlocked iPhones Could Herald True Mobility” by Michael Geist | Michael Geist Blog
Apple’s iPhone 4 went on sale in the United States this week. Its mid-July introduction to Canada could herald a new era in mobile phone purchasing. Apple will be selling the device here in its “unlocked” mode, meaning that, unlike most phones, it will not be tied to a specific carrier. Geist explains why this decision is likely a forward leap for consumer freedom in the national wireless market. (more…)

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Posted in Links  •  3 Comments

Jus in Bello

The winning student essay for Journalists for Human Rights and The Walrus’s Write the Wrong 2010 contest

The winning entry for Journalists for Human Rights and The Walrus’s Write the Wrong 2010 student essay contest

Created in 2009 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, Write the Wrong — brought to you by Journalists for Human Rights in partnership with The Walrus — is a national human rights essay competition for high school students. This year’s winner, Annie Shi, is a Grade 11 student from Toronto.
Journalists for Human Rights

Canada is defined by the maple leaf, the beaver, hockey, and our peace-keeping military, of which Canadians are especially proud of. We justify our missions through jus in bello, a set of criteria that describes a just war as one that has a just cause, legitimate authority, the right intentions, reasonable hope of success, and necessity. We are guardians of peace, democracy, and freedom — an image so ingrained in our national identity that the 1993 Somali scandal came as a big shock. Instead of learning from the affair however, we have yet to address the human rights issues that are deeply intertwined with war and prisoners of war.

When the United Nations resolved to launch Operation “Restore Hope” in war-torn Somalia in 1992, 900 soldiers from the Canadian Airborne Regiment joined the mission. Canada’s most elite unit [landed] in Belet Huen, which was just one of the many towns ripped apart by civil war, anarchy, and thieving gangs. Many Somalis were hungry, homeless, and mourning the loss of loved ones. In the face of such a crisis, troops from all around the world participated to secure major relief centers and important transportation routes, stop terrorizing forces as was necessary, and provide food for the innocent civilians. Because the gangs could no longer intercept food packages while the troops were around, the situation was initially ameliorated.

However, after a few months, Canadians began to engage in violent practices that included beatings, torture, public humiliation, rape, and murder. At first, Canadian soldiers often punished Somalis who attempted or were accused of stealing food by tying a group of them to a pole and erecting “thief” signs beside them. Sadly, the victims of these acts were primarily children, who were impoverished and desperate. In the February of 1993, a considerable increase in the number of thefts on the Canadian camp exacerbated the tension between the Somali civilians and the troops. In response, soldiers were now authorized to shoot anyone seen trespassing. (more…)

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Posted in Contests  •  1 Comment

A Tale of Two Cities

Toronto and Johannesburg are both hosting major international events — but only one is doing it well

Toronto and Johannesburg are both hosting major international events — but only one of them is doing it well

Toronto police watch the World Cup Finals
Courtesy of Matthew Littzen

Earlier this week, I found myself traversing two worlds — both of them familiar, both suddenly upside-down. For years, I’ve been commuting between Toronto and Johannesburg, which is not quite as bad as the 400 to Barrie during rush hour, but comes a near second. This week, both cities have been in the news, if for very different reasons. The fifa World Cup Finals and the G20 summit may at first glance seem entirely disparate, but both events have had a profound effect on the narratives of their respective cities. Those narratives, at least this week, are linked, and deserve a review.

Let’s start with Toronto. On a recent Tuesday in June, I sat at a sushi restaurant in the downtown core, staring out at the long line of concrete and chain link barricades that suddenly dominated Wellington Street. I was reminded of Beirut, a city famously divided by such contrivances into segments, sectors, zones — “a house of many mansions,” as Kamil Salibi put it. The effect was profoundly disorienting, ameliorated only by the relative good repair of the surrounding skyscrapers. What struck me was how easy it is to fortify a city, to take command of it from above and afar, to wrest it from its citizenry as if they had no claim on it in the first place. Toronto, like Beirut, was now divided into security zones with varying degrees of access. All it took was the brute force of half a billion bucks — a pittance really, if you think of what it buys you: A major Western city, for a few days.

