Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Light posting explained.

Sorry for the light posting this week -- I'm beavering away grading your essays. I read them all through in a relaxed way to give them their literay due. Then I go back and re-read them and make editorial corrections, note my analyses of your dialectic, and leave sundry observations literary and scholarly.
Full blogging will resume after lecture tomorrow, including a recapitulation of Sillitoe.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Sense on Student Coffee Cents

A good, sound fisking over at Ann Althouse's blog concerning students & coffee shops ...
A café is not just the coffee. It is an entire hours-long experience that contributes to your success as a student. It's true that to be financially savvy you have to realize that you spend a lot of money by spending a small amount of money on a daily basis, but there are much worse daily expenses that call out to students: bars, movies, cigarettes, fatty snacks.

"Clockwork Orange" Comes to Pass: "happy slapping."

The wider relevence of this course is indicated in this article from today's Sunday Telegraph:

The violence seen in the video obtained by this newspaper has echoes of the extreme violence portrayed in Stanley Kubrick's 1971 film, A Clockwork Orange. In the film, a gang of youths travels the country to commit violent acts, including rapes and murders, for fun. Jan Harlan, the late director's brother-in-law, who helped to make the Oscar-nominated film, said that such violence was "beginning to make A Clockwork Orange seem like Bambi".
He said: "Violence is on a totally different level than it used to be. We do not realise how violent the whole world has become in the last few decades. The danger is that in the next 30 or 40 years there will be a huge crowd of uneducated young men with nothing to do except become more violent and anti-social."

Thugs -vs- Military

Britain's centre-left government has now called the Army into the streets to defend England against invasion by .... yobs (i.e. backwards boys).

Mid-Term Essay: Comments & Replies

Use the comments section of this post to ask last-minute questions about the essay, including specific editing, for peer review and intructorial response.
I'll monitor regularily for the rest of the day & evening ....

Friday, June 17, 2005

Group Blogging Project Bleg

Would everyone please post the url of their Group blog into the comments section here: I'll then post and cross post.
Please also add your group's ideas for publicising your blog ....

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Aristotle on Thuggishness

A class-fellow sent me an excellent and typical quotation from Xanthippe's husband on how he would understand thuggishness.
I came across this the other day and I thought you might find it interesting. The rest of the quotation is as follows.
Man, when perfect, is the best of animals; but if he be isolated from law and justice he is the worst of all. Injustice is all the graver when it is armed injustice; and man is furnished from birth with weapons which are intended to serve the purpose of wisdom and goodness, but which may be used in preference for opposite ends. That’s why, if he be without goodness [of mind and
character], he is a most unholy and savage being, and worse than all others in the indulgence of lust and gluttony
.” Aristotle Politics Book I, Chapter 2.
You will all recognise this as an expression of our now-familar motto: corruptio optima est pessima.

No "Freedom" on MSN Spaces.

Regarding the choice of platform for your weblog, here's one argument against using MSN Spaces:

Microsoft's new Chinese internet portal has banned the words "democracy" and "freedom" from parts of its website in an apparent effort to avoid offending Beijing's political censors.

Blogging is the antithesis of totalitarianism, so this is Big News in the blogosphere.

Newly Discovered "Stalky" story

Our own Mr. Corsetti reminds me that there has been a relatively recent discovery of a "lost" Stalky chapter, known to Kipling cognoscenti as "Scylla and Charybdis." It thrilled me when I first learned of it, and am grateful to be twigged again of its importance to your knowledge of the Stalky model.
On April 7, 2004, it was reported that an unfinished manuscript belongingto the series had been found. Scylla and Charybdis sees Stalky and hisfriends catch a colonel cheating at golf. The manuscript was discovered byan archivist at a school built on the same site as the author's
ownchildhood school in Windsor, Berkshire. The Kipling Society's secretary Jeffrey Lewis said the novel was probably left unpublished because Kipling did not think it was good enough."He started a second draft and didn't complete it," Lewis told the BBC.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Thugs in the News

We discussed in seminar the appearance of "thugs" in the local news. I took the following Vancouver Province article from http://www.sikhsangat.com/ "The Voice of Sikh Youth."
As we now know, a 17 year old Sikh from Richmond made up a story of "five thugs" who beat him up and cut off his hair. To their great credit, posters on the forum thread in sikhsangat.com were mostly not only sceptical but called for prosecution of the Sikh youth were the story to turn out false.
Our interest in the story of course is how our course demographic of -- males between fifteen and thirty-five -- are convenient targets for easy fault. "Blame the thugs" is an ready motto for the media, the government (especially Britain's) and anyone in particular who is having personal problems. The "runaway bride" in America recently, and the young child in Edmonton last year who accidently hung his family dog were similar cases of someone inventing thugs as a way to disguise their own guilt.

