On the surface, Above The Game: A Guide to Getting Awesome with Women seems like your average terrible pamphlet about picking up ladies. It’s written by a self-professed former nerd-turned-generous guy who just wants to teach other men how to be more confident and seduce women with ease. And why not? Dating is hard, and for guys who aren’t comfortable with it, a how-to guide may be sorely needed. I know a lot of women who wouldn’t mind having the same resources.
As evidenced by the popularity of The Purge, we’re living in dark times. Times in which it’s impossible to feel hopeful or optimistic—especially as the wrong Ethan Hawke film rakes in enough money to bury Before Midnight.
However, despite these signs, I like to think optimistically. I like to think that there’s a silver lining; that two wrongs make a right; that clichés can be powerful; and that through common sense, pop culture can lead the exodus out of global cynicism. And to prove it, I have identified the root causes and begun solving problems where they start: With the characters themselves. I am hereby offering my guidance to all literary characters who require it. Below, advice for the first batch of needy souls. No more drama, no more sorrow.
The pole star to Vladimir Putin’s career as President of Russia is pretty simple to find: whenever he’s challenged in any substantial fashion, he points west and says, “fuck those guys.” More than any other industrialized (or, in Russia’s case, “industrialized”) national leader, Putin’s substantial personal popularity is mined from Russia’s just as substantial ambivalence toward the wealthier west.
And why wouldn’t he take that approach? It’s easy to forget what a basket case Russia was in the 1990s, as the economy unravelled and separatists popped up across the country. The economic reforms that drove so much of the country’s chaos during that decade are not unreasonably seen as the work of the West, a perception Putin has happily and cynically ridden for 13 years now.
The problem is deciding what books to have here, and what books to keep at home. I’ve gotten to the point that I generally have to get doubles of everything. And then the problem is more about the books that I don’t really like, but they’ve been written by friends or people I’ve met and liked. It’s a matter of balancing the books that are actually really useful and that I love, and the ones that are just here because I have to keep them. This is now mostly just books I really love, or need for teaching. For me everything is about teaching, or my own work. I work a lot with books. Generally my relationship to all the books in this room revolves around the question how can I get my students excited.
When things stick around long enough, you stop seeing them. They fade into the background, staying unnoticed, until one day you walk into your house, do a double-take, and realize you’ve had the same crappy Montreal concert poster on your wall since 2007 and don’t remember the band or even the year all that well and, plus, how come you never noticed there’s tiny a piece of egg (or is that cheese?) stuck there near the bottom? These moments of clarity are inevitably a bit embarrassing, but they are necessary.
This same process explains how, every few years, people idly flipping through the sports section become newly startled by the fact that, in 2013, the National Football League has a team called the Redskins. Wait a minute, they think, the Redskins? With a weird drawing of a Native American in feathers as the logo? And this team plays on television in a professional football league and not, I don’t know, in some dusty Southern prison yard for the amusement of the cruel, John-Wayne-obsessed Warden? Seriously, the Red Skins?
Greetings, friends! This week you can call me Mr. Yin-Yang, ‘cause I’m bringing you tales of darkness and light from the high-stakes world of showbiz. First up, the pitch black yin: the feud between Jon Bon Jovi and guitarist Richie Sambora continues to rage, leaving fans wondering if these two aging Italian-Americans will ever play hard rock together again. Let’s hope so; they’re very good at it! And now, the blinding yang: get your motor running and head out on the highway—to Eternal Salvation!—because His Holiness Pope Francis blessed hundreds of Harley Davidson motorcycles in Vatican City over the weekend. Pope Francis? More like Pope Easy Rider! So, let’s compare my dreary yin to my vibrant yang and see which one wins this week’s Culture War!
The biggest lesson that Ayatollah Khamenei seems to have learned from the nation-convulsing protests after the 2009 Iranian elections is that unless you’re willing to look like Robert Mugabe in the eyes of the world, stealing an election outright isn’t actually a good idea. That’s especially the case when, like Khamenei, you have so many other levers to pull to keep turbulent presidents out of power.
