Tag Archives: culture

Anti-Québec logic

11 Jun
Alert the media! India's national football (soccer) team is turbanless! India must be racist and xenophobic!

Alert the media! India’s national football (soccer) team is turbanless! India must be racist and xenophobic!

By Evan Zenobia

ANCIENT ROME—It looks as if the Québec Soccer Federation has really stepped in it, this time.

It’s not really their fault though. It’s just that the English Canadian media has been dumping shit all over the sidewalk.

Yes, ever since the FSQ announced that turbans would, along with all other headgear, be impermissible on soccer pitches, everyone from rags like Maclean’s and the National Post to federal cabinet ministers have denounced the regulation, thundering righteous, theatrical indignation and hurling accusations of racism and xenophobia at Québec.

By now, you’ve probably heard or read the standard narrative. Driven by either a radical secularism gone mad or just by Québec’s innate and distinctly un-Canadian xenophobic racism, Sikhs were singled out by FSQ and swept off the soccer field. Now, Sikh children will be barred from the game, cruelly excluded by racist Québécois officials.

This isn’t the first time the Sikh community’s religious obligations have run across trouble in Québec. In 2010-11, a scandal erupted over the barring of kirpan (knife)-bearing Sikhs from entering the Nation Assembly. The FSQ faced similar criticism for banning the hijab. And, the standard reaction from the conservative English-Canadian establishment had been to accuse Québec of racism or xenophobia.

But that’s not what’s happening.

According to the FSQ, headgear is not allowed on the soccer pitch. You can’t wear a baseball cap, or a cowboy hat, or a tuque, or a crown, or a German war helment. The rule is no headgear. A turban is headgear. Therefore, turbans are not allowed.

So now Québec is being accused of racism because in Québec everybody, regardless of their religion, is subject to the same rules and regulations.

When you treat everyone the same, that’s not discrimination, it’s called equality. And I know that conservatives actually hate that, but they should be honest about it instead of accusing the 7 million people of Québec of intolerance and hatred.

In any case, the FSQ will follow FIFA’s lead if the international body allows turban. But until FIFA makes its decision, Vic Toews and Parm Gil and Jason Kenney and the esteemed “writers” at the authoritative rags of Canada’s business classes should quit their hysterics about “intolerance,” and maybe practice a bit of tolerance to Canada’s second largest province.

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Celebrating Local Authors! Review of ‘The Bones of the Earth’

20 Feb

By Evan Zenobia

OTTAWA—If you’re a fantasy fan, history buff or an adventure aficionado, you won’t be able to put Scott Bury’s “The Bones of the Earth,” down.

The Ottawa author’s novel, which skilfully blends historical fiction, magical realism and swashbuckling action, follows a socially awkward barbarian youth in struggles against invaders, demons and dragons during the late sixth century. And while that may sound like the plot of an SNL skit, “The Bones of the Earth” is actually full of drama, heart-breaking tragedy and gore.

After the only life he’s ever known falls to pieces, Javor reluctantly travels away from his tiny village in barbarian lands towards the Byzantine capital of Constantinople. Javor’s journey takes him through fierce battles with both human and supernatural adversaries. Along his journey, his many experiences impart valuable lessons about life, relationships, politics, religion, magic and more.

All this makes for excellent, engaging plot that will keep the reader turning the pages without ever wanting to put the book down. Javor is a well-developed character with a personality distinct from most other heroes.

Javor’s character and personality certainly exhibits many traits associated with Asperger’s Syndrome, one of the more mild forms of Autism Spectrum Disorder. The novel uses this to draw attention to social exclusion against people on the spectrum.

The novel also touches on racism by illustrating examples of Greco-Roman chauvinism towards Slavic and Gothic “barbarians.” Throughout the novel, Javor finds himself on the receiving end of xenophobic hostility, derision and snobbery from Romans. The author also brilliantly ties racism together with imperialism. Of course, Javor may be the only tall, able-bodied, fair-skinned, blond, blue-eyed, straight cisgender male to suffer discrimination for these traits in all literature. But then, it is a fantasy novel. On the other hand, such a stark juxtaposition to the usual direction of imperialist racism may have the advantage of moving to racists to understanding the errors of their ways when they see one of their own as a victim.

The author is relentless when addressing absolutism and imperialism, highlighting the vicious atrocities of the practices with vivid imagery and through the grim anecdotes of the barbarian victims of Rome. The novel, thankfully, does not fall to romanticizing the Dark Ages.

But while the novel is thrilling and its commentary astute, it is, it must be said, a “guy story.” There are very few female characters in general, and the ones who do exist are relatively one-dimensional. Emotional volatility is almost exclusively confined to female characters. Many girls and women are made into archetypical “damsels in distress,” saved only the masculine virtues of courage and self-sacrifice. In a world filled with dragons, trolls, vampires and gryphons, the independent liberated woman is still mythical.

There are exceptions. Javor’s village’s shaman is certainly nobody’s subordinate, although her character serves less as a model for feminine independence than as the author’s excuse to feature her throwing an orgy party. A smart move on the author’s part, and a good way to reel the “young adult” crowd in.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with “guy stories.” The novel certainly has a universal appeal. But I grew up watching Xena, and I always appreciate using fantasies to explore sexism and push traditional gender roles.

It certainly would have strengthened the novel’s subtle but stinging critique of Christianity to have included the absurdity and cruelty of religious attitudes towards women. The author sticks to knocking the rest of Christianity though.