The twenty visiting luminaries and their vast entourages have accepted our invitation; in return, we owe them protection. Once every eight years, Canada gets to set the agenda at the G20 summit, and this is a not an insignificant forum. (Okay, perhaps it is. Such is the price of eating at the adults’ table.) Still, the price tag is a head scratcher, no matter how meticulously the government breaks it down. And as far as I’m concerned, money isn’t the worst of it. What, I can’t help wondering, is at stake here? (more…)

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Posted in The Haulout  •  4 Comments

Weekend Links No. 25

Recommended browsing from The Walrus Blogroll

Recommended browsing from The Walrus Blogroll, featuring the Karma Cup, outlaw fashion, and the Polaris Music Prize

slapupsidethehead.com
slapupsidethehead.com

Gay Men Make Up Most Victims of Hate-Motivated Violence” by Mark | Slap Upside the Head
According to recently released crime data from Statistics Canada, there’s been a huge jump in hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation. Of the 1,036 hate crime incidents logged by police in 2008, 16 percent were perpetrated against homosexuals — more than double the number from the year before. Most disturbing, 75 percent of all violent hate crimes were motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation.

Why Boycotting BP Isn’t Helping Anybody” by John Hudson | The Atlantic Wire
Recently, while vacationing in Florida, I refused to stop at BP gas stations as a protest against the corporation responsible for the ongoing oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Many Americans have had the same idea. Hudson’s roundup of smart commentary on the subject, however, explains why this tactic barely affects BP’s bottom line.

The Left: A lot of activity, but lacking definition” by Rick Salutin | rabble.ca
Salutin makes a case why the left wing of Canadian politics — the focus of recent media scrutiny, via coverage of the rumoured Liberal-NDP merger and Quebec billionaire Pierre Karl Péladeau’s plans for a right-wing, Fox-style television news network — is actually a “phantom limb.”

Orders of the Day: No more committee work, no more briefing books…” by Kady O’Malley | Inside Politics
This week, O’Malley reports, the House of Commons came together for “one last burst of all-party cooperation” before its scheduled summer break. Um, shouldn’t that be “one first burst of all-party cooperation”?

Guergis requests chance to testify; Ignatieff accused of ‘running down’ Canada” by Jane Taber | Bureau Blog
MPs have gone home for the summer, but the Helena Guergis story still won’t die. In a letter from her lawyer, the former Minister for Status of Women has asked her ex-colleagues to return to the Hill to hear her bid to clear her name. (more…)

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Posted in Links  •  1 Comment

Someday, Baby

After the parade, what it means to win the Stanley Cup
After the parade, what it means to win Lord Stanley’s Cup: cross-posted at the hockey blog A Theory of Ice

Chicago is not an especially parade-happy city. Sure, Chicagoans like floats and chicks with batons, but not nearly so much as we like open streets upon which cars can be driven during all daylight hours. I can remember, vaguely, going to a couple of marching-intensive events as a child, but those might have been in the suburbs. Or in Iowa, for all I know. But I cannot remember seeing one single parade in downtown Chicago as an adult. I don’t think people would stand for that sort of thing, especially not on Michigan Avenue, especially not when we have shopping to do.

But last week, two million people came out to see the Blackhawks bring home the Stanley Cup. No floats or batons or elephants or anything extra, just a bunch of guys on a double-decker bus with their shiny new hardware, a few speeches and a little ceremony.

Two million people.

Not so very long ago the Hawks were lucky to get 10,000 Chicagoans to come out for them. Most nights, it was more like 5,000— 25 percent of the cavernous United Center’s capacity. People who are not from Chicago do not understand how bad it was for hockey there, even a few years ago. The rest of the hockey world looks at the city and thinks, “Hey, Original Six franchise, big sports town, can’t be all that bad.” Some people seem to have this idea that the Hawks were, like the Cubs, beloved losers.

No. (more…)

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Posted in The Haulout  •  No Comments

Weekend Links No. 24

Recommended browsing from The Walrus Blogroll

Recommended browsing from The Walrus Blogroll, featuring Charlie Riedel’s wildlife photos from the Gulf of Mexico
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Wildlife: Brought to you by BP” by Alheli Picazo | rabble.ca
With so much coverage of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill focused on (failing) efforts to stop the leak, the disaster’s impact on the Gulf of Mexico’s wildlife had gone largely unreported. That changed this week, when Associated Press photographer Charlie Riedel published this series of gruesome pictures.