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird may not be wrong, then, to say that we can’t expect substantial changes after the election victory of Hassan Rowhani. Rowhani, after all, had to be unthreatening enough just to make it on the ballot. And even if that weren’t true, the man who’s been the lead negotiator with western powers as Iran has asserted its rights to a nuclear program probably isn’t going upend his country’s politics. Rowhani gives every appearance of being the guy who moves from post to post, tidying up and cooling angry tempers—not a revolutionary reformist.
Have you seen the video of Turkish demonstrators singing “Do You Hear the People Sing?” It’s been making the rounds this week, aggregated on the usual aggregation sites and retweeted by the usual tweeters, including the famous croaking policeman himself, Russell Crowe.
Accompanied by a piano that was trucked into the square recently, the group starts with an English verse and chorus of the Les Miserables anthem before switching to Turkish. It is a joyful video, with the young singers, mostly women, leaning into that big refrain. It’s also a move that shows some savvy, attaching a little pop culture panache to a political movement and sending it viral.
Richard Poplak talks about his Hazlitt Original, Braking Bad: Chasing Lance Armstrong and the Cancer of Corruption, and Armstrong’s half-hearted confession to Oprah in this excerpt from our upcoming episode of The Arcade podcast.
Isn’t that how it goes: you meet a nice guy, you fall in love, you change your entire life for him. And then, like some asshole, he turns a bunch of National Security Agency documents over to journalists because he has some kind of moral code? MEN ARE SO SELFISH.
Poor Linsday Mills, the girlfriend of NSA-leaker Edward Snowden. Her boyfriend is responsible for the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history, and she’s being dragged in the mud too.
In just the last 24 hours or so, the situation in Syria has gone from a bloodbath and humanitarian disaster to what appears likely to be America’s next war. That it may end up being a small one (or not) that ends quickly (or not) shouldn’t obscure the fact that what American leaders are increasingly leaking to the media are plans for war.
How else to describe the news, broken late yesterday, that the Obama administration has decided to send arms to the Syrian rebels? This came after declaring that the Assad government had used chemical weapons in its war against the Syrian people, a declaration on which the US actually lagged behind some of its European allies. We also got the news that plans for arming and training the rebels will necessarily include a no-fly zone close to the Jordanian border, reported in the Wall Street Journal.
I’ve been told I have a terrible memory and enough of my childhood is a blur that I believe it. I remember the day my sister was born, when I was three and a half, and I vaguely remember feeling pretty embarrassed about accidentally swallowing a penny a little while later. I know I once believed that Fraggles were real.
One of my clearest memories is of lying in my room as a six-year-old feeling absolutely furious. I had been the victim of some parental outrage, I’m not sure what. Probably they had forced me to eat a vegetable or maybe it was one of the countless other injustices inflicted upon children by their parents, those capricious autocrats.
It’s pretty simple. Poetry is over there. Fiction kind of on this shelf, with some miscellany at the end. This tiny little bit here is plays. Then music books. And then non-fiction for the bulk of the rest. And then it gets weird. These two shelves are current research stuff. These are miscellaneous large things. Some 33 1/3 books. Journals and stuff down there. And then this area is mostly books written by friends and colleagues. That’s kind of my favourite part. It’s overflowing now, so I’m going to have to figure out what to do about it. It’s such a friendly thing, like, Oh, there’s everybody!
This is not a music review. If you like Black Sabbath, you have already bought or are going to buy their new album, 13. If you don’t like Black Sabbath, you haven’t and you’re not. If you like or don’t like Black Sabbath but enjoy the cover of the X album Los Angeles, you should consider buying the new Black Sabbath album on vinyl and putting the two covers next to each other on your wall. I bet they’d look neat next to each other.
