A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for June 2006

[BRIEF NOTE] The Troubles of Mississauga

In the comments to my post yesterday on the wives of accused Islamist terrorists in Toronto, angel80 points out that the fact that many of the youths were in Mississauga might be critical.

While being in the top ten Canadian cities by population, Mississauga has few cultural institutions for a community its size due to its proximity to Toronto. It is by far the largest city in Canada without a daily newspaper (The Mississauga News is three days a week), and currently doesn’t have any television stations or commercial radio stations. Mississauga is beginning to break away from its label as a “bedroom community” to Toronto… (Wikipedia)

They’re teenagers! Planning a jihad must be way more exciting than hanging out in the shopping mall!

Indeed, whenever I have visited Mississauga myself, I’ve always been reminded of Gertrude Stein famous quote about her former home city of Oakland, California, that “There is no there there.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if boredom might indeed play a role in the decisionmaking processes of young bored men to take up revolutionary terrorism. For some people, the choice between the excitement of jihad and hanging out at Square One might actually be difficult. I also wonder if maybe, just maybe, Mississauga is Canada’s closest equivalent to the famous poor banlieues of France, home to people disconnected from the wider urban area and lacking the social and other capital that they’d need to engage and enjoy themselves.

Thoughts?

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Written by Randy McDonald

June 30, 2006 at 4:52 pm

[BRIEF NOTE] Love of country is one thing, and there are other things

From a front-page article in today’s The Globe and Mail, “Hateful chatter behind the veil”, about the online conversations of the partners of suspects in Toronto’s alleged ring of Islamist terrorists.

When it came time to write up the premarital agreement between Zakaria Amara and Nada Farooq, Ms. Farooq briefly considered adding a clause that would allow her to ask for a divorce.

She said that Mr. Amara (now accused of being a leader of the alleged terror plot that led to the arrests of 17 Muslim men early this month) had to aspire to take part in jihad.

“[And] if he ever refuses a clear opportunity to leave for jihad, then i want the choice of divorce,” she wrote in one of more than 6,000 Internet postings uncovered by The Globe and Mail.

Wives of four of the central figures arrested last month were among the most active on the website, sharing, among other things, their passion for holy war, disgust at virtually every aspect of non-Muslim society and a hatred of Canada.

[. . .]

There is nothing casual about Ms. Farooq’s interpretation of Islam. She reiterates the belief that jihad is the “sixth pillar” of the religion, and her on-line postings are decidedly interested in the violent kind. In the forum titled “Terrorism and killing civilians,” she writes a detailed point-by-point explanation of why the Taliban is destined to emerge victorious in Afghanistan.

Virtually every other government on the planet, however, she only has disdain for.

[. . .]

Ms. Farooq’s criticism is often directed first at other Muslims. When another poster writes about how he finds homosexuality disgusting, Nada replies by pointing out that there are even gay Muslims. She then posts a photo of a rally held by Al-Fatiha, a Canadian support group for gay Muslims. “Look at these pathetic people,” she writes. “They should all be sent to Saudi, where these sickos are executed or crushed by a wall, in public.”

[. . .]

Ms. Farooq’s hatred for the country is palpable. She hardly ever calls Canada by its name, rather repeatedly referring to it as “this filthy country.” It’s a sentiment shared by many of her friends, one of whom states that the laws of the country are irrelevant because they are not the laws of God.

In late April of 2004, a poster asks the forum members to share their impressions of what makes Canada unique. Nada’s answer is straightforward.

“Who cares? We hate Canada.”

As the poem goes, “[e]very woman adores a Fascist,/The boot in the face, the brute /Brute heart of a brute like you.” Not just women, now, mind; in our enlightened age, most anyone can find someone who’s willing to accomplish tasks of world-historic importance aimed against Them.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 29, 2006 at 6:57 pm

[BRIEF NOTE] On the queerness of science fiction

The cover article on the latest issue of fab is Scott Dagostino’s “Why is Sci-Fi so gay?” Dagostino’s examination of the increasing prominence of queer themes in science fiction is worth reading, not least for its broad historical perspective on science fiction’s acceptance of these themes and official Star Trek‘s relative reluctance.

Felice Picano was both a pioneer and publisher of gay fiction [in the 1970s], celebrated for his autobiographical work and suspense novels. He loved what was happening in the sci-fi genre and worked on stories of his own (now collected in Tales: From a Distant Planet). His own novel, Dryland’s End, he explains, “is set in a matriarchy, so the women have been in charge for thousands of years. Nobody works, machines do everything – it’s just very, very different. In a situation like that, where everything has turned around, what’s a gay relationship? How important is that? Who’s going to be upset by that when all marriages consist of two women with a guy on the side?”