Sikh leader, police urge community to remain calm
Five Thugs beat up 17-year-old Sikh beforecutting off hair
John Colebourn and Stuart Hunter
The Province June 1, 2005
CREDIT: Nick Procaylo, TheProvince
A 17-year-old Sikh was attacked by a gang of thugs and had his turban ripped off and hair cut at Grauer Elementary School in Richmond. An Indo-Canadian leader and police appealed for calm yesterday after a young
Sikh's turban was pulled from his head and his long hair cut off by five thugs. "
I'd like to ask my brothers and sisters to remain calm," said Balwant Sanghera, a spokesman for the Sikh Societies of the Lower Mainland. "This is very serious and we have some young men who may get too excited and I urge them to remain calm."
"The hair, the turban, they are all religious symbols to us. I think the people who committed this heinous crime need help." " I hope it's not a hate crime -- it's an isolated incident. I don't remember anything like this in the Lower Mainland
before." Said Richmond RCMP Cpl. Peter Thiessen: "This is absolutely disgusting. Whether this is a hate crime or not, we're not clear yet but it has all the elements that could classify it as a hate crime." This has huge overtones in the Sikh community and we want them to remain calm and not overreact." The 17-year-old Sikh was walking home across
the playing field at Richmond's Grauer Elementary School about 5:15 p.m. last Thursday when five Caucasian men in their 20s who were playing basketball approached. One uttered a racial slur and the Sikh ignored him and kept walking.
But the men ran after him and punched him in the head, knocking him to the ground. Once down, one of them held an X-Acto knife to his neck as the others punched and kicked him. They grabbed the teen's wallet, pulled off his turban and cut
off his hair with the knife. He was treated in hospital for cuts and bruises.
Nav Sanghera, a volunteer with the Indo-Canadian Youth Anti-Violence Group, said the attack "would be very traumatic to a practising Sikh." "This is the ultimate insult. When you go attacking someone's religious conviction it's hard to see it as anything else other than racist."
Kulpreet Singh, 22, a volunteer with the West Coast Sikh Youth Alliance, called the attack disturbing."This is five people targeting an innocent person for no reason -- it's just a racist thing."I think it was just a bunch of thugs. I think this is something a lot of high school students face. It is a very horrible situation."Singh predicted the victim will recover with spiritual guidance."The things they did to him, physically, he will heal from but when it comes to cutting his hair and taking his turban, he will need moral support and spiritual strength."Kasar Bhatti, a member of the Khalsa Diwan Society which runs the Ross Street Temple, predicted a community backlash."It is not only insulting but a desecration of the Sikh faith -- the hair is a symbol and it is to be kept unshorn and in a turban," Bhatti said. "You don't hear about that kind of incident happening very often."This is more than just a little fight in a school yard. The whole community will be upset and have demonstrations -- it's a matter of faith just like if a Muslim or Christian was attacked for his faith."Residents of the well-kept neighbourhood where the attack took place said there have been problems in the past, but nothing so violent."It's shocking. Weekends you hear noise and kids are drinking but I've never heard about problems like this," said Parwez Hamidi, 26.Linda Curial recently moved to Richmond from the Vancouver east side to get away from gang problems.She was surprised no one saw the attack. "You'd think at suppertime people are out working on their yards and someone would have heard or seen something," she said. "There's a lot of people going through the school grounds at that time of day."Police are looking for witnesses.In March, a 28-year-old man was swarmed by a pack of about 20 teens and savagely beaten at Minoru Park in Richmond.Three people are now before the courts on assault charges. jcolebourn@png.canwest.com shunter@png.canwest.com

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Old vs Young what is the meaning of thug.

From a class-fellow:
What does it mean to be a thug today? I think there is a generational gap when it comes to the word "thug". The older generation (30 years old and up) associate the word with violence and brutality. The younger generation (under 30) associate the word with slang and the hip-hop culture that is prevalent in our society. The word differs in meaning depending on the speaker. What do you think???
I put this on my group's blog: thuglifeincanada.blogspot.com

Monday, June 06, 2005

Mid-Term Essay Assignment

The mid-term essay, due June 20th in lecture, is two thousand words on either a topic of your own choosing (and my approval) or one of the following:
  1. With your choice of material from the course lectures and blog, and any supplementary material of your own discovery, respond to Margaret Atwood's assertion that men's bodies are the most dangerous things on Earth by using Rudyard Kipling's fictional portrait of Stalky and Co.
  2. Graham Greene uses characterisation in his novel Brighton Rock to represent two opposing metaphysical views in the contrast between Ida Arnold and Pinkie. Analyse Greene's superlative command of characterisation in this regard, with Ida and Pinkie personifying authority and thug respectively for your organising schema.
  3. Using the multi-layered representative system that Mordecai Richler encodes into the text of his masterpiece, give an account of Duddy Kravitz's apprenticeship in terms of Charles Darwin's natural selection model of performative masculinity.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

"Brighton Rock" Summary

It is easy from the distance of seventy years to inadequately appreciate Graham Greene's achievement in his creating of Pinkie. The first portrait of an entirely modern type of lad, Greene's Pinkie attracts the reader's sympathy while remaining entirely repellant. When I read the novel, the sharpness that Greene's creates in Pinkie has the pain of razor cuts in my mind. Greene's genius manages to present the "root causes" of Pinkie's situation in the British (specifically, Brighton) working class conditions, and to cut down the upper class in the scene with the two troffs in the bar, without permitting any sensible reader to excuse the course of life that Pinkie chose to follow.