My parents are both profs, so my sister and I spent a goodly amount of our childhood merrily running up and down the halls of the psychology department unsupervised, no doubt making a ton of noise and annoying everybody. Also, on one historic occasion, my mum went hunting all over the house for a student’s thesis on which she had written her comments (this was the early 1980s, when handwriting still existed) only to find it in our arts and crafts cupboard, where my dad had stuck it, thinking it was scrap. My mum went to her student’s defense holding a paper with squirrels Magic Markered all over the back.
Last night, The New York Times published a scarce new interview with Kanye West in which Jon Caramanica leads his subject towards some kind of rhetorical apotheosis—that is, a combination of perceptive social critique, fashion-house utopianism and empyrean megalomania. One week before the arrival of his new album, Yeezus, Kanye invokes numerous current influences or imagined peers, including Raf Simons, Steve Jobs and a modernist Corbusier lamp, but reading his mercurial pronouns and surreal pronouncements made me think of an unannounced one: John Ashbery, elusive eminence of the New York School poets. I decided to do some interpolation, reassembling Kanye’s answers into experimental verse.
I was able to slip past everything with a pink polo,
That was from a place of love.
I knew I was going to make it this far;
I knew that this was going to happen.
If you walk into an old man’s house, they’re not giving nothing.
You have to wonder what, exactly, the Canadian government’s temporary foreign worker program is actually accomplishing other than simply giving Stephen Harper’s Conservatives a series of low-level headaches. The latest news, reported by the Globe and Mail, is that the government will now reserve the right to conduct warrantless searches of private, non-residential property to enforce federal regulations. The legal basis for these searches was apparently snuck in to the 2012 budget, which really shouldn’t surprise anyone: At this point, it would be faster to list the new crimes and punishments that haven’t yet been introduced in a Conservative budget act. (Future headline: “Oral sex in Canada is still legal, but abortion-seeking women should pay attention in the spring of 2016.”)
Walking up the stairs of the Winchester Kitchen and Bar I become discombobulated; the stairway ends abruptly with a mirror, and so instead of a room full of people you arrive only upon yourself. The real entrance is a sharp, unexpected turn to the right, and standing there is another smiling, brown-curly-haired, boldly bespectacled white woman, only this time she is not my literal mirror image, but someone else altogether. She asks if I’m there for the launch, perhaps sensing my confusion, and I gratefully answer in the affirmative. She directs me to a table where the latest issue of Brick has been stacked. I buy one.
Earlier this week, as Apple, Microsoft and Sony revealed their latest wares in absurd, often cacophonic keynote presentations, one could almost be forgiven for agreeing with Jonathan Safran Foer. Just this weekend, he penned another entry in that grand tradition of the op-ed piece decrying the alienating, distracting effects of modern technology. In the face of these tech giants’ bombastic, ludicrous rhetoric, Foer was almost compelling.
Of course, there remains no shortage of faults to find with the argument that technology pulls us away from what’s important. Many of the things one looks at on a screen—news about the world, messages from loved ones, art—are just as real as anything else. What was perhaps different this time, though, was a coincidence of timing, and how odd it all sounded in light of the recent stunning revelations about government surveillance and corporate cooperation. With talk of the NSA, PRISM and the delightfully named Boundless Informant, there was a very strange contradiction at work. On the one hand, cultural commenters constantly tell us that the virtual is just that—less real, less human, less present. On the other, when we learn that the very ephemera being criticised may be subject to snooping, it suddenly feels like a threat, as if very real parts of our lives have just been exposed. Something just doesn’t add up here.
Put on your shades and wax down your surfboard, ’cause this week’s Culture War is all about F in the S (fun in the sun)! First up, make a beeline for the box office, because I’m giving you the official Culture War Summer Movie Preview. Movies not your thing? Not to worry! Maybe you’ll prefer my review of World Naked Bike Ride Day, an event that combines the poetry of cycling with the prose of jiggly genitals. So, let’s compare these two unrelated ideas and have ourselves a good, old-fashioned Culture War!