What I’m thinking about

Loyal reader edeast writes in the comments, “What are you thinking about? The plebs would like to know.”

I have never let the plebs down, so here’s the inside scoop:

Scholarship-wise, I’m thinking about the Pseudo-Plutarch‘s treatise De Homero, in which the pseudo-author praises Homer every which-way, and especially for his command of all branches of learning and of rhetoric in particular.  This work is usually seen as a rather lame piece of flattery, but I am rereading it in terms of ancient Imperial education, in which Greek-speaking schoolboys would progress from the performance of Homer (and other canonical authors) to the acquisition of the oratorical art.  Perhaps this is the ordinary way of reading the treatise at this point; the bibliography will tell.  But it’s a work I’ve been meaning to integrate into my book on school performance, and it’s never too early to start planning (and rereading).

Literature-wise, I wrote my third Young Adult novel this summer and am still working on my Riel tragedy, when I have a moment.

Politics-wise, it all passes me by at a remote distance, as I have been too caught up in a wonderfully hectic summer to bother much about truly crazy sh*t like the Census Debacle.  Why do the Conservatives even keep StatsCan open at this point?  They can just invent their own statistics, or denounce the very idea of empirical proof, and their base will love them all the more.  Meanwhile, Canadians apparently don’t care if the democratically elected component of our government — the policy-making component — is simply out to lunch for five years at a stretch.  Tony Clement is the Minister of Industry.  That is how little Canadians care about Canadian politics.  The one thing they care about is that nobody else should tell them to care more: that really riles them.  So, like a good little democrat, I am obeying the deafening command of a mute nation and not caring at all as this country slowly but surely goes down the drain.  It’s all relative, in the end: we have so far to go before we become a lively, interesting nation that it hardly matters if what our forefathers achieved is smashed to smithereens — we’ll have to start fresh anyway.  It’s irresponsible to be a Canadian patriot and not be a radical of one sort or another.  The status quo is intellectually untenable.  My heart goes out to the pundits and journalists who are forced, if they would eat, to witness and bear witness to the coke’d-up hillbilly dwarf-tossing competition that is our res publica.  It’s nice that guys like Michael Chong are in there fighting the good fight, but let’s be serious for once, as opposed to moralistic: the subject who is truly loyal withdraws entirely from political life.

Personally, I spend most of my time thinking about how wonderful is the woman I married on the 5th of June, 2010.

Meditations upon a national sport

A number of Think pieces have been appearing of late about the good old hockey game.

In the April issue of the LRC (not available online) Chris Dornan had a truly stellar piece about “Our Violent National Game,” asking (inter alia) why this lawless game sits (and has sat since the 1870’s) at the centre of our supremely lawful nation; why the Leafs can peddle bits of the net that receive Sundin’s 500th goal at $40 000 a pop, given that they suck and have always sucked (well, for 43 years anyway); why we mythologise what is, after all, just a fun game that occasionally turns into the Ultimate Fighting Championship.  I’m in favour of mythology, and I like watching hockey, but things are certainly out of whack when our biggest accomplishment as a country (in our own eyes, anyway) for the last decade has been winning the Olympic gold medal in a sport in which we have only two or three serious competitors.  It’s a bit like the Zurich canton having fits of self-love because they won the yodeling competition.  The joke’s on us.  Which isn’t to say it’s not a triumph, but honestly we need more triumphs if we’re going to see it in perspective.

Coincidentally with Dornan’s piece, the cover story of the June 2010 issue of The Walrus (not yet up online) is “Whose Game Is It?  How the Americans are hijacking hockey” by David MacFarlane (also titled “Hockeyland” — anyway, it’s on Page 32); it’s about going to hockey games in the American sunbelt and looks interesting.  Also, Bruce Croxon in The Mark argues that we should have bigger ice surfaces so as to cut down on injuries and generally make the game faster and more fun (like 4 on 4 or the Olympics).  I think it’s a great idea: I hate all that grinding on the boards.  What people like about hockey is the pace, and that’s as much about passing as it is about skating.  It’s certainly not about backchecking or the Trap (which ruined the game for about seven years).  But is reform even possible?  How undignified is it that our National Game, our Pride & Joy, our act of self-definition par excellence, should be in the hands of Gary Bettman and his legion of cynics and whores?

JF Simard on the nationalism of accomodation

Rereading my post below about my review of Poliquin, I find it reads as though mine were the only piece in the April issue of the LRC.  Au contraire!

There’s quite a powerful piece by Christopher Moore about Six Nations’ land claims, in which he compares the situation along Grand River with the situation in BC: as various First Nations have recently been recognised out West as having legitimate complaints about infringements on their (non-treaty) land, owing to the 1973 Calder decision, so too the numerous 19th century appropriations of Iroquois land in Ontario may get recognised by the courts.  To be sure, such matters are always more than legal, i.e. political, but at the very least the essay is an eloquent heads-up on what the legal and political issues will be in the next 10-20 years.

Ian Clark has a wonderfully clinical take-down of Howard Woodhouse’s Selling Out: Academic Freedom and the Corporate Market, which, from the review, sounds like a new benchmark for academic self-entitlement.  Other highlights (in my book): Reed Scowen on Jacques Parizeau, Colin Robertson on Canadian-American relations, and — last but not least — as mentioned today in the Vancouver Sun — JF Simard on the “nationalism of accomodation” that has both robbed the PQ of its raison d’être and promised smooth sailing for Canadian federalism for the next while, even if we’re rather becalmed at present; translated by yours truly!

Sonnet on the priest abuse scandal

My fiancée was raised Catholic, and the ongoing scandal about child abuse in the Church has really gotten her down, as I’m sure it has many Catholics.  I’ve gotten used to hearing her exclaim, as she surfs the New York Times, “It’s absolutely disgusting”: I know what she is referencing and, since virtually every day brings to light a new coverup of abuse, I hear the expression a lot.  For me as a non-Catholic it’s less personal, less of a blow at one’s own biography, though of course I have great respect for the Catholic Church’s historical and theological role.

So: the other day we realised that I hadn’t written a poem for her in some months, what with all the job-seeking and apt-selling and house-hunting and what have you, so it was agreed that I should write her a sonnet.  But it helps to have a theme, and she suggested, upon my requesting one, that the sonnet discuss the priest abuse scandal(s).  Great, thinks I, a romantic poem about clerical criminals; but actually I rather like the result.  Comments and criticism welcome, of course!  The references are to Matthew 7.24-27 (“. . .like a wise man who built his house on the rock” etc.), Matthew 16.18 (“you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church”), and the Sistine Chapel with its Creation panels and Sibyls.

Oh, woe to him who built a house on rock!
Alike the amphitheatres and the churches
Topple when Heaven chooses to defrock
The City of mere Man: the ceiling lurches,
Crackling, shaking, jerking to and fro,
Crushing the shepherd who betrayed the sheep
Beneath its chunks of Michelangelo:
Creation crumbles and the Sibyls weep.
But dry your tears: let rock entomb the dead,
Let God annihilate whom God has damned;
I seek the sea, to build my house instead
Upon the free, blue shore, upon the sand.
And there, my darling, safe from old men’s lies,
We’ll look for love, and struggle to be wise.

Personal Website Revived

Just a quick note to say that my personal website, www.jackmitchell.ca, has just undergone a big revamp and is now looking quite neat, if I do say so myself.  Some new content, too, under “Essays” and “Lyric,” with everything generally more logically organised and easily accessible.  An iPhone theme, at least on the front page!