With the full-length study of Ida Arnold, Brighton Rock again uses a character to condemn of a way of life -- or more properly of an approach to life -- while sustaining a sympathy in the reader. Ida is the middle class -- "the great law-abiding middle class" -- and their shallow hedonistic and tolerant attitude to life is mercilessly vivisected by Greene through Ida and Darrow's banal experience of religion compared with Pinkie's purely existential knowledge that he will burn in Hell eternally. "This is Hell; nor are we out of it." Yet Ida's is shown to us with a twinkle. As she prepares herself to commit adultery with Phil, she is "a great big blossoming surprise." To a degree, Greene's metier was "epater les bourgeois."

Moreover, it is Greene's literary gift to be able to write a novel of pure realism takes place in a Christian ontology. The metaphysic of Hell has few superior literary representations, yet the novel never violates the unity of its ninteen-thirties Brighton setting, nor its realist conventions.

Behind all, of course, is the Stalky model. Prewitt is a protrait of ruin: yet ruination explicitly from a public school and a "great Head." Himself a public schoolboy, and one who repeatedly tried to escape by (failed attempts at) killing himself, Greene is nonetheless unable to escape the Stalky model in defining a height from which a fall will be great. Pinkie's failure is exemplified by the distance that his "Co." lies from the harmonious complementary mutuality that portrayed in Kipling's masterpiece of young British manhood.

And Brighton Rock seemingly makes it impossible to miss the contrast between Stalky's world and Pinkie's in the matter of women. Where women were side concerns -- a plot device -- for both Stalky and Kipling, the trajectory of Pinkie's downfall matches precisely, from beginning to end, the trajectory of his relationship with Rose. And in relation to the organising themes of our course, the competition, battle and rivalry between males that Darwin's sexual selection declares to be universal is ubiquitious - Pinkie is is direct competion with Hale, Spicer, Cubbitt and Colleoni.

Finally, on the matter of masculinity as performace, and of the lads' failure to performace, let Ida's comment stand for the novel's -- indeed, all the course novels' -- message:
"Men always failed you when it came to the act."

What a Lad Looks Like

You may have seen one of these on campus. Observe the Poster Child for what our culture regards as absolute failure: a young working-class male between the ages of fifteen and thirty-five. A lad, in other words. And thus does society turn boys into lads ....

CBC on Britain vs. the Lads

The authorities change, but the antagonism to lads endures. Shoel sends us this link to a story CBC NewsWorld broadcast recently on the latest crackdown on the lads: a ban on ....... a style of clothing!

Nb: When you bring up the story on the CBC homepage, click "RealTime Video" under "Choose Your Media" on the top right.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Why Blogs are Great: # 87692.

"In the future, everyone will be Hitler for fifteen minutes."
Ha, as they say, ha. [Via Instapundit.]

Nb. This is a blog riff on Godwin's Law: "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one." This is otherwise known as an "argumentum ad hitlerum."
In my experience -- all too lengthy -- Godwin's Law is infalliable.

Soundtrack for our Course

If a yob could do new-beats/hiphop/garage music, listenable for rock fans, that gave a cohesive literary-level narrative to New Labour laddism, his name would be Mike Skinner, his nom-de-rap would be The Streets, he would have been born and raised in Brum and would live now in Brixton (Brixton!), Kristna L. would have turned me on to it at our first lecture, he would have called this concept-album epitome a grand don't come for free, and I would have ordered it for our Media Collection, and it would be available for you to sign-out & listen to.

And it is so.

Quadrophenia & "The Guinea Pig"

The "Brighton" clips from from the movie version of The Who's masterwork Quadrophenia helped set up our study of Graham Greene's Brighton Rock. Both the film and the double-album rock opera are very relevant to our course, providing as they do another artistic representation of failed masculinity: a young man unable to find validation and suffering from a aggressive impulses without sanctioned expression. The title -- "Quadrophenia"-- can refer in part to the multiple ways in which the lad's masculinity fails: with women, with other men, with his family, with the authorities. At my request, the Media Collection at our Library has a copy of the dvd available for home viewing. If you have an opportunity to watch it, you'll enjoy the film.

Nb: Here is a black & white period picture of mods & rockers in early 60s Brighton.

By the bye, Rolling Stone magazine makes mention of The Who's ".... thuggish, working-class youth image [and they suggest that] .... it was more than image."

The Media Collection also has a copy of The Guinea Pig for home viewing. A 1960s British film starring a young-ish Richard Attenborough, it is generally regarded, along with Alan Sillitoe's Saturday Night & Sunday Morning, as the cinema-juste for early lad-lit. I find it formulaic and clearly inferior to the subtlty, craft, daring, authenticity unflorced tenderness and insightful realism of The Browning Version. But, that's just me. Please see for yourself if you have the chance.