Oil, the Loop Current and the Atlantic” by Mireya Navarro | Green Inc.
According to a computer simulation by the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, BP’s oil leak may “loop” around Florida and travel north, reaching as far as the Carolinas by later this summer. Watch the linked video and be horrified, and/or bring the crisis to your doorstep by visiting ifitwasmyhome.com.

The Commons: Aboard this tiny ship” by Aaron Wherry | Capital Read
With spending for this summer’s G8/G20 summits climbing beyond control, it seems the Liberals have finally decided to act like the opposition. Wherry’s report from this Thursday’s question period details an exchange between Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc and Conservative Transport Minister John Baird about one of the budget’s most egregious expenditures: $400,000 to restore a vintage steamboat which, in LeBlanc’s words, “will not even be in the water until after the G8 is over.”

Reporters Dispute Israeli Account of Raid” by Robert Mackey | The Lede
Israel’s raid on Turkish ships carrying aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip instantly became a major international incident: death on the high seas is unfunny that way. Mackey rounds up several of the journalists, including Al Jazeera English’s Jamal Elshayyal, who was on board one of the flotilla’s ships, who are disputing Israel’s official account of the incident.

What’s going to happen when the Earth passes through the Galactic Plane?” by Ethan Siegel | ScienceBlogs
One of the many ways the world is predicted to end in 2012 is by our solar system passing through the galaxy’s equator, which sounds awfully eventful. And confusing. Should we be worried or what? Siegel, a theoretical astrophysicist, drops the science. (more…)

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Posted in Links  •  1 Comment

Nine Golds, Three Silvers, and Twenty-One Honourable Mentions

The Walrus’s big night at the National Magazine Awards

We celebrate The Walrus‘s big night at the National Magazine Awards: Who won the most? Us!

33rd annual National Magazine Awards

magazine-awards.com

The Walrus is thrilled to have received more National Magazine Awards than any other publication at tonight’s gala in Toronto. Our contributors won nine gold awards and three silver awards, while also receiving twenty-one honourable mentions. Chris Turner was the evening’s top individual performer with two golds and four honourable mentions, and his cover story helped The Walrus win gold in the best single issue category for our October 2009 issue.

“It’s always gratifying to win National Magazine Awards,” says editor and co-publisher John Macfarlane, “because they celebrate the achievements of the freelance writers, photographers, and illustrators with whom we are privileged to work at The Walrus. They are the heroes of this story, because without them — without their talent, passion, and self-sacrifice — we wouldn’t be able to create this magazine about Canada and its place in the world.”

With tonight’s awards, The Walrus continues to be one of Canada’s most honoured magazines, having won more awards since its inception in 2003 than any other Canadian periodical. In just seven years, The Walrus has earned forty-seven gold awards and twenty-three silvers at the National Magazine Awards, as well as 161 honourable mentions.

The Walrus is published ten times annually by the charitable, non-profit Walrus Foundation. The Walrus Foundation has an educational mandate to support writers, artists, readers, and intelligent debate on matters vital to Canadians.

On behalf of staff, interns, supporters, and readers, The Walrus congratulates all of this year’s winners. The Walrus’s July/August summer reading issue — featuring illustrations by Seth and fiction by nine authors including Linden MacIntyre, Heather O’Neill, and Rawi Hage — will be on newsstands June 14. (more…)

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Posted in Events  •  No Comments

A Canadian Tennis Legend

Our Sportstrotter gets up close and personal at Roland Garros

Our Sportstrotter gets up close and personal with Daniel Nestor at Paris’s famed Roland Garros tennis facility


Nenad Zimonijic and Daniel Nestor, right, at Roland Garros (photo by Andrew Braithwaite)

paris — This past Sunday, at a legendary tennis complex on the western edge of Paris and under threatening but ultimately sympathetic skies, Mlle ’Trotter and I were treated to a rarity: two winners of tennis’s career “Grand Slam” playing in the same tournament, on the same day. Let’s call these titans Roger and Daniel.

The first, one of only six men in history to win the Australian Open, the U.S. Open, Wimbledon, and Roland Garros, is the greatest tennis player of all time. In fact, depending on how things play out over the next two or three years, we may look back on the Roger-versus-Tiger debate (i.e., “Who’s the single most dominant male athlete of his generation?”) as a pointless exercise.

