The Walrus Blog

Monthly Archive: July 2011

Dear Jack Layton

Another letter to the Leader of the Opposition

I think I speak for most, if not all, Canadians when I mutter “damn it” and sigh heavily.

The reason Canadians of all political leanings paused at your announcement yesterday is because cancer has an eerie but largely unspoken grasp on everyone. Few among us are untouched by the disease, and this latest news of yours is a reminder that life has a way of shaking even the sturdiest of foundations, especially, it seems, when we could really use the stability. A person can’t swing a CT scanner in this country without hitting someone who either has or has had, or knows some who has or has had, cancer. Very little shock lingers after an announcement like yours because disbelief is quickly ousted by a familiar sense of disappointment — not again.

Any oncologist will tell you that cancer is not a single disease; it’s a blanket term for a type of disease that takes on many different forms and implications. Today, while some observers dig around to figure out what particular kind of cancer you’re battling now, others among us know it really doesn’t matter. Any cancer survivor will tell you that cancer is cancer. Regardless of who you are, how old you are, where you are, and what the sickness interrupts: it’s cancer(more…)

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Posted in Open Letters  •  4 Comments

After the Meltdown

A letter from — and to — Toronto

The only reason the sky didn’t fall yesterday is because this damn heat rose and held the sky up.

Obviously, this puts you in a bit of a pickle. You made all those grandiose predictions about how terrible the record-breaking temperature would be, but besides that moment when you got stuck with a “don’t walk” signal before crossing the street on the way from your air-conditioned car to your air-conditioned office, you barely broke a sweat all day. Embarrassing? Sure. Very much so.

Every time this kind of weather occurs, which it does often, inevitably, at least once a year, without incident, it feels like the first time for you. That’s because you’re an emotional person (some might say neurotic, alarmist, ridiculous), but no one should judge you for that. Don’t worry, plenty more predicted catastrophes have come and gone without incident — Carmageddon, Snowpocalypse, the “shoegaze” era in rock music. There are ways to make today’s walk of shame easier on yourself.  (more…)

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Posted in What on Earth  •  No Comments

Three of a Kind

Live-blogging the UK parliamentary committee testimony of News Corp.’s Rupert and James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks

What was supposed to be less than three hours of testimony from News Corporation executives Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch, and Rebekah Brooks, in response to allegations of phone hacking and other serious wrongdoings at News of the World, the recently folded London tabloid belonging to News Corp.’s News International, instead stretched out to nearly five hours today. However, very little new information was gleaned from the executives. All three stuck to a strategy that the committee of British MPs found difficult to penetrate. The Murdochs and Brooks each claimed ignorance about many of the goings-on at News of the World, apologized for the damage that had been done (particularly in the case of Milly Dowler), and expressed their commitment to journalistic integrity. Read our play-by-play account and analysis of the events of the day, which reached an early climax when Murdoch Sr. took a shaving-foam pie to the face two-and-a-half hours into the proceedings.

9:40 am EST: Rupert and James Murdoch are before the British Commons’ culture, media, and sport committee. Rupert interrupts his son’s opening apology: “This is the most humble day in my life.”

9:49 am EST: James claims no knowledge that Brooks, former editor of News of the World, or other resigned executives had prior knowledge of the hacking allegations. “There is no evidence today, that I have seen, that there was any impropriety by them.”

9:51 am EST: Rupert Murdoch is called on. Seems a bit shaken and skirts questions to remind the committee of his tens of thousands of dignified employees. News of the World only 1 percent of his company’s operations.

9:54 am EST: Rupert claims no knowledge of much of News of the World‘s wrongdoing and blackmail allegations, despite international press coverage — deflects to son James but MP Tom Watson holds the spotlight on Rupert. James eager to jump in. (more…)

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Posted in Online Exclusive  •  No Comments

The Best of “Office Quote of the Day”

Submitted without context: silly things said at The Walrus HQ

July 6, 2011: “WHAT IS THIS!?!” “That’s your voice at too loud a volume.”

June 29, 2011: “Don’t cry. It’s just a comma. Imagine if it was a semicolon.”

June 21, 2011: “I just wrote a new social etiquette manual called Real Talk. Deal with it.”

June 14, 2011: “Do you want anything from Montreal? Attitude? Or bagels?”

June 7, 2011: “You can have as many cries as you want. He can’t control your tears.”

May 30, 2011: “There were some serious inconsistencies in Charlie’s Angels 2.”

May 25, 2011: “You’re like a hot Where’s Waldo. It’s totally good.”