Science fiction, Picano argues, had become an integral tool for gay people: “The idea is to put out something so utterly different and yet human and amusing and interesting and involving that it will wipe away old ideas. That’s what science fiction is supposed to do – to wipe away old ideas and give you new ones!”

[. . .]

We’ve now entered the 21st century – a time of cloning, genetic engineering, weapons of mass destruction, holograms, nanotechnology and the instantaneous, worldwide sharing of information. We have new reproductive technologies and the possibility of extensive body modification through surgery and hormones. We are no longer enjoying science fiction, we are living it, and queers of all stripes have long found themselves in the middle of this ever-shifting body politic. Should we choose to pay attention, the sci-fi genre promises to continue doing what it always has – to expand our minds, warn us of future dangers and create new playgrounds for discovery.

Me, I was reminded of Wayne Studer writes, at his Pet Shop Boys Commentary website, about the 1993 Very/Relentless track “We Come From Outer Space.”

If there is a meaning [to this song], it appears to have something to do with the kinds of verbal exchanges that might take place between earthlings and space-aliens who have just landed. Someone of them are delightful, such as “You know the difference between the two genders? No.”

In fact, that very exchange, as well as the repeated words “We came from outer space to—to our parents,” has inspired one of my online correspondents to interpret this track (quite cleverly, I might add) as an ironic commentary on how gay people strike some heterosexuals—perhaps their own parents—as beings so different in certain ways (particularly regarding gender relationships and perceptions) that they might as well be from another world. Interestingly, this mirrors the common glam-rock “conceit that gayness is the stuff of science fiction” [. . .], most notably employed by David Bowie and Jobriath, with its implied link between homo/bisexuality and space aliens. Think Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

I have to admit that, sometimes, heterosexuals do confuse me. How do you construct yourselves, again? Alien beings live on Earth, too.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 29, 2006 at 6:49 pm

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[LINK] “It can’t happen here”

Over at Reason,, David Weigel’s “It Can’t Happen Here” examines the burgeoning popularity of Islam-conquers-the-world technothrillers. Weigel judges them, as he should, to be profoundly silly.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 28, 2006 at 9:07 am

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[REVIEW] The Da Vinci Code

I caught The Da Vinci Code tonight with an old friend from Queen’s, and was surprised at how much I enjoyed the film. Tom Hanks was merely adequate, Audrey Tautou was good, Ian McKellan chewed up his scenes gloriously, and Ron Howard’s filming was surprisingly pedestrian, but then, I went in expecting little enough as was. Possibly I should have spent my $11.95 more wisely, but the film was about as good as it could have been given the source material.

I still have to agree with the opinion expressed in The Rough Guide to Cult Fiction that The Da Vinci Code reads not as a novel but rather as a schematic for a computer game: The player identifies with the protagonist of Langdon, is plunged unexpectedly into a complex adventure, is sent to complete with his sidekick multiple levels (several in Paris, one in the French countryside, one on the plane, several in London, a final in Scotland), and ends up seeing, as reward for completing the game, the final secrets via a bonus computer animation. Though I’d not read the novel completely, mainly because I’d already read Holy Blood, Holy Grail and didn’t see any reason to inflict Brown’s prose upon myself, I was told by my companion that the film followed the novel fairly faithfully. I wonder, now, how closely the actual game follows Brown’s schematic.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 27, 2006 at 11:43 pm

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[URBAN NOTE] Something by Stefan Psenak

Travelling north from the Bloor TTC station, I caught a glimpse of an untitled poem by Franco-Ontarian writer Stefan Psenak subscribed to the TTC’s “Poetry on the Way” program.

She sips the bitter coffee, her eyes at once an
affront and protection. She lowers her head, find-
ing him neither handsome nor fascinating. She
doesn’t even like him, but enjoys certain aspects of
him, such as the comforting way he says, “Wait,
let me make you a cup of good coffee.”

Written by Randy McDonald

June 27, 2006 at 11:28 pm

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[BRIEF NOTE] What’s the point of Pride? Part 2

Following links throughout the blogosphere last night, I came upon Joe My God‘s reposted essay “Watching The Defectives”. A spirited defense of Pride Parades in their full outrageousness, the author makes the point that, in their uncensored forms, they’re a necessary rite for a traumatized community still in the process of recovery.

Joe makes some good points–I agree with him, honestly, that homophobes can easily be more terrified of seemingly conventional non-straights (“They’re everywhere!”) than of people they can pick out on sight. That said, there may well be a generation gap or a lack of shared experience between him and me; I still feel, as I wrote last year, that the main function of Pride is to function as a carnival. There were a lot of straight couples this year.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 27, 2006 at 2:45 pm

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