Holding “annex court” tickets for the tournament’s second Sunday, we had no shot of securing seats to witness Roger Federer’s Round-of-16 match against Swiss compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka on the main Court Philippe-Chatrier. We had to settle for viewing Federer’s victory on the big screen, seated as we were uncomfortably on cobblestones just outside the court, among the crowd in the la place des Mousquetaires.

The second of the two names you may not recognize, but you should: he’s one of the greatest doubles players of his generation. And he’s Canadian. His name is Daniel Nestor, and we were lucky enough to watch him and partner Nenad Zimonjic from the second row of the far more intimate Court 2 — close enough that we could have literally spat on the court, if we’d wanted to. (We didn’t.) (more…)

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Posted in Sportstrotter  •  1 Comment

Behind the Screen

TIFF Cinematheque programmer James Quandt celebrates two decades of artful film curating

James Quandt, senior programmer of the rechristened TIFF Cinematheque, celebrates two decades of artful film curating

James Quandt (TIFF)
James Quandt (courtesy of TIFF)

Film programmers are cinema’s unsung heroes. Granted, block bookings of Avatar or Marmaduke (opening this Friday, marking the first sign of the Rapture) at your local multiplex are divined by some Invisible Hand, but at any worthwhile art house, quality programming requires a certain thoughtfulness that is no less methodical.

This summer marks the twentieth anniversary of the TIFF Cinematheque — née Cinematheque Ontario, recently rebranded along with all of the Toronto International Film Festival’s various adjunct organizations. And for two decades, James Quandt has worked diligently to line up hundreds of series, from retrospectives of major filmmakers to national surveys and thematic programs. He has not only brought the best in contemporary and classic cinema to local audiences, but toured the Cinematheque’s programs throughout North America and Europe.

To mark the Cinematheque’s vicennial, the senior programmer and his team have prepared a robust summer schedule. Celebrating what would have been the hundredth birthday of Japanese master Akira Kurosawa, the Cinematheque is presenting the suitably titled “Centenary of the Sensei,” which unspools over two dozen of Kurosawa’s films from June through August. There are also retrospectives dedicated to the work of British actor James Mason, Italian provocateur Pier Paolo Pasolini (“The Poet of Contamination” according to Quandt’s programming notes), a tribute to the late Canadian film critic and scholar Robin Wood, and plenty more.

Like the bulk of TIFF’s operations, the Cinematheque is currently preparing for its move to the festival’s new headquarters at the Bell Lightbox, a space which promises to expand the purview and possibilities of art house programming in Toronto. Walrusmagazine.com chatted with Quandt about history’s role at the Cinematheque, the dizzy logistics of programming, and the impending relocation to the Lightbox. (more…)

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Posted in Moving Pictures  •  1 Comment

The Wrath of Pachamama

Foreign correspondence from Peru’s Sacred Valley

Foreign correspondence from Peru’s Sacred Valley: our blogger reports the aftermath of a devastating mudslide
Cuzco, PeruNew myths are sprouting in the Sacred Valley. A medicine man called Puma Singona told me one in the Plaza de San Blas one glorious May morning, the sun slowly baking the last night’s chill out of Cuzco’s ancient boulders as he spoke.

“There was an old lady begging in the streets of Taray,” Puma began, referring to a town half an hour’s drive from where we sat. “In Quechua culture,” he explained, “we don’t give money to beggars — there always has to be an exchange. But it is different with the elderly, because one day all of us will be old and helpless. Nevertheless, a young mother came out of her house and scolded the old lady. ‘You can’t beg here,’ she exclaimed, ‘what kind of example are you setting for our children? You have to leave our town.’ ‘Oh really?’ replied the beggar. ‘Very well. I’ll leave and we’ll see how well your town does without me.’

“The old woman walked away with the slow, stooped gait that you see all around here — life has been hard to many of our people. It’s written in their spines. That night at two in the morning, a rumble came down from high in the mountains. It was the huayco — the mudslide — that everyone knows about now. It rumbled down the creek that runs through Taray, turning the trickle into a furious black river that destroyed the whole village.”

The old woman? The goddess Pachamama of course, come to test the generosity of the people. Other versions focus more on the environmental sins that have accompanied Cuzco’s tenfold growth in the past two decades — the raw sewage, for instance, that more than 200,000 people pour into the Sacred Valley’s Rio Urubamba every day. All the myths agree, however, that the disaster was a manifestation of Pachamama’s wrath. (more…)

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Posted in Foreign Correspondence  •  1 Comment
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