On sexual harassment and publishing: one woman’s perspective of the price of loving the culture we call “books”
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…)
The winning entry for Journalists for Human Rights and The Walrus’s Write the Wrong 2010 student essay contest
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…)
Toronto and Johannesburg are both hosting major international events — but only one of them is doing it well
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…)
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.
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…)
Our Sportstrotter gets up close and personal with Daniel Nestor at Paris’s famed Roland Garros tennis facility
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…)
James Quandt, senior programmer of the rechristened TIFF Cinematheque, celebrates two decades of artful film curating
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…)
Foreign correspondence from Peru’s Sacred Valley: our blogger reports the aftermath of a devastating mudslide
New 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…)