But if you’re looking for something filled with adventure and subtle commentary to devour in the next week, pick up “The Bones of the Earth.” It’s available on Amazon or something.

Arts & Culture: Review of Fifty Shades of Grey

10 Feb


By Evan Zenobia

A meaningless setting. A cast of thoroughly unbelievable, unrelatable, one-dimensional characters. Add some poorly written dialogue and boring sex, and what do you get? The inexplicably popular jumble of words and paper that E.L. James has somehow managed to pass off as literature.

I’m referring, of course, to Fifty Shades of Grey, which I’ve spent the last two and half weeks subjecting myself to in tolerable doses. Now that I am finally done, I have no quandaries about calling it the worst book I have ever read. There are poorly written books that still contain good stories, or at least carry a good message. And there are well written books that may still follow a bad story arc. But Fifty Shades is poorly written and a bad story. It has literally n0 redeeming qualities.

The “plot,” if it can be fairly called that, revolves around utterly boring literature student/graduate Anastasia Steele and her “erotic” adventures with the mysterious and wildly handsome young billionaire Christian Grey. The motor that drives the dilapidated hull of a storyline along is fuelled by Steele’s trying to reconcile her sexual inexperience and romantic longing with Grey’s “kinky” sexual habits.

But really, for a 514 page erotic novel, I have never read anything so dull. And on top of the dullness, almost every aspect of the story is irritating.

Consider the setting. James sets her novel in Washington State, in the United States. Which is strange, considering that most of the characters speak as if they’re well-read 19th century British aristocrats, using words like “profligate” and “taciturn” in everyday conversation. Excepting, of course, Steele’s token Latino friend, José, who throws colloquial Spanish into his speech with the frequency of Speedy Gonzales.

Also irritating is that James has chosen to write her book in first-person present tense. That alone is not the problem. Chuck Palahniuk wrote Fight Club the same way. But in Fight Club, the protagonist is crazy and also represents a social critique. In Fifty Shades, the protagonist is an insufferable, stupid, and boring. As such, the audience is forced to endure every stupid and pretentious thought that comes into her mind, whether it’s expressing her distaste for rap music before a BDSM romp or this gem on page 28, “I feel the color in my cheeks rising again. I must be color of The Communist Manifesto.” (because, of course, Communist Manifesto is a shade of red you can find in any box of crayons or on paint swatches at Home Depot, and the Manifesto isn’t printed in black and white like every other book).

Meanwhile, the characters are almost all props leading up to the sex scenes, including Steele herself. Anastasia Steele apparently has three settings: blushing (sometimes the colour of communism), biting her lip (which arouses Grey), and drinking tea (again, mimicking the landed gentry of 19th century England). By her own admission, her favourite activity is reading old British novels by herself, and, at the age of 21, has never been drunk until Chapter 4 after finishing her final exams (newsflash to Steele: if you’re a literature student, and you’re not drunk until after your semester, you’re doing it wrong). She’s clumsy, and her hair never cooperates. Oh yes, and she’s a virgin.

Though this dull, sober virgin is pursued by José and her boss’s son, she is only attracted to the young, gorgeous billionaire with the personality of an anal-retentive Jack Donaghy/Gordon Gecko hybrid… only less interesting. Christian Grey is just a creepy guy. He’s arrogant. When Steele drunk dials him, he tracks her phone, drives to find her, holds her hair while she pukes, then drives her unconscious body to his hotel room where he tucks her into bed and removes her vomit-stained pants before sleeping (but not banging) her. Then he sends his personal assistant to buy her sexy underwear.

In what world is stalking, kidnapping, and partially undressing someone without their consent not creepy?

Oh, and speaking of consent. A huge part of Grey’s kink is that he doesn’t have sex without written consent. In fact, he’s got a pile of paperwork to sign before sex can begin. Now, personally, I can’t think of anything less arousing than paperwork. Filing taxes and writing incident reports never got my blood going. But for super virgin bookworm Anastasia Steele, it’s just the right thing. And even though Grey is an emotionally distant, creepy, stalker jerk, she is so desperate to be with him that she puts up with it all.

The only other character that needs mention is Steele’s beautiful blonde roommate, Katherine Kavanagh. She begins a deep relationship with Grey’s brother Elliot. What doesn’t make sense, however, is that she maintains it even as she develops a fierce hostility towards Christian Grey. The character is not at all developed, so her behaviour comes off as shallow and irrational.

Aside from all that, the book is just bad. The writing is awkward and clunky. James pretentiously jams her book full of obscure synonyms, obviously hoping it will make the story appear to be a fine work of literature rather than boring mommy porn. Meanwhile, she takes more than one occasion to remind the audience of the supremacy of the British, especially in terms of literature, and the unbearability of the French and others. While offensive, it fits in with the rest of the book’s undeserved pretentious snobbishness.

Further, the book appears longer than it actually is. A good chunk of the paper is wasted in blank space representing an excessively long chain of email correspondences between Steele and Grey. Apparently they never heard of texting.

I don’t want to spoil too much, so I’ll leave it at that. This is the worst book I have ever read. I can only award it negative stars.

Oh, and the sex is all really, really boring. You know you’re doing smut wrong when the actual smut of the pathetic filler you’ve cobbled together is actually less readable than the pathetic filler.

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