Cross-posted at:The Walrus Laughs

May 5, 2011: “A little power corrupts a little bit.”

April 14, 2011: “No one expects a unicorn to actually do anything.”

March 4, 2011: “My whole life is a Whitesnake moment.”

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Posted in The Walrus Laughs  •  1 Comment

Staying Alive

One of the world’s oldest stories — One Thousand and One Nights — takes new form in Toronto
One Thousand and One NightsLuminato Festival

Murder, deception, sex, and violence all played out on the stage last month, and it wasn’t some cutting edge, contemporary play. Rather, one of the oldest collections of stories in existence — One Thousand and One Nights, better known in the West as Arabian Nights. At Toronto’s Luminato festival, the production stayed true to the source material. This was not Aladdin, Sinbad, and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves: Disney-fied childhood memories of magic carpets and vest-wearing, shoulder-riding monkeys quickly disappeared when confronted with these stories of rape, slaughter, orgies, and sexual objectification.

“I’ve always been interested in stories, especially those that gripped me as a child. But how I knew these stories as a child bares little relation to how they actually are,” says director Tim Supple of the Luminato production, which ran from June 11 to 19. “We receive these stories through a filter as Arabian Nights. More than any other stories that I can think of, a completely different version has been developed for these. [They have been] stripped of their violence and sexuality and given to children.”

The Arabian Nights’ Entertainment was the name imposed on English translations of One Thousand and One Nights in 1706, but the collection dates to the 9th century. It’s a gathering of tales from Persia, Arabia, and India, held together by the framing narrative of King Shahryar and Queen Scheherazade. When Shahryar learns that his first wife has been unfaithful, he murders her, then adopts the unseemly habit of marrying a virgin every night, bedding her, and then killing her in the morning — guaranteeing fidelity. Scheherazade, a daughter of the official who’s been tasked to find the king’s new consorts, offers herself up as the next bride, but with a clever plan. Once they have married, she tells her husband a long, enchanting story that lasts through the night. When morning comes, she leaves the plot at a Dan Brown-like cliffhanger, causing Shahryar to keep her alive to hear the rest. With that framework in place, Scheherazade’s stories within stories within stories follow, all to keep the debauched king’s attention. The entire tale is similar to Inception, but with less special effects and more nudity. (more…)

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Posted in Theatre  •  No Comments

Nothing Works for Sure

An electronic interview with poet Joshua Trotter
Nothing Works for SureBiblioasis Press

“There were ‘birds’ whose purpose was to record
the movements of the masses, to repeat
working-class conversation verbatim.”
— from Joshua Trotter’s “Continuation of the History of Utopia

Joshua Trotter’s debut, All This Could Be Yours, slipped quietly into (better) bookstores earlier this year and quickly became something of a totem among the poetry-reading public. A small number of people seem to like it a great deal. I’m among them. The Montreal poet’s eclectic, unformulaic approach to form has resulted in a book of language games and sci-fi–flavoured experimental riffs that stick around in the reader’s mind, both propelled by sound and sustained by content.

Trotter and I exchanged emails about the book and his creative process. That correspondence is shared below.

Jacob McArthur Mooney Thanks for doing this, Joshua. What’s most striking about All This Could Be Yours, at least in terms of content, is its diversity of interests. You really take from across the culture, and from science and the social sciences. At the same time, the poems possess a sort of self-containment as individuals, giving the book a real “collection” feel. Despite a handful of recurring motifs and characters, the book’s unity comes from disunity: it’s a book of poems, rather than the less specific “book of poetry.” How do you feel about unity in the context of a book of poems, as it relates to the assumed necessity (especially with a first book) of a singular voice?

Joshua Trotter I spent a lot of time attempting to coerce the book into coherence — in terms of style, in terms of content, in terms of voice — and I found I could not force it to happen. At least, not without damaging the poems. So, as it says on the cover, it’s a book of poems, rather than poetry. The poems are self-contained organisms, I hope. The book is their exoskeleton. It took me awhile to be okay with that. I have long been a fan of books with a distinct, consistent tone. Recurring images, morals, themes, grammatical forms, even words. It is a wonderful feeling to buckle yourself into such a Volvo, to let it carry you from page to page in comfort and relative safety. Yet, as I read more, as I get older, I’m becoming more interested in books that jump from place to place. Books that go off-road, scratching the paint, dragging the muffler — books that are willing to drive without insurance, perhaps a little drunk. (more…)

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Posted in Chapter and Verse  •  1 Comment


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